Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Storm is Brewing

Sorry, but I could not resist the headline, because it is about to rain cats and dogs here in Arkansas. I say bring it on, I am supposed to cover the State Soccer Tournament Today, but I would much rather watch the Cubs. Well, unless Glendon is going to let the Brew Crew create their own storm of runs.

I have actually been able to see 19 of the 21 games to date (or watch via tape delay on the Tivo). Which brings me to a point of thanks. So far no one as ruined my experience of watching a game late. I thank everyone for that; it just makes it more enjoyable if I don't know what is going on.

I caught the first 7.5 innings yesterday on TV and the last inning on the XM. Clearly Greg Maddux did not have his best stuff yesterday, but all the solid hits did not split any gaps, thus limiting the damage. Maddux was also benefited from a nifty 6-4-3 double play in the fifth inning. Cedeno really put something on his throw and Neifi made a solid throw.

While the Cubs are scoring runs, it feels like we are holding this thing together with smoke and mirrors. I was looking at some early trends of Dusty's madness. I think he might just put some names in hats and pull them out.

1. Juan Pierre has been as advertised. He puts the ball for the most part, even though he has 10 K's on the season already. And true to his past numbers, he doesn't walk. In the past he shown a little more patience at the plate, but right now his .297 OBP tells the story. Grade (B-), of course if we graded on a curve, he might get a (A-) for the fact he is so much better than anybody last year.

2. Ronnie Cedeno is actually playing better than I thought. Granted his throwing has been erratic at best at times, but he seems to be getting it. Right now Cedeno is putting up a solid .892 OPS, which is good for second on the team. The problem is Ronnie is a rookie and the league will catch up a little. It is how he deals with the teams that start to see him more often that will tell the story. Grade (A)

3. Todd Walker is playing like a guy that has something to prove. Prove away my boy. I have always liked Walker from day one. Dusty and Jim jerked him around all spring and thank god the rest of the league did not take them up on an offer. Walker just flat out hits. Now that Lee is out, Walker's .947 OPS leads the team. Granted his bat is of more value at second base, but right now we don't have a choice. Grade (A+)

4. Aramis Ramirez is getting close to breaking out. I hope. He struggled early, but it was not his eye that struggled as evident in his OBP. Ramirez has already drawn 12 walks and is getting on base at a .342 clip. Which is .047 points more than our leadoff man. That makes me believe he is just an inch or two away from crushing baseballs. Now that Lee is out, he probably will not get as much to hit, but if he continues to draw walks it will help the team, because of the two guys behind him. Grade (C-) Even though I like the walks, he is still hitting .212.

5. Matt Murton could be a very special player. He just gets it and it is evident in his early year numbers. Murton is second on the team in RBI (16) and he only has two HR. He has struck out 12 times, but I think that will improve as he gets more at bats, but he has walked nine times. I think years to come, we will look back and say it was steal we got Murton in that Nomar deal. Grade (A).

6. Michael Barrett is a key for the next 8-10 weeks while Lee is on the mend. His bat has been outstanding so far and he leads the team in RBI (18). He is probably the best hitting catcher in the NL right now and maybe only Victor Martinez is a better hitter in the entire league. Barrett has worked on the defense and he has worked cut out with him with two rookies now. Not to mention Glendon "Walk" Rusch. Grade (A)

7. Jacque Jones has to get better. It looks like he is starting to get better looks at the plate. Jones raised his average to .231 yesterday after three hits. He has also provided a couple big home runs already and played a solid right field. I said coming in if Jones hit .275 and gave us 80 RBI it would be just great. The problem is he still is getting starts against LHP. He is actually hitting .279 vs. Righties and a big .000 against lefties. Jim he is a platoon player. Grade (D).

8. Neifi Perez was a surprise last year, when he played out of his mind for about two months. Guess What? Those days are done and injuries have once again forced the weakest hitter in the league back into service. How has he responded? How about a .176 average in 34 at bats. If that gets you 2.5 million, then I am in the wrong business. Dusty has to see that Hairston is a better option. His defense is fine and his bat runs circles around Neifi, but that is the downfall of Dusty as a manager. Grade (D), but only for defense.

Also when our bench has guys like Freddie Bynum, we need to improve the bench now. There are rumors of Carlos Pena coming in to play 1B. I suppose that will happen in about a week, but the Cubs need a guy to hit LHP. Walker only has one hit and four walks against LHP.

There you have it four A's, one B, one C and two D's in the lineup. The pitching breakdown will come later. You can expect that a couple will fall off and a couple will rise, which might give the Cubs a chance to hang close if they get good enough pitching.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Maddux and more

Well we all felt losing Derrick Lee would crush the positive outlook on the Cubs 2006 season, but with Greg Maddux pitching the way he is, he is keeping Cubs fans exuberant about our hopes. I don't know about ya'll but I can not hear enough about his game Sunday versus the cardinals. I've probably watched Sportscenter, Baseball Tonight, and ESPN news a dozen times just to hear them talk about Maddux.
To learn that in his 20 year Hall of Fame career this is the first time he has started 4-0 in his first four starts is amazing. I know many fans are thrilled with his start to the season but believe that he can't keep pitching even remotely close to this pace. I'm not saying that he is going to keep pitching lights out like his 4-0, 0.99 ERA start, but if he can keep locating like he is, it is going to be an amazing season.
I also believe that with Maddux pitching the way he is, the rest of the team will step up their play . I really hate saying this, but the one good thing that comes out of Derrick Lee's injury is the fact that Dusty Baker can not justify sitting Todd Walker often. The way he hits, he should never be questioned whether or not he should play. He is a good 2nd baseman and one of the better hitters in the league. Also with Lee's injury Aramis Ramirez is once again the big bat in the lineup. Maybe with this spotlight he will get his bat going and help carry the offense.
Well tonight is a big night for Zambrano, he is pitching against a 5-11 Marlins team. Hopefully tonight Zambrano will be back to his dominant form and start pitching like many people thought he would this year. Well I got distracted during this article because Sportscenter started talking about Maddux again, would apologize but if you are a Cubs fan you understand. Go CUBBIES!!!!!!!

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Dark Days are Here

You all know the knews by now. Now that our leader Derrek Lee has fallen victim to a freak run in with Furcal, it is time the ralley the troops.
While, this is not the end of the world, it will be tougher for the Cubs to put accross runs at this point. My posting will slow down a lot over the next three weeks.
As many of you know, I am a sports writer for a small paper and it is about time for High School Baseball Tournament Season. The district tournament starts on Saturday. That means wall-to-wall baseball for me and little time for the Cubs.
Of course I will check in from time-to-time, but Mike will have to lead the charge without me around. Also, my brother might actually come back and post something.
Just found out that I am heading to Minnesota for the weekend series in June. Any of you guys want to meet up there and talk Cub baseball? Well, we will talk about that closer to time. That trip will make my 17th ball park I have seen a major league game.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A Couple Nights In Peoria...

When the Cubs announced their re-affiliation with the Peoria Chiefs prior to the 2005 season, I was pumped. I love minor league baseball as well as the Cubs, and given that I only live about an hour from Peoria, I figured I'd go to tons of Chiefs games. I did, probably 20 or so in total last year. With the Chiefs kicking off their 2006 home slate Thursday night, I figured it would be a good chance to head over there and catch a game. I had such a good time, I went again on Saturday night. The following are some notes from the 2 games.

*The Chiefs stadium is really nice, especially for a Low-A team. They've done some nice improvements over the offseason as well.
*It was some really nice weather this weekend. Both games started at 630 PM so we got 3 innings of good sunshine, 3 innings of dusk, and 3 innings under the lights. Perfect if you ask me.
*The Cubbies dont really have any what you would call "Premium" prospects in Peoria right now, unlike last year where Angel Guzman, Eric Patterson, Sean Gallagher, and Ryan Harvey all spent time in town. Our best prospect in Peoria right now is probably Don Veal (Link - He's looked shaky early on this season.
*2005 3rd round pick Mike Billek (Link - started the Thursday game and got roughed up (Link - He only managed to go 4 2/3 before getting pulled. The bullpen didnt fare much better.
*Saturday's starting pitcher was Mitch Atkins (Link - He was a 7th round pick out of HS in 2004. He looked pretty good last night, going 5 innings, allowing 4 hits and posting a 6/1 K/BB rate. He didnt throw all that many pitches before being lifted, so I have to assume he's on a pitch count. He didnt allow a run, but the next guy in, Roberto Sotolongo, did...allowing the 2 runs that led to the Chiefs 2-1 loss. I wasnt impressed at all with the bullpen in either game.
*As far as hitting goes, there's not a whole lot in Peoria. 1B Ryan Norwood (Link - looks impressive at the plate, but didnt have a ton of results while I was there. 2004 3rd round pick Mark Reed ( started Thursday nights game and had a ringing double that had some pop to it, as well as a single on a surprise drag bunt. You read that right, a catcher getting on via the drag bunt. Reed looked pretty good behind the plate as well.
* The CF'er for the Chiefs is a kid named Davy Gregg ( He did misplay a ball on Thursday night, but all in all he looked pretty good in the field. All I've heard of him is that he won't hit enough to advance through the minors, which is probably true, but he has a 6-game hitting streak and looks the part of a ballplayer. He led off last night.

All in all, good times at the Chiefs games, enjoying the atmosphere, soaking up the good weather, and watching baseball. I will be going to quite a few games I imagine and I'll try to do some recaps.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Tax Day Game Log

Well, that dreaded day is here (no I don't mean Jerome Williams' first start), but Tax Day is here. To celebrate the day, I will be doing one of my famous game logs. While everybody gets to see today's game, I am bored at the house and you never know what will happen.

Remember you can send your memberships tot he Matt Murton fan clut to mattmurtonfanclub at I feel another big day from Red.

Ok, we are about to start. The Cubs need to score early to get to Zach Duke.

6:05 p.m. - Duke dominated the Cubs last year in his starts, but we should have a better approach this year. Ouch, Ramirez is really hitting .154, time for that come up today with a 2-for-3 day with 2 HR. Well, Juan Pierre is frozen on a nasty breaking pitch. Well, we are lucky Neifi does not get the start, but I would have rather seen Murton get a chance to bat second when Walker is not in the lineup, but Dusty is not a very free thinker. Derrek Lee with a nice piece of two-out hitting. Why is Ramirez booed? He did not leave on his own, his idiot GM gave him away for a basically nothing. Michael Wuertz is no longer with the big league club and that means Roberto Nova is back with his lively arm. Duke has yet to give up any damage, but he is throwing a lot of pitches, just as soon as I say that, Aramis goes down on strikes and the game is tied 0-0.

6:19 p.m. - I really want to see Jerome sit down the Pirates early. He needs confidence early. Len wants 7 innings, but I would happy to get six strong innings. So far so good with Jerome. He is throwing strikes, which is important. Just as I say that, now Jerome falls behind 3-1 and he walks him. Is there anything worse than a two-out walk? Also today is Jackie Robinson day, does Big Bud not want the people to think about taxes. Jerome should have seen last year how to retire Burnitz. Just a little high cheese and lets go to the second. Just as good, a nice pop up on the infield. Good start from Williams and we really need a decent start.

6:26 p.m. - Angel Pagan is showing that he should play against lefties more and more. He does not have lot of ab's, but he is showing some stuff right now. Well that ended fast after Pagan was cut down trying to steal second. Arggh, nothing worse than a double right behind a guy getting thrown out on the bases. No runs after Cedeno lines out to second.

6:33 p.m. - The storm clouds are brewing to start the Pirate second, a lead-off walk is never a good sign. Michael Barrett might be hitting everything, but he is not throwing guys out. Williams gets a MASSIVE strikeout of Joe Randa for the first out. Damn, just when the Cubs were going to get out of the inning the Cubs give them a run after the bad throw by Cedeno. Ronny still has some major work on his defense this year. Then, Williams gets Duke to the end the inning, but the Pirates get the run.

6:44 p.m. - Not a bad Idea by Pierre, but Duke makes a good play for the second out. Is it me, or do you feel Duke is gaining confidence each inning. Well, regardless Duke is starting to really well. Cubs go down 1-2-3 and still trail 1-0.

6:53 p.m. - Jerome plays with fire again, but what is new. Williams got the first two batters and then hit Bay with a 0-2 pitch. Then, Bay moves to second on a terrible throw by Williams. This is a key at bat now, he can down on himself. The hits just keep on coming, Burnitz gets an infield hit to put runners on first and third. These are situations where Williams and Cubs pitching has not preformed well. Williams is ahead 1-3 on Wilson, who is no longer showing off a Mullet. How I miss the dayss of the mullet and he strikes out looking. Good job Jerome. Time for the offense to wake up.

6:59 p.m. - Well, so much for my Ramirez 2-for-3 day. The Cubs are being retired left and right now. Damn, Barrett gave the ball a ride, but I guess he did not pay the total price after Duffy ran it down in deep left-center.

7:05 p.m. Danger Will Robinson, Danger! Randa places a ball for a double and then Jerome got a little squeezed for a walk. Hey, Hey! A nice little double play ball to get two. That brings up the "The Duke" How cool would it be to have a nickname like that. I know his last name is Duke, but if I was Zach I would have everybody refer to me as "The Duke." What if John Wayne was a baseball player. Imagine his look on the mound. Scarey. "The Duke" lines out to end the inning, time to start hitting.

7:16 p.m. WIth a short bench the last thing you want is another player going down. Well, the Cubs are one player short with Pagan hurting his leg somehow, while he running down the first base line. Jones is still out, John Maybry is hurt, not much let after that. Great at bat by Murton after he walks with one-out. Time for Ronny to make up for the error. Instead, Ronny beats out a double play. How about a Jerome Williams home run? I doubt it and I was right, but the lineup is turned over for the next at bat.

7:22 p.m. - Okay, how does Cedeno make that tough play, but boots the routine one. It all comes down to making solid plays. Ha, Len makes my point for me. Here comes Jason Bay, Williams has walked him and hit him. So, lets see if he can't retire him once. Williams just wants no piece of Bay today. He pitched around him once again. Which is okay if you can get Old Man Burnitz and he does. Cubs still trail 1-0 after five innings.

7:30 p.m. - If the Pirates continue to retire Pierre, I have a feeling the Cubs will not win. It looks like Zach Duke is back to his old ways or the Cubs just make pitching look too good. It is up to Derrek Lee to get something going with two-outs. Randa stops a liner and the Cubs still have no runs on only three hits.

7:39 p.m. - Do you think the people of Garden Claw Gold might want a new commercial. I mean the add has not changed since the Claw was first introduced. It is bad when I know the enitire commercial. Wilson triples to start after he misses a home run by inches. On a day when you have not scored, giving up more runs is not an option. Decent throw by Bynum, but Wilson scored on the sacrifice fly. Bucs lead 2-0. Nice play by Barrett as nabs Castillo on a busted hit and run for the second out. The Cubs get out of the inning and I have to say Jerome has pitched really well, but our offense is about a threat as a gold fish against a shark at this point.

7:47 p.m. - Ramirez doubles to start the second, but he really thought he had a home run. He walked for like three step before he realized that ball may not get out. This a real good chance for the Cubs. Barrett flys weakly to right and our heros have one-out. Not a great time for Freddie Bynum coming up, he is looking like more like Josa Macias every day and he goes down swinging for strike three. Terrible and I mean terrible. Come on Red, time for another big hit. Yes sir, a nice RBI single. My man-crush on Matt Murton continues to grow and another base hit. Walker has to pinch hit again against a Lefty. I would like to see walker say in and move Hairston to right field, to have a better hitter left for the 8th or 9th if it gets down that far again, but first how about a RBI single for Todd. Duke not looking as confindent now. Nice play by Craig Wilson to end the inning. Cubs get one back and now trail 2-1.

7:54 p.m. - The Cubs only have Niefi and Blanco left to pinch hit, not the great thought heading to the last couple of innings, but the Cubs probably don't need a pinch hitter until the 9th, so it might be okay. One the milloinare relievers is now on for the Cubs. Scott Eyre has looked good so far, but he needs to sit down the Bucs right here. Duke's day is done as Freddy Sanchez is now pinch hitting. Damn, Eyre walks a light hitting lefy, no excuse as this point. Nice play by Ramirez to double off Duffy, but I think he might have beaten the play back to first, but I will take. Come on it is time for the Cubs to score some more runs.

8:03 p.m. - The Pirates are going to run people in and out of the pen now I think. Pierre fails to reach base and that is not a good sign. I have said it before, but the Cubs have to get him on base at least once a game. OH MAN, Hairston just misses a home run, damn, damn, dman. Nice piece a hitting puts a runner on in front of D-Lee. Time for the Sliver Slugger to mash one out of the park. Lee has never had a hit off the Roberto Hernandez, so he is very due. Full count, come on baby.......a walk to Lee. It is time for big Aramis. Cue the music.......damn Aramis just missed the ball and he popped out to center. Okay, Barrett has smoke the ball this season, so I feel another big at bat. No way I give Michael a ball to hit with Bynum on deck, but I am not the Pirates. Hernandez struck out Barrett. I've got a bad feeling about this.

8:18 p.m. - There are only a few certain things in life. Death, taxes and the Cubs ripping my heart out. Looks like we might be heading to third thing again. Come on, can't we not walk Jason Bay. I know he is a good hitter, but make him try at least. Cubs catch another break wtih a double play. The Cubs have a chance, come on just one run, okay maybe two....well I am greedy I want four.

8:29 p.m. The Cubs need one run to tie the game. Bynum, Murton and Cedeno are due up. With the pitchers spot up fourth, that means Bynum will have to hit for himself most likely. Nevermind, Niefi pinch hits and he is out on one pitch. Terrible approach by Perez. Murton, Murton, Murton, come on Matt give me a tie. Damn Matt gets robbed by Joe Randa. Cubs lose on four pitches. See ya tomorrow.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

How Sweep it is

The Chicago Cubs pulled off their first big moment of the 2006 season after a 3-game sweep over the St. Louis Cardinals. I only hope that it not one of those why can't we play like "insert good moment here" all of the time.

The Cubs scored seven of their eight runs via the home run. Jacque Jones finally got his first hit as a Cub and it came on a 3-run bomb. Then, with Cubs trailing 4-3 in the eigth, the Cardinals pitchers walked Todd Walker, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. For the second straight day, Michael Barret came up huge. This time with a grand slam to right field that left the park.

The Cubs added another run on a Cardinal wild pitch and Ryan Dempster slammed the door in the 9th to give the Cubs an 8-4 victory.

A few observations of the week:
1. Cub pitching: Take away the first two games against the Reds and the Cubs starting pitching was pretty good in week one. Greg Maddux and Carlos Zambrano pitched very well in their starts this weekend. Sean Marshall was solid in first start. He made one big mistake against Scott Rolen and probably was squeezed behind the plate.

2. Tood Walker: Hopefully Dusty Baker has seen all he needs about who should start at 2B. He went 6 for 14 with three RBI. Walker's D has not been terrible and he really brings the offense some much needed OPS.

3. Bullpen: So far Jim Hendry's moves have paid off. Scott Eyre and Bob Howry have been solid, but it is too early to give the final verdict.

So, the Cubs are off to a 4-1 start and that is good. We all know better and should be very careful before we buy into the Cubs winning ways. The worst thing that could happen is for us to sweep the Cardinals and then go and get swept by the Reds.

Enjoy the win today and the Cubs have the another day off, so it will be sweet for two days. Enjoy your Monday.

Guarded Optimism

The Cubs win 3-2 yesterday. It was the first game that I have missed all year, mainly because I drove back to Alabama last night right behind all of kinds of storms.
When I arrived home, I found out that my parents were without power and they are still without power as I sit to write this.
I was forced to watch the game on my phone because I was running around doing things and I left my XM radio receiver back in Arkansas.
Looks like the defense was less than stellar and it led to two runs for the Cards.
The Cubs get all their offense via the home run. A 2-run shot by Michael Barrett and a solo by Derrek Lee.
The Cubs take a series from the Cardinals with one game to go. That is the good news.
Are we better than I thought? Our defense says no. Can we still compete with this group? Well, if Maddux is that sharp all year, then we just got a guy that could win 18-20 games, but you have to think he will not be that sharp each time out.
The Cubs improve to 3-1 on the season and have a chance to sweep St. Louis on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. That sounds all well and good, but the Cubs are running a guy that has not pitched about AA. Sean Marshall will toe the rubber against Accused felon Sidney Ponson.
I have a cautious optimism right now. Sure, I love winning as much as the next guy. We have to remember a couple things. First, Dusty “Double Switch” Baker is still running the team. He is a move away each game to sending us to a blue flag day.
Second, the Cubs still have major holes. Jacque Jones has not at all so far and the rotation is very, very, very suspect. Geldon Rusch and Jerome Williams are in the rotation. Then, we have a rookie that has not pitched above AA. Did I say that already? Yes, but I thought it deserved another mention.
Third, the Cubs were 10-6 against the Cardinals last year. The Cardinals were the best team in the National League last season, but somehow our band of misfits was able to take 10 from them. The problem was we could not beat the teams that we should have beaten.
Fourth, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood are another injury away from really leaving us in a big hole. If we get the DL Twins back, they need to be able to say on the roster. That means no more trips to the DL for a back spasm or Marcus Giles running over a pitcher. The Cubs can’t rush these two back and see them make two or three more trips to the rehab clinic down the street.
Fifth, Dusty Baker is still the manager right now. I know I already said this as the first point, but come on he really deserves two. Yesterday the Cubs get lucky and Neifi “Bloop single” Perez gets three hits. This will only encourage Dusty even more and might even make the Cubs deal a better play in Walker. God I hope not, but anything can happen.
That being said, enjoy this moment right now. We are 3-1 and I did not see that coming.
Spring always brings new hope and right now there is plenty to go around.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Home Opener Game Log

After so much fun of the Opening Day Game Log, I have rallied the troops for another one for the home opener. If the news I have heard is correct, I am already not feeling good. First Neifi Perez is playing second. If that is not bad enough, he is batting second. Nothing like a move that makes no sense to start the day for us as fans.
Well, check back soon as the game gets started.
I just saw the slogan of the WGN pregame special, "Next Year is here." It is true that we have a new season, but I can't imagine that the Cubs will win a World Series with the misfits running the team.

Is anyone else scared about the wind? I know I am, Maddux + wind = Pujals' home runs.

1:02 p.m. The lineups are introduced and my nightmare was true. Neifi is batting second. Why GOD Why? It just makes no sense.

1:07 p.m. Another solid performance by P.A. announcer Wayne Messmer. Good to see he is in midseason form.

1:21 p.m. TOP 1: Well, here we go and Greg Maddux delivers a strike. Hey, Hey, Nice play by Jones tracking down a fly ball by David Eckstein. Okay, this is a little nice to see. Two nice defensive plays to start the game. Now if we can only get this Pujols guy. We get another great stat; Maddux was 10-5 on the road and 3-10 on the road. Yet, Dusty goes with Greg at home, when he could have pitched him on the road. Pujols makes contact, my heart races, whew....just a lazy fly to Pierre to end the inning.

1:25 p.m. BOTTOM 1: A weak at bat by Pierre to start the Cubs half of the first. While he will make contact, he needs to be like Willie Mays Hayes and start legging them out. We get a piece of info I did not need, Perez is wearing four layers today. That will slow him down just enough for Neifi to go 0-for-4. Dusty will say that was the reason for the poor day and not the fact he just can't hit. Big surprise Neifi is retired. One more thing, Len just said he wanted Neifi in the game for defense. That is fine, but why bat him No. 2 then? Woo Hoo; Derrek Lee just mashed a ball over the fence. Just think if the Cubs had somebody that could get on base. Aramis quickly grounds out. Cubs lead 1-0.

1:34 p.m. TOP 2: Ah, nothing like retiring Jim Edmonds on a cue shot to Maddux. Looks like Scott Rolen is all they way back as he doubles down the line in left. So Taguchi is just So Taguchi, sorry could not help my self. Taguchi retired and Rolen moves to third. Now, here is where the Cubs have had trouble in the past. Last year it seemed we gave up too many hits with two outs. Maddux falls behind the catcher 3-0. Greg is able to work the count full and he got him with a strikeout on the corner. A little bit of emotion by Maddux, nice to see. Cubs still lead 1-0.

1:44 p.m. B2: Jones still hitless as a Cub. That was a great pickup by Jim Hendry and he is getting a contract extension. My new favorite Cub Matt Murton is up. After two quick outs by Barrett and Jones, Murton takes a pitch. At-a-boy. I might just have to run over to an online shop and pick up a No. 19 jersey. My love my Murton continues, that is two two-out walks he has drawn this year. I didn't think anybody on our team knew what a two-out walk was. The other rookie, Ronny Cedeno triples to right and now Ronny is my second favorite Cub. Just goes to show you what a good approach can do you at the plate. Cubs lead 2-0.

1:52 p.m. T3: Madduz retires the Cards 1-2-3 in the third. Maddux looks much better so far. A key for him is keeping the ball down and he is doing that. I am sure he can't match his numbers from his prime, but if he can get closer to a 4.00 ERA, he might win 15 games or so.

1:57 p.m. B3: A key inning here for the Cubs, the top of the order is up. Pierre just bounced to Rolen. The WGN scoreboard is brought to us by 24. What a great show. I wonder how Jack is going to save us again this year. Jeez, Perez just dumps a single into center. All of our runs have come with two-outs. Suppan looks like he wants no piece of Lee the second time around as he falls behind 3-0. Lee walks and brings up Aramis. On a side note, I just lost Aramis for two weeks on my diamond mind league team. That is going to hurt, but he can make up for it with a 3-run bomb. Wow, a rare mistake by Eckstein as he threw the ball into centerfield. Now Larussa walks a guy that is 0-for-7 on the year to load the bases. Another reason I don't like Tony. Jones has not smelled a hit and you give him a free pass. Barrett just missed a haning pitch and now is behind 1-2. Barrett makes Tony pay with a single up the middle. Cubs lead 4-0 and the bases are still loaded with one-out. Here comes my favorite Cub and if he hits a grand slam I will start the Official Matt Murton fan club. Damn, he bounces into a double play. Still, he drew a two-out walk and I can't stay mad at him.

2:12 p.m. T4: Cedeno gets lucky and does not get charged wtih an error. Does anybody believe Pujols is really 26? He might be, but damn he is already so good, it just is not fair. Pujols just missed a double and I mean just missed. Maddux gets Pujols to lift a ball in the air and he is retired for a second time. Wow. the wind knocks a ball down that looked like a 2-run home run, and then Matt Murton makes a great throw to double off Juan Encarnacion. Okay, you can send off your Murton fan club entires to 121 Kimberly Cir Apt #126, El Dorado, AR 71730. I just got off the phone with fellow Cub's blogger Scott Lange and he will be the Vice-President of the Murton fan club. Things are starting well. We still need more officers and you can apply in the comments.

2:21 p.m. B4: The wind is playing havoc with players. Cedeno picks up a double and now is a home run and a single shy of the cycle. Damn, Pierre almost lays down the squeeze. The Cards had no chacne to get Ronny, but the bunt goes foul. Instead, Pierre ropes a ball into to right witht he infield in and picks up his first RBI of the season. Cubs lead 5-0. Dusty is the luckiest player in the world. He has two hits and both are as weak of hits I have ever seen. Another scored update by Jack Bauer as Lee walks to the plate. Did anybody see the twist coming on Monday at the end? I did not, if you don't know what I am talking about, then go watch 24 right after the game. Lee bounces into a double play, but the Cubs extend the lead.

2:27 p.m. T5: Len just said that Jason Isringhausen is the most underrated close in the game. Well, that might be true in real life, but I scored six runs off Izzy last night to beat my rival and friend Jay McPhillips in our diamond mind league. I scored 9 runs in the final two innings. Maddux has been spotted a five run lead, so this inning is very key for the Cubs. Rolen draws a lead off walk. Well, kill that rally by the Cards, as that double play was So Taguchi. Cue the laugh track. Maddux with another quick inning and already looks better than anytime last season.

2:34 p.m. B5: Ramirez ropes a ball to right for a single. Jones is still hitless after his strikes out on three pitches. Jones has to be moved in the order until he starts hitting. The Cubs leave Murton on deck after a double play off the bat of Barrett. Cubs still lead 5-0.

2:43 p.m. T6: Maddux gets Aaron Miles to bounce to short. John Rodriguez comes in as Jeff Supan's day is over. Maddux gets some help from the wind as it is blowing in. With two-outs, Eckstein is up and he lifts a ball into right for a two-out hit. Looks like Maddux might have tweaked sometihng on the mound. That is all we need is another pitcher that goes down. Barrett came out to talk, but no trainers. I think Maddux may be done as he gets Encarnacion to pop out. Cubs 5, Cards 0.

2:52 p.m. B6: Murton up. How about a home run to kick off the Fan Club. Others way to join, send emails to mattmurtonfanclub at Well, Murton grounds out, but the kid looks strong. Another update by Jack Bauer. Anybody think there might be another mole in CTU/Homeland now? I think so. Maddux ends the inning with a groundout and he still looks odd.

2:58 p.m. T7: Another netscape internet commerical and I already hate them. Who is still going to pay for dial up? Maddux makes his way back to the mound. Bob Howry up in the pen. Pujols pops up for the third time. Finally the Cards get on the board after Edmonds hammers a ball into the right field bleachers. Maddux does not have an answer for Rolen today, 2B and two walks. Maddux's day is done and Howry is coming on. Taguchi gets ahead 2-0 and then pops a ball to second. Jones makes up for his bad day at the plate with a great catch in right to end the 7th.

3:13 p.m. B7: The Cubs have not really put together a good offensive inning since the fourth. This has been a proble with the Cubs in the past few years. Perez gets to second after a gift hop that makes the ball bounce over Pujols. Neifi gets credit for a double. A three-hit day for Perez, is the world about to end? This means he might get more starts over Walker. I am sure Dusty will say, "We love the way Neifi hits. He brings so much to our club." Cubs fail to score again, but still lead 5-1.

3:20 p.m. T8: Dusty leaves Howry out to start the 8th and rings up Miles to start the inning. Scott Spiezio up for the Cards and he leaves on strikes. Well, we spent enough on Howry, so we need to get our money's worth. Great inning by Howry and the Cub pen already looks better than 2005. Cubs still lead 5-1.

3:30 p.m. B8: Jones gets a gift when Encarnacion dropped the ball, but gets thrown out tyring to reach second. Jones is now 0-for-9 with a base running mistake and one good catch. Murton fan club memberships still stand at two, but we welcome more members. Don't forget mattmurtonfanclub at More info will be sent out soon. Damn, he grounds out, but still Cubs lead 5-1 to the 9th.

3:33 p.n. T9: WGN shows up some more highlights of 24. Really people, run don't walk and pick up the first four seasons of 24. Then, find a way to see this season's stuff. You will love it, trust me. Ryan Dempster is on to close the game out. He will face Encarnacion, Pujols and Edmonds. A little Bud Light fan cam time with the Bud Light daredevil guy making a cameo. Pujols up now, 0-for-3 on the day. Any day you keep Pujols off the bases is a good day. Ryan gives Albert a little chin music and then Aramis makes a nice stab to give Albert a nice 0-for-4 day. Come on Ryan, lets finish this thing off. Dempster looks great as he strikes out Edmonds.

Maddux is the winning pitcher and all is good in Chicago for at least one more day. I have to run and cover my own game, but look for more this weekend.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Opening Day Game Log

What a great day for Opening Day Baseball. Hope is alive and well for all teams at this point. I will have a running log of today's action as the Cubs take on the Reds. Ok, more in a few minutes.

First Pitch- The Cubs and Reds get to see President Bush throw out the first pitch. Bush shows the Reds love with wearing a team jacket. Come on, you want my vote, then at least go neutral. His pitch makes it across the pitch, but it is wide and outside.

It is about time......Lets get 2006 Started

1:31 p.m.: Aaron Harang's first pitch is right down the middle for a strike to start the season. How about that, Juan Pierre triples to start the season. Todd Walker follows that with a double. Eat your heart out Jim and Dusty. This is the reason Walker needs to play everyday. Walker has a 0-2 count and slaps the ball down the left field line. Cubs 1-0 with no outs. Derrek Lee walks and still no outs for the Cubs. This is something I could get used to. Aramis dumps a single into left and the bases are loaded. Jones steps up and we are about to see if another off-season move pays off for the Cubs. He quickly is down 0-1 after swinging at a ball. Jones slaps the ball to left and Dunn drops the ball for an error. Cubs 2-0 and still no outs. Reds catch a break as they double off Barrett and Ramirez. Holy Cow, Matt Murton just hit a 2-out 3-run home run. Cubs up 5-0, what a start to 2006. Ronny Cedeno pops out to end the inning, but still Cubs 5-0.

1:45 p.m.: Carlos Zambrano on the mound and he opens the game with a walk to Cub Killer Tony Womack. Not a great start after your team spots you five runs. Lopez follows the walk with a single to right. As soon as we get our hopes up, the Cubs bring us back to earth. Wow, a walk to Ken Griffey Jr. and now the bases are loaded with no outs. Adam Dunn and his all or nothing swing steps to the plate. Pierre's bad arm allows all runners to tag and advance on Dunn's sac fly. Pierre's arm might be a little of a problem this year. Zambrano gets a big strikeout with runners at second and third. One more out and Carlos gets out of a major jam. Scott Hatteberg draws a walk to load the bases again. Again, I am worried this year might be the year Carlos finally breaks down. How he has not done so yet, is beyond me, the way Dusty and Larry abuse pitchers. Austin Kearns up as Zambrano is at 28 pitches and counting. We are reminded that Carlos could not get out of Opening Day last year with a big lead. That is probably going to be the case today as he rakes up more pitches. Matt Murton is now my favorite Cub after his leaping grab to save at least two runs and get the Cubs out of the first inning. Cubs 5-1.

1:54 p.m.: After the great start, the Cubs go down in order in the second. This is more like the Cubs I know.

2:02 p.m.: Pierre makes a nifty catch to start the Red's half of the second. Harang goes down swinging, nice to see Carlos bounce back. Terrible defense by Jones allows Womack to double with two-outs. This is a key at bat for Big Z. Felipe Lopez led all short stops with home runs last year. Lopez gets a swinging bunt and Barrett retires him to end the inning. Well, so far so good, but I would like to see about two more runs in the top of the third for the Cubs.

2:05 p.m.: After some nice at bats early, the Cubs have really failed to put together much since the first. Looks like Baseball Tonight could just have Web Gems from this game. Dunn makes a nice grab to rob Jones of extra bases.

2:12 p.m. Griffey grounds out and then Dunn busts a bat for a single. If there is one guy you can say that is not on steroids it has to be Dunn. I man, he is huge, but it looks all natural. Carlos getting in more trouble after another walk to put two runners on with one out. That is four walks and the Reds finally make the Cubs pay. Hatteberg hammers a ball to right for a 3-run home run. Cubs 5-4 with one out and so it begins. Carlos comes back strong to strikeout Kearns. You get the feeling this is going to be a 10-9 type of game.

2:25 p.m. Barrett gets the fourth inning started with a double. It would be nice for the Cubs to respond here. Murton's day can't be perfect as he bounces back to the pitcher. Well, the leadoff double does nothing and the Cubs still lead 5-4. The dark cloud is starting to hang over us.

2:35 p.m. Womack finally is retire in the game. The Cubs turn a nifty double play to end the inning

2:45 p.m. Pierre almost reaches on a bunt, but gets thrown out on a nice play. Todd Walk doubles for the second time today. Cough*Dusty play Todd all the time*cough. Oh sorry I had something stuck. I doubt Lee gets much to hit here. Cubs leave two more on base, but still hold a 5-4 lead.

2:50 p.m. Dunn leaves the yard in a hurry to tie the game. Dusty makes a crazy double switch in fifth inning. How do you burn your starting RF in the fifth? Only Dusty knows. Second year in a row that Carlos has been staked a big lead and will not get the win.

3:28 p.m. The Cubs are scoring runs in bunches now and Todd Walker is showing all that he is the second baseman. Five straight hits for the Cubs and they are up 9-5. Lee doubles off the wall to score another run. Even Neifi Perez getting into the action now with a RBI single. The Cubs are up 11-5. The Cubs have the bases loaded and not outs yet recorded. The Cubs have batted around in the sixth. Barrett bounces into a double play, but another run scores. I love Murton, up 12-5 and he takes a walk.

3:40 p.m. Oh good god. Dusty is killing me. First off, he doubles switches again and pulls Walker out of the game. Then, Scott Williamson comes on and loads the bases. Scott Eyre comes in and earns his millions today as he only gives up one run with the bases loaded. Not a bad first outing.

3:54 p.m. So, all three secondbasemen get a hit today. Dusty looks smart to some, but we all know better. Lee draws a third walk and looks to be in midseason form with his eye at the plate. Cubs fail to score, but still lead 12-6 heading to the bottom of the 7th inning.

4:09 p.m. Bottom of the 7th: After the great start by Eyre, he walks the leadoff guy. That is eight walks too many for the Cubs. Great diving play by Ramirez, but he can't Kearns. The Reds have something brewing with two on and no out. Wow, a ball dropped ball by Derrek Lee and the Cubs only get one out. The Error leads to a walk to Ryan Freel and now the bases are loaded. It looks like the other high priced reliever Bob Howry might be called on, but Dusty stays with Eyre. A sac fly cuts the lead to 12-7 with two outs. Wow, a late called strike three gets the Cubs out of the 7th inning.

4:20 p.m. Adam Dunn gets some load cheers as he finally tracks down a fly ball in left. Okay, Murton takes a pitch the other way with two strikes. I am buying my Murton jersey later this week. John Maybry makes his Cubs debut and is retire. Cubs lead 12-7.

4:29 p.m. Howry comes in and gives up a single to Griffey to start the 8th. Ok, Dusty gets lucky as Hairston snags a ball off the bat of Dunn. Howry settles down and gets the final two batters. To the 9th and the good guys still lead 12-7.

4:40 p.m. Cubs load the bases in the 9th after an error allows Hairston to reach first on a sac bunt. Lee just misses a grand slam, but picks up a RBI on the sac fly. Cubs up 13-7. Niefi up and he could really get off to a good start with a hit, but he bounces into a fielder's choice. Score another run 14-7. Ok, I would love to stay for the final out, but I have to head to my game. I will post my comments and thoughts on day one later. Go Cubs get three more outs.

Opening Day Is Here!

And not a moment too soon. Last Friday night's trade that netted us 25th man Freddie Bynum has officially set the roster. For one last time, let's look at the group the Cubs are gonna throw out there, broken down by group...

Starting Lineup
CF Juan Pierre
2B Todd Walker
1B Derrek Lee
3B Aramis Ramirez
RF Jacque Jones
C Mike Barrett
LF Matt Murton
SS Ronny Cedeno

The Bench
C Hank White
1B/OF John Mabry
2B/OF Jerry Hairston
IF Neifi Perez
OF Angel Pagan
UT Freddie Bynum

Starting Rotation
#1 Carlos Zambrano
#2 Glendon Rusch
#3 Greg Maddux
#4 Sean Marshall
#5 TBD

CL Ryan Dempster
SU Bobby Howry
SU Scott Eyre
MR Scott Williamson
MR Will Ohman
MR Michael Wuertz
MR Jerome Williams

AAA Guys who could see action soon
SP Jae-Kuk Ryu
SP Rich Hill
SP Angel Guzman
MR David Aardsma
OF Michael Restovich
IF Ryan Theriot
1B Brandon Sing

SP Mark Prior
SP Kerry Wood
SP Wade Miller

We'll see where this group takes us. I'm so ready for the games to begin!


Saturday, April 01, 2006

2006 Quick Look

We are only a day away for the start of the 2006 Major League Baseball season. Usually the excitement is boiling over as I wait for opening day, but that is not quite the case in 2006.
We all know the Cubs problems and everybody has beaten them to death. The good news over the past week is that one Dusty player (Grissom) has retired. So, that means Matt Murton should get plenty of at bats to show what he can do.
As it is every year the Cubs success will be in large part to the health of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. Like every year, our best pitchers are heading to the DL. Just once I would like to be healthy heading into the season, but I guess that is the lot of a Cub fan.
So, onto the predictions.
1. Toronto
2. New York
3. Boston
4. Baltimore
5. Tampa Bay

I think the Blue Jays are much better and they spent enough money to be better. I think the Yankees are a couple injuries from serious trouble. The Red Sox are not as good as the past few years. The O's and Rays could surprise people this year.

1. Cleveland
2. Chicago
3. Minnesota
4. Detroit
5. Kansas City

It is hard to pick against the World Champs, but I really think the Indians are ready to rule this division. They have youth everywhere and quality pitching. I think this might be the best two teams in the AL. Minnesota still has the best pitcher in the game and some young hitters. Detroit might be the surprise team this year. Kansas City, well it might be a long year.

1. Los Angeles
2. Oakland
3. Seattle
4. Texas

This is a wide-open race. My picks could be totally wrong. I could see Texas win this thing just as easy as the Angels. I just think the Angels have the best combination of pitching and offense.

1. Atlanta
2. New York
3. Philadelphia
4. Washington
5. Florida

Until the Braves lose, I will never pick against them again.

1. St. Louis
2. Milwaukee
3. Chicago
4. Houston
5. Cincinnati
6. Pittsburgh

How I would love to pick the Cubs, but I just don't see it. The Cardinals still have enough offense and pitching to win. I may just become a Brewers fan. The reason is they should be so fun to watch. The Cubs could contend, but until we get rid of Dusty and his band of idiot men, it will not happen.

1. San Diego
2. Los Angeles
3. San Francisco
4. Arizona
5. Colorado

Who really knows how this division is going to turn out. It looked like the winner of this division was going to have a losing record, but it did not turn out that way. The Dodges are improved, but I think the Padres are ready to repeat.

AL Wild Card: White Sox
NL Wild Card: Mets

AL Winner: Cleveland
NL Winner: Mets

World Series Champions: Cleveland

NL Central Preview

The 2006 Baseball season gets underway tomorrow night, and for Cubs fans, the action gets underway Monday afternoon when Carlos Zambrano will take the mound in Cincinnati against Aaron Harang. The off-season moves have been beaten to death by Cub fans and media alike, and I’m just ready to get to some games that mean something. Rather than continue to do that, I thought I’d run down the way I view the teams in the NL Central and make my best guess as to how the teams will finish.

*Cubs – I’m not sure what I can add here that hasn’t been beaten to death ad nauseum before. The Cubs have some hitting talent with Pierre at the top of the order and Lee/Ramirez in the middle. What we get out of Murton and the 4-man middle IF monster of Neifi/Cedeno/Walker/Hairston will determine if we’re a good offense or just an average one. On the flip side, what we get out of Prior/Wood will determine whether we have one of the better rotations in the league, or one of the worst. We start the season with one of the worst..sorry to say. Also the bullpen has to be better. Can Howry/Eyre help that, or will they the be 2 more in the line of Cubs’ FA signing busts?

*Reds – I’ve always had sort of a soft spot in my heart for Cincinnati, but they’re not good at all. Sure, Adam Dunn is a big league hitter, but after that it’s quite murky. Can Griffey and Kearns stay healthy? Can Ryan Freel rebound off his awful spring? Why in god’s name are they starting Hatteberg? I do like their young 3B Encarnacion… but he’s not going to be enough. Their pitching is even worse. Aaron Harang is about the only pitcher on the staff who I think would make the Cubs pitching better, and that’s saying something. Arroyo? Yuck. Claussen? No thanks. Paul Wilson/Eric Milton? Puke. Their bullpen is a disaster too..with Cubs rejects such as David Weathers and Kent Mercker being counted on to provide quality innings. Don’t hold your breath Reds fans, and for God sakes, look out below.

*Astros – Will Roger Clemens come back to the team? If the answer is no, I just don’t see them being all that good. Sure they still have Oswalt and Pettitte at the front of the rotation, but the back 3 are Brandon Backe, Wandy Rodriguez, and Ezequiel Astacio. That’s a 5th starter, and 2 raw arms who didn’t exactly impress in spot duty last season. The bullpen should be pretty solid with Backe, Qualls, and Wheeler finishing out games. Jeff Bagwell is all but gone, and Craig Biggio might be in his final season. The killer B’s are just about at the end of the line. Of course there’s a new Killer B in Lance Berkman who leads the offense. For them to be successful, he has to stay healthy. Morgan Ensberg will need to duplicate his 2005 success for the Astros to go far.

*Brewers – The Brew Crew is definitely the youngest team in the division. ¾ of their Infield are under the age of 25, with Cecil’s boy getting the nod at 1B this year, with 2nd year guys JJ Hardy and Rickie Weeks up the middle. All have the potential to be regular all-stars. The corner OF spots are manned by 2 former All-Stars in Carlos Lee and Geoff Jenkins. Jenkins was one of the best hitters in the NL in the 2nd half of the year last year. I really like their offense. If Ben Sheets can get past his latest shoulder setback (expected to keep him on the shelf until mid-April), then their rotation will be pretty good as well. Sheets joins 2005 surprises Doug Davis and Chris Capuano in the rote along with one of the hottest pitchers of the spring, former Blue Jay Dave Bush. If Derrick Turnbow closes games even remotely well as he did last year, Milwaukee could have something.

*Pirates – This offseason the Pirates made a conscious decision to go with youth in regards to their pitching staff, and I think it was a good idea. Youngsters Paul Maholm and Ian Snell will join 2nd year man Zach Duke and the enigmatic Oliver Perez in the Pirates rotation. Closing games for Pittsburgh will be hard throwing lefty Mike Gonzalez. I like him a lot, and think he has some serious potential. Pittsburgh decided there was no point in paying for retread pitchers when their kids could do just as well or better for a heck of a lot less money. However, Pittsburgh did not apply this strategy to their offense. Signed to a 5M/1yr contract was Jeromy Burnitz. Beernuts isn’t anything special anymore, as his 2005 Cubs campaign proved, and he’s getting paid a heck of a lot more than Craig Wilson when both could likely have produced about the same. It looked like Pittsburgh was finally going to give Big Brad Eldred a chance this year. Sure he strikes out a lot, but man does that guy have power. Instead, they decided to send Dave Williams (a serviceable pitcher for sure) to Cincy for Sean Casey and his bloated contract. So now Eldred is blocked, and small market Pittsburgh is paying Casey 8 million dollars this year for him to hit .280 with no power. But he’s a character guy! I don’t wanna hear it when they cry poor after making moves like that one.

*Cardinals – Oh, the Cards. They got Rolen back for a full season (they hope), so that’s an upgrade. They’re replacing Matt Morris in the rotation with Sidney Ponson. That’s not an upgrade. They added Braden Looper to the pen. He’s an upgrade. They replaced Reggie Sanders and Larry Walker with Larry Bigbie and Juan Encarnacion. That’s not an upgrade. They replaced Grudz at 2B with Junior Spivey. That’s not an upgrade. I don’t think this year’s team is as good as last years at all. But they still have phat Albert, Edmonds, Rolen, Carpenter, Mulder, Izzy, and LaRussa. That will probably be enough.

Projected order of finish…

1. Cards
2. Brewers
3. Cubs
4. Astros
5. Pirates
6. Reds

Flip flop the Brewers and Cubs if we get more than 50 combined starts out of Wood and Prior. If we get less than 25..flip flop the Cubs and Astros. The Cardinals are ripe for the taking this year, I just don’t think any other team in the division has the talent to do it. No WC out of this division this season either.