At long last, the torture is over for Chicago Cub fans, at least for now that is. Since I posted my blog last night, several pieces of exciting news have come into existence. First and foremost, the Cubs snapped their eight game losing streak by beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 in a rain shortened game. The second half of the news is something several Cub fans have been waiting for. Jake Fox has finally been recalled to the big leagues to take his place on the 25 man roster. Along with Fox, the Cubs brought up shortstop Andres Blanco and left handed pitcher Jason Waddell. With three promotions, there have to be three players being sent out. Bobby Scales and Neal Cotts have both been optioned to the minors while Aaron Miles has been placed on the 15 day disabled list.
For the second straight night, the Cubs scored a boatload of runs against the Pirates. The difference is, this time the starting pitcher, Sean Marshall, was able to limit the Pirates to a single run, with Mother Nature coming in for the save in the top of the sixth. Hey, I will take a win anyway I can get one. The Cubs totaled eight hits in the five innings, and even though Milton Bradley was 0-1, he drew two walks and scored a run. The MVP of the game though, goes to Marshall who pitched the five innings, while also driving in a run to help his own cause. The broke the losing streak, but now they need to start a new streak, a winning streak and start gaining on the teams ahead of them in the standings.
Ok, my short game blurb is over and done, the exciting news that Fox has finally been called up is too exciting to ignore. Fox is currently the hottest and best hitter in the minor leagues, and is leading in all triple crown categories. He can play just about anywhere you ask, much like former Cub Mark DeRosa. Fox has spend time and the corner spots in both the infield and outfield, as well as some time at catcher this year in the minors. If he is able to hit anywhere near as good in the majors as he was in the minors, the Cubs offense got a much needed bat. Because he has spent time at third base, we can assume that he will be the everyday third baseman until Aramis Ramirez comes back.. That is, of course, unless Fox fails miserably with the bat or the glove at third. For the time being, he is the answer Cub fans have been waiting for.
Blanco gets a chance to play in the majors as well, but only when Ryan Theriot needs a day off. Blanco has only played short stop in the minors, so hoping he could fill in elsewhere is a bit of a stretch. However, he is also doing a great job with the bat in the minors, and will give the Cubs another switch hitter to use off the bench.
Now, time for me to celebrate a bit, as Cotts has finally been shown the door as he was sent down to the minors. No one in the bullpen has been as frustrating to me as Cotts has been since his arrival on the team. He has been nothing short of a disaster every time he gets the call to pitch an inning. No tears will be shed by myself, nor likely any other Cub fan with his demotion to Triple A. Goodbye Cotts, good luck in the minors. Enough of that, taking his place is Waddell, who while he is not performing as well as one would hope, he is not Cotts. While Waddell had a great deal of success in Spring Training, his season in the minors has been less then spectacular. Currently he is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA, which isn’t that great. But again, he is not Cotts, so Cub fans will be happy to see him. The left handed Waddell is better against right handed batters (.205 BA) then he is against left handed batters (.346) which should trouble fans. However, he is worth giving a chance to, and fans will cheer him at his very first appearance. Because he is not Cotts.
Sadly, some players had to go who will be missed. No, I am not talking about Cotts. I am talking about Scales, who was sent back down to the minors today to make room for the trio of players who were activated. His story is one Cub fans will remember, as well as the effort he put forth with his every chance. Everyone knew his time here would be limited, but I have a feeling some will miss him. You never know, he may be brought back up at some point, likely is Blanco, Fox or Ryan Freel fails to have success. Word is, that Scales was sent down, not because of effort or production, but because he is sick and wasn’t able to play. At any rate, I wish him well; I hope to see him back in the big leagues at some point, even if he isn’t with the Cubs.
Miles also was sent out, however his will likely be more temporary. He has apparently been playing with a sore shoulder all season, so the Cubs used this opportunity to put him on the DL and bring up someone who could be of more help to the team at the moment. Miles wasn’t playing that well, so I doubt many fans will miss him while he is gone.
Well fans, we got the changes that we all wanted. Now, we just have to wait and see if these moves pay off. Some dead weight has been cut, with some new blood now being allowed to circulate. The new Cubs team will take the field today in just over an hour. Lets go get two in a row.
Please note, that I am writing part of this while the Chicago Cubs are playing tonight.
You just had to know the trends would not last forever, they couldn’t. The Cubs offense would not be slumping all season long, they would break out sooner or later. That is exactly what they did last night against the Pittsburgh Pirates, as they score a total of eight runs, three more runs then they scored on the entire road trip. You would think, that with score eight runs, the Cubs won the game. Yeah, you would think that, but you would be wrong. The great pitching the Cubs were getting on the road trip, also came to an end, as the pitching staff as a whole gave up 10 runs. That just figures, don’t you think? The Cubs get all that great pitching without getting the run support, and as soon as the bats wake up the pitching has a set back. Just seems to be the case
As far as the offense goes, and the sudden break out that occurred last night, they are still a pathetic group to look at. While they were able to pound the Pirates, who have been the doormat of the National League for over a decade, this is still an offense which is struggling more then anyone could have imagined. To see just how bad this offense has been performing, all you have to do is look at the statistics. We have two of or everyday players batting over .300, which is pretty damn pathetic. Aramis Ramirez, who is going to be out for at least another month is hitting .364, while Kosuke Fukudome is batting .308. After those two, Ryan Theriot is the next leader on the batting average as far as everyday players go with his .273 average. No one on this roster should be holding their heads high in regards to their offensive outputs as they are all playing disgraceful baseball. While every player on the team is putting up disgraceful numbers, there are a handful of guys in the lineup who are appearing as though they may be ready to break out completely. Derrek Lee and Milton Bradley have both been playing better baseball then they had been for the majority of the season.
As soon as the calendar switched from April to May, Lee has seemingly flipping the switch, and his bat has come to life. While Lee put up a pathetic .189 batting average in April, he is hitting at a .333 clip for May, and his average has climbed to a .248. While his current batting average is still really ugly, Lee is starting to play the way he has his whole career. He may not match the power numbers that he has put up over the course of his career, but he has four months to get 15 more homeruns which will be close to his career average in homers. Lee coming to life is a great sign, as the Cubs need him to be the player that he has always been.
Bradley on the other hand, his climb back up to respectability will be a much longer road to hike. While he is still struggling to break the .200 mark, he has been taking some good swings and hitting the ball hard. With the contact he is making, the hits will start to fall and his average will rise. The problem Bradley will have is keeping his mouth shut when the situation involves the umpires. While I can see the argument he made, to a very limited point, when he claimed the umps were all out to get him, you do not, under any circumstances voice your frustration to the media. Nothing good can ever come from publicly questioning the umpire’s agenda. If you honestly believe that the umpires are out to get you, what do you think publicly complaining about them is going to do? Get them to back off and call things fair? If they do have an agenda against Bradley, his calling them out if the fashion he did will only upset them even more. Now, he is calling out Paul Sullivan for baiting him into saying what he said. Perhaps his media ban should be brought back into effect, he will get into less trouble that way. Outside of Lee and Bradley, all of the other struggling Cubs (Fukudome and Ramirez excluded) have done nothing to impress anyone.
You can say that Theriot has impressed by showing signs of power, but with that power came a massive dip in average. He went from a very impressive .317 April average, all the way down to .273 thanks to his hitting .229 for May. While his power bat has awoken, he sacrificed everything that made him a great two hole batter.
Don’t even get me started on Alfonso Soriano, while he is hitting over .400 while having the first at bat of the game, his batting average as a whole has fallen to a pathetic .253. Sadly, his average is the third best in terms of active everyday players. If your leadoff hitter is hitting that poorly overall, you will not win many games.
Mike Fontenot, whose batting average is only 10 points higher then Bradley’s (who is bringing up the rear in terms of everyday players) is showing that he is not an everyday player. You can talk about how the change in position has hurt his play, but that is the biggest load of bull you can say. The good ball players can adapt and continue to play well, even with a position change. You want proof? Ryan Braun, Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez have all changed positions, and are all still dominant players. Say what you will about steroids when you talk about A-Rod or Pujols, but they did not let a change in position hurt their offensive output.
Micah Hoffpauir is another one of those players who is slowly proving that he should not play everyday. There is a reason he has not gotten a starting gig with the Cubs all those years he was in the organization. While his .267 average is far from the worst on the club, he has played in the last four games as a starter and has one hit in 16 tries. I know that four games is a very small sample size, so lets break things down like this. In every game he starts, he has 18 hits in 75 at bats for a .240 average as a starter. As a bat off the bench he is 5 of 11 for a .455 average. Again, small sample sizes, but the numbers are not pretty when he starts a game.
Geovany Soto will not escape my complaints, as he has completely fallen off what he was expected to be. He appears to be much heavier then he was in his Rookie of the Year campaign. You can point fingers and lay blame on the World Baseball Classic all you want for his poor play, but you can not blame that event for him not being in shape. His .214 batting average is simply disgusting, considering everything he accomplished last year. He won the ROY award, and was the first National League rookie catcher to ever start an All Star game. Other then not being in the shape that he should be in , I do not know what is wrong with him. Whatever is causing his struggles, Soto needs to figure things out fast.
While the pitching staff had a bad night last night, for the most part they have been solid. With the obvious exception of Neal Cotts who I have been voicing my displeasure with all season. I wont get into him tonight, but I don’t think that he will be on the roster too much longer. He definitely will not finish the season on the 25 man roster.
The Cubs have a little over four months of baseball left to play in the regular season, and are currently five games out of first. They have time to turn things around, but if the offense continues to show very little signs of life, they will not be able to hang around for long. The good news, we are currently in the top of the second inning with one out. The Cubs lead 1-0, thanks to a solo shot by Fukudome. Come on Cubs, you need to snap this losing streak.