Archive | Aaron Heilman

Cubs Playing Poorly Like the Weather

Posted on 02 October 2009 by Lou

Pirates Cubs Baseball

Ticket brokers let out a collective sigh of relief last night as the Cubs-Pirates game was delayed and then postponed after just 3 innings of play on Thursday night at Wrigley Field.  One of our sponsors – Ticketchest.com – was thrilled with the decision to cancel the game without any make up date since the season has been over for a while now.  Those unsold tickets will now either be refunded or can be used as a credit towards future Cubs tickets purchases in 2010.  Hip hip hooray!  Jeff Samardzija was the other winner as the 3 runs and 3 hits he gave up in the 1st inning were washed out of the record book with the rain out.

The Cubs were back on the field on Friday to take on the Diamondbacks, but they might as well have stayed at home today.  Tom Gorzelanny looked like the pitcher that the Cubs used to beat on every game, giving up 6 ER on 7 hits and 1 walk in 3 innings.  Jeff Stevens, David Patton and Aaron Heilman struggled out of the bullpen, combining to give up 5 runs. The Cubs bats didn’t do much better.  The Cubs managed just 7 hits in the game, as they scored all 3 of their runs in the 7th inning.  Koyie Hill was the only player with more than 1 hit for the Cubs.

Man I can’t wait for this season to be over…

Pirates Cubs Baseball

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Zambrano’s Messy 5th Costs Him 9th Win; But Lee Leads Way Again

Posted on 16 September 2009 by Lou

Brewers Cubs Baseball

Carlos Zambrano – what in the world are we going to do with you?  Big Z is simply an enigma.  If somone could work with him to get his head on straight, Zambrano could be one of the best pitchers in baseball.  Instead, we get Carlos Zambrano being Carlos Zambrano.  The 2009 version – 8-6 record in 25 starts.  A good 3.94 ERA, but a startling high 1.43 WHIP.  132 strikeouts in 148+ innings, but also 70 walks.  Not the numbers of the ace of your staff, someone who is set to make $18 million per season for the next 3 years.  It’s not bad enough that the Cubs are locked into bad contracts with Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley and Kosuke Fukodome.  But now we have to worry about how many stints Big Z is going to spend on the DL trying to swing the bat too hard.

Uggghhhh – – it is so frustrating.  Last night, the Cubs offense took advantage of a wild Brewers staff – 11 hits, 12 walks, 3 HBP, 2 wild pitches – and took a 4-0 lead by the end of the 4th inning.  But for some reason, Big Z crapped the bed in the top of the 5th inning.  After getting the 1st 2 outs, Zambrano gave up a hit to the pitcher Giovanni Gallardo and he lost his cool.  Zambrano followed that up with a walk, 2 hits, a wild pitch, another walk and then an error by Ryan Theriot at shortstop that would have ended the inning.  We know how Big Z feels about his teammates making errors, so he let the next batter get a 2-run single to give the Brewers a 5-4 lead.  Now granted, the last 2 runs should not have scored because of the Theriot error, but come on.  Five runs on 6 hits and 4 walks over 5 innings of work – 105 pitches ???!!! – is not acceptable from your alleged ace.  Someone has gotta get through to this guy.

Luckily the Cubs offense rallied the troops for a come-from-behind win, and the Cubs bullpen (save for Jeff Samardzija who has had just a brutal 2009 – 1-2 record, 7.89 ERA, 1.85 WHIP, 26 ER on 41 hits and 14 walks in just 29 2/3 innings) turned in another solid 3 innings of scoreless relief.  Aaron Heilman pitched a scoreless inning of relief and has now given up just 2ER in his last 9 outings (12 innings).  And can you see the 26-year old Esmailin Caridad setting up for Carlos Marmol in 2010?  After a rough major league debut in Colorado on August 10th, Caridad has been lights-out in his next 6 appearances.  And since being called back to the major league level on September 8th, Caridad has pitched 4 scoreless innings, giving up just 2 hits and 1 walk while striking out 2.  I know he is raw and young, but a good off-season could solidify his spot on the 2010 Cubs.

As for the bats, the Brewers pitching was just awful.  But give Derrek Lee some credit.  Lee was patient at the plate – 2 for 2 with 3 RBI’s and 1 run scored.  He also walked 4 times.  Geovany Soto’s bat has shown some of the pop from his 2008 Rookie of the Year campaign – 2 for 5 with 3 RBI’s and 2 runs scored, including his 11th homer of the season.  Ryan Theriot’s bat has cooled off a little bit of late, but he had 4 walks as well on Tuesday night and scored 3 runs.  Theriot also stole his 18th base of the year.

Not a lot to get excited about, but we’ll take the positives where we can get them…

Brewers Cubs Baseball

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Ramirez, Bullpen Sharp in Cubs 6-4 Win Over Reds @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 11 September 2009 by Lou

Reds Cubs Baseball

The Cubs definitely like playing at Wrigley Field.  The Cubs improved their home record at Wrigley Field to 41-27 with Friday’s 6-4 win over Dusty Baker and the Reds.  Too bad the Cubs are an atrocious 9 games under .500 on the road in 2009.

Aramis Ramirez was the offensive hero for the Cubs in the win.  Ramirez went 3 for 3 with 3 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.  His 2-run single in the 3rd inning broke a 1-1 tie; his RBI single in the 5th inning broke a 4-4 tie; and his run scored on a Bobby Scales pinch-hit double in the 8th inning gave the Cubs a much-needed insurance run.  His numbers are down because he has only played in 65 games with the dislocated shoulder injury, but he is still hitting .315 and he has a .391 on-base percentage.  The Cubs are clearly a much better hitting team with Ramirez in the middle of the lineup.  He has 51 RBI’s and 33 runs scored, more than some of the every day regular players like Milton Bradley and Alfonso Soriano who have not missed the time that he has.

The Cubs bullpen also looked good, with the exception of Jeff Stevens.  Despite giving up a 3-run HR to Johnny Gomes in the 5th inning – his only inning of work – Stevens picked up his 1st career major league victory.  The rest of the bullpen picked up the slack for Harden (104 pitches in just 4 innings, 1 ER on 2 hits and 5 walks, with 6 K’s) and Stevens, however.  Aaron Heilman pitched 2 perfect innings, even striking out the side – Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen – in the 7th inning.  Late-season call-up Esmailin Caridad – future set-up man?! – put forth his 4th straight good outing, pitching a perfect 8th inning with 1 strikeout.  And Carlos Marmol made it 8 for 8 in save chances since being named the Cubs closer.  Although this one wasn’t as pretty as the rest – he gave up a frustrating infield single to Ryan Theriot and then followed that up with a walk to put 2 runners on with only 1 out – he buckled down with a big strikeout of Joey Votto and a week fly out to right field to end the game.  No runs given up by Marmol since becoming the Cubs closer, and he seems to have that swagger back.  Look out in 2010…

Reds Cubs Baseball

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Harden, Heilman Remain Cubs; Harden Lacks Focus in Monday Night Start

Posted on 01 September 2009 by Lou

Astros Cubs Baseball

The Cubs decided to keep Rich Harden and Aaron Heilman because they “we still feel we have a chance in the Wild Card race, and we’re going to go after it” according to Manager Lou Pinella. Yeah right!  Gotta love the optimism, but it is way to late for pep talks right now, Lou.

GM Jim Hendry echoed Pinella’s sentiments when asked about Harden and Heilman potentially being moved in a trade: “I can honestly tell you we never gave it any substantive thought to deal the two.  We certainly would never give up unless we were out of it.  If we were 15 back, we might look at it differently…We’ve got a shot at the postseason, but we need to really play well the rest of the way.  So far we haven’t shown the ability to maintain it for a long time, and we need to do that.”  Makes you want to go out and catch the next Cubs game at Wrigley Field – doesn’t it?!

Unbelievable.   Hendry hasn’t given Pinella the right roster to win games on a consistent level at all this season.  And now we’re expected to think that the Cubs are going to flip a switch and go -0 during the month of September.  What a joke.

Harden did pitch against the Astros on Monday night at Wrigley Field… it wasn’t pretty.  98 pitches, 5 innings, 5 ER, 5 hits and 6 walks.  He did strike out 9, however, so that was a plus.  The bullpen shined again though, so at least we can take solace in that.  Aaron Heilman pitched 2 scoreless innings, although he did give up 2 hits and a walk.  Kevin Gregg pitched a scoreless 8th inning with 2 K’s.  John Grabow pitched a perfect 9th inning with 2 K’s.  Grabow looks like a keeper – someone the Cubs will have to pay in free agency to keep.  In 15 Cubs appearances, Grabow has not allowed a single run and opponents are batting just .081 against him.  He has a miniscule .089 WHIP.

Ryan Theriot broke out of a mini-slump, going 2 for 4 with 1 RBI.  Jeff Baker also had 2 hits and a run scored in defeat.  Baker has also played well since being acquired by the Cubs – .316 batting average, .374 on-base percentage, 12 RBI’s and 15 runs scored in just 98 at-bats.  Not bad.  Well’ keep a close watch on some of these players that are playing well – they could see significant game action in 2010 with the Cubs unlikely to make many big moves in the off-season with the new ownership in flux.

Astros Cubs Baseball

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Rich Harden, Aaron Heilman Claimed Off Waivers, Cubs Fall to Nats 5-4

Posted on 28 August 2009 by Lou

The good news – Rich Harden and Aaron Heilman were claimed off of waivers this week.  Why is that good?  Well, as I discussed in my post yesterday, Harden has had a great 2nd half of 2009.  Give certain factors (limited payroll flexibility, new ownership team, Harden’s injury risk), the Cubs are unlikely to sign Harden in free agency to a long-term lucrative deal, especially since other teams will likely pursue Harden with a big deal that the Cubs won’t be able to match.  Now that Harden has been claimed off of waivers, the Cubs have 72 hours to negotiate a trade with that team, pull Harden back or release him.  Seeing that the Cubs weren’t going to get anything for him anyway if he signed with another team in the off-season, it would be great if the Cubs could trade him to acquire a young prospect now.  This late in the season, it’s unclear how much a team might be willing to give up for Harden, but if they can get something for him, that would be great.  We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything.

As for Heilman, who really cares.  Nice guy, bad performance in 2009 with a 2-3 record and a hefty 4.55 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in 57 appearances.

The bad news – in Thursday’s game, the Nats defeated the Cubs 5-4 and took the series from the Cubs 2 games to 1.  Heading into the series, the Nats were the worst team in baseball, winners of just 44 games and only 17 games on the road.  Figures they would take 2 of 3 games from the Cubs at Wrigley Field and destroy all hopes of a 3rd straight playoff appearance for the north siders.  Randy Wells had an uncharacteristic off day – giving up 5 ER on 5 hits and 4 walks in only 6 1/3 innings.  Wells suffered his 7th loss of the season and his WHIP rose to 1.22 and his ERA rose to 3.06.  Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez were the only 2 good hitters for the Cubs in the loss.  Lee went 2 for 2 with a home run and 2 runs scored.  Ramirez went 3 for 4 with a 2-run home run and 3 RBI’s.

Nationals Cubs Baseball

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Big Z’s Big Embarassment – Cubs Lose 15-6 @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 26 August 2009 by Lou

Nationals Cubs Baseball

I really didn’t think that things could get any worse, and then Carlos Zambrano got back on the mound last night after spending time on the DL for the 2nd time during the 2009 MLB schedule.  Aside from a solo home run that tied the game at 1 in the 3rd inning, Big Z was awful.  This was a make-or-break homestand for the Cubs against the lowly Nats, Mets and Astros and the Cubs showed why they don’t have what it takes to qualify for post-season play in 2009.

Zambrano could not have looked more out of sync on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field – makes you wonder if they should have given him another rehab start before bringing him back up to the big league level.  Big Z issued a walk to Ryan Zimmerman in the 1st inning, but no runs.  The Nats touched up Big Z for the 1st run of the game with 2 singles and a sac fly in the 2nd inning to take a 1-0 lead.  The 3rd inning was the only inning in which he had a 1-2-3 effort.  The wheels started coming off in the 4th inning.  After a solo home run by Josh Willingham, the Nats tacked on another run on consecutive hits by Ronnie Belliard and Elijah Dukes.  The Nats may have even scored more runs, but they ran themselves out of the inning on a failed suicide squeeze attempt.  Manager Lou Pinella finally saw enough from Big Z in the 5th inning when his pitch count reached 95 pitches.  A hit batsmen started the rally, followed by 2 singles and 2 walks.  Although Aaron Heilman served up the grand slam that broker the game open to give the Nats a 9-1 lead, 3 of the runs that scored were charged to Zambrano.  In 4 1/3 innings, Big Z gave up 8 ER on 7 hits and 3 walks to one of the NL’s worst hitting teams.  Big Z’s WHIP rose to 1.38 on the 2009 MLB schedule.

You have to expect more from the “ace” of your pitching staff.  The Cubs have invested a lot of money and commitment in Zambrano and he really needs to put together a dominating season like other aces – Josh Beckett, Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Chris Carpenter – have done.  Until then, Big Z is really just an over-paid, over-glorified 2nd or 3rd starter on a club that needs an ace.

The lone positive from Tuesday night – – Milton Bradley went 4 for 4 with a solo home run and 2 runs scored.

I’ve been writing about how good the starting pitching has been, and Big Z just threw that right out the window with one atrocious outing.  The frustration with this 2009 Cubs club continues and it will be a gift to all of us when this year finally comes to an end on Sunday, October 4th…

Nationals Cubs Baseball

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It’s Never Too Late to Develop a Winning Formula!

Posted on 28 July 2009 by Lou

Astros Cubs Baseball

Hey Cubs Fans – – it’s never too late to develop a winning formula.  Good pitching and timely hitting usually results in numerous wins.  The Cubs – at least since the All-Star Break – can attest to that.  Except for Ted Lilly’s debacle against the Phillies in Philadelphia on July 20th, the Cubs have had excellent pitching and solid, often-clutch hitting, and the results show.  Since the All-Star Break, the Cubs have put together a solid 9-2 record to take over 1st place from the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central race.  Great pitching, coupled with excellent hitting from Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano has catapulted the Cubs into the lead.

In last night’s 5-1 win in 13 innings over the 2nd place Astros, pitching took center stage for much of the game.  Carlos Zambrano put together another solid outing – 7 innings, 1 ER, 7 hits and 4 walks.  The lone run scored on Carlos Lee’s home run in the 2nd inning.  Aaron Heilman, Carlos Marmol, Jeff Stevens and Sean Marshall combined to pitch 4 straight scoreless innings from the 8th throught the 11th innings.  And Jeff Samardzija threw 2 scoreless innings and picked up his 1st win of the 2009 MLB schedule when Alfonso Soriano stroked his walk-off game-winning Grand Slam off of Chris Sampson to the delight of the Wrigley faithful.

That’s a perfect lead-in to the Cubs offense.  Although it wasn’t all good (Reed Johnson and Ryan Theriot were a combined 0 for 12 in the 1-2 spot at the top of the order, while Soriano was 0 for 5 heading into his 13th inning at-bat), Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez continued their hot hitting.  Lee hit a solo home run off of Wandy Rodriguez in the 4th inning to tie the game at 1 and also drew 3 walks, 1 of which started the Cubs rally in the 13th.  Ramirez notched 3 hits and raised his batting average to .338.  Ramirez’s single in the 13th moved Lee to 3rd base and forced Astros’ Manager Cecil Cooper’s hands to intentionally walk Milton Bradley to load the bases to face Soriano.  The move back-fired in a hurry as Soriano launched the game-winning shot deep to center field to give the Cubs the dramatic 5-1 win.  It was Soriano’s 4th career Grand Slam and he had this to say about the swing – – “I think that’s my best swing I made in the second half.”  Id’ agree.

The Cubs increased their winning streak to 5 games and they increased their lead over the Astros to 3 games and the Brewers to 4 games.  How long will the streak go – guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

Astros Cubs Baseball

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Aramis Ramirez Gets Hot, Cubs Vault to NL Central Lead

Posted on 26 July 2009 by Lou

Reds Cubs Baseball

So Aramis Ramirez goes, so the Cubs go.  It took a couple of weeks for Aramis Ramirez to get back into the “swing” of things after his 2+ month stint on the DL, but he is “back and better than ever” to quote “Mike & Mike” in the morning.  Ramirez’ hot hitting has coincided with the Cubs catapult into 1st place in the NL Central race with a 1/2 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals.  Who knows how long they will be there, but it must have come as a welcome relief to know that they have it in there despite all of the poor play and injuries that have plagued the Cubs ball club during the 2009 MLB schedule.

Aramis Ramirez has been on fire since Wednesday’s win in Philadelphia.  In that game, Ramirez went 2 for 4 with 2 walks, 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.  He had home runs in Friday’s and Saturday’s wins and 2 more hits in Sunday’s sweep of the Reds.  Overall, in his last 4 games, Ramirez is 9 for 16 with 2 home runs, 4 doubles, 7 RBI’s and 4 runs scored.  His batting average is back up over .330 and his on-base percentage is just under .400 at .394.    When Ramirez starts hitting, it seems like the rest of the team starts hitting and developing more scoring chances.

Alfonso Soriano has really turned it on as of late.  Soriano has a modest 9-game hitting streak, and his batting average is back above .250.  Soriano has 5 multi-hit games during that stretch, with 3 home runs, 8 RBI’s and 5 runs scored.  If the Cubs can get a more consistent and productive Soriano down the stretch in the 6-hole, the Cubs should be able to stay in the NL Central race for the duration of the 2009 MLB schedule.

The Cubs open a big 4-game series against the 3rd place Houston Astros on Monday night at Wrigley Field.  Carlos Zambrano will start the opener against Wandy Rodriguez.

Reds Cubs Baseball

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Cubs Counter Cards Acquisition of Matt Holliday with 8-5 Win Over Reds

Posted on 24 July 2009 by Lou

Reds Cubs Baseball

The Cubs countered the Cards’ Friday acquisition of A’s slugger Matt Holliday by slugging out a big 8-5 home win over the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field.  Randy Wells picked up his 6th win of the season – 6 innings, 7 hits, 1 walk and 5 K’s.  The Reds scored their lone runs off of Wells on pitcher Aaron Harang’s 1st career home run – a 3-run shot in the 2nd inning that gave the Reds a 3-1 lead.  But Wells settled down after that and Aaron Heilman and Carlos Marmol each worked perfect innings to get the Cubs to a 4-3 lead in the 8th.

The Cubs bats added 4 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning to blow the game open – but it was good that happened because closer Kevin Gregg struggled in a no-save situation in the 9th by giving up 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk.

The Cubs offense had a productive day 8 runs on 14 hits, including 4 home runs.  Aramis Ramirez was the star – 4 for 5 with 3 RBI’s and 1 run scored, including the go-ahead solo HR in the 6th inning that gave the Cubs the lead for good.  Derrek Lee and Kosuke Fukodome each had 2 hits.  Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker each hit solo home runs.  Could this be a sign of good things to come?  One think I’ve leanred with this Cubs team – you have to take it day-by-day.

The St. Louis Cardinals now have a 1.0 game lead over the Cubs pending their game against the Phillies Friday night in Philadelphia.  The Cards are hoping to make a big splash with the Holliday acquisition, but gave up 3 young prospects, one of whom was considered to be the Cards best minor league player – power-hitting 3rd baseman Brett Wallace – to acquire Holliday.  Plus with Holliday becoming a free agent in the off-season, there is no guarantee that the tight-spending Cards will be able to sign Holliday to a long-term deal with slugger Albert Pujols becoming a free agent following the 2010 MLB schedule.

The Cubs fended off the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008 after the Brewers landed prized ace C.C. Sabathia in early July for the stretch pennant run, and the Cubs hope that they will be able to overtake the Cards in 2009 during the last 2+ months of the season despite the Holliday acquisition.

Although the Cubs won’t be making any big moves themselves because of the tenuous sale/ownership situation, having certain players perform at higher levels will serve as “mid-year” acquisitions in 2009.  Aramis Ramirez getting back on track after his shoulder injury and Milton Bradley and Alfonso Soriano hitting closer to their career numbers will certainly go a long way.  Getting Ryan Dempster and Geovany Soto back from their injury stints on the disabled list will also help.  It’s not the ideal situation for the Cubs, but it is what it is.  Should be a fun, but rocky ride in August and September – let’s just hope they have enough in the tank to win a 3rd straight NL Central division title.

Reds Cubs Baseball

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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…

Cubs Phillies Baseball

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