Archive | November, 2008

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2008 Magical Moment – Cubs Avoid Sweep, Beat Brewers 6-3

Posted on 10 November 2008 by Lou

It’s never too early to get a big win – even when it’s only the 3rd game of the young MLB season. That’s exactly what happened on Thursday, April 3rd, when the Cubs topped the Brewers 6-3 at Wrigley Field. The Cubs had looked awful in their first 2 games of the year against the Milwaukee Brewers – the team that most critics predicted would give the Cubs the toughest battle during the 162-game MLB marathon. The Brewers beat the Cubs 4-3 in extra innings in the MLB opener for each team. 2 days later the Brewers crushed the Cubs 8-2 to take a 2-game lead in the NL Central Division. The Cubs had played from behind all throughout the 1st four months of the 2007 MLB season, and a 3rd consecutive loss to the Brewers would once again put them in a serious hole. The Cubs needed a win, and they were sending their closer for the last 3 years – Ryan Dempster – to the mound to start to get that all-important victory.

In his first start since May 4, 2005, Dempster took the bump and settled in after a shaky 1st inning in which he gave up 2 runs (1 earned) to the Brewers. Dempster lasted 6 solid innings, giving up only 3 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 5. He gave up only that 1 earned run in the 1st inning. Carlos Marmol resumed his set-up role with the same success he achieved in 2007, pitching the 7th and 8th innings, giving up 1 earned run on 2 hits. Marmol passed the baton over to Kerry Wood, who recorded the first save of his career with a 17-pitch 9th inning. Wood did give up 1 hit, but he struck out 2 batters to preserve the win for the Cubs.

The Cubs bats finally woke up as well. The Cubs tied the game at 2 in the 2nd inning on a Mark DeRosa RBI-single and a Geovany Soto sacrifice fly. The Cubs took the lead for good in the 4th inning in the most improbable way – a walk with the bases loaded to the least patient hitter in the Cubs lineup – Alfonso Soriano. Aramis Ramirez helped increase the lead to 4-2 with a solo home run in the 5th inning. And the Cubs rounded out their scoring with a Soriano RBI-single and Ryan Theriot RBI-double in the 6th inning.

The win produced a 2-game shift in the Cubs favor. While it may have seemed insignificant at the time, it’s never good to fall 3 games behind your toughest opponent that early in the season. It also set the tone for the season that Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood were set to have. Dempster went on to be the Cubs most reliable pitcher with a 17-6 record and a 2.96 ERA. Wood made 65 appearances during the season and ended up saving 34 games for the Cubs. For 2 guys in new roles, you couldn’t ask for anything more than that, and they were a big reason the Cubs found themselves with a 2nd consecutive NL Central Division title.

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2008 Magical Moment: Cubs Top Rockies 10-9

Posted on 09 November 2008 by Lou

Less than 24 hours after the Chicago Cubs pulled off an 8-5 win over the Colorado Rockies with 5 late runs in the 6th and 7th innings, the Cubs pulled off an even more improbable come-from-behind win with a 10-9 victory over the disappointing Rockies. In this eventful contest, Ted Lilly had one of his worst outings of the 2008 season. Lilly lasted only 3 innings, giving up 7 runs (4 earned) on 8 hits, including 3 damaging home runs. Jon Lieber didn’t fare much better, giving up 2 earned runs on 5 hits in 3 2/3 innings of relief. The one positive – neither Cubs pitcher walked a Rockies batter. With the score 9-1 after 5 innings, many fans started to leave the friendly confines of Wrigley Field to enjoy the Wrigleyville bars before they got too crowded.

That was a BIG mistake – as that’s just when the fun began. In the 6th inning, Kosuke Fukodome hit a 2-run home run and Jim Edmonds hit a solo home run to cut the Rockies lead to only 5 runs. With a 15 MPH wind blowing out at Wrigley, that 5 run lead was definitely within striking distance. Alfonso Soriano made the 1st out leading off the 7th inning. After a Mike Fontenot single to left field, Henry Blanco hit a long 2-run home run to center field to cut the lead to 9-6. Micah Hoffpauir followed the Blanco home run up with a long single to deep right center field. Manny Corpas relieved Aaron Cook and Kosuke Fukodome promptly greeted him with a single to left field that sent Hoffpauir to 2nd base. Jim Edmonds came through in the clutch once again – driving a fly ball to deep center field that scored both Hoffpauir and Fukodome. Rockies 9, Cubs 8 – still only 1 out in the 7th inning. Mark DeRosa sent the friendly confines of Wrigley Field into a frenzy when his home run to deep left center field gave the Cubs the 10-9 lead. 9 Cubs runs in 2 innings turned a 9-1 Rockies laugher into a Cubs victory for the ages. Carlos Marmol kept the party rolling by striking out the side in the 8th inning, and Kerry Wood finished the job despite issuing a lead off walk.

The Cubs went on to sweep the 4-game series from the Rockies that May/June weekend. Something special was clearly brewing on the North Side of Chicago during the 2008 season.

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2008 Magical Moment – Carlos Zambrano’s No-Hitter

Posted on 08 November 2008 by Lou

One of the finest pitching moments of 2008 occurred at Miller Park in a make-up game between, the Cubs and Houston Astros. Because of the damage done to the Houston area by Hurricane Ike, MLB decided to have the Cubs and Astros make up 2 games at a “neutral” site so as to not have too many games to make up at the end of the season if necessary to determine playoff teams. On Sunday, September 14th, Carlos Zambrano pitched the Cubs 1st no-hitter in 36 years (Milt Pappas no-hit the San Diego Padres on September 2, 1972). All the more impressive was the fact that it was his first start coming off of 12 days rest due to a sore right shoulder strain. Zambrano needed 110 pitches to to record his 1st shutout in 4 years. Zambrano walked one and hit one batter en route to the historic victory. Zambrano also struck out 10 Astros batters. This was baseball’s first “neutral” site no-hitter. To make matters easier for Zambrano, the Cubs jumped on Astros’ starter Randy Wolf right off the bat with a lead-off home run by Alfonso Soriano. The Cubs tacked on 4 runs in the 3rd inning on a 2-RBI double by Derrek Lee, an RBI-single by Aramis Ramirez and an RBI-double by Geovany Soto.

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Ironically, the next day, Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly no-hit the Astros through 6 innings en route to a 6-1 victory. Lilly pitched 7 scoreless innings, giving up 1 hit and 1 walk, while striking out 9 Astros batters. After the Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the 1st inning on an Aramis Ramirez sacrifice fly, the Cubs put the game out f reach with a solo home run by Jim Edmonds in the 5th inning and two 2-run home runs by Derrek Lee and Geovany Soto in the 6th inning.

After the 2-game sweep by the Cubs over the Astros, many national media critics and Astros players and fans were critical of MLB’s decision to move the games to Milwaukee’s Miller Park, an easy drive for many Cubs fans.

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Shocker – – Selig Won’t Let Cuban Win Bid To Buy Cubs

Posted on 07 November 2008 by Lou

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Entrepeneur Mark Cuban is one of 5 finalists to purchase the Chicago Cubs from owner Sam Zell. His bid was either the highest or 2nd highest bid in terms of dollar amount. But he faces an obstacle that none of the other 4 finalists face – getting approval from MLB owners. There have been many rumors regarding Selig’s desire to keep Cuban out of baseball’s “old boy” network, but now sources from MLB are saying what everyone else has been speculating: “There’s no way Bud and the owners are going to let that happen.” See Chris De Luca’s Article in the Chicago Sun Times. To put it more bluntly, Cuban has no chance of becoming the owner of the Chicago Cubs.

This is another instance of Dictator… oops, I mean Commissioner Selig exerting too much power and control in his sport. It will be a glorious day when Selig’s term as Dictator… oops there I go again, Commissioner ends in 4 long years (he recently signed an extension, his final one, that will allow him to remain Commissioner through the 2012 MLB season).

Mark Cuban would offer an innovative style to MLB. He would create, develop and implement new marketing and media ideas that would broaden the reach of MLB. He would not be afraid to voice his concerns over the direction the league was heading and over the powers that be. He would be a breath of fresh air to a league that had become stagnant with its “let’s not rock the boat” owners. It’s a shame that Cuban won’t be given a fair shake to buy the Cubs. And although we probably won’t hear any great clips from Cuban as the owner of the Cubs, I’m sure after MLB officially approves the Cubs sale to the bidder that kissed ass the best, we’ll hear some great sound bites from Cuban about Dictator Selig and his band of Merry “Yes” Men.

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Peavy Update

Posted on 06 November 2008 by Lou

Here’s your latest Jake Peavy update. It looks like Cubs GM Jim Hendry is going hard after San Diego Padres ace Jake Peavy. Hendry is making this a priority over his 2 other important goals – signing free agent pitchers Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood. Hendry has already met with Padres GM Kevin Towers twice during the MLB winter meetings to discuss specific players in the deal. Although it is believed that the Atlanta Braves have a deeper crop of young talent to dangle at Towers, it is also believed that the Braves do not want to part with their top pitching prospect Tommy Hanson. Hendry would likely be willing to part with pitcher Sean Marshall, infielder Ronny Cedeno and outfielder Felix Pie. Each of these players already has MLB experience, but Hendry would probably have to throw in another prospect or 2 to get the deal done with Towers.

Unlike in previous years where trades like this usually occur after the meetings end, Towers has indicated that he wants to move Peavy as soon as possible, maybe even before the winter meetings end. Hendry would be wise to try to set up a 3rd and final meeting very soon. Stay tuned…

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Samardzija Watches Irish Lose to Pitt?

Posted on 05 November 2008 by Lou

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Rumor has it that Chicago Cubs pitcher (and former standout Notre Dame wide receiver) Jeff Samardzija was on the sidelines to watch the Irish lose to Pitt in quadruple overtime on Saturday November 1st. Anybody else see it. According to reliable sources, Samardzija was standing on the ND sideline just behind legendary rocker Jon Bon Jovi. Shoot us some pics if any of you have them. We’re working on it and hope to have some closeups in the next few weeks.

Rumor also has it that Samardzija and Jovi were discussing a professional relationship – Jovi giving Samardzija a shot at playing some guitar for his rock band an on upcoming tour, while Samardzija was giving advice to Bon Jovi on how he should run his arena league football team, the Philadelphia Soul. We’ll keep you posted if we hear anything concrete…

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Pinella To Platoon Johnson and Fukodome?

Posted on 04 November 2008 by Lou

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Rumor has it that Lou Pinella would love to set up a platoon between Reed Johnson and Kosuke Fukodome in center field. Although Kosuke’s natural position is right field, he has the speed and agility to play the center field position if he makes extra efforts to play the position during the off-season. Reed Johnson is arbitration eligible, but the Cubs are expected to sign Johnson to a 1 or 2-year deal in order to keep him on the north side.

After a promising start to the season, including a 3-run home run in the bottom of the 9th inning of the Cubs home opener that sent the game into extra innings, Kosuke Fukodome put up mediocre numbers in his 1st season in the Major Leagues. Fukodome had a .257 batting average in 501 at-bats. His 81 walks helped him with a .359 on-base percentage, but he only hit 10 home runs with 58 RBI’s, much too little for a left-handed hitting right fielder. It was his first year in MLB and as teams saw him more often, they developed a different game plan against him by peppering him with off-speed pitches. There is a chance he could turn it around in 2009, but he is probably more like a high .200 hitter than a low .300 hitter. His $48 million contract over 4 years seems to be a contract mistake by Cubs GM Jim Hendry.

Reed Johnson, on the other hand, was one of the best mid-season pick-ups by a GM in all of baseball in 2008. Reed Johnson struggled with back issues during the 2007 season and only played in 79 games for the Toronto Blue Jays. When the Jays released Johnson right after the season began, Hendry pounced to pick up the career .284 hitter. In 109 games for the Cubs, Johnson managed 333 at-bats in a platoon role in center field with Jim Edmonds (the Felix Pie experiment died with a big thud very early in the season). In almost 200 less at-bats then Fukodome, Johnson hit 6 home runs and drove in 50 runs, while amassing a .358 on-base percentage.

A Johnson-Fukodome experiment in center field could free up the Cubs to pursue a left-handed hitting right fielder with some pop. It could also clear the way for a Brian Roberts trade. Roberts would start at 2nd base, while Mark DeRosa would start in right field. Hendry is extremely focused on a potential trade with the San Diego Padres for Jake Peavy. Until that shakes out, along with the Cubs pursuit of re-signing free agents Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood, we might not hear more about Jim Hendry’s intentions with respect to the Cubs outfield situation.

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Padres Ace Peavy to Cubs?

Posted on 03 November 2008 by Lou

Let the rumors roll…

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MLB Executives are in Dana Point, California this week for the annual winter baseball meetings. Most of the focus is always on the signing of the current year’s crop of free agents. This year, that would include workhorse pitcher CC Sabbathia, the unpredictable Manny Ramirez, young hitter Mark Texiera and reliable starter Derek Lowe. But there are a few others that might be available via the trade.

On the Cubs front, rumor has it that Cubs GM Jim Hendry had a productive golf round with Padres GM Kevin Towers. Hendry and Towers have pulled off trades before, Michael Barrett in 2007 and Greg Maddux in 2006, so it isn’t unusual to see these 2 working the communication hot lines early during the winter meetings. Peavy is a top of the rotation starter for any ball club. Peavy is currently locked up through 2012 with a $60 million contract. The Padres also have a club option for 2013. Peavy has said he would be willing to waive his no trade clause to play for a handful of teams, one of them being the Cubs. The Padres are looking for 3-4 young prospects in return for Peavy. The Atlanta Braves are considered to be the front-runner to land Peavy, because they have been aggressive in their pursuit of him and they have the young prospects to back it up. The Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals have also expressed significant interest, but it doesn’t appear that their systems are as deep as the Braves.

That’s where the Cubs could slide in. The Cubs are focused on signing free agent pitchers Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t consider offers for one of the best pitchers in the game today. Even if the Cubs do sign Dempster, the Cubs could still justify a trade for Peavy given the pains that the Cubs have dealt with recently with injuries to starting pitchers (see Wood and Mark Prior). Peavy has made at least 27 starts and struck out at least 156 batters in each of the last 6 big league seasons. During the last 5 seasons, his ERA has been in the 2’s save for a 4.09 ERA in 2006 and his WHIP hasn’t crept above 1.23. Peavy is a reliable, dependable starter who would fit in perfectly with the current starting rotation of Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Rich Harden and Ted Lilly. The Cubs would likely have to part ways with a Sean Marshall, a Felix Pie, a Ronny Cedeno and maybe even a Jason Marquis (if the Padres were willing to take his salary), but with Peavy locked up for 4 years, it would be worth the cost.

This could negatively affect a potential trade for lead-off hitter Brian Roberts from the Baltimore Orioles, but as they say, pitching and defense win World Series titles.

Stay tuned Cubs fans – -things will sure get interesting over the next few weeks…

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As Expected, Closer Wood Files For Free Agency

Posted on 02 November 2008 by Lou

As expected, Chicago Cubs closer filed for free agency. He joins several other Chicago Cubs players to file for free agency, most notably Ryan Dempster the Cubs most reliable starter during the 2008 season.

Kerry Wood closed 34 games for the Cubs in 2008. He pitched in 65 games for the Cubs and racked up an impressive 66 1/3 innings. Wood struck out 84 batters, walked only 18 and held opponents to a .219 batting average against. Although Wood is an injury risk, his ability to last the entire season in 2008 (save for a nagging blister injury on his throwing hand that cost him a few weeks in August) shows that he has what it takes to remain a solid reliever for the foreseeable future. Wood shed a lot of weight during the off-season preceding the 2008 campaign, and has developed a great work regimen to strengthen his right shoulder to counter-act any damage the area has sustained over the years as a MLB starter. GM Jim Hendry needs to keep Wood in the Cubs bullpen – one of the best bullpens in the National League in 2008. Wood loves playing here in Chicago and is likely willing to listen to all deals in order to stay in Chicago. The one sticking point could be the length of the contract. Other MLB clubs looking to lock up a closer long-term could throw an additional year or 2 on the back-end of a contract to lure Wood away from the Cubs. Look for Hendry and Wood’s agents to start talking very soon to work out a deal before the November 14th deadline. We expect the same to happen with Cubs starter Dempster. We believe Dempster and Wood will be large keys to any success the Cubs have in 2009.

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Two other Cubs players made it official and filed for free agency on Friday, October 31st – Catcher Henry Blanco and Pitcher Jon Lieber.

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Cubs Prospects Update

Posted on 01 November 2008 by Lou

One of the Chicago Cubs top minor league prospects is recovering nicely following Tommy John surgery. The left-handed hitting Tyler Colvin had a stellar 2008 season with Double-A Tennessee, hitting .256 with 14 home runs and 80 RBI’s. Colvin started playing in the Arizona Fall League, but was bothered by pain in his left elbow which was believed to be a bone spur problem. The Cubs shut Colvin down so that he could have surgery to remove the bone spur, but during the surgery, doctors discovered that he also needed to have Tommy John surgery to repair further damage to the arm. Tommy John surgery is easier to recover from than shoulder surgery, so it is expected that Colvin will be back at full strength in 5-6 months. Colvin may miss a few weeks during the 2009 minor league season, but he should still be able to make a solid impact as the season progresses.

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In Venezuela, former major leaguer Rich Hill is 1-0 with a sparkling 3.00 ERA in 2 starts. Left-handed starter J.R. Mathes has shined in the Venezuelan league, winning both of his starts with a 0.87 ERA in 10 1/3 innings pitched. Cubs Catcher Henry Blanco had a .267 batting average in Margarita with 2 home runs. The Cubs just declined a 2009 option on Blanco, and elected to pay him a $300,000 buyout instead. I believe the Cubs will still try to sign Blanco because of his good relationship with many Cubs pitchers and because of the valuable experience he can continue to pass on to budding super star Geovany Soto.

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