Monthly archives: July 2004
More Thoughts on Garciaparra
[Alex]: Nomah no longer. Now that he's lost his Boston accent, what do we call him? Nomair? I'm a southern Indiana native (and don't even have that accent), so you Chicago natives will have to give me a little help here.
It's one "p", two "r"s, and a trade made by a General Manager who believes his team can win now. This is also, unlike the Mets trades, a trade made by a team that can win now. The Cubs are in the thick of the Wild Card hunt, and are the only team legitimately in that race (and no, I think the Marlins are not in the hunt) that made a significant move before the deadline.
The Cubs gave up some young talent, but when you acquire one of the best shortstops in baseball history, you should expect to bleed a little. I'm going to miss Brendan Harris the most, and would argue (contrary to most, I'll assume) that he has the best chance of coming back to haunt the Cubs in the future. Harris was a career 304/372/488 hitter in the Cubs' system, and will likely be permanently ensconced at third for the Expos by season's end.
We know, of course, that the chances of Dusty Baker happily playing Harris next year at second were nil, so that figures a bit into things. Baker did give Francis Beltran plenty of chances, however, and Beltran showed flashes of why he's considered such a good relief prospect. Beltran, like many pitchers, only needs to gain a bit of control to become a very good reliever. But still, we're talking about a 24-year-old relief prospect; if that's not a tradeable commodity, nothing is.
Finally, the Cubs lose Justin Jones, Godsend, Randy Johnson's protege, the pitching version of Michael Jordan... No, that's not it. Justin Jones is a highly regarded pitching prospect who put up wonderful numbers last year and a solid line so far this season. He's left-handed. He's also 19, had to be shut down twice last year with a "tired arm", and missed time this season with an elbow injury. Jones could turn out to be awfully great pitcher at the major league level, but -- as with all pitching prospects -- there is a better chance that this moment is the most newsworthy event of his Major League career.
The Cubs got a nifty left field prospect (Matt Murton) who actually garnered a mention in Theo Epstein's press conference (Theo was bummed he had to include Murton), and a 31-year-old shortstop who has put up a career line of 323/370/553. He's at the tail end of his prime, but Nomar has still managed a magnificent 305/349/523 line the past three years, and should be very good both this year and the next few. Sure, we all know Nomar's name, but have we really appreciated how good he has been in his career so far?
Look at those lines. In every full season of his career, Nomar's batted above .300 and slugged over .500. He averages around a strikeout every 10 at bats (i.e., very rarely -- Sammy Ks once every 3.8 at bats), doesn't walk much, and can steal a bag here or there. He has a fantastic throwing arm, solid range, but can be prone to throwing or fielding errors. If his career ended tomorrow, he would probably not make the Hall of Fame, but it would be close, and he will most likely end up in Cooperstown when all is said and done.YEAR AB 2B HR BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
The Cubs' new lineup, as I'd construct it:
Of course, Sosa and Alou will bat 3-4, which really is totally fine, but there is not a single hole in the lineup. Not when your number 8 hitter is batting 295/346/490.
The deal for Garciaparra is a great, but it doesn't mean it will work out. Nomar is an impatient batter (easily seeing fewer pitches than anyone on the Cubs team, Alou and Patterson included), he's been injured most of the year, and is yet another right-handed bat. He could slump for a couple months. Or he could be fantastic, and the rest of the team could fall apart.
But this was the right deal, at the right time, for the right Cubs team. Jim Hendry has put together a Cubs team that is good enough to make it to the playoffs. He's done his job, now the guys on the field just have to do theirs.
Here's how my day went:
7:30 -- Wake up, check ESPNEWS, see that the Mets had picked up some pitchers, the Marlins traded Big Choi to L.A., and not a whole lot else had happened.
Feels good to be a Cubs fan right now. I'll miss Beltran, but relievers are fungible. All-star shortstops are not. Great trade, great trade, great trade.
ESPN is reporting that Nomar Garciaparra has just been traded to the Cubs. More details when they come.
UPDATE (5:00pm ET):
On paper, this is nothing but a brilliant trade for the Cubs.
UPDATE (5:20pm ET)
All three prospects involved in the four-way trade come from the Cubs. According to Baseball America, Justin Jones was the Cubs #2 prospect entering the season, Brendan Harris was #8, and Beltran we're all fairly familiar with. While Harris was having a solid year at AAA, Jones's star has likely dimmed just a bit after missing some time earlier this year and putting up good-but-not-great numbers for Lansing (64.3 innings, 59/22 K/BB ratio, 3.78 ERA, 6 HR allowed).
UPDATE (5:50pm ET)
Murton entered the year as the Red Sox's #5 prospect, according to BA. They had this to say about him:
"The Cape’s 2002 home run derby winner, he has more pop than any hitter in the system. Boston makes all of its players in Class A or below keep notebooks on hitting, something Murton already did on his own. He runs well for his size and is a four-tool player."
On a day when the Big Unit was supposed to be traded and wasn't, maybe Mark Prior and Eric Milton ditched plans to watch video of the opposing batters in favor of a screening of the infamous Randy-Johnson-Kills-Dove incident. Maybe they both plotted, "If we can't hit a dove in front of home plate, maybe we can down one above the ivy."
How else to explain the endless stream of fly balls in the first game of the weekend series with the Phillies?
Mark Prior got his outs like this:
For those of you counting, that's not a ball on the ground -- a 0-8 groundball-flyball ratio, and that's not even including the four home runs he allowed. Prior was more of a groundball pitcher last year, but was also flyballish in 2002, so who knows what his true calling is. Milton, for his sake, also allowed a bunch of flyballs as well, with three of them leaving the yard.
It was nice to see the Cubs:
a) score a lot of runs
b) score them against Milton a week after he almost no-hit them
c) score them in a comeback effort
As I write this, the Padres are getting crushed and the Cardinals are beating the Giants. Is it mildly depressing to root for the Cardinals to beat up the rest of the league in order to better the Cubs' chances of making the playoffs?
If the west coast games hold up, the Cubs will enter tomorrow's trading deadline in second in the Wild Card race, only a game back of the Padres.
Other than the Padres and Giants, I'm really only concerned with the Phils and Astros (though the Baseball Tonight crew is "ooh"-ing and "ahh"-ing over the Marlins-Dodgers trade as if it will bring Florida another World Series. But Paul Lo Duca's no Pudge... sorry, Harold), but I do think that the Cubs might have to be the favorites among this group.Padres -
We'll see shortly if the Cubs add anyone before the first of the trading deadlines -- according to all the chatter here and there, it seems that Orlando Cabrera is the guy with the best chance of being a Cub come Sunday.
You say Nomah, I say Nomar
A lot of papers this morning gave an update on the rumored Nomar-Clement dealings, basically reporting that the Cubs are saying "Phooey!" to such talk. The Sun-Times says that sure, the Cubs are interested in Garciaparra, but aren't interested in swapping Clement for him.
And I, echoing Christian's comments below, now agree with yesterday's sentiments and say "Phooey!" to not wanting to break up the rotation. I wouldn't mind seeing that swapperoo at all.
Clement has been fantastic this year, no doubt, but I think Christian's right in pointing out that the Cubs have:
a) several viable options for the rotation beyond the current Big Five, including Rusch, Dempster, Mitre, and perhaps even a youngster such as Brownlie.
b) the Cubbie pitching staff has performed very well when the Big Five haven't been intact this year, which has basically been, uh, all year.
Even Garciaparra isn't a perfect match: he's yet another right-handed hitter, first of all, though he really hasn't shown too bad a split from 2001-2003 (.857 OPS versus righties, .921 versus lefties), and this season is actually hitting righties better than lefties (.887 v .760). He also isn't the defender that Gonzalez (or Cabrera) is, but he certainly makes up for a deficiency there with his big slugging numbers.
Christian used VORP to compare the shortstops, and while I love VORP as a measure of a players' success, I think it actually lessens the impact he'd have on the team. VORP is a cumulative stat, taking into account playing time, so it penalizes Nomar for having missed a significant chunk of the season. Thankfully, BP also lists a version of VORP as a rate stat (VORPr), which I think highlights the difference between the players a little better:
Nomar's rate of .428 is excellent. Since playing regularly, he's been MLB's third-most productive shortstop, trailing only Carlos Guillen (yeah, I know, weird) and Miguel Tejada in productivity.Martinez 0.025
To clarify, the number next to each name represents the number of runs per game that a player adds over an imaginary "replacement" or AAA-level player. So yes, Gonzalez and Ordonez are actually worse than your average AAA player right now, while Martinez basically is a AAA player.
Expand these rates out for the remaining 61 games of the season, and you get:
The difference between the current incarnations of Alex Gonzalez and Nomar Garciaparra, trotted out for the remainder of the season, comes to about 32 runs, which is a bit more than three wins difference. That's a huge upgrade.Martinez: 1.525
According to the papers this morning, this is all probably for moot. But I just wanted to chime in with my agreement to Christian's thoughts yesterday.
After yesterday's game, that's the Cubs' record this year in one-run games, 13-19, good for a .406 winning percentage. The only team that's a contender and has a worse winning percentage in one-run games is Boston, who at 7-11 have played at a .389 clip.
Of course not. The Cubs were exceptional in one-run games last year (27-17, .614), but things haven't gone their way this year. I'm going to guess (and then research my guesses a bit) that the Cubs' poor record in one-run games (a big reason why they aren't vying for the division crown and/or leading the wild-card race) is due in part to some combination of the following:
1) pitching in the late innings
2) offense in late innings
This theory sounds great, but doesn't hold any water in practice. Despite having a bunch of righties with historically better averages against lefties, this year's Cubs are dramatically better against right-handed pitching. They've hit the second-best in the league against righties this year (276/332/479, second to Colorado), while having the worst OPS in the NL against lefties (231/302/355).
Furthermore, the Cubs have similar offensive splits in innings 1-6 (268/325/464) and 7-9 (266/327/435). It just isn't the case that the Cubs' offense gets shut down in late innings.
Hopefully the luck will change, or maybe the gods really have conspired against Chicago and Boston this year. If you have any other ideas for why you think the Cubs have struggled in one-run games, drop a note in the comments.
Cubs at Phils
I considered the commute to Philadelphia for these games, but alas, I haven't the time! The Cubs throw out Wood, Zambrano, and Prior at the Phils, which is a pretty awesome threesome, not that there's been anything wrong with Maddux or Clement recently. Prior may or may not make his Sunday start, based on his side session today, and Zambrano may or may not make his start tomorrow depending on whether or not he appeals his suspension.
Moises Alou is apparently pissed off at reading on The Cub Reporter that what the Cubs "really need in left is a left-handed on-base machine" and has now spent the past seven games going off to the line 435/552/1130, with 5 homeruns and 6 walks in only 29 plate appearances.
Maybe if I start to deride Mark Prior or something he'll stay healthy the rest of the year and throw 3 consecutive no-hitters.
A quick update on the Cubs' progress in signing the players they drafted back in June (check out the links for local information on these guys).
Among others, the Cubs have signed third round pick Mark Reed, a catcher who is the younger brother of highly-touted Seattle (former White Sox) prospect Jeremy Reed. I'm also psyched to see the Cubs sign Stanford's Sam Fuld (10th round) this time around (they drafted and failed to sign him last year). Fuld had a disappointing year but is a good on-base guy.
There are still a lot of significant names that are unsigned, including second round pick Grant Johnson. Looking over how other teams are doing in their signings, it actually looks like the Cubs are a bit behind. Lacking a first-round pick, the Cubs tried to make up for it by drafting a lot of talent that slipped farther than was expected. Some players who were expected to go around the second or third round include the following unsigned guys:
Adrian Ortiz, OF. Switch-hitting fifth round choice was written up as the fastest player in the draft.
Eric Patterson, 2B. A lefty like his brother Corey. Drafted in the eighth round.
Micah Owings, RHP. Selected in the 19th round; I think Baseball America actually has him listed as a better talent than Grant Johnson.
Two other guys I'd like to see the Cubs sign, and some comments that Baseball America had on them:
Ryan Moorer, RHP. 13th round. "Moorer, who has a commitment to Maryland, had a strong performance at the Perfect Game/Baseball America World Wood Bat Championship last October in Jupiter, Fla." I'd guess he's going to go to Maryland, but I really have no idea.
Trey Taylor, LHP. 20th round. He was drafted very high a couple years ago out of high school, but has lost some velocity. "Taylor pitches most often at 85-88 mph from a low arm slot, and mixes in curveballs, cutters and changeups."
I'm not one of those people who can remember his dreams. There are a couple nightmares I can recall vividly -- one from my youth involving Bambi and a huge, hairy spider -- but in general even the bad dreams are difficult to hold onto in the morning.
I'm going to treat yesterday's game like one of those forgotten bad dreams.
Instead, I'm thinking about what the Cubs can do to improve themselves for the balance of the year. I don't have a master plan, just some ideas about a few things that might help out.
The Cubs have a problem. They need to upgrade their offensive attack, but have only one real "hole" in their lineup -- and that's at shortstop, where there is a scarcity of available upgrades. You could envision bigger production coming from a couple other positions: center field and especially left field, but in both cases any upgrades would be marginal.
Despite our haranguing, Corey Patterson really has shown some more signs of development this year, and there are only a couple guys out there I'd rather have for the next 3-4 years: Carlos Beltran, Vernon Wells, and -- maybe -- Andruw Jones. The Astros aren't going to trade Beltran to their division rivals, Wells isn't going anywhere, and the Braves are suddenly poised to win possibly another NL East title. So Patterson it is.
Left field is another spot for an upgrade. Alou has shown more power this year, but where has his selectivity gone? Not that he was the world's most patient hitter to begin with, but the bump in Moises's slugging percentage (.517, up significantly over the past two years) is offset by the decline in his plate discipline (.334 OBP, fifteenth in the majors among the eighteen eligible left fielders). What the Cubs really need in left is a left-handed on-base machine... but sorry, Brian Giles isn't available, and does anyone think the Cubs have any interest in dumping Alouuuuu this year anyway?
This leaves shortstop, which does make the cut for "upgradeable offensive position". Here's a list of suggestions for that and a few other things:
upgrade offense at shortstop
add a relief ace
start Todd Walker against all right-handed pitching
oh yeah, and get rid of that Wendell Kim guy
These are just some of my thoughts. The Wild Card is still well within reach, but a move here and there would sure help. Drop your suggestions for the Cubs in the comments.
Last night's game was Wagnerian, hair-raising, and in the end, ugly. It was the postseason in July, reminiscent of last year's five-game set at Wrigley, where the Cubs put away the Cards with four wins.
Not this year.
This has been the Cardinals' season in the Central. I don't really understand it -- the Cardinals' nine-game lead seems to have come out of thin air. But simultaneous coolish streaks by the Cubs, Reds, and Astros, combined with a red-hot St. Louis ballclub has brought them to the brink of an unconquerable lead in the division, despite over two months of play left. I don't think the Cardinals are as good as their lead is, and certainly the Cubs are a better team (and despite injuries, have *played* like a better team) than their current record. Baseball Prospectus's adjusted standings reflect this, showing the Cubs underperforming their record by a whopping six games, while the Cards are overperforming by a couple games. The chips just haven't fallen the Cubs way to this point in the season.
The Cardinals are certainly a good team, and have reason to celebrate, but they certainly aren't a great team, despite having the best record in baseball. Jeff Suppan, Chris Carpenter and Jason Marquis have surpassed expectations, but they're still Suppan (lifetime 4.78 ERA), Carpenter (lifetime 4.72 ERA), and Marquis (lifetime 4.34 ERA). It's called regression to the mean, and the Cards have to hope the regression doesn't come until next year, and not when the Cards are in the playoffs. (BP, by the way, agrees again with this impression of the Cardinals' staff, seeing their starting rotation as the second-luckiest in baseball.) You could argue that Matt Morris is due for improvement, but he hasn't really looked right this year, and his falling K/9 ratio has to be a bit concerning. The Cardinals have the offense to overcome any stumblings in the pitching staff, but I think it's unlikely this is a team that can steamroll its way through the playoffs in the same way they have the NL Central.
As for the Cubs, this is all a disappointment. But chin up! This team can and should win the Wild Card this year, and if healthy would easily be the scariest team to face in the NL postseason. This is a team that arguably has had the best starting pitching in the game despite missing months of Prior and Wood. Again, while I wouldn't shy away from a Randy Johnson trade, this team needs offense more than it needs pitching -- you can't give up only eight runs in a four-game series with Milwaukee and only come away with a split.
Another comment on last night's game: Carlos Zambrano has, without question, emerged as my favorite player on the team, but his second plunking of Jim Edmonds last night was just stupid and immature. The Pedro-esque wagging of the finger was one thing (the type of machismo you hate unless the guy is on your team), but the second beaning was a toddler's rant, a tossing of unwanted baby food in the face of its mother. Alex Belth wrote me this morning, a short note about the Cubs game:
[Zambrano] sure is a good pitcher, but from a distance, I think the guy is a clown. Even after Rolen's dinger, the Cubs were still in the game. But he allowed himself to get caught up in the emotion of the moment. He's only 23, so I figure he'll figure a way to channel his energy. But I thought he acted like a punk last night.Zambrano is starting to get noticed around baseball for the good things he does on the field (even among those insular Yankee fans!), and it would be a shame if he now became more well-known for occasional punkish behavior.
Rusch v. Morris in a few. The Cubs don't need to win this one to make a last statement against the Cards; they need to win to start their trek towards capturing the Wild Card.
Cards at Cubs
No matchups. Just a thread. Two games, tonight and tomorrow, and the math is pretty simple. If the Cubs sweep, nothing is guaranteed, but six back is a hurdle you can envision overcoming. A Cards sweep, and division hopes are over, if they aren't already.
Maybe Zosia can bring some good luck for a couple games -- now get your butt down to that thread below and congratulate Christian and the Lovely Wife!
"The only way I would probably want to leave would be that I'm benefitting the Diamondbacks in leaving."
"This team is similar to Boston. It's the same thing. Absolutely [Nomar would] fit in. He has been through the wars and he'd handle this very well."
"I said, 'Let's get through the first inning.' We went inside and tried to get some things ironed out, then went back out and kind of gutted through two hitters. I think I knew after two pitches that things weren't right. I wasn't going to put the team in jeopardy by me limping through that inning or put myself in jeopardy."
"It's Mark Prior. We're not going to take any chances here."
"It just makes you sick to your stomach."
"We're in an area that's unknown."
"That elbow's going to go. The inside of [Mark Prior's] elbow has got to be hurting from all the force being put on it. That big loop (taking his arm behind his head) is going to snap his UCL."
"I do not doubt Mr. Hendry or the doctors. Unfortunately, neither understands the inappropriate forces that Mr. Prior applies that exceed the physiological limits of his pitching elbow. If he does not change how he applies force, then this discomfort will continue."
"Somehow, we've got to get people to understand the traditional pitching motion is broken. There's absolutely no reason for pitching-arm injuries."
"If Prior, for instance, wanted to embark upon Marshall's 280-day pitching program, [Marshall] promises the Cubs prodigy will add 5-8 mph to his fastball - in addition to making his motion injury-free."
"My dream is to teach 10 pitchers of (Prior's) quality and have them as a staff. You'd just watch them annihilate hitters - and they'd never be sore or stiff."
"He let it go pretty good. It's good to see him able to do that and not have [elbow pain] barking at him at all. We'll see how he is [Monday] and go from there."
"This [season] has been the most trying, the worst, because it has been a lot of people [injured], everyone almost."
"I knew that (I'd be on the bench) but I also didn't know I'd get off to the start I got off to and playing well. That makes it a little more difficult. I'm not going to rock the boat on any of that. I knew going in what my role was. It'll be different next year, wherever I'm at. I didn't realize it'd be this tough."
"With us scoring a few runs, [Matt Clement] should have made the All-Star team. He really should only have three or four losses."
"But to win, you have to have clutch hitting and allow yourself to do what you need to do by having a good at-bat. Swinging at high pitches and balls in the dirt, you're not mentally into the game or into what the pitcher's trying to do to you."
"I'm just trying to win and trying to keep the team in the game. I feel I've been doing a decent job of that."
We'll learn (much) more about the extent of this injury in the near future, though the Tribune has initially characterized it as more precautionary than anything else: "[Prior] broke off the mound on a ground ball to first and the Cubs training staff and pitching coach Larry Rothschild decided to play it safe."
Let's hope "play it safe" is the extent of it.
Update 9:30 PM ET: While there still is no official word, the Brewers broadcasters are saying Prior left due to some "tenderness" in his right elbow. There clearly isn't a whole lot of information available yet.
Update 11:50 PM ET: Confirmation that it was his right elbow that was tender.
Brewers (45-41, -8.5) at Cubs (47-40, -7)
At last my love has come along
[Alex]: Prior. Wood. Sosa. The Cubs still have a few guys banged up (Borowski and Gonzalez being the most prominent), but at last they have their rotation intact and their most important offensive player in the fold. For Zambrano and Clement, Lee and Ramirez, the lonely days are over. That the Cubs are still within solid grasp of the postseason despite losing so much of the Big Three's seasons is a minor miracle. Winning the division is a very tough task - and highly dependant on the Cardinals stumbling - but winning the Wild Card is every bit conceivable. All the Cubs can try to do about their situation is win.
Take a look at the lines for the Brewers starters. Not bad! I'd argue that Ben Sheets enters the second-half as your Cy Young leading candidate, but the rest of the supporting cast has some surprisingly good numbers as well. As opposed to years past, this series is not a cakewalk.
[Christian:] Man, those three days over the break are really long and boring. I actually watched a couple innings of the AAA All-Star game last night to get a little fix, but it didn't really help.
This Milwaukee series is going to be a challenging one. In the comments, Neal pointed out that the Brewers have played the Cubs tough recently, and it's true. Last year, despite ending the season 20 games behind the Cubs, Milwaukee won 6 of the 16 games the two teams played. So far this year, the vastly improved Brewer team has swept the Cubs at Wrigley North, and the two teams hook up 14 more times this season (as opposed to only two more Cubs-Cardinals games) so the road to the NL Central title, one way or the other, is going to go through Milwaukee.
Cubs vs. Doug Davis
Alou: 4-15, 267/267/400, 1 3B
Brewers vs. Mark Prior
Ginter: 5-10, 500/583/1700, 3 HR
Cubs vs. Brewers Bullpen
Alou vs. Burba: 6-23, 261/393/522, 2 HR, 5 BB, 5 K
Brewers vs. Cubs Bullpen
Grieve vs. Hawkins: 6-15, 400/471/467
Nothin' Like A (Sorta) Rumor
Last night's All-Star Game chat with Rob Neyer over on ESPN produced this tasty exchange:
charles ro, seattle: Any thoughts about nomar to the cubs, johnson to the bosox and prospects/young talent to the d-backs?
Rob Neyer: (11:40 PM ET ) Now this one makes a lot more sense than Garciaparra to the White Sox. In this one, everybody gets what they need. If I'm the Red Sox, I'm concerned about the Big Unit's durability over the next season and a half, but they probably have to do something bold...
So this actually isn't really a rumor; rather just an idea proposed in a chat. Still, considering that there have been a few rumors floating around involving the Cubs and each of the players involved, it isn't such a bad thought.
A Cub fan later in the chat suggested that he'd rather see the Cubs hang onto the Big Unit if they were involved in a trade with him. In this case, I disagree: the starting pitching really hasn't been a problem, even with Wood and Prior out for extended periods. The Cubs enter the second half with two starters pitching extremely well (Clement and Zambrano), two who you can expect to pitch well (Wood and Prior), and one who has been average but -- let's admit -- has a pretty decent track record to fall back on (Maddux). Throw in a quality spot starter in Rusch and the Cubs now have virtual riches in starting pitching.
Shortstop, though, is another matter, and a chance to upgrade from schlek to Nomah could add a couple notches to the win column something quick. Still, this isn't even a rumor, just an idea someone had in a chat. I just thought it was a pretty decent one.
UPDATE (10:00 AM ET):
An American League team executive, who has been briefed on the trade discussions, said the Red Sox were talking with at least one team about using Garciaparra as a chip to help land the 40-year-old Johnson, who is a five-time Cy Young award winner. And that team is the Chicago Cubs, whose farm system is rich in pitching.So there you go.
Saving It For When It Counts
Whiff! Sammy Sosa swings and misses at the second ball thrown his way. Sosa made up for that bit of embarrassment later in the first round with four consecutive home run swings, but he failed to make it past the first round in last night's home run derby. The good news for Cubs fans is that:
a) he didn't wrench his back or anything stupid
b) this doesn't count
Still, it woulda been nice to see Sammy hit a few more out and upstage that Astros guy.
After a several week haitus, quotes from your Cubs are back.
"It was pretty tough. I was in extended spring training in Arizona and I faced a lot of young kids and fastballs. Then you get to Triple-A and you see a variety of breaking balls and different stuff. It took me about three weeks to get acclimated to that before I really became comfortable and had my legs under me."
"It didn't start very well. Felt like a plus-one, like I was playing hockey. I took one away and I knocked one in. Tough start, but that's all right. After I got a hit, I calmed down a lot."
"You can't hide people. That ball will find you. I'm about defense. It's high on my list. I like offense, but you lose more games on defense. I don't like moving guys out of position on defense."
"It's about defense. Defense is high on my list. People ask me about moving Grudzielanek to shortstop. You just don't move to short."
"It was during the game and I thought, 'It's been a year [since his injury].' I didn't know or pay attention to it. It happened last year and I'm back this year playing and things are going great so far. I'll continue to work hard and hopefully injuries won't come up."
"The doctors were surprised at how far I've come along. It feels like a long process, but I'm feeling progress, and that's encouraging."
"I saw it, but I didn't move in time. If it had hit Alou, it wouldn't have hit me. Better me than Mo."
"I tell you, that ball hurts. I tell my wife and son never to take your eye off the ball when you come to the ballpark."
"This is probably the one I'm most proud about, because I got picked by players and coaches."
"That would have been great for him because he would have been on the map. The toughest one to make is the first one, then you become a household name."
"It was a bad three days here."
"Nobody's been to my locker to talk to me in a month, so no talking today."
"I told him it was bad wood. Actually, it was a very good bat."
"Mike Remlinger put a ball underneath some water and said, 'Here's your game ball.'"
"The sun's going to come up tomorrow for most of us."
Spread the Wealth
After five games of feebleness from the hitters, the bats woke up; every one of the Cubs' starting nine got a hit last night, and the 8-4 victory may have kept the Cubs within reach -- however long that reach -- of the division title. Seven games out at the All-Star break is no picnic, but it does sound better than nine out.
Lots of stuff has being written about how Wood's return is just what the Cubs have needed:
"He was such a huge part of last year. I wasn't there but I can sort of sense what he means to this team. It's nice to have him back and it kind of rubbed off on everybody."
"The last time the Cubs could count on both Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, the ivy at Wrigley Field was red. That it's still in its brightest green might be the best reason for the Cubs to celebrate Wood's return."
"[Wood's] return to the mound, for the first time in two months, had a therapeutic effect on a stumbling club that was poised to hire Dr. Phil. ... [N]othing comforts these guys quite like the vision of a healthy Wood, who shut down baseball's most potent lineup and turned what could have been a nine-game hole in the National League Central to a slightly less panicky seven."
"I was happy with the way Woody pitched. That's something we need right now."
Now, I don't really disagree with any of this stuff. A healthy, effective Wood in the Cubs rotation is nothing but a good thing. But during the Cubs losing streaks this year, the pitching hasn't been the problem. It's great to get five innings of one-run ball from Kerry Wood, but what the Cubs have really been needing is more three-run homers from Sosa.
More. Three-run. Homers.
Adding offense: there's also a bit of chatter today about a rumored Orlando Cabrera-for-A Gonz swap. Cabrera has been having a mighty awful year (237/293/319), and his career numbers are no great shakes (266/315/405), but his averages from the past three years (279/331/424) would be a nice improvement over what the Cubs have been throwing out at shortstop so far. If Cabrera were to give a .750 OPS (let alone 2003's .807 OPS) the remainder of the season for the Cubs, that would be a nice boost over the .700 OPS that could be expected from A-Gonz.
I finally got my wireless connection set up and working in my apartment at 4am this morning, but I still haven't gotten my Extra Innings package worked out. But since tonight's game (in 40 minutes!) is on ESPN, I'll be in attendance from the friendly confines of my itty-bitty studio.
Christian covered the offensive funkery and frustrations of the past five games below, and I'm sad to say that his fears of a Macias-Ordonez spectacular will be realized, though it is Brendan Harris and not Alou who gets the bench. The Cubs not only need Wood to pitch well tonight, but they also need his bat; he might be a better hitter than tonight's left-side of the infield...
Cubs (46-38, -6) at Cards (52-32, +0)
Pretty important series here (which of course you could say about almost any series) but a series against the guys you're six back of in the standings takes on some extra importance. A Cards sweep (no!) would leave the Cubs virtually out of reach of the division crown, though the Wild Card would still be a goal. How did this happen, and seemingly happen so quickly? According to most pythagoreanesque ranking systems, the Cubs have actually been underperforming their "expected record" all season, and should be about tied with the Cards. But six games back? A tough mountain to climb.
Kerry Wood is expected to be the starter in Sunday's game, or else it may be Mark Prior.
Friday, July 9
Saturday, July 10
Sunday, July 11
Moved On Up, Cubs Drop Two
I've moved into my new place, kinda sorta. My bed has sheets on it, my spices are in the rack, but I still have to wade through boxes to get from the TV to the bathroom. And my cable modem doesn't really work, blinking a steady, angry pulse of green at me, connecting only -- and only briefly -- during the five minutes I happen to be on the phone with the support people. Like a bad joke. Thanks, Time Warner. Not only does Roadrunner work about as well as Roadkill, but you refuse to transfer my MLB Extra Innings package to my new account. Thanks!
On top of the move, I actually spent the weekend in rural Vermont, not that there is really any other type of Vermont. I had no TV, no Internet, no newspapers, and had no idea what was happening in the Cubs-White Sox series. As seems to be typical of my travels in the Northeast, however, the Cubs won every game while I was away; last year, they won all of their NLCS games while I was vacationing in Maine, losing while home in NYC. Likewise, I come home and bam! Cubs lose two in a row, to the not-nearly-as-embarrasing-as-last-year Brewers. Not that I've been able to watch the games on TV. Time Warner, Thanks!
Matt Clement must be frustrated after Monday's loss. He's now given up a total of six earned runs in his last five games (1.71 ERA) and has an 0-3 record to show for it. Mark Prior, on the other hand, has yet to really establish a groove for himself, and has now walked an uncharacteristic 9 batters in his last 16.3 innings. I'm not worried about Prior, though. He'll get his command back, and he's still striking 'em out at a great rate (10 strikeouts per 9 innings).
I know that my Cubs win when I travel to New England, but do they win on my birthday? I'll put the theory to test yet again today. Some history:
Eh. So the Cubs are .500 on my birthday. They did quite well while I was a toddler, but those early 90s sure sucked. This pattern seems similar to how it goes when you see your team live for the first few times; I think the Cubs won the first five or so games I attended in person -- I was their lucky charm!--, though they now lose with regularity when I go.JULY 7th GAME RESULTS
So I dunno what this means for today's game, other than that if I really wanted to make sure that the Cubs won today, I'd hop on a bus for New Hampshire or its neighboring states. Heck, maybe I could even get my cable modem to work up there...
It's 2:00 a.m., the Cubs escaped more Carlos Beltran heroics with a great win today, but I'm tired and weepy for other reasons. I've packed up my bags, taped up my boxes, and am sitting down for a quick moment before I unplug my router and head to bed. I'm moving tomorrow morning, leaving my beloved Brooklyn and my roommate Julie after five great years. The Upper West Side in Manhattan will be my next stop -- I'm renting a t-i-i-i-i-ny studio -- but while my new nabe is a great one, I don't see how it could treat me as well as Brooklyn has.
Due to the move and a short weekend vacation I'm taking in Vermont, I won't be around to catch the Cubs -- no Internet, no TV, and probably not even a newspaper. Root hard and post often in my absence; I'll be back on Monday.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com