When It Rains It Pours

Can we schedule a rain delay more often?

After a long rain delay, the Cubs offense caught on fire. Finally. And even got a few (lots) of hits with men in scoring position. 7-for-13 with RISP? Can I get a Hallelujah?

Enough runs to survive another rocky bullpen outing. Production from the entire lineup. Garza survived the rain to pitch very well. Castro returned from his mini-vacation. Pena remembered that not all at-bats must end in a HR, K or BB. It’s fine to hit a single or double every once in a while. Especially with men on base. Quade didn’t try to get just one more inning out of a starter, and allowed the relief pitcher to start a fresh inning.

Hallelujah. A Good Day At Wrigley.

Oh, and I promised not to talk about the future plans of He Who Shall Not Be Named until the season is over. You’re welcome.

If the Cubs bats don’t look hot again today, I’ll be the guy standing on the roof at Wrigley, dumping buckets of water on the home plate umpire.

The sun’ll come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun!
But can we have rain again today?

Party Like It’s 2010

Ouch. A tough loss to the defending division champs. The Reds, as expected, are very good.

The Cubs continue to get on base… and not score.
The big RBI guys, including Ramirez and Lee, continue to squander opportunities with men on base.
Lou Pinella shuffled the lineup a bit, again, trying to get any production with runners in scoring position.

Wait. I’m getting an urgent tap on the shoulder from Doc Brown. Apparently, this is 2011. My humblest apologies. Replace Pinella with Quade, Ramirez with Ramirez and Lee with Pena. That looks about right.

If we’re going to turn back the clock, can we pick a year where we got clutch hits? Umm… hold on, I’ll come up with one… 2008 (pre-playoffs of course)? 2003? Never mind. 1984? We have a winner. Someone find me Sutcliffe, stat. And get Moreland out of the radio booth. Where’s Sandberg? The Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs? What? That’s either the greatest name in the history of organized sports or the worst. Prep the DeLorean for 1984, Doc. And this time, Durham – watch the damn 5 hole. That was doubleplusungood.

delorean.jpg

Time to get going. It’s a long season – but it’s getting shorter.

This is like déjà vu all over again.

All Games Are Not Created Equally

After yesterday’s absolutely, atrociously ugly affair (by both teams), the Cubs get a huge win today against the class of the division, the Cincinnati Reds. This was a game the Cubs needed, and needed badly. And it didn’t look good for a while…

Coleman gave an outstanding start against the always tough Arroyo… and Quade gave it all right back trying to squeeze that extra inning out of a tiring starter. I love ya Q, but it is far easier for a relief pitcher to start a fresh inning, than come in with two men on base and no outs. Stop it. Stop it now. He wasn’t breezing through the game. He was running on fumes. Just Stop it Now.

Welcome to the lineup Blake DeWitt! A homerun and the game winning run in the 9th probably earned you some more playing time.

Today’s Cubbie Occurrence was when the apparent game winning hit by Baker bounced over the wall in CF – for a ground rule double – holding the game winning run to third. From ecstatic cheers to oh, my god I hope the Reds don’t win the game after that in 10 seconds. But that only lasted long enough for everyone’s favorite Japanese import Fukudome to win the game five pitches later.

But, today’s man, myth and legend is the much maligned Mr. Carlos Pena. He has obviously finally read the top-secret internal memo: If you want to hit a homerun with the wind blowing in at Wrigley – stop hitting it 500 ft straight up. The wind will eat that alive. Line Drives please and thank you. Huge Clutch Hit.

We can’t realistically say that the Cubs are contenders… yet. So this was just another divisional game for the extremely talented Reds. They are very, very good.

But this was far more important to the Cubs – a huge, emotional win to get them rolling on a very tough homestand. These are the kinds of wins that CAN jump start a team. Cross your fingers.

cubs-win-flag.jpg

Is it tomorrow yet?

The Russians Are Coming!

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!
Hmm, I mean, the Redlegs and Redbirds are coming!

The Cubs bid adieu to the West Coast, and settle in for a hectic month. Lots of home games. Lots of division games. The defending World Series Champions. A trip to Fenway.

And to start it all off… a Reds/Cardinals/Giants homestand. Very, very tough.

In April, it was easy to say that it’s early, there’s plenty of time left in the season. And there is. But this is a month to take advantage of. Win series at home. Get back above .500. Make sure that the division rivals lose a few games.

The rotation is starting to hit its stride. The bats are heating up.
Garza starts us off after setting a Cubs record for most strikeouts in an April (51!).

WOLVERINES!!!

Cancel the APB – Dempster and Pena have been found

Cancel the APB. End the CPD stakeout of Dempsters home in Wrigleyville – that “Pinella’s Pizza” truck wasn’t fooling anyone anyway. Contact the Illinois National Guard. Alert the Special Agent in Charge. The search is over.

Cancel their AWOL status.
Ryan Dempster and Carlos Pena have finally reported for the 2011 baseball season.

It’s unfortunate that they were unable – for personal reasons – to join the team on April 1st, but we are very excited for their arrival.

Dempster turned in his first quality start of the season (after a 9.58 ERA in April).
Pena hit his first homerun of his Cubs career (and ended a dismal 3-37 stretch).
Castro is on the cover of SI.
Barney is the NL Rookie of the Month.
Cashner may be pitching to real, honest-to-goodness hitters in Arizona by next week.
Wells may not be far behind.

Dempster and Pena are not only important pieces for this team, they are important leaders of this team. And it’s hard to lead effectively when your own house isn’t in order. Hopefully, this is that elusive spark the Cubs need to achieve escape velocity from the muddy pool of mediocrity.

Oh, and the Cubs win!
We’re #5! We’re #5!
One step at a time.

Good Riddance to Alarming April, Welcome to Marvelous May

It’s time to recap April, locate those kernels of hope, drink the blue kool-aid and look forward to May! Woooooooo! May!

After a rough start, the Cardinals promenaded their way back to the top of the division, with the rest of the teams mired in the mud within a few games of the .500 Reds. The Cubs? Right about where most people expected them to be. I was hoping for better, but there are plenty of reasons why a 12-14 record in April is exciting…

  • The Starting Pitching has not been good. Not good at all.

What was hoped to be a strength struggled through the monsoons of April, the injuries to Cash and Wells, and the disappearance of Dempster. The Cubs rank dead last in the NL in quality starts (it’s not even close), team ERA, and walks issued. Garza and Big Z have 7 of the 8 quality starts. The Cubs still managed to win 12 games.

  • The Bullpen was a little bit Dr. Jeckyll and a little bit Mr. Hyde.

Marmol, Marshall and Wood have been very, very good. Samardzija has been shockingly useful. It’s almost as if he realized this is the last year the Cubs are going to be paying him. The rest have been up and down and up and down. Although, with even a little bit of starting pitching, the Cubs won’t depend on them nearly as much. Despite the ups and downs, and the fan-favorite All-Bullpen Days, the Cubs still won 12 games.

  • The Offense has mainly consisted of Castro, Barney and Soriano.

Zambrano is tied for THIRD on the team in homeruns with 1. Soriano has almost as many homeruns as the REST OF THE TEAM COMBINED (10 of 21 total). Barney has more RBI than Ramirez (14 – 11). Pena is SOMEHOW hitting worse than last year. Unsurprisingly, the Cubs are 12th in the NL in runs scored. The Cubs still won 12 games.

  • The Cubs do not lead the league in Antidefense, but they’re close.

Not every Cub feat of antidefense shows up in the errors column. Thankfully. There have been enough botched run-downs, missed bunt assignments, dropped fly-balls (it’s not just a south-side disease), Dunston like throws to first base, throws to the wrong base, and pigeon attacks in the outfield – to lose a few close ones. The Cubs still won 12 games.

  • Quade is learning on the job.

Early in the year, I admonished Cub fans to trust in the Quade. I’ll stick to that. He IS getting better. The Quade is sticking with a struggling and/or tiring starter less often (trying to squeeze that ONE more inning out of a pitcher is almost always a big bucket of Fail when facing major league hitters). Heck, he even got thrown out of a game for the first time. And then promptly admitted being wrong for arguing (after seeing the replay). Despite some puzzling batting orders (always overplayed in the media), and lack of Tweeting from the clubhouse… the Cubs still won 12 games.

The Cubs have hit just well enough to hand off some leads to the three headed monster in the back of the bullpen. And that is enough to go 12-14. Despite a lot of room for improvement.

So I’m proudly drinking the Blue Kool-Aid out of a glass that looks half full. 3.5 games back after significantly under-performing for the month? Sign me up.

Now, bring on May. Cardinals and Reds at Wrigley? First road-trip to Fenway?
This is the Month!

Prescription for April Anxiety – More Homers

I’ve got a bad case of the Aprils. April Anxiety. So I needed some help.

I decided to go see Dr. Brando:

P.J.: What’s wrong with you?
Brendan: I don’t know. I am not right.
P.J.: Dude, you are sick, okay? Just go see a doctor.
Brendan: No. No doctors.
P.J.: No doctors? What are you, like a wounded bank robber?
Brendan: My health insurance got canceled. I have no choice. I’ve got to go to Dr. Brando now.
Bobby: Who’s Dr. Brando?
P.J.: He’s the doctor that lives inside his head.
Brendan: Went to Harvard medical school.
Bobby: Inside your head?
Brendan: Whatever dude, it’s Harvard.
P.J.: Anyway, it’s Brando’s self-diagnosing, usually using the internet. And the last time he did it, it did not go very well.

Dr Brando’s prescription for April Anxiety was easy. More homers. Who am I to argue with a Harvard trained physician?

Back to back homers for the first time this year? (So-ri-ahhh-no! and Soto!) Check.
A Second helping of Soriano? Check and Check.
Quality start by Zambrano? 6 innings, 2 runs. Check.
Domination from the three-headed monster of Wood/Marshall/Marmol? 3 innings, 3 hits, 4 K, 0 runs. Check, Check and Check.

Soriano is locked in. And anyone who has watched the Cubs knows, that when the Fonz is locked in – you just get out of the way. It doesn’t last the whole year of course :)P But it can certainly be fun to watch. Soriano now owns the record for the most homers ever hit by a Cub during a month of April (and the team has been around awhile… as other fans like to point out).

Wins can settle a team down. Good Zambrano was joking about settling down after giving up a ‘cheap homerun’ to Justin Upton. (It sailed 455 feet into the second deck – and I was afraid they would have to alert the FAA)

Let’s get another one today. May is just around the corner, and I’m excited.
Remember Cubs, the prescription is more homers. Trust Dr. Brando.

Oh, and Jordana Spiro? Call me.

Things that make you go Hmmmm…

  • One of the most likable Cubs of a generation turning in one of the worst pitching lines I’ve ever seen. Ever. EVER. 0.1 IP, 4H, 7ER, 4BB, 0K, 1HR. Walking 4 batters may have saved him from even more damage. Thank goodness he couldn’t throw strikes. Hmmm….

  • The Cubs losing 11-2 and the score shouldn’t have been even THAT close. The D-backs were 4-19 with RISP. We got lucky? Hmmm…

  • The Blackhawks distracting me from the baseball season has ended. I hope all of the Canadians from the western provinces who fainted or put their fist through a wall when Captain Serious scored a shorty with less than 2 minutes left to tie game 7 have made a speedy recovery. The better team won, and I wish the Canucks the best of luck (even though I am sick and tired of a smallish group of Canadians loudly whining about some ridiculous conspiracy against Canadian teams every time a call goes against them – newsflash, like the players, most referees are Canadians too… You haven’t won the Cup in a while because your teams have sucked either in the regular season or the playoffs. See Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers for more info). Double-Hmmmm…

  • The Bears did their part to distract us with their own mesmerizing incompetence on draft day… bungling a trade with the Ravens. Hmmmm…

  • From high in the mountains, to the California Coast… from the lake-effect snow and Wrigley monsoons to the sunshine of the desert… the Cubs have played… as icky as the weather. Hmmmm….

  • I am always happy to see my sibling White Sox do well. And I’m happy that they ended their own awful losing streak – but the only thing worse than a Cubs losing streak is a losing streak when the Sox are winning. Mostly because there is a small but vocal group of Sox fans who take more pleasure in Cubs losses than Sox wins :)P Hmmmm…

  • The MLB front office putting DeWitt on the all-star ballot instead of Barney. I’m still ticked off about that. Hmmm….

Obviously this team is capable doing a much better job hitting, pitching, defending, managing, running, catching the ball, tagging runners, coaching the bases, sliding into bases (I’m looking at you Captain Castro), and of course hoisting the ‘W’ flag at Wrigley. Does that cover everything? I think it does.

At least Dempster didn’t tweet about it from the clubhouse. Hmmmm…

We need some sunshine. So… cue the cheesy early 90’s pop music. If that doesn’t make you smile, I’m not sure what will.
Things that make you go Hmmmm…

Is it May yet?

Selig Is An Idiot

Do I have your attention?

There are a few things I would change about the game of baseball – most fans probably have a list, a DIFFERENT list from mine, of course. I’m not going to complain about anything huge or complex. Getting the owners and players to agree on a major change is like planning a tea party with Republicans and Democrats, Bostonians and New Yorkers, Cats and Dogs, North-Siders and South-Siders, Big Markets and Small Markets, Disco and Rock-n-Roll…

Instead, my complaint is EASILY fixed.
Napolean had Waterloo, the Trojans had a giant wooden horse, Custer had his… uh… Last Stand.

Selig has the All-Star Game.

Seriously, Selig. Do you spend the offseason dreaming up new ways to screw an exhibition game up?

Bud Bundy, it is April 27th. And the All-Star ballots are already released? Every year, deserving players are left off the roster because more popular players are voted in. But what the hell are people supposed to base their vote on in April? Spring Training? Three weeks of games? Holy hell. But that’s not the ultimate kick in the groin… every year brings new embarrassing All-Star ballot selections.

Here are the Chicago Cubs on the 2011 All-Star Ballot
C – Soto
1B – Pena
2B – DEWITT
3B – Ramirez
SS – Castro
OF – Soriano, Byrd, Fukudome

Wait, what? For those who (thankfully) have not watched a lot of Cubs baseball this year: DeWitt has started 1 game for the Cubs this year. Darwin Barney has started 18 games at 2B. Are you KIDDING me? This means the list was compiled before the START of the season, considering Barney won the job before Opening Day.

Here are some other fun and exciting names on the ballot:
– Chase Utley – 0 games played.
– Kendry Morales – 0 games played.
– Brandon Belt – already optioned to the minors (I’m sure he’ll be back, but still…)
– Ivan Rodriguez – who has lost the starting job to Wilson Ramos
– Brad Emaus – a rule V pick who has been sent from the Mets back to his former team the Blue Jays who have traded him to the Rockies – but is listed as a Met

I’m sure there are more, feel free to chime in with any moronic ballot picks from other teams.

No matter what method is chosen, some player will be injured or traded after the release – but this is ridiculous. It’s very simple, Budrick. Here are two improvements that should be implemented post-haste. But since you are likely a Lame-Duck Commish, you couldn’t care less – which is a pity.

  1. Start All-Star voting on June 1st. Release ballots ON June 1st. Finalize ballots a week before – ideally using players who are actually playing the position for the team, and haven’t been injured for the entire season – revolutionary, I know. And please don’t give me any crap about printing paper ballots for fans at games requiring more lead time. This is 2011, Mr Bud. If 95% of the voting isn’t already done online I would be extraordinarily shocked. Oh, and this won’t solve everything, but it might help with fewer Fukudome’s being voted in. A few more fans might actually look at a couple months worth of performance before voting.

  2. Allow any all-star starter (you know – those guys voted in by the fans) to come back into the game once, if the game goes into extra innings. Currently the manager can designate one position player to reenter (plus a catcher if a catcher is injured). If a guy like Ortiz gets a hit in the ninth: I think the fans, the manager, the players, the media, the announcers and even God himself would prefer a pinch runner – instead of saving a future hall of famer (ARod) on the bench just in case he’s needed in extra innings. Give the managers a bit more flexibility. And who wouldn’t like to see an extra inning game with Hanley Ramirez or Evan Longoria coming back in to pinch hit. This is not a normal game. You’ve already bent the rules a bit. Don’t make the managers hold players back, just in case. It also may allow a few more extra innings to be played without having to punt and call a tie game.

Pretty simple fixes Bud. Fix it. Your legacy, fair or not, to the average fan will forever be dominated by your personal Waterloo Trojan Horse Last Stand: the annual All-Star Debacle.

/rant

I have an extremely low tolerance for stupidity. Usually however, my response is to simply roll my eyes. This required a bit of therapeutic ranting.

It almost made me forget the Cub and Blackhawk losses from yesterday. Almost.

A Comedy of Errors

Thank goodness for the Blackhawks.

Well then. In the spirit of optimism, I will balance the bad with the good from last night’s Comedy of Errors.

  1. Bad: Castro makes an error in the top of the second inning.
    Good: Darwin Ryno Barney homers in the bottom of the first to give the Cubs a lead.

  2. Bad: Castro makes a second error in the top of the second inning, leading to the first Rockie run.
    Good: Garza pitching 6 innings: 1 ER, 3 H, 0 HR, 1 BB, 7 K

  3. Bad: Castro makes his third error in the top of the second inning, allowing two more runs to score.
    Good: With men on base in the first inning, Carlos Pena did not strike out… he walked… (I’ll do optimism, but I can’t promise to leave out the sarcasm)

  4. Bad: With the bases loaded in the third and two out, Garza grounds out. Not your fault Garzy, we don’t pay you to hit. But it still sucks.
    Good: Jeff Baker went 3-4 as the unlikely cleanup hitter.

  5. Bad: Castro went 0-5 in the three hole. He’ll be fine, but it’s hard to argue with the notion that he hits better in the leadoff spot.
    Good: Fukudome went 5-5 in the leadoff spot. Damn it, only one of you can lead off, someone has to hit third behind Sandberg.

  6. Bad: Garza makes a throwing error in the fifth, leading to the Rockies fourth consecutive unearned run.
    Good: Garza picks off Tulowitzki to end the fifth inning.

  7. Bad: Pena strikes out with two men on base to end the fourth inning.
    Good: The much maligned Samardzija (frequently by me) pitched two scoreless innings. And didn’t walk anyone.

  8. Bad: With two men on and two out in the sixth inning, Baker strikes out.
    Good: Reed Johnson channels his inner Craig Biggio with the patented ‘pretend to turn away from the inside fastball but don’t actually back away – causing the arm to move directly into the path of the pitch’ move, drawing a HBP. It needs a catchier name, but I like the results.

  9. Bad: Cubs score only three runs, despite plenty of chances.
    Good: Cubs pitchers only gave up one earned run.
    Bonus Bad: Cubs defense gave up four unearned runs.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
Well, it’s April. And the field was wet (apparently only when we were on defense). I’m not worried about it. The boys will bounce back today.

Oh look! The Blackhawks play again tonight… Thank goodness.

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