"We cling to the fact that we will swing the bats better... You gotta give these guys every opportunity to work out of it." - Lou Piniella
"The Cubs four-run, come from behind victory was their largest ever against the White Sox." - @STATS_MLB
"YEEESSSSS!!!!" - Ron Santo
What a game, what a win.
Derrek Lee is today's hero, coming through in a big way with his three-run bomb in the 8th inning. You may be thinking to yourself that Lee has been having a fantastic month; well, check out this slash line for June coming into today's game.
D-Lee in June: .360/.428/.520
After all the crap we gave him, Derrek has quietly been carrying this team through one of their worst months imaginable on offense. He's only got eight RBI to show for it, but it's not his fault.
Credit is also due to Geo Soto, who brought himself home in the at-bat immediately following Derrek's dinger.
Soto's slugging in June is somewhere around .450 after today's game; that number rates higher than his slugging from June or July of 2008. Furthermore, it'll only go up once Soto figures out how to get his average above .222 for this month.
Finally, let's talk about the third offensive hero from today's game, the man who got the W flag flying, the one and only Mr. Alfonso Soriano.
Fonsi pulled a move out of Ryan Theriot's 2008 playbook in the bottom of the 9th today, flipping a single into the opposite field with ReJo on 2nd to plate today's winning run.
Hopefully, today's game is a sign of things to come, especially for these three dudes in particular. Are you convinced?
Let's savor this one, and get ready for Cliff Lee and the Indians.
There has been a lot of debate here the last couple days, and we're all just a little cranky. It's no surprise since the Cubs are just about as bad as can be.
The Cubs try to get back to .500 today against the Sox. Even in these tough times the season is not lost. Granted it would be nice to see some improvement.
I won't be catching many games this weekend due to my trip to San Diego. Hopefully, the Cubs will be in better shape when I return from Ballparks 21 (Pecto) and 22 (Angels) this weekend.
Milton Bradley - There wasn't a lot to brag about yesterday, but "Don't Wake Daddy" had two hits to bring his average North of .230 again.
Jim Hendry - Come on Jim and do something. We can't just sit around and wait for Aramis to get back and save the day.
The Cubs are in serious trouble, but hope is not lost. Maybe we'll get lucky and Carlos will throw a gem and hit two home runs.
I don't know why but for some reason my Game Recap got eaten. So this will be an even shorter, abbreviated version of my already short, abbreviated Game Recap.
The Cubs, they did not score many runs.
Alfonso, he had another 0-fer.
Dempster, he didn't pitch like an ace, walking 6 and striking out 4.
In terms of the stories that dominated the day at GROTA, as far as I'm concerned the mini-blog war is over (which will not stop our terrific friends over at Another Cubs Blog from making their snarky comments, but I do derive a ridiculous amount of pleasure knowing that they read me while I would sooner crap into a diaper and smear it all over my head than read them) and, speaking of craps-into-diapers, regarding Lou:
As far as the anti-Lou, he must be fired sentiment goes, I am apparently alone. Actually I'm a little shocked at how teflon Lou has been in this situation considering that he's the rebound manager from The Worst Managing Experience of Our Lives. You'd think that once we're cynical we'd stay that way but I guess two years of winning slaps blinders on even the most scrutinous pair of eyes.
I'll save my Lou rhetoric for a post coming to a blog near you tomorrow morning, but I do have a few questions I'd love to have answered: what would Lou need to do for you to lose faith in him? And how responsible is he -- and managers in general -- for the output of his team?
Anyway. The Cubs lost today, dropping to 4 out of first and 1 below .500. But don't worry - nobody appears keen on winning in the NL Central. Tomorrow, they play for revenge!
The minute we get away from the steriods saga it comes back just in time to ruin baseball once again. At this point who cares who used and who didn't? Baseball let it happen, they're cracking down now, and it is time to move on.
Anyway, there is a game today and every day until the All-Star Break, I believe. This is also the first meeting of the year against the Cross-town rivals, so that's something I guess.
In other news, it's raining in Chicago. I doubt the game starts on time, and I'm not sure there won't be a second rain delay at some point.
Derrek Lee - Lee's hitting .391 in his last six games and sporting a 13-game hitting streak. Of course he's only got two extra base hits during that time.
Geovany Soto - In his last six games, Soto is 7-for-20 with 1 HR and two doubles. It's still not great, but it's a lot better.
Kosuke Fukudome - Looks like Fukudomes good start to 2009 is about through. It's crazy how he can look so good for time and totally suck the rest. Wait, I guess it isn't that crazy considering he's a Cub. He's 2-for-22 in last six games. Ouch!
Alfonso Soriano - What are we going to do with Sori? We've all seen the crazy slumps and crazy hot streaks, but nothing has last this long. He's an automatic out right now, whos 3-for-his-last-25. No wonder we're .500.
Note from Kurt: At the risk of alienating Kevin, I'm just taking Chris's post from yesterday and moving it up to today
This is just another matchup of two mediocre teams, despite what you'll hear in the Trib and the Times. So, I'll give you a snappy little rundown of the Sox roster and then get to a more important point:
- Dye, Thome, and Konerko are, in order: good, good and decent. All three can cause pain
- Pierzynski is: douchebag
- Pitching is: not good.
So there you go. Your 2009 Chicago White Sox.
Here's what I'm more interested in: Kurt and Rob's take on a certain Kate and Leo vehicle and how it relates to the Cubs. While they're trying to feng shui their lost cause, I'm hanging with the band, playing as the ship goes down. And you know why I can do this? Because I know something they don't know: the ship isn't going down. And here's my reasoning:
Talent wins out.
The Cubs are playing way, way below their true talent level. And the thing is, everyone agrees with this fact. Everyone agrees that Uncle Milton is better than he's shown and that Geo has power (barring injury). Everyone knows that Soriano is just waiting for a hot streak. Hell, the one player we all doubted the most, Derrek Lee, is the guy who's finally remembered how to hit. The rest are just waiting for the hits to start falling in. And, in the case of Geo Soto, they have. Over the last two weeks, Geo has an OPS of .814. That's actually pretty good (and the .981 OPS over the last week: outstanding). Geo's on the upswing.
But yeah, Soriano and Milton continue to struggle and Fukudome and Theriot are in a slump. And the team, as we've seen, can't buy a run. And so, apparently, we decide we need to fire the manager or shake up the roster. On other sites, they suggest trading away our most talented pitcher. All because we're at .500 after a third of the season.
You know what I say to the .500 record at this point? Good. We should be damn happy to have a .500 record after losing our best player to a bad wing. Remember what happened in 2006 when Lee went down? And believe me, Aramis's replacements haven't been any better than Lee's were. We've had bootloads of injuries, and yet we are still afloat, one game out of the loss column. We have some of the best hitters in baseball unable to lay the good wood and still the rest of the Central has waited for us to figure it out.
Thanks, NL Central!
And so I will wait for Aramis to come back and let Fontenot slide over to his natural position (Fontenot, incidentally, has been everything we thought he would be over the last month), thus solidifying both the offense and defense with one move. I will wait for Soriano to start hitting again because he always begins to hit again. If he needs a DL stint, let him take that, then get back to hitting. Either way. Fun fact: during his massive slump, Soriano has a BABIP of .197. Granted, he's making things worse by swinging at whatever comes up to the plate, but he's also not getting any help from the Gods. It will turn around.
And Uncle Milton has only ever hit. And he will hit again. He will revert to his true talent level.
...as do we all.
I know this stretch of baseball is frustrating. I'm frustrated too (although clearly less so than most as exactly zero of my words required and astricks). But I'm going to try to ride this wave of bad baseball and look forward to the inevitable hot streak. The Cubs are too talented for it not to happen.
And if it doesn't turn around? If every single player has a career worse year? Well, I don't know what to say about that. I support the starting lineup Hendry has put together and I don't think you can anticipate everyone failing.
But the talent's there.
And talent always wins out.
So yeah, by all means, improve the bullpen and get us a real backup infielder. But blow up this team? You could do it. But you're not going to make it any better.
Okay kids, the comments are open. Feel free to call me Al Yellon, Part Deux.
Tuesday, June 16th - Carlos Zambrano vs. John Danks
Holy crap, welcome back Carlos. Carlos has been nothing short of magnificent in his last two outings since coming off the disabled list. In fact, except for one start in April where he gave up 7 runs (in 7 innings, mind you), Carlos has been every inch of an Ace. The sinker has been down recently and that should make for tough days for the Sox. The real key, of course, will be whether or not Carlos brings his A-game...to the plate. WE NEED RUNS.
John Danks is yet another mediocre pitcher in the long line of mediocre pitchers to face the Cubs of late. Maybe Von Joshua knows the secret to hitting crappy pitchers (seriously, Russ Ortiz owned us. So sad). John Danks also thinks Wrigley smells like pee. Your point?
Wednesday, June 17th - Randy Wells vs. Gavin Floyd
Alright, so fine. Wells is human. La Dee Da. That doesn't mean we don't love him and still expect great things out of him. When Well's control is on, he's one tough cookie (yes, true of most pictures) and I think his control will be on today. And no, I have no reason to think that. Except for BLIND OPTIMISM.
Wells will have to be perfect, though, as the Cubs are facing a pitcher with an ERA just south of 5. Good god, we'll never hit him! Yeah yeah, whatevs. We get it, the Cubs have no offense. Actually, Floyd has been pitching pretty well of late and so, when he shuts the Cubs down, it won't be humiliating in the usual sense.
Thurday, June 18th - Ryan Dempster vs. Jose Contreras
Nice to see Dempster back on it this last month or so. In fact, Dempster is earning every dollar of his contract and this fact is only being obscured by the fact that he's currently only the third best pitcher on the team (fourth, if Harden remembers how to pitch). Actually, with this team's pitching, we don't need out hitters to be great, we need them to be average. GOOD GOD, what I wouldn't give for average.
Contreras? He's still alive? Well, he isn't really very good anymore, so we should have a shot at him. Not that that ever helps. Stupid slumping offense.
As usual, with the Crosstown Classic, anything can happen. And I expect anything to happen. And everything. And a dash of something.
Maybe a little nothing.
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And so ends our early pre-season experimentation with actual coverage. The Cubs got handled today by the White Sox, although again most of the damage was done to players who won't be pitching for the Cubs anyway.
Today's winner for the White Sox is a guy named Jeffrey Marquez, a rookie who threw 3 strong innings striking out 2, walking 1, and giving up only 1 hit. Over on the Cubs side, Aaron Heilman continued with his campaign to be named a starter, going 3 innings, striking out 3, walking 2, and surrendering 1 hit. So far he hasn't allowed a run this spring.
Mateo got tagged with the loss, although the Cubs probably would've won had Ken Kadokura not surrendered 2 more runs in the top of the 9th. With just 1 out the Cubs managed to load the bases in their final chance, with Ryan Theriot hulking a sac fly into the outfield and Reed Johnson driving in 2 with a single before Richie Robnett flew out to end the game.
More importantly than the final score, Mike Fontenot went 2 for 4 today while playing third base, The Hoff went 1 for 2, and Paul Bako gunned out 2 would-be base stealers. Oh, and every guy who pitched today that will actually be on the Cubs roster in April - Heilman, Gregg, and Cotts - held the White Sox scoreless.
All that out of the way, what you see at the top of this post will theoretically be the Game Recaps image that we use for the rest of the year. (Don't worry, I've got one with the Win Flag too, to be used appropriately.) I think it might be one of the better graphics I've made. In terms of GROTA coverage of Spring Training, there probably won't be another Series Preview until the Cubs play the Yankees, nor another GameCast until they play ones that matter. We'll just have to see how we - and everybody else - feels.
Welcome to the experimental first GameCast of the 2009 season. We're going to do this a little differently once the season actually begins, as I will likely shut off the Shout Box in order to make the comments part of this article the place to talk about the game.
In the meantime, knock yourself out either here or over in the Shout Box. I'll be watching snippets of the game on WGN, but unlike the BlogCasts of the '08 playoffs I won't be updating constantly on account of how I wanted to hang myself when it was over.
(Editor's note: I'm still working on the best Recap graphic, just so you know. It probably won't look like this in April.)
Last night's televised game started ridiculously late, and I have a feeling that there weren't too many Chicagoans who stayed up to see the final score. We were all probably sleeping - or trying to, like in my case - when the Cubs coughed up the lead late in the game and lost on a Ben Brossard single off David Patton in the 9th.
Probably more importantly, this game may have dealt a crushing blow to Jeff Samardzija's chances of making the opening day roster as the 5th starter. He gave up 3 runs in 3 innings of work while striking out 2.
Offensively, the Cubs didn't have many problems scoring runs - especially in the middle innings when they racked up 5 of their 6. Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot both had big days, combining to go 5 for 8 with 1 RBI, 3 runs scored, a double, and a triple, although most of the damage was done against Jon Van Benschoten who probably has as much of a chance of cracking the White Sox roster as George Bell does.
The Cubs started out undefeated and are now 5-4. That's not exactly a big deal. The important thing is that the right guys put up good enough numbers to earn the roles they're capable of playing. Mike Fontenot's hitting well enough to start over Aaron Miles. Micah Hoffpauir is hitting well enough to crack the roster. Whether the Cubs win or lose in the meantime isn't so important.
Later today the Cubs will be playing the White Sox again, also on WGN. We'll have a GameCast up for you to follow along.
This Game Recap brought to you by Bench Aaron Miles!
Geovany Soto fouls one off. See that white streak? That's the baseball.
How many White Sox does it take to catch a pop fly?
Carlos Quentin - swing and a miss!
Javier Vazquez couldn't get the ball over the plate tonight.
Aramis Ramirez' bat is too hot to handle right now.
Aramis Ramirez rounds third base after his fourth home run of the series.
Bobby Howry came in to mop up after eight great Ryan Dempster innings.
Memo to Sun-Times headline writers – when your headline is:
You leave me, the reader, expecting… well, results, not to put too fine a point on it. So when you say:
The response to our Hottest Fans contest has been so overwhelming --nearly 7 million online page views and nearly 40,000 votes (Cubs fans leading with 61 percent) that we've decided to extend the voting through the end of the season.
Do you know what you’ve just done? That’s right, you’ve lied to me. Me and thousands of others like me. Also, by the way…
…this guy is not “hot.” This guy looks like he’s auditioning for the direct-to-video Sean Of The Dead sequel. And I really want to tell you, Goat Reader, that I had to go digging for this sort of entry. But unlike Sun-Times headline writers, I will not lie to you; that’s pretty representative of the quality of this whole enterprise.
Well, as you by now are aware, the White Sox are in town, if by town you mean Chicago. Which, I guess they’re in town as often as the Cubs are, but normally I’m not required to care. And, to be frank, I’m still not sure I care. Okay, sure, the White Sox are six games on the schedule that I’d rather win than lose, but that’s true of pretty much every game on the schedule. And even if they sometimes sound like they’re run by the winners of the Idiot Triathlon, they seem to have a competitive club on the field.
But not living in Chicago, I don’t feel about this series the way a lot of others do; I get a lot more excited about Cubs-Cards and Cubs-Brewers. So the hype far surpasses the reality for me.
But I just have to say, the crosstown series (Bruce Miles implores you not to refer to it as a “Classic") does provide one more reminder that the Sox may well be one of the least classy organizations in baseball. To wit:
''We'll all be bringing our nose plugs, try not to smell all the urine over there,'' [pitcher John] Danks said Thursday. ''Nah, we're looking to have fun over there, but that place is a [bleep] hole.''
And that’s just one example. I’ll concede that the facilities at Wrigley are antiquated and in need of repairs, but as a grown man, talking to the press about your job, do you really need to talk like that? I'm far from a Puritan when it comes to how I talk, but seriously, how can you figure that's the right way to represent yourself in a very public forum? (I guess it doesn't hurt to have Ozzie Guillen as your boss.)
Speaking of Guillen, Mariotti has this to say about Ozzie's in-game strategy:
Normally, it's his mouth that gets him into trouble, but on this day, it was his thought process. With the Cubs looking half-asleep after arriving in the wee hours from Tampa Bay, where they were swept by the emerging Rays, Guillen should have let Danks bat to lead off the seventh. Instead, he pinch-hit for the pitcher and got nothing out of the inning anyway.
Well, the Blizzard yanked Danks anyway and inserted the sporadically reliable Octavio Dotel. You could hear the licking of chops and high-fives from the third-base dugout. Before anyone could utter ``dumb move,'' Derrek Lee and Ramirez had crushed back-to-back homers off Dotel, tying the score and turning all heads toward Ozzie in this meticulously analyzed, scrutinized series. Why go to your bullpen so soon when Danks was performing so well? Why not let Danks find a smidgen of trouble before making a move? Hadn't he retired the Cubs in order in the third, fourth and fifth innings and on one single in the sixth?
This was a case of Guillen, the attention hog, imposing his strategic ego on a game when it wasn't necessary. It would cost him tremendously in the bottom of the ninth, when Scott Linebrink, in relief of Matt Thornton, allowed a game-winning blast by Ramirez that dropped into the thatch of ivy in front of the Batter's Eye Restaurant in center field.
Mariotti is as big a yapper (to use Tango's phrase for it) as you can find in the sporting press, and he seems to know surprisingly little about just about any topic he chooses to comment on. Pitchers get worse the more pitches they throw, to the point where Dotel could well be expected to be more effective than Danks going into the seventh. And Danks, like most other pitchers, especially AL pitchers, is a horrible hitter.
The funny thing about baseball is that it's a game of failures; even the best hitters make outs more often than not, and even the best pitchers give up runs. The only thing you can do as a manager is try to put the odds in your favor - and he did that, by giving his team the best chance he could on offense and defense. Sometimes things don't work out; you have to judge a move in isolation of the short-term results.
When Mariotti asks, "Why not let Danks find a smidgen of trouble before making a move?", what he's really asking is, "Why not wait until it's too late?" The hardest thing to do is to cash in while you're ahead, to sell high. And tell me - if Ozzie leaves Danks in and he ends up giving up those runs instead of Dotel, do you think that there's no chance that Mariotti writes this instead?
Isn't it refreshing to have a manager in this town that can do more than run his mouth? The Blizzard of Oz is obviously outmatched strategically by Sweet Lou.
In the seventh inning, with a chance to spark his team's aenemic offense and put the Cubs away for good, he let the pitcher, Danks, bat for himself. Maybe he forgot what league he was in. The Sox failed to score that inning, and the rest is history.
Mariotti is truly a man without allegiance to anything, up to and including the truth. I really fail to understand how he has his job.
Expect Zambrano to go on the DL soon, in exchange for "outfielder" Eric Patterson - surprisingly enough Edmonds and Johnson are both banged up, and the Cubs are running short on outfielders - they're so desperate that they're even letting Matt Murton play! The good news is that no serious damage was found in Zambrano's shoulder.