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How Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez Are Holding the Cubs Back

98479328_croppedWhile watching the Cubs today, you got a great view of just how bad the Cubs supposed “stars” are while also seeing how the less impressive players have stepped up trying to fix the situation.

The Cubs entered their game against the Philadelphia Phillies with four straight wins and hoping to sweep a second straight two-game series after taking the first game last night in convincing fashion.

This game was much closer, and was included multi-hit games by both historically-underwhelming Mike Fontenot and rookie Starlin Castro.

In the ninth inning, the Cubs were down just one run and going up against former crosstown rival Jose Contreras and started off the inning with a bang. Read the rest of this entry »

Who Can I Blame For The Season So Far?

97635769JB032_Chicago_Cubs_One week ago the Cubs were 13-13, coming off of a sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks and looked to be back on track to get the most out of their team this season.

All was well in Wrigleyville.

Fast-forward to present day and the Cubs are 14-20 and coming off of being swept by the Pittsburgh Pirates (14-19) and about to suffer the same fate against the Florida Marlins (16-17) pending tomorrow’s matinee as the Cubs try to stop their four game slide.

So one big question continues to pop up in my mind, as I always love to play the blame game. That question is… Read the rest of this entry »

Position Breakdown: Outfield

mlb_a_byrd12_576The Cubs outfield has been extremely expensive over the past couple of years, and they have failed to get their money’s worth, as they sign free agent after free agent to big contracts without much, if any, improvement.

Although getting rid of Milton Bradley was a great move and took money off the payroll, the Cubs still have a lot of money tied up in two out of the three outfield spots, and they need to start seeing some production from those corner outfielders.

They did make a move to bring in a centerfielder coming off of a career year, and they will need him to produce if they want to be competitive. But he isn’t the only guy that they have their hopes high on, with another free agent outfielder who will back up two out of the three outfield spots and battle for playing time.

Here is a look at the outfield:

LF: Alfonso Soriano
CF: Marlon Byrd
RF: Kosuke Fukudome Read the rest of this entry »

I’m Back, and Here Are My Thoughts

Phillies Cubs BaseballI’m finally ready to get back to my Cubs coverage, I’m sorry that it took so long, but I finally have everything set up in my dorm but first, it’s been a while, how about a little update on how the writer is doing (shameless promotion time, if you don’t care, skip down a few paragraphs).

I was asked by Bleacher Report to do an article on Michael Jordan, and I got the first six bottles of Jordan Gatorade produced, check it out if you can here.

I am also going to be part of the new and exciting Fan Huddle. It is launching September 10th of this season. Everything looks outstanding and there are a ton of dedicated writers who can fill you in on any team you want. If you want to check out my writing I will be doing fantasy basketball analysis for the NBA Central Division. To read any of my work there, go to any date after September 10th.

Now on to Cubs analysis. I will start by giving my thoughts on the team in two words. Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Look Now, But The Cubbies Might Just Have What It Takes

1A little over half way to the end of the season, the Cubs have finally jumped past the St. Louis Cardinals and stole the division lead.

Before the All-Star Break, the Cubs split a four-game series with the Cards. Since the break, however, the Cubs are 8-2. The Cardinals are 4-6 since the break, including losing two of three against the Phillies in their most recent series.

The Cards now go from facing the defending champions to facing this season’s best team, the L.A Dodgers, in a four-game series. The Cubs face the Astros, and have a chance to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the division. Read the rest of this entry »

Cubs Tie Season Series With Win Vs. White Sox

APTOPIX White Sox Cubs BaseballAlfonso Soriano has been horrible as of late, bad enough for there to be rumblings of him being benched for a couple games.

His batting average over the past five games has been a measly .095, and he hasn’t gotten a hit in his last 15 at bats.

However, today, he went 2-5 with one gigantic RBI.

The Cubs started the day locked in an outstanding pitching duel between ace Carlos Zambrano going up against White Sox stud Gavin Floyd. Read the rest of this entry »

There are Plenty of Excuses for Slow Start, But the Reasons are Obvious

15Before I even begin with this article, I will state what should be obvious: The ongoing battle between Milton Bradley and the Chicago media has nothing to do with the Cubs’ four-game slide.

Sorry, Windy City press, but you play no role in determining what actually happens on the field.

And this larger, so-called “locker room split” is just the media’s way of stirring things up. Chemistry is something that’s developed throughout the season.

The Cubs have played a total of sixteen games; we won’t know what kind of chemistry this team has until June or July. It’s those long 10-12 day road trips that allow players to bond together. That’s when chemistry is developed.

Now, to the Cubs’ problems.

Walks, walks, walks.

The bullpen can’t find the strike zone, and this is a recipe for disaster. Gregg has walked five in nine innings, Cotts has walked five in four, and Patton has walked six in six.

As a whole, the ‘pen has walked 28 batters in 46 innings. Ironically, the only relief pitcher without a walk is Luis Vizcaino, who is no longer on the roster.

Offensively, the Cubs have been dreadful as of late, scoring four earned runs in the past 36 innings. It’s not as if they haven’t had chances; it’s just a matter of poor at bat after poor at bat with guys in scoring position.

It all starts with plate discipline. The Cubs have drawn a total of six walks in the past four games. That won’t get the job done. The offense has also abandoned the opposite field, becoming very pull-happy.

One of the most telling (and worst) at-bats came from Ryan Theriot last night. Down 3-2 with the bases loaded and nobody out, the typically very patient Theriot did not wait back on the Wainwright breaking ball and hit into the tailor-made 6-4-3 double play.

I don’t mean to pick on Theriot, who is off to a solid start, but he’s too smart to not understand the situation. Wainwright was trying to work the outer part of the plate and Theriot tried to pull the ball. I know it’s easier said than done to lay off, but it all starts with plate discipline.

And on to management. Lou Piniella has done a very poor job during the early going this season.

First, the Cubs decided not to disable Geovany Soto. Have they not noticed Soto isn’t healthy? We are in April, not October. It’s nonsensical to keep him active.

The case is the same for Bradley, who was injured two weeks ago; he’s started just one game since his injury. The 15-day DL made sense back when he got hurt, and it makes even more sense today. But by choosing not to disable Bradley, the Cubs have found themselves very short handed.

And besides that, the on-field decisions by Lou have really left me shaking my head.

Who is the closer?

Lou says Gregg, but he also goes to Marmol. Sounds like a “Bullpen by Committee.” Way to keep both guys guessing, Lou.

And along with his poor handling of the ‘pen, Piniella’s shuffling of the lineup is plain silly.  Soriano, who has thrived in the one-hole this year, now finds himself batting third. It’s way too early for a shakeup, especially when your top two spots in the order have been your strength.

I’ve always been one to compliment Lou for making solid decisions, but I will also call him out for making poor ones. During Saturday’s game, Piniella decided to pitch to Brian Barden with one out and first base open with the pitcher on-deck.

Lou must not have seen enough of Barden last week, when he went 5-for-9 with two homers against the Cubs. He proceeded to burn Chicago again with a two-run single on Saturday.

It’s early, and the Cubs will eventually take control of this division. But they must play better. They’ve struggled defensively, offensively, and their bullpen can’t find the plate.

Lou Piniella must do a better job. There’s a reason he is one of the highest-paid managers in the game, and he must get more out of his players. This type of baseball won’t be tolerated.

-Pat De Marco

Evaluating the Offseason: Breaking Down the Cubs Biggest Offseason Moves

Just about a day away from pitchers and catchers reporting, it’s time to start looking at the Chicago Cubs and what they are going to be doing next season.

However, to move forward, you have to look backwards as well. The Cubs have had yet another busy offseason as they try to finally avoid a first round sweep (last year by the hand of the Dodgers, you gotta hate Manny being Manny).

First lets start with some of the moves that I disagree with. Just to get this out in the open and out of the way, I have to disagree with Jim Hendry on these few moves.

Letting Kerry Wood go was a big mistake in my opinion. The move hurts the Cubs bullpen which was finally getting strong. They could have kept the shutdown rotation of Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood, along with another reliever who will be talked about in a better section.

I just hate losing Mark DeRosa this offseason. He was a great player who everybody loved. The middle of DeRosa and Ryan Theriot just made every Cubs fan warm and fuzzy inside, although I don’t hate his replacement, I still love the player.

Now that we got that out of the way, time to look at some of the better moves to help pump up the 2009 Chicago Cubs.

Re-signing Ryan Dempster was ginormous (the only word I can use to describe his impact) in keeping the Cubs a World Series-caliber team. He creates a triple threat almost unrivaled, and he gave them a great third starter without having to give up everything but the kitchen sink (sorry Jake Peavy…I know you’re reading this).

Another pitching move to help the team is the addition of Kevin Gregg. He is going to allow the Cubs to move Carlos Marmol into the closer spot while keeping a good reliever to help as a set-up man. This still allows the Cubs to be set by the seventh inning.

Making up for the loss of Mark DeRosa, Aaron Miles will be a pivotal part in helping the Cubs offensively this season. He is a guy that can get on base consistently, as shown by his .317 batting average last season, higher than any player last season for the Cubs.

Now it’s time to get to the big signing of the offseason. Two years ago it was Alfonso Soriano. Last year it was Kosuke Fukudome. This year it’s Milton Bradley.

Bradley is going to have to keep his temper in check, which is the same for a lot of major parts of the Cubs team this season (I’m looking at you Carlos Zambrano and Lou Piniella). With all of these moving parts, the Cubs could implode at any point in time this season.

However, we could just as easily make it all work and have a dream season. Who knows, if the Red Sox can do it, so can the Cubs…right?

But anyway, the 2009 Chicago Cubs are looking to become the first team to pull it all together. Nobody likes waiting 101 years for a championship, but these new parts could be ready to pull it all together.

At least, lets hope so, I don’t want to jinx anything this early.

Be ready for the new Daily Cub, and hopefully, be ready for the new Chicago Cubs.

Pitchers and catchers report Friday, and I know that we are all excited, are you ready for some baseball?

-Joe Willett

Cubs Recap: 7-1 Win Over Brew-Crew

Carlos Zambrano was outstanding as he and the Cubs took care of the Brewers 7-1 on Tuesday night. Mark Derosa got the Cubs on the board first in the fourth inning when he drove in Aramis Ramirez on a sac-fly.

The Cubs then broke open the game in the sixth inning when they scored five runs. Kosuke Fukudome got the scoring started when he hit a two-run triple that scored both Derrek Lee and Ramirez. Ramirez ended the day going 4-5 with three doubles, an RBI, and two runs scored.

Shorly after Mark Derosa drove in his second RBI of the game on a single that scored Fukudome. Zambrano also got into the action from the plate as he hit a single which drove in Derosa.

The final run of the inning came in on a Alfonso Soriano sac fly that drove in Mike Fontenot giving the Cubs a big 6-0 lead. The Cubs then added another run in the ninth on a Aramis Ramirez single that drove in Ryan Theriot to make the score 7-0.

The Brewers lone run came in the bottom of the ninth when Mike Cameron doubled off of Jeff Samardzija which drove in Russell Branyan.

Carlos Zambrano was awesome as he pitched eight solid innings allowing no earned runs while giving up just five hits and striking out nine. Zambrano improved to 12-4 with the victory.

As for the Brewers Ben Sheets he put in 5 1/3 innings allowing six earned runs on eleven hits while striking out four. With the loss Sheets fell to 10-4 on the season.
The Cubs are now 63-44 and they hold a three game lead on the Brewers.

The Cubs have assured that they will leave Milwaukee leading the NL Central with Tuesday’s Victory.

Tomorrow the Cubs will send Ryan Dempster to the mound who is 11-4 with a 2.99 era as Manny Parra who is 9-3 with a 3.72 era will go for the Brewers. Game time is set for 7:05 pm.

-Kevin Graczyk

Come to Think of it…Something Fishy Going on with the Cubs

As the Chicago Cubs continue their fall from grace, a familiar statement is etched upon the walls of Wrigley Field. Except you can’t see it because the ivy is covering it.

It says, “failed expectations,” year 100 version.

This was supposed to be our year. Just like 1969 was supposed to be. And 1984. And 2003. Get the picture?

Well, it still can be our year, but things have got to start changing immediately and I just don’t know how that is going to happen, given the trends.

First of all, the bullpen needs to improve and quickly. Yes, I know Kerry Wood is hurt, but a lot of the situations we’re getting burned by are earlier in the game, before Woody would even be in the game.

Let’s face it, Cub fans, this bullpen would try and use a wad of gum to stop a leak in the Titanic, for crying out loud.

It seems every time Bob Howry comes in, he gives up a run. Carlos Marmol got out of a jam yesterday but the old Marmol wouldn’t have even gotten into that jam in the first place.

And yes, let’s bring in the kid for his first ever major league appearance in a game situation, late and tied. Fit to be tied is how I’m feeling. Seems we’ve seen this plot before.

Lee and Ramirez, Ramirez and Lee. No matter how you slice it, those guys are not clutch hitters and both are prone to slumps that come in bunches. That’s what we saw in last year’s playoffs. And even when he’s not slumping, Lee couldn’t get a meaningful hit if you placed the ball on a tee for him.

Fukudome is starting to become a bust. OK, I said it, I went there. But hey, popularity isn’t why I write. And the truth is simply that we have three more, very expensive years of a powerless corner outfielder who can’t go anywhere.


What we do know is…

…that the Cubs can’t win on the road. Check.

…they are only 3-3 in their last six home games. Check.

…the bullpen is a mess. Check.

…Soriano is back. Check. (Hey I may be a realist, but I’m not a fatalist)

…After two more home games, they travel to Milwaukee for a four game series against the second place (but perhaps soon to be first place) Brewers.

The Brewers want to win as badly as the Cubs. Which isn’t fair, this is our year, dammit, so why can’t all the other clubs just lay down and let us win this thing? Let them wait their turn. The poor Brewers haven’t sniffed the playoffs since 1982? Well, boo f’ing hoo. You won’t get any sympathy from a Cubs fan.

Oh well, at least Rich Harden goes for the Cubs on Saturday. Hopefully, he’ll get his first win as a Cub. He’ll be opposed by tall righthander Chris Volstad, who has pitched well in the first three starts of his career.

Strap it on, Cubs fans, it’s a long season. Come to think of it, you might want to bring some newspaper to wrap the fish.

-Bob Warja