It would appear that real life* has gotten in the way of blogging for most of us Goat Writers this year. Frankly, I'm still burned out from the many, many articles I wrote last year and I don't think I'll ever be a daily Cubs writer again. (Unless you happen to represent a major newspaper, such as the Des Moines Herald, or the Flint Times; if you are, call me.**)
(*Yarbage with Grad School and fatherhood, Rob with work and teaching, AJ with real life and wimmin, Pete with the back pain, Mike W with vacations and road trips, and me with other projects unrelated to baseball and work
**Don't actually call me)
Besides, as busy as we are with real life, the Cubs are busy with being, well, a pretty shitty baseball team. But I'm okay with that -- as I've hit the age of 30, I've realized a few things. You probably aren't going to like many of them, but here they are:
1. Teams will be good, teams will be bad, there's no point in stressing over when one or the other occurs, because -- believe it or not -- your life will not be better if the Cubs win a World Series, and your life will not be over if they don't.
2. Your hair is going to turn grey, and fall out, possibly at approximately the same time.
3. This is a blog. Why should we take it so seriously? Back in the day, GROTA was a place to crack bad jokes, make terrible puns, and have lots of fun. Then we Got Serious About Blogging, and consequently we Got Mad About Losing, and before you know it we Got Angry With Each Other. It happens to anybody who invests so much time thinking and writing about sports, especially when they do it for free, but it's still pretty dumb all around.
Blogging should be silly. If you read a sports blog that isn't silly, that doesn't have fun, and that gets mad at the team they follow (and at the other blogs they disagree with) then, I have news for you. You're reading the blog of some pompous, self-important douchebag who probably enjoys smelling his own farts. You don't want to do that, now do you? I know I don't.
4. If you're a man or a woman, your private bits are going to start sagging. Sorry, just being honest.
5. See #3. that's the important one.
Anyway, the season is long since over, but like a loveless marriage it just keeps on going, at least until the children turn 18. There is some good news, however: some of these guys look like they might be good next season. I'm talking, of course, about Carlos Zambrano.
I always knew this about myself, but you could be a murderer of children, and I'd root for you on the baseball field if you won games for the Cubs. (That might be a minor exaggeration, btw.) Carlos is totally mental, but ever since he returned to the starting rotation, he's been the Zambrano of old. The dude is 5-0 with an ERA of 1.60 in his last 7 starts. It's hard to be upset about something like that. Since the Cubs are stuck with Carlos, here's to hoping he builds upon this in 2011. As for the rest...
Saturday, September 11 - Ryan Dempster (12-10, 3.76 ERA) vs. Randy Wolf (11-10, 4.68 ERA)
Back when the Cubs were good, I really enjoyed it when they faced the Brewers. Even the Milwaukee team with CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets tended to have 2 to 4 pitchers who were absolute crap in their rotations at all times. Wolf is kind of one of those guys, but the 2010 Cubs are just bad enough to lose to him.
Ryan Dempster, meanwhile, is trying hard to turn this into a crappy season. It's a shame, really, because when he signed his ridiculous 4 year deal, I felt that he'd likely have 2, maybe 3 good seasons, and while his '09 and '10 haven't been horrid, he's wasted them on some pretty bad Cub teams. Oh well.
Sunday, September 12 - Casey Coleman (1-1, 5.81 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (11-7, 3.80 ERA)
In his last 3 starts, Coleman's gone 1-0 with a 4.42 ERA. That's actually not bad, when you consider that, up until that point, his ERA on the season was 7.82. Remember -- he's 23, he's got some potential, and he's experiencing his growing pains while pitching for a Cubs team that's going nowhere slow. So cut the kid some slack.
Gallardo is 24, immensely talented, and he's got an outside chance of his second consecutive 200 strikeout season. He's also got a history of injury problems. So how come he's not a Cub?
The Cubs haven't been so bad a team since the start of the month. Therefore, I predict ... VICTORY!!!
Now go get 'em!
Ladies and gentlemen, your new leader in batting average for the Chicago Cubs is Starlin Castro.
By going 4-for-5 in yesterday's game, Castro (.318) took the lead over from Marlon Byrd (.315, 1-for-4). Other Cubs with multiple hits yesterday included Derrek Lee, Geovany Soto, and newcomer Blake DeWitt.
DeWitt seems to enjoy playing for Chicago, having gone 6-for-16 with a double and a homer in his first four games with the new club. He obviously won't hit .375 for the rest of the season, but I doubt it's hurting his psyche to be doing well early on.
I don't have anything else to say about Derrek Lee, but I will point out for Soto that he leads the team in OPS this year by just about 70 points. His OBP is at .398, his slugging at .519... dude, what a year. He may well get to 20 home runs by the end of the year.
Another factoid for ya: since coming off the 15-day DL on June 25, Aramis Ramirez has posted a .302/.338/.627 slash.
Cubs pitchers did well yesterday. Ryan Dempster posted a quality start (3 R, 0 ER in 6 IP), and Sean Marshall, Mitch Atkins, and soon-to-be-starter Carlos Zambrano each pitched a scoreless inning of relief.
So that's nice!
Chris Narveson (8-7, 5.90) vs. Thomas Diamond (0-0, 0.00)
Not much else could go worse that didn't last night. Well, I guess that isn't entirely true. Ken Macha is currently trying to make last night haunt the Cubs just a little bit more by petitioning the official scorer for another hit in the 26-hit beating. I guess when you finally get a victory to build on, you need to take the opportunity to beat your opponent over the head with it. Repeatedly.
The infusion of new blood to the major league roster continues tonight as Thomas Diamond makes his major league debut for the Cubs. A first round pick of the Rangers in 2004 (10th overall) was supposed to be a piece in a dominant "DVD Trio" Rangers pitching staff along with Edinson Volquez and John Danks. Diamond was once ranked as high as 52 in the Baseball America Top 100 in 2005 Diamond was the last of the three pitchers to leave the organization after being DFA'd by the Rangers in September. Part of the reason Diamond didn't stick with the Rangers is due to his fragile nature so far in his career.
Since joining the Cubs, Diamond has been healthy and even made the PCL All-Star team this season. Under Ryne Sandberg in Triple-A Iowa, Diamond went 5-4 with a 3.16 ERA with 104 strikeouts over 108 innings. Despite the fall from grace since his days with the Rangers organization, scouts still contend that the right-hander has a hard-nosed and intimidating mound presence. He features a low 90's fastball, a plus change-up, and a good slider. While he no longer projects to be a top of the line starter, with a solid string of outings combined with some showing of durability, Diamond could find himself featured in the back end of the rotation for the Cubs in 2011.
Speaking of rotation spots, Lou said today that Big Z will get consideration for a rotation spot when the rotation turns over. Honestly, this is good news as I'm not sure if I could deal with seeing someone else implode on the mound. I'm not saying Z won't, I'm just saying that at least then he's earning his money.
In a bout of creativity, both teams are rolling out the exact same lineup as last night. Hopefully this time, it will play out with different results for the Cubs. Congrats to Diamond on his debut and finally making it, and I hope to talk about his succes tomorrow morning rather than the need to fill yet another glaring hole by 2011.
Holy crap, I was wrong. I was so wrong it looks pathetic! And it's not even the FUN kind of wrong where everybody who is more optimistic than me is able to say "ahah, Kurt, you douchebag, you were wrong!"
See, about a week ago I posted my opinion that the Cubs could finish the season with a .500 record. I know, it was a far cry from the days when I used to say things like, "the end is nigh! The Cubs are going to win the World Series!" But, I thought it was realistic.
Then, the Cubs bullpen colluded to strike, the Cubs offense took an early vacation, and the remaining Cubs fans were left holding the bag. Quite painful.
So -- here's how things look now: the Chicago Cubs are only 9 games out ... of last place. I'm pretty sure it was somebody on Desipio who suggested that a total, flat-faced collapse would be almost more comforting than any kind of assembled effort to finish the year on a middle note, because like the insanely bi-polar Mel Gibson the Cubs deserve to be hated. They deserve to be punished for the crap they've put us through.
I mean, Jeezus. Look at the last 6 games (all losses). The Cubs have scored 17 runs -- a total that their opponents have, in a single game, eclipsed twice. TWICE!! All told, the Cubs have allowed 63 runs to their 17 in those 6 straight losses. It makes me want to throw up in my mouth, swallow, and throw up again. Horrible.
But, hey! They're only 9 games behind the Pirates for the most losses in the NL, and they're 13 games back from overtaking the Orioles. If any team can lose a lot of games quickly, it's these Cubs! It's like 1999 all over again!
So, normally this is the part where I write about the upcoming matchups. Cub 27-year-old rookie Thomas Diamond makes his first ever major league appearance tomorrow. Ryan Dempster looks to stop the bleeding the day after that.
But the truth of the matter is, despite the Cubs having spent hundreds of millions of dollars amassing the best players money can buy, regardless of the fact that they have now had a decade under Jim Hendry's guidance to build the best farm system in all of baseball, ignoring Hendry's dogged pursuit of Lou Piniella and the best crack coaching staff he could possibly get, the Cubs are an embarrassing team. They are humiliating us right now.
Don't worry, though. Tom Ricketts has already assured us concerned Cub fans that Hendry would be back to try again next year.
Thanks, Tom. While you're at it, would you like to kick us in the balls?
Oh wait. You already did.
Yovani Gallardo (9-5, 2.77) vs. Randy Wells (5-8, 4.10)
Welcome to the battle for third place. It's a lonely front, filled with disillusion, disgust, and general indifference at times. However, it's still baseball. This means that I will be avidly watching to root on the Cubs despite the dismal record. Now it just means I will be more keen to watch my fantasy players. Speaking of which: after being written off as a complete loss last year and all but having his effigy burned all over Milwaukee, Corey Hart has net himself a 3 year, $26.5MM extension. Good for him. Maybe now he can afford some type of facelift/surgery to make him not be the most awkward looking player in baseball.
The pitching matchup should be an interesting one at least. Gallardo came off the DL last week and faced the Reds with results that were Silva-esque. El Chupacabra allowed 5 earned runs in 2 2/3 innings and struggled from the get-go. That being said, Gallardo is a damn fine pitcher and it likely won't be the same story tonight. Wells is 1-1 with a 1.67 ERA with 16 punch outs over the span of 3 starts and 19 2/3 innings. His last start in Houston was uncharacteristic as he issued five walks over the 5 2/3 innings he was on the mound. I expect this result to turn around as well.
Who's Hot- Blake Dewitt. In his debut in a Cubs uniform, Dewitt went 3-for-4 (against a lefty no less) and tallied an RBI in his first at bat. While I need a lot more convincing that he could be decent piece for the future, I am hoping his beautiful swing can produce good results under Jaramillo's watchful eye.
Who's Not- The final spot in the rotation. Silva's exit, although health related, is his third early exit in 4 games. I get that we are likely bottom-dwellers of the division this year, but it'd be nice to see some more stability in the rotation. Hell, even a pissed off Carlos Zambrano provides more stability on the mound that Silva and his lack of conditioning. My vote is keep Diamond in the rotation and slot Z back in the rotation to let him work out the many, many wrinkles in his game right now.
I don't know what else to say, and my last "prediction" went horribly awry. Hopefully the rivary juices keep flowing, and the new-look Cubs bring their A-game and play competitive ball. You're auditioning for next year boys... fight for my favor. EDIT: Here's what tonight's lineups look like:
El Chupacabra, P
It looks like Soto's cleanup gig is up with Ramirez back in the lineup. Outside of that, this seems to be Lou's "well, I've used it before and I forgot to fill out a lineup card today" pick. Just had to cross out "Theriot" and put in "that new young fella we got from that one team."
Game kicks off in a half hour. Enjoy.
For this team to win, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez have to find a way to produce with the bat.
It's not that the team won't score every once in a while without them. Clearly, we have some good hitters elsewhere on the roster. But when Lee and A-Ram are out, that means Xavier Nady and Chad Tracy are in on the corners.
Tracy's bad throw allowed Rickie Weeks to score on the botched rundown, and Nady's high throw into the stands allowed Carlos Gomez to score on the final play of the game.
Ryan Dempster wasn't very good either. Again, a Cub starter walked five Brewers yesterday. Also, Tom Gorzelanny sucks at pitching from out of the bullpen.
Nine walks, three unearned runs, really makes you proud to be a Cubs fan doesn't it!
Ryan Dempster (4-5, 3.76) vs. Dave Bush (1-5, 4.97)
Well, it was nice to see an offensive outburts last night. Luckily it was the nationally televised game for documentation purposes, because I am pretty sure that no one in Chicago was actually watching that game. The big story for the day is that the Cubs are marching out the bench, which means wonderfully quirky lineups that include Chad Tracy as a cleanup hitter. No, I don't get it either. But hey, we won last night, so for now, Lou is a genius again.
Cubs look to get back on track and get a series win while picking up ground on the recently-swept Cardinals. With Dave Bush on the rubber, that is a strong possibilty.
Byrd and Soto: Both went yard twice last night and the Cubs had a total of 5 HR. Byrd has been particularly hot and is hitting .481 on the month.
Ryan Theriot's ability to get on base- He just bugs me. He swings in situations he shouldn't, he just recently figured out what a walk is, and has averaged 1 extra base hit in the past two months.
Home Run Derby. Preferably one sided and only including Cubs hitters.
Props to the bats in last night's game. The Cubs can actually hit -- who knew!
In particular, Marlon Byrd and Geovany Soto can hit. Each had two home runs. Derrek Lee added one of his own to give the Cubs five taters against Brewers starter Randy Wolf.
Geovany Soto is now hitting .269/.406/.463 on the season, with seven home runs. He's within striking distance of the .285/.364/.504 he hit in 2008.
Marlon Byrd is leading the NL in batting average, and has 21 doubles and nine home runs. And 34 RBI. And four steals. Very nice, Marlon.
And Derrek Lee's home run last night was a big one -- the 300th of his career. Bravo to that guy. Here's to his continuing to figure out how to get going again this season.
Carlos "The Starter" Zambrano got the win last night, giving up just two hits over five innings. Except actually, he wasn't very dominant: five walks, a HBP, and just two strikeouts. And one of the two hits he gave up was a two-run double to Randy Wolf. Oh well, it was good enough.
Kudos to Andrew Cashner for posting two shut down innings in relief. It's feeling like this team FINALLY has the last three innings of the ball game covered with Cashner, Marshall, and Marmol (all 100% Chicago Cubs products, I might add).
So, yeah: Hooray!
Carlos Zambrano (1-4, 6.14 ERA) vs. Randy Wolf (4-5, 4.66 ERA)
Well, that sucked. Ted Lilly once again got screwed from a win, this time by someone other than himself. The Cubs look to even the series up tonight with Big Z, a man very familiar with the comforts of Miller Park. Including his no-hitter, which wasn't against the Brewers, Z is 4-0 with a 1.96 ERA in his last five starts at Miller Park. Z faced the Brewers at Wrigley on April 15 and gave up four runs in five innings. I expect a much more consistent (oxymoron?!) Z tonight than the one we saw in April, or even his last start, for that matter.
As I stated in my Series Preview, Wolf is one of those guys that seems to give us trouble. Luckily, he's had the affinity to help other teams "clog the bases" this season. If the Cubs can show a little patience, I think they can see their bats awaken for a few crooked numbers tonight.
Lou Piniella- This is more a hope than anything. I'd like to see him light a fire under someone. Anyone. I'm kind of tired of his lack of fire and inability to speak cohesively in a press conference.
The Cubs- Dropped 6 of the last 8. Hard to point at one particular person when they whole team is sort of letting you down.
Polish will win the sausage race. Also, the Cubs will win.