Sunday, July 31

Diamondbacks @ Cubs, 2.20pm ET

C. Counsell, 2b .265
C. Tracy, rf .296
L. Gonzalez, lf .281
T. Clark, 1b .328
T. Glaus, 3b .255
S. Green, cf .289
R. Clayton, ss .267
C. Snyder, c .216
B. Webb, p .056

J. Hairston Jr, cf .264
T. Walker, 2b .291
D. Lee, 1b .359
J. Burnitz, rf .275
A. Ramirez, 3b .311
J. Gerut, lf .083
N. Perez, ss .266
M. Barrett, c .275
G. Maddux, p .222

ARI: RHP Brandon Webb • 8-8, 4.11 ERA in 2005 • 1-0, 3.38 ERA vs. CHC in 2005
CHC: RHP Greg Maddux • 8-7, 4.41 ERA in 2005 • 0-1, 9.00 ERA vs. ARI in 2005

maddux smile
Baby Ruth! Baby Ruth!

Maddux died like Houdini this afternoon, failing to escape the 5th Inning paper bag, and so condemned the Cubs to their 3rd defeat of the Diamondbacks series.

Arizona catcher Snyder hit a pair of HRs, Luis Gonzalez imitated Snyder with 2 of his own, and Tony "I used to be well-known" Clark slammed another one as the Cubs fell 13-6.

On the brighter side, 6 Cubs got an RBI, and Woo Woo got that 7th inning box of Cracker Jack that he always wanted.

Enough of this tomfoolery.

The Cubs traded for OF Matt Lawton from the Pirates, tossing Jody Gerut to the Steel City in return. This, in my opinion, is an excellent trade. Batting .280-ish for the season, his OBP is .380-esque, and he can *gasp* LEAD-OFF and PLAY ALL OUTFIELD POSITIONS! (We hope.)

Essentially shipping Jason Dubois for Matt Lawton, we've managed to significantly upgrade our starting lineup with the final everyday-player piece of the puzzle. Our bench will be stronger with the return of Hollandsworth/Hairston Jr./Murton to it more permanently, and with the Friday return of Nomar, RP Scott Williamson AND Kerry Wood, we'll be in like some kind of Flynn.

Possible Starting Lineup and Batting Order
CF Lawton
2B Hot-Rodd Todd Walker
SS Nomahh
1B MVLee
RF Burnitz
3B A-Ram Ramirez
C Barrett
LF Murton/Hollandsworth
P Pitchy McPitcherson

That, my friends, would be superb. It keeps a sense of stability to the order, and our bench and pitching looks infinitely better (although far from ideal, but we can persevere):

IF Macias
IF Neifi!
IF/OF Hairston Jr.
C Hank White
OF Murton/Hollandsworth

SP El Torro
SP King Rib
SP Prior
SP Maddux
SP Prince of the Hill

RP K-Wood
RP Williamson
RP Remlin-go home
RP Oh Man
RP Mitray
RP Bum Rusch
RP Novoahh
CP Dumpster

There'll be more on this when I'm more coherent and less full of the Harpoon sacrament.

In short:
1. We lost badly.
2. We stole Lawton from the Steel City Swashbucklers
3. Nomah, K-Wood and Williamson will return on Friday-ish for the Mets series.

Saturday, July 30

Diamondbacks @ Cubs, 4.05pm ET

R. Clayton, ss .265
A. Cintron, 2b .268
L. Gonzalez, lf .282
T. Glaus, 3b .252
S. Green, rf .291
C. Jackson, 1b .000
L. Terrero, cf .253
K. Hill, c .207
M. Gosling, p .000

J. Hairston Jr, cf .268
T. Walker, 2b .292
D. Lee, 1b .363
A. Ramirez, 3b .311
J. Burnitz, rf .275
M. Barrett, c .275
N. Perez, ss .262
M. Murton, lf .469
R. Hill, p .667

ARI: LHP Michael Gosling • 0-2, 4.13 ERA in 2005 • 0-0, 9.00 ERA vs. CHC lifetime
CHC: LHP Rich Hill • 0-0, 4.22 ERA in 2005 • Has never faced ARI

Friday, July 29

Diamondbacks @ Cubs, 2.20pm ET

C. Counsell, 2b .265
C. Tracy, rf .297
L. Gonzalez, lf .280
T. Glaus, 3b .251
T. Clark, 1b .330
S. Green, cf .293
R. Clayton, ss .266
C. Snyder, c .219
J. Vazquez, p .275

J. Hairston Jr, cf .272
N. Perez, ss .263
D. Lee, 1b .364
J. Burnitz, rf .277
T. Walker, 2b .296
M. Murton, lf .483
J. Macias, 3b .281
H. Blanco, c .204
M. Prior, p .231

ARI - J. Vazquez 9-9, 4.37 ERA
CHC - M. Prior 7-3, 3.23 ERA

Today's game had few of the trappings of Hollywood. This afternoon's game could best be characterized as a Kevin Costner movie: 2 hours of unbearable monotony with 10 worthwhile minutes at the end that justify the means.

Prior pitched his way through 7 1/3 innings of reasonably placid baseball, coming undone in the 8th with a 2-RBI single by Troy Glaus that put the Diamondbacks up 3-2 with little baseball left to play. Blanco had put the Cubs up 2-0 in the second after the at-bat of his life: 11 pitches from Vazquez couldn't unfaze Hank, and he slammed the 11th pitch to deepish left field with Macias standing dopily on 2nd at the time.

When the game was on the line, the clutch hits came through. Down 3-2 after Glaus's interjection, Bruney walked Hot-Rodd Todd on a full count. Murton did his part, laying down the sac bunt to move him across to 2nd. Macias took 4 straight balls (an activity which, I'm sure, is not entirely alien to him) after a swinging strike (again, hardly virgin territory, oh wait, this time I'm talking baseball and not making haphazard innuendos) to leave runners on 1st and 2nd, 1 out, and Hank White himself salivating for a chance to bat.

Dusty, in an extremely wise move, nudged the smouldering Barrett to pinch-hit, and he blooped a 1-1 pitch into left field, allowing Walker's pinch-runner, the swift Cedeno, to slide home like so many children before him. In another rare luxury, Baker has A-Ram sitting on the bench and thoughtfully sent him to the plate in lieu of the pitcher Novoa (1 1/3 IP, 0 H, 2 K -- nice work Roberto ). Ramirez worked the count effortlessly to 2-1 and then sent a ripper through the shortstop/2nd base gap for another base hit, and Macias scampered home like a coked-up Nick Nolte behind the wheel of his custom Gremlin.

Cubs win in the bottom of the 9th, and further fulfill LB's desires to see the Cubs win a minimum of 4 games a week wherever possible. 3 Cubs errors in the game (Macias, Hairston, Murton -- head to the Dugout of Shame) and a score of Cubs left on base kept this game close, but this time the Snakes were not about to slither a second straight win out of their counter-attacking approach.

Tomorrow sees phenom Rich Hill curve up against the Goliath-esque Mike Gosling (the veteran with career numbers of 1-3, 4.38 ERA in 17 G and 49 1/3 IP), where we hope for more of the same. Gosling's been steadily improving after a rocky start to the year, with a reasonable last 3 starts:

3 games
17 IP, 18 H, 4 ER, 8 BB, 7 K

However, the hungry Cubs lineup should, if logic still holds any power over Wrigley Field, tear him to shreds. No opposing pitcher should waltz onto our turf, allow that many baserunners and yet come away smelling like reasonably fresh roses (it should be noted those starts were against the Reds, the Marlins and the Brewers, although mentioning that could be to agree or refute my prediction).

Thursday, July 28

Further proof that Baseball Teams read LB

Well, just 5 short hours ago, this red-faced Limey Brooklynite was waxing lyrical about the offensive anemia and bullpen buffoonery that might well characterize the Arizona Diamondbacks throughout this 4-game visit.

And, needless to say, everything I said was contradicted. Nixed. Refuted. Argued. Debated. Debunked. Erased. Eradicated. Clubbed. Struck Out.

The D-Backs staff pitched a 5-hit, 7 K shutout of the clawless Cubs this afternoon, prompting me to hang my head in shame. Furthermore, Williams eked and squeaked his way through 5 1/3 unbearable innings, throwing 120 (!) pitches, allowing only 1 run but walking 4 and striking out 5. He took the loss, and the Quixotic Quartet of Ohman, Rusch, Remlinger and Wuertz combined for 3 2/3 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 5 BB, 5 K (91 pitches, 52 strikes). Lovely work.

The Cubs couldn't really get anything going. Barrett had 2 errors, the Cubs left 7 on base including 5 in scoring position with 2 outs.

2nd Inning: Barrett stranded on 3rd with 2 outs after Neifi flied out to left.
3rd Inning: Murton stranded on 2nd with 1 out after Hairston and Cedeno ground-outs.
7th Inning: Burnitz stranded on 3rd with 1 out after PH Hollandsworth struck out and Hairston pop-out.

It was tough to listen to.

Halsey threw 73 pitches in 6 innings of relatively calm work, although this was padded by a 20-pitch 6th. 53 pitches through 5 innings, 10 per inning! He faced 23 batters with 73 pitches at an average of 3.17 per batter faced, and taking away the 6th inning, that number drops even lower: 53 pitches for 17 batters, 3.11 PBF. Nice work Halsey (former Yank, oh I bet they wish they still had him... see? It's possible to find the silver lining in any shellacking).

Tracy had a solo HR, Luis Gonzalez continued to boil (3-5, HR, 2 RBI), and Shawn Green went 4-4 in the 6-slot.

On to tomorrow. Tomorrow is, after all, another day.

Diamondbacks @ Cubs, 2.20pm ET

C. Counsell, 2b .267
C. Tracy, rf .295
L. Gonzalez, lf .277
T. Glaus, 3b .252
T. Clark, 1b .328
S. Green, cf .286
A. Cintron, ss .271
C. Snyder, c .222
B. Halsey, p .081

J. Hairston Jr, cf .271
R. Cedeno, ss .261
D. Lee, 1b .367
A. Ramirez, 3b .312
M. Barrett, c .273
J. Burnitz, rf .277
N. Perez, 2b .265
M. Murton, lf .481
J. Williams, p .077

ARI: LHP Brad Halsey • 6-7, 4.00 ERA in 2005 • 0-0, 4.50 ERA vs. CHC in career
CHC: RHP Jerome Williams • 3-3, 4.91 ERA in 2005 • 2-1, 4.50 ERA vs. ARI in 2004

I must admit I don't know much about the D-Backs, except that they can slug when they want to. 3-6 in the order can slap their fair share of Home Runs, and have done frequently this season. In the first series of the season, the Diamondbacks pilfered 2 of 3 from our gallant Cubs, despite losing 16-6 in the first (televised) game of the trio. The DL has not been entirely kind to them, with 2 of their top starters (Shawn Estes and Russ Ortiz) and their front-line closer (Brandon Lyon) taking up residence amongst the sick and injured.

However, they are capable of keep up with any team, and the Cubs are no exception.

Over the last 7 days, none of the Arizona Snakes are batting particularly well.

Top D-Backs (last week)
Luis Gonzalez: 8-24, RBI, 6 K
Royce Clayton: 7-26, RBI

The Cubs, conversely, have a number of spry bats in the lineup that should take advantage of a weakened rotation.

Aramis: 10-29, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 6 R
Hairston: 8-25
D. Lee: 7-26, HR, 4 RBI, 4 R
Barrett: 6-23, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R

Prediction: Heck, why not? Cubs take 3 of 4 and whack this wusses right out of town. With Williams, Prior, Hill and Maddux taking on Halsey, Vazquez, Gosling and Webb, there is even the potential for a sweep. Their bullpen is weak, so let's watch anxiously as King Rib takes the mound and hopefully alohas Arizona back to their hotel.

Don't look now...

... but the Cubs are climbing the Wild Card ladder.

Last night the Cubs beat the Giants 4-3 with another Burnitz walk-off RBI in the bottom of the ninth -- his 2nd game-winning swing in 3 games. The game also notched Dempster's 3rd win in 4 games after he kept the Cubbies tied by icing the Giants in the top of the ninth.

So let's check it out. Since the all-star break the Cubs have gone 9-5, and have won all of their series (including what I consider to be a HUGE series against the Cards) except for a 4-game split against the Reds. Had they won one extra game of that series they would be right on the 5-2 pace I tried to set them on over the break. And good things are happening because of it. After Houston completed their sweep of the Phillies yesterday, the Cubs attained the third spot on the wild card list, only 2 games behind Houston and 3 behind Washington. We play Houston in at least two more series this year, so I'm not worried about them, and if the NL East continues to beat up on itself the way it has been, I am not worried about the Nationals (or Braves (or Phillies (or Mets (or Marlins)))) either.

As long as the Cubs keep winning and stay on or at least close to a 5-2 seven game pace.

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not all that crazy I tell you. Nomar is about to come back (2 RBI's last night at Double-C level or wherever they have him playing now) which will give the team a boost. Who knows, maybe we can teach Neifi Perez to play left field? I'd LOVE to keep him in the line-up, especially when Hollandsworth continues to be inconsistent, and it's too early to start Murton or Greenberg every day (also considering that Greenberg has a target drawn on his batting helmet that no one told him about). So all this bodes well for the Cubs in my opinion.

The one thing that worries me? Pitching. When I suggested "Lingering Bursitis" for the name of this blog, I never thought it would actually be THAT pertinent of a name. I wish it hadn't been. I wish it had remained a good-fun poke at Kerry Wood's early season woes. But this the end of July and it's time to get serious! We don't have time for jokes anymore!!! Seriously, not having Kerry Wood healthy hurts the Cubs, and while I could rant about how much it pisses me off that he is such a pink triangle this year, I won't. If Wood does indeed move to the bullpen when he gets back, I'd like to see them put Rusch back in the rotation. He did great this year as a starter, and I don't have anything against Rich Hill, but we'll make more of a decision on him after his next start. The same goes for Jerome Williams today in my book.

At any rate, I suppose the best thing is to keep taking it one game at a time, starting today against Arizona. Williams (3-3) for the Cubs vs. Halsey (6-7) for the D-backs.

Oh, and I have a special liking for sarcasm, so let's hope that I have the power all sports-commentators possess -- the power of jinxing a team or player simply by pointing things out or talking about them.

("and such-and-such hasn't thrown an interception in 4000 pass attemts! Amazing!" directly preceeding the play where such-and-such throws one directly to Deion Sanders just so we can all painfully watch "Primetime" do something exceedingly annoying and offensive)

Wednesday, July 27

Today: San Francisco @ Chicago, 2.20pm


J. Ellison, cf .277
O. Vizquel, ss .292
J.T. Snow, 1b .269
P. Feliz, lf .275
M. Tucker, rf .270
E. Alfonzo, 3b .304
D. Cruz, 2b .274
Y. Torrealba, c .222
B. Tomko, p .147

J. Macias, cf .282
T. Walker, 2b .297
D. Lee, 1b .366
J. Burnitz, rf .278
A. Ramirez, 3b .312
T. Hollandsworth, lf .256
R. Cedeno, ss .256
H. Blanco, c .211
C. Zambrano, p .261

Does any team change their lineup as much as we do? That lineup is flat-out garbage. GARBAGE. And why? Could it be starting Macias as LEAD-OFF MAN??? Sure, Dusty will blame the short period of rest between games, but there was no need to yank Hairston Jr. late in the game for the "defensive" specialties of JOSE MACIAS.

Let's see if he can surprise all of us and do what Hank White did against the Cardinals the other night.

Magic Maddux


What Maddux's celebrations may have looked like.

Maddux and Barrett -- Strikeout Buddies

So there it is. The bright spot of an extra-innings defeat is the historical achievement of Greg Maddux, joining that illustrious 300 W/3000 K club with a 2-2 changeup to Omar "I might make the HOF too" Vizquel. (It is also somewhat epic that Michael Barrett has homered in consecutive games on consecutive nights, but we're still checking his stats on that one).

But seriously, not to belittle the moment, Maddux earned another exclusive accolade on top of a superb career. Well done Greg. He was never considered a strikeout pitcher, but his location, pitches and command have brought him to roost with the likes of Seaver, Niekro and Ryan, aka where he belongs.

(Pause for a moment of silence in praise of Mr. Maddux)

And so we move on to the sticky task of evaluating a loss in 11 innings.

The game was scoreless until the 5th, when P Noah Lowry squeezed out a bunt to score Lance Niekro from 3rd. Is it just me, or have suicide squeezes become rather vogue all of a sudden? Is the suicide squeeze the new stolen base on fielder's indifference? David "Powerless Pixie" Eckstein laid one down in extras on Friday night, one tonight for the Giants and another for the Cardinals earlier in the evening.... It looks pretty and all but it's really annoying. Please stop this sacrificial nonsense and drive the runner home by using yr bat as a bat and not a stick you'd use as a kid to poke dead animals in the forest. The less-than-PC name is a little troubling: using suicide in sports is an acceptable thing? Maybe it should be called the "Sunshine Squeeze" or the "I can't hit so I bunted in an RBI".

An Edgardo Alfonzo throwing error on bag #3 allowed Murton to reach safely and Barrett to score in the 6th, only to watch the Giants take the lead in the top of the 7th on a JT "You thought I was dead or playing AA-baseball, but I'm not yet" Snow RBI single.

The second most satisfying moment in the game came in the 8th inning. Enter LaTroy Hawkins, the beleaguered reliever capable of brilliance but, more regularly, badness. Barrett was first up in the inning, and sent the FIRST PITCH OF THE INNING into left center field. Eat that Hawkins.

It would be the final scoring in the game until the 11th inning. Novoa pitched an uneventful 9th, relieving Maddux's best start of the season (he sure can turn it on when it counts, are you watching Kerry? 8 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 89 pitches), Rusch got through the 10th and then coughed up back-to-back one-out singles to Deivi Cruz and Matheny. Wuertz took over from there, and despite striking out Torrealba, Jason Ellison slapped a pitch into center field, where Jose "What the F*ck am I doing in CF?" Macias guffed the ball. He attempted to be smooth and glide in to field, but it trickled under his glove like his childhood hopes and dreams, allowing Cruz to swagger easily in to score.

Ty Walker came in to face the most threatening Cubs trio we could have sent to the plate: Ronny "I'm a Pinch Runner!" Cedeno, Jose "Goddamn" Macias, and Todd "Actually there's nothing wrong with him" Walker. A ground-out and a double-play later and the game was done.

That's all I'll say. Sure, I could be more caustic than I already have been, but let's not ruin Maddux's achievements. So I'll close with various Cubs quotes about Maddux's membership to the club, as well as the starting pitchers for this afternoon's rubber game (Zambrano looking to get his 4th straight win).

-- "It was about pitching to win tonight. If [the strikeout] happened, great. I would've much rather gotten no strikeouts and won, trust me. It's pretty cool to get there and I want to keep going."
Greg Maddux

-- It's pretty cool. Not that many guys have done it. I remember when [former pitching coach and current bench coach] Dick Pole told me one day, 'Why don't you stop trying to strike guys out and just try to get them out? You'll probably strike out just as many guys, if not more.' He was right. I've always tried with two strikes to just make a pitch and get the guy out. You get a lot of strikeouts by accident just by doing that."
Greg Maddux

-- "He was easily describable for me -- he had six or eight different pitches and mastered the location of every one of them. That's Greg Maddux......Honestly, I bet the number of different pitches that were strikeout pitches are spread across the whole spectrum of what he's got. He's mastered the craft, period."
Jeromy Burnitz

-- "From my perspective, [his success] is based on longevity, consistency and positive results." The philosophic Todd Hollandsworth

-- "He's very humble externally and very confident internally, and very prepared. He knows himself. He knows the opposition. He knows the umpires -- everything that goes into the equation of getting people out. He studies -- this guy studies."
Dusty Baker

-- "Maddux has done nothing in his entire career except help the team win. It's never been about himself, it's been about the team. There's nothing more to it than that."
Michael Barrett


Today's Pitchers
SF: RHP Brett Tomko • 7-10, 5.03 ERA in 2005 • 2-4, 5.29 ERA vs. CHC lifetime
CHC: RHP Carlos Zambrano • 7-4, 3.42 ERA in 2005 • 0-0, 3.86 ERA vs. SF in 2004

Tuesday, July 26

Let's get Stuck in Again -- Oh, and this is a real rambler

If a relaxing moment turns into the right moment, will you be ready? You can be with 36-hour KERRY WOOD. That's because KERRY WOOD works up to 36 hours, and in some men works as fast as 30 minutes. So with 36-hour KERRY WOOD you don't have to plan, you don't have to rush, and you don't have to worry about time.* You can just let that special moment happen like you want to.

The question of the day.

So, an 15-day suspension for kicking Dusty in the shins has been served (with 3 days cut for good behavior), and we're ready to tuck in again with all the passion, fire and style of another Rolling Stones tour.

In the last 11 days of darkness, the Cubs have been surprisingly bright, posting a 7-4 spurt, scoring 62 and allowing 44. With Nomar on the mend in Peoria and reliever Scott Williamson turning up in rehab after Tommy John surgery (20 pounds lighter! Now with added guile!), this team might not be scrubbed after all. If only we could figure out how to let Kerry Wood pitch without hurting himself. Does it say anything in baseball by-laws about the illegality of replacement shoulders?

The Wood situation really is frustrating. Dogged in the early part of his career, he'll end up as one of those guys with all the wasted talent in the world. Like Mr. Holland's Opus II: The Rock-Opera Years. Like KC and the Sunshine Band. Like Eric Crouch, Harry Potter and Jeremy Roenick's career in public speaking.

It always amused me how K-Err-y Wood has been followed around (albeit slowly) by expectations of greatness. He always looked like (and still does) a great power pitcher, but his stats (like stats do) fail to justify the love. Never a winner of more than 14 games, his best years were 1998 (his first) and 2003:

13-6, 3.40 ERA
26 GS, 167 2/3 IP, 85 BB, 233 K
1 CG

14-11, 3.20 ERA
32 GS, 211 IP, 100 BB, 266 K
4 CG

70-53, 3.68 ERA
174 GS, 1097 IP, 533 BB, 1269 K
11 CG
(roughly 6 1/3 IP per start)

I'd be interested to see how many pitches he's thrown in the Major Leagues, just to get an idea of how he's held up to the workload.

Not only is he on the 15-day DL, but he might require off-season surgery (again), and, when he comes back, he might move to the bullpen. Clearly Dusty loves Francona in that awkward, band-camp sort of way, but this might be a situation where Wood is better off, just to get through the end of the season with him being useful to the team. Rusch is dropping big time (despite some solid work vs. the Cardinals this weekend), so a guy like Wood threatening to take away pitching appearances might prove inspirational in the long run.

The upside to Wood's pains is the re-re-reemergence of Rich Hill. After an excellent relief outing against the Brewers in June, Hill was always the favourite to come back up and slide into the rotation (where he should be). It's no coincidence that every trade offer the Cubs have heard involve a package of prospects where Rich Hill is the diamond. Maybe other GMs think that by mentioning him in a list surrounded by other players, we won't notice, but honestly, Hill is one of the franchise's future all-stars.

His fastball needs a little better location, but that Zito-esque curveball is nastier than Alice Cooper. So far this season, Hill's seen big-league action in 4 games. His ERA will eventually calm down, but 14 Ks in 10 2/3 IP is evidence enough that he will be superb at the Major League level. Barrett is a good fit for him, and last night, Hill made it through 5 2/3 of tense baseball, allowing 2 ER on 5 hits. Dusty, don't screw this one up.

Tonight sees Maddux take the stage, needing only 2 strikeouts to join the 300 wins/3000 Ks club. It's an elite club, population: 8.

Phil Niekro (318 W, 3342 K)
Nolan Ryan (324 W, 5714 K)
Steve Carlton (329 W, 4136 K)
Roger Clemens (328 W, 4317 K)
Tom Seaver (311 W, 3640 K)
Gaylord Perry (314 W, 3534 K)
Don Sutton (324 W, 3574 K)
Walter Johnson (417 W, 3508 K)

I think he'll get there tonight against the Giants, although the Bay Area Bonds-less ballclub are ranked 29th in the league (that's second-to-last) in strikeouts as a team, whiffing 507 times this season. The interesting thing about this: their neighbours, the Oakland A's, are 30th. What these footloose and fancy-free teams don't realise is a team that swings together, stays together.

Tonight's Pitchers:
SF: LHP Noah Lowry • 6-10, 4.69 ERA in 2005 • 1-0, 2.45 ERA vs. CHC in 2004
CHC: RHP Greg Maddux • 8-7, 4.55 ERA in 2005 • 1-0, 5.25 ERA vs. SF in 2004

Aramis Ramirez is batting .444 over the last 11 games, slamming 8 home runs and pocketing 16 RBIs. Look for him to barbeque Lowry's repertoire this evening. If he doesn't, pretend that he did so I continue to be correct.

More later -- some headlines, some bottled-up anger, and some more idle conjecture from the same beer-soaked staff.

Monday, July 25

We're back

LB has been gracefully relieved from the shackles of any and all Chicago-based curses.

We will resume our normal programming as of tomorrow morning.

So what's happened since we've been gone?

- Wood is on the DL again
- We've taken 2 of 3 from the Cardinals
- Come-from-behind win against the Giants
- The Cubs are 8-4 since the All-Star break

We'll review all this and more as soon as tomorrow comes.

Welcome back,

Lingering Bursitis.

Thursday, July 14

Oh you guys

Tomorrow. ESPN. Cubs. Pirates. Wrigley. Wood. Some Pirates pitcher.

Live updates, inning-by-inning as best I can, coming all day tomorrow (hopefully) from 2.20 pm ET until the end of the game. I'll put up an open thread so if anyone's watching and near their computer, they can throw in their 2 cents.

Josh Fogg, I knew that's who the Pirates' pitcher was. Oh well. No more box scores for us, we're moving up in the world!

EDIT: Add yr comments/observations here, if yr watching the game. After a 17 pitch 1st inning for Wood and a 4-pitch 1st inning for Fogg, the Pirates snagged a solo HR from Jose Castillo. The Cubs just cancelled that out in the 2nd -- after a lead-off Burnitz double, Ramirez and Hollandsworth grounded out/popped out, and Neifi just sliced an RBI single into left field. Now Barrett clubbed a 2-out single, moving Neifi to 3rd. 1-1, 2 outs, bottom 2. Keep the comments coming.


Ok, that's enough pessimism out of you, JT. We are the fans of the Lovable Losers, perpetually enjoying the contests of whoever the current residents of the Friendly Confines are. If the Cubs are winning at that particular point in the season, we don't know what to do except rejoice in intoxicated jubilation and get our hopes way up. But if we are losing or those hopes are dashed upon a stone at any point, we go about our business enjoying our libations nonetheless and supporting our northside favorites through all the turmoil. It's called being a Cub fan, and look... after today's victory we are back at .500, so certainly we must be World Series bound! Right, guys?!?!

So basically, to rebut with some optimism, the way I see it is that in order to make the playoffs this year -- from the wild card spot, since catching the Cardinals will depend on an asteriod, a breakout of Ebolla Hemorrhagic Fever in St. Louis, or some other heavenly intervention -- it will probably take around 95 wins, if not more. The Cubs today are 44-44 with 74 games remaining. It follows that that would mean going roughly 51-23 for the remainder of the season. This is definitely possible if you ask me. It means winning about 5 out of every 7 games, or going 3-1 in all 4 game series and 2-1 in all 3 game series. At first this might seem a little over-optimistic, but the Cubs have proven that they have the ability to sweep good teams when they are on top of their game (a la Dodgers, Marlins). So, with a few series sweeps, we can even afford to lose a series here and there occasionally and still hit the 95-win mark.

So, the Cubs have their work cut out for them but I see this as something they can positively attain if they hold true to their "Contender" costumes, rather than donning the "Pretender" garb they seem to have hanging on the pegs right next to the former. And that is all I have for now. What do you think?

Etc, Etc, Etc,
Yeah, Prior for beating up on the Bucos!!!
Tomorrows game features Kerry Wood in a day game which will be airing on Espn. Can't wait to watch!

Wrigley welcomes the Swashing Bucklers

As mentioned yesterday, the Pirates are in town now for a 4-game set. Some intriguing pitching matchups, including the Bucs' supposed saviour (don't worry Pittsburgh, once he gets to Schmidt-like status, you'll trade him for a bag of cashews and Luis Sojo) Zach Duke against old-time swinger Greg Maddux on saturday. How about that for a perfect game of Vice Versa? Let's hope it doesn't devolve into Freaky Friday where Maddux loses his rag and Duke pitches like a man with 300+ wins.

However, there is more pressing news. But first, the Corey Patterson Daily Quote. I swear, this man makes Deion Sanders look like Johnny Wallflower.

"When you have an approach, stick with it," Patterson said. "Don't think about three or four different things. Just know yourself as a player and a person, and know what you can do.

If the day ever comes where Korey takes his own advice, the league had best quiver and tremble in subjugation to the Cubs' most vocally self-important player since hot dogs were a nickel and I was a glint in my pop's eye.

But seriously, moving on, had the glory of producing the Midterm review. In my opinion, there's a remedial class looming for this bunch, but despite more uses of the word "mercurial" than I've seen since reading anything John Madden ever wrote, there have been some bright spots.

Thankfully, the Review managed to pick them out - DerrekLeeDerrekLeeDerrekLee. While others have come along periodically and added small sandcastles of offense, none of it quite compares to the Bellagio-like output of Mr. Lee. He has been outstanding, surprising everyone including himself. It makes Hendry look like Nostradamus in shipping off Hee Seop Choi, and we're indebted to him for having a 43-44 record. Without him, I shudder to think a. what our record would be, and b. how many AA guys would be seeing regular time in the Wrigley lineup.

So what should we be thankful for besides Derrek?

- Aramis Ramirez. He has performed more consistently than most in the shadow of Da Lee. On course for another 100+ RBI season, his post-Pittsburgh output is enough to make even the toughest Roethlisburger-eating fan weep.

- Ryan Dempster. While his save totals are nowhere near the likes of Chad "My Washington Bullpen is scary" Cordero or Joe "Fast Food" Nathan, he is a huge upgrade from Borowski and Hawkins. They blew more saves than Henry VIII murdered his wives, which is no mean feat.

- Greg Maddux? OK, so I am pulling a lot of these from the list, but I'm trying hard to find other ways. They list Maddux as the "model pitcher" of the team, despite that permanent semi-drunk, semi-comatose look while on the mound. His 8-6 record is a little rough, but it is the best we have (I'm looking at you El Toro, Prior, Wood) at the moment. He is dipping a little bit given that the twilight of his career is near (his career ERA is now at or above 3.00 for the first time in some 10+ years) - his 2 seasons with the Cubs, with ERAs of 4.02 and 4.67, are the worst seasons he has had since 1987 - but you can count on him to grind out the wins whether he goes more than 5 innings or not.

What do we need in these apocalyptic post-All Star days? Apologies if these all sound a little obvious.

- Bullpen
Duuuh. This is perhaps the most blatant of all. If Novoa could spell "catastrophe", he'd understand what a quagmire we're currently fighting through.

Novoa: 2-2, 4.20 ERA
Mitre: 4 ER in 6 1/3 IP since moving to the bullpen (2-4, 5.26 ERA overall)
Ohman: 2-1, 2.14 ERA but doesn't nearly pitch enough (33 games, 21 IP)
Remlinger: 0-2, 4.88 ERA
Rusch: 8 ER in 4 IP since moving to the bullpen
Wuertz: 4-2, 4.38 ERA

Fix it fix it fix it. Free Jermaine Van Buren from AAA, rush Aardsma into the fray, and let's roll the dice a little. Will we just continue to watch the 'pen blow games apart, or might we be a tad daring and attempt a trade? Meanwhile, the likes of the Nationals and Athletics make more moves than Disco Stu, becoming scarier in their respective divisions. The Astros have finally found their stride, and it won't take many more losses to become co-shittiest team in the NL Central along with the Cincinnati Reds.

- Lead-off Spot
I've thrown more than enough stats at this to prove why Patterson should never bat 1st again. There's a reason Lee probably won't win the Triple Crown, and that's because when he steps to the plate, the basepads are as clean as they were before the game. No sign of Walker, no trace of Neifi, no outline of JH Jr, no hint of Patterson. Solo HRs won't win you an RBI race.

So what can we do? I honestly have no solutions. Kotsay is staying put, Wilson is in Washington now (not that he would lead-off anyway in a park where flyballs go to die), and I'm not sure who else might be attainable with a trade who we could throw to the lead-off lions.

In-house, Walker might be the best option. Why? Because he can actually draw a walk (granted he's only walked 14 times in 150 ABs given his injury, but Patterson only walked 2 more times in twice as many at-bats.), or get on base. His OBP is hovering at that borderline .350 mark, and with Neifi slowly evolving back into the real Neifi, Walker has to be given a chance to do the job.

I know it's a tough position to play, and I'm sure Patterson will eventually be a good player at some indeterminate point in the future, but right here, right now, Walker should see that spot from here until season's end.

These are the two glaring points I see, so I'll leave it there and spread out my words over the next few days, weeks and months. Check out for their review, and feel free to disagree with it all.

As for today, it's Mark Redman vs. Mark Prior (see yesterday's post for the stats). None of the current Cubs are especially stellar against Redman (Burnitz is 4-18, Blanco 3-13, Barrett 2-9), but I would hope that we can overcome.

Redman is built like a linebacker but throws like a kicker: despite his massive frame (6-5, 245), his fastball is softly in the mid-80s and is augmented with a reasonable repertoire of curve, split-finger and change-up. It's enough to make Korey wish he were recalled, so he could then strike out twice against him.

In our favour, Redman has been absolutely LaTrocious lately, losing his last 4 games and coughing up 21 runs (20 earned) in his last 24 innings pitched. So let's jump on him early, get him out, and then hopefully beat the waste-disposal bullpen long into the afternoon.

Series Prediction:
I would like to think the Cubs could nab 3 of the 4 games considering what we just did to the "contender" Marlins last weekend, but in a realistic world, I expect us to split the series losing at least 1 of those games from the bullpen. Please, Cubs, let me be wrong for once.

Wednesday, July 13

Back on a Wagon

I'm back. After a long drinking weekend and a lot of work on my plate, I will be doing my absolute best to keep the daily updates alive from now on. It's all about discipline, hardly my strong suit, but this ship has to keep sailing so I'll do my best.

So, where were we?

Enjoy that extra rest day, gentlemen, because as of tomorrow, it's business as usual again. The All-Star break, a rather snoozy affair (except for Abreu's HR Derby pyrotechnics), saw the American League win again. Great, good for them, it was never really in doubt despite the presence of two Cubs in the starting lineup. Tejada vs. Eckstein? No contest. Varitek vs. Piazza? Give me a break. I don't know what it is, but the NL doesn't seem to have that many good shortstops or catchers, no matter how many Pujols or Lees we have in the lineup.

It was closer than it should have been thanks to Kenny "Say Cheese!" Rogers, but hey, it's done now. What are the ramifications for the Cubs? Probably absolutely nothing, as they won't be seeing the World Series anyway.

But where do we pick up?

After that long, languid losing streak, the Cubs went in to the break sweeping the Florida Marlins. Why we couldn't have done that in 2003, I don't know, but it was satisfying nonetheless. Through the drunken haze of my birthday weekend, the Cubs heeded my birthday wish, beating up Dontrelle and any other wet fish on the mound, scoring 26 runs and giving up only 10.

It was fun to read about while sweating the scotch out of my skin, and it showed that the Cubs can win if they need to. What was more encouraging was the performances of those little minor-leaguers. Murton can pound a ball like Hacksaw Jim Duggan, and Greenberg has enough balls to stand firm and take the inside pitch (in this case, to the head). What a debut at-bat for that poor guy, taking a pitch to the helmet. "Welcome to the Big Leagues, kid." Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn would have been proud.

The most perplexing and yet enjoyable thing, however, is the Fat Joe-sized ego of everyone's favorite beleaguered Major Leaguer, Corey Patterson.

This man has no limit to his self-appraisal! No ceiling to his self-aggrandizement! There is no end in sight of his self-praise! His house of mirrors surely keeps growing and reflecting light off his brilliance, and his latest comments are a whole lot of air about how he believes his stay in the minor leagues will be short. How short, he does not know, but he has enough belief in his "skills" that his return should be swift. I hope this is not true, for nothing gives me more satisfaction than watching Rickey Henderson Jr. ramble on about his magnificence while sweating it out in Iowa.

Here are some choice quotes from a recent article discussing Corey and his amazing grace:

--- "I know I could have been playing a lot better than I was," Patterson said Tuesday. "The Cubs did what they had to do.

--- "I could not keep going at the pace I was," he said. "I wasn't getting the results."

--- Patterson doesn't expect this stint to be an extended stay. "It won't take me long," he said. "I'll know when I'm ready." He's been able to narrow down what he needs to do to simplify his approach. No. 1 is to shorten his swing. "I think if I do that, it'll help other things as well," he said.

--- "It's a hard game," Patterson said, "but it's really simple."

--- "If I wasn't confident, I wouldn't be playing," he said. "I didn't lose confidence. It was frustration more than anything. It's like, man, you're not getting enough out of your abilities."

Patterson's Texas-sized ego will always bring me amusement, no matter what the team is doing as a whole, and it's good to have some light relief when the team is still floundering around .500 this late into the season. At least we have a winning streak to come back to, and our next opponent, the Pittsburgh Pirates, are having enough trouble of their own (like watching Jason Bay go HR-less in the HR derby, ouch) to hopefully not be too tough over the 4-game weekend. An ESPN appearance on Friday afternoon beckons, so let's see what the team can do.

Pitching matchups for the series:

PIT Mark Redman LHP / 4-8, 3.76 ERA in 2005 / 0-1, 3.14 ERA vs. CHC in 2005
CHC Mark Prior RHP / 5-3, 3.41 ERA in 2005 / 0-0, 3.86 ERA vs. PIT in 2005

PIT Josh Fogg RHP / 4-4, 4.30 ERA in 2005 / 0-0, 2.70 vs. CHC in 2005
CHC Kerry Wood RHP / 2-2, 4.80 ERA in 2005 / 1-0, 3.60 ERA vs. PIT in 2005

PIT Zach Duke LHP / 1-0, 1.93 ERA in 2005 / DNP vs. CHC in 2005
CHC Greg Maddux RHP / 8-6, 4.67 ERA in 2005 / 0-0, 2.57 vs. PIT in 2005

CHC Carlos Zambrano RHP / 6-4, 3.85 ERA in 2005 / 0-0, 7.50 ERA vs. PIT in 2005

Saturday, July 9

Zambrano as a pinch runner???

Can someone explain this to me? It worked out cause he scored from first on a Hot-Rod Walker double on the next at-bat. But Zambrano as a pinch runner??? Good work, Z!

Friday, July 8

My Birthday Wishes this Year

Happy birthday to me. Read the book on CP I wrote last night. Then shout at me for being so miserable about it all.

But seriously, back to the birthday wishes:

1. Zambrano outduels Willis despite being terrible on the road:
Home -- 3-1, 2.17 ERA, BAA .179
Road -- 2-3, 5.53 ERA, BAA .246

Willis is 7-2, 2.16 ERA, BAA .246 at home.

2. The Cubs making a solid trade before the deadline.
We have a few guys to spare, and we have far too many needs. Given last night's roster shuffling, it seems clear that this problem won't fix itself in-house. Check the article on trade values from Desipio Media Ventures here. Maybe someone could figure out who we could afford to lose.

3. Lee comes back healthy, and all of our ailing arms come back to life.
They're talented (still), they can still pitch well. So stop f-cking around and live up to expectations!

4. Consistency.
Enough of this .500 see-saw shite. It's ok to win 2 of every 3, just stop winning 9 in a row and then losing 8 in a row.

That's it, I'm off to begin drinking. My work is done for the week, and there's f-ck all else to do. Maybe I'll hallucinate a Cubs win during my stupor. Cheers all, and I'll catch you at the end of a weekend bender. (Nice alliteration, eh?)

Happy birthday to me, and Give me a win you Cubless bastards!

Thanks for calling the Corey Hotline

One of Corey's 73 hits on the season (73-314, .232)

Hi, you've reached the Corey Hotline. $4.95 a minute. Here are some words that rhyme with Corey?

Gory.... story.... allegory.... Montessori....

.... Purgatory? Well, it's finally happened. Tonight, something happened that I wanted to happen for a long time. I know I've been vocal about getting some trade action on the table, and outfield was always the place I felt help would be needed most (although bullpen wouldn't hurt, I'll get to that dugout of shite in a moment), and what do the Cubs do? Drop two outfielders down to the minor leagues.

Also, don't get me wrong: I'm not saying I was psychic here. But given the guys we've called up, both of whom I doubt will get much serious time (given that we're still technically in the hunt for some kind of post-season activity aside from golf, and we're not pulling a Colorado Rockies just yet and playing all our prospects for the last 81 games), there has to be some buying action.

So let's review, before I get all vitriolic on my internet soapbox (which, I assure you, I will).

Corey Patterson, goodbye.
Jason Dubois, goodbye.

It had gone on too long, and the slumping Corey "My brother is better" Patterson will spend some time getting his groove back at AAA-Iowa. His groove, it seems, is a long way away --
Season: .232, 11 HR, 24 RBI
June: .157, HR, 5 RBI
July: 3-for-18 (6 games)

Painful to look at, painful to read, painful to watch. I'm sure one day Corey will look back at this travesty as a turning point in his career, and that one day he might well fulfill all of his potential, but right now, I don't think I'm alone in saying that I've had enough. He was awful, not to put to fine a point on it, over the last 5 weeks (aside from a handful of good defensive plays), and it was about time. Heck, the Mariners cut Bret Boone for less (.231, 7 HR, 34 RBI, .299 OBP, better than CP's .270 OBP).

Dubois was the victim of bad timing and a rare Hollandsworth hot run. Given the bacon-like streakiness of Todd "The LF God" Hollandsworth, and the fact that it won't last, one might well see Dubois back again soon or a TRADE. Unless Derrek Lee has figured out how to clone himself. Or unless one of these AA-West Tenn chaps can look the part in Wrigley Field.

This, my friends, is the death rattle of a team perhaps not wanting to dish prospects at the hope of getting short-term help in the outfield. It's a last shot, it's a hopeful transaction, and perhaps shows that the organization would like to solve this problem over the next couple of years, bringing up their prospects slowly-but-surely to fill in the holes, and not acting Yankee-like and trading them all for guys who were good 2 or 3 years ago. This is not to say they haven't done this before, but for the most part, Hendry's trading has been looking long-term to say the least. What surely doesn't help is that guys on nun-frigid cold streaks don't often look good unless he's packaged with 10 other ballplayers to make the trade. So that might be a problem, although there's still some 20 days of shopping to be done.

The part I don't understand is Dusty. His quotes or reasons for sending them down involve them trying to find their stroke again, obviously. However, they're being sent to specifically train with the MINOR LEAGUE hitting coach in AZ before joining the team in Iowa. Why the Minor League guy? The major league man not good enough?

But enough of this madness. Corey's gone, and I honestly couldn't be happier. Jerry "Air Jordan" Hairston Jr will get the PT in CF, and with "Slipshod" Todd in left, I'm sure the team will go on to sweep any and all future opponents after this minor shuffle.

So who do we have in the major league club now?

Give a big warm hand to ex-Diamond Jaxx who will surely soon make an impression:

adam greenberg
Hitting .278 this season with 4 HR, 9 2B, 7 3B, 28 RBI. That all means he's fast, not to mention incredibly focused. I think he was an extra in "Varsity Blues" or something.

matt murton
.342, 8 HR, 17 2B, 46 RBI this year. Well done Smiles! That means he's powerful.

I'm still trying to find information on them that will make any sense on the major league stage. All that I can say is that one appears to be fast and the other hits well -- we may well glue them together at some point. Although, when you think about it, it's kinda cute that they were both called up at the same time. Now even if the dugout is tough, at least they have each other. Who knows, maybe they'll embark on some wild teen-summer-movie roadtrip from Tennesse to Chicago, watching each other's backs, getting in bar fights over hard-to-get girls, and generally having the July of their lives.

It'll be great, two close friends in the clubhouse. On an unrelated note, f-ck West Tenn, as we've now taken two of their starting outfield. Don't worry, the Carolina Mudcats may bark, but they cannot bite.

I'll sign off with a few touching quotes from the lips of Jim "I just took compassion classes" Hendry:

"There's a fine line when you have Corey's talent. You want him to be able to find it," Hendry said. "When it goes through a period like here, you can see in his face he's trying too hard. It's hard to fix it in the middle of the game.

"I think it'll be good for him," Hendry said. "There's been a lot of outstanding players in the past who have gone down and gotten ironed out and been good the rest of their career, and hopefully it'll happen to him."

Actually, I'm not done yet. Tonight's game was shite again, as was today's. Horacio Ramirez pitched his first-ever shutout (Career: 55-54, 4.01 ERA), and Prior got chased in the 5th with a Julio "AARP" Franco 3-run HR. Great.

In the night-crap, things were looking a little better after 6 solid innings from King Rib Williams (8 H, 3 ER, 3 K), and Aramis "Beer Chin" Ramirez did his part with 3 RBIs. And then the 8th Inning happened. Spare the words, here's the numbers:

Novoa -- 0 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, HR (3 batters faced, 12 pitches)
Rusch -- 0 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, HR (3 batters faced, 12 pitches)
Dempster -- IP, H, BB, K (5 batters faced, 23 pitches)

Well done J Francoeur, for the Cubs gave you yr first Major League HR. Enjoy it.

Tomorrow's Migraine-Worthy pitching matchup: Zambrano vs. Dontrelle Willis.

I need a hug. And a back rub. And a Keith Richards-sized portion of Jack Daniels. Any offers?

Wednesday, July 6

we're in trouble

For a moment, let's not focus on the fact that the cubs lost their sixth straight last night. Take a look at these headlines:

Cubs Lose Leader Lee

Cubs Drop 6th Straight, Lee Injuries Shoulder

Chicago Cubs Slugger Derek Lee Leaves Game With Shoulder Injury

Those are the first three google news headlines I found this morning. This season is quickly turning into a yet another test of faith for Cubs fans around the country. We've been optimistic most of the season yet we have contiuously hit road block after road block. Injuries and slumps are plaguing the cubbies. We've had two of our four best arms on the DL for significant parts of the season (and now that they're back they're not playing up to their potential...hopefully Prior will do something to change that tonight), Nomar's status is still uncertain and our bats have been frozen as of late.

Now we're looking at Lee taking his turn on the DL. It's important for him to address this problem now and sort it out before it becomes a serious injury. Hopefully he can get some rest/rehab and be back to his superman-esque self after the break. That's all I've got time for this to work trying to shake this depressed feeling...

Tuesday, July 5

Everyone Come Back!! or "Return from the Wilderness"

Well hello once more everyone. I hope we can all reconvene once again after a week in the relative darkness.

The parents have left town, headed back across the water to Blighty, so now I'm free to catch myself up with the abyssmal Cubs week and work through it all from the ugly beginning.

Since Tuesday and LB's last game-related update (although thanks to Adica for that joke), the Cubs have been 1-5, outscored and outplayed by their Brewery and National opponents (not to mention a shut-out by the Braves last night). Scoring only 18 runs and coughing up 29 to their opponents, the Cubs have shown little of the fight that propelled them through a difficult late-May/1st half of June schedule, settling down into old habits that definitely do die hard.

So where to begin?

Wednesday -- Cubs 3, Brewers 2
Kerry Wood's triumphant return saw him miss out on the decision despite outpitching Brewers deadeye Ben Sheets, scattering 2 hits and 1 run over 6 innings of 9-strikeout baseball. Wood was inspired, and his efforts were just enough for the bullpen to juggle. Despite giving up the tying run in the 7th inning, a solo home run by Overbay off Glendon Rusch, the 2-inning trio of Wuertz, Ohman and Novoa held the fort, setting the stage for Todd "I love Tom Emanski's baseball instructional videos" Hollandsworth's crawl-off bloop RBI single in the bottom of the 9th.

Thursday -- Cubs 6, Brewers 10
Carlos Lee's life must be difficult. Being the MLB leader in RBI, every hit-less game seems to attract nationwide attention. But not to worry, he took full opportunity of Greg "Painter" Maddux's candy-store pitch selection, clubbing 2 home runs and adding 3 RBIs to his league-leading 72.

Maddux slipped and slid through 5 innings of 6-run baseball, and despite Chris "Depends" Capuano's pitching woes, the Cubs slid to defeat. Derrek Lee missed out on the 25 hits shared by the two teams, and despite Jerry "Rudy" Hairston Jr. and Michael "Tissue" Barrett's dingers, the Brewers were too strong.

Friday -- Cubs 3, Nationals 4
Livan Hernandez should come with a caution sign. His ability to give up runs and still remain in the game is frightening, and Frank "Jockey" Robinson rode his ace all the way to the bank in a 1-run win.

Prior fumbled through 5 innings of reasonable pitching -- 5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 7 K -- but the Nationals took advantage of all the bad pitches (only 82 of them in all, 60 strikes) and gave Hernandez enough of a cushion (8 IP, 10 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K) to succeed. The Cubs made it easy for him, stranding 7 on-base as well as committing some awful gaffes on the basepads - C Brian Schneider picked off Burnitz at 3rd base with 1 out in the 8th was a game-losing mistake.

Saturday -- Cubs 2, Nationals 4
Tony Armas Jr. is still in the league?

Any doubt of that was soon wiped off my face, as his 5 innings of 2-run ball were enough to beat the punchless Cubs. The downright nasty Nationals bullpen coasted through 4 innings to seal the deal -- Majewski, Eischen, Carrasco, and Cordero's 29th save -- with Derrek Lee's solo HR in the 6th completing the scoring. Jerome Williams pitched well, going 7 strong innings (5 H, 4 ER), and Wuertz struck out 4 Nats in his 2 innings of work, but it was not enough.

The Nationals are not a flashy team, unless you count Majewski's mesmerizing blonde, girl-like hair or Jose Guillen's colourful language, but they are lethally efficient. Watching them is like watching an abbatoir the day before Thanksgiving.

Sunday -- Cubs 4, Nationals 5
This was perhaps the cruelest joke of this half-finished season.

Zambrano was his usual volatile, epic self -- 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K -- although his opposite number, the gratis Ryan "I got cut by the Texas Rangers and all I got was this lousy NL East-leading Nationals bullpen to back me up" Drese, whose 7 scoreless innings set the stage for a bitter ending. Leading 2-0 into the 9th, Cordero prepared to close out proceedings, although Aramis was having none of it. His 2-run, 2-out HR sent us to extra innings, and the Nationals took another lead on the back of Brad Wilkerson's 11th Inning 2-run double. Undeterred, the Cubs came out firing again, this time against Hector "2.43 ERA" Carrasco. A solo HR by JHJr. and a Holls RBI double tied the score again at 4-4.

Mitre, newly-demoted to the bullpen, relinquished a solo, 2-out HR to Schneider in the top of the 12th, and this was the final nail in the coffin. A heart-wrenching extra-innings loss to the NL East powerhouse.

Monday -- Cubs 0, Braves 4
Adam LaRoche belted 2 home runs, and Kerry Wood's 2nd start back from the DL was nowhere near as sweet (5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 K). Rookie Kevin Davies gave up only 4 hits in 6 2/3 innings of work, and the game was done.


So what have we learned?

-- Rusch and Mitre are struggling since being pushed down from the rotation.
Rusch's ERA has risen slowly from 3.13 to 3.35 over his last 3 appearances, giving up 4 runs (3 earned) in 3 innings.
Mitre's difficulties have been similar -- 3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K.

Reinforcing the bullpen is perhaps a priority in the trading period, although Glendon and Sergio both deserve more opportunities (heck, look at how many "Get out of Jail Free" cards Borowski got) to prove themselves as solid relievers. The hierarchy is definitely setting itself within the bullpen:
Dempster (10-11 in Save Opportunities) in the closer's chair.
Wuertz (3 ER in last 6 2/3 IP), Ohman (2.29 ERA in 19 2/3 IP) and Novoa (0 ER in last 7 IP) the primary set-up men.
Rusch, Mitre, Remlinger fighting for the rest, either pitching on days where other set-up men need rest or coming in late in the blow-out games either way.

-- Derrek Lee is coming back down to Earth (only a little)
In his last 10 games, Lee is 11-41 with a 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 3 RBI and 6 R over the stretch. His average has dipped from the Mr. Fantastic-like .390 to a Superman-like .378, still phenomenal, and all of this action is to be expected over the course of a season.

-- The rotation is still not incredible
Things do look good, with everyone healthy, present and correct. Wood and Prior had successful first starts back off their recent DL-vacation, although their 2nd starts were not nearly as stellar -- 5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER//5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER as well! Weird! I do agree, these aren't bad starts relatively speaking and I'm not carrying the Doomsday mentality on my back, but I'm just being a little realistic. A lot of hype was brought with the starting quintet into the season, and with the straight swap of Rusch-for-Williams in the rotation, a lot is still expected. It wouldn't be so bad if the run support had been there over this 5-game losing streak, but that too will change. It's just an observation from the past 7 days, and I don't expect it to continue in this vein.

-- Hollandsworth can be clutch?
Here's another unfortunate sod I've battered and berated this season. 11-30 in his last 10 games, with 2 HRs and 6 RBIs to boot! He is perhaps feeling the pressure of all this trade talk and has stepped up his game accordingly, although I do maintain that the LF position can be improved at minimal cost and that the Cubs should be a buyer this trading period.


More again later, including a return to regularity from the great LB machine. Hawk just moved house, Hypo just took a roadtrip to see us here in Brooklyn, and my parents just flew home. Everyone's present and accounted for, so look for more of the same witty banter right through to Armageddon Day. Oh, and some headlines too.

Cheers and enjoy the game tonight (somehow).
Tonight's Starters
CHC: RHP Greg Maddux • 7-5, 4.87 ERA in 2005 • 8-3, 4.03 ERA vs. ATL lifetime
ATL: RHP Roman Colon • 0-4, 6.30 ERA in 2005 • 0-0, 0.00 ERA vs. CHC in 2004

PS. Roman Colon is perhaps the best name I've ever seen in baseball. Move over Mr. G. Perry, there's a new man in town. I will now spend the next 12 hours devising headlines playing off Senor Colon's unfortunate moniker.

Friday, July 1

Funny how? Like funny "ha-ha?"

A first grade teacher asked her students to raise their hands if they were White Sox fans. Not really knowing what a Sox fan was but wanting to be like their teacher, their hands explode into the air. But one girl has not gone along with the crowd. The teacher asks her why she has decided to be different. "Because I'm not a Sox fan." The teacher asks, what are you? "Why I'm proud to be a Chicago Cubs fan," says the girl. The teacher asks the girl why she is a Cubs fan. "Well, my mom and dad are, so I am too." The teacher is angry. "Thats no reason! "What if your mom was a crack whore and your dad was a junkie, what would you be then?" The girl smiles and says, "Well then I'd be a White Sox fan."

(Thanks to Maria)