Archive | November, 2008

Tags: , ,

Cubs To Be Yankees’ First Opponent in New Yankee Stadium

Posted on 20 November 2008 by Lou

It’s official – MLB has announced that the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees will play 2 exhibition games at the new Yankee Stadium on Saturday April 3rd and Sunday April 4th. The 2 teams last played during inter-league play in 2005 at the old Yankee Stadium.

Each team’s current manager has ties to the other organization. Yankees’ Manager Joe Girardi played for the Cubs from 1989 through 1992 and from 2000 through 2002. Cubs’ Manager Lou Pinella won 2 World Series Championships as a player with the Yankees in 1977 and 1978. He played for the Yankees for 11 MLB seasons, and managed the Yankees from 1986 through 1988.

yankee stadium.jpg

Comments (0)

Tags: , ,

Cubs, Dempster Agree on 4-Year, $52 Million Deal

Posted on 19 November 2008 by Lou

dempster cubs.jpg

The Chicago Cubs and Ryan Dempster agreed to a 4-year, $52 million deal on Tuesday. The deal includes a $4 million signing bonus and a player option for Dempster for $14 million for the 2012 season. Ryan Dempster will get to stay with a team he loves and a city that he learned to call his own. He lives in Wrigleyville right near Wrigley Field and is often seen on his bike riding to the stadium for games.

Dempster worked hard during the off-season preceding the 2008 MLB season to get back into “starting pitcher” shape after being the Cubs closer from 2005 through 2007, during which he saved 85 games. All his hard work paid off in a big way, as Dempster emerged as the Cubs’ most consistent pitcher throughout the long season. Dempster finished the year with an impressive 17-6 record. His sparkling 2.96 ERA kept his team in many games during the MLB grind, and he finished in the top 7 in the NL in wins, strikeouts and ERA. Dempster was also named to the 2008 All-Star Game for the first time since 2000 when he won 14 games as a starter for the Florida Marlins.

Most importantly, Dempster was the anchor of a Cubs’ pitching staff that had the 3rd best ERA (3.87) in the National League. With Zambrano and newly acquired starter Rich Harden occasionally needing some extra rest during the long season, Dempster, Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis were reliable, dependable starters who never missed a start. By keeping Dempster in house, the Cubs are all set to begin the 2009 season with the same starting rotation – Zambrano, Dempster, Lilly, Harden and Marquis. Cubs GM Jim Hendry is still exploring options for another 5th starter – Jake Peavy or Randy Johnson – which would likely mean the departure of Jason Marquis. It’s always good to have excellent and reliable starting pitching depth, something Hendry and the Cubs have learned all too well in recent years while patiently waiting for stars like Kerry Wood and Mark Prior to overcome their various arm injuries.

The Dempster signing is a good signing for all of the above reasons. Plus, he is a great clubhouse guy – he always kept the mood light with his practical jokes and was someone that the younger players looked up to. That being said, I was a little taken aback by his statements in his press conference that maybe the team underestimated how much they had to be prepared to take on the Dodgers in the divisional round of the playoffs a month ago. Dempster almost made it sound like that because the Cubs had home field advantage, they would automatically go up 2-0 and then finish it off in L.A. Given the Cubs 100-year World Series drought, the Diamondbacks sweep of the Cubs in the 1st round of the 2007 playoffs, and the fact that Dempster has been a Cubs player for 4 years and knows all about the anguish that Cubs players and fans have endured over the years, you would think Dempster and his teammates would know that you cannot take anything for granted. If they really did take things too lightly this past October, then we can only hope that the Cubs somehow make the post-season for a 3rd consecutive season next year so that they can re-dress that wrong in the Fall Classic in October 2009.

Comments (0)

Tags: , ,

Pinella Named National League Manager of Year

Posted on 18 November 2008 by Lou

While I was away in San Diego, the Cubs received many awards for their performance in 2008. I already wrote about Soto’s Rookie of the Year Win and Zambrano’s Silver Slugger Trophy, and next up is Lou Pinella’s Manager of the Year Achievement. The Baseball Writers Association of America voted Pinella the Manager of the Year for coaching the Chicago Cubs to the best record in the National League during the 2008 MLB season. At 65 years of age, Pinella has won the Manager of the Year Award 3 times now. This was his first National League Manager of the Year Award – he won the award as the Manager of the Seattle Mariners in the American League in both 1995 and 2001. Pinella received 15 first-place votes and finished with 103 points. Second place finisher Charlie Manuel, the Manager of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, received 8 first-place votes and finished with 67 points. Pinella is the 4th Manager to win the award in both leagues of MLB – Tony LaRussa (A’s and Cardinals), Bobby Cox (Blue Jays and Braves) and Jim Leyland (Pirates and Tigers) have also achieved that feat. Pinella joins 4 other managers who have won the award at least 3 times – La Russa, Cox, Leyland and former Cubs Manager Dusty Baker (who won it all 3 times with the San Francisco Giants).

Pinella led the Cubs to a 97-64 record. The 97 wins was the most wins recorded by the Cubs since the 1945 season when the Cubs won 98 games and lost in the World Series – the last time the Cubs advanced that far in post-season play. The Cubs won the NL Central Division title for the 2nd consecutive season and reached a season high 35 games over .500 on August 29, 2008 – the 1st time to do so since that same 1945 season. Pinella becomes the 1st manager to take the Cubs to back-to-back post-season appearances in 100 years – Manager Frank Chance managed the Cubs in 3 consecutive World Series in 1906, 1907 and 1908.

On the down side, the Cubs were swept out of the playoffs in the divisional series for the 2nd consecutive year. Mediocre pitching and atrocious hitting were the demise of the Cubs in each series. Although Pinella, Cubs players and Cubs fans are obviously disappointed with the early post-season departures in each of the last 2 seasons, the team continues to head in the right direction. You can’t win a World Series unless you make it to the post-season, and come 2009, the Cubs will surely be considered a favorite to win the NL Central Division and head to a 3rd consecutive playoff appearance. Will it actually happen in October? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

pinella classic.jpg

Comments (0)

Tags: , ,

Do Hendry and the Cubs Even Have a Plan?

Posted on 17 November 2008 by Lou

hendry big.jpg

Does Jim Hendry have a viable plan for the 2009 Chicago Cubs?

I was out of Chicago all last week, spending some vacation time in the city of Jake Peavy – the much-coveted right-handed starting pitcher for the San Diego Padres. After the GM meetings ended right before I left, I really didn’t expect much to happen until the winter meetings in a few weeks. But I was sorely mistaken – as a LOT did happen while I was gone.

The biggest shocker of them all was the trade for the Marlins’ “closer-turned-set-up-man” Kevin Gregg. Gregg was the team’s closer for the 1st 4 months of the season, but an injury and a dismal 10.00+ ERA during the month of August had Gregg begging for any sort of relief work in September. The arrival of Gregg meant the departure of Cubs locker room mainstay Kerry Wood. Granted, Wood had suffered through many injury-ridden seasons for the Cubs since his magical rookie season back in 1998 when he won 14 games, struck out 20 batters in his 5th-career major league start and was named National League Rookie of the Year for his efforts that year. But he showed his might during the 2008 season, appearing in 64 games, pitching in 66 1/3 innings, converting 34 of 40 save opportunities and racking up an impressive 84 strikeouts. Given those numbers, and the fact that he only missed time due to a blister on his finger (and not a shoulder or arm issue), I was surprised that the Cubs did not pursue another “hometown discount” deal with Wood to get him to stay in Chicago, a city he calls home and a city where he and his wife are heavily involved in numerous charitable organizations. I guess the Cubs felt he wanted a longer-term deal than they were willing to give, so they had to move in a different direction.

That being said, giving up Jose Ceda, a 21-yeard old fireballer who excelled in Single-A and Double-A baseball in 2008, was an interesting aspect of the deal. In negotiating the Peavy-to-Cubs deal, the Padres have continually said that the Cubs don’t have enough pitching to give the Padres in exchange for Peavy. Ceda would seem to be a perfect fit for the cash-strapped Padres, but in giving him up for a man that “might” be a dependable “set-up” man for Carlos Marmol doesn’t seem to make much sense to me.

Hendry and the Cubs have also emphasized the need to add a left-handed outfield bat to the Cubs lineup. Looking at the avaliable free agents out there, you can’t find any that fit that mold. Manny Ramirez, Adam Dunn, Milton Bradley, Pat Burrell, Bobby Abreu are the only 5 outfielders listed in Scout Inc.’s (Keith Law) Top 30 free agent outfielders. None of those player fit the Cubs mold, except for maybe Adam Dunn. Dunn strikes out a ton, but he has hit 40 home runs in each of the last 4 years and has had an on-base percentage greater than .386 in 4 of the last 5 years. But he is a weakness in right field, and the Cubs are already weak enough in left field with Alfonso Soriano. The Cubs have said that Raul Ibanez is tops on their list, but Ibanez (ranked #33) is actually ranked below Jim Edmonds (#32), who played well for the Cubs uin 2008, but who has already been told he won’t be a Cub in 2009. Let’s compare the numbers:

Edmonds – in only 111 games – 20 home runs, 55 RBI’s, 53 runs, .235 batting average, .343 on-base percentage, .479 slugging percentage.

Ibanez – in all 162 games – 23 home runs, 110 RBI’s, 85 runs, .293 batting average, .358 on-base percentage, .479 slugging percentage.

Now if you tell me that the Cubs didn’t sign Wood to save money to go after Manny or Dunn, then maybe I could see where they’re headed. But if they didn’t sign Wood so that they could overpay for Ibanez who is already 36 years old, I don’t get it at all.

Don’t even get me started about not-signing Ryan Dempster before other teams could make offers to him on Friday 11/14. I know that Dempster loves Chicago like Wood, but now that Wood is gone, Dempster may have a different view on how the Cubs plan on treating their long-time, devoted players. Dempster is likely to draw longer and more-lucrative contracts from other teams, and his willingness to accept a hometown discount may not be as likely now.

And the talk of signing 45-year old Randy Johnson is mind-boggling. I know that his 2008 numbers are respectable – 11-10, 3.91 ERA, 30 starts – but can he really be relied upon to lead the Cubs all season long and through a playoff run? Not likely.

Jim Hendry has assembled a great “regular season” team the last 2 seasons, and I give him credit for that. But he needs to assemble a “great overall team” that is capable of winning the World Series. His hands are tied monetarily by long-term contracts with Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee and Carlos Zambrano, so he can’t afford to go after another big-name player like Manny Ramirez or Mark Texeira. On the other hand, the rest of the free agent market is pretty mediocre, so spending a lot of money on one of those players doesn’t seem to be in the best interests of the Cubs. Given these circumstances, I’m not expecting a lot from Hendry this off-season. Here’s to hoping that I am wrong.

Comments (0)

Tags: , ,

Carlos Zambrano Wins 2008 Silver Slugger Award

Posted on 16 November 2008 by Lou

Carlos Zambrano won the 2008 Silver Slugger Award for the top hitting pitcher in the Major Leagues. Zambrano hit .337 with 4 home runs and 14 RBI’s. Zambrano hit in 13 straight games at one point during the season, the longest hitting streak in MLB since Wilbur Cooper had a 15-game hitting streak way back in 1924. Zambrano also became the 1st pitcher in MLB history to have an RBI in 8 straight starts when he did that during the months of June and July. This is Zambrano’s 2nd Silver Slugger Award (he won in 2006).

carlos z.jpg

Comments (0)

Tags: , ,

2008 Magical Moment – Cubs Clinch 2nd Straight NL Central Title

Posted on 15 November 2008 by Lou

The day finally came – Saturday, September 20th at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field. The Cubs defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 5-4 to give the Cubs their 2nd consecutive NL Central Division title under Manager Lou Pinella. It was great to be able to clinch the title at home (2007’s NL Central clinching game came on the road). Ted Lilly worked 7 solid innings. He only had one bad inning in which he gave up all 4 Cardinals runs. Carlos Marmol worked a perfect 8th inning and Kerry Wood worked the 9th inning for his 32nd save of the MLB season. The 5-4 win brought a staifying finish to a long, grueling 2008 season.

Alfonso Soriano had a 2-RBI single, which scored a third run following a Cardinals’ error in the field. Mark DeRosa added onto the lead with an RBI-double. And Ted Lilly performed a great sacrifice squeeze play to score the 5th run – which turned out to be the game-winner.

The Cubs qualified for post-season play 2 years in a row for the 1st time in over 60 years. The Cubs fans celebrated for hours after the game as only Cubs fans know how to do. Too bad the post-season celebrations did not last longer into October 2008.

cubs cards nl central.jpg

Comments (0)

Tags: , ,

2008 Magical Moment – – Cubs Sweep White Sox @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 14 November 2008 by Lou

What a glorious occurrence – the Cubs sweep the White Sox at Wrigley Field. It doesn’t happen often, so you gotta enjoy it and live it up. Plus, it could happen right back to you on the South Side (as it did just one week later), so if you don’t rub it in when it happens, you might miss out on your chance.

6/20 – Cubs 4, White Sox 3 – Aramis Ramirez hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th inning off White Sox reliever Scott Linebrink to give the Cubs the 4-3 win in the series opener. It was Ramirez’ 2nd home run of the game. Kerry Wood worked the top of the 9th inning to keep the game tied at 3, and picked up the win in relief.

6/21 – Cubs 11, White Sox 7 – The Cubs scored 9 runs in the 4th inning to blow the game open for winner Jason Marquis. The Cubs hit all 4 of their home runs in the 4th inning of White Sox starter Jose Contreras. Jim Edmonds hit 2 home runs in the inning and Aramis Ramirez and Mike Fontenot each added shots for the Cubs. Kosuke Fukodome, Derrek Lee and Eric Patterson each had RBI singles in the 4th inning too. A late rally by the White Sox forced the Cubs to bring in Kerry Wood to preserve the win and pick up another save for the North Siders.

6/22 – Cubs 7, White Sox 1 – The Cubs completed the sweep behind a workhorse-like performance by Ryan Dempster on ESPN’s Sunday Night baseball. Dempster did not have his best stuff, but he managed to throw 103 pitches in 8 innings to pick up the win. Despite giving up 10 hits, he allowed only 1 earned run, working out of numerous jams throughout the night. Aramis Ramirez clubbed another home run – his 4th of he series. He hit a home run in each game of the weekend series. It was also the Cubs 14th straight win at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

cubs white sox.jpg

Comments (0)

Tags: , ,

Geovany Soto Wins NL Rookie of the Year Award

Posted on 13 November 2008 by Lou

Chicago Cubs Catcher was named the NL Rookie of the Year on Monday. Geovany Soto was the almost unanimous choice, taking 31 of the 32 1st place votes and finishing well ahead of Cincinnati Reds 1st baseman Joey Votto.

Soto hit a respectable .285, cracking 23 home runs and 35 doubles, and driving in 86 runs. In addition to his productive hitting all season long, Soto led the Cubs rotation to a 3.87 ERA, good for 3rd best in the NL. Soto is the 1st catcher to win the Rookie of the Year award since Mike Piazza won the award with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1993. Soto was the 1st rookie catcher to start in the All-Star Game for the National League. Soto also caught Carlos Zambrano’s no-hitter against the Houston Astros in September – the first for each of them. Soto has a great future ahead with the Chicago Cubs.

Tampa Bay Rays 3rd baseman Evan Longoria was named the Rookie of the Year award winner in the American League. Longoria beat up 2nd place finisher Alexei Ramirez of the Chicago White Sox and 3rd place finisher Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox.

soto cubs.jpg

Comments (1)

Tags: , ,

2008 Magical Moment – Cubs Sweep Mets in Quick 2-game Series

Posted on 12 November 2008 by Lou

cubs beat mets.jpg

Just like the March / April Brewers series, it’s never too early to get excited about a series against an MLB team from New York. The Cubs squared off against the Mets in April – and the 2 teams wouldn’t meet again during the 2008 MLB season until a 4 game series at Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadows in New York in September. With the off-season addition of Johan Santana, the Mets were considered one of the top NL teams capable of winning the pennant in 2008. The Cubs, however, had gotten off to a hot start in 2008, and they needed to prove their mettle with a big series against the Mets.

Boy did they deliver:

Monday 4/21 – Carlos Zambrano pitched 7 innings, giving up only 1 earned run and 5 hits, to best Mets starter John Maine. The Cubs took the lead on a 2-run home run by Aramis Ramirez. Then they broke the 2-1 game open in the 8th inning with 5 quick runs. Ronny Cedeno hit a clutch 2-run single and then Felix Pie delivered the knockout punch with a 3-run home run. The Cubs had sent a message to the Mets and the rest of the National League that they were going to be a force to be reckoned with all season long.

Tuesday 4/22 – In the day game early the next day, the Cubs kept up the onslaught. Ted Lilly out-dueled Nelson Figueroa, going 6 innings and allowing only 1 earned run. He did not have his best stuff, walking 4 batters along the way, but he kept his team in it all throughout his start, to give his team a chance to win. Ronny Cedeno had another big game. He started off the Cubs scoring with an RBI-double in the 4th inning and he closed out the scoring with a Grand Slam in the 8th inning to seal the victory.

Cubs 2 games to nothing over the New York Mets. The Cubs knew it in their club house, and now the rest of the National League knew it. The Cubs were ready to play in 2008, and they weren’t going to go down without a fight. It was going to be a special season on the North Side of Chicago…

Comments (0)

Tags: , ,

2008 Magical Moment – Cubs Sweep Brewers in Mid July

Posted on 11 November 2008 by Lou

Chicago Cubs fans’ greatest fears were upon them. The “collapse” was happening. After taking a big lead in the National League Central Division, that lead had dwindled down to 1 game following the All-Star Break. The Cubs had only won 4 of 10 games to start the 2nd half of the season, while the Milwaukee Brewers were surging ahead behind recent pick – ace CC Sabbathia – who was leading the Brewers to complete game victories in just about every start. The Cubs were getting ready to face the team that trailed them by 1 game – that same Brewers club – in a big 4 game series at Miller Park in Milwaukee. The Cubs had to face the Brewers top 2 pitchers – recent pick up CC Sabbathia and Ben Sheets – in the first 2 games of the season. A split would keep the Cubs 1 game ahead. Worst case, the Cubs lose 3 and are still only 1 game out of first place. Cubs fans couldn’t even mutter that dreaded word “sweep”, a potential Brewers sweep that would put the Cubs down 3 games in the division they had led all season long.

So what happened? The un-imaginable.

Game 1 – Cubs 6, Brewers 4 – Lilly v. Sabbathia. The Cubs roughed up Sabbathia for 9 hits and 4 runs in only 6 2/3 innings. The Cubs led for most of the game until Russell Branyan tied the game at 4 with a solo home run in the 7th inning. The Cubs scored 2 runs in the 9th inning on an RBI-double by Derrek Lee and an infield single by Mark DeRosa. Carlos Marmol picked up the save by striking out 2 Brewers batters and walking one in the 9th inning. Cubs increase lead to 2 games.

Game 2 – Cubs 7, Brewers 1 – Zambrano v. Sheets. Carlos Zambrano picked up his 12th win of the season, dominating the Brewers over 8 scoreless innings, giving up only 5 hits and striking out 9. Aramis Ramirez had 4 hits for the Cubs, while Kosuke Fukodome and Mark DeRosa each had 2 RBI’s. The Cubs jumped all over Ben Sheets – knocking him around for 6 earned runs on 11 hits in only 5 1/3 innings of work. Cubs increase lead to 3 games.

Game 3 – Cubs 7, Brewers 2 – Dempster v. Parra. Now it was Ryan Dempster’s turn to silence the Brewers. Dempster hurled 7 innings of 1-run, 5-hit ball, striking out 9 along the way. He picked up his 12th win in the process. Once again, the Cubs bats came to play – Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Theriot and Reed Johnson each had 3 hits for the Cubs, while Theriot also drove in 3 runs. Brewers starter Manny Parra lasted only 5 1/3 innings, giving up 8 hits and 5 earned runs. Cubs increase lead to 4 games.

Could it be a sweep in the Cubs direction???!!!

Game 4 – Cubs 11, Brewers 4 – WOW – Cubs Sweep! Cubs Sweep! Cubs Sweep! After Jim Edmonds gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the 3rd inning with a solo home run, Edmonds blew the game wide open with a Grand Slam in the 4th inning, giving the Cubs a commanding 5-0 lead. The Cubs added 4 more runs in the 8th inning and 2 more runs in the 9th inning to close out the Cubs attack. Rich Harden pitched another gem for the Cubs – 7 innings, 1 earned run, 6 hits and 9 strikeouts. Cubs increase lead to 5 games.

The series truly turned the tide for the Cubs ball club. The had hit a bump in the road and could have decided to continue to free fall. Instead, each Cubs starter dug deep and kept his team in the game right from the start. And the Cubs bats picked a perfect time to get hot in unison. The Cubs sweep rejuvenated a team that was questioning itself, and demoralized a team that had been riding high.

cubs brewers.jpg

Comments (0)

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here