Tag Archive | "MLB Playoffs"

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Cubs Pick Up Option On Pitcher Rich Harden

Posted on 19 October 2008 by Lou

The Cubs recently picked up a $7 million club option on starting pitcher Rich Harden. Harden started 12 games for the Cubs during the 2008 season. Harden had a 5-1 record with a 1.77 ERA and 89 strikeouts in those 12 starts. Harden made a combined 25 starts for the A’s and Cubs in 2008 – the most starts in a season since he started in 31 games for the A’s in 2004. Harden would have been eligible for arbitration if the Cubs did not pick up the option. Following the Cubs quick exit from the 2008 post-season, Harden was examined by doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Harden has right shoulder rotator tendinitis and slight instability in his shoulder, but does not need surgery to correct the problem. Harden and the Cubs are confident that a rigorous off-season conditioning program will allow Harden to re-gain the strength to endure the entire 2009 regular season.

For $7 million, the price to pay for Harden is worth the risk. Even if the Cubs only get 20-25 starts from Harden and have to skip a few starts to keep him fresh during the long season, it will be the wise route to take. Harden is known for his hard work ethic and is willing to pitch with mild discomfort in the shoulder area. Harden will make a great second or third starter for the Chicago Cubs in 2009.

Following the Harden move, the Cubs now need to focus on a few other important open areas. Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood are both free agents. Dempster won a career-high 17 games in 33 starts for the Cubs, with a spectacular 2.96 ERA. Kerry Wood saved 34 games in his new closer role – all that despite missing a month with a perpetual blister problem on his right index finger. Both players love playing in Chicago, but many teams will try to tempt them away from the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field with lucrative long-term deals. The Cubs should make a strong push to make sure that these 2 locker room mainstays are still wearing Cubbie Blue Jerseys in 2009.

The Cubs also need to clarify their outfield situation. Alfonso Soriano is signed through 2012 in left field, but center field and right field are wide open. Jim Edmonds and Reed Johnson performed admirably in center field in 2008, but Edmonds is a free agent and Johnson is arbitration-eligible. I would keep Johnson and let Edmonds go, but continue to look for another center fielder who could add some spark to the top of the order. Japanese sensation Kosuke Fukodome started off the season with a bang and helped the Cubs off to one of their best starts in years. But his .217 batting average after the all-star break was brutal. If the Cubs can work some magic to bring out the Fukodome from the first 2 months of the season, then that will allow the Cubs to have a very deep 24-man roster. If Fukodome’s struggles continue in 2009, however, that may mean using Mark DeRosa more in Right Field (his preferred position is second base), which hurts the Cubs outfield defense and forces the Cubs to look to fill a void at second base. Mike Fontenot is an option, but the Cubs could also look to sign a free agent second baseman who could also hit in the leadoff spot. Is everyone ready for those Brian Roberts rumors to start rolling in soon? (Roberts is the Orioles second baseman and a leadoff hitter who has been the center of numerous trade rumors to the Cubs for the last 2 seasons).

In any event, despite having the best record in the NL in 2008, the Cubs have many areas that need to be addressed if the Cubs intend to win even just 1 game in post-season play in 2009. Let’s hope Jim Hendry, Lou Pinella are already putting their heads together to devise the game plan that will actually lead the Cubs past the Division Series in the post-season

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This Is Gonna Be The Year… Maybe in 2009?

Posted on 15 October 2008 by Lou

Another year has come and gone, and the Cubs are not World Series Champions.  I know, I know – we all thought this was the year.  We had Super Stars Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.  We had wiley, veterans like Mark DeRosa, Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis and Bob Howry.  We had up-and-coming youngsters like Carlos Marmol, Ryan Theriot, Geovany Soto, Mike Fontenot, Sean Marshall and Ronny Cedeno.  We had 2 long-time Cubs take on new roles in order to bolster our great Cubs lineup – Ryan Dempster moved from being a closer to a starting pitcher, while Kerry Wood assumed Dempster’s close role.  We were all consumed with Fukodome-mania – the 1st ever Japanese-born player to don a Cubs jersey.  We even added 2 spark plugs after the season started – Center Fielders Reed Johnson and Jim Edmonds – who provided much needed grit and spunk and helped fill a large void in the center of the outfield.  With veteran Manager Lou Pinella at the helm, we had a fearless leader who expected each player to be accountable for his actions on and off the field; we had a fearless leader who ensured that his players would truly embrace the idea of “team first” and not just be a collection of super stars unwilling to sacrifice for the greater good of the team; we had a fearless leader who had won a World Series before in Cincinnati and who had also managed other winning teams with the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners.

Under Pinella, the Cubs won 97 games during the 2008 MLB season and won a 2nd consecutive National League Central Division title.  The 97 wins was most in the NL and tied for 2nd in all of Major League Baseball (only the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had more wins with 100, while the Tampa Bay Rays also had 97 wins).  The Cubs had clinched a 2nd consecutive playoff berth with more than a week remaining in the regular season.  All seemed to be right – the Cubs could rest certain players who were a little banged up.  Pinella and his coaching staff could control pitch counts the last week of the season and set up the pitching rotation exactly how they wanted it for the National League Division Series.  The Cubs would have home field advantage until they reached the World Series.  The Cubs’ 55 home wins was 3rd best in baseball and tops in the National League.  Cubs fans were counting down the days to the first pitch of World Series Game 1 on that cool fall night on Wednesday, October 22nd at the home field for the American League Pennant-winner.  2008 would be the year.  And then… the Los Angeles Dodgers came to town.

In the blink of an eye, Cubs fans were once again saying – “There’s always next year.”  For the 2nd consecutive year, the Cubs did not win a post-season game.  The Cubs pitching failed them, their bats fell silent once again, and their fielding provided their opponent with too many good chances to put the series away in only 3 games.  For the 2nd consecutive year, the Cubs were swept out of the playoffs by a better team from the National League’s West Division.  For the 2nd consecutive year, Cubs’ executives, coaches, players and fans were left speechless – wondering how such a promising post-season could turn south so quickly.

With only themselves to blame, Cubs management and players will look towards next year.  This is a job to each of them – they won’t dwell on what could have been, for if they do, next year will pass them by too.

Cubs fans, on the other hand, will struggle and attempt to come to grips with why their beloved Cubs have not won a World Series in 101 years.  Some will consider boycotting Cubs games at Wrigley Field next year.  Some will even consider rooting for the arch-enemy – the South Side Chicago White Sox.  Why not – at least they won a World Series recently in 2005.  And some will continue to make excuses as to why the Cubs lost to the Dodgers in 3 painful games during the 2008 post-season.

Will 2009 bring a different ending?  Will 2009 be the Cubs year?  Come journey with us here at MyCubsToday and enjoy the ride.  We’ll re-live some memorable highlights of the last 2 successful Cubs regular seasons and post-seasons, we’ll look to the upcoming flurry of off-season MLB activity, we’ll get ready for that spring day (winter day here in Chicago) when Cubs pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Arizona in February 2009, we’ll anticipate that 1st pitch in April to open the Cubs 2009 campaign, and we’ll write about that Cubs World Championship in October 2009.  Hey – you just never know…

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