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Posts Tagged ‘San Diego Padres’

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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Top 4 Things To Know About Chicago Cubs Milton Bradley

Posted by sportsmaven on January 13, 2009

Now that the ink is finally dry on the Milton Bradley contract, the Chicago Cubs are pondering the effect of Bradley’s presence in a lineup that badly needed his left handed bat. They’ll also get his right handed bat, as Bradley is a switch hitter, providing yet more flexibility for Manager Lou Piniella, who likes to mix and tweak his lineups up like a mad scientist. But what do we really want to know about Milton Bradley? Well here are the top 4 things we all want to know:

Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, left, introduces outfielder Milton Bradley as the newest member of the baseball team at a news conference Thursday, Jan. 8, 2008 in Chicago. Bradley, formally with the Texas Rangers, signed a three-year contract with the Cubs. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, left, introduces outfielder Milton Bradley as the newest member of the baseball team at a news conference Thursday, Jan. 8, 2008 in Chicago. Bradley, formally with the Texas Rangers, signed a three-year contract with the Cubs. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

1. How will Milton Bradley’s fiery, sometimes volatile temperment fit into the laid back Cub locker room?  Bradley is definitely an emotional player.  He plays with a fire that is certainly recognized and appreciated by his teammates, managers, coaches and front office management.  Bradley gave fans a glimpse of his persona in a New York Times blog on his first All-Star appearance in 2008.  He is also known for wildly volatile incidents, such as:

  • Spitting gum at an umpire while with the Montreal Expos
  • Dugout altercation with Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge
  • Throwing a bag of baseballs onto the field at Dodger Stadium after an ejection
  • Throwing  a water bottle in the direction of a fan
  • Three incidents of domestic violence complaints in 2005 (no arrests were made)
  • Altercation with Los Angeles Dodgers teammate Jeff Kent
  • Public altercations with Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane
  • Attempt to confront Kansas City Royals announcer Ryan Lefebvre, whom Bradley felt had made derogatory remarks about him during a broadcast.

Whichever way the wind blows could blow the fine line between fiery and volatile for Milton Bradley.  Either way, it makes for a most interesting upcoming 2009 season for the Cubs, manager Lou Piniella, fans, and media.

2. Bradley is an OBP machine. He knows how to get on base. His OBP for his career is .370. His last 6 seasons OBP: .436, .402, .370, .350, .362, .421. For those non-Sabremetricians, these numbers are completely off the charts. By comparison, in 2008, no Cub regular had a higher OPS and no Cub has a career OBP higher than Bradley.  Furthermore,  Bradley’s  80 walks would be second only to RF Kosuke Fukudome, who happened to play 24 more games than Bradley.

3. Bradley’s 3-year, $30M contract with the Cubs is the first multi-year contract he’s  signed in his career.  The Cubs are the 7th team in 10 seasons for Bradley.  While the Cubs are the first team to offer a multi-year contract, Bradley picked the right season to blossom.  There is concern that Bradley played only 20 games in the field last season, serving the Texas Rangers primarily as a DH, so Bradley will have to polish his fielding skills to prevent becoming a defensive liability in an otherwise strong Cub outfield.

4. To most who know and have played with Milton Bradley, he is seen as a positive influence in the locker room and on the field.  Despite his altercations and volatility, most everyone that has been associated with Bradley had nothing but kind words for him.

In a recent Chicgo Sun-Times article discussing the Bradley signing by the Cubs, Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington stated:

”He’s a class act,” Washington said Friday by phone. ”A winner. The Chicago Cubs really made a very good move in bringing him in. He will make their team better.”

The article continues with another glowing comment by a former manager, San Diego Padres Bud Black:

San Diego Padres manager Bud Black coached Bradley for only 42 games in 2007, and wish he’d had him the entire season.

”I love him,” Black said by phone. ”He was great for us. After we acquired him from Oakland [in June] he was an integral part of our club during the second half of the season. He was well received by the guys and the coaching staff.”

Lou Piniella might be the perfect manager for Milton Bradley to play for.  Piniella is a veteran, highly respected manager who certainly can appreciate a fiery side of a player, especially one of Milton Bradley’s reputation and pedigree.  Piniella will know exactly how to give Bradley slack and when to reign him in.  This could be the season that Bradley puts it all together with yet another huge breakout season.

Cubs GM Jim Hendry has taken a huge and potentially risky step in signing Bradley to a lucrative deal.  Remember, Hendry had to clear payroll by trading Cubs fan favorite and quite possibly, the 2008 Cubs team MVP Mark DeRosa as well as let closer Kerry Wood walk to the Indians in order to make the Bradley deal fit into the financial structure of the team.  All this will be a distant memory if Bradley is able to have a monster full season of successful baseball, with an added new maturity level with no volatile incidents, bring a more balanced lineup for the Cubs, and be a player on what hopes to be a World Series title.

Then again, Milton Bradley could be the undoing of all that is good in Cubdom — whichever way the winds of fate blows,  2009 will be an interesting, eagerly anticipated baseball season on the North Side.

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Sportsmaven Invades Cincinnati

Posted by sportsmaven on October 8, 2007

222The plans for a road trip to Cincinnati were in full force on Friday night, even though the Cubs clinched a playoff berth by the combination of beating the Cincinnati Reds and a loss by the Milwaukee Brewers to the San Diego Padres. Saturday morning we packed ourselves into the car at 6am and made the trek to The Queen City from our north suburban Chicago home. Along the way, we encountered tons of screaming Cubs fans, who apparently had the same idea we had. For 4 1/2 hours, we dodged through the traffic of crazies so we could get to Cincinnati before they did. We finally rolled into the city and parked our car right outside the stadium and made our way to the ticket window, asking for the best seats available. For $65 , we got tickets in their Scouts Alley section, about 10 rows behind home plate, very nice seats indeed.

After being in the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis 2 weeks prior, my first impressions of The Great American Ballpark was that is was not nearly as nice. The park is on the Ohio River, with the back facing the river, but the very first thing I noticed was that the back of the park was closed — no view of the river. The park also had a sterile, cold feeling about it. It didn’t feel like the warm, friendly, inviting Midwestern ballpark that Busch Stadium was in St. Louis. Needless to say, I was quite disappointed. We enjoyed the game, saw Jerry Krause scouting the Cubs for the New Your Mets, had a wonderful server named Bernie, who kept us refreshed with cool drinks and some good ballpark food, and Rich Hill took a no-hitter into the 6th inning and pitched well. The Cubs won, the Reds fans were friendly, and the weather was tremendous.

As we made our way back to Chicago that evening (yes, we did this trip in a single day), my thoughts drifted back to Wrigley Field, the start of the NLDS, and the fact that my urge to go to Cincinnati was finally filled. I don’t think I would go back to that park again, (or Cincinnati for that matter) as I just didn’t find it compelling enough to make a repeat visit. Let the playoffs begin, thankfully, not in Cincinnati.

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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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Chicago Cubs 5th Starter Competition A Disaster

Posted by sportsmaven on March 10, 2007

The hot competition for the Chicago Cubs 5th starter job has officially hit the level of disaster. LHP Neal Cotts was the leader for that spot, going into this afternoon, but Cotts got pounded again today against the Texas Rangers, giving up 4 unearned runs and 7 hits in 2 innings of work. That is a completely abysmal line, to the point that there is no longer a front runner for the 5th starter role. Mark Prior is scheduled to pitch in a relief role tomorrow and Wade Miller pitched 3 innings yesterday, giving up 6 hits and 1 earned run. Miller may have moved back into being the favorite for the 5th starter job, his fastball topping out at 88 mph, which is a bit scary to me.

Neal Cotts Pitches Against the Texas Rangers in Spring Training
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Wade Miller Competes For Cubs Fifth Starter Job In Spring Training
(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

On a more positive note, although Kerry Wood gave up 4 runs on a grand slam to Padres OF Terrmel Sledge, he struck out 3 in his one inning of work, feeling no pain at all in his right shoulder. The Cubs have a few positions open for competition this spring, and none more highly visible than the 5th starter in the rotation. I believe that 1-4 should be solid, with Rich Hill turning in another solid outing today against the San Diego Padres. It will be safe to say that one of the three of Prior, Cotts, and Miller will be the 5th starter. Right now, my money is on Wade Miller, with Cotts going to the pen and Prior not being ready to go when the season opens. Overall, through the first 3 weeks of spring training, I have been impressed with the Cubs pitching to date, minus the 5th starter competition. Guys who have no chance of making the big league roster are pitching well, guys like Jeff Samardzjia, Sean Gallagher, Angel Guzman, and even minor league veteran Les Walrond. Surprises so far on the pitching staff: Jason Marquis, 5 IP, 6 SO, 1.80 ERA, Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly giving up no earned runs so far this spring (Carlos Zambrano has also not given up an earned run this spring) and no pitchers injured or on the DL. Now, if we can only get the 5th starter resolved…….who wants it?

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