It has been a while since I have had the audacity to post a blog entry. I apologize to my loyal blog followers for the absence(... I don't actually think I had any, but it makes me feel special).
To be honest, this Cubs season has been the type of vanilla that doesn't really inspire a worthwhile entry. Sure, I could write an entry about any and every issue plaguing the Cubs over the season, but that is basically what every blog/sportswriter/analyst has been doing since the third week of the season. However, something happened today during the course of the 6-5 victory over the White Sox that compelled me to jump online and write about it.
Over the course of this season the Cubs seemed to be stuck with a 2008 postseason hangover. Instead of coming out of the gate inspired and with fire/revenge, they came out defeated, slumping and uninspired. Something was just lacking; perhaps the "cubby swagger" that Lou always talks about. Back in 2008, you felt like the Cubs could come back from any deficit at any time (see, e.g. Colorado comeback game, the ATL Edmonds/Reed HBP walkoff game, etc.). I have never been labeled "cynical" when it comes to Cubs baseball: I'm always the guy in June that has to bring people down from the edge, I've never booed a Cubs player (that is another rant altogether), but at the same time I'm not a blind "kool aid" drinker. Regardless, it just felt like that belief and swagger was lost somewhere along the way by the current Cubs roster.
Today felt like a page had been turned. The Cubs were once again down by a reasonably large deficit late in the game. However, something strange happened when the 8th inning came around: the guys that were supposed to step up did.
I know that this game is just one of 162. But I came away from this game with the hope that perhaps this team may have found a bit of that swagger that seemed to be lacking earlier. Let's hope it continues.
If it keeps on rainin' the levee's gonna break (Peavy, Derosa, and why I don't like Kevin Towers aka the Vitters issue)
At this hour a great deal of news has been raining down and flooding my brain. Perhaps it is the sheer amount of information saturating my brain, but I feel like I have made a breakthrough on all things Jake Peavy. All of a sudden, the news reports are much more transparent than before.
Today was a bit too much early on: the trade was on, and then off, then on again, and then off again. In the meantime you had Rosenthal blabbering about how no deals can be done until the Cubs find new ownership, despite being told the contrary for the past few weeks. Luckily, Crane Kenney came down with the wrath of God tonight and gave a subtle "f--- off" by saying [and this is paraphrased]:
The Cubs do not need approval from a potential new owner to make the kind of four-year, $63 million commitment Peavy's contract would require, nor do they have to know who the new owner will be before making such a multiyear commitment.
It seems that at this hour, the Peavy deal is down to a three team deal between the Cubs, Padres, and Phightin' Phillies of Illidelph. The framework is set, yet it seems there have been some developments since we last spoke. Marshall is no longer on the table for the deal. Moreover, according to Paul Sullivan, he has been replaced by Jason Marquis going the Padres way. The caveat to the whole thing is the Cubs must eat more than half of the Marquis de Suck's contract. I'm ok with this.
There are also conflicting reports about the inclusion of Mark Derosa. It is clear that the Phils have a very large interest in Mark, as they should. The versitility of Mark Derosa pays dividends in a situation such as this. The Phillies are desparate to fill the whole left by Chase Utley for half of a season. They have two real options:
(1) Sign Raul Ibanez to a 4-year contract at about 10-12 MM a year and suffer through him being in his 40's by the end of the contract. Move up Donald to play second base in the mean time.
(2) Trade for Derosa. Have him fill in until Utley comes back and then move him to LF or 3b (while moving Feliz to LF). Moreover, Derosa is only signed for a year, will be a Type A free agent, and is not likely to accept arbitration... meaning 2 draft picks.
Sullivan thinks that the Phils will send the Padres two pitching prospects as part of the deal (via the Cubs). My best guess would have two of the following be those pitching prospects: JA Happ (obviously), Kyle Kendrick, Kyle Drabek. I personally don't think Carrasco being one of those names. Derosa is worth a lot in this trade, but not worth the Phillies #1 prospect. I think the package is most likely centered around Drabek if anything. Kendrick hasn't shown a whole lot just yet, and Happ is projected to be one of those Mark Redman types: decent K:BB ratio, but if his control is of he's gonna get lit like an alcoholic at an open bar.
Although the transition is not great, this gets me to the topic of Kevin Towers. From the outset, KT stated that he wanted to get something along the lines of a 5-to-1 trade in return for Jake Peavy. Given his current bargaining power, I thought it was a bit ambitious, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt here... for a moment. Of this five player package, Towers stressed that pitching was important. There was nothing wrong with this desire until today.
It seems now that Towers wants to have his cake and eat it too, despite his lack of barganing power to really be able to call the shots. The only power he has been able to rely on is the power of being "transparent" to the media about what is going on in an effort to make the Cubs make a dumb move.* The most recent move involves what he told one of his reporters earlier today:
The Padres continue to like their chances of getting Cubs prospect Josh Vitters and Cubs reliever Kevin Hart, a power right-hander whose upside is that of an eighth-inning reliever. Vitters, 19, is a Single-A third baseman described by Baseball America as a potential All-Star.
Now, let me take a step back. Towers wanted five players. From what I have been able to gather, so far the package coming to SD (assuming Sullivan is right) involves 2 pitching prospects coming from the Phillies, a starting pitcher coming from the Cubs in Marquis. Those are three players, all of them pitchers. Now add to the equation that Towers desparately wants Kevin Hart and that gets you to four players, all of them pitchers. That leaves one spot open: well, that is perfect, you say, he can get Vitters as the last piece of the puzzle and the trade should happen, right? No.
Take a step back again... a little bit more towards the present where the Braves were still in contention for Peavy. It was understood that at the time the Cubs did not have the pitching Towers required to make the deal on their own. Thus, Josh Vitters came into the discussion. Vitters was to do one of two things for the Cubs: (1) He was supposed to be traded to another team for the pieces the Cubs could ship to SD; or (2) he was to be shipped to SD in lieu of pitching/pitching prospects to be either developed or spun off for pitching.
Yet, as of today, it looks like Towers is going to get his pitching pieces. Four of them. Yet he still thinks he is going to get Vitters. That sentiment defies all logic, and I think it is at best hollow posturing. From the beginning he said he wanted quality, not quantity. I think he gets the quality from those proposed (and I understand Marquis is in that statement, but a cheap, way under market value Marquis is a good price for league average).
I am undecided on who the final piece would be to set it to five players going in return to the Padres. Before the mention of JA Happ, I would have volunteered Mitch Atkins, but the two are far too similar pitchers, albiet from different sides. The Padres have been showing a great deal of interest in Phillies catching prospect Jarmarillo. I think what really would seal the deal is the inclusion of Wellington Castillo. He is fairly advanced with his bat right now, is compared to Soto (although a bit behind in defense) and has september callup written all over him. Will likely turn out to be a Bengie Molina/Dionnar Navarro type.
In an ideal world we could use Pie or Cedeno instead of Castillo. I would prefer Cedeno, but I understand the allure of Pie. However, their bigger whole is at shortstop.
In the end, we cannot expect anything to happen until late on Thursday anyways. The Padres do not want to make this trade until after the Rule 5 draft for legitimate reasons. The Padres 40-man currently stands at 37. During the Rule 5 draft, they are able to select as many as 3 players. If the Padres were to perform a 5-1 trade it would put their 40-man at 41, causing them to leave players that were once protected well, unprotected. Soon after the Rule 5 concludes, I expect a great deal movement on this trade front.
However, there is no need to include Vitters if Derosa is involved. Period.
* I kinda want to compare him to a car salesman that wants you to pay sticker price, even though the new model will be out in a day or two: he knows hes screwed, but wants to screw you first.
Why, might you ask? Has berryhill lost it all? Has he gone off the deep end? Maybe... I don't think so...
I was there last night. It wasn't pretty. I was not happy. Then again, how can you be when your infield defense collapses? 2-0 is a pretty big hole to come out of, but when asked why I am still on board with the team, I cannot help but reply with "why not."
Rich Harden will toe the rubber tomorrow. He has been far and wide one of the best pitchers in the game this year. Moreover, he has the head to buckle down and get it done. And he wants to play for blood, Johnny Ringo. Harden has been on the wrong side of a comeback from a 2-0 deficit. Now he wants to make it right.
If "Rally" Rich Harden can work his magic, we have Lilly for the next game, who has been the best pitchers on our team in his past outings. I'd love to see him flirt with a no hitter again.
Right now, this team really has nothing to lose that it already hasn't. That can be a dangerous thing. This team can stop the bleeding and rally. Right when we seem to be limping and wearing down, we tend to step up and bring the heat. Why not now.
During the summer, back when I was five, I didn't understand why the Cubs didn't play on certain days. Heck, if I could play baseball every day out in the cul-de-sac (or "The Court" as it was referred to by the neighborhood kids) so should the Cubs. As I grew older, I started to understand that baseball players put a great deal of strain on their bodies during the season and need days off to recover. However, to this day I hate off days in baseball, particularly for extended periods of time (I'm looking at you All-Star break).
It has only been a matter of hours since the last out was recorded to close the Cubs regular season schedule and I'm already frustrated with the down time. The time spent waiting for playoff baseball to begin is even more frustrating than I thought. The Cubs clinched last weekend and allowed us to look towards the postseason, and I'll admit, it was exciting to debate about the possibilities. Moreover, even though they were not meaningful games for the Cubs, there was still baseball to be played that we could analyze and discuss on top of it.
However, now that the regular season games are done, all the substantive discussions are replaced with the speculations of so-called "experts," obligatory fluff pieces about our WS drought, and the incessant ramblings and freak outs by fans that for some reason find a cliff that has a comfortable edge for any number of reasons despite being a fan of the team that had the best record in the NL (OMG... the Dodgers have been so HOT lately [7-7 in last 14]; they have MANNY... his dreadlocks have been touched by the divine!; Jeff Kent is sooooo dreamy!). Wait. Scratch that last one.
I can't wait until Wednesday when the first pitch is thrown and we can get back to baseball.
Note from the Editor: I've actually uploaded the pictures so they're viewable on GROTA, and I've promoted the blog to the front page for the world to see.
I was driving home after classes on 43 South when my girlfriend called me to break the news: "My flight to Houston got cancelled from the Hurricane. Looks like I don't get to see the Cubs down at Minute Maid this year." You could tell she was pretty crushed about it but I tried to cheer her up with talks that maybe, just maybe, the series would be rescheduled somewhere nearby like St. Louis so we could still make a road trip to see it.
As a Chicago Suburbs resident transplanted to Milwaukee, I had been lucky enough to see another transplanted series the year before when the Indians and Angels came to town to hide under the roof of Miller Park from the snow. It was a great time, and as a baseball fan in general, it is always nice to see baseball in any form sometimes. However, I had no expectation that Miller Park was even in contention to be picked for an alternate, perhaps even "neutral" site for the Cubs/Astros series to take place. My luck changed for the better on Saturday night when I found out the news: the series had been moved to Miller Park. I couldn't have been more ecstatic when I heard the news (there may have been a possibility of terrible white boy dancing involved... I'll spare you the details and mental images).
I called my friend, John, a transplanted Houston native and law school classmante of mine, and we both arranged to get tickets and planned out our tailgate the next day.
Image above: Mike, John, and I tailgating.
When we got inside the ballpark, my friend John wanted to go down to the dugout area and see if he could flag down JR Towles, a friend of his from high school (Towles was John's catcher in HS). While we waited, we got to talk a bit with Ed Wade, who was getting ready for an interview. He didn't seem too thrilled about the amount of cubs fans at the game. (I also learned later that the Astros wore their alternate jerseys and stationed themselves in the visitors dugout as a form of "protest").
After the first pitch you all know what happened. Soriano Homers. Felt great. I really thought that would be one of the big highlights of the game and at the end most of us would be talking about how much we enjoy him in the leadoff spot, even if it doesn't make sense, for that purpose alone.
Fourth Inning: I get up to pee in the mid 4. Get back with one man on. I ask the usher how Bourn got on and she tells me it was a walk. I reply with, "Good, no hits." I had no idea the foreshadowing that happened at that moment. Runner erased a second later on a DP ball.
Bottom 5: Lee's height enables him to make a sick catch to end the inning. Butterflies start.
Bottom 6: I just got quiet. My jaw can only clench together. After the final out my girlfriend looked over, looked at the scoreboard, and states "I'm going to leave you alone."
Bottom 8: I hear a girl seated behind me ask her boyfriend why he is acting "so weird." He replies that he can't talk to her about it, he'll tell her later, when the game is over. She sighs and pouts, not understanding what is going on.
Bottom 9: The place is rocking. I can't hear myself think. I don't want to think, for fear of ruining the moment somehow. Two ground outs. One out left. Full Count. Flashbulbs. Game. I let out a gutteral yell that can only be described as primal and my fists are clenched to the point where you'd think I was trying to make the knuckles pop out. The team mobs the field in a big blue blur.
My phone vibrated with a text message. It was my Father. "I had Holtzman's. Now you have your own memory."
Everything fell into place in that moment. In those awestruck moments, I couldn't help but think that the Cubs weren't simply a baseball team: they were a destined team. I have never felt such electricity in the air at a game in my life. I can only hope to have that feeling again sometime soon. Maybe this time, come October, my father and I can share the moment that eluded him in the '69 season.
Without further adieu, I will share my pics (courtesy of my girlfriend and her camera)
The Final Pitch:
The Flooding of the Field:
Me screaming like an idiot:
Ben Sheets, Philanthropist
Hope you all enjoy the photos! Sorry for the quality of some of them... some are a bit grainy.