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Posts Tagged ‘Aramis Ramirez’

Is Chicago Cubs Jake Fox The New Mark DeRosa?

Posted by sportsmaven on July 17, 2009

Is Chicago Cubs IF/OF/C Jake Fox becoming the next Mark DeRosa for the Cubs?  Fox’s hitting has been widely praised up and down the Cubs leadership hierarchy, posting downright gaudy numbers this season for the AAA Iowa Cubs.  His .409 BA, 17HR, 53RBI and OBP of .495 in just 45 games are completely off the charts.  In 29 games with the Cubs, Fox’s stats are .312 BA, 4HR, 15 RBI with an OBP of .356, very impressive for a part-time role player.

Jerry Lai/US Presswire

Jerry Lai/US Presswire

Fox has forged his reputation as a very solid, strong hitter with no natural fielding position.  He was drafted as a catcher in the 3rd round of the 2003 amateur entry draft, out of University of Michigan, but has bounced around the diamond since, with some saying his best position will ultimately be as a designated hitter.

Since his second recall from Iowa this season, Fox has played third base, left field, and this past week before the All-Star game, he played his natural position, catcher in the second game of a day night double-header.  In past stints with the Cubs, Fox has also played first base and right field.  Fox has quietly developed into a 5 position player with a very strong bat.  He hits for power, average, and can get on base.  He has delivered in the clutch when the Cubs lacked any clutch hitting in the months of June and July.

As the second half of the season begins, the best use of Jake Fox may be in the role that Mark DeRosa played for the Cubs in the last 2 seasons.  Fox has the ability to play multiple positions, maybe not quite as well as DeRosa, but he has shown competence in every position he’s played, and he may develop into a much better hitter than DeRosa as well.  Fox is also seven years younger than DeRosa too.  Fox can play up to 3-4 games a week to rest players such as 3B Aramis Ramirez, 1B Derrek Lee, OF Alfonso Soriano, and OF Milton Bradley.  He can also spot-catch when needed.  He may even be a better hitting backup catcher option to C Geovanny Soto than C Koyie Hill, or at least provide Cubs manager Lou Piniella more roster flexibility in late game situations.

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Chicago Cubs GM Jim Hendry’s Unlucky Season

Posted by sportsmaven on June 10, 2009

Short of P Randy Wells, has anyone on the Chicago baseball landscape had worse luck than Chicago Cubs GM Jim Hendry?  As we pass the first third of the 2009 season, it appears that every significant move that Hendry made in the offseason has stunk to high heaven.  Some of those major moves include:

(UPI Photo/Brian Kersey)

(UPI Photo/Brian Kersey)

Signing OF Milton Bradley — Hendry signed Bradley to his first ever multi-year contract, a 3-year, $30M sweetheart deal, partially to cover last season’s potential mistake of signing OF Kosuke Fukudome.  The other part is that Bradley’s a switch hitter, adding yet another left handed hitting bat to what was once a righty dominated regular lineup.  All Bradley has done this season is boycott the media, bump an umpire, earning himself a 2 game suspension, appealing said suspension while being in the midst of missing 7 games due to a hamstring injury.  Now injured with a calf strain, Bradley is hitting .208 5 HR 14RBI and struggling to stay healthy.

Trading IF/OF Mark DeRosa to the Cleveland Indians for 3 minor league pitchers — evaluating all of Hendry’s moves, this one was the most baffling.  DeRosa played at least 6 positions and was an offensive force for the Cubs, keeping a big stick in the lineup while offering rest to regular position players with no drop off in ability.  DeRosa, along with former Cubs P Kerry Wood, was the heart and soul of the Cubs 97 win team in 2008.  His 10HR and 42RBI would by far lead the 2009 Cubs in both categories.  It seems that the right handed hitting DeRosa’s only problem is that he doesn’t hit left handed.

Signing OF Joey Gathright — Gathright was an insurance policy, a way to provide speed and fielding ability at the top of the Cubs lineup.  What Gathright amounted to was a poor fit in Chicago.  Hendry traded Gathright to the Baltimore Orioles for IF/OF Ryan Freel, whom the Orioles activated from the 15-day DL to complete the trade.  Hendry’s luck continues, as three weeks after completing this trade, Freel was back on the DL

Signing IF/OF Aaron Miles — The signing of Miles was a hedge to the DeRosa trade, as Miles is DeRosa lite.  Miles plays almost as many positions, but unlike DeRosa, Miles hits with zero power.  Miles played sporatically to start the season, but as he began to receive more playing time, he earned himself a seat at the table of the 15-day DL, adding further scrutiny to an already snakebitten Hendry offseason.

Keeping Rule 5 draftee LHP David Patton on the 25-man roster — This move was a particularly tough one and a huge risk, magnified by the roster turmoil the Cubs have seen in the first two months of the season.  Patton was outstanding in spring training, making the decision to keep him a very difficult one, considering it would have to be for the entire season, due to the Rule 5 rules.  Once the season began, Patton suddenly became hittable and unreliable, which is not a huge suprise from a young player who had never played professional baseball above the Class A minor league level.  Keeping Patton tied manager Lou Piniella’s hands in two ways: first, Patton was virtually unusable in any situation outside of blowout victories or losses; second, Patton cost the Cubs a roster spot for a more reliable pitcher, or a position player, which would have been useful when 3B Aramis Ramirez went down with a shoulder injury.

Signing RHP Chad Fox — Hendry took yet another flyer on the oft injured pitcher, and once again, it ends with what appears to be a season and career ending injury.  Fox ended last season with a major elbow injury prompting a brief retirement, only to be lured out of retirement for another go at bullpen work.  In his second appearance against the Milwaukee Brewers on May 8th, Fox threw a wild pitch and grabbed his arm in obvious pain.  He is on the DL again and it appears that this time, his injury may be career-ending.

Other issues that are not directly related to Hendry moves, but have happened under Hendry’s watch as GM this season include:

  • The Ramirez injury
  • Carlos Zambrano’s injury and subsequent 5-game suspension and $3,000 fine for bumping an umpire while vehemently disputing a call at home plate in a game on May 27th, then 6 days later blows off a team flight to Atlanta without permission.
  • LHP Ted Lilly’s fined $1,500 and nearly suspended for being ejected while arguing balls and strikes – in a game where he was not even pitching.
  • An injury to RHP Rich Harden, forcing a move to the DL that has been longer than first anticipated
  • Building an ineffective bullpen, with struggling LHP Neal Cotts, RHP Aaron Heilman, and set-up man RHP Carlos Marmol’s recent struggles
  • Early ineffectiveness from IF Mike Fontenot, C Geovanny Soto, and 1B Derrek Lee

To be fair, not all of Hendry’s moves this season been a total disaster.  Some of Hendry’s smaller, under-the-radar moves have been quite strong, mainly:

  • Bringing up Randy Wells when Zambrano went on the DL; then keeping Wells in the rotation as he has been the Cubs most dependable and effective starting pitcher of late.
  • Promoting rookie IF Bobby Scales, an 11-year minor league player making his major league debut.  Scales became the feel good story of the season so far for the Cubs.
  • Making an 11th hour decision to keep bubble performer RHP Angel Guzman as the 25th man on the roster after a horrible spring training.  All Guzman has done is become the best and most reliable reliever in the Cubs bullpen this season, sporting a 2-0 record (the first two wins of his major league career) with a 2.28 ERA, with 6 holds and a save.  Over a span of 12 games since May 8th, Guzman has been perfect, not giving up a single run.

While Jim Hendry’s moves have all backfired so far this season, to his and the Cubs credit, they haven’t panicked.   Odds are that players struggling this bad will rebound strongly and if the strong starting pitching continues, the Cubs still can boast the most talent of any team in the NL Central.  Only time will tell if this will be enough for a third straight post-season appearance.

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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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