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Posts Tagged ‘Jim Hendry’

Welcome To The Chicago Cubs, Rich Harden

Posted by sportsmaven on July 27, 2008

Somebody should have warned Rich Harden that life with the Chicago Cubs was about to get maniacally interesting for the pitcher from Victoria, British Columbia.  Western Canada is about as far away philosophically, as well as geographically, from the world of the Cubs, yet Rich Harden’s performance in America’s Pastime has been nothing short of spectacular — with maddening results.
Cubs P Rich Harden

Cubs P Rich Harden

Harden was acquired on July 8th, along with P Chad Gaudin for Cubs P Sean Gallagher, OF Matt Murton, IF Eric Patterson, and C Josh Donaldson.  Harden was Cubs GM Jim Hendry’s answer for the Milwaukee Brewers acquisition of P CC Sabathia the day before, and he was everything advertised and more.

After today’s start, Harden has been spectacular.  Three starts, 17 1/3 innings pitched, 30K’s 8 hits, 2 ER, 1.04 ERA, 0-1 record.  The Cubs are 1-2 in his 3 starts.  Harden is 5-2 with a 2.04 ERA overall.  The Chicago Cubs have wasted performances that have been absolutely dominant, so much so that they match up substantially to Sabathia’s performance as a Milwaukee Brewer.

Sabathia’s numbers are: 4 starts, 33 IP, 20 hits, 6 ER, 31K’s, 1.36 ERA, 4-0 record.  Four wins for Sabathia, none for Harden.  The Chicago Cubs have 59 games left in the season after today.  Harden will likely have 12 more starts if he stays healthy.  The Chicago Cubs badly need to take advantage of Harden’s dominance.  Only in Chicago, could a pitcher post the numbers that Harden has put up and have no victories to show for it.

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Chicago Cubs Season Turning Into A Circus

Posted by sportsmaven on July 27, 2008

The Chicago Cubs magical first half of the 2008 season has quickly turned into a circus-like  atmosphere for destiny’s team in the month of July.  The Cubs began the season with few distractions, allowing the team to concentrate on playing very solid baseball, leading to the best record in baseball for much of the first half of the season.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

As of late, a rash of off-field events have provided plenty of distraction for a team already bearing the weight of lofty explanations.  Those events include:

On the field, the Cubs have been less than stellar, posting a 9-11 record since July 1st.  The off-field issues may have played some role in that record, but on-field, the Cubs have been a different team as of late.  Some of the on-field issues include:

  • OF Kosuke Fukudome hitting .185 in July
  • IF/OF Mark DeRosa hitting .188 in July
  • IF Aramis Ramirez hitting .176 in July including an 0-28 stretch between July 12-22.
  • P Bobby Howry sports a 6.97 ERA in July, giving up earned runs in 3 of his last 5 appearances.
  • Scheduling: From June 10th, the Cubs played for 26 consecutive days, including a rained-out affair at the Hall of Fame on June 16th, their only “day off” in that span.  On June 29th, the Cubs played the ESPN Sunday Night Game of the week and then had to board a plane to fly to San Francisco to play a game the next night.
  • Since June 10th, the Cubs record is 20-21.  Coming out of the All-Star break, the Cubs play 20 game in 20 days.
  • NL loses to the AL in the All Star game for the 11th straight year, thus securing home field advantage for the AL team, not a good sign for NL contenders such as the Cubs who are substantially under .500 on the road (22-30).

The Cubs are certainly not playing with the same energy that they displayed in amassing the best record in baseball in the days leading to the All-Star break, looking game weary while grinding out a schedule with spans of 26 games in a row and now, 20 in a row.

The Cubs seem as thought they’ve forgotten that playing baseball is fun.  The hitters look less patient at the plate, swinging at pitches they took for balls earlier in the season.  The once-vaunted bullpen, considered a strength of the team, is in disarray, with the injury to Kerry Wood forcing nearly every other pitcher in the pen to new roles.  Jim Hendry is unsure whether to make any moves when considering that considering that when healthy, there could be more players than positions.  I don’t know if this is a one week slide or if it’s a longer term issue.  I don’t know the cure to what ails the Cubs.  I do know that as of today, the Cubs are tied with the Brewers for first in the NL Central and both teams appear to be moving in opposite directions.

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What’s Wrong With Carlos Marmol?

Posted by sportsmaven on July 13, 2008

Sitting in the left field bleachers for today’s Cubs game against the San Francisco Giants, I, along with 41,554 other people, am wondering what exactly is wrong with Carlos Marmol? After witnessing Marmol completely implode (with a little help from Cubs SS Ryan Theriot) the enormously feeble Giants offense completely exploded for 5 runs in the 9th inning of this afternoon’s game.  Five runs is a good week for the Giants lately, so pardon my utter shock when Marmol made the Giants lineup look like the 1929 Yankees.

Marmol clearly didn’t have it today and the Giants knew it.  For the last 3 weeks, Marmol has been unable to get his slider consistently over the plate for strikes.  Because of that, fewer batters are swinging at his slider, preferring to sit on his fastball, which he’s also struggled to locate.  Up until 3 weeks ago, Marmol was garnering considerable attention from the national media labeling him as possibly the best pitcher in baseball this season, but his stuff has all of a sudden become hittable, his ERA bloating from 1.93 to 4.13 after today’s appearance.

At one point in the 9th inning, Cubs trainer Mark O’Neal came out to the mound to inquire about a potential injury.  After a couple of supervised practice pitches, Marmol shook everyone off and proceeded back onto the mound to continue his disasterous performance.  I don’t entirely blame Marmol for his horrific outing afternoon.  Cubs manager Lou Piniella left Marmol in 4 batters too long in this game, most likely due to the unavailability of closer Kerry Wood for today’s game.  A manager’s first responsibility in this situation is to secure the victory and Piniella seemed to be willing to let Marmol try to put out the fire he created, in hindsight, not the wisest of moves.  ESPN had a great quote on their website today, highlighting the recent struggle of Marmol describing an outing in Tampa Bay a couple of weeks ago against the Rays:

Another hitless wonder dept.: Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol, June 19 vs. Tampa Bay: 0 IP, 0 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 2 HBP.

Marmol’s claim to fame: Marmol has been unhittable all year, but a lot of good it did him in this game. He was the first pitcher in the past 53 seasons to give up no hits and only two walks in a game, but still allow four earned runs — thanks to a Carl Crawford grand slam on the second pitch after Marmol departed, off a reliever (Scott Eyre) who hadn’t allowed a home run in more than a year.

So Cub fans ask as we wander out of Wrigley this afternoon with a huge sigh of relief, “What exactly is wrong with Carlos Marmol?”  You can believe that Cubs GM Jim Hendry, Piniella, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild are wondering the exact same thing.  With the All Star break next week and two more weeks after that until the trade deadline, Hendry is in a peculiar position.  He has watched his vaunted bullpen, considered a team strength, barf up a few leads in the past couple of weeks.  The stuggles of P Michael Wuertz, his demotion to AAA Iowa yesterday, the callup of P Kevin Hart, and Hart’s ieffectiveness in giving up 2 runs this afternoon is a tell tale sign.  Adding to the concern is the inconsistency of Neal Cotts, Bobby Howry getting hit harder than normal, and the yet to be defined role of Sean Marshall.  Does Hendry need to make a trade for some consistent bullpen help?  My senses tell me that’s the new hot item on Hendry’s list, although I would still love to see a Brian Roberts trade as the cherry on top of this stud Cubs lineup.

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Jay Mariotti Provides Chicago Cubs An Assist

Posted by sportsmaven on July 10, 2008

Who would have thought that Chicago Sun-Times sports columnist Jay Mariotti was a budding baseball GM?  In his Tuesday column titled “CC This: After bid deal, all eyes turn to Hendry”, Mariotti wrote about the importance of a Chicago Cubs response to the Milwaukee Brewers pickup in reigning AL Cy Young Award winning pitcher CC Sabathia from the Cleveland Indians.  Mariotti writes:

Job One should be Rich Harden, he of the 5-1 record, 2.34 ERA, 91 strikeouts and nine consecutive impressive starts until recent speed bumps. The Oakland righty is healthy, and while a hefty talent package will be extracted by A’s dictator Billy Beane, the Cubs should have enough youthful pieces to make a match.

Impressive?  You would think that most anyone with baseball sense could have picked then Oakland A’s pitcher Rich Harden as the next logical target, if one truly believed that the Cubs were actually in the CC Sabathia sweepstakes. I believe they were in, but were not serious contenders because they lacked the necessary pieces that Cleveland desired for a difference maker with the stature of Sabathia, by far the best pitcher available in what is quickly appearing to be a bear market for impact players.  The Cubs didn’t pursue Harden as openly as Brewers stalked Sabathia.  Who even knew that Cubs GM Jim Hendry and A’s GM Billy “Moneyball” Beane were even seriously talking?  But less than 24 hours later, the deal was complete, Harden was a Cub along with an important insurance policy,”throw-in” P Chad Gaudin.  The inclusion of the 25-year old Gaudin is what makes a very, very good trade a great trade.

Jay Mariotti not only reveled his sound baseball logic, but he also predicted the huge amount of talent the Cubs would have to give up for Harden (although I thought the Cubs got off easy in that regard, with the only painful departure being RHP Sean Gallagher).  Mariotti also nailed the timing, although that may have had more to do with being lucky than being good.  But he was good with the rest of the story.  You might not like Jay Mariotti, and believe me, there are many that don’t, but you can’t say that he wasn’t on top of his game on this one.  Kudos. Jay.  Maybe Jim Hendry does read your columns after all.

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Chicago Cubs Fall to Astros in 10; Patterson Makes Debut

Posted by sportsmaven on August 7, 2007

One thing I can say about last night’s game — Eric Patterson does look like his big brother, Corey.  And he got the bunt down, which is also nice.  He also turned a routine out into a close play with his speed out of the batters box.  Now lets see what he does tonight as a starter.  I will say that Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella has no fear in throwing the guys from the Iowa Express right into the mix with starting assignments and appearances in key, potential game changing situations.  This is a clear departure of the Dusty Baker regime, where guys like Neifi Perez would steal valuable time away from the development of younger players (how did Dusty miss out on Ryan Theriot?)

Derrek Lee in a Cubs Loss to Houston Astros

(AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

The Chicago Cubs lost another 1 run game last night to a Houston Astros team that is on life support.  Their bullpen is about the worst in the National League, and their starting lineup would hardly scare a good little league team.  The game wasn’t over for a minute before both Bob Brenly and Dan Pleasac of Comcast SportsNet were already throwing out the excuse that the Sunday night ESPN game forced the Cubs to arrive late in Houston, thus they didn’t get enough rest.  Jim Hendry echoed the same in a Chicago Tribune interview.   Better have gotten your rest tonight, boys because you have to win this series….

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