Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Pirates

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GameCast: Sept. 29th vs. Pirates

GameCastKevin Hart (4-8, 5.38 ERA) vs. Ryan Dempster (10-8, 3.68)

Story-lines
The Cubs are down to their last seven games and if they wanted to finish things on a high note, then they couldn't have thought of an easier schedule to end the season -- they've got four against the 59-96 Pirates, and then 3 more against the 68-88 D-Backs.  Not that things have gotten any less weird in Crazyville.

On the pitching staff, Kevin Gregg has been mercifully shut down.  Like a scene from Holy Grail, Gregg tried his hardest to assure the Cubs that he wasn't quite hurt, that he felt like going for a toss now, but they overruled him nonetheless and have sent him home for the season -- and, hopefully, for his career in Chicago.  At the same time, Carlos Zambrano has threatened retirement because of his crappy season.  Think about it.  He might finish the year with 10 wins and a mid-3.00's ERA, or essentially the same numbers as Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells, and he considers it such a disappointment that he doesn't want to live through another ordeal of sucking that badly.

Damn.  Maybe he's got the ol' Ace Mentality after all.

Speaking of mentality, or at least of mental, we've been shocked to see Lou Piniella drop heavy hints that Milton Bradley's future in Chicago is a very short one.  Lou wants the Cubs to go out and pursue an RBI producer, citing his disappointment in Bradley for failing to live up to the team's expectations.  And before somebody throws out the whole "you can't drive 'em in if they aren't on base" line again, let's not forget that Milton Bradley batted something like .220 with runners on base. 

And finally, I've come up with the perfect solution for dumping Milton.  It seems certain that the Cubs'll have to pretty much pay for his contract no matter what.  I would like to officially propose that the team offer him on their dime to any independently-owned minor league team that would take him.  It would be the modern day equivalent of ruining a player's career by trading for and then benching him, and it would be only fitting for Bradley to get banished to baseball purgatory for his so-called mental disease.

Of course, this would only be a last-ditch option, if there are no big-league takers.  Still, I think it would be somehow fitting.

Series Preview: Cubs vs. Pirates

Series Preview
Match-Ups
Overview

Fall Training enters its final week starting with a four-game set against the 4A Pirates. Day games, doubleheaders, and beating up on the Pirates. You got to love it.

Some guys need this week to make a statement about where they belong next season. Some guys need this week so their manager remembers their name come March. Some guys need this week just so they can save whatever dignity they have left (Single-digit wins for Zambrano? Seriously?).

But for us fans, we need this week just to have some effing closure. Many of us came to terms with the crappiness of this team months ago, but now we need a sign that a Milton Bradley-free 2010 Cubs team will give us something to look forward to on the other side of a bitter winter.

And if the Cubs can’t do well against teams like the Pirates and D-Backs…

The Matchups
September 29th – Kevin Hart vs. Ryan Dempster
Dempster has turned what looked like a disaster of a season into a something decent. His 3.68 ERA isn’t awful, but I think we can all agree that this isn’t the same pitcher we saw in 2008. Demp will be aiming to get to 200 innings pitched on the season. Hopefully he will be better conditioned for next season so he can do it again...but with a little thing I like to call "success."

September 30th – Charlie Morton vs. Ted Lilly (Game 1)
TRL has been by boy this year for one reason and one reason only: he does not walk batters. In his last start against the Cards, Lilly didn’t walk a single batter over 7 2/3 innings. That was the 10th time he has done that this season. 10th! Is there any wonder why he is the ace of this staff?

September 30th – Jeff Karstens vs. Calros Zambrano (Game 2)
It might have been a few months late, but Zambrano finally pitched like a guy earning big money in his last start. He went the distance and shut out the Giants (a team that had something to play for) on the road. That’s what an ace does. Too bad that will never be Big Z.

September 31st – Paul Maholm vs. Tom Gorzelanny
This will most likely be Tommy GoGo’s last start of the season. Based on his play since joining the Cubs, I would say Gorzo has probably earned the fifth spot in the rotation next season. Then again, who knows what’s going to happen with Harden, the Shark, and Zambrano. Either way, Gorzelanny will be on the 2010 roster.

Conclusion
Dear Cubs,

We have five months of freezing weather ahead of us. Please give me something to dream about while hibernating. Don’t suck. Thank you in advance.

Go Cubs,
Kyle

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Game & Series Recap: Cubs 8 Pirates 5 (3 games to 0)

Game Recap
Here's a sad fact for you -- the last time Carlos Zambrano won a game, Kevin Gregg was still the closer for the Cubs.

Since then, Gregg completely imploded (although some Cub fans probably wish he'd do us a favor and explode his way right off the team), Milton Bradley went totally insane (as did some of our readers), and the Cubs fell from contention.  Still, Chicago managed to sweep the Pirates, which is about as surprising as rain on a cloudy day.

It all happened primarily thanks to a Cubs offense that combined for 13 hits and 7 walks, including multi-hit days from 5 different players.  In particular, Micah Hoffpauir had a too-little, too-late performance to remember: he hit his 9th double and 10th homerun of the season while drawing 2 walks to boot.  After the game, Cub players were scouting nearby town houses with the hopes of moving into Pittsburgh permanently so they could tee off daily on the crappy Pirates pitchers.

Carlos, meanwhile, gave the Cubs 6 innings, allowing 5 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs while striking out 8.  Naturally the bullpen held strong, except for one Kevin Gregg who served up a 3 run homer to Ronny Effing Cedeno.  Hey, Gregg, when you're giving up homeruns to that jaggoff, it's over.

The Cubs are off tomorrow before traveling back to Chicago where they get to take on the mediocre Reds.  Can you believe that Dusty still has a job there? 

Current Record: 71-67
Position in the NL Central:
2nd place, 11.5 games out
Best Possible Record: 95-67
Worst Possible Record: 71-91
Record needed to win 90: 19-5
On Pace For: 83-79

Gamecast: September 9th at Pirates - Too Little Too Late

Carlos Zambrano (7-6, 3.80 ERA) vs. Kevin Hart (4-5, 4.67 ERA)

Story Lines

The Cubs face their former mate today as they go for the sweep. The Cubs pounded the Pirates last night, but it is a case of too little too late.

Sorry for the quick post, but I have a meeting to get to at school.....more later.

Game Recap: Cubs 9, Pirates 4 -- Let's Play Two

Game Recap
The Pirates are a team I wish the Cubs could play at least 50 times a year.  They're the Mos Eisley of the baseball world, at least in the sense of being "wretched," and today the Cubs took some time to get to know them in the Biblical sense, as they started out the game with 8 straight hits to take a lead they wouldn't even come close to losing.

The end result is 9 runs, 8 against Zach Duke (anybody remember when he used to dominate the Cubs?  Yeah, me neither) and while Derrek Lee managed another two hits, this time none escaped the ballpark.  Instead the Cubs relied on a total team effort, collecting 14 hits and 4 walks against Pittsburgh, with 6 different Chicago players driving in runs -- and 3 of them drove in 2.

As far as Dempster goes, while he took a page from Kerry Wood's old playbook and knocked in a run as well, he wasn't exactly a model of superiority on the mound.  Clownsevelt made it into the 7th, but he surrendered 8 hits and 4 earned runs.  Still, it was enough for Dempster to collect his 9th win of the season, which means he's got about 4 chances to reach double digits.  Woo-hoo?

The Cubs play to sweep tomorrow.  We should be thrilled, I suppose.  I'm just happy to see the personal accomplishments ring up.  It is ridiculously important to me that Dempster and Zambrano both reach 10 wins, much as I would love to see Milton Bradley bat .275, Kosuke Fukudome bat .280, and Micah Hoffpauir reach 10 homeruns.  After all -- the Cubs are 7 games out of the Wild Card.  Christmas is canceled, the kitchen is closed... it's over.

Gamecast: September 8th at Pirates

GamecastRyan Dempster (8-8, 3.96 ERA) vs. Zac Duke (10-13, 3.71 ERA)

Story Lines
Well, it is about time to focus on the NFL and College Football, becasuse the Cubs just are not very interesting. It will be interesting to see if the Cubs have a few players that start to sit or are shut down for the year.

Who's Hot
Derrek Lee - This guy is going crazy right now, and we can only hope that he continues this onslaught next season and leads the Cubs to a title.

Geovany Soto - Don't look now, but Soto's hitting .429 in his last two games. I know it is not much, but it is a start.

Jeff Baker - The Cubs will proably try to find a new 2B next year, but Baker might earn a shot. He's up to .297 on the seaon, and over an .800 OPS

Who's Not
Aramis Ramirez -
It's been a little rough for Aramis, who's hitting .174 in his last six games.

Ryan Theriot - Ouch! The Riot is 2 for his last 21, which is just about regular for a Theriot September.

Conclusions
I would have wrote more, but I was called into two meetings today at school. Enjoy some pressure free baseball.

Game Recap: Cubs 4, Pirates 2 -- Derrek Lee strikes again ... and again

Game Recap
Jeezus!  Derrek Lee is apparently serious about having an incredible 2009 season, even while the Cubs hopes continue to fade into dust.  For the second time in two days, Derrek hit 2 homers in a game -- again being responsible for the bulk of the team's offense, and elevating his season totals to 31 homeruns, 96 RBI, and a .298 AVG.  On top of that, Lee has only hit into 9 double plays so far this year.

That means that, with more than 20 games still remaining, Derrek has now come within 1 homerun and 2 RBI of his second-best production not only as a Cub, but in his major league career.  But he's still a long way off from the MVLee year of 2005.

I would, again, like to take this time to focus on the man-love that many of you were feeling for Micah Hoffpauir at this time last year.  The Hoff, you wanted to note, was a classic masher.  He'd had an amazing season in Iowa, he'd had a good 70-or-so at bats in the majors, and many of you were ready to crown him the heir to Derrek, who was a washed up hack, a double-play hit-into-er*, whose power had evaporated and defense was overrated.  Derrek was done for, Hoff was the wave of the future, and you took plenty of opportunities to express that opinion.

(*may not actually be a word)

It was almost as if many of you had never before seen a mediocre player have an explosive year before, or something.  It was a fool-me-twice scenario, and many people played the fool.  Even then, I -- that's right, me, baby! -- suggested you exercise caution.  I pointed out that there was a long history of first basemen having huge minor league years in their late 20's, and none of them turned into MVPs -- and few ever managed to turn into MLR's (Major League Regulars).  I noted that if Hoff was such a hot commodity, some crazy GM would have been blowing up Hendry's phone all winter long to pry him away.  I pointed out that Derrek's double play madness was a tremendous fluke and he'd be unlikely to fall off the offensive cliff in 2009.  And still people wanted Hoffpauir. 

Well, my friends, I am hardly a baseball genius.  I may not be a statisticals expert, or a master of baseball strategy, but I do think I generally have a helpful heaping of common sense, and it just made absolutely no sense on any world that Hoffpauir would be a better player than Lee.  Looks like I may have known what I was talking about ... this time, at least.  I also thought that Alfonso Soriano would bat north of .250 and Milton Bradley would be just the slugger the Cubs were looking for.  Turns out I'm a moron after all.

Speaking of being wrong about stuff, I'd also been annoyed back before '07 when from the confines of his hospital bed Jim Hendry signed Ted Lilly to a big deal.  I'd thought Barry Zito was the way to go.  Laws, I was wrong.  Lilly has gone on to be perhaps the best free agent pitcher signing the Cubs have ever made, and he demonstrated some of that ass-kickedness** today by tossing 6 innings while striking out 7 and allowing only 2 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs to score.  And amazingly enough, the bullpen would follow suit and shut down the Pirates.

(**also not a word, but probably should be)

So, there we have it.  An easy win for the Cubs.  As mentioned earlier, I think Rob is in Pittsburgh.  Hopefully he'll find the time to contribute about the game, assuming he saw it.  Either way, Derrek Lee is a golden gawd.

Gamecast: September 7th at Pirates - Labor Day Edition

GamecastTed Lilly vs. Daniel McCutchen

Story Lines
Waitasecond, didn't I just write about this a few moments ago?

Having lost 2 of 3 from the Mets, the Cubs have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are atrocious on the road.  For all the wonders that the statistical community has done for all the baseball geeks in the world, I would love to see a reasoned explanation as to why a player -- or a team, for that matter -- can do well on the road one year, atrocious the next, and great again the year after.  It's just weird.

Who's Hot
Derrek Lee and Geo Soto both had a good game against the Mets, but otherwise the offense is colder than a porn-star's nipples moments before the director calls action. 

Who's Not

Hmm, where do we start?  Fontenot, check.  Bradley, check.  Theriot, double check.  Fukudome, check check check.  I'm just wondering ... when does the whole "playing for pride" thing start?

Conclusions
I've been to Pittsburgh.  They have a beautiful ballpark.  Absolutely gorgeous.  But the city itself is kind of scummy and the team sucks eggs through straws.  I don't care how bad the Cubs are on any given year, they should flat-out dominate the Pirates.  End.  Of.  Story.

Series Preview: Cubs at Pittsburgh

Series Preview
Match-Ups
Overview
It's the Cubs against the Pirates ... one team is suckier than we ever imagined they could be, and the other team plays in Pittsburgh.  I'm pretty sure Rob is there for at least some of these games, hopefully he can provide us with some feedback on his experiences as the week progresses.

Match-ups
Ted Lilly vs. Daniel McCutchen
One looks like Bill Murray.  The other has a name that belongs in the wild west.  While Lilly is better than Sheriff McCutchen, it's just been one of those seasons for the Cubs. 

Ryan Dempster vs. Zach Duke
It's the bad luck ace against the guy who, back in Dusty's day, used to dominate the Cubs with a kind of ruthless authority.  It just goes to show how incompetent Dusty was that he couldn't seem to teach his players how to hit lefties.  Seriously.  Brutal.

Carlos Zambrano vs. Kevin Hart
Since joining the Pirates, Kevin Hart is 1-4 with a 6.35 ERA.  In other words, he fits in there perfectly.  Carlos, meanwhile, joins Ryan Dempster in a quest to escape the season with more than 9 wins ... a 10-win year would hardly be something brag about for the multi-kazillionaire ace, but with only about 5 starts to go for him he very well might miss the mark.  Which would be pathetic.

Conclusions
On the road or not, the Cubs should dominate these jabrones.  But will they?  Stay tuned to find out!  (Or, I dunno, maybe you could do something with an actual chance of entertainment and enjoyment, like spending an afternoon catching up with your incontinent elders, or something.)

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.

Series Recap: Cubs beat Pirates 2 games to 0 -- Cheap Sweep


And so it came to pass that, in the face of a small window of rain, the Cubs were denied their chance to sweep the lowly Pirates at home.

Chances are this game will get made up at the tail end of the season in October, assuming the Cubs need it. But considering that they had to fly to San Diego yesterday for a late game tonight, it's probably not hard to understand why the game was cancelled quickly. Either that or the multi-million dollar draining system they built last year is working out about as often as Carlos Zambrano. (Aw, snap)

Rob wrote an article yesterday lambasting the Cubs for their lazy, willy-nilly attitude. I say to you: fantastic. A team that isn't hungry is a team that's not anxious. Perhaps this newly loose -- and fattened -- team can sloth their way uncouthly through the playoffs should they get there. Still, I remain reminded about the '02 version of Moises Alou, who signed his fat contract, came to Chicago, sucked golf balls through garden hoses, and then returned in '03 and '04 to deliever two seasons of mass-production unlike anything we'd seen from left field in decades.

As for the Cubs themselves, and my current outlook on the season, I remain where I was a week ago -- for that matter, where I've been all season long. But because I really don't want to alienate anybody on either side, let's see if we can agree on the following statement:

If the Cubs fail to reach the playoffs -- or if they fail to win in the playoffs should they get there -- it will not be because they are the Cubs with their 101 year burden. It will be because they are either poorly assembled, poorly motivated, or poorly managed -- or perhaps a poor combination of the three. I have no qualms with anybody who thinks that the Cubs cannot reach or win in the post season based on their play in 2009. However I have serious problems with anybody who thinks that they cannot reach or win because they're the effing Cubs. That attitude needs to be chased away with pitchforks and torches. That's a Cardinals-fan attitude, expressed at games solely to bust our balls. Believing it is stupid, and wrong, and nihilistic. Believing the Cubs can't rattle off 20 wins in a row in a September Surge because they're the Cubs is idiotic. Believing they can't win 20 straight because they suck this year, however, is far easier for me to understand and possibly even agree with.

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