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Posts Tagged ‘Baseball’

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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The Chicago Cubs Are Getting It Done Offensively

Posted by sportsmaven on April 22, 2008

The most impressive aspect of the Chicago Cubs fast start is how well the offense is producing. After tonight,s 7-1 victory over the New York Mets, the Cubs have scored the second most runs in the NL and third most runs in MLB. They are scoring a robust 6.21 runs per game so far this season, and the truly remarkable thing is that they are doing it without their top offensive threat, OF Alfonso Soriano, who has been on the 15-day DL after injuring his calf last Tuesday night, but before the injury, is off to his traditional slow start to his season.

Going back to April 7th, the Cubs last 10 wins produced the following offensive output: 10, 6, 7, 6 9, 12, 3, 13, 13, 7. In their 13 wins to date, the Cubs are averaging a whopping 8 runs per game. In 2006, the Cubs offense averaged 4.7 runs per game, 8th in the NL and 18th in MLB. Where has the offensive improvement taken place? Lets look at the key offensive stats. In 2007, the Cubs offense was average, finishing 18th in MLB in OBP (.333), 15th in MLB in slugging (.422) and 15th in MLB in OPS (.754).

In 2008, the Cubs are averaging 6.21 per game. They are 2nd in the NL and 3rd in MLB in runs scored with 118. In 2008, the Cubs offense is near the top of every category, 1st in the NL and 2nd in MLB in OBP (.366), 4th in the NL and 4th in MLB in slugging (.456) and 2nd in the NL and second in MLB in OPS (.822).

The Cubs 13-6 record in April is their best April in recent memory, fueled by the resurgent Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and newcomer Kosuke Fukudome. Six starters have batting averages above .300 and the seventh is hitting .282. Seven starters have an OBP over .408, seven starters have a slugging percentage of over .408 and 7 starters have an OPS over .821. The 8th starter? OF Alfonso Soriano, who is at the bottom of the charts in all categories (.230/.290/.528). How dangerous will the Cubs be offensively, if they maintain this pace and Soriano begins to hit his stride?

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The Mental Aspect Of Baseball

Posted by sportsmaven on April 4, 2008

The Chicago Cubs played their 4th game of the 2008 season today and already, it seems that destiny’s team is off to a slow start for the second year in a row. Cubs manager Lou Piniella stated early this spring the importance of the Cubs to get off to a strong start this season because the 2008 schedule is front loaded with early home games and light with home games in September. Four games into the beginning of this season, the Cubs have seemed to pick up where they left off last season. Lack of hitting, timely hitting, scoring runs, timely pitching, and poor execution and fielding have contributed to the Cubs 1-3 start.

Against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs salvaged the final game of the opening series, but looked overmatched by the bold, dynamic play of the youthful Brew Crew. The most surprising part of the beginning of this Cubs season is how mentally unprepared the Cubs appear.

The Cubs possess all the physical skills to be World Champions, but mentally, the Cubs have so far come across as the 90 pound weakling. P Kerry Wood imploded in his first game as Cubs closer. He hit a batter, gave up hits in a tie game, in the 9th inning. Game 2 of the season looked like something you would expect from a team just starting spring training. The defense was terrible, the situational hitting was atricious. The pitching was abominable.

Today’s game was lost by an 8th inning fielding error by Cubs 2B Mark DeRosa, booting a ball hit right to him with nobody on base, and then 2 batters later, Cubs LF Alfonso Soriano badly playing a Miguel Tejada double into a triple, on a play that should have been an error, but was gifted as a triple by Tejada, scoring Lance Berkman. In today’s post-game press conference, Cubs P Rich Hill admitted a lapse in concentration in the 4th inning, walking Mark Loretta then giving up a home run to the 8th hitter, Astros C J.R. Towles.

Mental mistakes and lapses in concentration are what held the Cubs back last season. Yes, the Cubs won the National League Central Division last season with an 85-77 record. The favored Cubs were then promptly swept out of the playoffs by the underdog Arizona Diamondbacks. For the Cubs, the series was punctuated by what we have seen so far this season: lack of situational and timely hitting, poor defense, and huge mental lapses at critical moments. The mental aspect of baseball is perhaps the most difficult of skills to master. If the Cubs do not grasp this concept immediately, next year will be 101 years of championship futility.

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Chicago Cubs Get Swept Out of 2007 Playoffs

Posted by sportsmaven on October 8, 2007

222Somewhere, somehow, Lou Piniella is sitting back, scratching his head, wondering if it was the goat after all. The Chicago Cubs160168 were ushered out of the playoffs on Saturday night with a resounding thud, as they lost Game 3 to the Arizona Diamondbacks161169, 5-1, sealing their fate once again, bringing the championship drought to 99+ years and counting. Fate was sealed when Cubs P Rich Hill’s 162170first pitch of the game to Diamondbacks CF Chris Young163171 was golfed into the left field bleachers. Four double plays later, the Cubs were left with memories of 2007 and the “Wait ‘Til Next Year” cry.

Cubs Lose To

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Watching this series, I was totally shocked at how the Cubs did absolutely nothing to merit winning even one game. Their defense was flawless in the series, otherwise, offensively, they were a complete no-show. The Cubs big 3 hitters had exactly 0 RBI. Outside of Carlos Zambrano, Cubs starting pitching was not very good. I liked how Cubs C Geovanny Soto172 competed, cementing his position as Cubs starting catcher for next season.

Outside of a nice run in June/July, the Cubs season was woefully short on good, sound, fundamental baseball. They didn’t do the little things to win games on a consistent basis. They didn’t do things like bunt very well, advance baserunners, didn’t show good discipline at the plate, run the bases well, or any of the other little things that a team like the Arizona Diamondbacks did to win the NLDS.

This has got to change for 2008 if the Cubs plan on ending the championship drought. When you do the little things, all of a sudden breaks start going your way. You get a couple more calls, you work yourself out of jams, the big hit gets you runs. My big wish for the 2008 Cubs is that their baseball IQ triples, that they take care of the little things. Oh, a closer and a power hitting RF wouldn’t hurt either.

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