Good News, Bad News

Okay, the good news is that we’re only 8 games into the season.  It’s still very early.  Also, the Cubs have a winning record (5-3), and Derrek Lee has his contract extension.  Word is that Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, and Wade Miller may all be back by June.  Things could be much, much worse.

The bad news is that the Reds own us.  Can anyone explain that to me?  This happened last year too.  We can beat the Cardinals and Astros.  We just can’t beat the Reds.  Unfortunately, we play them about 20 times this year.  So hopefully the Cubs will be able figure out how to hit the following elite pitchers:  Eric Milton, Bronson Arroyo (who is now in Cy Young contention thanks to the Cubs), Brandon Claussen, Aaron Harang.

More bad news.  Here’s the starters for the weekend series against the Pirates.  Sean Marshall (our #3 starter), Jerome Williams, and Glendon Rusch.  In case you were wondering, that’s as bad as it gets.  We haven’t put three starters back-to-back-to-back like that since 1997.  And everyone knows how that season ended.  In June. 

So join with me as I take 10 deep breaths and pray to God that Wood and Prior find it in their hearts to take the mound at Wrigley sometime before the all-star break.  Once again, for the third year in a row, that’s our only hope.

Go Cubs.

You Can’t Spell Rusch without the HR

Glendon Rusch has served his team well the past two years.  He’s been an effective starter and an average reliever.  But that ship has sailed.  He’s completely awful now.  I realize Spring Training stats don’t count.  But let’s pretend they do for a minute.  Glendon has now strung together about 8 awful starts in a row.  At this point, I’d rather see Darren Baker take the ball every five days than Glendon Rusch.

It’s time to bring up Angel Guzman.  We’ve all heard about him.  He’s like the Yeti.  Or the Loch Ness Monster.  I’m not sure he’s real, but people swear they’ve seen him.  And Jim Hendry has placed the "untouchable" tag on him.  Though that’s usually the kiss of death (Patterson, Bobby Hill, Hee Seop Choi, etc.), Angel Guzman can’t be any worse than Glendon Rusch.  A rotation that includes Rusch and Jerome Williams is a rotation that will lose at least two out of every five games.  And if the Cubs determine that Angel Guzman isn’t ready to make a big league start, then they should just set up a tee at home plate every fourth and fifth game.

   

Derrek Lee’s New Deal

The AP, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and about every sports news outlet is reporting that Derrek Lee and the Cubs just finalized a 5-year, $65 million deal.  Cubs.com, however, neither confirms nor denies the report.  Someone should tell Cubs.com that their patented brand of smoke and mirrors reporting should be reserved for Kerry Wood and Mark Prior.  When there’s good news, it’s okay to report it.  D Lee is signing an extension, not throwing towels in Mesa.

I’m glad Derrek can focus all of his attention on baseball now.  These contract talks have really distracted him the first week of the season. 

Tune in tomorrow for Arroyo v Rusch II. 

Oui!

Jacque Jones is my third favorite Cub as of this evening, behind only Derrek Lee and Michael Barrett.  Does that make me a front-runner?  Obviously.  But until the next game starts on Tuesday, I’m not going to rag on Jacque Jones again.  Some may say that if you swing that hard at every pitch that’s thrown to you, you’re bound to hit one of them out.  A blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then.  But until Tuesday, Jacque Jones is out of my doghouse.  I’m sure if he had any idea who I was, he still wouldn’t care.

It’s always so satisfying to see Tony LaRussa’s bullpen management blow up in his face.  Isringhausen was ON tonight. 

Go Cubs.

P.S.  Today’s fun fact, courtesy of Carrie Muskat of Cubs.com:  "Did you notice they haven’t played "Jump" by Van Halen prior to the games at Wrigley Field this season? For 20 years, the Cubs have played the same pregame song while the pitcher is warming up, but on Friday and Saturday, it was "Have a Nice Day" by Bon Jovi. The Cubs now will rotate four or five songs in an attempt to be more contemporary. Among the other titles are "Clocks" by Coldplay and "Beautiful Day" by U2. And you will hear "Jump" again."  Well, I’m glad she broke that down for us.  I was really wondering about that.  I’m pleased to hear that the Cubs will run on to the field in more modern fashion…musically. 

Seriously, Give D Lee Whatever He Wants

I’m not ashamed to admit it. I watched the last three innings of Saturday’s game at The Cubby Bear. My ears, toes, fingers, and almost everything else froze around the time the first pitch crossed the plate. So I saw Michael Barrett and the great Derrek Lee defeat the Cardinals behind a solid Carlos Zambrano performance on Comcast instead of from the frozen confines of Wrigley Field.

Jacque Jones almost reached base today via the base hit. Almost. Okay, actually he did not. He struck out three times. He makes me long for Jose Hernandez. That’s how mediocre Jacque Jones is. When he swings, children cry and old women cover their eyes. I cannot believe he has a three year contract. The media guide should have a big picture of Jacque Jones taking a huge upper cut swing with the words "Get Used To It!" in big, bold letters.

Highlights from today’s game include a less than enthusiastic Dusty Baker making a half-hearted attempt to argue with the first base umpire, Carlos Zambrano completely losing his focus after an unearned run crossed the plate, and Jim Edmonds getting robbed by the wind again. Why do bad things always happen to metrosexual center fielders?

The Cubs looked like…well…the Cubs against Chris Carpenter. They struck out nine times against last year’s Cy Young Award winner. Jacque Jones along struck out 6 times. Or maybe it just seemed like he did. Did I mention he has a three year contract? Just checking. We traded Corey Patterson and then resigned an older, French-er version to a three year contract. Just awful.

So as soon as Carpenter left the game, the Cubs came alive. Into a stiff wind, both Michael Barrett and Derrek Lee homered to left field. Bob Howry and Ryan Dempster shut the door on the Cardinals for the second day in a row, and the Cubs put themselves in a position to sweep their rival with a win tomorrow night.

Can Sean Marshall replicate the performances of Greg Maddux and Carlos Zambrano when he takes the mound in a nationally televised game Sunday night? The answer, of course, is no. But if the unthinkable occurs and Marshall gets the job done, it will cap off an electric start to the 2006 season.

And finally, I’ve decided to track my major league hit total in 2006 against Le Corey Patterson’s. After five games, I have no hits. Luckily, I’m still tied with Le Corey. And the Cubs aren’t paying me $21 million over the next three years. THREE YEARS!

Go Cubs.

Cubs Win! I Can’t Feel My Legs!

On Friday I attended my first Cubs home opener. My trips to Wrigley typically coincide with the start of summer. I’m a Floridian, and I don’t do well in the sub-arctic temperatures that the Midwest winters bring. This year, however, I wanted to experience the home opener. I bought a ticket from a broker and crossed my fingers that the weather would be somewhat forgiving. And because God hates Cubs fans, Friday could not have been colder.

Here’s how the Chicago Tribune presented the Opening Day forecast: "Cloudy with strong NNE wind gusts above 30 m.p.h. later this morning/afternoon lowering temperatures to around 40 degrees – a level 15 degrees below normal. Afternoon wind chills near 32 degrees. Some lake-sprinkles/flurries near the lake."

How cold was it? After the player introductions, Carlos Zambrano sprinted into the dugout and down the stairs to the clubhouse. It doesn’t get this cold in Venezuela. It doesn’t get this cold in my freezer.

My seat was less than stellar, about even with the on-deck circle on the first-base side in the upper deck. There was only one row above mine, and my back was to a chain-link fence. I sat in a wind tunnel. A 15 degrees below-normal wind tunnel.

As Wayne Messmer concluded the national anthem ("home of the-ahhhhh….bray-eeve"), I realized that my four layers of clothing were not anywhere near sufficient. I stood up, unhinged my legs, and walked over to the Cubs souvenirs stand. For the low price of $30, I purchased a stocking cap and gloves. One of the gloves lasted four innings before ripping. Like Kerry Wood.

In the bottom of the first, Derrek Lee deposited a Jeff Suppan hanging curve into the bleachers. Sorry. The Bud Light Bleachers. Jim Hendry should have been standing at the plate holding Derrek Lee’s contract extension. I have no idea why that hasn’t happened yet. Hey Jim, you locked up Jacque Jones for three years. Why can’t you lock up Derrek Lee? Stop screwing around.

After Greg Maddux retired the Cardinals in the 2nd, the 2006 version of Corey Patterson stepped to the plate. Jacque Jones is so awful. So very, very awful. And he has a three year contract. Why? Who knows. It goes without saying that Jones made an out. After the game today, I have exactly as many hits in 2006 as Jacque Jones. If he keeps this up, Dusty will put him in the leadoff spot.

Matt Murton reached, and Ronny Cedeno tripled, making it 2-0 Cubs. A couple innings later, Ronny Cedeno doubled, went to third on a Maddux grounder, and almost came home on Juan Pierre’s attempted suicide squeeze that rolled foul at the last minute. Pierre would later single, driving home Cedeno. The Cubs have some speed this year. And they have a couple of young players that add some excitement at the bottom of the order. Not Jose Macias-like excitement, but excitement nonetheless.

The Cubs ended up winning the game 5-1. Greg Maddux pitched well, relying on a strong wind to get him out of a couple of jams. The play of the game came on a liner by Jim Edmonds that looked like a sure home run. It ended up dying in front of the track, and Matt Murton doubled. Juan Encarnacion off first base with a strong throw to Derrek Lee.

Bob Howry and Ryan Dempster finished off the Cardinals. Dempster struck out Edmonds to preserve the victory. As the Cubs celebrated, Jim Edmonds wiped away the tears as they streaked down his face, mixing with his mascara and creating black streaks. Okay, I made that last part up. Or maybe not. I was about ready to pass out by that point, so I don’t know how Jim Edmonds reacted. He probably ran into the clubhouse to catch the end of Oprah.

Despite the weather, opening day at Wrigley Field was a success. Once I get the feeling back in my hands, I’ll post my entry on Saturday’s game.

162

Why are the Cubs so great on Opening Day and so mediocre from Games 2 through 162?  They destroyed the Reds today, much like they destroyed the Diamondbacks on Opening Day last year and the Mets on Opening Day in 2003.

Some observations about today’s game:

  • Carlos Zambrano was able to get through command problems and a tight strike zone without a) hitting someone on purpose or b) getting ejected after telling the umpire he needs glasses.  He gave up a few walks and a few runs, but he’ll be just fine. 
  • Jacque Jones is the new Corey Patterson, but without the upside and youth.  Nothing beats flipping your bat and going into a home run trot after hitting a ball that ends up on the warning track. 
  • Matt Murton is going to be really good.
  • Having a leadoff hitter helps an offense score runs.  This seems fundamental, but it took the front office three years to figure it out.  Corey Patterson, Jose Macias, Neifi Perez, Matt Lawton, and Jerry Hairston, Jr. all took a shot at the leadoff position (with predictable results).  It’s so nice to see Juan Pierre in that spot. 
  • Scott Williamson is awful.  Is he healthy yet?  If so, he was well worth the wait.  (sarcasm)
  • I have more range than Todd Walker, but he hits a lot better than me.
  • As many pitching woes as the Cubs have, at least they didn’t start Aaron Harang on Opening Day.  That’s as bad as it gets. 
  • Sometime around the seventh inning, Len Kasper called a six-run Cubs lead "commanding."  This was after the Cubs had already blown a five run lead.   No Cubs lead is commanding. 

All in all, it was a good win today.  For the first time in a long time, we’re tied for first with the Cardinals.  I’ll enjoy that while it lasts.