The Northside Lounge
A Chicago Cubs blog with an occasional tangent on pop culture
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Too little, too lateOn a day when the Diamondbacks tagged Greg Maddux for six runs and the bullpen for seven more, we at least did finally get a little help for the offense. Hendry traded Gerut straight up for Matt Lawton, practically forcing Dusty to add a guy with a decent OBP to his next lineup card.
Don't get me wrong- Lawton's a very useful guy to have around. I think he's an excellent pickup and well worth trading Gerut (and Dubois if you want to go back that far.) He's 33 and a career .370 OBP guy (.380 this year.) He's even got some speed- 49 steals in 70 attempts over the last three years, albeit only 16/25 this year.
The trouble is there is a long way to go. We remain four games out in a race where there are a whopping eight teams either ahead or within two games of us. Its going to take a hefty winning percentage to come from four back to fight off all those opponents. Its a closed system, and its extremely likely that one or more of those teams has to get hot, meaning we'll have to be even hotter to pull it out.
The one thing I wonder is whether Hendry couldn't have pulled this off back when the Dubois/Gerut deal was originally made? Or even earlier? Its not like the Pirates really needed to keep Lawton around as part of their pennant chase or anything. The impact of a move made on deadline day is inherently limited compared to the impact of the same deal made with more games left to play. I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth, for this does look like another looting of the Pirate roster (albeit on a smaller scale), but if we come up one game short I'll certainly wonder whether two more weeks of Matt Lawton getting on-base might have made the difference.
Four back. Its not impossible, and adding Lawton makes it that much less impossible, but it remains an awfully steep hill to climb. Lets go Cubs.
Monday, July 25, 2005
Felix FelicisMy alarm goes off for work at five in the morning. I therefore haven't seen the end of many night games on school nights this year. Last night was a case in point- I sat down to catch the first couple innings on TV. As it turned out, the first inning was plenty to satisfy any urge I had to watch baseball. I did listen to another couple innings on the radio as I was getting ready for bed, so I went to sleep with the Cubs down 3-2. I woke up (closer to 5:30 than to 5) and headed out to the computer to check the score.
I knew something was up when there were not one, not two, but three incoming IMs waiting for me from the night before, but never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that the trigger was an extra-inning grand-slam from Neifi Perez. I'm listening to the audio archive of the tenth inning over the internet as I blog and dress for work now. Yarbage told me yesterday afternoon that last night was the key game of the season, so if he's right there are good times a comin'. Sit back and enjoy.
Friday, July 22, 2005
CBA Prediction Contest UpdateJoltin' Joe from VFTB asked for an update, so here it is. Kurt Evans and Jeff Biddle are our leaders in the blogger and reader categories respectively. Jason Steffens and Christian Ruzich, the vanguards of the early CBA are both in the top five, and yours truly squeezes in between them. I'm not sure what I'll do if I end up winning my own prizes. Today's fun fact: of sixty-five entrants, precisely ZERO chose Derrek Lee as their Cub to make the All-Star game. That's two less than chose Corey Patterson.
Anyway, take a minute to silently thank contest sponsor Wrigleyville Sports, especially if you are in contention. After all, you could use your Wrigleyville Sports gift cards to purchase this week's featured product on their website, the Cubs bikini. No further comment necessary.
Blow-up and blown out
It has been about 18 hours since the game ended yesterday and I am not fully recovered from the "performance". The best thing that can happen is to get another game started as soon as possible. Hopefully Carlos can be a stopper and get a much needed win against the Cardinals. Personally I do not think the Cubs can catch the birds, but they need wins regardless of who they are playing if they have any dreams of getting to the wild card.
OK, the last one did not happen, but the other ones did. The Cubs managed to get a 5-1 lead and cough it up all while making the Reds bullpen look like Eric Gagne. It was the first time in my life I left a game early. Once Aurilla got a hit in the eighth to score the Reds 8th and 9th runs, I grabbed the wife and headed for the exit. The fireworks cracking in the sky behind me when I was a block from my office alerted me that the game was mercifully over.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Game 3 : COD
COD because the Cubs mailed this one in. By the third failed attempt to get an out on a sacrifice (which was ruled a hit for Freel in one of the worst examples of home town scoring ever), I was just hoping the Cubs would get all the bad play out of them and be able to move on. The feel of the team was completely different this evening.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Game 2 success
You can tell it has been awhile since I have done this since my headlines are bland and stink more than Patterson's OBP. The Cubs - on the other hand- do not stink, in fact they are doing exactly what good teams do. They are beating the pants off the also rans in the division. They pulled out a 7-3 victory last evening on what was another hot and muggy night in the Queen city.
My botched attempt at fame
Bare with me as their is some back story needed before telling my tale of woe. The sixth Harry Potter book came out last weekend and a local radio station was having a contest to win a boxed set of the first five. My wife has talked about reading these for awhile, so I told her that I would win them for her. It was more of a joke that anything else. Low and behold two days later I was the first person in with the correct answer to their trivia question and won the set.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Wrigley ReportJeez, I manage to go somewhere and see the Cubs play and Dennis has to go steal my thunder. He always turns up when you least expect him!
Anyway, I'll try to make my recap of Sunday's game relatively brief since its 48+ hours old by now. Pittsburgh Rob, an occasional commenter on this very site, emailed a few weeks back saying Southwest had a sale from Pittsburgh to Chicago and he wanted to visit Wrigley Field for the first time. I certainly couldn't turn that down, so we rounded up the third of our three high school amigos and headed for Chicago.
Of course, Rob managed to lose his wallet in his refrigerator causing him to miss his flight, show up twelve hours late, and miss Saturday's game. Don't ask. We did manage to see Navy Pier and Rush Street Saturday, so that's something. Sunday we headed to Wrigley, got bleacher seats from a scalper, had lunch on Clark, and then headed in to seats reserved for us by Al Yellon. Growing up in Atlanta, Robert and I had always bonded over being fans of teams other than the Braves. As gametime approached though, Rob began to get increasingly vocal about just how little he thought of the steroid-using, NLCS-losing Chicago Cubs. This continued to build right up until Derrek Lee put the Cubs up 1-0 in the first, and disappeared for good when the Cubs stretched the lead to 6-0 in the third. Good times!
The only real drawback to the game was the intensity of the heat during the two third of the game when the sun was not blocked by cloudcover. Sweat just poured out of myself and everyone I could see with the exception of one bizarrely sweatproof lass a couple rows in front of me. I wonder how she does it. Anyway, the Pirates got a couple garbage-time runs before Sergio closed it out to run my lifetime record at Wrigley to 5-1.
After the game we went back to Navy Pier, rode the ferris wheel, took a really cool architecture cruise on the Chicago River, went up to the top of the Sears Tower, and closed things out with dinner in Greektown. All in all, an excellent trip.
So, to recap:
Game 1 success
It is 7:25 and my wife gets downtown to accompany me to the game. The game itself started at 7:10, but she had a late day at work and the missing of the first inning or so is not the biggest deal in the world. I see from the internet before I greet her in my company's parking lot that the Cubs are up 2-0. We make our way to the ballpark past the desperate scalpers trying to salvage some money after game time and enter the GABP about 5 minutes later.
Dubois for GerutThe Cubs and Indians swapped fringe outfielders yesterday, With Jody Gerut arriving to give the Cubs a slightly different look in the outfield. Its a challenge trade, so I'll compare and contrast what I think of what the two guys bring to the table.
Age- Dubois is a year and a half younger and has about a year and a half more major league experience. Slight edge to Dubois.
On-basednessBoth guys hit for nearly identical averages in the minors, although Dubois tended to be a bit old for the leagues he was playing in. Dubois was pretty good at drawing walks (.090 isolated OBP in AA and AAA) while Gerut was a bit better (.102). In the majors, Gerut has lost some of that patience (.073) while Dubois has lost more (.048). A hitter becoming a hacker under Cubs tutelage? Shocking.
Slugosity- Dubois has always had some pop, but never to the degree that you would expect big major league home run totals out of him. His major league performance has been what you would expect from his minor league numbers. Gerut showed middling power through the minors, but raised hopes with a .215 ISO in a bit of a breakout rookie year. Performances in the subsequent years have been a return to form (.153 ISO last year and .102 this year.) He'll probably be good for better than the 1 HR in 138 AB he's had this year, but don't expect a return to 2003.
Platoonedness- Gerut has been much better against righties, particularly this year when he has gone 1-23 with no XBH against southpaws. Considering the sample size I'd expect his splits to trend back toward the mean, but considering his skillset and the presence of Hollandsworth, maintaining the split wouldn't be so bad since he'll be in mostly a platoon role.
Defense- This is the biggest advantage for Gerut. Hendry was quoted as saying he's above average in both corners and average in center. The range factors back him up (although the sample size for center field is fairly small.) I think Dubois could've been better in the field with more regular playing time, but its fair to say he was never going to be as good with the glove as Gerut.
Overall- This trade is unlikely to change the face of baseball history, but its hard to see any downside to it. Gerut is a useful third/fourth outfielder who won't hurt us in the field. I'd rather see him taking PA in left than taking them away from Hairston in center, but either way he should be adequate. Along with the recent callups, its tempting call the increase in players with on-base skills a trend. I don't want to count my chickens too early, but these could be the first steps toward a Cubs offense with runs scored totals commensurate with their slugging prowess.
I'll be back tonight with a recap of what was probably the hottest afternoon I ever spent at a ballpark Sunday at Wrigley.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Copa del Mundo de BéisbolI like the idea of a Baseball World Cup. I don't care for the idea of it being a side business for Emperor Bud. But with Alex Rodriguez having completed his heel turn by announcing plans to abandon his birth country and wrap himself in the Dominican flag, I'm warming up to it again.
Don't get me wrong- I don't really care what country A-Rod chooses to compete for, and I generally think its cool when people show their respect for their homelands. Heck, I've got a Danish flag in my living room and its been over a hundred years since one of my direct ancestors lived in Denmark. Nonetheless, when you A) join the Yankees, B) try to slap Bronson Arroyo with your purse, and then C) turn your back on the red, white, and blue, then yeah, that's enough reason for me to enjoy rooting against you. Of course, his tendency to chill the fortunes of every team he joins may be the only thing that keeps the US competitve when we face the Dominican Republic, so here's to you A-Rod!
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
TCR RoundtableThe good folks at TCR included me in their All-Star Break roundtable so go check out what I and others had to say.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
Storm PartyThe Cubs dodged a hurricane and blew away the Marlins, sweeping all three games this weekend by a combined score of 26-10. There were some things to like about this series. Obviously, the not losing was a welcome change. Wood and Maddux both looked very strong. The spark the offense showed was long overdue, and given that it coincided with the arrival of some of the youngsters it was even more heartening.
Still, the Cubs remain 12 back of St. Louis in the division and 6.5 back of the Braves for the wildcard. Worse, there are five other teams we'd have to jump over to claim that fourth NL playoff spot. Now is not the time to get our hopes up. Let's just relax, enjoy a Jeter-free All-Star break, get the kids some more playing time to open the second half and see where things go from here.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Braves sweepAnd that should just about do it. Mark Prior gets lit up while the Braves 5+ ERA starter three-hits the Cubs in the afternoon. Roberto Novoa throws fastballs to the leading home run hitter in the majors (who happens to have a well-known preference for fastballs) until he hits one out to ice the nightcap. The Cubs fall four games under, eight out of the wildcard and fourteen behind the Cardinals.
I said I'd have pictures and stories, but there's nothing I am really dying to show and tell. I understand Patterson and Dubois have been sent down and Murton and Adam Greenberg have been called up. What this will do about Dusty hitting Neifi Perez and Jose Macias at the top of the order I do not know.
Today was a lousy day. Here's hoping tomorrow is better.
WakeI went to my first wake a couple months ago, and I feel like I may be going to my second tonight. If the Cubs get swept in a double-header today... well, anything would still be possible but its hard to imagine the team recovering to make the playoffs. The rain is swapping the pitching matchups, giving the Cubs a decided edge in the afternoon game (now Prior vs Horacio Ramirez ) but a tougher row to hoe in the nightcap (Jerome Williams vs Smoltz).
Here's to the victim kicking open the casket, rising up, and sweeping the Braves today. I'll post pictures and thoughts when I get home tonight.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
DarkThings look grim. I'm having severe difficulty trying to find the words to express my frustration. Dusty. Neifi. Corey. Maddux. Now Lee hurt. I just don't know what to say.
The Cubs are staring at an eight-game losing streak if they don't either beat Smoltz tonight or win in front of me Thursday night. I was regretting that I was unable to attend the first three games in the series here in Atlanta. Now... sigh.
Monday, July 04, 2005
Happy Fourth of July!I hope you are enjoying arguably the best holiday of the year (I'll accept petitions on behalf of Thanksgiving) as much as I am. I spent the morning waving a giant US flag and hollering at everyone who went by while running the world's largest 10k here in Atlanta this morning. I came home to catch some coverage of NASA hitting a comet (here's to cheap, safe, effective unmanned space exploration) like Derrek Lee teeing off on a hanging curve on the outer half. This afternoon its a cozy cookout at my place and then off to hopefully find a Cubs ticket at Turner Field tonight. If we can just please get a win it may well be a perfect day.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
ConsistencyIts funny how fast things change. This team has run hot and cold, and so just when I start to feel good and post something optimistic Dusty drives the Cubsmobile into a tree and we're headed toward the second division (archaic term, I know) again. A month ago, it seemed like all our pitchers were hurt and yet the team went on a tear. Now the pitchers have returned (and seemingly looking like their old selves) and its losing streak time. The pitching matchup seems awfully favorable (Zam vs Drese), and I have extra personal motiviation because I am going to have less fun at Turner Field this week if I am watching the Cubs continue to spiral downward.
And speaking of consistency, Lance Armstrong crushed his main rivals in the first time trial of the Tour de France yesterday. I wonder if he's ever considered a second career as an outfielder.