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Posts Tagged ‘National League’

Do The Chicago Cubs Own Destiny? Only Time Will Tell…

Posted by sportsmaven on September 25, 2008

Hardly a day goes by before someone spouts an opinion about who our beloved Chicago Cubs should or should not want to play in the playoffs.  Just this evening, I had a conversation with my wife, her cousin, and a couple of other well informed sports theorists on the merits of each team the Cubs may have to face in the upcoming playoffs.

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Like many others, I was initially caught up in the popular debate.  I originally wanted the Cubs to face the New York Mets in the NLDS, as the Mets provide a very favorable matchup for the Cubs.  Anyone, but the Philadelphia Phillies, I thought.  After the Cubs, the Phillies were the most complete team in the NL this season and played the Cubs very tough this season.  Then I jumped on the Los Angeles Dodgers bandwagon, Manny Ramirez included.  The Dodgers were less imposing, offensively challenged, and in the weakest division in Major League Baseball, the good old National League West division.  Ripe for the picking.

The Milwaukee Brewers?  Won’t have to even think about facing the Brewers until the NLCS, that is if they secure the NL Wildcard.  That bullpen, the streaky offense, did the Brewers ride CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets into the ground in their push to the playoffs?

Amidst the thinking of the various scenarios and how they would potentially play out, another scenario popped into my little head, like a great rush of fresh air.  It seemed almost too simple to comprehend, as though simplicity eliminated the potential of this concept to be with merit.

Really, it doesn’t matter who the Cubs play in the playoffs.  There are no Pittsburgh Pirates or Washington Nationals in the playoffs.  Every team that makes the playoffs is an excellent quality team.  Each playoff team has it’s flaws, some more than others.  The playoffs are seldom about the best team during the season, but rather, the team playing the best when the playoffs happen to be played.  It’s a crapshoot – the team with the hot hand has the best chance of going all the way, first to win 11games wins it all.  It means that the Brewers or Dodgers have as good a chance as the Cubs in winning a World Series.  It means that the Chicago White Sox or  Minnesota Twins have as good a chance to win it all as the Tampa Bay Rays or the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Network analysts, newspaper sports columnists, Peter Gammons, Ken Rosenthal and other baseball talking heads get paid to spin their most favorable matchups for each playoff team, to analyze favorites and make predictions based on the results of a 162 game season.  It’s even vogue to pick a dark horse, playing on past runs of underdog wildcard teams such as the St. Louis Cardinals, who won 83 games en route to a unlikely World Championship in 2006 over a 95 win Detroit Tigers team.

The team that will win the 2008 World Series will be the team that plays unified team baseball, puts it all together at the right time, catches lightning in a bottle to ride a hot streak that lasts for a month, a team that powers through the 11 wins necessary to be called World Champions.  Destiny has already chosen the 2008 World Series Champion.  The only question remaining is if destiny has chosen the Chicago Cubs, or do the Cubs have the balls and heart to go out and get their destiny?  Come October 30th, we’ll all know the answer to that question.

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Chicago Cubs Run Into A Mid-Season Rut

Posted by sportsmaven on June 30, 2008

No doubt, so far in the 2008 season, Chicago Cubs fans have been treated to great baseball above and beyond any fathomable expectations. The Cubs entered June with the best record in baseball and have played most of the month of June with that same label, but as June comes to a close, the Cubs are limping to a well deserved and needed break for the 2008 All-Star game at Yankee Stadium in New York.

For the first time this season, the Cubs are facing adversity. The Cubs have played so well that even fickle fans have been spoiled by the lengthy and meaningful success the Cubs have enjoyed so far this season. Their season long dominance at Wrigley Field has provided a sense of dominance in the somewhat weak National League, but injuries are starting to pile up and it’s beginning to take it’s toll on the Cubs dominant run.

When RF Alfonso Soriano went down with a broken hand in the Braves series, all was not lost, as the Cubs lost Soriano earlier in the season and responded as though he was never missed in the lineup. But with this injury plus injuries to RHP Carlos Zambrano, CF Reed Johnson, LHP Scott Eyre, and nagging injuries to CF Jim Edmonds and RF Kosuke Fukudome, the Cubs are finding that all is not well on the “It’s Gonna Happen” bandwagon.

During this weekend’s Sox series, the Cubs started an OF of a mis-cast RF Eric Patterson, injured CF Jim Edmonds, and just returned from injured RF Daryle Ward. The White Sox ran on Patterson all day on Friday and he has yet to see the lineup since. RHP Ryan Dempster also picked a bad time for his worst outing of the season, and P’s Sean Gallagher and Sean Marshall couldn’t stop the bleeding.

The Cubs can’t seem to shake the pesky, smoke and mirrors miracle of the St. Louis Cardinals, now only 2.5 games ahead in the standings. The Milwaukee Brewers are also sneaking up, moving to 4.5 games back. The Cubs played the Sunday night prime time game on ESPN tonight and now have to fly all night to San Francisco to start a 4 game series with the improving Giants (fortunately missing on all world Giants starter RHP Tim Lincecum) and a July 4th weekend series in St. Louis with the Cardinals.

I though Cubs manager Lou Piniella actually did a great job of reminding the Cubs and the fans that although the Sox series has serious emotional hooks in a north/south divide, that this series was one of many series over the course of a full season. Piniella elected to juggle his starting rotation a little, but rested key players such as 2B Mark DeRosa, Kosuke Fukudome, and C Geovanny Soto over the weekend, with the implicit message that the season isn’t won in June by overextending regulars in an interleague matchup that is more glitter than substance.

With Reed Johnson and Carlos Zambrano due to come back this week, and Alfonso Soriano healing very quickly, reinforcements are on the way. With the All-Star break in less than two weeks, much needed rest will soon follow. Once the Cubs are back to full strength, the cream should rise to the top again in the National League. Lets not panic just yet…..

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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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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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Chicago Cubs Lose Soriano and to Mets — What’s Next?

Posted by sportsmaven on August 6, 2007

So, Chicago Cubs fans, have we seen this before?  The Cubs got out of the gate playing horrible baseball this season, topped off by an on the air dugout brawl between their best pitcher (Carlos Zambrano) and their since departed emotional catcher (Michael Barrett), followed the next day by a tirade by their new manager, Lou Piniella, over a play that was called correctly.  All this vaulted the Cubs from a low-water mark of 8 games under .500 to a high water mark of 8 game over .500 in the span of 2 months to contend in the weak NL Central division.  Just when the tide is turning, the Cubs become human again, going 3-4 against the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets, and now this.

Alfonso Soriano Leaves Cubs Injured

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

It appears that OF Alfonso Soriano will miss 2-4 weeks due to a strained quad muscle, the same injury that sidelined 3B Aramis Ramirez for the last 5 weeks of the season in 2005.  Furthermore, the back of our rotation, needing to step up significantly, appears to be stepping BACKWARDS with horrible performances.  RP Kerry Wood saw his first action since being reactivated from the 15-day disabled list on Friday and looked impressive, striking out

Last night’s game was a prime example — SP Jason Marquis wasn’t sharp again, giving up 5 earned runs on 9 hits (including 4 doubles) and 3 walks.  The Cubs were still in the game until the suddenly flammable RP Will Ohman came in and put the game out of reach with his horrid performance.  The New York Mets are clearly the best team in the National League.  That was a proven point in this weekend’s series.  You can’t give a team like the Mets 23 baserunners and expect to win.  You can’t walk 7 guys and expect to win.  You can’t lose arguably your best hitter for a month and expect to win.  You can’t have your #3, 4, and 5 starters go less than 5 innings and expect to win.  You can’t have your bullpen lefty relievers take close games and put them out of reach and expect to win.

The Cubs have 51 games left in the regular season.  Do they compete despite the loss of Soriano, or do they fold in August like many a past Cubs team?  Only time will tell, but I do know one thing, history is certainly not on the Cubs side…..

Tom Glavine Wins 300

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

On another note, the Sports Maven does want to congratulate Mets P Tom Glavine on his 300th victory last night.  Tom Glavine is surely the best left handed pitcher of my generation, and it was a treat to watch him pitch another masterful game.  Not only is he an excellent pitcher, he is also one of the game’s all around good guys.  Congratulations, Tom Glavine!

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