Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Game Recaps

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Game Recap: Cubs 4, Astros 1 - Milton Bradley, wtf?

Game Recap

Seriously, Milton Bradley, wtf? For the first half of the season -- y'know, the part of the year where the Cubs squandered all hope -- Bradley was a .243 hitter with 6 homers, 21 RBI, and a whole lot of suck. But since the pressure of expectations collapsed, Milton has turned it up. He batted .308 for the month of August and is, in fact, a .309 hitter since the All Star Break. Other oddities -- maybe he actually loves Wrigley Field, because he's batting nearly 120 points higher at home than he is on the road. So far this year Milton's a .326 hitter in the unfriendly confines, with 9 homeruns in 178 at bats. Meanwhile in 168 at bats on the road, he's batting .208 with 3 homeruns. Guh.

Regardless, Bradley was 2 for 4 last night with his 12th homerun of the year. He and the Cubs offense combined for 8 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs -- enough to give Randy Wells his 10th win of the year. Wells almost certainly won't beat J.A. Happ for the Rookie of the Year crown, but it's impressive nonetheless that he has essentially sprung from nowhere to become such an effective rookie pitcher. Then again, as Geovany Soto taught us this past year, we probably can't expect a repeat performance. Rob: what is doubly impressive is, after a recent rough patch, Wells bounced back with last night's gem.  The YMCA's are full of guys who got off to fast starts to begin a career (Jeff Pico handed me a towel the other day) but those fortunate few who can re-adjust and re-group provides a great indicator for future success.  It will be nice to have another starter without having to overpay for him.

Back to Bradley for a minute, he has become the first Cub in my adult life who angers me when he succeeds. More than any fan I know, I've been patient with him, I've made excuses for him, and I've defended him to critics, but at this point I believe he's a miserable human being who is more concerned with being right than he is with being a winner. So, screw him, at least for 2009. I'll give him a 2010 blank slate.

As for the Cubs, they won their series against the Mets and they are now poised to win again against the Astros. They then play a makeup game against the white-flag White Sox before travelling to New York to continue their play against the useless Mets. Then it's a series in Pittsburgh, and they will then host the Reds and Brewers before traveling to St. Louis, then Milwaukee and San Francisco before wrapping it up back home against Pittsburgh. It's sad that they play such an easy schedule, against no more than two good teams, because they very well might be mathematically alive until the last week of the season. But they sure as hell don't look it, even in games they win.

Game Recap: Astros 5, Cubs 3 -- Harden hardly helped himself


Game Recap
On the news that he would not get traded to a playoff contender, Cubs pitcher Rich Harden had one of his worst outings since the first half of the season last night.

Harden pitched only 5 innings, surrendering 5 runs on 5 hits and 6 walks while also striking out 9. He's probably got a fair shot of winning 10 this season, and getting his ERA below 4, but I have a feeling that he will be one of the bargain pitchers on the market this year. In other words, the Cubs might want to hesitate to offer him arbitration, lest he pulls a Maddux, accepts it, and gets paid more for one year than he would've made on the open market.

He was relieved by three guys who struck out 6 in 4 innings -- giving the Cubs 15 strikeouts as a team against the Astros -- and gave up 0 runs, which is always pointlessly nice. One of those successful pitchers was Aaron Heilman, whose continued presence on the Cubs is baffling. Didn't the Giants claim him? Were they willing to deal anything to get him? No? Then the Cubs still should have let him go.

Offensively it was a pretty dry day, except for Derrek Lee who hit his 26th of the year. It's amazing that he might finish the year with 30 homeruns, considering the time he's missed -- mixed in with the neck problems he's had. Wasn't Lee supposed to be on the decline?

On a side note, the waiver deals this year are continuously surprising to me. So far there have been some odd moves. The White Sox, who were actively trying to improve just a few weeks ago, are now active sellers and are breaking up their team in a way that Jim Hendry should be taking notes on. They've dealt away Jim Thome and Jose Contreras after having acquired Jake Peavy and Alex Rios. It's interesting because they are "only" 6 games out of first place. The Cubs are "only" 5 games out of the Wild Card, and like usual Jim Hendry will not break apart his team or try to gear up for 2010. But after more than half a decade of seeing Jim in the front office, I can honestly say it's not a surprise.

The Cubs play for revenge later today.

Game and Series Recap: Cubs 1, Mets 4 (2 to 1) -- Oh no! We suck again!

Unsurprisingly, the Cubs were shut down by another crappy fringe starter today. Also, Carlos Zambrano got rocked. All in all, a great day for Cubs fans!

It's not usually easy to get double digit strikeouts in a game as a starting pitcher, but somehow Nelson Figueroa managed to do it today. He must have been pitching against a really bad offense. Honestly, how did this guy make it to the eighth inning?!

Milton Bradley is creeping even closer to the .270 mark; he went 1-for-2 in today's game. And Derrek Lee somehow managed to leave three men on base despite going 2-for-4. That kind of year, I guess.

As for the pitching, it sounds like Carlos is not quite right yet. When you give up 11 hits in less than four innings, there's something you're not doing correctly. From the stuff I read after the fact, it sounded like it was a mechanical issue, with Carlos opening up his shoulder for too long, or maybe too soon, or something. Anyway, I wouldn't really worry about it as a long term thing, but it'd be nice if he could remember proper pitching mechanics sometime soon.

The Cubs ended up winning the series this weekend, which is nice--but it seemed like they were trying their best to lose it. Pat Misch and Nelson Figueroa combined to allow just two runs in 14 innings, for Christ's sakes.

And now the Cubs are ten back. Rest easy, Kurt--things really are that bad!

Current Record: 65-63
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 10 whole games out
Best Possible Record: 99-63 (hahahaha)
Worst Possible Record: 65-97
Record needed to win 90: 25-9 (hahahahahaha)
On Pace For: suck

Game Recap: Cubs 5, Mets 2 -- Thanks, Brian!

You know how I know Brian Stokes sucks? He gave up four runs and got just one out yesterday--AGAINST THE CUBS!! Sheesh. Fortunately, Stokes decided to be really bad at baseball on a day when the Cubs' ace was on the mound, and SOMEHOW this team snagged another win.

(Also Brian Stokes probably listens to Coldplay.)

At the very least, Stokes made teammate Pat Misch look stellar. Misch went seven innings as the starter, allowing just one run on six hits. (THAT'S the Cubs team we all know and hate!) Even though it happens all the damn time, it's still somewhat baffling to see how often total no-name pieces of crap shut down this team's offense.

On the other side of the ball, the Cubs got a good performance out of their starter, as Ted Lilly pitched 7.1 solid innings of his own. Since the offense was generally inept (surprise!) aside from Brian Stokes' incredibly sucktastic performance, Lilly deserves a lot of credit for keeping the game close for a long time yesterday.

If anybody on offense deserves any credit for yesterday's win, it's gotta be Milton "Everyone's Favorite Cub" Bradley. Bradley had a double in each of the innings in which the Cubs scored, went 3-for-3 on the day, and also walked. This guy is trying as hard as he can to get his average all the way up to... .270. Guh.

Only three other Cubs had hits of any kind yesterday: D-Lee, A-Ram, and Soriano (The Fonz was 3-for-3, and hit the game-winning home run in the 8th). That means four other Cub starting position players posted oh-fers: Theriot, Soto, Baker, and Fuld. Man, Geo Soto has had a rough year, huh?

If you're in favor of the idea of picking one Cub to root for while the rest of the team goes down in flames, you could do a lot worse than Ted Lilly. His starts are a refreshing break from what's usually a totally mystifying level of incompetence demonstrated by this team.

Go Ted Lilly!

Game & Series Recap - Nationals 5, Cubs 4 (1 game to 2)

Game Recap
The Cubs managed to score 4 unanswered runs yesterday, but it was too little, too late as the Nationals had already run up 5 against Randy Wells. 

I'm too lazy to look, but it's a fair guess that Wells has probably never thrown so many innings in his career.  Then again, he's in his mid 20's and while endurance/conditioning might be an issue, his arm should be able to handle the load.  Nevertheless, the last month of the season will be interesting if only because he might be getting gassed out.  But at least the Cubs bullpen managed to pitch 2.2 innings of scoreless baseball.  Small victories, folks.  That's what we're left with.

Offensively, the Cubs saw homeruns from Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee, the two of whom were responsible for 5 of the team's 6 hits.  Kosuke Fukudome, Alfonso Soriano, and yes, Milton Bradley combined to go 0 for 13.

Speaking of Bradley, since he's a hot topic of debate these days...

When he signed with the Cubs last winter, like a lot of fans I was supportive of the idea.  I was impressed with his offensive production in Texas, and knowing full-well that he'd struggle to ever play at 100% for a full season I believed that he would give the Cubs more offense in the time he was healthy than any other option on the market.  And yes, I knew that he was volatile and fragile, but my argument was that if he started the year out well then the fans would never turn on him and it would be a good situation.

Of course, he started the year something like 1 for his first 23.  But even before then, the story-hungry press had already written plenty about whether or not Bradley would be able to handle the fans in Chicago.  It's kind of like if you started a new job and from the first day there were people in the office reminding you not to lose your temper when the paper jams.  You could be a very well-constructed individual, and yet, after a few months the steady warnings to not lose your temper when the paper jams, you might be inclined to do just that.  It's called a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the media made this an issue long before it was one.  I like a lot of the guys who cover the Cubs clubhouse, but they need to owe up and acknowledge that while they didn't build the car they certainly turned the ignition.

Anyway, all of that said, Milton Bradley is a prick.  He is a giant, turgid dildo (and I would love to be quoted saying that in a venue he might read -- c'mon, Paul Sullivan, Bruce Miles, don't let me down).  He is, quite frankly, a chip-on-his-shoulder idiot

Milton, sir, the fans have booed you and treated you with hostility because you have sucked.  It has nothing to do with the color of your skin or where you come from.  I speak as a person whose all-time favorite player is Andre Dawson, whose first baseball jerseys were those of Ernie Banks and Sammy Sosa, whose current favorite pitcher is the tempromental Carlos Zambrano, whose wife would probably leave him for smooth-looking Derrek Lee.  I don't think you're an asshole because you're black.  I think you're an asshole because you're an asshole. 

Like Todd Hundley before you, and Will Ohman after Todd Hundley, and yes, like LaTroy Hawkins and Jacque Jones, you are an excuse-making jackass who has come nowhere near earning the contract you've signed.  And like Hawkins and Jones, you would rather play the race card than acknowledge that we can't stand you because you are a miserable person.

As somebody who supported Bradley and defended his signing, I recognized at the time that this could be an issue but I was hopeful his play would prevent that from happening.  I was wrong.  And if I should happen to find myself in the right field bleachers anytime over the next two seasons where Milton remains a Cub, so long as he continues to complain, pity himself, and cast off the blame, I will boo the ever loving shit out of him.  He will be the first Cub I have ever actively booed at a game, and he has earned it.

Game Recap: Cubs 9, Nationals 4

Game Recap
A day after Milton Bradley re-confirmed what we already knew about his being a giant, turgid dildo, Cub fans got to witness last night his continued ability to produce after it stops mattering. In other words, he is the Fred McGriff of the '09 Cubs, and his ass-eating, empty calorie production is nothing more than a big F.U. tease. More on that in a minute.

Speaking of not producing until it stops mattering, Rich Harden delivered another solid six innings of work last night, lowering his ERA to 3.99. At his worst, his ERA was 5.47 as recently as his July 10th start, but in 8 starts since then he's tossed 51 innings, allowing 10 earned runs (and no more than 2 on any given start) while striking out 61, walking 16, and posting an ERA of 1.76.

Naturally this has caused some Cub fans to call for a contract renewal, but that's a fairly bad idea. It's not that Harden isn't good; he just happens to be a lot like a car with a bad transmission. That car might get you to and from work for a while -- maybe even for years -- but you'd be stupid to take it on a long car trip and sooner or later, no matter how much care you give it, that tranny will drop out on you.

Incidentally, it was a meaningless outing but it remains concerning nonetheless that new Cubs closer Carlos Marmol pitched a 1 inning, 1-hit, 3-walk, 2-run 9th inning. I'm sure he'll stop missing the strike zone in outings that matter.

Back to Bradley, he led last night's 9-run charge driving in the first 3 runs the Cubs scored. He's now batting .259 on the season, but with an OBP of .391. Since the All Star Break he's batting .289 with 5 homers and an .870 OPS, but I don't think that even the stat-head apologists would be able to justify his poor production particularly in situations that matter. Impossible as this may have sounded back in late July when he was just a .238 hitter, Bradley's line might actually look half-respectable by year's end. Yay?

Anyway, Rob wrote yesterday that Milton is a cancer whose attitude and actions have a negative impact on the clubhouse. This opinion expectedly caused some debate, primarily because people who measure play soley by statistics have trouble accepting that intangibles can have an impact on numbers. For example -- is Bradley's crappy attitude causing players like Alfonso Soriano to struggle? Probably not, but if the clubhouse mood is hostile, if people don't want to be there or aren't enjoying the company they are forced to keep in those small confines, then it's absolutely conceivable that there's a minute impact.

In professional sports, a lot of success stems not only from physical ability but also from ability to focus, or at least that's what the athletes will tell us. Think back a job you hated compared with a job you love ... if we're being honest, it's probably fair to say that it's a little harder to focus and do your job as perfectly as possible when you're busy not being able to stand the presence of that douchebag who complains all the time and, on top of it all, makes more money than you. (Incidentally, other intangibles might include things going on in a player's personal life -- how many athletes have struggled horribly in years they are getting divorced, or having long, painful contract negotiations -- and work out regimens. Just saying, these things do impact play.)

But even if all the other players on the team dislike Bradley, I'm not sure that it it would hurt clubhouse chemistry. It'd be pretty easy for them as a team to just ignore the douchebag and let him brood silently. Still, I have no doubt that Bradley's bad attitude has impacted his play. His overall production is dramatically down this year, or in obnoxious geek talk his wRS in 2008 was 101.0; this year he's on pace to land at 75.4. If his production last year was worth 10 million a year, then we can probably agree that his failure to even come close to duplicating that output this season makes him -- for at least his first year -- a bust.

Back to the game -- although Harden pitched well, and Milton Bradley got the Cubs ahead early, the game remained close until the 8th inning. That was when the Cubs offense EXPLODED!!! for 6 runs, thanks predictably to the bats of Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez -- who respectively doubled and singled home 3 runs -- and shockingly thanks also to Three Finger Hill and Mike Fontenot, both of whom doubled home some runs. It was a 13-hit, 4-walk day for Chicago, and they play today for the series win against the hapless Nationals.

Game Recap: Cubs 6, Washington 15 -- Silver lining?

Really, really late Game Recap
Well, the Cubs lost to a really crappy team by a lot of runs. I wouldn't necessarily call that a good thing.

Let's talk about some guys who seriously do not belong on a major league team that came up with some star performances last night.

Mike Fontenot is broken. Last night, he made a throwing error, and failed to get a hit. He's now hitting .179 in August. It's really too bad, because his 2008 was really, really encouraging. Now he appears suited for Triple A, a "fresh start" type like Joey Gathright before him.

Aaron Heilman sucks. I'm sure the total and absolute lack of confidence in his abilities exhibited by his manager doesn't help, but at the end of the day you've gotta get the job done. If it's any consolation, Ronny Cedeno and Garrett Olson both still suck too.

Also, call me quick to judge, but I may have demoted Tom Gorzelanny, from "I'm OK with him being in the 2010 rotation" status to "It'd be fine with me if this guy started the year in Iowa."

As Rob pointed out earlier today, Milton Bradley had a nice evening for himself. I'm rooting for MB for the rest of the year, if for no other reason than to maximize his trade value this offseason.

Great game, huh?

Go Cubs!

Game & Series Recap - Cubs 3, Dodgers 1 (1 game to 3)


Game Recap
Earlier this morning I did a guest spot on Jon Miller's show on KXNO 1460 in Iowa. He asked me if I was ready to throw in the towel on the season, and my response was "in baseball anything can happen, but I don't think a Cubs playoff appearance is high up on the probability list this season." The problem -- well, one big problem -- has been their total inability to defeat good teams. The Dodgers are an example of that -- Los Angeles took 3 of 4 from the Cubs, whose offense evaporated this past weekend.

Still, Ryan Dempster managed to stop the slide, as he pitched 7 solid innings of 3-hit, 1 walk ball, surrendering only 1 run (unearned). He was successfully relieved by John Grabow and Carlos Marmol, who sealed the deal. Marmol pitched a flawless, 2 strikeout 9th inning for the save, but I would respectfully suggest that we maybe give him a few chances to eat ass before he becomes the deserved, defacto closer for 2010.

Offensively the Cubs collected 12 hits and 2 walks, including a dominating 4 for 4 day from Jake Fox. Fox now has 9 homeruns in his rookie season, and like Hoffpauir before him has earned the right to be a part of the team's roster next year. But before we get too excited about his future as a Cub All Star, let's not forget that he's already 27, he's defensively inept everywhere, and like Hoffpauir I'm not sold on him having as successful a follow-up year. Still, just for kicks I think the Cubs should send him to Winter Ball and ask him to learn how to play second base. At this point, why not?

Anyway, the Cubs have off today before returning home to Wrigley Field where they'll host the Nationals. They have 40 more games remaining, including 32 games against teams currently under .500. Their remaing 8 games against good teams include 1 against the 63-61 White Sox, 3 against the Cardinals, and 4 against the Giants. I'm not suggesting at this point that they can pull a miracle out of their asses and win their way into wild card supremacy, but with a schedule like that the Cubs would have to absolutely blow to not finish the year with a winning season.

Current Record: 62-60
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 8 games out
Best Possible Record: 102-60
Worst Possible Record: 62-100
Record needed to win 90: 28-12
On Pace For: 82-80

Game Recap: Dodgers 2, Cubs 0

(graphic to come later)
The Cubs have fallen to merely 1 game over .500 as they continue to be offensively impotent against Los Angeles.  Clearly, nobody looked particularly good last night and I'm hoping that Lou and Jim will white flag this grand season very shortly so the hurt players on the team can begin preparing for 2010.

In the ShoutBox f-a-u-s-t-u-s wrote that the Cubs need to go out and grab somebody who can bat 5th and drive in runs.  Theoretically, that guy is Soriano or Bradley, but neither player has done a servicable job in that regard this season.  At this point I'm more interested in who won't be returning -- Aaron Miles, for example.  Since he and his .170 AVG has made it this far, I have little doubt that the Cubs will continue to employ him through March of 2010, but I hope that he is kept on an extremely short rope once the Cubs start playing baseball games that matter.

There's also been some discussion as to whether or not Rich Harden's worth bringing back.  He's turned around and put up some very good numbers after his slow start, but he remains a fragile player waiting to break. As much as it might not be "smart" per se to invest our hopes in Tom Gorzelanny to pitch effectively in the rotation next year, the Cubs need to throw their money at guys without baggage who can actually hit the ball hard. 

Later today we'll have the GameCast.

Game Recap: Dodgers 2, Cubs 1 -- One Hit?! GameCast - August 21st at Los Angeles

Recap
(forgive me for the U2 reference in the graphic)

Randy Wells must be having flashbacks to earlier this season.  After surrendering only 2 runs, both unearned, the Cubs starter received his 6th loss of the season, this one to the Dodgers.  (Then again, the unearned runs came off a double surrendered to Dodgers pitcher Randy Wolf, so...)  The Cubs, meanwhile, managed only a single hit.  Between their games last year and this season, Chicago and L.A. rarely have high scoring games and I have to wonder if it's just chance or if perhaps the Dodgers just have the Cubs' number.

And with that, we could have the shortest recap of the season.  I mean, what else is there to really say about the game?

In other news, though, Carlos Zambrano is set to return shortly.  He's coming back to a hostile environment.  Fans have begun turning on him (hi, Rob), members of the media have a low opinion of him (hi, Paul Sullivan), whereas jamokes like me think he's a bit of a gift horse whose teeth we shouldn't be counting. 

Basically, my take is this -- and Rob, if you respond to this article at all I hope you respond to this part -- the Ace as Responsible Leader is kind of a myth.  There are plenty of examples of amazingly good pitchers who were selfish douchebags that teammates hated, with Roger Clemens coming to the forefront in that case.  I'm sure even Rob would agree that Clemens was ace material all day long, but he was also a selfish asshole prick who wouldn't even travel with the team on days he wasn't pitching.  Maybe what Carlos needs is to actually grow more selfish, become obsessed with his body and his statistics, and build himself into an iron machine of muscle and pitching domination.  Just a thought.

(And, incidentally, when Roger Clemens was in his late 20's he was a pudgy, out-of-shape douchebag ... just like Carlos.  Keep an eye on this comparrison.)

Now for the GameCast portion of this -- known also as Kurt is a lazy bastard who won't be around much today, so he's doing it now:

GameCastTed Lilly vs. Charlie Haeger

Story-lines
We like to call this "playing with a fork in them."  That's what the Cubs are doing.  At this point the season has jumped the ghost so much that they might actually finish the year with a losing record, which would make them -- even with all the injuries -- the most under-achieving team in history.

I would like to very strongly suggest that if the Cubs enter September with a losing record -- or if they are damn close on Sept 1 -- then perhaps they should very strongly consider shutting down Ted Lilly, Aramis Ramirez, and anybody else who qualifies as a member of the walking wounded.  There's no point to them playing and delaying their rehabilitation time if all they are playing for is pride.

Who's Hot

Nobody's hot.  Not even Cub fans are hot at the team anymore, it's more of a sense of resignation. 

Who's Not
The list is long and painful.  Let's skip it.

Conclusions
Win, lose, meh. 

With the sale of the team, I think it's fair to say that everybody's focus is now on what the Ricketts will do, what the team will look like, and what will happen next once this season finally, mercifully ends.  In the meantime, at least these losses don't hurt so much.

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