Hey, look, it's time for real baseball! And do you know how I know it's time? Because it snowed last night in Chicago (oh look, I just killed myself). Nothing says baseball like a thin coating of slush and a 24 degree wind chill.
But no problem for the Cubs because they'll be playing it beautiful Houston under a starry sky (assuming, of course, that they paint some sort of starry sky on the roof of the Houston Dome. Again, nothing says baseball...).
Alright, enough talking about the weather as a) unless you're my grandparents, you stopped feigning interest 175 characters ago and b) the weather sucks. Here are your keys to the series:
- Has Houston recovered from their climate fatigue? You may recall the devastating hurricane at the end of last season that left Houston mentally unprepared for their game against the Cubs, resulting in a no-hitter for Carlos and a one-hitter for Lilly. Will they be up for today's game? I'm so excited to find out, I think I just soiled myself!
- Hey look! Ten seasons at Minute Maid! That's just...super.
- Questions still linger as to whether Wandy Rodriguez has recovered from World Pillow Fight Day. Who knew he was allergic to down?
- While the word is that Lance Berkman remains inconsolable at the loss of Megan Joy, I don't see this affecting his game any. The man's a professional.
It's baseball time in America (And Texas). Let's take a look at the matchups.
Game One - Carlos Zambrano vs. Roy Oswalt
Can Carlos dominate the Astros without the aid of a Hurricane? I say yes because, although opening day has not historically been a friend to Carlos, last year he handled the Astros to a tune of a 2.96 ERA and I don't believe a hurricane could have hit before more than half of those games. Besides, Carlos is exceptional on 6+ days rest, and I don't have a record of him pitching in over 6 months.
Roy Oswalt is probably even a little better than Carlos (god, I hope Carlos isn't reading this. If his is, I live at 100 Wallaby Lane, Australia City, Australia) and is easily one of the best pitchers in the league. Against the Cubs, however, he has not be particularly dominating and last year he only managed 3 strikeouts in his 15 innings.
It's an epic matchup, people! Set your VCRs!
Game Two - Ryan Dempster vs. Wandy Rodriguez
Wandy name is an adjective (Harry Potter's wand was rather wandy); Ryan Dempster's sounds vaguely like "dumpster." Edge? Let's give it to the better pitcher. Ryan Dempster was the staff ace last year and, up until his epic fail in fifth inning of Game One last year, he was great. Wandy makes me think of a Spicy Chicken Sandwich, Fries and a Frosty.
Game two goes to the Demp.
Game Three - Ted Lilly vs. Brian Moehler
Brian Moehler is about as good a third starter as Sean Marshall is a fifth starter. Which is to say, Moehler is not a good third starter. But when your other options are Mike Hampton and...some other guy, you clearly don't have enough options. Moehler checks in a solidly mediocre with a 4.50 ERA and an 11-8 record.
Ted Lilly was the best #3 in baseball last year* with 17 wins in his pocket (along with, interestingly enough, 14 fingers. Watch your back, Koyie). Lilly was roughed up in his last start, but this is the big time now and look for Lilly to step up. Of course, this is the classic frustrating Cubs matchup and exactly the kind of game I hate.
(* note: may not actually be true. No time for research, gotta write!)
I'm going with the Cubs taking two of three (pick your two) against the Astros as a) I'm a Cubs fan and b) the Astros sort of blow.
Tip for Purchasing Tickets Online
Most online brokers and marketplaces in the secondary market charge a service fee during checkout regardless of what you are purchasing, such as Chicago Cubs tickets or anything else. Typically you can walk through the first few steps of checkout to find out if there will be any additional charges.. From your friends at Neco.com, the home of transparent pricing.
After the longest, coldest spring in recorded history (I may be exaggerating) today is finally Opening Day. We've got a lot in store for you throughout the day, such as...
- The Carlos Zambrano Player Preview
- A Cubs-Astros Series Preview
- A Game Day Thread
- If I can find time, a post about those still panicking over the loss of Mark DeRosa
- If I can find even more time, a post about ledge-walkers and panic-jumpers should the Cubs happen to get thrashed
- A Game Recap
It should be a day brimming with content here, so please enjoy and keep checking back.
I wonder if anybody has ever gone back and worked to actually correlate Spring Training results with how the regular baseball season pans out? I know that there have been some years of epic fail on the Cubs part that turned into good seasons of baseball ('89 rings a bell).
Regardless, I'm sure most of us felt pretty good when the Cubs started the Spring undefeated. Since then, they've tanked a lot. Paul Sullivan reports that the Cubs have lost six straight and eight of their last nine, and, the sparkplug he is, Lou Piniella is not a happy old man. In fact, you could probably call him grumpy.
I'm not worried about it. Spring Training has to be taken with a grain of salt. A lot of the players getting their butts kicked are players who won't be around in April anyway. A lot of the pitchers who will be around and are getting their butts kicked aren't unleashing their best stuff right now. And a lot of the hitters who aren't hitting to save their lives are pretty likely to crank it up before the end of the month.
Anyway, at this moment the Cubs are 5-7 in the Cactus League. I'm pretty confident that they won't be 2 games under .500 by the time they travel to New York City, but however they do the only important thing is that they're healthy and ready. But sometime tomorrow I'll be taking a closer look at how players On the Bubble are doing in order to help paint a clearer picture of what the team may look like on opening day.
Sorry about the lack of posts recently, but it was a crazy week at work. Well, lets get to the links.
A few of the newspapers talk about handling Rich Harden with care. The Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmeyer rehashes all the stuff we heard about Harden sine he came over. By now we know that he has a shoulder problems, and had to be handled with care.
This has to be the 100th story about Harden’s problems. We all know that Harden is at best 50/50 to make 20 or more starts, but I’m sick of hearing about it. I think the Cubs have done the best they can by bringing in a guy like Aaron Heilman to go along with Sean Marshall.
Wittenmeyer also points out in the notebook that the Cubs made their first three cuts. Gone are Rocky Roquet, Ed Campusano and Andrew Cashner. Nothing really surprising here, and the Cubs need to get all the guys competing more time in game action.
Over at the Daily Herald, Bruce Miles does another Q and A on the Cub bullpen. Nothing shocking here, because of course Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol are the keys to the pen. Really? That like saying the key to the Yankee pen is who works with Mariano Rivera. For the most part, unless Marshall doesn’t win a rotation spot, Neal Cotts will be the only lefty in the pen. I’m not too concerned about the lefty/righty matchup unless Cotts totally blows right out of spring.
In game action, the Cubs lost 4-3 yesterday to the Dodgers. Ryan Dempster gave up 2 runs in 3 innings, while Randy Wolf and Jeff Weaver shut the Cubs out for 5 innings. The one concerning trend is Derrek Lee still doesn’t have an extra base hit. I’m too worried yet, since there are still 30 days until opening day. It is just a trend that needed to be pointed out.
The Tribune’s Paul Sullivan tells us that Dempster likes what he sees from Marshall, Heilman, and Jeff Samardzija. Most likely two of these guys will end up starting at some point this year when Harden goes down for a few weeks, unless the Cubs pull the trigger on Jake Peavy, which doesn’t seem likely.
Those are all the links for today.
And so ends our early pre-season experimentation with actual coverage. The Cubs got handled today by the White Sox, although again most of the damage was done to players who won't be pitching for the Cubs anyway.
Today's winner for the White Sox is a guy named Jeffrey Marquez, a rookie who threw 3 strong innings striking out 2, walking 1, and giving up only 1 hit. Over on the Cubs side, Aaron Heilman continued with his campaign to be named a starter, going 3 innings, striking out 3, walking 2, and surrendering 1 hit. So far he hasn't allowed a run this spring.
Mateo got tagged with the loss, although the Cubs probably would've won had Ken Kadokura not surrendered 2 more runs in the top of the 9th. With just 1 out the Cubs managed to load the bases in their final chance, with Ryan Theriot hulking a sac fly into the outfield and Reed Johnson driving in 2 with a single before Richie Robnett flew out to end the game.
More importantly than the final score, Mike Fontenot went 2 for 4 today while playing third base, The Hoff went 1 for 2, and Paul Bako gunned out 2 would-be base stealers. Oh, and every guy who pitched today that will actually be on the Cubs roster in April - Heilman, Gregg, and Cotts - held the White Sox scoreless.
All that out of the way, what you see at the top of this post will theoretically be the Game Recaps image that we use for the rest of the year. (Don't worry, I've got one with the Win Flag too, to be used appropriately.) I think it might be one of the better graphics I've made. In terms of GROTA coverage of Spring Training, there probably won't be another Series Preview until the Cubs play the Yankees, nor another GameCast until they play ones that matter. We'll just have to see how we - and everybody else - feels.
Welcome to the experimental first GameCast of the 2009 season. We're going to do this a little differently once the season actually begins, as I will likely shut off the Shout Box in order to make the comments part of this article the place to talk about the game.
In the meantime, knock yourself out either here or over in the Shout Box. I'll be watching snippets of the game on WGN, but unlike the BlogCasts of the '08 playoffs I won't be updating constantly on account of how I wanted to hang myself when it was over.
(Editor's note: I'm still working on the best Recap graphic, just so you know. It probably won't look like this in April.)
Last night's televised game started ridiculously late, and I have a feeling that there weren't too many Chicagoans who stayed up to see the final score. We were all probably sleeping - or trying to, like in my case - when the Cubs coughed up the lead late in the game and lost on a Ben Brossard single off David Patton in the 9th.
Probably more importantly, this game may have dealt a crushing blow to Jeff Samardzija's chances of making the opening day roster as the 5th starter. He gave up 3 runs in 3 innings of work while striking out 2.
Offensively, the Cubs didn't have many problems scoring runs - especially in the middle innings when they racked up 5 of their 6. Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot both had big days, combining to go 5 for 8 with 1 RBI, 3 runs scored, a double, and a triple, although most of the damage was done against Jon Van Benschoten who probably has as much of a chance of cracking the White Sox roster as George Bell does.
The Cubs started out undefeated and are now 5-4. That's not exactly a big deal. The important thing is that the right guys put up good enough numbers to earn the roles they're capable of playing. Mike Fontenot's hitting well enough to start over Aaron Miles. Micah Hoffpauir is hitting well enough to crack the roster. Whether the Cubs win or lose in the meantime isn't so important.
Later today the Cubs will be playing the White Sox again, also on WGN. We'll have a GameCast up for you to follow along.
This Game Recap brought to you by Bench Aaron Miles!
Lets take a stroll around the Sunday news and see what our favorite writers dug up out in Arizona, a place we all wish we could be right now.
In the Daily Herald, Bruce Miles tells us that we will miss Mark DeRosa, but Mike Fontenot will be just fine. I truly hope “Little Babe Ruth” is up to the challenge.
In other news, Aaron Heilman threw two scoreless innings in his Cubs debut., and like everybody else, is the running for a rotation spot. I think one of the best things that Jim Hendry did this season was bring in a variety of players to compete for the rotation spots. It should foster competition, and maybe we can catch lighting in a bottle.
As for Sun-Times, the lead story of the day talks about how the World Baseball Classic is already losing steam in its second year. I have to agree with Gordon Wittenmeyer this time around, which doesn’t happen often.
Having the WBC in March is a terrible idea from Bud Selig, and the moment a big-time player is hurt the tournament will be all over. MLB needs to find a way to move the WBC to November in hot weather cities, which shouldn’t be too hard.
Another item is the possibility of Curt Schilling pitching with the Cubs. I can’t imagine this happening, but if he will take a Minor League Deal it couldn’t hurt.
In the Tribune, there is talk of Curt, and Ryan Sandberg learning the ropes in the minors. There is talk that Sandberg will take over for Lou Piniella when he is ready to walk away. It is nice to see a guy like Ryno working his way through the minors, but only time will tell if he has the stuff to manage in the bigs. One of my goals this summer is to make it up to Tennessee to see the Smokies in action. What do you think about Ryno back at Wrigley?
Well, this is my second attempt at the Beat Report. Yesterday's post vanished after my school computer decided to mess up on me. The purpose of the Beat is to give some quick insight about the Cubs various beat writers, and provide some GROTA commentary.
First up at the Tribune, Paul Sullivan takes a few minutes to talk to Ron Washington about our new favorite cub Milton Bradley. Washington says that you don’t have to worry about Milton, just handle him with care. I don’t know about you, but that sounds a lot like worrying to me. I really hope this is just the case of Milton working out too hard this year, and he is just sore. I know that probably isn’t case, but it’s too early to become negative.
Rick Morrissey points out that Carlos Zambrano won’t be a great pitcher until he wins 20 games. Hmm….and I say Morrissey won’t be a great writer until he wins the Pulitzer Prize. We all know Big Z hasn’t won 20, but that doesn’t take away from his accomplishments. My worry with Zambrano is that he puts too much pressure on himself. With his shoulder, that is the last thing we need.
Ah, there is nothing like reading the Sun-Times in the morning. Always trying to drum up some kind of controversy each day. It usually starts with Gordon Wittenmeyer one day saying that Jeff Samardzija is getting the first shot at the 5th starter’s spot. Then, he follows it up with Sean Marshal actually already has it in the bag, etc.
Today, Gordon says that Ted Lilly might visit with Ozzie Guillen on his way to the WBC. I must have missed the part where Lilly said something two weeks ago, but he apparently ticked Ozzie off. Who doesn’t tick Ozzie off?
In the same notebook, we find out that Rich Harden is progressing, while Andrew Cashner looking good to Lou Piniella.
Over at the Daily Herald, Bruce Miles has another one his Q and A’s about each Cub position. Today, he deals with Ryan Theriot. Not a lot of substance about “The Riot”, but he does point out that Theriot is loved by Lou and the Cub Brass. The love stops with the Baseball Prospectus.
We all know that Theriot won’t ever be Jose Reyes, but given our other options I will take him. Our other option would be a guy we shipped over to the Mariners.
Finally, the Cubs thumped the Rangers 10-4 with Micah Hoffpauir and Mike Fontenot both hitting homers in the 7-run second inning. Sam Fuld also hit a home run on his way to AAA Iowa.
That is it for today. I will take a look around the beats tomorrow.
ADDITIONAL NEWS (brought to you by Kyle): I didn't want to make my own post for this, so I thought I'd just drop it in here. The Twitterverse informs me that the Cubs signed 3B Corey Koskie to a minor league deal today. Apparently this is to bring in some competition for the backup spot behind Ramirez. It's also worth noting that Koskie had 100 RBI for the Twins in 2002.
Hello everybody. I wanted to get a chance to introduce myself to a few of you, while provided some news updates on the Cubs.
Like Kurt said, I've been blogging since 2003 at the Yarbage Cub Review, which I started for two reasons:
1. I wanted an outlet to talk about the Cubs, which was most important. Back in the day, Scott Lange of the Northside Lounge, Ruz of The Cub Reporter and a few others dominated the scene. I just wanted to share the opinion of one Cubs' fan from afar.
2. The second reason was much more selfish. I needed some kind of hook to get a job, and a blog about the Cubs was the trick. I wrote quite a bit in the first vew years, but as soon as I got a job covering High School sports in Arkansas it became harder to keep going. Writing full-time and keeping a blog going are two things that don't go together, unless you are blogging about the things you cover.
Now that that is out of the way, it is time to look at some stories making news. Kurt asked me to do a news round up from time-to-time, and I will try to fill that void while writing other articles.
The Gordon Wittenmyer says that Jeff Samardzija's role isn't determined quite yet. Really? I know he is just trying to fill up copy, something I did back in the day, but of course Samardzija's role isn't settled. My guess is he is heading to Iowa, and will soon take Rich Harden's spot after another shoulder problem.
That's it for now, but as the news cyle starts up, I will be back to give my comments about each of them. Think of me as the GROTA Ombudsman.