Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Double doozie (Game Recaps: Cubs 7, Rockies 23)

If nothing else, the Cubs have continued to provide their fans with some variety over the past two days: after getting walloped on Friday night, they managed to keep it close late in the game on Saturday, only to lose yet again.

I'd like to tell you about the bright spots for the Cubs, but there really weren't any. Derrek Lee hit a three-run homer yesterday, so that's good, but it's his only hit so far in seven at-bats.

The only Cubs to have registered hits in both games were Marlon Byrd and Tyler Colvin. Colvin tripled on Friday night, and singled last night. He also walked once. Four bases in seven at-bats plus three trips to first in eight plate appearances is representative of a .946 OPS, which is to say that he's been behaving nicely lately. Both of the Byrd's hits were singles, so that's good for a .500 OPS. I suppose those are your three star Cub hitters for the last two games. Joy!

The best pitching appearance of the last two games goes to James Russell. Three strikeouts in two innings, one hit, no walks, no runs... yeah, fine. For the season, Russell has shown pretty excellent control, with 25 strikeouts against just four walks in 31 innings pitched this year. No wonder the Diamondbacks were interested. Going forward he'll have to learn how to limit the long ball (nine allowed this year), which may involve walking a few more batters. But he seems to have the command needed to pitch well into the future.

All in all, a pair of games to forget. From a karmic standpoint, you might say the Cubs and Rockies are even, given their role in one of the most memorable games of 2008.

Now, I'm going to write something about the Cubs' handling of the trade deadline.

Gamecast (July 31, 2010) Cubs @ Rockies

Yesterday's whooping at the hands of the Rocks is a thing of the past. Now all I wonder about is the future. Lilly is gone, the season is effectively over. The Cubs are only playing for pride now. They have a new second baseman (who is not in the lineup tonight, presumably he isn't with the Cubs yet), and a new #5 starter. DeWitt is a .350 OBP guy so I wonder if he wouldn't make a decent leadoff hitter. Heres my lineup, it's actually shocking to me how strong this lineup could be if everything went right:

1-DeWitt-2B
2-Castro-SS
3-Soto-C
4-Soriano-LF
5-Colvin-RF
6-Byrd-CF
7-Aramis-3B
8-Lee-1B

whatya think? Not bad, eh? Theriot was clearly the weak link in the lineup. I just think this lineup could be pretty good for the rest of the year. And with Derrek Lee hitting 8th, Rob will be ecstatic!

Today's Matchup: Tom Gorzelanny (86.2IP, 3.22ERA, 4.17xFIP) vs Jason Hammel (110IP, 4.34ERA, 3.72xFIP)

Hammel wins today's peripherals matchup as Gorzelanny has been way too wild this year. You can't walk too many people in Coors Field, even after the advent of the humidor. Furthermore, the Cubs could use a nice long performance from their starter and Gorz just isn't the guy who can do that. This is going to be a tough game to win.

Who's Hot: He shouldn't be hitting leadoff but Colvin continues to produce an ISO of .285 with a .553 SLG. That easily leads the Cubs and he's already hit 16 HR in just 260 PA. Colvin has a 7 game hit streak and has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 including 4 Jimmy Jacks during that stretch.

Who's Not: Andrew Cashner is suddenly suffering through one of the worst stretches of any relief pitcher anywhere. He has given up 12 earned runs and 3 HR in the last 2 games over just 1.1 innings. Ouch!

Conclusion: Let the the Blake DeWitt era commence. Well, whenever he actually plays. In the meantime, it's the Mike Fontenot era, sort of. Anyway. Go Cubs!

Trade deadline recap

Hi all. Here are some Cub related notes on today's trade deadline:

The Cubs themselves sent Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot to the Dodgers for second baseman Blake DeWitt and two varying degrees of good prospects. Brett Wallach is the jem here and will immediately move into the Cubs' top 15 prospect lists. Good Bye to Ted and Ryan, both of whom have been key parts of the team over the last four years and deserve our respect and honor. I am very interested to see what DeWitt will be able to do for the Cubs.

The Cardinals traded away Ryan Ludwick and received Jake Westbrook in return. Westbrook is an ok pitcher, everyone keeps speculating that he will be fixed somehow by Dave Duncan and while agree that Westbrook is the type of pitcher who has had success working with Duncan, I also think that rookie John Jay is going to be out of his depth and this deal further hurts the Cardinals' offense. I actually think that overall, the Cardinals have not really improved themselves.

The Astros, of course, traded both Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman away in an effort to turn those 2 out of 3's against the Cubs into sweeps.... I don't think they got back near enough and don't consider Bret Wallace to be anywhere near the offensive force that Berkman has been. I wonder if the Astros wouldn't have just better off keeping both players and trying to swap them in 2011. I don't think they did well.

The Reds did nothing. Kind of surprising. If I were a Red fan, I'd be angry. It may not matter. They could win it anyway. Oh and Jonny Gomes is still a huge Ahole. Just saying.

The Pirates flipped some of their roster for some potentially nice players and pretty much got more from trading Octavio Dotel, Javier Lopez, Bobby Crosby and Ryan Church than the Astros got for dealing Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. Wow.

Ex Cub Kerry Wood got traded to the Yankees. I wish him well and now I'm rooting for the Yankees to win the World Series. Wood is a Cub and will always be one. As such if he wins a title.... in a way we all do. Go Kerry!

Kyle Farnsworth was traded at the deadline to the Braves along with Rick Ankiel for a whole bevy of interesting prospects. Farnsworth doesn't have anywhere near the same level of respect in Chicago that my man Kerry has, thus I am not particularly concerned with this deal. I do find new Royals prospect Tim Collins particularly interesting.

Other than that, the rest of the Cubs are still here. No Fuku trade, no Zambrano trade, Nady will be passed through waivers I'm sure and could be dealt. I am a fan of Mike Fontenot bug with DeWitt on board, I don't really see what he does for the Cubs so I expect Fontenot be also be passed through waivers and possibly traded. Jeff Baker may still have value on the team.

Overall, a massively interesting day. I'm happy with the deal. I would have liked to have seen the Cubs do more but I don't believe I was ever one of those "Blow up the team" people so I won't complain. I will leave this up for two hours before posting today's gamecast.

(Edit) I forgot to mention Will Ohman traded back to the NL to play for the Marlins. He's still around and is pretty effective.

Series (Pre) View...and the view isn't that pretty: Cubs at Colorado (July 30-August 1, 2010)

Well, I am a bit late on the turnaround with this preview due to a pool-induced bout with Jeff Baker temporary blindness syndrome.  For the sake of not wanting to re-live the carnage of last night, I will instead treat this like a two game series and also fill you in with the most relevant Cubs-related trade news.

On the trading front:

  • Carlos Zambrano is open to being traded and the Cubs have rejected a trade offer from the Mets for Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.  All I can say is: thank god.
  • The Twins, Yankees, Tigers and Dodgers have varying degrees of interest in Theodore Roosevelt Lilly.  Last night, it sounded like Lilly was basically destined for LA according to various talking heads on local Chicago sports shows.
  • The Diamondbacks have offered the Cubs Kelly Johnson in return for James Russell and Ryan Theriot. WHY HAS THIS DEAL NOT HAPPENED YET?  Johnson is the arbitration eligible player I'd much rather have at this point.
  • The Red Sox made a run at Sean Marshall a few days ago, but were quickly shot down by the Cubs.

I'll try to keep everyone posted about what goes down throughout the day as the trade deadline is my Christmas in July.

Now, back to the task at hand of looking at this series in the Mile-High City.

Tom Gorzelanny (6-5, 3.22 ERA) vs. Jason Hammel (7-6, 4.34 ERA)
Tommy G is going to get the role of "stopper" today after that atrocious performance by the bullpen (again).  It just seems like it's one of those deja vu weeks where we get the joy of watching those same bullpen implosions that really destroyed the team out of the gate.  Since returning to the rotation, Tommy has been pretty damn good, going 4-0 with a 2.83 in five starts.  I once again reiterate that the John Grabow trade will forever be tied with the Alfonseca trade in the "getting a much better piece as a 'throw in'" lore.

Hammel has had an up and down season.  Hammel features a low 90s fastball, a pretty strong overhand curve, and a serviceable changeup.  While Hammel started strong and had great success at the start of the season, he has been hit pretty hard lately.  In his last three starts, Hammel has allowed 12 earned runs over 19.2 innings.  Hammel does well when he keeps the ball down, because his career success has been snakebitten in the past by the long ball.

"Good" Carlos (10-4, 3.76 ERA) vs. Jorge De La Rosa (3-3, 5.15 ERA)
De La Rosa was supposed to be sort of the "co-ace" of the team this season before going down with a torn flexor tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand.  Since coming back, his peripherals haven't looked all that great: 1.40 WHIP, 4 HR's allowed in 16.1 innings, and two losses in three starts to show for it.  That being said, he is averaging a strikeout per inning.  He is coming off a good start against the Pirates where he went seven innings and allowed only three earned runs.

Silva sort hit an epic roadblock in his momentum train the two starts before he faced the Astros, not making it past the 2nd inning in both of those previous starts.  Those days are hopefully gone as now he has to resume being "good Carlos" with the fiery, anger-managed, trade-bait Carlos is back on the roster to be the ying to Silva's yang.

Conclusion
I am going to be glued to my computer and the television until the trade deadline passes.  Hopefully, the Cubs will be vigilant and try and acquire some good pieces for the next few years while dumping some salary in the process.  That Kelly Johnson trade would be a good start. 

Oh, and as for the current roster?  I honestly think we can take the next two games and win the series.  De La Rosa was at one point a dominant guy for Colorado, but this season he hasn't been (also, it feels like he's been in the league forever...).  Same goes for Hammel.  Two wins are possible, boys, make it happen.

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If Derrek deserves flak, Ted gets triple.

Most of the Cub trade hubbub lately has focused on Derrek Lee's decision to invoke his no-trade clause and prevent a deal with the Angels. That led to a debate about Lee's interest in winning, his skills as a leader, and other intangibles discussion points.

Pardon my lack of segue. Call it a quick left turn:

Last night, the Minnesota Twins traded for Matt Capps, the Nationals' closer. In the deal, they gave up Wilson Ramos, a 22-year-old catcher who hit .317 in AA last year, a guy who apparently has a super arm when it comes to throwing out runners.

Another left:

In a potential Ted Lilly trade, the Cubs are asking the Mets for Josh Thole, according to some reports. Thole has a .783 OPS in his career in the minors, but in 48 plate appearances with the big league club this year has managed to post a .941 OPS.

Three lefts, just one more to go:

Until very recently, the Twins had been considered a likely landing spot for Lilly. They wanted him pretty badly, and given the deal they just made with Washington, it seems like they had a guy in mind that they were willing to give up to get Ted.

Fourth left, now we're back to where we started:

Some folks seem to have been bothered by the fact that Derrek Lee used his no-trade clause (the one he earned from having played in the league for 10 years, spending five of those with one team) to block a Los Angeles deal. Let me be honest: the Cubs may have possibly saved some money, but given Lee's performance this year we probably weren't going to get anything valuable back.

Having said that, it looks like up until last night, a Ted Lilly-for-Wilson Ramos swap was distinctly possible. And according to reports, the only thing that held the deal up was Ted Lilly's decision to invoke his limited no-trade clause, which happens to include the Twins.

If you want to talk about "wanting to win," turning down the Angels, who trail the Rangers by a sizable margin, is one thing. But the Twins are getting tons of buzz as a World Series favorite. If you want to give a guy flak for not wanting to go after a championship, take everything you've said about Derrek Lee and triple it, because that's what Ted Lilly deserves, not to mention his role in denying the Cubs a Top 100 catching prospect.

Carlos Lee'd (Game Recap: Cubs 1, Astros 8)

At some point I'm going to look up the phrase, "Starting pitcher kept team in game, offense failed to capitalize on opportunities, secondary bullpen pitchers put game out of reach," in different languages, because that's really probably the only way I can continue to give you a varied product when it comes to game recaps.

Randy Wells allowed three earned runs in 5.2 innings yesterday, but two of those came in the sixth on a Carlos Lee home run that was thiiiiis close to going foul. Lee would also homer off Bob Howry later in the game, giving him four ribs on two homers for the day.

The Cubs had a chance to take the lead early, loading the bases with no outs in the first, and with Castro and Colvin getting on in front of Aramis Ramirez with no outs in the third. They had a chance in the fifth too, when Theriot and Castro both singled. Unfortunately, their inability to capitalize was their downfall yesterday.

Of course, that's what you get for playing Fukudome, Nady, and Baker instead of Byrd, Lee, and Soriano.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's game, where I'll be on full-fledged CastroWatch: if Castro goes 1-for-4 and Byrd goes 0-for-4, Starlin will take over the team lead in batting average.

And hey, has anybody been traded yet?

What does this say about Derrek Lee?

Reports are that Lee is exercising all of his no-trade rights, and refuses to be traded to a contender.  Texas is one specific place that wants him, that will not get him.

thanks AL!Remember 2001, when seemingly all we needed to get over the hump was a power-hitting first baseman, and we completed a trade for Fred McGriff, who was hitting a lot of empty homers down in Tampa Bay when they were truly miserable?  Except he had a no-trade clause, and he wasn't coming.  That was his home, he had gone there to 'semi-retire', make some coin and play around a little, and he wanted NOTHING to do with a pennant race.

Finally, after over 20 days of wrangling, McGriff finally did come here, whereupon he went through the motions for the last month of 2001 and the entire 2002 season.  He did hit 30 homers in 2002, but really did little else to contribute.  He did not lead, he did not go full out, and he was shown the door the next year.

At the time, the denizens of The Uncouth Sloth and the Cubs Coven Yahoo! group (big shout to Brett Kuntz aka whatever moniker he was using at the time, probably something like Joe Pepitone's Towel) had invented a nifty little catch-all slogan that we used, constantly, in a short-hand attempt to explain away the 2001 late-season fizzle and the 2002 abortion that led to the end of the Smooth Baylor Era:

McStiff Eats Ass

Obviously, the man did not want to come here; did not want to play under pressure; did not want to stick his neck out. Why Andy MacPhail continued to pursue this guy after his initial refusal is beyond me?  Eric Karros came in 2003 as part of the Turd Hundley bailout, and with half the talent but three times the guts, helped carry the Cubs to the closest they have come since the War to a World Series.

Now, Fred McGriff was a talented man, a good man, a calm, rational man.  He was looked up to by his peers.  He was a family man, and a role model to not only MLB fans, but the young guys coming up through the ranks.  Sounds a lot like Mr. Derrek Lee, and not just because they are both tall Black first basemen.

They are decent men who should be idolized for their decency and professionalism.  But please do not EVER confuse that for LEADERSHIP!!  Lee is frequently cited as the Leader of the Cubs.  Oh, really?  Do you see Derrek Lee holding someone accountable for their actions on or off the field?  Do you really see him get into Theriot's face for getting picked off base for the umpteenth time, or jumping down Baker's neck for not laying down a crucial bunt, or anything like that?

Nah, just like McStiff, Lee wants to come in, put in his time, and go home.  He could care less about competing, about winning.

Ergo, if McStiff ate ass, then Lee Eats Ass.

Look at me, I'm an expert on trades!

UPDATE: One down; according to Bruce Levine, Derrek Lee will not be traded. Let further speculation continue!

I'm sure you all read the same things I do (since MLBTradeRumors.com does such a great job of aggregating all the online buzz), but with Rob having brought up the subject of trades, I thought I'd try my best to summarize what's out there so we have a place for reader comments as these things begin to materialize.

1) As Rob said, looks like Lilly's gone. Bruce Levine (not Miles, whoops) says it's either the Dodgers or the Twins. Even though they're the smaller market, I feel like the Twins probably have more financial flexibility, and Ted appears to be the kind of guy that fits right into their pitching mantra, which is, "Don't walk anybody." So, guess number one: Ted Lilly to the Twins.

2) It's the apparent interest in Ryan Theriot that motivated Rob to post in the first place, and I do think he'll be moved. I think Lou Pinella and Jim Hendry are smart enough to know that a Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker platoon would be just as, if not more effective than starting The Riot everyday, and I think they're starting him so often because they know scouts are watching, so they're marketing him. It sounds like the interested teams are the Rockies and the Padres, but now that Troy Tulowitzki is back, and with the Padres leading the division, I think San Diego is probably more motivated to get a deal done. My guess: Ryan Theriot to the Padres.

3) I disagree with Rob on one point: I don't think Derrek Lee will be traded. If there's one thing Jim Hendry's been consistent about in his tenure with the Cubs, it's that he treats his players well (avoids arbitration, gives lots of NTCs, apparently consulted Lilly about his trade options, etc.). So if the return for Lee appears underwhelming -- and I'm pretty sure it does, given his cost and performance -- Hendry won't ask Lee to uproot his family for the sake of one more single-A pitching prospect. Derrek Lee will not be traded.

4) If the Cubs make more than two trades before Sunday, the third Cub to go will be Kosuke Fukudome. There clearly isn't a place for him on this team, and since you're gonna be paying him anyway, why not save $2MM-$5MM and try to get SOMETHING that complements your farm system? The Braves have expressed a need for an outfielder that can play center, and the Red Sox could probably use another outfielder as well. Gut feeling: Kosuke goes south. Kosuke Fukudome to the Atlanta Braves.

When all is said and done, I think the Cubs get back four A-level pitchers for Ted, Riot, and Fuk, and maybe end up paying $10mil of Kosuke's owed salary. So some money saved, and some pitching depth added.

I admit, I could very easily be totally wrong about all of this. But how will you be able to disagree with me unless I put my thoughts out there for you to roast them? Comments, please!

Lesson learned for Cash? (Game Recap: Cubs 1, Astros 6)

"Rough night for Cash," says Chief, and really I'm pretty sure that's all it was.

Neither the Cubs nor the Astros were able to score through the first 6.5 innings of last night's game in Houston. Ted Lilly and, to an even greater extent, Brett Myers were both sharp.

So bottom seven, Andrew Cashner is on the mound, and the kid throws a high-and-inside fastball to Humberto Quintero that, in my mind, the guy could easily have dodged. It looked like he leaned in for a split second before jerking back, and so he got hit. That was a dick move. Classic Rod Stilenovich rally starter.

Alright, so pressure's on, tied scoreless game, 'Stros pinch-run for Quintero with this Jason Bourgeois cat, who's fast. Astro starter Brett Myers is up, looking to lay down the bunt, but before he has a chance to do so, Bourgeois steals 2nd.

This is an appropriate time to relay to you the factoid I heard during last night's broadcast, which is that Koyie Hill is something like 3-for-25 in throwing out base runners this season. If that's true, then what the hell is this guy good at? He certainly can't hit -- and when I say "can't hit," I mean he literally cannot make contact between the bat and the ball. Are we sure Hill is better than Castillo, Chirinos, Clevenger, Brenly, et al?

As for the rest of the inning, a quick sum: Myers bunts, JB goes to 3B with one out. Pinella IBBs Michael Bourn to keep the double play in order, but then Angel Sanchez drops a bunt into the dead zone between Cash and Hill, allowing the fleet-footed JB to score. Hunter Pence singles, Carlos Lee walks, Cash hits Jeff Keppinger with a pitch, and then gives up a grand slam to Lance Berkman.

It was a stressful situation for Cashner, with absolutely zero help provided by the guy behind the plate. Honestly, let's replace Hill with Castillo or whoever like right now.

On the bright side, Tyler Colvin went 2-for-4, with a double and a homer that would lead to the Cubs' only run. Among players with at least 250 plate appearances, Colvin leads the National League in isolated slugging (SLG - AVG, a measure of raw power). And guess who's in last place in the NL? Hint's in the Shout Box.

Finally, I salute Ted Lilly for 3.5 years of brave service to the Cub cause. This guy is a true winner; doesn't have the 93-95mph heater, but clearly wants to win every night so very badly. Whether he ends up with the Twins or the Dodgers (the frontrunners for his services, according to Bruce Miles), I hope he gets the chance to start in the playoffs that he deserved in 2008 but never received.

You will be missed, TRL.

The true indicator that Jim Hendry is competent at his job

Ted Lilly getting dealt is inevitable.  I hate to see him go...I have liked him since his initial slow start with us in 2007.  I hope for his sake he goes to a place with a big park, in the AL, so he doesn't have to bat.

Derrek Lee is also attracting interest.  It appears he is doing a bit better, so as with Lilly, someone is willing to rent him and his expiring contract for the next two months.  This would be a good thing for us, because it gives someone else (Ramirez?) a chance to be the "clubhouse leader", someone a bit more forceful and less accepting of losing.

Inexplicably, though, the Rockies are at least one team interest in Ryan Theriot.  Here's the thing, kids.  If Hendry gets a box of athletic tape for The Riot, it will be a steal.  HE MUST MAKE THIS TRADE!  Ronny Cedeno is a dumber ballplayer than Theriot, and Mike Barrett was dumber than Theriot.  That being said, Forrest Gump is smarter than Theriot.

If Hendry is smarter than Theriot, he will trade him and his poor positioning, dumb baserunning, lack of situational awareness ass out of town.  Now that ARam and DPLee are hitting a little, it is now The Riot and our crappy bullpen that is holding us down.  If we can get a few more bullpen arms, along with a minor prospect, for Lee, Lilly and Theriot, then Hendry has done his job.

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