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Posts Tagged ‘Florida Marlins’

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  From top to bottom of the organization, from the ballpark workers to the fans, the fuzzy lovefest that was 2008 has been replaced by a season that has all the markings of struggle written all over the brown, yet to grow ivy outfield walls.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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Chicago Cubs are 2007 NL Central Division Champions

Posted by sportsmaven on September 29, 2007

When it seemed to be the most bleakest moment of the season, being swept by the lowly Florida Marlins, the Chicago Cubs put together perhaps their best game of the season in beating the Cincinnati Reds, 6-0 tonight. An hour later, the San Diego Padres set off the celebration by beating the Milwaukee Brewers 6-3, crowning the Cubs as your 2007 NL Central Division Champions. For those who feel the Cubs are backing into the playoffs, tonight should erase all thoughts of that. The Cubs had to win tonight with their top pitcher, Carlos Zambrano manning the mound and he was spectacular. The Cubs got enough hitting and put the misery of southern Florida behind them. By the way, what the hell is up with the Florida Marlins anyway? If they had played their entire season like they played the last 2 weeks, they would be NL East Champions. Instead, they get the unenviable position of being a spoiler. I’m sure that 40 years from now, each Marlins player is going to have his grandkid on his lap and will tell them how in 2007, they slowed down the mighty Cubs from clinching the division and spoiled the division championship for the New York Mets. Do they give rings out for that? I think not.

Cubs Win NL Central Title

(AP Photo/Al Behrman)

Carlos Zambrano Wins Division Title!

(AP Photo/Al Behrman)

The Sportsmaven is heading to Cincinnati tomorrow morning to see the Cubs face the Cincinnati Reds at a 2:55p gametime start. This game should be a dog. Will this be more than a spring training B game? Doubtful, but none the less, look forward to seeing yet another new ballpark this season, the Great American Ballpark. On Wednesday, Oct. 3rd, everyone starts from scratch. Eight teams will have a magic number of 11, the Cubs one of those teams and they are living on cloud nine tonight.

Cubs Win!

(AP Photo/David Kohl)

Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs……2007 NL Central Division Champions!

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Jim Thome, You’re A Class Act

Posted by sportsmaven on September 19, 2007

The Chicago White Sox won the World Series in 2005.  One member of the current White Sox who was not on that championship is 1B/DH Jim Thome.  Thome was traded to the Sox after the World Series for CF and local hero Aaron Rowand and minor league P Gio Gonzalez.  Since then, the Sox have taken the death spiral to the bottom of the AL Central Division, battling the likes of the Kansas City Royals, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Florida Marlins, amongst others, for the top pick in next year’s amateur baseball draft.

Jim Thome Hits 500th HR

(AP Photo/Jerry Lai)

The one person who deserved to be called a World Series champion is Jim Thome.  Nobody expected the White Sox to decline in the manner in which they have done this season.  The hitting has been spotty and poor, the pitching, especially the bullpen, has been horrific.  The one constant on this train wreck of a White Sox team has been the attitude and professionalism of Jim Thome.  Thome hit his 500th HR in dramatic fashion, a walk off HR to beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (it rolls off the tongue) 9-7 on Sunday afternoon.

Congratulations, Jim Thome!  It is unclear whether this season was a blip on the radar of Sox lore, or if it’s truly a sign of decline, but I hope the Sox make one more run at a championship next season, because nobody on that roster deserves it more than Jim Thome.

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Chicago Cubs Pull One Out Of The Fire

Posted by sportsmaven on August 21, 2007

The Kid was dealing it tonight.  I said that to myself after every missed swing and strikeout.  Down and hard with nasty movement.  Giants P Tim Lincecum was bringing the heat and was virtually un-hittable tonight, shutting out the Chicago Cubs on 3 hits through 8 innings.  Then came the 9th inning, the three hardest outs in baseball.  Lincecum deserved better tonight, but he got hit in the 9th, hit by Ryan Theriot, Jacque Jones, and Derrek Lee.  By the time Cliff Floyd and Jason Kendall were through, the Cubs were on their way to a 5-1 victory and Lincecum was hung with a loss.  By the way, is it just me or does Lincecum look like the long lost twin of Ferris’s best friend, Cameron Frye from the movie Ferris Buehler’s Day Off?  Talk about pulling one out tonight, the bats looked dead, Cubs P Jason Marquis looked like a hard luck pitcher.  Marquis threw a wonderful game, escaping time and time again from the 5 walks he issued.

Cubs Pull One Out Of The Fire

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)
With the St. Louis Cardinals winning earlier tonight against the Florida Marlins and the Milwaukee Brewers taking it to Arizona Diamondbacks, the Cubs needed this win badly and came through in the clutch.  Wins are at a premium now, with less than 40 games left in the season, the Cubs are finding ways to win.  With OF Alfonso Soriano set to return in the next two weeks, the Cubs surely have another good run in them with their envisioned lineup intact.  Tomorrow’s matchup is a dandy, with Cubs LHP Rich Hill facing Giants LHP Barry Zito….stay tuned for more magic…….

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