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Posts Tagged ‘Jason Marquis’

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  From top to bottom of the organization, from the ballpark workers to the fans, the fuzzy lovefest that was 2008 has been replaced by a season that has all the markings of struggle written all over the brown, yet to grow ivy outfield walls.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 Uneventful Spring Training….NOT!

Posted by sportsmaven on March 7, 2008

Just when we thought the Chicago Cubs could have a quiet, productive, uneventful spring training…..reality sets in and proves once again that spring training is anything but ordinary for a franchise entering into the Golden Anniversary year of it’s last World Series championship. Off-field drama has dominated the Cubs camp, beginning with Day 1 posterboy, 3B Aramis Ramirez and allegations of cock fighting in the Dominican Republic and the majestic entrance of RF Kosuke Fukudome and the entourage of Japanese baseball reporters. Day 2 opens with news from winter blitzed Chicago that the Cubs are suing a rooftop owner who is refusing to pay his fair share of rooftop revenue. The Cubs have threatened to block said owner’s rooftop until payment is made. By the end of the first week, 2B Mark DeRosa leaves camp in an ambulance for a non-baseball heart procedure. Welcome to Days of Our Cubs.

lou-piniella-in-spring-training-3-5-08.jpg

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

For the encore, lets take a look at the next few days issues:

  1. RHP Jose Ascanio was sent to the hospital to be examined for injuries suffered in a one-sided fistfight at a Scottsdale convenience store
  2. Sam Zell warms up to Cubs fans by announcing that the Wrigley Field naming rights are open to the highest bidder
  3. Sam Zell warms up to the City of Chicago by announcing that he wants to renegotiate more night games and concerts for Whateverit’scalled Field
  4. State of Illinois makes pitch to buy Whateverit’scalled Field by dissing the City of Chicago’s landmark status and suggestions of hijacking tax revenue from revenue generated from stadium improvements for the next 30 years or so

So what about the real baseball issues, you ask? Well, those are just as outrageous:

  1. 3B Aramis Ramirez starts camp with his annual injury, nursing a sore shoulder that keeps him out of early game action
  2. RF Alfonso Soriano breaks a finger, sidelining him for 3 to 5 to 7 to who knows how many days.
  3. RHP Ryan Dempster makes a bold prediction that the Cubs will win the World Series in 2008
  4. RHP Jason Marquis boldly states that if he is not a starter, he wants to be traded
  5. Manager Lou Piniella pitching the Tribune Company to extend GM Jim Hendry’s contract while simultaneously dropping hints for his own contract extension
  6. Lou Piniella blows a gasket over Jason Marquis is-guided comments, losing early, meaningless spring training games, and the details of the pitching staff work schedule
  7. The on again, off again, on again, never happening trade talks with the Baltimore Orioles for 2B Brian Roberts that will fuel the rumor mill for the remainder of spring training to the July 31st trade deadline

Seriously, there are some on-field baseball issues to resolve, right? You bet:

  1. Who will be the 4th and 5th starters and where will Jason Marquis be pitching in 2008?
  2. Is Alfonso Soriano really leading off again?
  3. Who will be the Cubs closer?
  4. Can Kosuke Fukudome really hit?
  5. Do we have a CF on our roster that can actually play?
  6. Can Lou Piniella write 100 different lineups by the end of spring training?

Well, at least the entire Cubs organization from top to bottom, knows how to keep it entertaining for the rest of us. And to think that RHP Carlos Zambrano is the voice of reason in this year’s spring camp…..wait until the Cubs acquire a new owner? Mark Cuban, where are you?

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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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Chicago Cubs Bullpen Give Another Game Away

Posted by sportsmaven on May 14, 2007

My posts on the Chicago Cubs this season have generally not been glowing. Tonight’s post will not enter that territory either. The reason being is that the Cubs are headed for a mediocre at best season. Tonight’s game against the New York Mets is a prime example of that. Too many Cubs seasons have either begun with a flourish only to be bogged down by the realities of the level of talent, injury, or futility. Since the division winning season of 2003, the Cubs have been flat, and fundamentally flawed. There have been too many games where the Cubs failed to get bunts down, advance runners, hold runners from advancing, throwing to the correct bases, making too many mental errors, the list goes on.

Cubs Bullpen Give Another Game Away to Mets

(AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy)

This year, the problems again happen to be the same as other years — the bullpen has to be one of the worst in baseball. The Cubs bullpen is 3-10 this season. Ten losses in the first 36 games due to your bullpen. Tonight, 3 walks in the 9th inning, walking in the winning run, by P Michael Wuertz, up to now, the most reliable pitcher in the pen outside of Ryan Dempster. The timely hitting which seemed to appear at the turn of May has given way to the maddening inconsistency that dogged the Cubs in April.

The Cubs can ill afford to hover around the 2 games under .500 mark with roughly 25% of the season already in the books.  On Saturday, the Cubs bullpen gave up 6 runs in the bottom of the 7th after scoring 6 runs in the top of the inning to take a 7-5 lead, ultimately losing that game 11-7.  Some changes need to be made and quickly for this team. The surplus of outfielders might be a good start in picking up some reliable bullpen arms. The latest injury to 1B Derrek Lee is also a great concern. It was about this time last season that Lee was injured in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers that sent the Cubs into a downward, last place spiral for which they could never overcome. Losing Lee again would be a huge blow for this team’s chances. The Cubs have wasted brilliant starting pitching from Jason Marquis, Ted Lilly, and Rich Hill. The time for this team to come around is now. Excuses are running out, and so is time on a successful season at the rate it’s going now……

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Chicago Cubs Are An Early Season Disaster

Posted by sportsmaven on April 23, 2007

I was going to refrain from writing about the Chicago Cubs early this season, but after this weekend’s series against the St. Louis Cardinals and watching tonight’s come from ahead loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, I can no longer hold my tongue or my typing prowess any longer. I have watched this Cubs team in person for 5 games now (1-4 record for the games I’ve attended) and watched pretty much every other game this season on TV and I have come to the conclusion that the Cubs are an unmitigated disaster.

Carlos Zambrano Loses to BrewersCubs Lose to Brewers 5-4 in 12 innings

(Tribune photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo)

Lets look at some of the numbers, just to make sure the assessment is not without empirical evidence. The Cubs are 3-8 at home. They are 0-3 in extra inning games. They are 0-5 in one run games. They are 0-3-2 in series wins at home. They are 1-4-2 in the 6 series they have played this season and are down the first game of the 7th series of the season. The Cubs are 7-12 overall for the season, 5 games behind the division leading Brewers and fading fast. To highlight how bad it has become for the Cubs, only the Washington Nationals and Kansas City Royals have worse records than the Cubs (both are 6-13) and both teams have actually been on an upswing as of late. If you take out the performance of Rich Hill, projected to be the 4th starter this season, the Cubs have only 4 wins this season. Four.

Now the naysayers and optimists of the world are saying “C’mon SportsMaven, the Cubs have played only 19 games this season. It’s too early to write them off.” Well maybe so, but the signs are not encouraging to say the least, and when you spend in excess of $300 million in the offseason, 7-12 is not satisfactory at any point in the season.

Just to point out some of the weak points in the Cubs season, you don’t have to look very far:

1. The Cubs outfield situation is a mess. LF Alfonso Soriano gets hurt 12 games into the season (slight tweak of his left hamstring). Felix Pie is called up play CF. That leaves LF and RF for a combination of Matt Murton, Cliff Floyd, and Jacques Jones — until Soriano comes back and management says that he will play LF to protect his hamstring injury. Cubs management also says that Felix Pie will play as well, in CF for the Cubs. That leaves the Cubs with 3 RF’s and a messy rotation in the OF. Pie will eventually be sent back to Iowa leaving the original mess that started the season.

2. The Cubs setup men are a disaster. LP Scott Eyre, with a 15.00 ERA after tonight, giving up the tying runs in the 8th inning on a HR by Brewers 1B Prince Fielder ( a left handed batter) and a couple of hits by left handed batters to score the second run. RP Bobby Howry has given up key hits in the late innings to blow leads and ultimately to lose games. Factor in LP Will Ohman’s 40 ft. curveballs, and walking in two runs in an inning against the Cincinnati Reds to lose that game, the set up men in the Cubs bullpen are losing games at an alarming clip.

3. The Cubs defense and baserunning are atrocious. Soriano has been picked off 3 times in key situations in the last 9 games. Apparently Ronnie Cedeno overuns second base on a WALK and gets tagged out. The Cubs have committed so many baserunning gaffes this season (and mind you, it’s only 19 games into the season) they have already had to dispatch baserunning instructor Bobby Dernier to get this fixed. The defense has been terrible as well. Sure handed SS Cesar Izturis commited 3 errors — in ONE GAME. 2b Mark DeRosa drops a sure out infield popup, allowing an inning to keep going and for the eventual winning runs to score later in a loss to the Reds. Jacque Jones still can’t hit a cutoff man.

4. The #1 starter (Carlos Zambrano) with 16 walks/16 strikeouts and a 7.77 ERA entering tonight’s game and the #5 starter (Wade Miller) with a 10.54 ERA giving up a whopping 24 hits in 13 IP this season. Zambrano will come around, so not as concerned about his early season struggles, but it may be time to move RP Angel Guzman (2.45 ERA) into the #5 slot in the rotation.

5. The Cubs have been killed by lack of clutch hitting, as noted by the one run and extra inning record noted above. Latest case in point — tonight’s game. The Cubs had runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs in the 7th and failed to score. Had the go ahead run on 2nd in the 8th and 10th and failed to score. Had a runner in scoring position in the 11th and failed to score. Had the tying run on base in the 12th and failed to score. That’s a lot of failure in the clutch. And that’s just ONE game. This has been a trend in most of the games this season. The hitting, the clear strength of this team, has been a no-show for most of the season.

6. RP Mark Prior is finally having arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder…..

Amazingly, the Cubs are losing in the midst of some very strong performances by key question marks, specifically:

1. The “weak” spots of the starting rotation have come up big time: LP Rich Hill leads MLB in wins (3) and ERA (0.41) and batting avg. against ( .192) LP Ted Lilly is the hard luck pitcher in the rotation, 1-2 record with a 2.42 ERA. His 2 losses were a 1-0 decision against the Cincinnati Reds and a 2-1 loss against the St. Louis Cardinals. Lilly is leading the NL (and 5th in MLB) in strikeouts (30). RP Jason Marquis is having an outstanding season so far, with a 2-1 record, 1.88 ERA, including 7 shut out innings against the Cardinals last Saturday.

2. 1B Derrek Lee and 3B Aramis Ramirez have been in the NL Top 10 in batting average all season long, both starting the season hot with Lee hitting .360 and Ramirez hitting .340. SS Ryan Theriot has also been on a tear, hitting .340 as well.

3. RP Michael Wuertz has been completely lights out unhittable….in the Will Ohman walking in runs game against the Reds, Wuertz enterted the game with the bases loaded with no outs and proceeded to strike out the side. Wuertz has a 0.00 ERA, 13K’s in 11 IP. Masterful.

4. The Cubs have scored the second most runs in the division (87) and given up the second fewest runs in the division ( 77) and are still in last place….go figure.

So, 19 games into this wonderful season and the Cubs are on pace for a 56 win season, 10 less than last season’s drive to the basement. Makes you pine for the salad days of Dusty Baker…… the old saying goes “you can’t win a championship in April, but you can certainly lose them in April. If that holds true, we will be in year 100 of the latest 5 year rebuilding plan by Memorial Day.

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