The Cubs ended a five game win streak that despite a valiant effort in the final game of the series against the Orioles. They'll greet the Pirates for a return visit to Wrigley, only a weekend removed from sweeping them out of first place in the NL Central. The Cubs (33-38) enter the series in 4th place and four games behind the now leading Brewers. The Pirates (34-36) may enter with revenge on their mind, if they are not preoccupied by letting their surprising hold on the NL Central slip away. The Buccos bring along former Cub and well-travelled MLB veteran Rich Hill.
Some interesting storylines developing this weekend.
Alex Rodriguez, Donald Fehr and Bud Selig are going to have some splainin' to do with Sports Illustrated breaking a blockbuster HERE regarding ARod testing positive for two anabolic steroids in 2003 while with Texas. In fact, it's not just ARod but 104 players in total are on this list, which led to MLB adopting a random testing program for steroids in 2004. More than 5% of players tested were showing positive results in what was hoped to be proof that steroid use was nothing more than a rare situation. When the games biggest stars get pantsed as cheaters, in this case as defined by ARod turning his talents into $25-30 million/year contracts, the steroid era stain just keeps on spreading. Kind of like that pink spot in "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back".
When approached by an SI reporter on Thursday at a gym in Miami, Rodriguez declined to discuss his 2003 test results. "You'll have to talk to the union," said Rodriguez, the Yankees' third baseman since his trade to New York in February 2004. When asked if there was an explanation for his positive test, he said, "I'm not saying anything."
Primobolan, which is also known by the chemical name methenolone, is an injected or orally administered drug that is more expensive than most steroids. According to a search of FDA records, Primobolan is not an approved prescription drug in the United States, nor was it in 2003.
Rodriguez finished the 2003 season by winning his third straight league home run title (with 47) and the first of his three MVP awards.
Because more than 5% of big leaguers had tested positive in 2003, baseball instituted a mandatory random-testing program, with penalties, in '04.
Truth or Consequences? This is the Katie Couric Interview with ARod after the Mitchell Report was released last year where he flat out denies using PED's. Here are three blunt questions he was asked in that interview:
Q: For the record, have you ever done steroids, Human Growth Hormone or any other PED's?
Q: Have you ever been tempted to use any of those things?
Q: Who do you think has the real HR record, Hank Aaron or Barry Bonds?
Bruce Levine was on vacation (at the Dunes in Vegas) for his regular ESPN radio "Talkin' Baseball" show. Jonathan Hood substituted and Len Kasper was interviewed. Len did say they will have 9 Cub games on TV this spring starting with two from Las Vegas begining March 4th. ESPN-1000's website now has downloadable archives to Levine's weekly show for those who need a "BRUUCE" fix.
The Waddle and Silvy show, daytimes (locally in Chicago) on ESPN-1000 radio has a similar site that has archives. Their show from Feb 4th has an interview with Steve Stone who typically is critical of the Cubs (this time for trading DeRosa and not signing Blanco).
In a separate interview (same show) they talk to Todd Hollandsworth who will now be doing the pre/post game duties for the Cubs on Comcast Sports Network. Hollandsworth should be a nice addition, replacing Dan Plesac who has moved on to the new MLB network. Hollandsworth had been a weekly feature on David Kaplan's WGN radio Sports Central show, which essentially turned into a test run for him getting the CSN job. Color me a big fan of Plesac's work and the new MLB network which just added Bob Costas to their talent pool this week.
Rock on Len. Roll on Bruce.
It was hinted at when the rumors first popped up, but the story from Spencer Fordin at MLB.com confirms that the player to be named later in the Rich Hill deal will be contingent on his performance.
That future return will be tied to how Hill performs as an Oriole, and in some potential circumstances, it could even be a cash transaction.
Starting for the AZL Cubs versus he AZL Angels at Fitch Park Field #3 this morning, Rich Hill worked five shutout innings (68 pitches, 47 strikes, 8/0 GO/FO), allowing three hits (all three singles) and a walk, with five strikeouts. He really had his roundhouse curve and efficient two-seamer working today, as he went to a three ball count on only two of the 17 Angels hitters he faced.
The AZL Cubs defeated the AZL A's 3-2 at Fitch Park Field #3 this morning.
The game featured another fine outing by RHP Julio Pena, and the victory was probably saved by a nifty 6-4-3 DP to end the top of the 8th inning, started with a super stop by SS Junior Lake, then a quick flip with a fast turn by 2B George Matheus, and completed with a nice stretch by 1B Sean Hoorelbeke. Too bad AZL games aren't televised, because that one would have made the highlight reel!
Today's AZL Cubs offensive heroes were RF Nelson Perez (a double and an RBI single) and catcher Jose Guevara (a double and RBI single through a drawn-in infield).
Prior to the game, Rich Hill threw a simulated game that featured his new delivery, and it looks like he may actually have found the cure for his version of Steve Blass Disease.
I talked with Cubs Organizational Hitting Instructor Dave Keller today, and he admitted that he was the guy in the tower yelling at Felix Pie (in Spanish) after Pie left the AZL Cubs game on Sunday, but that the conversation had to do with Pie verbally being given the hitting schedule for Monday at Fitch Park (which otherwise was an off day for the AZL Cubs), and that there was no animosity involved in the exchange.