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Wednesday Chicago Cubs Roundup 6-10-09

Posted by sportsmaven on June 10, 2009

Today starts a new feature — a Chicago team news round up of all things important to the Chicago Cubs.  The Cubs are in Houston, interleague play starts this weekend, and the bats seem to be warming up.  Big news on draft day Tuesday:

(AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

(AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

The Cubs select Cal OF Brett Jackson in Tuesday’s MLB Draft

Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken is “thrilled to acquire a player like Brett Jackson

“Cub Fan” Brett Jackson dreams comes true.

Milton Bradley talks his way into tonight’s lineup and on the field….

Cubs looking for ideas on keeping Milton Bradley healthy.

Ted Lilly beats Houston Astros 7-1, with his bat and his arm

Josh Vitters is heir apparent to Aramis Ramirez at 3B (and at the plate)

Maybe life without Mark DeRosa is not so bad?

Randy Wells is this year’s version of Angel Guzman in seeking his first career victory.

Cubs OF Alfonso Soriano is 14,000 votes shy of a starting OF for the 2009 MLB All Star Game, and needs YOUR help!

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Chicago Cubs Implode Yet Again

Posted by sportsmaven on June 3, 2009

The Chicago Cubs can describe their 2009 season in one word: inconsistent.  The inconsistency is maddening, frustrating, and certainly unpredictable.  Tonight’s 12-inning 6-5 come from ahead loss against a very average Atlanta Braves team is the latest example of the frustration and inconsistency that has enveloped this team to date.

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

June 1st is typically the time of the year when you really know what kind of team you have.  It’s the time of year where it can no longer be said that it’s still early in the season.  It’s not and the Chicago Cubs are still a mess.  Third base is a Bermuda Triangle, the bullpen is still an unknown, with the long guys getting pounded one day, the short guys the next.  Left handed relief is non-existent.  Suspensions of OF Milton Bradley and RHP Carlos Zambrano, injuries, fines, missed flights, arguing with umpires, multiple beatings of the Gatorade machine, the 2009 version of the Chicago Cubs are their own worst enemies.  The mess even extends to the very top of the organization, as Sam Zell and Tom Ricketts continue to slug it out, with no end in sight, over the fine details of the ownership transfer.

June 1st is here and the Cubs are still a spring training-like mess, sitting at a record of 25-25, in 4th place in the NL Central, yet they somehow are still in the race, only 4 games out of first in what appears to be MLB’s most competitive division.  Can they get their act together?  Can they weather the storm of a lost 3B Aramis Ramirez?  Can Bradley stay healthy and hit?  Can a left handed reliever emerge from the bullpen?  Hell, can anyone emerge from the bullpen with greater consistency? (right now, RHP Angel Guzman seems to be the only consistent pitcher in the pen)

If the biggest move the Cubs make this season is the banishment of the Gatorade machine from the dugout, the 2009 season will be another wash, yet another year in the 100+ year North side champioship draught.

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The Legend of Chicago Cubs’ Bobby Scales

Posted by sportsmaven on May 15, 2009

Deep in the heart of Georgia, a little boy tosses a baseball high in the air and catches it.  Each throw a little higher a bit more altitude, with a little more arc, making it harder to catch.  With each throw, a young man’s confidence grows, his belief that he can play this game called baseball becomes more and more immense by the minute.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Personal and family sacrifices, the hours of playing catch, hitting that little ball off the tee, running after a pop fly and fielding sharp grounders are finally paying huge dividends.  Joy intersects with passion and hard work, resulting in the formation of a dream come true.

Gradual advancement, more hard work, incremental improvement, maturity, the taste of success at the tip of your tongue, the fruits of your labor are starting to blossom.

Plateau.  They said it, not you.  Your stuck, stuck behind someone else’s dream, trying to find clear wind to fill your sails, but the others are tacking in front of you, stealing the very wind that drove you to success.  You move, they move, it’s not personal, it’s just competitive.  This is not the joy you envisioned, skewed but still in it’s light and nature.  A kalidescope of your original dream disappearing into a pattern of dashed hopes and missed windows.

Perseverance is a word whose meaning is deeply understood by few, lived by even fewer.  Tough times bring fight or flight, the tendency is finding a place to keep your head above water, settling for something steady and predictable, something more of a sure thing.  Common sense and fate may have been knocking on the door of the dream, a cruel foreshadowing of illusion, deep indication that it’s time to forge another path, to alter course.

Dusty roads, an endless bus ride, fast food and even faster competition.  Substitute teaching, working with kids, stealing time away to stay sharp, finding the inner strength to continue working on your game against all odds.  The dream is still at the end of your fingertips, if only someone could see the yearning, the desire, the intense burn of competition.

One chance is all he ever wanted.  One chance, if they could only believe in him a mere fraction as much as he believes in himself.  Portland, Oregon to  Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, and in the middle, Des Moines, Iowa.  Living year 11 of the dream, wondering if it will ever come true or will it be a constant reminder of what could have been…

By now, virtually every serious fan of the Chicago Cubs has embraced the feel good story of 2009, the emergence of rookie infielder Bobby Scales.  Scales, after toiling in the minor leagues for 10 seasons, finally got his cup of coffee in the major leagues on May 5th, courtesy of Cubs P Carlos Zambrano.  If Zambrano hadn’t been injured and if the Cubs didn’t have an immediate need for another infielder, the switch-hitting Scales would still be roaming the sweet dirt of Des Moines, Iowa.  Instead, all Scales has done is hit, going 8-18 (.444 batting average) with 1 HR and 5 RBI’s including a pair of two run doubles in yesterday’s 11-3 Cubs victory over the San Diego Padres. He’s gotten a hit in every single game he’s played.

There’s a good chance that Bobby Scales will be sent back to Iowa when the Cubs activate Zambrano from the 15-day disabled list.  The Chicago Cubs might be led by the likes of Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, Milton Bradley, and Aramis Ramirez, but the heart and soul of the franchise is encased in players such as Scales.  If it all ended today, Bobby Leon Scales would have achieved the dream that every kid who has touched a ball has ever dared to imagine.

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Chicago Cubs Begin Their Struggling Season

Posted by sportsmaven on May 1, 2009

In comparison to 2008, the 2009 season has been brutally unkind to the Chicago Cubs.  From top to bottom of the organization, from the ballpark workers to the fans, the fuzzy lovefest that was 2008 has been replaced by a season that has all the markings of struggle written all over the brown, yet to grow ivy outfield walls.

(AP Photo/Kyle Ericson)

(AP Photo/Kyle Ericson)

The Cubs struggles seem to be set in motion during a devastating post season playoff series against the Los Angeles Dodgers to close out what was then developing into a magical season of 2008.  As dominant as the Cubs were in winning 97 games in 2008, they were equally as feeble once the playoffs began.  The Dodgers sucked the life out of the Cubs, exposing every weakness and shutting down the most powerful NL lineup and battering around the league’s #3 pitching staff in a NLDS sweep.

In the off season, Cubs GM Jim Hendry, tried in earnest to make his team more flexible for manager Lou Piniella.  What he did was inadvertently neutered his two-time division championship team, cutting them off at the knees.  Like a mad scientist, Hendry first moved to clear his entire bullpen, short of his All-Star setup man, RHP Carlos Marmol.  Included in that purge was All-Star closer RHP Kerry Wood, who finally found a successful niche as a power closer.  Not that he didn’t need to purge most of that bullpen, but it’s unclear to me as I watch the Cubs struggle, why Wood, the heart and soul of the Cubs team and the most tenured of all Cubs players, leader on and off the field, was allowed to depart. Essentially, Hendry traded Wood for former Florida Marlins closer, RHP Kevin Gregg, a one-sided trade then, and even more magnified in view of this horrible start.

The other perplexing move was trading 2B Mark DeRosa to the Cleveland Indians, replacing him with free-agent RF Milton Bradley.  All Bradley has done since signing a 3-year, $30M contract is injure his hamstring, get kicked out of his first game at Wrigley Field, bump an umpire while arguing, earning himself a 2-game suspension, which he appeals, all while needing to sit out at least 16 games due to that injury, incidentially, while not being added to the disabled list.

This is the type of flexibility that Hendry and Piniella wanted?  A further highlight about how “flexible” the 2009 Cubs roster is, C Geovanny Soto injures his throwing shoulder and has to sit out a few games to re-evaluate the injury.  While Soto is out, reserve C Koyie Hill filled in very capably, but because the Cubs don’t put Soto on the 15-day DL, they are forced to list 2B Aaron Miles and others as the backup catcher.

3B Aramis Ramirez has missed the last 11 games due to a calf injury, but the Cubs choose not to add him to the 15-day disabled list, instead forcing an out of position 2B Mike Fontenot to play third.  In last night’s game, when Piniella needed to pinch-hit for the left-handed hitting Fontenot, he needed to employ Hill to finish out the game at 3rd base!  Recently, 1B Derrek Lee missed time with a strained neck.  1B/OF Micah Hoffpauir covered Lee at 1B, pushing RHP Carlos Zambrano into the lefty pinch hitting role.  Some flexibility.  This is the flexibility that results in 14 errors and many other misplays from players playing out of position.

Not to mention the current mess the pitching staff is in right now, started by the shoddy bullpen performance out of the gate and now spreading to the once very promising performance of the starting rotation.  The Cubs bullpen mess begins with the release of  RHP Chad Gaudin a trade-off engineered to essentially keep Rule 5 RHP David Patton and  RHP Angel Guzman, a player who is out of minor league options.  Patton’s been regulary pounded, the highlight, giving up a grand slam to St. Louis Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols in a recent 8-2 loss to the Cardinals last Saturday.  LHP Neal Cotts not only hasn’t been able to get anybody out, he has been a bases on balls machine, walking 6 batters in 5 innings.  The bullpen picture became even more muddled when Hendry was forced to release RHP Luis Vizcaino and his $3M contract (Vizcaino was picked up in a off-season trade with the Colorado Rockies for RHP Jason Marquis) to bring up power RHP Jeff Samardzjia, who probably should have been in the bullpen in the first place.  With both Marmol and Gregg struggling, RHP Aaron Heilman has been exposed and has been used too frequently, resulting in a bullpen that can’t be trusted to get anyone out at this point, much less protect any sort of a lead.

So after 21 games, what do we make of this Cubs team?  Apparently, the early showing is that the Cubs are a team that still appear to suffer from the hangover of last season’s crushing playoff sweep.  They also can’t stay healthy.  They are also a team that can’t hit, field, or pitch.  This is a team built to struggle, and struggle they will, and I predict, for the entire season.  This Cubs team might not have to worry about a 3rd straight playoff disappointment.

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Top 10 Moments In Chicago Sports In 2008

Posted by sportsmaven on January 17, 2009

The new year has already started and amidst the resolutions, fresh starts, diets, and new beginnings comes the ever reverent look back at the year that has passed.  The year 2008 was a banner year for Chicago sports, as three teams won their prospective division titles, and one, the Chicago Wolves won a championship.  There was good, bad, ugly, and everything in between for Chicago sports fans.  So, lets take a look back on the Top 10 Moments in Chicago Sports in 2008 (in no particular order):
Bears use goal line stand to beat the Eagles 24-20

Bears use goal line stand to beat the Eagles 24-20

Bears goal line stand against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4 — The Chicago Bears were leading the Philadelphia Eagles 24-20, Eagles had first and goal from the Bears 4, 5:40 left in the game.  Eagles run RB Cornell Buckhalter off right tackle for 3 yards.  Second and goal was a handoff to FB Tony Hunt for no gain.  Third down was back to Buckhalter to the right for no gain.  Eagles call a time out and decide to go for it on 4th down.   Buckhalter again off left tackle, this time, stood up by RE Alex Brown of the Bears for no gain.  Game over.  Bears win.

Zambrano hurls a no-hitter.

Zambrano hurls a no-hitter.

Cubs RHP Carlos Zambrano throws no-hitter against the Houston Astros on Sept. 14th —  The Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros waited two long days to find out where they would be playing their key late season series against each other.  Houston was being devestated by Hurricane Ike and MLB moved the Astros to “neutral” Miller Park in Milwaukee to face the Cubs.  Zambrano brought his “A” game with him to “Wrigley North”, shutting down the powerful Astros lineup, striking out CF Darrin Erstad swinging for the last out of the first Cubs no-hitter in 36 years.

Chicago Cubs Win 2008 NL Central Division

Chicago Cubs Win 2008 NL Central Division

Cubs win back to back NL Central Division titles — The Cubs began the 2008 season with one of it’s goals to win the 2008 NL Central Division title, as well as seeking their first World Series appearance since 1945 and first World Championship since 1908.  Alas, the Cubs could only slay one 100 year drought, as they won an NL-best 97 games en route to the 2008 NL Central Division title for their  first back to back division titles since 1908.  A quick sweep in the NL Divisional Series by the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers dimmed what was to that point, a most magical season for the North Siders.

chicago white sox win 2008 al central division title

chicago white sox win 2008 al central division title

White Sox win 3 elimination games in a row to win the AL Central title — The Chicago White Sox looked dead in the water, losing  4 of their final 5 games to the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians, coughing up a 2.5 game division lead and falling 1/2 game behind the Twins with one game to play.  The final game of the Cleveland series and the regular season was a must win game with Mark Buehrle on the bump, the Sox beat the Indians to force the Monday afternoon post-season makeup game against the Detroit Tigers.  The Sox win the makeup game against the Tigers, forcing a one game playoff game against the Twins for the AL Division title, this time, in Chicago.   The Sox, behind a masterpiece by LHP John Danks, beat the Twins 1-0 and claim the AL Central Division title, winning three elimination games in a row.

derrick rose drafted #1 by chicago bulls

derrick rose drafted #1 by chicago bulls

Chicago Bulls win the 1st pick in the NBA Draft and the right to select PG Derrick Rose Chicago Bulls GM John Paxson had to work wonders to undo all the bad karma and decision-making by Bulls brass in the post-Michael Jordan/Phil Jackson era, but by sheer luck,  one of those bouncing ping-pong ball went red, and the Bulls, with a x% chance, landed the #1 pick in the 2008 NBA draft.  Around the same time, a young freshman PG from Chicago was leading his one-loss  Memphis Tigers team to the 2008 National Championship game against the Kansas Jayhawks.  The Jayhawks win the title, the young freshman forgoes his eligibility and declares eligible for the NBA Draft and the prodigal son returns a hero.

The City of Chicago becomes a finalist for host city for the 2016 Olympic Summer Games — Chicago survived the US bid process to emerge as the US entry for host of the 2016 Olympics.  Election Night provided the world a glimpse of what Chicago 2016 could be as Grant Park served as the world’s stage for President-Elect Barack Obama’s election night speech.  Chicago is President Obama’s hometown and can be in prime position to be named 2016 host, but it can’t rest on that momentum as concerns about finances, transportation infrastructure, and sports facilities still shroud Chicago’s Olympic bid chances.

Youngsters lead the resurgence of the Chicago Blackhawks

Youngsters lead the resurgence of the Chicago Blackhawks

The arrival of a young and resurgent Chicago Blackhawks hockey team, who finished  the 2007-08 season very strong and opened the 2008-09 season even stronger — the Chicago Blackhawks under owner Bill Wirtz became the city’s red headed stepchild of Chicago professional sports.  Even the minor league AHL hockey team, the Chicago Wolves, were outdrawing the Hawks in attendance.  Things couldn’t have been any lower, and then, Bill Wirtz died.  Bill’s son Rocky took the team over and his first move as team owner was to steal marketing genius John McDonough away from the Cubs, hiring McDonough as his new team president.  A change in coaches (Joel Quenneville in, Denis Savard out), a #1, and #3  draft pick later, youngsters C Jonathan Toews and RW Patrick Kane lead a marketing and on-ice resurgence of the Chicago Blackhawks.  High point to date, a team best 9 game winning streak leading into the 2009 Winter Classic against the Detroit Red Wings.  The game resulted in a loss for the Blackhawks in the standings, but was a HUGE win for the Hawks in prestige and heritage.  A vintage Original Six team is reborn.

Chicago Bears Matt Forte leads Bears ground attack

Chicago Bears Matt Forte leads Bears ground attack

Bears hammer Indianapolis Colts on national TV in the season opener, marking the coming out party for Bears RB Matt Forte and ruining the home opening of the Colts new Lucas Oil Stadium — The Chicago Bears were playing on national television.  They were also playing the mighty Indianapolis Colts on the road in the Colts brand spanking new stadium.  The Bears have traditionally been nothing short of horrible in nationally televised night games and this was Sunday Night Football on NBC.  And QB Peyton Manning, coming off a knee injury, was planning on starting this game. The Bears were doomed, but fate forgot to mention that to this Bears team, lead by a resurgent defense and the nimble running of rookie RB Matt Forte, the only Bear to eclipse 100 yards rushing in his first ever game (123 yards), the Bears down the mighty Colts 29-13.

QB Juice Williams leads Illinois to 2008 Rose Bowl

QB Juice Williams leads Illinois to 2008 Rose Bowl

The University of Illinois football team plays in it’s first Rose Bowl since 1984 — In 2001, the University of Illinois football program was reaching it’s pinnacle capped by a Big Ten Conference Championship and an appearance in the 2002 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.  Two short years later, the Illini hit rock bottom, going 1-11, eventually firing coach Ron Turner and hiring master recruiter Ron Zook as his replacement.  In year 3 of the rebuilding process, the Illini found themselves with a 9-4 record, stunning #1 Ohio State on the road in a 28-21 victory that propelled the team to it’s first Rose Bowl in 24 years.

Chicago Wolves win the 2008 Calder Cup Championship

Chicago Wolves win the 2008 Calder Cup Championship

Chicago Wolves win the 2008 Calder Cup Championship, bringing a hockey title back to Chicago — The Chicago Wolves AHL hockey team beats the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 5-2 bringing the Calder Cup back to Chicago.  It is the 4th title for the Wolves in their 14-year history.  Soon after, Wolves Coach John Anderson is promoted to coach the parent team, the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers. The Wolves dip into a famous Chicago hockey family, tapping Don Granato as their new head coach.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Fighting Illini | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »