Cubs Now!
Monday, May 31, 2004
  Weekend In Wisconsin

I spent the weekend in northern Wisconsin for my bachelor party. Nothing too sordid, but a good time. Better than watching the Cubs blow two games in the double-header and Sergio Mitre blowing a 4 run first inning lead. But I listened to the game driving home today. Maddux pitched well before leaving the game with an injury in the seventh, and the word is that he isn't too seriously injured.

While some seem to have thrown in the towel and others try to keep perspective, I'm somewhat in the middle. Yes, the Cubs are tied with the Astros (and 2.5 games behind the Reds), the test is coming with the remainder of the pre-all-star games. This isn't some great insight, but let's see how the Cubs stand at the end of this stretch (8 more against the 'Stros, 3 A's, 3 Angels, 6 White Sox, 10 Cardinals, plus 3 Brewers, and 3 Pirates). I don't know how the Pirates did today but all of these teams were .500 or better going into today's games. 
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
  Poor Game

Tonight's game against the Astros was pretty feeble. I don't get the lineup at all. With Ramon and Corey at two and three, you've got guys with OBP at .280 and .309 respectively. Include a slumping Todd Walker, and you've got a recipe for the top of your lineup to make a lot of outs. Add Paul Bako and you're really in trouble.

Carlos Zambrano pitched relatively poorly tonight. He never was able to consistently get his sinker down. But what galls me is Bako's running away from the action with a couple of close plays at home. Hang in there, Paul, and take one for the team if you've gotta. It was reminiscent of the Jason Schmidt game last week. You knew the Cubs weren't going to do much against Roy Oswalt.

On a brighter note, Todd Hollandsworth is quickly becoming my favorite Cub. He got a hustle single and drew a walk (the only one of the game). His OPS stands at a gaudy 1.110. Other than that, there's not much good news to report...Oh yeah, some guy with the Lugnuts pitched pretty well. By the way, is the last sentence of that report confusing to you? "Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster was scheduled to start Wednesday for Lansing against West Michigan. Dempster is recovering from elbow ligament-replacement surgery." Was scheduled? Does that mean he's not pitching tomorrow?  
Saturday, May 22, 2004

A quick note to welcome Curt at Baseball Told the Right Way. I checked out his site and you should too. It's a nice broadbased baseball blog with some emphasis on the Cubs.  

Sorry for the sporadic posting. Work has taken more of my time lately. The Cubs injuries have caught up with them. The problem has been sporadic offense and an over dependence on the homerun. When they come through, you get a thrilling moments like Alou's blasts the last three games. But we spend a lot of times waiting for something to happen and there are a lot of innings where you can just tell nothing is going to happen. Those Patterson, Martinez, Bako innings are tough.

But not as tough as reading today's Mike Downey article. Remember that he is a professional. He gets paid to be a sports fan and go to games. The deal is that he has to say something amusing, interesting and/or informative. This hack piece he phoned in today failed on all three counts. Read this garbage. Downey wanted to say 11 things today. It starts off bad with his extended joke about the Lugnuts. It wasn't funny in the first sentence and got even more tired as it was extended paragraph after paragraph. Next, another dumb joke about the lugnuts and the Michigan auto industry. Then, the obligatory joke about Ben Wallace's hair. Next up, a random tidbit about Mike Montgomery going to Golden State.

Sixth, a complaint about why Chicago doesn't have a WNBA game. He actually feels obligated to ask "Is there no market for it here?" No, there isn't. There isn't a market for the WNBA anywhere. No one cares and the only reason it's still alive is that the NBA subsidizes it. Boy, I really blame Jerry Reinsdorf for not sinking his money into that sinkhole.

Seventh is a bit about the collission between Mags Ordonez and Willie Harris. He assumes that someone out there alluded to "Alphonse and Gaston." I saw highlights of that collission I never heard that. I don't know what it means. He complains that no one knows what Alphonse and Gaston means, but doesn't explain what it does mean. He then concludes that because no one knows what it means, no one should talk about Alphonse and Gaston. Fine, but no one other than you mentioned it, and if you're going to bring it up, at least explain what it means.

Eight is a nondescript bit about the Yankees switching from Cracker Jacks to Crunch and Munch followed by a dumb joke about Steinbrenner.

Next is a joke about how Randy Johnson's perfect game didn't matter because the Diamondbacks baseball cap looks dumb.

Number 10 was really annoying. He plugs a book called 1001 reasons to love baseball. He then says he agreed with number 3, 74, 305, 599, 742 and 929 but disagreed with No. 497. Oh yeah, since he teased us with this I'm going to have to get the book to find out what Mike Downey likes about baseball.

Finally, he says he hopes that some Cardinals get hurt by sneezing.

I don't know why this inspired me to write at such length, but on Saturdays, I really look forward to reading the newspaper, and this was probably the worst piece of drek I've ever read in a paper. God, I wish I had Mike Downey's job.  
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
  Deceptively Good Pitching

Look, the Cubs couldn't do anything against Schmidt tonight. But you knew that if you lived here. It was cold and the wind was blowing in. The Cubs hit maybe 3 balls that on a normal night would have either been gone or in the gap. This wasn't a standout night for Schmidt. These nights suck for baseball.

The same is true for Clement. Bonds' first at bat was gone but for the stupid conditions. I really hate these game because they're determined by luck. A walk, a chopper and a bloop. That's the difference tonight. Schmidt pitched well but not as well as you'd think from the numbers tonight.

Nonetheless, you have to make adjustments (i.e. don't swing at shitty pitches, Corey) to get men on base so that you don't depend on the long ball to win. The Cubs are sometimes so stupid in their approach that the games are painful to watch.

I haven't talked about Sammy going down. Yeah, that sucks. But I'm pretty confident that it didn't matter tonight. I could talk about Randy Johnson pitching a perfect game, but I didn't see anything and you probably knew about it. What's more interesting to me is just how dependent on homeruns the Cubs are. The Cubs are built to lose games like these in crappy cold weather.
Update: The folks at All-baseball.com ask how you can it take 144 pitches to throw a one hitter. Because Jason Schmidt was pretty wild and the Cubs bailed him out by swinging at some bad balls. A more disciplined approach and an understanding of the value of a base on balls may have helped overcome the weather and Jason Schmidt last night. Instead, you've got Jose Macias swinging at the first pitch in the bottom of the ninth. 
Saturday, May 15, 2004
  Todd Hollandsworth

The Hollandsworth acquisition was not talked about much before the season, but he has really been impressive this season. His pinch hit homeruns, his outstanding OPS and his left handed bat are all reasons to like the guy. But more than just that, his baserunning has been extraordinary so far. He has pretty good speed, but he's broken up a couple of double plays by going hard into second. Tonight, he took advantage of a bonehead play by Klesko to take an extra base on a bloop hit. I'm not sure if he got credit for a double or not (he didn't come to a stop), but it was a very nice play. 
  Maddux Sharp, Greene for Real

I watched the Cubs game last night at a friend's house. Maddux was very impressive, walking no one and finally locating his pitches against tough lefties. While Maddux isn't a typical strikeout pitcher, he passed Cy Young on the all time strike out list last night and will likely end up with more than 3000 strike outs in his career. Sammy Sosa tied Mike Schmidt for ninth on the all-time homerun list. While two games does not tell you a lot about a ball player, Jose Macias has stepped up while Todd Walker has suffered through some minor pain in his shoulder. His two triples helped the Cubs to a 6-1 win over the Padres (decked out in their 1984 throwback uniforms). The Cubs climbed to within one game of Houston. For all the negativism about the Cubs start, the Cubs have hung in despite injuries to their two best starters, their best lefty reliever, and their starting double play combo. All the while, Carlos Zambrano has become one of top starters in all of baseball, and Matt Clement has developed a consistency that he's lacked for most of his career.

The Padres are going to compete for the West this year. Khalil Greene is a very solid shortstop. He made three tremendous plays in the game and hit a bomb that he just hooked foul.

The Cubs will have a tough time in the next two games with Mitre and Rusch going to the hill. If they take one of these two, the Cubs will go .500 on a tough road trip and will be guaranteed not to lose any ground on Houston while they're playing at home.

Let's hope this continues.

Update: Well, I shouldn't have relied on Chip's statistical accumen because the Cub Reporter states that Maddux did not in fact pass Cy Young on the strike out list. 
Thursday, May 13, 2004
  Day at the Cell

A friend at work had an extra ticket to the Sox double header so I went. I like the Cell, and I like the Sox. I never got the whole "I'm a Cubs fan so I hate the Sox" thing.

Anyway, it's fair to say Sox fans don't reciprocate my feelings. I saw 25 "Cubs Suck" tee-shirts and another dozen Cork shirts. What was really annoying, though, was that the Sox as an organization seem so anti-Cubs. They didn't update the scoreboard for the Cubs so you couldn't scoreboard watch. Maybe they have a lazy scoreboard controller, but how hard is that job with the internet?

But more gallingly, in between games, they showed the Devil Rays\ Ranger game on the jumbotron. Really? Did anyone in the park care about that game? Wouldn't a flash of the Cubs game have made sense for a half hour? So I mossied on down to the Bullpen Bar in right field, and what do you know, there was the Devil Rays game again on every TV in there (except one that was showing a 98 Bulls playoff game).

As to the games, the Sox split. Paul Konerko came up big with a three run dong before the rains came down during the second game. Jon Garland pitched well, and was the hard luck loser in game one. Baseball games are fun even if you're a pretty disinterested fan. 
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
  Just Bad

No way to describe tonight's game other than bad. Bad offense. Bad defense. Bad umpiring. When you can't hit off of Wilson Alverez with a heavy right handed lineup, well, that's not good. Matt Clement didn't pitch poorly. The four runs he gave up were excusable. Two of the runs were due to a bloop single by Alvarez and a bunch of scratch infield hits, one of which was not a hit. Clement threw a lollypop over to first and got Milton Bradley out by a half step. He was called safe. Couple of infield hits later (with two outs), two runs scored.

The other two runs were the result of a 18 pitch at bat to Alex Cora. Cora hit the 18th pitch out for a two run dong. It was dispiriting, as was the entire game.

What really pissed me off about this game, though, was Lance Diaz's decision in the ninth inning that he would control the game. After a bad call on a check swing, Moises Alou questioned him. Then he called a low strike that wasn't a strike. He called Alou out on a pitch literally at his ankles. Lance, it's not about you. Get a grip and let the game play out.

A terrible game. I'm not saying that at-bat was controlling, but Diaz's call was terrible. 
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
  Dismal Loss; Dismal Week

Tonight's game, a 7-3 loss to the Dodgers, was a pretty dismal game all the way around. Kerry Wood left the game after two innings with what was described as tightness in his triceps (both of them?). I don't know how serious that is, but it's just one more thing to worry about.

Of course, whatever happens with the Cubs isn't as terrible as what has transpired over the last 5 or 6 days. The atrocities in Abu Ghraib depressed me since I saw the pictures. The grotesque beheading of Nick Berg has put me in a bigger funk. I don't have much to say about this. Unlike others, I don't think the full videotape of the murder should be shown on TV. I also didn't think that the pictures at Abu Ghraib should have been released. What is the public's "right to know"? We don't endlessly show autopsy pictures on TV. Graphic images of cruelty don't add anything to the debate. They merely inflame a terrible situation.

For those who disagree with me about the release of the Abu Ghraib pictures, please explain why it was prudent for the media not to show the Palestinians dancing in the streets on 9/11, or the murder of Daniel Pearl, or the desecrated, charred remains of the men in Fallujah, or the people jumping out of the WTC on 9/11 (which the media stopped showing after one airing), or now the beheading of Nick Berg. It is worth noting that the pictures did not cause the military to investigate the atrocities at the prison. In fact, the military was investigating in January. My understanding is that one of the perpetrators leaked the pictures so that he would not be made a scapegoat. Human cruelty exists. I know that. But bombardment with images of it is not necessary.

I won't be writing anything of a political nature any more. I'm going to be blocking out the news for awhile. It's too damn disturbing at this point for me to deal with. 
Monday, May 10, 2004
  Corey Patterson

Corey Patterson, I think it is nearlly universally agreed, is the most frustating player on the Cubs. His penchant for first pitch swings is incomprehensible. Granted, he won the game yesterday with a first pitch shot to the gap. But taken his season as a whole, it makes no sense to have him fail to work the count in the two hole.

I think the Cubs failure to break through on mediocre pitching is because they never tire these guys out early in the game. This isn't anything new, obviously. Don Baylor used to love to tip his cap to number four starters on the Brewers, but with all the evidence showing the value of working counts available now, it's time for the Cubs to adjust their approach.

Ironically, Corey Patterson has actually drawn walks at a decent clip so far this year. I'm not sure how to explain this but he might actually draw 50 walks. But that fact has to be taken in combination with his approach in his other at-bats. Corey seems fairly intelligent when I've heard him on the radio; it's time to act that way at the plate. 
Thursday, May 06, 2004
  A Little Bit of Anger

If you watched the game today, after Clement got out of the 5th inning, Clement seemed to yell as he walked to the bench. Clement got out of the inning without giving up a run after the first two batters singled. He was fired up and must have been pissed by the Cubs failure to capitalize early in the game. The Cubs needed a kick in the ass, and it seemed to wake them up. Derrek Lee went five for five and five RBI and a Home Run. A nice win.

The Cubs made me look pretty silly, stringing together hits and scoring without the benefit of homeruns (except for D. Lee). I was going to take a break from the Cubs for awhile, but that win helped a lot. 
  No Desire To Write About These Games

The Cubs offense has been horrible for the last 9 days or so. Enough people have talked about it. I said earlier this season that offense is dependent on the home run. That seems right (the game against the Cards on Monday was a case in point). And the Cubs aren't hitting many right now.

But what I wanted to talk about was Alex Gonzales' broken wrist/arm. I watched that crappy game last night. It was the bottom of the seventh and Chip and Steve are gabbing away with Notre Dame coach Mike Bray(?). Alex gets nailed in the arm, and the ump says "no, you didn't." Alex can't believe it. He's gotta be in pain. Chip and Steve are completely oblivious and don't even mention what's going on. Alex strikes out on the next pitch and is removed for a double switch. There was no mention about whether Alex was hit by the pitch the rest of the broadcast. Today, we find he's out for six weeks. Good job with that insightful interview with Coach Bray, though. 
Monday, May 03, 2004
  Walks, Walks, etc.

I've harped on this issue time after time, but the Cubs pitching staff is just giving up too many walks. The problem in this Cardinals series has been the relief pitchers' inability to throw strikes. And we're talking about four pitch walks from Farnsworth. The starting pitchers have been outstanding. Please don't bitch about Carlos throwing 120 pitches yesterday. He was effective going into the seventh, and there was no reason not to let him pitch that inning. The Cubs offense has been poor, reverting to jumping on the first pitch and trying to pull everything.

But what really pissed me off yesterday was the decision to bunt D. Lee late in the game. Ramirez was on first, and Lee was up there to bunt. After two poor pitches, Baker let him swing once. He fouled it off. Still, it's a hitter's count at 2-1. Back to the bunt, which Lee put down very well. Gonzo and Barrett went down meekly.

I hate bunts, especially with Lee at last showing some signs of being effective. So the Cubs will try to salvage a split today. A split in St Louie isn't anything to complain about, but with the starters pitching so well the first three games, it's a shame the Cubs couldn't have come away with something more. 
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