Since I have not posted since the end of January, this post should not come as a surprise. I am formally ending my blog on the Cubs. Writing about the team was a fun, wonderful experience, but the last six months, I have not had the passion for it that I used to have.
I began the blog as a way to work on my sports writing; something to put on my resume in addition to other work I was already doing. However, as my work has started taking more and more time, combined with a lack of cable, it’s become increasingly difficult to faithfully post.
I probably should have made this post a few months ago, but I’ve been dragging my feet, hoping to find the motivation to continue. It’s not come, so I’m ending the blog now. Thanks to anyone who ever read. I truly appreciate it. And as always…
Go Cubs Go!
In nineteen days Cubs pitchers and catchers will report to Mesa, AZ for this year’s Spring Training. Since winter had been relatively mild this year, it is more difficult than usual to believe that baseball is about to hit the ground running. Just in case the idea of baseball gearing up for what I’m sure will be another exciting season isn’t enough to whet your appetite, the Cubs’ front office released the names of their 21 non-roster invitees this afternoon.
The list includes nine pitchers (righthanders Marco Carrillo, Manuel Corpas, Jay Jackson, Rodrigo Lopez, Trey McNutt, Blake Parker and Dae-Eun Rhee and lefthanders Trever Miller and Chris Rusin), three catchers (Michael Brenly, Jason Jaramillo and Blake Lalli), five infielders (Alfredo Amezaga, Edgar Gonzalez, Jonathan Mota, Bobbly Scales and Matt Tolbert) and four outfielders (Jim Adduci, Jae-Hoon Ha, Brett Jackson and Jon Mather.
A few names on the list certainly stand out for a variety of reasons. First is Rodrigo Lopez. The 36-year-old righthander went 6-6 in 2011 with a 4.42 ERA in 26 games (16 starts). His lifetime career stats include a 81-88 record and 4.82 ERA (720 ER/1,3441 IP) in 253 appearances (215 starts). I wish I could say I was super impressed with this decision, but Lopez struggled too much past the fourth inning of his 2011 starts with the Cubs for me to be thrilled.
Speaking of pitchers, there’s Trey McNutt, 22, making the cut. McNutt was 5-6 with a 4.55 ERA in his first full year at Double-A last season. He was the Cubs 32nd round draft pick in 2009 and has three professional seasons under his belt. McNutt’s name often came up last year when the Cubs were shuffling their starters and relief pitchers, but he never made it past Tennessee. I’ll be interested to see what sort of improvement he shows after the off-season.
Trey McNutt, 22, went 5-6 with a 4.55 ERA (48 ER/95.0 IP) in 23 appearances (22 starts) last season with Tennessee, his first full year at Double-A. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder was selected by the Cubs in the 32nd round of the 2009 Draft and is 18-8 with a 3.13 ERA (83 ER/239.0 IP) in 61 appearances (53 starts) during his three-season professional career.
Outfielder Brett Jackson is another prospect-invitee I’ll be keeping a close watch on. With six outfielders already contending for spots on the 25-man roster, it is unlikely that Jackson will see the Bigs this season (bar a break-out Spring Training), but the .274 batting average with 23 doubles, five triples, 20 homers, 58 RBI, 21 stolen bases and a .379 on-base percentage through 115 games is encouraging. He is young, fast, has moderate power and seems to be patient at the plate. On the surface there’s very little to not like. However, not all players that seem ripe with potential at the Double-A or Triple-A level pan out once they make it to the major leagues. Given Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s “draft and develop” philosophy, I’d wager a guess that Jackson spends most of the season in Iowa with a potential call-up should a spot open due to injury. That being said, he’s only 23 and I can’t see him being put under pressure to rush unless Marlon Byrd and Alfonso Soriano depart before the season’s end.
There are definitely other stand-out players and names on this year’s list of non-roster invitees, but I know relatively little about many of the others. Rather than rushing to copy and paste what Cubs.com says about these players, I hope to do some research and post an informed analysis on the remaining 18 players in the coming days.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind that garnering an invite to Spring Training does not automatically mean that any of these players have spots with the Cubs. There are still trades to be made and contracts to be tendered before February 19 and much can happen between now and then. We’ll just have to wait and see how shines and who falls once March rolls around.
I’ve heard from multiple successful sports writers that the best way to become a reporter yourself is to read a lot, write everyday and then read some more. I’ve got the reading part down, but I certainly have not been doing the writing. I’d like to change that. Habits are difficult to form and easy to break, but I figure I’m not going to become a sports writer by sitting on my butt and wishing for a job to fall into my lap. Time to start doing the leg work. So. Now what?
I’m really going to make an effort. I’ve posted 3×5 cards around my house that say things like “Have you written about the Cubs today?” or “Did Theo say anything interesting?” I’m a visual learner so fingers crossed that the reminders kick me into gear.
That’s about it for now. The “reset” button has been hit for the millionth time and we’re going to start taking this whole “find a real job” thing seriously. Also, Go Cubs Go! Just over a month until pitchers and catchers report; what a beautiful feeling.
First things first, I did not mean to go over a month without updating. This will hopefully not be an on-going trend for this blog. Second, let’s talk shop.
As many Cubs fan noticed, the front office was rather silent during the Winter Meetings a few weeks back. I had mixed feelings about the situation. Many of the beat reporters who covered the team seemed disappointed in the decision to merely sit and observe, but to me it made sense.
Reason #1: While I have no doubt at all that Theo Epstein is the kind of GM that kept up on the goings-on of all teams around baseball, the fact of that matter is that while he was in Boston, his Red Sox played the Cubs only a handful of times. He certainly would have taken a good, hard look at the roster and its abilities before accepting the job in Chicago, but at the end of the day, he has a team that is relatively unknown to him.
Reason #2: What the Cubs truly need is a power bat and starting pitching. It is a well-established fact that there is not a wealth of starting pitching on the market right now and with not too many players to trade, it makes sense that the Cubs weren’t forking over an arm and a leg to pursue a player already under contract. Regarding the power-bat, I’m personally rather glad that the team did not sign Pujols. His contract is not completely ridiculous, but I would not have been pleased had the Cubs been the team doling it out.
Reason #3: Who here remembers the big splash the team made in 2007? That was when Soriano got his mammoth contract. Sure Jim Hendry couldn’t have known that Soriano’s lackadaisical playing style in the outfield and spotty bat would become the bane of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s initiation to the Cubs, but still. He should have known better. The point to all this is that I’m okay with Jed and Theo proving they’re patient over impulsive.
That being said, things need to pick up a bit. Prince Fielder is still on the open market and the Cubs stand to make quite a steal if they can get him locked down and under contract. I’ll be very disappointed if he receives the sort of mammoth contract that Soriano got, but I don’t think a 4-6, $120-million contract would be completely unreasonable. Apparently Fielder is trying to command more years than the Cubs may be willing to give, so I don’t have my hopes too high that he’ll be playing on the North Side for more than a few games in 2012, but stranger things have happened.
At this point all we can do it wait and see.
It’s here! After wrestling with the idea to switch over to WordPress from Blogspot, I finally bit the bullet on Wednesday and re-created my Cubs blog at this new site. Then last night I spent the better part of two hours transferring all the posts over to this blog. And I now feel fully prepared to start writing and discussing the Cubs on this new medium.
As many people know, the Cubs have made some pretty significant changes over the last three or four months. Jim Hendry and Mike Quade were fired (thank goodness the Ricketts family was smart enough to not let those both happen during the season), the front office named Boston born-and-bred wonderboy Theo Epstein the President of Baseball Operations with Jed Hoyer as his general manager and as we speak, Dale Sveum (the former Milwaukee Brewers hitting coach) is being introduced as the manager.
And that’s all just been since September!
While I lost the inspiration to write about the Cubs during the 2011 season, I did not lose my interest. I view this change to WordPress as a fresh start: a chance to fall in love with writing about the team again and perhaps also do a better job of holding myself accountable.
My writing will be rusty at best, corny at worst. My facts will occasionally be incorrect (I’ll try to fix that as soon as I discover it) and my information may not always be original. I still ask that if I say something that you think is funny, witty, dumb or brilliant, let me know! Sometimes a little validation goes a long way in motivating a writer. We’re a little over three months away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Mesa and there’s so much to discuss before then! I hope that you’re as excited as I am.
So it’s been a while. A very long while, in fact. I’d love to give some legitimate excuse that would explain away my hit-and-miss attitude towards this blog for the last five or six months, but I really don’t have a very good one. The last post I wrote was August 6. I guess that was sort of the last time I really cared deeply about the team. Or cared enough to invest the energy to write something.
Rather sad considering I profess myself to be a “die hard fan.”
So why the motivation to start posting now, after three months of radio silence? It’s rather selfish, really. I need it for my resume. Sad, but true (isn’t honesty the best policy?). I can honestly say that I’ve wanted to post and even started writing posts in my mind multiple times for the last three months, but never followed through. Yeesh. That doesn’t reflect well, does it? But now, I would like to use this blog as a part of my body of work to hopefully help push me toward a reporting job. Selfish motives aside, there are a few things that I’ve been mulling over that will result in some significant changes.
First, and most importantly, Go Cubs Go is moving to WordPress. I have not created the new blog address yet, though I will post the link as soon as I have (probably tomorrow afternoon). Over the last 12 months, Blogspot has been driving me crazier and crazier (actually a large part of the reason that I hadn’t posted anything for so long…) and since I’m going to try to pick this up again, I’m going to do it in a space that I like and prefer.
Second of all, I’m going to start small. I’ve been perfectly content to just sit back and let the pros do all the talking and absorb what they’re saying rather than doing my own hoof work and processing what I think about the Cubs and then crafting those thoughts into an intelligent post. Baby steps, though. I’m committing to start at a minimum of one post a week, with an increase to two or three posts starting the week of the Cubs convention in January. We must walk before we run sometimes and I don’t want to set an unrealistic goal for myself right before the holidays.
Third, I’m going to try to write with a more stream-lined journalistic style, rather than just the stream-of-consciousness that has dominated the last year and a half. Some things have changed in my personal life throughout the last month and those changes are making me take this whole writing career thing a lot more seriously. The writing will probably be a little clunky to begin with, and I apologize in advance for that. Please stick with me as I attempt to rediscover my creative voice.
I think that’s everything. Like I said, I’ll post the link to the new blog as soon as it’s available. If there is anyone out there still reading this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I don’t deserve your dedication, but I will try to earn it from this point on.
|It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! No, it’s Wonder Boy- Tony Campana!|
Just in case Tony Campana hadn’t endeared himself to Chicago enough with his big, almost goofy smile and hard work ethic, he went above and beyond in yesterday’s matinee against the Cincinnati Reds.
For the 5’8 Campana, an inside-the-park home run and a wild, leaping catch against the ivy in the top of the 7th. Certainly no baseball player is perfect, but Campana seems determined to prove that size isn’t everything, even in professional sports.
In addition to Campana’s outstanding day, Starlin Castro continued to terrorize NL pitchers everywhere, going 3-for-4; he leads the National League with 146 hits, as well as the most games with three or more hits (19). While the young short stop has batted just about everywhere in the lineup this season, he seems to have settled in most comfortably at the top of the order, and Manager Mike Quade doesn’t seem to mind.
The Cubs will play the second of three games against the Reds today and it will be Carlos Zambrano’s turn to continue the 6-game win streak. Zambrano’s last outing against the Pirates was solid but not spectacular: one earned run over six innings of work. The 3-4-5 hitters are where he tends to get locked up, which also happens to be the most deadly part of the Cincinnati’s line-up. Regardless of weather conditions (we’ve all seen how the heat can affect Zambrano’s game), it’ll be important for him to pitch with fire in his belly, as long as it’s controlled.
Fun Facts:– The Cubs are 38-23 when they score four or more funs, but 10-42 when they score three of fewer.
– The boys in blue have tallied 12 home runs in the last four games.
– The last Cub to hit an inside-the-park home run at Wrigley was Sammy Sosa against the Pirates on Oct. 6, 2001 (The season was extended 10 days that year due to the week break after Sept. 11).
– Yesterday’s crowd of 42, 245 was the second largest of the season. Amazing what happens when the team wins…
– Cubs starting pitchers have had 14 quality starts in the last 21 games. The team is 10-4 in those games.
*All facts courtesy of cubs.com
You will never hear me complain on about the Cubs winning a baseball game. It’s not going to happen. I’ll swear until I’m blue over what may have happened in a game that the Cubs won, cause let’s be honest: they’ve had some ugly wins, but at the end of the day a win is a win is a win. But I’m just not quite sure what to make of their 11-6 rout of Pittsburgh last night. And indeed it was a rout. The final tally doesn’t show how lopsided most of the game was: through 7.5 innings, the tally was 11-2.
Six home runs. By one team. In one game. It’s one off the franchise record. There are so many stats from last night’s game that I could list them until I pass out from excitement or lack of oxygen. The game itself interests me, no doubt. I guess I just wonder where this team- the one that plays small ball one night with solid defense and pitching and goes long again and again and again the next night- has been for four months? Historically the Cubs have struggled the day after a rout. The one exception that immediately springs to my mind was the three-game series against the Astros in 2008 that was played in Milwaukee due to Hurricane Ike. Ya know, Z’s no hitter? Yeah, that series.
I don’t remember the exact score of each game, but I do remember that the final runs total for the series was something like 18-3. The Cubs were on their A-Game and Houston didn’t stand a chance. I would have never thought that this series would start to go that way as well. Sure the Pirates had a rough go of it in Atlanta, but they still managed to split the series. Getting swept by Philadelphia probably didn’t help bolster their confidence, but let’s be honest: The Phillies are 41-18 at home this season. No one does well when they visit the City of Brotherly Love.
Personally I like Milwaukee a lot. Traditionally Pittsburgh has been the thorn in my side since the Cubs have seemed unable to play well against them no matter the records for the last four or five seasons. However, a week or two ago when it looked like Pittsburgh had the best chance of ruining St. Louis’ post-season hopes, I immediately went out and bought a ton of black and gold apparel. Not really. But I mentally cheered when I saw they’d won a game and groaned when they lost.
Now it looks like the Cubs are going to shred any self-confidence they may have had coming into this series. There are two games left, so who knows. Since I am first and foremost a Cubs fan, I’d probably die of happiness if the Cubs swept the Pirates. One, it would mean a five game win streak (something unheard of this season). Two, it may increase the Cubbies’ confidence enough to start winning even more series, and three, it would probably have the inadvertently positive effect of the rest of baseball taking notice.
I do not think that a sweep here proves that the Cubs did the right thing at the trade deadline, but if playing .500 ball or better for the rest of the season means that the Cubs are able to move big names and big money during the off-season, I say let’s win three out of four for the rest of the year.
I am so happy to see the boys smiling and high fiving each other. They look (more) relaxed when they come up to bat. The pitching staff doesn’t have the body language that says, “I must be perfect because the offense sure isn’t going to help and my defense may blow up at any second…”
Obviously this could all go to pot in a matter of hours. But I’d like to think that the players have just calmed down a little and are playing for the love of the game. Which is what they should have been doing all along.
I’m in a state of apathy right now when it comes to the Cubs. I know that’s a bad thing to confess on a blog that’s solely geared toward the team, but I’m just struggling to get enthusiastic. I think part of the problem is that most of my energy is being geared toward my move next Wednesday. It’s not a huge move- just 30 some miles- but I forgot how draining it can be! There are so many little details to take care of, which is fine. However, it’s making focusing on other things (such as blogging about the Cubs) difficult. So today’s post is just more bullets and general musings.
- Derrek Lee is a class act. Sure he hit two home runs in his Pirates debut last night, but as you may recall, I have always been a huge D-Lee fan and I honestly only want to see him do well. If his bat and Gold Glove worthy defense can help the Pirates catch the Cardinals and become post-season contenders, I’m all for it. Lee also said he sympathizes with the team’s struggles this year: “I’m really close to those guys. It’s hard to see them struggle,” Lee said. “I thought they would have a good year this year, especially because of that rotation. But we all know baseball’s a crazy game. They had some tough injuries right out of the gate. You hate to see them struggle like that, but hopefully they can finish strong like they did last year.” cubs.com
- Despite Jim Hendry citing more playing time for Tyler Colvin as one of the benefits of the Fukudome trade, the youngster has only played in two games since the trade. Reed Johnson has been doing a passable job filling in, and I wonder if the Cubs front office is trying to boost his appeal by showing that he’s a healthy, reliable, utility player in order to boost his trade prospects. Mike Quade was quoted as saying “He [Reed Johnon] has got stupid numbers against this guy” referring to Monday’s Pirates starter, Paul Maholm. I’m not entirely sure what that comment is supposed to mean, but Johnson managed a hit, a run and an RBI in yesterday’s game, so I guess it’s a positive thing?
- I’m very happy that Carlos Pena was not involved in a trade before the July 31 deadline. To me it signals that maybe the Cubs aren’t going to drop big money during the off-season on a ridiculous long-term contract with Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols. Or maybe it just means that they weren’t going to get a return that they felt was worth parting with Pena. Regardless of the front office’s reasons, I’m not the only one that was happy to see Pena stay. The first basemen had heaps of praise for Jim Hendry, saying he trusts Hendry’s vision for the team and the direction that the GM seems to be taking the organization in. This is the part where I want to cite the Cubs’ record, criticize their lack of movement at the trade deadline, and theorize that Hendry will be filing for unemployment in two months time, but ya know what: the last two wins totally prove that Hendry did the very wise thing in not moving anyone or trying to get prospects at the deadline. … Like I said, I’m glad that Pena is sticking around for the time being.
- Carlos Zambrano continues to show that he is still a viable pitcher who can contribute to a team’s roster. While he allowed more base-runners than is ideal, he managed to not lose his cool after walking two batters in a row and having words with the home plate umpire after a call he felt should have gone his way. WGN radio reported that his velocity increased after that. To me that’s a signal that rather than blowing his top, Carlos took control of the situation (and his emotions) and put more intention into his pitches. It was the 11th quality start in 17 games since the All-Star break and another chance for Zambrano to prove that regardless of whether he stays in Chicago next season or is traded for prospects, he’s anything but irrelevant. It was good to see the controlled fire. I’ve missed that side of Z.
- Last but not least, Brett over at Bleacher Nation has a thought-provoking, fair rebuttal to Marlon Byrd’s blog post about the questionable Matt Holliday slide from last week’s game against the (Dirty Red Birds) Cardinals. Brett points out how inaccurate Byrd’s comments are and how the Cubs inadvertently (intentionally?) threw Starlin Castro under the bus. It’s good stuff.