Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Jim Haley can choke on a bag of poinswatters

Preface (disclaimer)
We aren't bad guys here.  If you ever met us in person, you'd probably be surprised by how polite we are.  I think any one of us -- not just myself -- would be high on a list of people least likely to incite a riot.  Even if you think our internet personas are those of raging dicks and enormous assholes (a perfect match for each other, I'm sure you'd agree), I'd argue that we are mostly misunderstood and, in that mythical place known as "Real Life," we have many friends and few-if-any enemies.  And that's pretty ironic, since I tend to say outrageous things in person that I would never say on the internets.

Still, I have about a zero tolerance level when it comes to people who attack one of my own.  Ironically, if you attacked me, I would try to buddy up with you and would be generally polite, no matter how dickish you get, but if you attack one of mine, it's Game On.  Which brings us to this article's topic.

Recently, Rob, myself, and others have been expressing Cubbie Cynicism with very little reluctance.  What's the point of writing something if you aren't going to be truthful, after all?  I know that some of you do not want to be reminded of what a ridiculously crappy season the Cubs are having, and nobody likes to read about how the obvious moves of firing Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella are not likely to occur, but does that mean we shouldn't write about it? 

If you think about how you feel when you watch a game, and the way you express yourself after a particularly awful, disappointing play, is it fair to deny us the same emotions and the same responses?  Would we be Cub fans if their play didn't piss us off?

And yet, after a recent post, Rob received the following EMail from Jim Haley:

"Clean up your language using 4 letter words in your posts.  Please stay away from the Cubs...We don't need you.  Better yet, move to Alaska so we don't have to read your comments."

I have to ask Mr. Haley: who gives you the authority to tell anybody on this blog -- or anywhere else, for that matter -- what they can or cannot say?  Who gives you the authority to speak on behalf of the Cubs?  "We don't need you?"  Huh?!?  And please, sir, I'm dying to know... what makes you think that Alaska doesn't have the internet?

In another exchange with Rob, this arrogant douchebag wrote, "I figured it out after reading the website comments from others... u are far from being the Cubs.  The other posters have some smarts&common courtesy with what they write to all ages.  Cubs nation is young&old.  Go out & have a Bud with Ricketts when you can afford a bleacher seat.  I'm sure he will listen to 'MR. CUB"/ (sic) give me a break.

"Oh, watch who you call names too (sic)....paybacks could be hell"

Jim Haley, I'm not sure where you think you were given authority over the internets, but I would like you to know that I hereby quit you as a reader on GROTA.  This blog is written by -- and for -- passionate, dedicated, intelligent Cub fans.  The people who come to this website understand what it means to put one's heart behind a sport, no matter how often it's broken, and we know what it's like to feel sometimes cynical and always disappointed. 

But we don't have a spot for you here.  You don't belong.  But as far as name calling goes ...

You are a throbbing galoot, sir, whose fingers are better served to be wrapped around an army of poinswatters rather than to type comments on the internet.  Your baseball acumen is equitable to that of a child, and your time would be better spent learning how to tolerate those with a more sophisticated lifeview than your own, rather than to dictate how the rest of us should express ourselves in public.

In other words, rude people like you are the reason why couples should take parenting tests before being permitted to reproduce.  Because if you were raised right, you wouldn't be quite so ridiculously rude, nor full of yourself.

But in the name of tolerance, I'll just say this much more to you ... you are absolutely, completely, 100% welcome to disagree.  You are well within your rights as a human being to believe that Jim Hendry poops gold and the Cubs are only two lucky breaks away from World Series Domination.  You can think that we're vulgar, you can believe that we're idiots, you can badmouth us to every Cub fan with half an interest in blogs, but when you start telling us what to do and think you are crossing a line.  And when you begin making subtle threats about how we better watch ourselves, then you are more than just crossing a line -- you're hurdling it in a full sprint.  My advice to you: don't do that, you might not like where you land.

So keep on crossing it, Jim Haley, and never look back.  We'll both be happier without you.

The problem

The problem is not that the Reds hit seven homers today and scored 14 runs.

The problem is that we only hit two homers and scored only three.

I would take the 2010 Cubs pitching any year.  Given an adequate major league offense, I could exceed .500 with the pitching staff.

Today, outside of Colvin's homers, only three Cubs made outfield outs.  Yesterday, although they managed to win a game, they set a team record by stranding 17 runners in 8 innings.
The previous two days, they were shut out once.  The previous two weeks, they have been shut out five times.  They are nearly dead last in every offensive category in the NL. 

The Cubs offense would fuck up a paint by numbers kit.  They don't know what to do.  This is the worst situational offense I have ever seen in Wrigley Field.

I did not watch the game today; I have not watched a game the past few weeks, and until some repercussions are felt, and some accountability is demanded ANYWHERE on any level in this franchise, I will continue to ignore the Cubs.

Rudy Jaramillo should be fired, yes, but he is but the mere tip of the iceberg.  He obviously has not performed his job at any sufficient manner this year, but he is not the only person at fault. 

At this point, I don't give a shit who gets fired.  Fire Kenney, fire Hendry, fire Piniella, fire all the coaches, release Lee and Ramirez and Fukudome and Soto and Hill and all of the shitty middle infielders and send Castro back to Iowa, I don't care.  Just do SOMETHING.  Don't keep running out there day after day, doing the same thing and losing the same way.

Until then, screw you, Cubs.  I have better things to do.

Gamecast (July 2, 2010) Reds @ Cubs

Happy Independence Day Everyone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's July 4th and the Cubs have a game today. We live in the greatest country on the planet Earth so let's not get too down (well, Kurt lives in Canada, but let's not hold that against him! Smiling I wanted to mention one other thing from yesterday's game. During the game there was a play where Randy Wells laid down a bunt and didn't run hard to first and it resulted in a near wild throw that should have ended up with Wells on first base.

Now, Bob Brenly lost his mind. He screamed at Wells for not booking down the line but realistically, I am happy he didn't. I don't want these guys to risk hurting themselves running the bases. Please, Randy, jog down the line. Don't hurt yourself. You're an automatic out anyway. Whenever you reach base, it's gravy. If Wells pitches like he did yesterday all year, I don't care if he walks up to the plate and takes 3 batting practice fastballs down the middle of the plate and then takes a left turn back to the dugout.

On to today's game:

Today's Matchup: Mike Leake (95.1 IP, 3.30 ERA, 4.42 xFIP) vs Ted Lilly (86.2IP, 3.12 ERA, 4.61 xFIP)

Two pitchers who have an ERA significanly lower than it should be hook up today. Lilly is a fly ball pitcher who needs to keep people off the bases per the walk. But you all know that. Leake needs to get ground balls to win. He has a ground ball rate near 50%. The question is this. Can Leake keep the ball on the ground. I do think the Cubs will have the advantage if the wind is blowing in but the Reds will have the advantage if it's blowing out. Of if the Cubs offense takes the field Smiling

Who's Hot: My man Starlin is 8 for 20 with 4 doubles and 4 unintentional walks since June 26th. People who say there is no good reason to watch the Cubs this year should focus on this player. He is 20 years old and I think he's at the beginning of what is going to be a great career. That is enough reason to keep watching.

Who's Not: There's no longer a good reason for the Cubs to keep batting Tyler Colvin near the top of the lineup. His OBP has drifted down to .316. I don't think he's that bad at that aspect of the game but he is always going to be a bit of an out machine. He will need to hit the ball out of the park regularly to be valuable long term. It's been a nice 3 months but I think we're finally starting to see the real Colvin.

Conclusion: The result of yesterday's game is the reason why I have been dumbfounded by the Cubs this year. See, the starting pitching is so good that they should win games like this. Fairly low scoring games that the Cubs come out on top of should be their forte this year. Instead they've been losing those games all year. The truth is one of two things is going to happen in the second half. Either the Cubs' starting pitching will get worse or the team will surprise people by putting together a bunch of unexpected wins. It shouldn't be enough to get them into playoff contention but I confess, I've never seen a team with starting pitching this good lose so regularly.

Game Recap July 3: Randy Wells is not a one year wonder

With apologies to my fellow goat rider Kurt, who is a great writer and a fantastic Cubs' fan, Randy Wells proved him wrong today and all of those people who have said, incorrectly, that Wells is having a worse year this year than last year. The results have been bad. I mean, coming into today's game, he had an ERA over 4.90 but the truth is, he has done his job better this year than he did last year and probably should have an ERA that is around 1.5 lower than where it is. He was great today against the best hitting team in the NL this year (though like Wells, I think there is a bit of a mirage there also but the Reds are pretty good). He took a no hitter into the 7th and ended up pulled in the 8th for Carlos Marmol.

Marmol is falling off of his historic K pace unfortunately and could use the time off during the all star break. Of course, he won't get it, he will deservedly be selected for the All Star game but he could use the time off. Oh yeah, what about the offense? They were great today but the timing was off. The final was 3-1 Cubs but the Cubs kept cranking out baserunners like Kate Goselin cranking out reality shows only to see them die over and over on the bases.

Finally, Geo came through with a bases loaded double in the 6th. Soto continues to be one of the best hitting catchers in baseball as well as being one of (if not the) most productive hitter on the Cubs. I hope his hit today will result in more playing time.

Anyway, I leave with the following information:

Randy Wells 2009: 5.66K/9 2.50BB/9 76% LOB .294 BABIP
Randy Wells 2010: 7.05K/9 2.58BB/9 67% LOB .354 BABIP

There is no reason to think he won't produce an ERA of around 3.50 or so the second half barring an injury or a sudden collapse in his K rate. Young pitchers with that strikeout to walk rate are NOT to be giving up on by a good organization.

Belated Series Preview: Cubs vs. Reds

Apologies for the intense lateness of this.  Blame me for not EMailing Mike to fill in until around 7AM yesterday morning, and for not appropriately asking him to get in touch with AJ or Peter if he couldn't do the jorb. 

Ignoring yesterday's extra inning loss, let's just quickly jump into what the Cubs are facing.

Friday, July 2nd - Bronson Arroyo vs. Ryan Dempster
Bronson Arroyo, who spends his spare time working on the set of Cheech and Chong movies, is a decent and reliable middling starter.  He's again on pace for about 15 wins, which is pretty standard for him, and a mid 4's ERA, which is about his average.

He's facing Ryan Dempster today, a pitcher who's a lot better than his 6 wins.  Unfortunately, Clownsevelt pitches for the Cubs... so he'll be lucky to finish the year with more than 10.

Saturday, July 3rd - Randy Wells vs. Johnny Cueto
Cueto is 24 years old.  He's on pace to win 16, to strike out 150 to only 60 walks, and he's a pretty immense talent.  Shame he pitches for Dusty Baker, who beats his pitching arm like it's a naughty schoolboy. 

Cueto faces Randy Wells, who is quickly proving to be a one-year-wonder for the Cubs.  Who knows -- maybe Randy will bounce back again someday from this mediocre season, but at present he's barely a 5th starter at the most.

Sunday, July 4th - Ted Lilly vs. Mike Leake

Man, those Reds and their young pitchers!  Sunday's starter is Mike Leake, a guy who's 5-1 with a 3.30 ERA.  Oh, and he's a 22-year-old rookie.  Luckily for the Cubs, he pitches righty so they have a decent chance of beating him.

Ted Lilly, meanwhile, continues the swansong of his career in Chicago.  Will Sunday be his final game in a Cubs uniform?


Blah blah blah, firesale, blah blah blah?  Yadda yackity firesale soon? 

Etc., Cubs suck, blerg, firesale, ergo yuck. 

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Gamecast (July 2, 2010) Reds @ Cubs

Things to watch for the rest of the season. Starlin Castro's growth. Carlos Marmol's K rate. The Cubs record in one run games. Tyler Colvin's return to reality. Trades and trade rumours. The continued awesomeness of the starting rotation. Cubs playing the spoiler. Marlon Byrd booking it hard down to first base. Geovanny Soto's incredible walk rate. Jeff Baker's excellent glove. Alfonso Soriano's hot streaks. Andrew Cashner's development. The season really isn't over. The Cubs aren't going to make the playoffs but I think it's time like this that the real fans show their faces. Let's keep rooting for them to win day by day and realize there a ton of things to watch for that have nothing to do with making the playoffs. Besides, it's freaking baseball, what else would you rather be doing anyway??

Today's Matchup: Ryan Dempster (110.2IP, 3.58ERA, 3.77xFIP) vs Bronson Arroyo (106.1IP, 4.49ERA, 5.15xFIP) Obviously, the Cubs have the better pitcher. Almost a run and a half better in xFIP. Arroyo should be facing the wrath of the Cubs' awesome offense. Yeah, that's the ticket. The truth is, the Cubs have better starting pitching than the Reds and it's not even close. If the Cubs get a few timely hits, they should win today.

Who's Hot: I know it's hard to think of him as such but Aramis Ramirez is on a mission to make it back to the Mendoza line. He has a six game hitting streak and has only K'd 3 times in that period (OK 2 were yesterday but still). I think Ramirez will end up north of .230 with a second half that looks like him but people here and elesewhere will think his whole season is trash. I still think the guy is relevant. It will be interesting.

Who's Not: Koyie Hill is producing a wOBA of .248 or an OPS of .574 for those wOBA challenged. His career wOBA is below .260. And yet, he's on pace to produce over 200 plate appearances. This despite the fact that the Cubs' offense is struggling and they have Geovanny Soto. Soto's wOBA is .381. That is 10 points higher than his rookie year. He is, simply, the most productive offensive Cub. Lou, come on!

Conclusion: I will no longer say the Cubs "need" to win. They don't really need to win. They need to play as well as they can and let the chips fall where they may. The season as over as playoffs are concerned but there are still things to contest. Beating the Reds and Dusty Baker is #1 on the docket. I would rather the Cardinals make the playoffs than the Reds (though when the Cubs play the Cardinals, I hope they beat them also).

Do as Colvin does (Game Recap: Cubs 2, Reds 3)

Did you hear about the Cubs game? The starter posted a quality start, the bullpen gave up another run or so, and the offense was terrible. Weird, huh?

The Cubs easily should have lost yesterday's game, as their pitchers allowed 16 hits, while the offense could only manage to collect five of their own. But somehow, they found themselves down only two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, with runners on 2nd and 3rd and just one out recorded in the inning.

Red reliever Nick Masset managed to get two strikes on Tyler Colvin, the second coming on a tight curve thrown up and in that Tyler refused to swing at. But rather than go back to the off-speed out of the zone, Masset threw a 93mph sinker in the middle of the zone, which Colvin managed to rap into right to score Theriot and Castro, and tie the game.

Things would get better before they got worse: a single from Mike Fontenot in the next at-bat put runners on the corners with one out. But then, the "worse" part, as DP Lee came back from the dead to end the threat on a double play. Ihatewhenmajorleaguerscan'tscorerunnersfromthirdwithlessthantwoouts!!!!!

And then the Cubs lost. So, that's what happened!

Cubs by position - Shortstop

the Cubs are set at shortstop pretty much through 2015 or so with Starlin Castro and they have a couple of other decent prospects coming up through the farm also. Essentially, there are four shorstops in the organization. They are Castro, Darwin Barney, Hak-Ju Lee and Junior Lake.

Major League Level: Starlin Castro (age 20): Yeah, he's the best prospect to come up for the Cubs since Mark Prior. Contact making shorstop with a decent glove. I expect him to hit something like .320 with 12 HR and come close to winning a gold glove in 2012 which is the beginning of what I think will be a very happy time for all Cub fans.

AAA: Darwin Barney (age 24): Not great at anything with the bat but not terrible either. Has enough glove to play shortstop. At 25 in 2011, I see him as a perfect choice to replace Ryan Theriot and be the utility man on the team. He's playing for Sandberg right now and I bet Ryno likes him. Should never be a starter in the majors (except for a short term period) but he'd be fine as a bench player.

AA: Marwin Gonzalez (age 21): Well, he's young but he really can't hit and I'm not thrilled with his defensive numbers at shorstop in the minors. I think his upside is, well, Double A shortstop.

High A: Junior Lake (age 20): Lake is 20 so he also is young like Gonzalez. I don't know, even though Lake also has middling offensive numbers, he just seems like more of a prospect than Marwin Gonzalez. I see Lake is being an Alex Gonzalez (of the Blue Jays currently) type shortstop with OK power and very low batting average and OBP. He also could figure in the second base sweepstakes.

A: Hak-Ju Lee (age 19): Lee has tons of potential. He has a very flashy glove and a solid left handed bat. He makes ok contact and draws a decent number of walks. He is going start giving the Cubs a very difficult problem after the 2012 season. I think he has two more years in the minors before he starts knocking on the door of Wrigley Field.

SS: Arismendy Alcantara (age 18): I touched on him briefly in the 3b section. Alcantara has a great name but we really don't know much more about him. He's young, very small, a switch hitter and fast. That is all I know about him right now. I guess we'll have to wait until we see more from him in Peoria next year.

SS: Wes Darvil (age 18): Playing both shortstop and second base at Boise. He was a 5th round draft pick in 2009 and he has had just 196 plate appearances as a pro. I'm interested to see whom among Darvil and Alcantara, the Cubs feel is going to be the shortstop both this year in Boise and moving forward. Darvil is a left handed hitter. He's 6'2" and he has only one extra base hit as a pro. Kind of like D.J. LeMahieu, the Cubs appear to be hoping he will grow into his frame and start hitting for power.

Rookie: Elliot Soto (age 20): He's 20 years old and was a 15th round draft pick in this year's draft out of Carpentersville, IL and then Creighton. Given his age, which is old for rookie league, he is going to have to dominate and move fast if he wants to be a factor with the Cubs someday. He's also a candidate to be the starting shortstop at Peoria next year.

Conclusion: The Cubs are in very good shape at this position. Not only do they have Castro in the big leagues, but they have a ready made utility player in Barney along with another potential star in Lee. Add to that Lake, who I think could also make a decent player someday and the Cubs will not have to worry about adding a player at this positon for at least the next six (Castro) to potentially nine (Lee) years.

15 things I would rather do right now besides watch a Cubs game

15) Sandpaper my own butthole with 40 grit

14) Go down to Louisiana and gargle oily sea water

13) Dress up like a Mexican and wander aimlessly near the Arizona/Mexican border

12) Get handcuffed to a chair in a theatre showing "Eclipse" around the clock, and nobody knows where the key is

11) Spend the next 11 days as the official butt-wiper for the Argentinian Soccer team, including their coach, Maradona

10) Sit through the Elena Kagan confirmation hearings wearing nothing but festering hides from untreated Himalayan yaks against my bare skin

9) Be locked in a holding cell with Joran van der Sloot, then due to his innate Dutch agression, being forced to submit to his sexual urges

Cool Spend the entire holiday weekend having to discuss religion and politics with my ex-wife's cousins from eastern Tennessee

7) Being forced to count the number of times "LeBron" has been used on the internet this week, only I don't get to use a good computer with a T1 line because I don't have a job right now at a place where I have access to one

6) Go sundress shopping with my stepdaughter

5) Donate blood from both arms while being forced to look into the 'bright-light' thing from the optometrists

4) Listen to the entire 72 hour, 11.2 gigabyte compendium of "The Wit and Wisdom of Tony LaRussa" while sitting in a unvented toilet with 16 Cardinal fans who all ate a bad batch of fried ravioli two hours ago

3) Give three straight hours of psychotherapy to Milton Bradley with no breaks

2) Be condemned to a Hell where there were 60 inch plasma TVs every six feet, and they were all tuned to Fox News

1) Live in a rusty, dented single-wide trailer in Midlothian, helping William Legue cook meth for his White Pride buddies

Shutout again (Game Recap: Cubs 0, Pirates 2)

The Cubs failed to score yesterday, as Pirates Mike Lincoln, Joel Hanrahan, and Octavio Dotel combined for the shutout. Having said that, let's review the Cubs' best scoring chances from yesterday:

- In the second inning, Derrek Lee reached on a hit-by-pitch, and advanced to 2nd on an Aramis Ramirez ground out. Alfonso Soriano grounded out, and Koyie Hill lined out.

- Mike Fontenot singles to lead off the fourth. Marlon Byrd strikes out, and Derrek Lee lines into a double play.

(Through four, the Pirates faced 13 batters, one above the minimum.)

- In the fifth, Aramis Ramirez led off with a single. After a Soriano fly out and Koyie Hill strikeout, Starlin Castro hit a double, advancing Ramirez to third.

This was probably the best chance of the night. Castro's fast, so a base knock could easily have given the Cubs two runs. No pressure for pinch hitter Tyler Colvin, who quickly went down 0-2 after swinging at two decent-looking low sliders, fought back to 3-2, and then swung at another low slider. Hey, he battled, guessed strike on 3-2, was wrong, and missed. Sucks.

- Quickly: Fuk led off the sixth with a walk, but the next three batters grounded out; Aramis led off the seventh with a single but Hill GInonforceDP, and Byrd singled with one out in the ninth before Lee and Ramirez flew out.

The moral of the story: you need more than singles, a couple of walks, and some productive outs to score runs. (And apparently, some guys need more than a double to score from first with two outs -- I'm just sayin'.)

Tom Gorzelanny started the game, and his control wasn't top notch, but what can you expect from a guy who's spent the last month or whatever it's been getting rusty out in the bullpen? Regardless, he pitched 3.1 solid innings last time the Cubs called his number, and in last night's game he managed to post five shutout innings, with five strikeouts. Furthermore, his velocity chart at Fangraphs shows that he touched 95 last night, and managed to average something in the 93mph range. They say the team receiving the best player wins the trade, and if that's true, I'd happily give up Jose Ascanio, Kevin Hart and I think there was one more guy? for Gorzo 10 times out of 10. I hope he sticks around for a few years, he's a talented dude.

Andrew Cashner got a sort of tough luck loss last night -- unlucky in part because his team hadn't scored AT ALL before he came in, and in part because the two runs he gave up were unearned. He did allow a single and a double, so it's not like it wasn't his fault at all, but it woulda been nice if Aramis Ramirez could have avoided making an error, too.

Well guys, that's about all she, or, I, rather, wrote. At least Tom Gorzelanny is good!

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