Archive | Jim Hendry

Harden Serves Up Another Good Start – Should Cubs Re-Sign Him?

Posted on 27 August 2009 by Lou

Nationals Cubs Baseball

Although Rich Harden took a no decision in Wednesday night’s 9-4 win over the Nationals at Wrigley Field, he turned in another stellar start in a very impressive 2nd half of 2009.  Harden worked through a shaky 1st inning and held the Nats to just 2 ER on 5 hits and 2 walks in 6 innings.  His pitch count was a bit high – 96 pitches – but it was his 8th straight since the all-star break in which he has not allowed more than 2 ER in an outing.  Very impressive for someone that entered the 2009 MLB schedule with a lot of question marks.

Harden now has 22 starts on the season and if he stays healthy the rest of the way, he should get at least another 7 starts before the season ends.  I remember most Cubs critics and fans saying that if Harden made 25 starts for the Cubs in 2009, that would be a huge success.  Harden has 8 wins and his ERA is under 4.00 (at 3.99) for the 1st time since April 26th after he held the Cardinals to just 2 ER in a 10-3 Cubs win in St. Louis.  Harden has made at least 22 starts in a season only 2 other times – back in 2004 (31 starts) and 2005 (22 starts).  With his 2009 performance, and his ability to prove to all other MLB clubs that he can stay healthy for a good portion of the year, he will likely be pursued hard in the off-season.  And that’s when the question becomes – should the Cubs sign him to a long-term deal?

A few things work against the Cubs on this one.  With the tenuous ownership situation, who knows when the new ownership team will be in place to determine a course of action for the off-season free agency period.  The Cubs will likely be at a disadvantage against other clubs as a new team might not be able to give GM Jim Hendry adequate guidance as to whom he can and cannot pursue this off-season.  Further, with close to $150 million already committed to athletes locked in for the 2010 MLB schedule, there will be little room to add significant payroll this off-season, especially with the new ownership group getting adjusted to life as a MLB team owner.  Lastly, there still has to be some concern with Harden’s health as a major league starter.  Harden spent some time on the DL at the end of 2008 with a “tired arm” and he had a stint on the DL again this past May-June and missed about 5 starts over a 3-week period.  Given past problems with pitchers with histories of arm woes – Mark Prior, Kerry Wood – I have a feeling that the Cubs won’t gamble on signing Harden to a long-term deal.

Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly are all locked in for 2010.  Randy Wells has emerged as a legitimate major league pitcher – 19 starts, 120 1/3 innings pitched, 1.20 WHIP, 2.84 ERA and will likely serve as the team’s 4th starter in 2010.  Sean Marshall can also return to a starting role and Jeff Samardzija, despite his struggles in 2009, is also seen as a viable starting pitcher down the line.

As for the 9-4 win, Koyie Hill was the Cubs offensive hero, going 3 for 3 with 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.  Hill scored the go-ahead run on Milton Bardley’s fielder’s choice groundout in the 7th inning and he broke the game open with a 2-out, 2-run double in the 8th inning that gave the Cubs a 5-2 lead.  The Cubs went on to score 6 insurance runs in the 8th inning.  Milton Bradley went 1 for 3 with a 2-run home run that gave the Cubs their 1st lead of the game in the 3rd inning.  Bradley had 3 RBI’s and 2 runs scored on the night.

At 63-61, the Cubs still trail the Cards by 9 games in the NL Central race and the Rockies by 7.5 games in the NL Wild Card race.  Not good…

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Big Z’s Back & He’s Bigger Ummm… Better than Before

Posted on 23 August 2009 by Lou

carlos cubs

The Cubs are anxiously waiting the return of their ace Carlos Zambrano.  Big Z – after admitting he is lazy and doesn’t like to do his ab work – is scheduled to face Garrett Mock and the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.  Hip Hip Hooray!  Big Z needs to focus more on throwing strikes and getting guys out than giving piggyback rides in the dugout and eating bon bons.

Big Z has been dealing with back pain and back spasms since the beginning of August.  Zambrano tossed 5 scoreless innings at Triple-A Peoria on Thursday night and is ready to go against the Nats this week.  Big Z has a 7-4 record with a 1.35 WHIP and a 3.35 ERA – definitely the numbers you’d expect from the ace of your staff.  Mock has a 2-5 record with a 1.83 WHIP and a 5.10 ERA.  Think there was a reason the Cubs held him back to start Tuesday against the Nats and then Sunday against the Mets instead of this past weekend against the Dodgers in L.A.?

As for the Cubs game action on Saturday and Sunday…

About the only thing Cubs fans have to look forward to in 2010 is good starting pitching…

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Cubs Waste Another Great Randy Wells Effort

Posted on 22 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Dodgers Baseball

Talk about your cursed pitchers in 2009 – Randy Wells pitched 6 2/3 innings of 7-hit, 2-walk ball against one of the better hitting teams in the NL and did not allow a single earned run, but still lost. With 2 outs and 1 on in the 2nd inning, Aramis Ramirez’s fielding error allowed Orlando Hudson to reach base to preserve the inning for the Dodgers.  Wells made a mistake to pitcher Randy Wolf who hit a 2-run double to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.  Game over…  With Wells’ sparkling 2.84 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, it is shocking to think that he has a 9-6 record.

The Cubs answered in the top of the 3rd inning after a Sam Fuld walk, a Wells sacrifice and a Ryan Theriot RBI single – their only hit of the game.  But that would be the only offensive threat that the Cubs mustered against Wolf and 2 Dodgers relievers.  Bad, bad, bad.

The Cubs are just 2 games over .500 now at 61-59.  They are just 26-37 on the road during the 2009 MLB schedule – how does a team like this play that bad away from Wrigley Field?  They trail the Cards by 7 games in the NL Central and the Rockies by 6 games in the NL Wild Card race.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Game Over!!!

We believe this will be the last post that we’ll do that focuses specifically on game action.  From now on, we will give you results and how far the Cubs have fallen behind the Cardinals and the NL Wild Card leaders, but we’ll focus out attention on the future.  How the Cubs will deal with the disappointing 2009 campaign, what moves could be in store in the off-season, how the new Ricketts ownership will manage the Cubs organization, etc.  We hope you enjoy the new focus as our beloved Cubs fall into oblivion…

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This Team Sucks – Pinella Rothschild Out of Ideas

Posted on 11 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Rockies Baseball

The Cubs wrapped up a dismal 4-6 road trip by losing 3 of 4 to the wild card leading Rockies in Denver.  The Rockies outscored the Cubs 33-18 in the series, as the Cubs fell 3 games behind the Cardinals for 1st place in the NL Central and 3 games behind the Rockies for the NL wild card lead.  Can you say “Game Over”!

Manager Lou Pinella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild are out of ideas and probably already thinking about their golf games in October.  To make matters worse, with the still-pending sale of the Cubs, there’s really not much that the Cubs will be able to do in the off-season to turn things around for the 2010 MLB schedule.  The outfield is set – Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukodome and Milton Bradley all have years left on their deals.  The pitching staff is set – Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster all have years left on their deals, as does Randy Wells who is not even arbitration-eligible yet.  The Cubs will have to decide on Rich Harden, but the 5th starter slot could be filled from within – Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija, Tom Gorzelanny etc.  The infield is also set – Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee at the corners, Ryan Theriot at shortstop and Geovany Soto behind the plate.  Koyie Hill has established himself as a dependable catcher as well.  So the only real question mark in the infield is the 2nd base position, where Mike Fontenot has clearly shown that he is not capable of being a consistent, productive every day player.

Unless the Cubs could pull off a trade to move an outfielder – probably having to assume some of the money that GM Jim Hendry overpaid to each of Soriano, Fukodome and Bradley – the Cubs will be stuck.  And that doesn’t mean good things for 2010.

Sorry Cubs fans – hate to be brutally honest, but we could be in for a rough stretch for a few years to come.

Oh yeah – what about the 11-5 Cubs loss to the Rockies on Monday night?  Aw, who cares anyway.  It was more of the same.  No clutch hitting, poor fielding, and bad pitching.  Sound familiar?!

Cubs Rockies Baseball

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Cubs Acquire John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny from Pirates

Posted on 01 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs GM Jim Hendry did not sit pat leading up to the July 31st trading deadline.  And although he didn’t land a big splash like Matt Holliday, Victor Martinez or Jake Peavy, he did add a much-needed lefty to the Cubs bullpen.

John Grabow has been a solid left-handed reliever for the Pirates the last 2 seasons.  During the 2009 MLB schedule, Grabow appeared in 45 games for the Pirates, going 3-0 with a 3.42 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP.  He had 41 K’s against 28 walks.  In 2008, Grabow appeared in 74 games, going 6-3 with a 2.84 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP.  He had 62 K’s and only 37 walks.  For much of the season since Neal Cotts’ season-ending injury, the Cubs have relied upon just 1 lefty in the bullpen – Sean Marshall.  Marshall has been a rock since moving from the 5th starter into the bullpen role, but it’s nice for Marshall to have some company back there. Grabow made his Cubs debut against the Marlins in Florida on Friday night.  After walking Jeremy Hermida to lead off the 6th inning, Grabow retired the next 3 batters to work a successful scoreless inning.

The Cubs also acquired Tom Gorzelanny in the deal.  Gorzelanny has made 15 starts at the Triple-A level in 2009, going 4-3 with a 2.48 ERA.  Gorzelanny has made 65 career starts the major league level, going 25-26 with a 4.79 ERA and 1.50 WHIP.  With the departure of Kevin Hart in the deal, Gorzelanny could find himself in the Cubs rotation until Ted Lilly returns from the DL.

Kevin Hart pitched well for the Cubs in 2009, especially as a starter the last 4 starts.  Hart was 3-1 overall, winning each of his last 3 starts.  He had compiled a 2.60 ERA with a 1.48 WHIP.  The Cubs also dealt Jose Ascansio to the Pirates along with Single-A infielder Josh Harrison.

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Shockingly Good Pitching From Harden; Shockingly Bad Hitting by Cubs Offense

Posted on 22 July 2009 by Lou

Cubs Phillies Baseball

Where did it all go wrong for GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella with this frustrating 2009 Cubs ball club? The Cubs lost to the Phillies 4-1 in 13 innings on Tuesday night as Jayson Werth’s 3-run HR off of Jeff Samardzija gave the Phillies their 10th straight win.  That wasn’t surprising.  What was surprising was how good Rich Harden looked and how bad the Cubs bats are on a daily basis.

First Harden – as I wrote yesterday, I expected the Phillies to knock Harden around, but he threw a season high 117 pitches in 7 solid innings.  Harden gave up only 1 ER on 4 hits and 2 walks and the lone run scored on a Jimmy Rollins solo home run way back in the 3rd inning.  Harden also had 6 K’s.  The rest of the bullpen was up to the challenge too – Carlos Marmol worked 2 scoreless innings, Angel Guzman tossed a scoreless inning and Sean Marshall and Aaron Heilman combined for a scoreless 11th inning.  Jeff Samardzija even looked good – he retired the 1st 5 batters he faced over the 12th and 13th innings, but got into trouble when he walked both Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez with 2 outs in the 13th.  Not a good move – because walks always come back to haunt you.  Then Samardzija served up the game-winning HR to Werth and the Cubs had dropped the 1st 2 games to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Ballpark.

But the big issue is the Cubs hitting.  After knocking around one of baseball’s worst pitching staff’s against the Nats in DC over the weekend, it was back to the “real-world” for the Cubs.  The Cubs should have felt good as Citizens Bank Ballpark is one of the best hitter park in the big leagues.  Batters improves their statistics each night they get to play in the ball park.  But not the Cubs hitters.  In 22 innings, the Cubs have managed just 2 runs off of the mediocre Phillies pitching.  Worse than that, they managed only 6 hits in Monday’s loss and only 5 hits in Tuesday’s loss.  After drawing only 3 walks on Monday, the Cubs didn’t walk once on Tuesday night.  Not 1 walk in 13 innings!?  How can that be?  Only 3 Cubs players had hits in both games – Alfonso Soriano had 3 hits on Monday and 1 hit on Tuesday, while Ryan Theriot and Kosuke Fukodome each had 1 hit in each game.  Derrek Lee is a combined 1 for 8 while Aramis Ramirez is a combined 0 for 7 in the series.  What makes it even worse is the fact that the Cubs seem to waste good pitching outings with horrible hitting performances.  Rich Harden’s Tuesday night start was another quality start for the Cubs starting rotation.  The Cubs now have 57 quality starts on the season, but only 47 wins to show for it.  When you don’t win quality starts, you are not going to be near the top of your division.

This team is only still in contention because the rest of the NL Central is so bad.  The Cubs are 47-45 and are tied with the Brewers and Astros for 2nd place behind the Cardinals.  I feel like I’ve given the team (and Hendry and Pinella) the benefit of the doubt in 2009, but after 92 games, it’s time to step up and take accountability for your play on the field.  Stay tuned for some more critical posts about the state of the Cubs and what they need to do to make sure the team can stay competitive for the forseable future…

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Tribune Co. Mulling Over Bankruptcy Options for Cubs Organization

Posted on 18 July 2009 by Lou

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The Tribune Co. is mulling over whether or not to file Chapter 11 Bankruptcy for the Chicago Cubs Organization.  The bankruptcy would be a short-term filing that would potentially facilitate a faster consummation to the sale of the Cubs to the Ricketts family by giving the new owner as “clean” a title to the Cubs assets as possible. The bankruptcy filing would protect the Ricketts family from potential lawsuits brought by Tribune Co. creditors.

Although the Cubs and the Ricketts family have agreed to a sale of the club and other assets for approximately $900 million, no formal agreement has been signed.

Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney has not commented on the sale of the team or on the potential bankruptcy filing in recent days.

Rumors of other bidders getting back involved in the sale of the club are unsubstantiated.

With the sale of the team dragging on and on, it is unlikely that the Cubs will be big buyers before the July trading deadline.  That’s probably a good thing – this team has shown little resolve in 2009, and giving away young talent to acquire medicore talent that might help a mediocre Cubs team reach the playoffs would probably not be worth it.  At this point, GM Jim Hendry and the Cubs should just sit pat unless they receive an offer to get a high-end difference maker that would likely stay with the club after the season ends.  Other than that, I would rather the Cubs keep their young prospects in-house to use in a potential deal for someone in the off-season or before the 2010 trading deadline.

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Manager Lou Pinella Confident That Cubs Can Win NL Central

Posted on 15 July 2009 by Lou

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The 1st half of the 2009 MLB schedule had an anti-climactic ending on Sunday, as the Cubs split a day-night double-header with the 1st place Cardinals.  After winning the 1st game 7-3, the Cubs were in perfect position to sweep the double-header and move ahead into 2nd place, just 1.5 games behind the Cards.  But it wasn’t meant to be – – Randy Wells served up 2 2-run home runs to Ryan Ludwick and the Cubs offense couldn’t muster more than 2 runs against Cards starter Adam Wainwright.  With the loss, the Cubs fell back to .500 – 43-43 – and into a 3rd place tie with the surging Astros.

That being said, Manager Lou Pinella still likes his team’s chances of making a strong showing in the 2nd half of the season.  “We have to swing the bats better in the second half than we did in the first half…  We swing the bats, stay healthy, we have a good chance to win the division.  We’ve been through a lot this summer.  If we don’t we’ll see what happens.  I’m curious myself.”

Key components of the Cubs offense have been missing for good portions of the 2009 MLB season.

Aramis Ramirez missed 2 months with a dislocated right shoulder – he had been the Cubs best hitter up until the injury.

Alfonso Soriano has been a disaster after starting off the season on a tear.  Although Soriano has had 9 game-winning hits for the Cubs this season – the most on the team – his batting average is down to .233 and his on-base percentage is down to .298.  He has 14 HR’s, 33 RBI’s and 50 runs scored, but he has not hit a home run since June 7th.  Soriano has struck out 82 times and walked only 29 times.  Because of his miserable numbers, Pinella recently dropped Soriano down in the lineup and will likely hit 5th or 6th the rest of the way.

Lastly, GM Jim Hendry’s big off-season signing – switch-hitting right fielder Milton Bradley – has been a complete bust.  Bradley is batting just .243 with 6 HR’s, 21 RBI’s and 28 runs scored.  Although his on-base percentage is above his career average – .379 – he has not been the run producer that the Cubs need him to be.  Plus, because of injuries, he has registered only 210 at-bats while playing in 210 games – not a great average for a starting outfielder.  Bradley recently declared that he is back and will have a far better 2nd half than the 1st three months of the season.  This after going 0 for 1 with 3 walks in the 1st game of Sunday’s double-header and 2 for 3 with an RBI and a walk in the 2nd game of the double-header.  Woohoo – Milton is back.  He had this to say about why he thinks he will be ready to break out in the 2nd half:  “I’ve been working ever so hard to get my stroke, get my rhythm, get my eye, and to end it like that was disappointing [referring to being called out on strikes to lead off the 9th inning on Sunday night]…  I walked about 37 times today.  Suddenly, I’m going to take a thrid strike right there?  I got my rhythm, I feel good… It’s disappointing, but what can you do?  You move on.  It ain’t the first time, it won’t be the last… Don’t read the newspapers, don’t watch TV, just play.  We’ve got everything we need right here.  If we stay together in here, cut out all the outside stuff, we’ll be fine.  There’s way too much hoopla, there’s way too much talk, there’s way too much speculation.”

I like the optimism, but the Cubs have not shown any real fire this season, and I’m not sure what we should expect that to change over night.  The team seems resigned to the fact that it will lose close ball games, and when you don’t have that confidence, it’s hard to put together big winning streaks.  Last year, the Cubs played like they could win any game, even if they were losing in the 7th, 8th or 9th innings.  This year, if they’re down after 6 innings, you might as well write off the game.

Pinella had 1 more quote that summed it up best.  It also doesn’t seem like he’s really that confident that his team will be able to pull off a 3rd straight NL Central title.  Guess we’ll have to wait and see.  “I feel we’re in good position to win this division.  Two things – – stay healthy, get healthy and swing the bats.  That’s it.  We do those 2 things, we can win the second half.  Those are two big ‘ifs’ though.”

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Cubs Ted Lilly Looking Forward to All-Star Appearance in St. Louis Tonight

Posted on 14 July 2009 by Lou

ted lilly chicago cubs 1

The Cubs Ted Lilly is looking forward to his All-Star appearance for the National League in St. Louis tonight.  It is Lilly’s 2nd All-Star appearance – he last appeared as the lone representative for the Toronto Blue Jays back in 2004.  Lilly has made 18 starts in 2009 and has compiled a nice 9-6 record with a sparkling 3.18 ERA.  He has a 6-1 record with a 1.86 ERA at Wrigley Field this year.  He is also riding a great wave right now – in his last 54 2/3 innings, he has struck out 49 batters while walking only 7 – pretty incredible numbers.

Lilly had this to say about representing the Cubs:  “The whole objective is to try to do what I can to help us get into 1st place.  I think when I look at my first half, it’s nice and it’s one of the better 1st halves I’ve had at least statistically.  But you still know there’s a  lot of pitching to do, and a lot of really important pitching coming up in the second half of the season, more so than the first half.  It’s nice to get off to a good start but more important to finish strong. ”

Manager Lou Pinella had this to say about Lilly:  “Being the All-Star representative from this team says it all.  He’s been our best pitcher.”

Lilly has been one of the Cubs most consistent pitchers during the last 3 seasons and has been one of GM Jim Hendry’s best signings.  He played in the tough-hitting AL East (Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays) for 6 out of 8 years from 2000-2006, so facing tough lineups day in and day out really prepared Lilly for his MLB career.  He has made 34 starts in each of his 1st 2 seasons with the Cubs and is on pace to hit at least that in 2009.  In 2007, Lilly pitched 207 innings and went 15-8 with a 3.83 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.     In 2008, Lilly pitched 204 2/3 innings and went 17-9 with a 4.09 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. IN 2009, he has already pitched 119 innings and has lowered his ERA (3.18) and WHIP (1.11).  He has 101 strikeouts on the season against just 24 walks and has clearly been “Mr. Dependable” for the Cubs in 2009.

Congrats Ted – go out and help the NL get home field advantage for the 2009 World Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago!

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Geovany Soto Headed to Disbaled List – Not Good

Posted on 11 July 2009 by Lou

Cubs White Sox Baseball

Geovany Soto is headed to the disabled list with a strained left oblique muscle.  Soto injured the left oblique during batting practice before Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field.  Oblique strains tend to take a while to heal, so the Cubs are anticipating that Soto will need at least a month to recover from the injury.  Soto will go to the Cubs facility in Mesa, Arizona to begin rehabbing the injury.

After winning the 2008 NL Rookie of the Year Award, Soto has endured a disappointing 2009.  He missed time at the beginning of the season with a right shoulder strain and is only hitting .230 with 8 HR’s and 27 RBI’s on the year.  Koyie Hill will start for the Cubs at catcher during Soto’s absence and Jake Fox will be the primary back-up during the weekend series against the Cards ay Wrigley.  Mark Johnson is the only other Cubs catcher will major league experience, but he is on the disabled list at Triple-A Iowa.  GM Jim Hendry will likely have to look outside the organization to pick up a back-up catcher until Soto returns.

The hits just keep on coming for the Cubs.  It is going to be a long 2009 MLB schedule on the North Side of Chicago…

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