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?
The Chicago Cubs have swept their first series of the year, beating the San Diego Padres in a three game set. Perhaps the timing is just a coincidence, but the sweep comes on the very first series the Cubs have played without Aramis Ramirez. Maybe, just maybe the Cubs will be able to keep pace with the rest of the National League Central. Or maybe the Padres are just really really bad. No matter the reason you lean towards, the Cubs are doing exactly what they need to do while Ramirez is on the disabled list. That is winning games by having everyone else pick up their own games. There is no single player who deserves credit, as they have all been team wins.
The starting pitching was outstanding this series, as all three of our starters lasted into at least the sixth inning. Rich Harden matched would be Cub Jake Peavy pitch for pitch and eventually showed that he was the better pitcher on the day limiting the Padres to two runs. Not to be outdone, Ted Lilly matched Harden’s efforts, by mirroring the first inning but ending with only allowing three runs in six plus innings. Ryan Dempster, not to be outdone by his fellow pitchers went out and threw a gem to secure the sweep allowing only two runs in seven innings of work. You shouldn’t be too surprised with the starting staff, as everyone in the rotation has appeared to step things up when staff ace Carlos Zambrano went down with his hamstring injury.
However, the starters are not the only pitchers to shut down the Padres, the bullpen put together three great games. In their 6.2 innings the combined for five hits and two runs. The first run came in the eighth inning of Wednesday nights rain shortened game off of Carlos Marmol who picked up the unexpected save. The second came off of Jose Ascanio making his first appearance of the season in Thursdays game. Everyone, with the exception of David Patton and Neal Cotts, in the bullpen contributed in this series, and all deserve credit for helping the Cubs keep their leads.
The Cubs offense thrived in this series, scoring six runs in the first two games and 11 in the final game. In the series there were six home runs, two by Ryan Theriot and one each by Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, Geovany Soto and Bobby Scales. None of those homers came in the finale though, that was all done with good clutch hits. Speaking of Bradley, while we are still waiting to hear word on the verdict of his appeal, he has begun to heat things up with his bat. While he is still hitting .194 he has put together a good hitting streak which has seen his batting average climb in the past few games. Be patient with him, because when you start off as slow as he did, there will be a long climb back to respectability with the batting average. Soto is another player who seems to be coming out of his season long slump. He has put together a couple of games where he has been the player we saw last year. The only everyday players who still seem to be in a slump are first baseman Derrek Lee and second baseman Mike Fontenot. While his critics have been calling for Micah Hoffpauir to replace Lee, Cubs manager Lou Piniella has stuck with Lee despite his struggles. Fontenot, who is also struggling doesn’t seem to be getting any grief for his slump, maybe because he isn’t being paid nearly as much as Lee. However if Scales continues playing as well as he has since being recalled, Fontenot might find his way back to the bench at some point this season.
Not really much from me today, which is rare, but I will end with this. As I mentioned in my last blog, the Cubs are doing fine without their best player for now. Whether or not that will continue to be the case, I don’t know. But they are on a four game winning streak, which is pretty damn good. The offense has come together and has been putting up great numbers to help the Cubs win games. The pitching staff has come together with some amazing starts as well. Everyone is picking up the ball that was dropped when Ramirez left, and that is exactly what had to be done for the Cubs to survive. Even though there is still plenty of time left for the Cubs without Ramirez, these past few games has got to of eased the minds and worried hearts of Cub fans everywhere. Lets go to Houston to play the Astros, and continue what has been started.