My oh my, what a couple of days we have just had here in the world of the Chicago Cubs. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Cubs have just won their fifth game in a row, which is their longest winning streak of the year. Also in these past few days, the judgment was finally made on Milton Bradley’s appeal of his two game suspension. Oh yeah, one more thing has happened, Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote an article on steroids in baseball, and threw out Ryan Theriot’s name into the mix. These past few days have been something else, but in case you have been out of the loop, allow me to catch you up.
Lets start with Bradley’s suspension, since the news of this came out first. In the post game press conference of Thursday night’s win over the San Diego Padres, Cubs General Manager revealed that the empty suits in Major League Baseball have finally decided to share the ruling on Bradley’s appeal. Even though both Bradley, and the umpire Vanover agreed that there were no threats or foul language, the suspension was upheld, but reduced to only one game. I know the rules of baseball state that contact between a player and an umpire requires a suspension, but the contact that was made was so slight the suspension should not have been made. When the brim of a players helmet hit’s the bill of the umpire’s cap, that should not be considered contact. No matter how any of us feel, the suspension was carried out, and Bradley sat out today’s game against the Houston Astros.
I know what many of you are saying when you are talking about the suspension. Many of you are wondering why Bradley didn’t just take his suspension when he was injured and wasn’t playing, instead of going through the entire appeal process and then sitting out when he was fully healthy. First and foremost, I must admit that I agree with all of you who feel this way. While he wanted to stand up for himself, he needed to put the team ahead of his own self image. Everyone knew that the suspension and fine would not be eliminated completely. No matter how any of us feel, he did fight the suspension and he technically walked away with a victory in the hearing, though not the complete victory he was hoping for. He paid his debt to baseball, and now he can get on with his baseball life and get back to doing what he was paid to do. Help the Cubs win the world series. Hopefully now we can put this matter behind us for good and look forward.
Today the Cubs played the first game of their rain shortened series against the Astros. The first game of the series, which was scheduled to be played on Friday afternoon, was rained out, and will be made up in July. As I already stated, the Cubs won today, even with Bradley sitting out, to extend their winning streak to five games. Today’s game was a roller coaster ride all the way through. The game was scoreless until the sixth inning when the Cubs scored three times, which included a Micah Hoffpauir two run homer that followed a Derrek Lee RBI single. The score would remain that way until the eighth inning when Geovany Soto tacked on what would turn out to be a much needed run to give the Cubs a 4-0 lead heading into the ninth. All secure, or so you would have thought. The Cubs bullpen stepped up and delivered two back to back perfect innings by Angel Guzman and Carlos Marmol. All that would be left would be for Kevin Gregg to come in and get the final three outs. With a four run lead, the fans in the stadium were warming up their vocal chords to sing “Go Cubs Go”. However, they would have to wait a little longer then they would have liked to.
Gregg entered the game, and immediately gave up two solo homeruns on three pitches, and the Cubs lead was now cut in half. The next three men all reached base, two with hits and one by being hit by a pitch. So here we were, bases loaded and up by two runs with no outs. A nightmarish situation for any Cub fan to witness. After Gregg loaded the bases, Cubs manager Lou Piniella had seen enough and called Aaron Heilman out from the bullpen to try and fnish the game off. However, that would not be the case because on the first pitch Ivan Rodriguez singled scoring two men to tie the game. Heilman would get the next two men out before walking Michael Bourn to once again load the bases. Again, Piniella had seen enough and went to the pen again. This time, he called in lefty Sean Marshall to try and keep the game tied. Three pitches later, we were heading to the bottom of the ninth looking for that much needed walk off win.
The bottom of the ninth started out great for the Cubs. First we saw former Cub LaTroy Hawkins on the mound, Cub fans who unfortunately remember him knew this could only mean good things. For the Cubs, they had 31 year old rookie Bobby Scales stepping up to the plate, and he worked a full count, then drew a leadoff walk. Good things always tend to happen when you start off an inning with a walk. Aaron Miles was up next, and against my better judgment laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Scales over to second. I say against my better judgment because I was sure they would walk Alfonso Soriano with first base open and a runner at second. Thankfully, that was not the plan that Hawkins and the Astros had in mind. They pitched to Soriano, and that’s all we needed. After two quick strikes, Soriano popped a single into right field and Scales crossed home plate to score the winning run.
Gregg flat out sucked today, which will only add logs to the fire of fans who hate him, and want him out of the closers role. There are no words that I can give to even begin to defend Gregg at this point, because today’s game was inexcusable. How he could blow the game that badly is beyond me. For the past few games, he has been solid and actually looked like he had his job locked down, and then he goes out there and drops this disaster of an outing. The calls for Marmol to be the new closer are already starting, as are a few calls for Guzman to take the job. However, this game will not be the final nail in Gregg’s job as closer. He will have more chances to do the job before Piniella yanks him from the closers job.
Finally, Telander wrote an article on Friday about steroids, and brought up Theriot’s name. During the course of the article, he half heartedly accused Theriot of using steroids. However, he only brought up his name tongue in cheek, and only to make his point that now everyone in baseball should now be a suspect. The downside, he has now marked Theriot as a steroid user, even if he didn’t mean to, he has now tarnished Theriot’s career. Take a look at Theriot’s body and tell me he is a user. He is listed at 5’11” and around 170 pounds, yet he is going to have to walk around with the whispers of steroid use following him. Good job Telander, way to bring down someone to make a point. Just because he is performing above expectations, you had to single him out. Why not call out a slugger who at least looks like a possible candidate. Such players like Albert Pujols from the St. Louis Cardinals, or Ryan Howard from the Philadelphia Phillies. Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT saying that they are users, but they would fit the image of a steroid abuser more then Theriot ever could.
Like I said, these past few days have been crazy, and a lot has gone down. I am sure things will continue to get crazy throughout the season, after all, this wouldn’t be a Cubs season without a lot of craziness following the team around, don’t you agree?
When Theriot became a mainstay in the starting lineup, in June of 2007, he took off. Fans took notice of this, and using a play on words with his last name, nicknamed him The Riot. Catchphrases rocketed throughout Wrigleyville, including “You can’t quiet the Riot”. He played very well for most of the season, but hit a steady decline in the later part of the season, hitting a wall in September. While he finished the season with a .266 batting average, that did not discourage the fans who had already adopted him as someone who will be in their hearts for as long as he wears the Cubs uniform. They had faith that they had found someone who would be able to fill the void that had been left at shortstop for the past several years.
With his first full year under his belt Theriot entered the 2008 season knowing that he would be the starting shortstop for the Cubs. He knew that he would be more prepared for the long stretch of games this year. The preparation paid off, as Theriot was a man who could not be stopped, The Riot had announced his presence with authority hitting a very impressive .307 batting average. While he had an impressive season, he still seemed to hit a wall toward to end of the season, and seemed to tire out as the long season wore on. With Theriot showing an emergence, there is very little doubt that he will once again be the starting shortstop for the ball club. However, Piniella has stated that he plans on resting Theriot more this year, giving newly acquired Aaron Miles starts at shortstop. His hope is that giving Theriot more time off through out the season will make him fresher for the stretch run and for the playoffs, if and when we win the division.
While Theriot will never be a power hitter who hits homeruns, in fact there is a good likely hood that he will never hit more then 10 in a season, the fans love when he steps in the batters box because they know that Theriot will always put forth a maximum effort. That is what makes him one of the favorite players on the ball club, his play hard attitude. Considering that last year was his first full year as a starter, predicting what he will do in other offensive categories would be hard to do. However, you would not be going out on a limb to predict him to hit around .300 again for the second straight season.
When you take a look at Theriot, there is very little to break down and dissect. He puts everything on the line every time he steps between the lines. That is what baseball is about, that is the way things are supposed to be. Theriot should be a part of this lineup for many years, and as long as he continues to do what he has done since getting the starting nod, he will continue to be a fan favorite for as long as he is here
Ryan Dempster and the Chicago Cubs have agreed on a deal that will keep the pitcher with the club for teh next four years. In that time frame, Dempster will make $52 million, or an average of $13 million per season. Is it a bit too much for a man who just returned to the starting rotation a year ago after several years in the bullpen after spending a few years in the bullpen? Only time will tell when it comes to Dempster.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Dempster, and think that he is one of the best guys in the Cubs clubhouse. Note, I said best guys, not best pitchers. While I think that he will be a valuable piece to the Cubs rotation, I do not think he will repeat his performance from his allstar year from 2008. He may have a few more good seasons, but to think he will repeat his success from last year might be going a bit too far.
Let us not forget that he was in a contract year, and players have a tendancy to do amazing things in a contract year just so that they can earn that big deal. I am not saying that this was the case for Dempster, again, only time will tell. If he puts forth the same efforts that he put forth last training camp, then we will know that his heart is still in it. His training program helped him get into shape, and get him ready to pitch as many innings as he did. Early word is that he plans on going through the same program again this offseason so that he is able to keep in shape.
Whats more, Dempster has indicated that one of the Cubs other starting pitchers would be joining him. Rich Harden will join him, and hopefully it helps keep him and his arm healthy and in shape all season so that he can pitch as many innings as needed. We can not afford to go through an entire season of babying him, and skipping his starts. That will do more harm then good to our pitching staff. So hopes are that Dempster will be able to help Harden.
This would not be complete, if I didn’t mention Jake Peavy at all, since he was one of the names we were looking at incase Dempster was not re-signed to the club. Word is that the Cubs are still interested in trading for the talented former Cy Young award winner. According to San Diego General Manager Kevin Towers stated that he is only talking to the Cubs about a trade of Peavy. However, a third or fourth team would be needed for things to get serious. Take it for what its worth. But can you imagine a rotation of Zambrano, Peavy, Dempster, Lilly, Harden? That leaves me speechless. But until the trade happens, it is all just speculation.