Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Series Previews

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Series Review - Cubs vs. Marlins

What the heck has happened?

The gutless, useless, overrated, overpaid, uninteresting Chicago Cubs have ... gotten good?  What The Fizz?

These guys are 8-1 on their road trip.  They are beating good teams badly, including a sweep of their recent opponents, the Florida Marlins.  Let's take a look at what happened.

Friday, September 17th - Cubs 2, Marlins 0 (Ryan Dempster; 7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 5 K, for his 14th win of the season)
All the Cubs did was shut down the Marlins offense and provide just enough of their own to be effective.  Dempster looked great, and now appears almost a lock to be a 15-game-winner.  The bullpen looked alive, throwing 2 innings of 1 hit, 3 walk baseball. 

The offense looked tepid, but so what?  Soriano and Soto both had run-scoring doubles, and that was all she needed. 

Saturday, September 18th - Cubs 5, Marlins 3 (Casey Coleman; 6 IP, 5 H, 4 BB, 5 K, 3 ER, for his 2nd win of the season)
Coleman is really making a pitch to be in the rotation next year.  His stuff doesn't appear overpowering by any means, but he's effective and has pitched well for a month now.  And he was again supported by a strangely-reliable bullpen: the Cubs pen pitched 3 innings, allowed 2 hits, walked 1, and struck out 5 (Cashner struck out 3 all by himself!)

The Cubs offense had 7 hits from 6 different players, 8 walks, and demonstrated what a "team effort can do."  Blake DeWitt is looking good as a Cub.  Dare we say he may actually be a good choice for second base next year?

Sunday, September 19th - Cubs 13, Marlins 3 (Jeff Samardzija; 6 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 4 K, 3 ER for his 2nd win of the season)
I'd still be reluctant to trust the Shark with winning so much as a game of checkers, but his last two outings haven't been "awful."  This is clearly a make-or-break year for the guy -- he's about 8 months away from entering into the realm of "non-prospect" status.  If Samardzija has any hopes of an even somewhat memorable major league career, then the lightbulb needs to go on now.

Oh, and the Cubs bullpen?  3 more innings of work, 0 hits, 3 BB, 5 K's.  In other words, all told, the Cubs pen pitched 8 innings, gave up 3 hits, 7 BB, and struck out 13 this series, while allowing 0 runs to score.  We'll take it!

Offensively, yesterday's game was pretty great.  13 runs.  A homerun from the Cubs new starting catcher Wellington Castillo, who'll be filling in for the soon-to-be surgically repaired Geo Soto.  A 2 RBI game from Brad Snyder, who'll be filling in for Tyler Colvin, who was apparently mistaken for a vampire and got staked during yesterday's game.  Staked!!

So, just like that, the Cubs have given us a September to remember.  They've crushed the dreams of Cardinal fans everywhere, and they'd have to lose pretty much every game for the rest of the month to not go .500 or better in September.

And the best part -- they've done it on the backs of young players who have a lot to prove.  That's great news for Cub fans.  If the team has any hope of competing next year, it'll have to be because those young guys have actually met some of their potential.  Players like Colvin, Coleman, and Castro will have to deliver, even as veterans like Dempster, Soriano, and Ramirez fade into mediocrity. 

Now, Rob has posted his thoughts.  Mike Quade for manager, 2011 and beyond.  I say, nah.  He's getting wins in garbage time, and that's cool, but as long as Hendry GMs, my vote still goes to Sandberg. 

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Series Preview: Cubs @ Cardinals (9/13/2010 - 9/15/2010)

The Cubs longest road trip of the season continues tonight as the Big Blue Train (credit: Dan Plesac) rolls into St. Louis. Despite scoring just 5 runs, the Cubs managed to get 2 out of 3 up in Brewers (including absolute gems by Demp and Big Z). They'll likely need to score more than 5 runs in the next 3 days against the Cardinals with the starting pitching we'll be trotting out there. With the Cubs playing for nothing - and the Cards still having faint playoff hopes, it would be VERY nice for this Cubs fan if we could absolutely bury the Redbirds this week. Enough of that though - let's get to the pitching matchups!

Monday 9/13 - Jeff Samardzija (0-1, 18.90) vs. Jaime Garcia (13-7, 2.69)
Its Shark Week! Smardge is back up with the big club and he'll be making the start tonight in place of Carlos Silva, who's hurt again. At this point, I really dont think we should see Silva the rest of the year. The season's lost, and might as well let Smardge or Gorzo make the last 4 turns to see if either are guys you would want to pencil into the rotation for next year. The Cardinals trot out Garcia, who got hit around pretty good in his last start. Still, he's one of the favorites for NL Rookie of the Year (and what a stacked NL group of candidates there are..), and he's a guy the Cardinals are heavily relying on as they try to get back into the playoff race in the season's waning days.

Tuesday 9/14 - Randall T. Wells (6-13, 4.61) vs. Adam Wainwright (18-10, 2.61)
Despite the fact that he's had a shaky sophomore campaign, Wells is a guy who I think should be written into next year's rotation in pen. I like the way he pitches, and stats suggest he's been a bit unlucky. He could hold down the #4 spot admirably next year behind Dempster and Zambrano, and ahead of someone out of the Gorzo/Cashner/Samardzija/Silva group. Wainwright was considered a frontrunner for Cy Young about a month ago, but has scuffled some since. He could still finish strong and have a chance, as he did last year. Either way - this will be a 2nd straight night the Cards have a decided advantage on the pitching front.

Wednesday 9/15 - Big Z (8-6, 3.88) vs. Chris Carpenter (15-6, 3.09)
This would be the only matchup you might be able to argue the Cubs have an edge in...and thats only if you use the argument about how good Z's been over the past few weeks. His effort on Friday against the Brewers was unbelievable. That was vintage Z. Here's to hoping for more of that. Carp's one of those guys I dont like and don't have a ton to say about. The Cubs got to him last time we faced him, let's hope for more than that.

Say it with me.. SWEEP! SWEEP! SWEEP!

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Series Preview: Cubs vs. Brewers; last man standing

Overview
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?

Conclusions

The Cubs haven't been so bad a team since the start of the month.  Therefore, I predict ... VICTORY!!! 

Now go get 'em!

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Series Preview: Cubs vs. Astros

Overview
I remember back in April when I used to look condescendingly at the Astros.  Man, they were a bad team.  Thank God the Cubs were better put-together than them...

These days, I find myself looking at Houston with a longing I cannot describe on a family-friendly site.  (Of course, part of it has to do with their tacos...)

Amazingly, the Astros actually have a chance of finishing the year with a .500-or-better record.  On the path to their gloriocrity?  The Chicago Cubs, whose poor play is dejecting, horrifying, and other things that end in "ing," but is still better than the Pirates.

On with the Preview...

Monday, September 6th - Casey Coleman (1-1, 5.76 ERA) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (11-12, 3.71 ERA)
Casey Coleman.  23 years old, and in his first 25 innings as a major leaguer, he's surrendered 27 hits and 10 walks, while notching 11 strikeouts.  I believe I may have mentioned in the past -- with guys like Coleman in mind -- that if the Cubs shock us by reaching the playoffs in 2011, it will in part be on the arms of young pitchers like Coleman.  Maybe he'll work out, maybe not, but he's 24-13 in his last two years in the minors, with a career minor league ERA of 3.73.  His stuff's not dynamic, but he's a potential good'un.

Wandy Rodriguez is a middle-of-the-road starter with a career WHIP of 1.36, a career ERA of 4.22, and 62 career wins to 64 losses.  He's a great #3 or #4 pitcher, which means he's got a decent shot of beating the crappy Cubs offense today.

Tuesday, September 7th - Carlos Silva (10-5, 3.92 ERA) vs. Nelson Figueroa (4-2, 2.83 ERA)
Hey!  Carlos Silva's on his way back.  He last pitched on August 1st, lasting 0.1 innings before slothing his way off the mound onto the disabled list.  Maybe he'll be rejuvenated and effective again -- he sure as hell can't be much worse than he was in July, when he went 2-2 with a 6.86 ERA.

He faces Nelson Figueroa, a 36-year-old journeyman with a very interesting career.  Nelson has been pitching in the major leagues ever since 2000, but he's never started more than 13 games (in 2001) and he's never made more than 30 appearances (back in 2002).  None of this changes these two facts: apart from 2005-2007, when he was in the Mexican/Chinese baseball leagues, he's pitched at least 28.1 innings every year, and his career ERA is actually a respectable 4.30. 

In other words, he's the epitome of a journeyman, and if he ever pitched for the Cubs he'd probably be a fan favorite -- it's easy to root for the underdog. 

Wednesday, September 8th - Randy Wells (6-12, 4.56 ERA) vs. Brett Myers (10-7, 3.02 ERA)

Randy Wells continues to struggle, and he squares off against, probably, the toughest Astros pitcher on Wednesday.

Anyone want to bet that Wells is out of the big leagues within 3 years?

Conclusions

Both teams are playing for pride, but Houston has a clear objective -- if they sweep the Cubs, then they'll only be 5 games under .500.  The Cubs, meanwhile, continue to audition Mike Quade in the managerial role.  Dude's 8-4 so far.  I think, though, that it's inevitable that Sandberg gets the gig.

Or, at least, that's what I'm hoping for at this point, for reasons previously mentioned.

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Really Belated Series Preview -- Cubs vs. Mets

Editor's Note: This was actually written up back on Thursday night.  Two days of internet troubles later, and no publishing was to be had.  I suck.  Rather than preview the two games that have already occurred, just consider it an advanced GameCast for tomorrow's game...

Overview
It's hard to like a Cubs team that's this bad.  Then again, it's easy to root for any team that plays the Mets.

As the Cubs storm toward their September exit, a few issues are beginning to come into play.  First -- the manager.  Jim Hendry says that there are no lead candidates.

Second -- the roster.  With Kosuke Fukudome's shocking, good production, will he become trade bait or will Jim Hendry hold onto him with high hopes for a surprising 2011?  Same thing with Carlos Zambrano.  His suspension and Anger Management classes seem to be having a profoundly positive impact on him.  Yay?

Third -- what, there's supposed to be a third?  Because there's not.

Anyway, on with the preview -- and then some commentary about the Looming Issues.

Sunday, September 5th - Ryan Dempster (12-9, 3.71 ERA) vs. Jon Niese (8-7, 3.70 ERA)

Despite the fact that Dempster raised his ERA by .29 points in his last start (7 earned in 3 IP = suckage), his ERA for August was 2.89, and he won 4 out of 5 decisions.  Does -- dare I say it -- Dempster have a shot at winning 15, in this, the season of bitter remorse?

His opponent is 23, is pitching like 2009 Randy Wells, and went 1-3 with a 4.43 ERA in August.  Go get 'im, Cubz.

Conclusions

In the last Series Preview I wrote (I think), I bid farewell to Lou Piniella.  Sometime before that, I wrote an article about how Ryne Sandberg should be, under no circumstance the next Cubs manager.  I was extremely definitive.

Well, I've changed my mind.  Hear me out.

The Cubs, well, the Cubs suck.  They're probably going to suck next year, too.  Despite sucking, Jim Hendry is expected to return.  Do you trust Jim Hendry to rebuild these Cubs?

Me neither.

Therefore, any move Hendry makes is moot.  I don't trust him to shore up the bullpen, to improve the offense, or even to hire the best manager for the job.  So why should he try?

Instead, since it's a lost cause anyway, I believe Hendry should give the job to Sandberg.  Cub fans will be happy, Sandberg will be happy, and in 2012 -- when both Hendry and Sandberg get axed -- we can finally move on to a new regime with half a chance.

So why not?  Hire Ryne Sandberg, I say.  It can't possibly hurt!

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Series Preview: Cubs v. Pirates (Aug. 30 - Sept. 1 2010)

Overview
So much for that glimmering hope of optimism. After sweeping the Nats under new manager Mike Quade, I'll admit - I was a little intrigued by the Cubs again. Not in a "we're gonna go on some sick run and get back in it somehow", but in more of a "well maybe we'll be frisky down the stretch and be passable September viewing". After a weekend spent in the Queen City, I feel the needle has been jolted back in the other direction. Shaky pitching, shaky defense, not a ton of hitting in big spots. Most importantly, perhaps another month's worth of baseball without a ton to look forward to (non-Starlin Castro division). The Cubs are now back home against the team they can not beat, the Pittsburgh Pirates. This will be the last time the Cubs face the Buccos this year, whom they have a stellar 3-9 record against in 2010. Here's your series preview and the first post on Goatriders in over 2 days..guess everyone hates the Cubs.

Monday August 30th - Paul Maholm (7-12, 4.82) vs. Carlos Zambrano (5-6, 4.64) - Maholm, like a lot of the Pirates, is having a rough year, and his stats are all pretty much off what they've been throughout his career. He hasn't notched a victory since early August either, though perhaps that's not surprising with the struggles the Pirates themselves have been having. Big Z looked REALLY good against Washington, but then immediately flew out to Venezuela to deal with a family issue. I'm seriously hoping Carlos can build on that great start and string together some good outings as the season winds down. For his sanity, for Cubs fans' sanity, for his trade value, for everything.

Tuesday August 31st - Jeff Karstens (2-10, 4.98) vs. Ryan Dempster (12-8, 3.42) - Karstens fits the mold of the majority of the Pirates starters the last couple of seasons: former highly touted prospect from another organization who scuffled and then ended up in Pittsburgh. The former prospect sheen Karstens had with the Yankees is now long gone, and he's had an uneven 2010. He'll go up against Dempster, who continues to be the consistent cog in the Cubs 2010 rotation. Being paid well, Dempster has delivered again in 2010. He only went 79 pitches in a win against Washinton last week, so he should be good to go deep into the game Tuesday if needed...and with Z going the night before, he might be.

Wednesday September 1st - James McDonald (2-3, 4.97) vs. Tom Gorzellany (7-8, 3.98) - James McDonald fits the same profile as Karstens. McDonald is now out of the Dodgers organization and into the Pirates one (what an upgrade!). He's shown flashes since he's become a regular starter, but just like about everyone pitching for Pittsburgh currently, he's been up and down from a performance perspective. Long term though, I like McDonald. Gorzo the Great will be opposing his former team here. He got rocked pretty good Friday night against the Reds and had a fairly shaky month of August overall. Here's hoping for a better finish for Tom.

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Belated Series Preview: Cubs vs. Reds

Overview:
A long time ago, the Chicago Cubs hired a multi-award winning manager who'd just come thisclose to getting his former baseball team a World Series ring.  Of course, we were all pretty stoked about that.  And nobody was too concerned with why a baseball team that just reached the World Series would let their Manager of the Year-award winning skipper walk away.

About a million years later - or maybe it just felt that way - Dusty Baker departed the Cubs a failure.  Our anger toward him was only tempered by one, glorious fact - he signed on to manage a division rival with a considerably impressive farm system.  In other words, that was one less team to worry about.

Although, I have to admit, I sure felt sorry for those guys.  It's not easy being a fan without a glimmer of hope for the future.  And as long as Dusty managed the Reds, hope was gonna be in short supply.

However, much like the 2003/2004 Cubs, some teams are just too damned talented to not compete, regardless of whatever managerial bunglings they may be forced to play through.  And that appears to be the case of the 2010 Reds. 

In a way, a Dusty Baker playoff bound team is worse than a Dusty Baker basement bound team, because now there's a chance that Baker will return in 2011.  Harsh, Reds fans.  Harsh.

Saturday, August 28th - Randy Wells (5-12, 4.56 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (14-7, 3.82 ERA)

It feels as if Arroyo has been around forever.  I still remember when he was that constipated-looking Red Sox pitcher who contributed just enough grit to get them a World Series ring.  This year, though, he's made pitching look easy, as he's leading the Reds in wins and has notched the 100th of his career.

He faces Randy Wells, who just might be pitching his way off the Cubs rotation for next year.  Think I'm wrong?  Let's continue this discussion in April, 2011.

Sunday, August 29th - Casey Coleman (1-1, 5.68 ERA) vs. Edison Volquez (3-2, 6.17 ERA)
Coleman, who is 23, is just another of the Cubs' "throw crap against the wall" strategy that's yet to find anything which sticks. Who knows - when the Cubs surprise us next season by competing for the Wild Card, it'll be guys like Coleman who make it happen.

He faces Victim 4 (or is it more like Victim 10) of the Dusty Baker School of Pitchernomics.  Three seasons ago, Volquez was 24, and he was a 17-win, 206 strikeout pitcher in Dusty's inaugural campaign.  Then, in 2009, Volquez caught Tommy John Disease (big shocker there). 

He's back now, having recuperated while also suspended due to using PEDs (newsflash: pretty much any pitcher who's ever had Tommy John surgery and come back in less than 12 months did it on PEDs).  I kind of wonder if his use of the growth (or whatever) wasn't done, in part, on the hopes that by the time he'd return, Dusty Baker*'d be long gone.

(Dusty's Indian name is Pitcher Destroyer)

Conclusions
Well, the Cubs already got their asses handed to them once this series.  The Reds are now 4 games ahead of the Cardinals.  Of course, there are a lot of Cub fans out there who are pulling for them, and I can understand why.  a) It keeps St. Louis out.  b) It keeps Dusty Baker employed. 

However, I find myself sort of hating the Reds.  Joey Votto is a dick.  Watching them collapse in the last month of the season just might be the kind of sports enjoyment I could get behind.

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Series Preview: August 23-25, Cubs at Nationals

After a tearful goodbye to Sweet Lou, and a game that caused even more tears, the Mike Quade Era will hit the ground running.  It appears that the beginning of the era itself speaks volumes about how the Cubs feel about certain others on their coaching staff.  In particular, it appears that the selection of Quade to serve as interim manager was a big "screw off" to Alan Trammell.  I don't know the reasons why he has already been eliminated, but at least he has taken the classy route and chosen to stay as the bench coach through the end of the season.

Outside of that, nothing is new.  Our middle relief is atrocious.  Starlin Castro is close to qualifying for the batting title, and we get to see if Colvin can regain his bearings at first base tonight.  On the Nationals front, uber-prospect Stephen Strasburg was placed on the DL today in what many assume will end his season with a strained flexor-tendon.

Now here are the matchups for the series:

Casey Coleman (0-1, 7.82) vs. Livan Hernandez (8-8, 3.06)

In a shocker to most, Livan is still making a living in the majors.  Even more surprising was the early season success he had for the Nats.  Despite cooling down from his hot start early on, Livan has put up a pretty respectable stat line.  In 21 career starts against the Cubs, Livan is 11-6 with a 3.84 over 140 2/3 innings.  He tends to have success against the Cubs as a whole, and this year should be no exception.

Coleman got his first shot at a rotation spot last week against the Padres.  Despite starting off with a grueling 37 pitch first inning, he settled down and got in somewhat of a groove but only lasted 4.1 innings.  The spot is his to lose right now, so it'd be nice to see a good audition from here on out.

Carlos Zambrano (4-6, 4.97 ERA) vs. John Lannan (5-5, 5.13 ERA)

Lannan used to be the "ace" of the staff for the Nats.  While he's never really featured dominant stuff, he has a knack for getting groundball outs when he needs to, and sometimes that is good enough.  After struggling quite a bit this year, Lannan had a nice outing against the Braves last week where he picked up a win after going 5.1 innings.  He'll be very successful if the Cubs are over-eager and beat the ball into the ground

Z has been such an interesting study since coming back to the rotation.  While he is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA, he has been a free-pass machine.  Going forward, I'd like to see a lot fewer walks.  If he keeps walking batters, its gonna get even uglier than I thought possible.

Ryan Dempster (11-8, 3.56) vs. Marquis De Suck (0-6, 11.39 ERA)

Yay, we have a chance on this one.  True to form, Marquis has been flat out terrible this season.  His "best" outing of the season came this past start when he pitched his first five-inning game.  I'm sure everyone will welcome him home with open arms.

Conclusion
Well, the new era starts tonight.  Maybe Quade will light a fire under their asses like Showalter did in Baltimore... and we can fend off those Pirates for last place.

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Series Preview: Cubs vs. Braves

Note: this was actually published yesterday on time, but for some reason it didn't appear in the appropriate spot on the page...

Overview:
I'm not sure what's worse -- the fact that the Cubs are now on pace to lose 96 games, or the reality that there are several crappier teams out there.  I mean, as bad as 72 losses are, the Mariners have 73, Diamond-Backs have 75, the Orioles have 79, and the Pirates are rocking 81 L's.  What's the point of sucking if your team can't even squander a #1, 2, or 3 draft pick the following June?

Of course, we now have Doom and Gloomers saying ridiculous things like, "this is worse than '06, because we don't have an '07 to look forward to," as if any of them were predicting '07 after '06, or know something we don't. 

The reality is, we have no idea about what's going to happen in 2011.  And Rob, before you chime in to join the D&G cult proclaiming '11 to be a lost cause, man up and admit you never saw 1989, 1998, 2001, 2003, or 2007 coming.  Those were all years that the Cubs competed, hot on the heels of mediocre seasons.  In this free agency-saturated market, even for a overspent team like the Cubs, anything's possible.

Well, not "anything."  Beating the Braves -- probably not so possible.  Maybe not impossible either, but definitely "not bloody likely."  Let's take a gander.

Friday, August 20th - Ryan Dempster (11-8, 3.62 ERA) vs. Jair Jurrjens (5-4, 3.92 ERA)
Dempster, whose nickname should be "Trade Bait" (altho' I kept typoing it as "Traid Bate") is the best pitcher on the Cubs.  On a good team, he might be a 20 game winner.  In six fewer starts, he's already won as many games as last year, walked as many batters, and given up as many homeruns.  I guess that's a weird mix.  Regardless, he's made it work for himself.

Jurrjens, meanwhile, has a ridiculous name and is injury-prone enough to be a Cub.  Maybe Atlanta and Chicago will orchestrate a swap.

Saturday, August 21st - Tom Gorzelanny (6-7, 3.85 ERA) vs. Tommy Hanson (8-8, 3.47 ERA)
Where have you gone, Ted Lilly, Cub nation turns its lonely eyes to you...

Not that Gorzo is so bad a pitcher.  But he's exactly the kind of Kevin Foster-like guy you'd expect on a team bound to lose 90+ games.  He's probably got six starts to go -- so he just might win 10, but on this team, he's just as likely to lose 10 games.

I've got nothing to say about Tommy Hanson, though, except that he is 23, won 11 games as a rookie last year, and he may be gassed out as he's already thrown more innings this season than perhaps ever in his career.  (I just made that up, but it's probably close to the truth.)

Sunday, August 22nd - Randy Wells (5-11, 4.44 ERA) vs. Mike Minor (1-0, 3.75 ERA)
Well well well.  Looks like Minor made the Majors.  Haw!  I bet I'm the first person to think of THAT clever joke!  /sarcasm

Wells did a decent job in his last outing.  The only problem -- he pitches for the Cubs, where offense is about as rare as authentic super models. 

Conclusions
Shoutulation (y'know, like speculation?) is that the Cubs could lose 100 games.  I doubt that.  Losing 100 is a pretty tough thing to do -- maybe even harder than winning 100.  Don't believe me?  Think of all the crappy, awful, horrible, heart-breaking Cub teams you've experienced in your life time. 

None of them lost 100 games.  And many of them were worse than this band of jabrones.

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Series Preview: Cubs vs. Padres

Overview
Unless you're the Yankees or Red Sox, years like this one are bound to happen.  Especially if your team is managed by a doof who can't draft, and who throws piles of money -- and no-trade clauses -- at every swinging dick in the major leagues.

Actually, if this year teaches us anything, it should be that the Cubs need to renovate the holy hell out of Wrigley Field.  (Purists, this is your opportunity to leave the blog.)  Fans love Wrigley, but players hate it.  The training facilities are a joke.  The clubhouse is as cramped as a Cold War submarine.  Consequently, the best players in baseball aren't inclined to play at Wrigley Field.

I have always felt that compromises can be made.  The Cubs can, theoretically, gut Wrigley Field but leave it aesthetically pleasing.  This is something that perhaps needs to happen soon, or else we'll continue to have these down years where the teams' expensive, untradeable, excessively OLD veterans drag the team down like an anchor. 

Anyway, onward:

Monday, August 16th -- Tom Gorzelanny (6-6, 3.65 ERA) vs. Kevin Correia (9-7, 4.86 ERA)
If the Cubs don't get swept, it's because Tom Gorzelanny pitches respectably, while Kevin Correia relies on the success of the team which surrounds him.  Gorzo -- who, by no means am I advocating for in 2011 -- has pretty much done everything the Cubs have asked of him these last two years.  Correia's really nothing special.

Tuesday, August 17th -- Randy Wells (5-10, 4.60 ERA) vs. Jon Garland (11-8, 3.41 ERA)
Probably two months ago, I posted a comment about Wells being, potentially, a one-year wonder.  Sayers responded with a responding disagreement. 

Well, it's too early to say.  Just ask Geovany Soto, who went from being a Godsend to a one-year-wonder to a resoundingly effective catcher, one of the best in the league.  But, so far, Wells has severely disappointed us.  He's been inconsistent at best.

Jon Garland, meanwhile, could've been a Cub this whole time.  Just saying.

Wednesday, August 18th -- Casey Coleman (0-0, 8.64 ERA) vs. Clayton Richards (10-5, 3.80 ERA)
Regarding Casey Coleman: who? 

A guy goes on a road trip for two weeks, and when he gets back Geo Soto is on the DL and Casey Coleman is starting for the Cubs?  WTF?  Considering how effective Clay Richards has been, I wouldn't exactly count on the Cubs to win this one...

Thursday, August 19th -- Carlos Zambrano (4-6, 5.27 ERA) vs. Mat Latos (12-5, 2.32 ERA)
This game should be an excellent learning opportunity for Latos.  If he wants to see how the pros throw fits and violently lose their tempers, then Carlos is the mentor for Mat.

Conclusions

Confession time: sometimes I look at the young talent around the league and I feel real envy.  I realize that Starlin Castro is doing great (although his crunchy numbers are lacking), and that Tyler Colvin is on pace to hit 25 homers (altho' he's barely batting Geovany Soto's weight), and that Wellington Castillo has finally been given the call.  But, still, the Cubs seem lacking in the young, exciting players like Latos.  Maybe I'm just being grouchy.

Either way -- can the Cubs possibly win this series?  I sorta hope not.  It'll take a minor miracle, but my fingers are crossed for a really, really good draft pick...

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