Thursday, June 17, 2004
Game 3 = Cubs Win. Maddux looks strong, the "hero-for-a-day" (TM) is Paul Bako (for even getting a hit), and the Cubs guarantee a series win and at least a 5-2 road trip. Not bad at all for a 7 game set against the Angels and Astros... Rusch and Oswalt today.
On the stat front, all 5 Cubs starters sport ERA's under 4.00. When was the last time you could say that this deep in the season?
Ricky Gutierrez is back, signing a one-year minor league deal on Monday after being waived by the Mets earlier this season. A fan favorite in the 2000 and 2001 seasons, Ricky will report to Iowa. What does this mean for the Cubs? Probably nothing much, but it may signal the end of the Rey Ordonez era... Even if Ordonez isn't gone, Gutierrez adds yet more depth and insurance. Another solid move for Jim Hendry, who should be at the head of the line for GM of the year.
Trade Proposal: Taken from the Cubs Newsgroup, this is the most reasonable deal I've seen in a while (courtesy of Doug Miller):
Deal 1: Cubs send Corey Patterson, Reynel Pinto to Seattle for Eddie Guardado.
Deal 2: Cubs trade Ricky Nolasco to Colorado, Brendan Harris to Kansas City; Colorado sends JC Closser to Kansas City; Kansas City sends Carlos Beltran to Chicago.
The prospects involved might be a little light (UPDATE: the Cubs pitchers will have to be bigger names, or two pitchers instead of one - Nolasco has a 10.43 ERA after last night's appearance), but the deals are eminently reasonable and give all four teams something they want. Seattle needs a CF with Mike Cameron gone and Randy Winn playing miserably, and Guardado is doing them no good with a losing record and no hope of recovery in the tough AL West. Colorado needs pitching, and has a prospect to deal in Closser to get help from the Cubs. The Royals get what they want (catcher, 3B) in return for Beltran, and save a few dollars in the process. Makes sense, but we all know that trades in the blog world never match up to the real world...
Finally, we've been remiss at WP for failing to cover the baseball draft. Second-round pick Grant Johnson (Cubs first pick overall - 1st rounder was lost to Minnesota as Type A free agent compensation) looks like a keeper - another hard-throwing RHP prospect with an injury history (like Bobby Brownlie). He had 1st round stuff, but his labrum injury apparently scared teams away.
Interesting draft picks included 8th round pick Eric Patterson and 19th round pick Micah Owings, both of whom fell in the draft. Per John Sickels:
Patterson is an athletic second baseman, and the brother of Cubs outfielder Corey Patterson. Eric was mentioned as a possible second or third-round pick at the beginning of the season, but his college campaign was erratic, and he fell to the eighth round. He doesn't have his brother's power, but is very fast and will take a walk. His main problem is his approach: he tries too hard to hit for power, resulting in a lot of medium-depth fly balls, but few homers. Scouts want him to chop down on the ball and leg out hits, or drive liners over the heads of the infielders.
Sound like anyone we know? Just asking.
Sickels also had this to say about Owings:
Owings, considered a second-round talent by most teams, fell to the 19th round because of concerns about his bonus demands. He reportedly wants at least $1 million to sign, and as a draft-eligible sophomore he has the leverage to hold out and wait until his junior year if he doesn't get what he wants money-wise. Owings is a fine two-way player, with a power bat and a power arm, though the Cubs listed him as a pitcher on draft day. I wouldn't be surprised if they take a serious run at trying to sign him, since they didn't have a first round pick and should have the money to do so.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
2 In The Bag
After a thrilling 9th inning comeback yesterday (aided by some shaky Lance Berkman defense), the Cubs ensured at least a split with the Ass-Trolls in this series. Ramon Martinez was the star yesterday, which continues the recent Cubs theme of "hero-a-day." For his part, Carlos was effectively wild, getting the big outs when they counted and tightroping his way to two runs allowed. Although I didn't see the game before the ninth, the highlights showed that Carlos had good movement on his pitches, which may have contributed to the 4 BB's bookending his 4 K's. It was especially fun to see Carlos drop to full sidearm at one point to strike out one of the Ass-Trolls (I don't remember who - but who cares?).
Maddux goes tonight (Cubs currently down 1-0 in the 3rd) to try for the third series win.
In other news, Sammy will return on Friday after a one at-bat appearance at West Tennessee last night. No news on recurrent back pain is good news.
One of the other stories percolating around this morning was the cap-throwing incident, where Carlos Zambrano expressed his displeasure at Todd Walker during last night's game by throwing his cap to the ground. I don't think this will amount to much, as Dusty will inevitably smooth things over, but it is something to keep an eye on.
Also on the Walker front, it will be very interesting to see whether Dusty takes Walker out of the lineup in favor of Grudielanek even though Walker is on a hot streak right now. I personally would favor a straight platoon, but Dusty may fall prey to Proven Veteran Syndrome (TM) and install Grud back in anyway.
At Iowa, Sergio Mitre continues to show why he might make trade bait at the deadline (as well as show that he learned how to pitch in the major leagues), giving up 5 hits and only one run (unearned) in 7 IP last night. Recent Rule 5 returnee Jason Szuminski picked up the win in relief. At Lansing, Ryan Dempster had yet another strong outing, pitching 4 1/3 innings with 6 K's and only one walk. For the season, Dempster has a 1.96 ERA with 21 K's and only 2 walks in 18.1 innings pitched. The walk figure is especially encouraging given Dempster's predeliction for wildness.
Finally, it wouldn't be a proper WP-length post without another shout out to WP favorite Jermaine (Martin) Van Buren, who is taking to the closer role like the proverbial fish-to-water. For the uninitiated, JVB, a former first round draft pick with a heavy fastball and curve signed as a minor league free agent this offseason, has a record of 0-0 with a 0.39 ERA and 14 saves since taking over as closer for the Diamond Jaxx. In 23 IP, JVB has allowed 7 hits in the 23 innings he has worked, facing 82 batters in the process. Add that to 25 K's in that time, and you've got a guy who needs to be watched closely as a serious relief prospect for this organization...
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Maybe that's hyperbole, but it sure is good to see Mark Prior back on the field. The Cubs beat up on the formerly invincible Roger Clemens last night, cruising to a 7-2 victory over the Ass-Trolls. The win brings the Cubs into second place (or at least a tie for second place), 2 games back of the Reds. The Cubs sport a 7-3 record in their last ten, news that, when coupled with the Friday return of Sammy Sosa, the potential Thursday return of Mark Grudzielanek, Alex Gonzalez's return next week, and Kerry Wood's return late next week, makes Cubs Nation very happy.
BTW, a special WP shout out to Nuke LaLoosh-style Cubs prospect Jon Leicester, who came in and saved the Cubs' collective asses against the Angels in the series finale on Sunday. 3 scoreless IP to get the win was a huge gift from our farm system, which is really beginning to get into gear. I didn't see the game because I was stuck in Logan Airport (weather delay) listening to caterwauling Red Sox fans, so I would love to see some highlights of the Leich in action (a man who historically had very little idea where the ball was headed once it left his hands.)
Finally, "official WP fav team" (the Boise Hawks) announced their short season A roster yesterday. Among the notables on the team are former SS prospect Luis Montanez, in town to convert to the outfield, 2003 draftee Kyle Boyer, highly touted LHP Darin Downs (another 2003 draftee), and BA tease 3B Alfredo Francisco (in town after failing miserably at Lansing). 2003 draftee Tony Ritchie will catch along with former prospect (and Korean national team star) Yoon Min-Kweon, attempting to make a comeback after personal problems and injuries wiped out most of the last two seasons. 2003 #1 draft pick Ryan Harvey will remain in Arizona, attempting to recover from a bad hamstring pull. Expect to see Harvey added to the Boise roster in July.
Zambrano (7-2, 2.27) v. Miller (6-6) tonight. Go Cubs.