Monday morning off-day round-up
I'd be driving to work right about now, but I have the morning off for a doctor's appointment. The Cubs are even luckier - they've got a full day off, allowing them the opportunity to rest after the intense beating they've given the White Sox this past weekend. Cubs and Sox players describe the interleague series as having "a playoff atmosphere," and usually when they say it, they do so in a way where they sound like nobody had ever said the same thing before and they just struck Baseball-Quote Gold. I overheard Jim Thome on ESPN Radio on Friday. "It's a fun series to play in and watch," he said (or something close to it, I'm paraphrasing). "It's definitely intense. It's like ... it's like ... it's like a Playoff Atmosphere!!!! Wooo-hooo! I just came up with a good'un. They're gonna quote me everywhere for that'un!"
Except maybe it's true. As I wrote in my guest column for 35th Street, it's probably different within Chicago where Cub fans go to work with Sox fans and have to live with each other's taunts on a regular basis. Taking that kind of mindset to a game can certainly lead to a charged-up atmosphere. But, as a resident of the Rest of the World, I can say truthfully that it didn't matter much, except in the standings.
Now then, the Cubs are off today, and because I've got time to kill I've researched a few interesting things. Be prepared to be shocked.
- It's June 23rd, 2008. The Cubs have the best record in all of baseball.
- They have won 14 games in a row at home - their longest such streak since 1934 or '35. You know what else happened in the 1930's? There was a depression going on, fascism was on the rise in Europe, and, oh, the Cubs made the World Series on 3 different occasions.
- Aramis Ramirez - whose name is pronounced inconsistently by ESPN broadcasters - hulked up this weekend and hit a lot of homeruns. He suddenly finds himself on pace for more than 30.
- Speaking of hulking up, as we've suggested all along, the Alfonso Soriano Replacement Sweepstakes has now become the Cubs Deadline Trade-Bait Showcase. Eric Patterson is now batting .318 with 2 walks in 22 at bats (Corey could get 220 at bats and still he might only walk twice), and he hit a big homerun last night against the Sox. Matt Murton is now batting .273, but he's yet to hit any extra base hits or homers. Micah Hoffpauir is batting .400 in 35 at bats with 6 doubles and a homer. If even one of these guys contribute toward the landing of C.C. Sabathia at the trade deadline, then this little Showcase will be a mission accomplished, and I will start accusing the Cubs of faking Soriano's injury in order to allow for the opportunity.
- If it's true that this series was a "playoff atmosphere" then it's good that Dempster pitched well. I remain unconvinced that the Cubs have the arms to win a short series. A few more epic starts like the last one, and Clownsevelt will convince me to change my mind.
- Carlos Marmol is hugely concerning. Lou did the right thing by trotting him out there, and you can safely bet money on Marmol making an appearance tomorrow night against Baltimore, regardless the situation, but his last two outings have been Ankiel-like. In his 4-run outing against Tampa, where he was unable to get a single out, Marmol threw 20 pitches, 7 for strikes, and he hit 2 batters. In his next outing against the Sox, Marmol threw 31 pitches, 13 for strikes, including a wild pitch. In total, that's 51 pitches, 20 strikes, 5 walked batters, 2 hit batters, and at least 1 wild pitch that I know of. I am comforted by Kerry Wood, who once noted that he went through a similar stretch when he was still a minor league pitcher, and it actually may be more common than we realize.
- Speaking of K.Wood, Jon Miller EMailed me recently to note that ESPN has him - and 2 other Cubs out of 10 total players - in their National League Cy Young Predictor.
Oh, and one last thing. The Cubs are now 13-7 for the month of June, and they are 6-4 in 10 games without The Fonz. They play 7 more games this month - 3 at home against the 38-36 (but 16-24 on the road) Orioles, 3 at near-home against the reeling-but-still-deadly Sox, and 1 on the road in San Fran as a precursor to a 4-game series that will carry into July. As I keep pointing out, at the start of this horribly rough stretch of games, I said, "the Cubs might exit June with 13 or 14 wins for the month." I also said that, if the Cubs won 16, we should be happy and the Cubs should have a healthy lead on the #2 team. Byron then made a poll in which the vast majority of readers predicted between 14 and 17 wins. With 7 games remaining, it is very, very possible that the Cubs will win 17, or even 18 games in the hardest month of their season!
Even if you want to argue that other months are tougher schedule-wise (and that's an argument you will lose, in my opinion), with Carlos missing two or three starts, with Marmol looking like Ankiel, and with Alfonso missing more than half the month due to injury, the play of the Cubs has been just flat out amazing. And maybe that's what we should call them - the Amazing Cubs. The way things are headed, we also might have a few other prefixes to tack onto their names. Some remain unspeakable for now, but The 100-Win Cubs is becoming a strong possibility.