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?

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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.

Writing About The Unwritten Rules

I’m worried. Is the first rule of the Unwritten Rules that you don’t talk about the Unwritten Rules?

There’s a bit o talk in Wrigleyville today about these rules. Stealing bases with a big lead, or – a hit and run with the PITCHER at the plate and a big lead are not things that you often see in baseball. Usually because that team’s best hitter gets a nice 90+ mph fastball up around the chin during the next game. I think that penalty is required by the Unwritten Rules. It’s especially strange to see a well-respected former player turned manager as the villain in this story – Don Mattingly.

Of course, nothing in life worth talking about is ever that simple. How many runs is a safe lead? Do teams ever really give up when down by a certain number of runs? Especially when the losing team starts putting bench players in – guys who are trying to make the MOST of ANY situation – in that perpetual cycle of trying to earn more playing time.

On the radio this morning (ESPN-1000) they were talking about Whiteyball – the game-changing combination of speed, defense and VERY little power – from Herzog’s Cardinals of the early 1980’s. An anecdote was given about teams accusing Herzog of stealing bases with a big lead. The gist of Herzog’s alleged response: as soon as the other team stops trying to hit home runs to catch up, we’ll stop stealing bases – because that’s how WE score runs.

It’s hard to argue with that. The goal is to win baseball games, and if it looks like you’re running up the score – you’re going to take some flak. But if you take your foot off the pedal, and give up the lead? Ouch. Much, much worse. I have no problem with Mattingly ensuring a win for his team.

That being said. There are degrees of offense in the Unwritten Rules. MOST people would agree that a hit and run with the pitcher at the plate and a big lead probably crosses the line. Frankly, that’s a bit too much, Donny.

But, the Unwritten Rules are not written in stone… obviously. Ultimately, these are professionals, and every team is going to lose big a few times during the season. Suck it up, and get ready for the next day. It’s part of the game.

Of course, a 90+ mph fastball under the chin of a batter whose team was thought to be running up the score the previous day – is also a time honored part of the game.

Play Ball!

4 Car Pileup in the Center Lane

Sometimes, during the course of a 162 game season, you’re going to have days where you feel you should have won but didn’t. Frustrating and Maddening days. When they happen, all you can do is try and remember days like yesterday – when you get a win you probably didn’t earn.

I had to triple check this morning that the Cubs split the double-header yesterday – because I wasn’t entirely sure after listening to the games yesterday. Garza pitched well until his last inning – when he decided to make things interesting. Both teams attempted to give the game to the other team. However, between Garza and the bullpen, the Cubs walked 9 batters from the 6th inning on. Holy Cow. The Padres couldn’t have been very happy, they were given many, many opportunities to take the lead and bring in the highly skilled Heath Bell. The Pads got enough hitting to win game two – which was a pretty good game, considering the Quade Bullpen Special was starting just an hour after an extra-innings affair.

The Padres have OUTSTANDING pitching and RIDICULOUS speed, more than enough to keep them in each and every game. I’m pretty confident that they’ll get enough hitting from this lineup to contend. They can’t all continue to slump for the entire year. Of course that’s what I thought last year about the Cubs, but I digress. I’ve seen way too much of Ludwick in the division – I KNOW he’ll turn it around. And he started in game 2.

The Cubs were extremely fortunate to come away with a series victory – thanks to Reed Johnson coming out of nowhere to hit a walk off homerun in the 11th. A timely contribution from an unlikely source. Good times. Reeeeeeeeeeed!

Some other good notes – Garza pitched 5 excellent innings. Soto cut down 4 of 5 runners in the second game (after waving them through the turnstiles in the first game), and pitchers in the bullpen not named Samardzija pitched relatively well – throwing strikes.

Don’t look now, but there is a four car pileup in the Central. With two more cars looking to join the mayhem. A four way tie for first… at 9-9. With two more teams within two games. Yikes. We’ve played some up and down baseball, but we’re right in this thing. And most importantly – a series win is a series win.

Bring on the Dodgers!

Let’s Play Two!

A Day-Night doubleheader in the Frozen Confines today! Hopefully they can get both games in.

Garza, from SoCal by way of Tampa (and Minnesota to be fair) will start the first game, before the temperatures dip even further… and the Quade bullpen special will start the second game. Russell, a Texas native, who had an extremely odd outing in his first major league start, will get his chance at redemption – in the freezing night game. Tough luck kid. We’re rooting for you (even if you don’t see too many brave Inuit in the stands).

Holy crap, Q. Where’s the Canadian Dempster?

Should be a long, cold, EXCITING day!

GlassHalfFull:
Let’s make this the last day of the season we aren’t above .500. Wooooooooo!

2011 Winter Classic

The Cubs beat the Padres 1-0 in the 2011 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field last night. In the shootout, Marmol stopped four shooters and Colvin beat Qualls with a wicked top-shelf glove-side wrist shot.

alg_winterclassic2.jpg

Wait, that was baseball? With temperatures in the 20s? Yikes.

Polar Bear Zambrano, he of the short sleeves, has officially earned his reprieve from my regular Zambrano Watch with the best starting performance for the Cubs this year. 8 innings, 3 hits, 1 walk, 10 strikeouts. No decision, but that’s because…

Wrigley is a hitters ballpark, except, you know, when it’s not. Like last night. When the wind blows straight in at 10-15 mph, and it’s too cold to hold the bat, it’s a pitchers ballpark. The Padres should feel right at home… except for that snow of course.

Colvin’s pinch-hit walk-off double in the tenth may be FAR more important than a single win in April might suggest. Colvin has the raw talent to be an important piece of the Cubs for a long time, but now that the NL pitchers have adjusted to him – he has to adapt. When a rook starts knocking the ball around, teams start to look for a weakness. And when they find it, the entire league exploits it mercilessly, until the hitter adapts. If he adapts. The difference between a ‘AAAA’ hitter and a big league hitter is whether they can adjust. Last night may just give him the confidence that he needs to muscle his way back into the lineup. I’m pretty confident he will. Colvin will be solid. Which brings us to…

The Castro. Castro could be that extremely rare, truly elite hitter. Castro is frightening in that he has so far befuddled the attempts of the opposition to find a weakness. He uses the whole field and while he wants to hit more home runs, he takes what the pitcher gives him – and doesn’t swing for the fences on each pitch. The Castro is exciting to watch.

Congrats again to Zambrano, who appears to have thus far forced the Bad Z into remission. I’m a big fan Z. Keep it up, but…

smiley-barney-eyes.gif

I’m watching you. We need you, big Z.