Friday, September 24, 2010

We've moved!

We are pleased to announce that Swings Both Ways is now part of Chicago's own The Beachwood Reporter and its parent Beachwood Media family. The Beachwood Reporter is also where you can find my weekly fantasy sports column, Fantasy Fix.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to keep an eye on SBW during the off-season for commentary on the latest Cubs and White Sox hot-stove moves. Follow the link below to be directly connected to our new home:

Swings Both Ways

Sunday, September 19, 2010

10 questions

(See my answers below)

1) Who's the better team right now--Sox or Cubs?

2) Who would you rather see at DH for the Sox right now--Manny Ramirez or Mark Kotsay?

3) Will the Sox finish in second place or third place?

4) Will the Cubs finish in fifth place for fourth place?

5) Will Mike Quade manage the Cubs next season?

6) Will Ozzie Guillen manage the Sox next season?

7) Should the Sox re-sign Paul Konerko?

8) Will Carlos Zambrano be in the starting rotation for the Cubs next year?

9) How likely is it that next year's Opening Day infield for the Cubs will be Xavier Nady at 1B, Darwin Barney at 2B, Starlin Castro at SS and Blake DeWitt at 3B?

10) Are you still watching Sox and Cubs games this season?

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1) Cubs. The Sox have folded completely.

2) Logic says Many is still better for your line-up even when he isn't hitting--but it doesn't really matter anymore, does it?

3) The Sox don't look interested in beating anyone right now. I think a 3-11 finish for an 82-80 record will barely keep them in second place.

4) Despite the 17-7 run under Quade and the good vibes, the Cubs re pretty much stuck in fifth, which shows you just how far they fell under Lou Piniella.

5) Assuming Joe Girardi isn't available, I think Quade is the next manager. If not, why is GM Jim Hendry giving him a tryout?

6) Ozzie has fallen out of favor in my household. He spends too much time admiring the Twins and not enough figuring out how to beat them. If he wants to manage Florida, I'd say let him go. Then, maybe the Sox can hire Joey Cora before someone else finally does.

7) No... but they will. Letting the fan favorite go after a near MVP season would be a tough decision.

8) Yes... but with a nice finish to 2010 his trde value will never be higher.

9) Very likely. I don't believe the Cubs will make a strong play for someone like Adam Dunn to play 1B, and Nady is playing well enough. Castro is a lock at SS, and Barney is forcing the Cubs to play him now, which wil push DeWitt over the 3B in the long-run. The likelihood the Aramis Ramirez will return to the Cubs for another year seems strong, but I'll be he starts the year injured.

10) Not really.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Swept away

The Cubs swept the Cardinals this week in St. Louis, which normally would be a source of great joy and much discussion here, but another sweep, Minnesota's three-game domination of the White Sox at The Cell, extended a dark cloud over all of Chicago baseball. The Sox are officially unofficially out of the play-off race.

The Piranhas' total ownership of the Sox was something many of us thought might fade this year with the closing of the dreaded Metrodome. But, if anything, the Twins' ability to make the Sox look bad has evolved to a whole new level and is starting to look like one of those famous baseball curses. The Twins do everything right against the Sox--even more so than the findamentally precise team does against other foes, and they get all the calls. The Sox, meanwhile, can no longer muster an effective pitching performance or inning at the plate against the Twins to save their lives.

The Sox Tuesday through Thursday sumply looked beaten from the beginning, lacking the spark they all knew they would have to have. I'm not sure how to explain it or how it can be overcome, which basically puts me on the same level as Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams. Maybe some answers can be found between now and net spring--they are no other priorities left.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

No black-out?

It might be a good time for the White Sox to order up a Black-Out for fans attending the series against the Twins opening tonight at The Cell. Granted, the Sox are only 1-1 in Black-Out games as far as I know, but the one win came in Game 163 of 2008 against the Twins (the loss came later in the 2008 play-offs in Tampa's NLDS clincher at The Cell, though the Black-Out effect was mitigated by the fact of daylight). Anyway, maybe I missed it, but I haven't seen a call for a Black-Out this week. Maybe most of us already stopped believin'. Well, don't stop.

At least not yet.

Other things I'm thinking about, both Sox-wise and Cubs-wise:

--Manny sure hasn't done much yet, not even an RBI since he came to Chicago. Though, he looked a bit better in the last two games, and now would be a good time for a breakthrough.

--The Sox looked really great in two comeback victories over the Royals last weekend. How did the team look so terrible in Saturday's loss to the lowly Baby Blues?

--Chris Sale is your new White Sox closer, and depending what happens, maybe your closer of 2011, unless a rotation spot unexpectedly opens up.

--Next year's Sox starting rotation: Mark Buehrle, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Edwin Jackson. Thanks for the memories, Freddy.

--One of the very few Cubs questions anyone still cares about apparently has been answered: Aramis Ramirez told the Sun-Times he is staying in Chicago, meaning he won't exercise his contract option to leave. I am trying to be happy about this, but all I can think of right now is that this should serve as notice to anyone being considered as the Cubs next manager that they will need to keep an extra infielder on the roster when camp breaks next spring for when A-Ram eventually lands on the DL.

--Maybe the only other nagging question is who will be the next manager? (OK, "Why is Jim Hendry still around?" might be another.) Mike Quade has done a nice job guiding the young Cubs to a winning record thus far under his watch, though he will be persona non grata if Joe Girardi becomes available. If Quade finishes the year in a winning mode and Girardi doesn't bite, I don't see how you can give the job to Ryne Sandberg (and I think Hendry secretly doesn't want Ryno to have it anyway because he hasn't paid his dues like Quade has).

--If the Cubs win all of their remaining games, they will finish 81-81. It's good to have goals.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The chase continues

I'm not ready to give the A.L. Central crown to the Twins. I think the White Sox, at 4.5 games out of first place still have a decent chance to catch up, assuming they beat the Twins at least two out of three when they come to town next week, and meanwhile beat up on just about everyone else.

I'll admit, it looks bleak, particularly when the Sox won seven in a row and couldn't get any closer than 3.5 games back. The Sox have won seven of their last 10, but guess what: Minnesota has won eight of 10. It's frustrating, but the Sox must by now they can expect nothing less from their chief rivals (no, not the Cubs).

True, injuries to Gordon Beckham and Paul Konerko could not have come at a worse time, so for the Sox to be fully prepared for the Piranha invasion next, the pitching staff needs to--forgive the Hawkism--strap it down.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Movin' on Manny

The White Sox reportedly are close to a deal to get Manny Ramirez after the former superstar cleared waivers. It could end up being an interesting move that improves the Sox' chance to reach the postseason, or it could be a high-profile mistake on par with the Ken Griffey, Jr., deal.

Some of that depends on what the Sox will have to give up. The farm system is starting to look pretty thin, the quick elevation of 2010 draft pick Chris Sale being evidence of that. The Sox already have shipped out Daniel Hudson, who has pitched very well for Arizona. I don't think I want to see them part with Dayan Viciedo, Stefan Gartrell, Tyler Flowers or Freddy Dolsi--how about Randy Williams?

Manny still is a great hitter, though hits homers less frequently than he used to and tends to land on the disabled list now and then. If he's healthy for a month or so, and hits even marginally better than Andruw Jones, this could be just what the Sox need to catch the Twins. The Manny-being-Manny crap doesn't scare me too much because there just isn't much time for anything too terrible to happen.

Still, it's wise not to expect too much. It would be better if we were talking about a deal for Adam Dunn, Johnny Damon or some other lefty hitter, but we'll take what we can get and hope a new bat occasionally brings another run per game.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Piniella retiring... right now

Lou Piniella said he is retiring following today's game against the Braves, rather than staying for the rest of the season, as originally planned. He reportedly changed his mind because of his mom's ailing health, so we wish for his sake the circumstances were far different, but this is probably also the best thing for the Cubs.

The team is in a nose-dive, having backed up the truck to unload big-contract vets and re-load with young guns from the minors. Best to get into the full wait 'til next year rebuilding mode, which includes trying out new management candidates and getting the young guys used to the fact that Lou will no longer be running the show.

Mike Quade is perhaps a surprise choice to take over as interim manager the rest of the season. I would have figure on Alan Trammell, who many of us though was a candidate to replace Piniella next year. But, it looks like GM Jim Hendry informed Trammell he will not be the next manager, so that makes things interesing for next year. If Quade does well, could he become manager full-time and perhaps include Ryne Sandberg on his coaching staff, or is Quade merely keep the seat warm for the next guy--whether he thinks so or not? And what will come of Trammell?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Triple-header

After getting rained out in Kansas City last night, the White Sox are playing a double-header tonight and then a day game tomorrow. They might as well play a triple-header. There will be little rest to be had, and the Sox really need to win all three games.

Edwin Jackson threw seven pitches last night before the game was delayed and later postponed, yet he probably will not be pitching either game tonight, if the radio reports I've been hearing are true. That's too bad. He has been the Sox' best starter over the last two weeks (or at least sharing the honor with Mark Buehrle), and with the bullpen suddenly in a shambles and other starters having poor outings, seeing him take the mound last night was a welcome sight.

The Sox ended a four-game losing streak and avoided a series sweep in Minnesota Thursday in the strongest possible way, with an 11-0 trouncing, led by Buehrle and Paul Konerko, who was 5-for-5. After things seemed pretty dire after the first two losses in Minnesota Tuesday and Wednesday, that route gave us reason to believe again.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

So long, D-Lee

An ode to Derrek Lee:

So long, D-Lee, we hardly knew ye
But your stoicism suggested great integrity
As hitter and defender you weren't lacking
Though sometimes in the clutch went down hacking

You were a Cub seven years and MVP-like in 2005
But when the Cubs needed levity, you seemed barely alive
Your bat for two seasons helped make the Cubs great
Even though they couldn't end the drought in '07 or '08

Now, you are aging, but still have some skill
You'd be gone already if a trade you didn't kill
Remember when you and Aramis seemed like the foundation
That would bring happiness finally to all of Cubs Nation?

Well, you were good, but not good enough
And to hear you talk of negativity is kind of tough
When you were a guy who could have changed all that
Instead, like others before, you're leaving town with your bat

You're handing the challenge over to a band of young guys
And old Aramis, too, though he may yet cut his Cub ties
The future of the Cubs is now Tyler and Starlin
And when we reach the end, you'll be remembered more as a Marlin

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thome was my homey

You knew it was going to happen this way at some point: Jim Thome hit a come-from-behind game-winning two-run homer to beat the White Sox last night. As much as I like Thome, I can't be happy for him as a Twin. Great guy, but now he's a fish.

The pain is a bit harder to take on this one because Thome is the Twins DH, and the Sox could use a good DH right now to better compete with the Twins. When Thome was traded to the Dodgers ;ate last year, it was the right decision by GM Kenny Williams. It freed the Sox up to explore new DH options that might also be useful defensive players, and was an acknowledgment that Thome likely no longer had the stuff to be a full-time DH.

But, now, DH is a real sore spot in the line-up for the Sox, and Thome actually is playing full-time--mostly because Justin Morneau is injured. I'm not saying Thome should be the Sox DH, or that the Sox should have tried to get him back in the off-season. So, settle down, Ozzie. The problem, however, is that the Sox ended up not doing much of anything at DH except claiming they could bat anyone in that spot. Mark Kotsay has been the most frequent DH, and despite what people say about Kotsay being a tough out, he's still hitting only .233 (though, surprise, he hit a homerun last night). Mark Teahen might be a decent option down the stretch.

They still may have other options to acquire a DH before the season is over. But, they apparently don't think Jermaine Dye is worth the money, or Carlos Delgado worth waiting for. I'm fine with it not being Thome, but now he's making the biggest rival better while the Sox are still spinning their wheels looking for an answer.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Good Carlos

What's more rare than a Cubs win? A win by Carlos Zambrano. But, the rehabilitated hothead got one today, without throwing a temper tandrum and while only walking two batters. The Cubs beat the Cardinals 3-2 in St. Louis, where Zambrano usually rises to the occasion.

Zambrano's trajectory the last two months of the season may be one of the few things left about the Cubs that's worth watching. Can he finish strong and stay with the team next year, or will he only finish strong enough to get traded--perhaps even before the end of the season?

Meanwhile, Lou Piniella is back, and Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez both hit homeruns today, something that doesn't happen as often as it used to. I have to admit I'm mad at all three of them. Piniella could never get the Cubs started this year, and responded by announcing his retirement. Sorry to hear he has had family issues recently that caused him to miss games, but I wonder if he will continue to check out the rest of the season. Lee turned down a trade, and probably guaranteed himself a ticket out of Chicago next season that will bring the Cubs nothing in exchange. Ramirez wasted the first half of the season, and has had some of his usual bouts of injuries in between a few solid stretches, but I wonder if he too will be leaving.

The Baby Cubs are sometimes fun to watch, and they are getting great experience for next season. But, unfortunately, were all still stuck in this season.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dog days

The White Sox are now 5-3 in August. A winning record is something to be happy about, but I was really getting used to winning streaks, and the rest of the month is starting to look very tough for a team that went 18-8 in July. Not only are there six games against the Piranhas in the next two weeks, but four more games against the Orioles, who are proving difficult to vanquish in the current four-game set, and a three-game series against the Yankees at the end of August. The remaining eight games this month are against supposed division powder puffs Cleveland, Kansas City and Detroit (Yes, the Tigers went from contender to powder puff just this week).

On top of that, those fighting fish from Minnesota have been in top form of late. Former Sox DH Jim Thome has been key to some of their recent wins, which just plain hurts me to think about when the Sox really could be using him right now.

I know a lot of Sox fans are probably more worried about the closer situation and the unstable Bobby Jenks than the DH situation. I'll admit I am dreading the potential for Jenks to be closing one-run games against the Twins. But the Sox have a stable of closers--Jenks, J.J. Putz, Matt Thornton and Sergio Santos. Even Tony Pena fits the mold in a pinch. The best thing manager Ozzie Guillen can do is keep 'em guessing.

I guess after a huge mid-season run, during which the Sox have the best record in baseball since June 9, I'm a little concerned about a letdown still coming their way. In any case, the Sox are still in first place by half a game as of today, so enough negativity.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Upon further review

Maybe Blake DeWitt will work out after all. He went 3-4 today in another loss for the Cubs (in which Carlos Silva exited in the first inning, this time with an abnormal heart rate). One of the things I didn't realize when I first heard about the Lilly/Theriot-for DeWitt/minor leaguers trade was that DeWitt is a left-handed hitter and also just 24 (and therefore still developing). And, at times the last few years, he's hit nwell above above the .270 he's sitting around now.

The minor league pitchers include Brett Wallach (son of Tim), who has been burning up the minors and looks like an eventual good bet for the starting rotation. The other is Kyle Smit, about whom little has been reported.

I still think this is a somewhat lopsided trade, with the Cubs getting the short end of the deal--though maybe not "poor," as I described it yesterday. One thing is for sure: The Cubs are getting younger, quickly. Perhaps to better set the stage for Ryne Sandberg to take over next year?

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After the trade deadline passed with the White Sox standing pat and holding onto recent acquisition Edwin Jackson, a lot of us breathed a sigh of relief. I really hope the lack of a power bat at DH doesn't prove to be a sore thumb the rest of the season, but I'm glad the Sox held onto Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo.

Jackson isn't a bad pitcher. He's had problems with walks and was overall crappy for Arizona (even his no-hitter kinda sucked), but Arizona is an overall crappy team. He's got great experience, and was a winning pitcher in Detroit for two years previous. A lot depends on whether the Sox can get him to rein in his control, but he certainly isn't bad for a No. 5 starter and the experience card could make him more valuable than Daniel Hudson might have been in a pennant race.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Reports: Lilly, Theriot gone to L.A.

Yahoo! Sports and others have been reporting in the last 20 minutes that the Cubs have traded Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot to the Dodgers for Blake DeWitt and two minor league pitchers.

Wow.

Both of their names have been mentioned for weeks concerning possible trades, but as recently as yesterday, many observers were discounting the likelihood that they would be shipped. I personally hoped the Cubs would pass on trading Lilly and try to sign him next year--he would basically be their No. 1 starter, pending other deals.

If these most recent reports are true, it also would be sad to see The Riot go. He's streaky, but he's a scrappy, speedy hitter and fielder offering flexibility in the line-up and the field. The best you could say about DeWitt is that he is about the same thing, but not as speedy and maybe a slightly better fielder.

Right now, this looks like a pretty poor trade by General Manager Jim Hendry, not long after his boss gave him a vote of confidence. Of course, a lot could depend on who those minor leaguers are--I haven't seen them named anywhere.

There has suddenly been a lot of trading in the last 24 hours leading up to the MLB rade deadline. the White Sox yesterday acquired staring pitcher Edwin Jackson from the Diamondbacks for Daniel Hudson. I have been holding off examining that one too closely because Jackson reportedly could be making a very quick stop in Chicago, but we'll take a good look at it tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Don't trade Beckham

I am in favor of the White Sox making some sort of trade deadline deal to help strengthen the most inconsistent spot in the line-up: DH. If you are going up against Tampa or New York or Texas in the play-offs, you need every bat in the line-up to produce, because as good as the Sox pitching staff is, it can't be expected to completely snuff out the three most impressive offensive attacks in the American League.

And, they may even need that DH before they get to the play-offs. They have been playing with the confidence of a team that is running away with the division--only they aren't. Sox fans know all too well that Minnesota isn't done with us yet. 11-0 wins like we saw last night are still the exception, not the rule. Just ask Gavin Floyd, who at 6-8 has rarely gotten run support like he did last night.

There are DHs to be had on the trade market, too. National Leaguers like Adam Dunn and Prince Fielder would more than fit the bill. Jose Bautista leads the league in homers and reportedly is available.

I think almost any deal to get Dunn or Fielder would be worth doing--they are that good. However, both the Nationals and the Brewers reportedly are asking for Gordon Beckham in return. I only have one deal-breaker, and unfortunately, that's the one. Beckham was barely surviving in the line-up a couple months ago, and the Sox showed extraordinary patience--not only by running him out there more days than not, but by keeping him at the major league level. There were times when I thought he needed to be sent down to get the seasoning he didn't get last year when the Sox promoted him earlier. Now, the faith is paying off, as Beckham has been hitting like last year.

Beckham simply is too valuable now as a middle infielder, and will be too valuable over the long-term for the Sox to trade him for a chance at a title this year. Both Dunn and Fielder could help the Sox this year, but in the long-term would like be too expensive to keep.

The problem is that there seem to be few other alternatives. Do you trade Tyler Flowers and Daniel Hudson? Even if you do, you need to throw another more proven name in with them to get Fielder in particular--J.J. Putz? After the Jake Peavy deal, the Sox don't really have any minor league arms left that make other teams salivate, and Putz is part of the multi-arm back-up plan for the shaky Bobby Jenks.

As much as I think the Sox need a better plan at DH, I think they have to pass on any deal that calls for Beckham. That may mean no deal at all.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lou will bid adieu

Lou Piniella announced he will retire at the end of the season, according to the Trib. Though the statement indicates this is all Lou, and that's he's trying to help the organization by rolling the news out early, I wouldn't be surprised if he was pressured to say something by the team's upper management. It helps them avoid what would have been a complex, messy but almost certain parting with Piniella at the end of the season, and it helps a longtime winning manager who probably has lost his touch save some face.

In another sense, this is a typical Cubs move: Keep someone on board, but effectively make him a lame duck (see Bradley, Milton and Zambrano, Carlos). Will Cubs players be terribly interested in whatever Lou has left to say the rest of the season, and will he be interested in saying much of anything with one foot out the door? If this was all by Lou's choice, it was kind of selfish wasn't it?

On the other hand, maybe the idea of sending a baseball great into retirement as a winner one last time will drive the Cubs to some second-half heroics. Banish the thought, and get ready for Ryno.

Monday, July 19, 2010

All about Kenny

"The Club" finally premiered on the MLB network last night. The documentary supposedly showing an insider's view of the White Sox front office was announced last spring, right around the time that manager Ozzie Guillen conveniently got himself in some well-publicized hot water with his presence on Twitter.

The show promotes itself as a look at the tense, curmudgeonly but ultimately mutually-appreciative relationship between Guillen, GM Kenny Williams and owner Jerry Reinsdorf. By the looks of the first episode, which relived a bit of the Twitter saga, while also exploring topics that ranged from sprint training decisions to Williams' son Kyle experiences on NFL draft day, the show will be more about the GM than anyone else, and he'll be happy with the admiring tone.

"The Club" confirms the impression most fans probably have of Williams as an aggressive, powerful and somewhat humorless character--and one who likes his cigars as much as he likes to offer advice (One scene featuring Williams giving advice to his son is styled like something out of "The Godfather" with the GM dramatically sucking a stogie between bits of wisdom.) Though if it is all about Williams, who cares? He has earned the attention with a World Series to his credit, and some gutsy trades. If you're a Kenny fan, you'll like "The Club."

If you're an Ozzie fan, you still may like it. It predictably delivers some wacky Ozzie moments, and strives in the first episode to set up the battle of egos and emotions we already have heard too much about this year. Still, Guillen's got panache, and he's fun to watch even if some of what he says is stuff we've heard before.

Reinsdorf only lurks in the background of the first episode, mumbling through a few scenes, including a lunch with Bud Selig that seems staged only to emphasize that Reinsdorf is tasked with controlling Ozzie while Selig lurks not far away, ready to punish him for some potential offense.

There are worse ways to spend a Sunday night, and I will give "The Club" kudos for effectively telling the spring training stories of how Sergio Santos and Randy Williams made the team, and how closely Daniel Hudson missed making it. There was some good insider stuff from always-entertaining pitching coach Don Cooper, too. I can do without the Kenny-at-home scenes, but we'll let the GM have his showbiz moment.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

All-Star surprises

If you asked me before last night's All-Star game how I expected our Chicago boys--White Sox Matt Thornton and Paul Konerko, and Cubbie Marlon Byrd--to perform in the game, I would have said Thornton will get a key out against a lefty batter, Paulie will deliver a late-inning clutch hit and Byrd will not touch the field unless the game goes into extras (I also would have said the National League will lose again).

Boy, was I wrong: Thornton actually squared off against Byrd (both an SBW dream and nightmare) in a key situation and walked him after possibly the most intense at-bat of the game. Thornton then gave up what would prove to be the game-winning hit, a three-run double by left-handed hitter Brian McCann that scored the always-hustling Byrd from first base. Speaking of hustling, Byrd also saved the first N.L. All-Star win in 14 years by charging a shallow 9th inning fly ball, grabbing it on the first bounce and spinning around and throwing to second in time to force out David Ortiz, who had been on first but had to wait to see if the ball would drop.

As for Paulie, he got his late-inning at-bat, but struck out.

McCann may have been the obvious MVP of the night, but Byrd was awfully close, and it's nice to see a Cub get the spotlight for something positive during this otherwise tough season. As for Thornton and Konerko, time to forget about this game, and go about the business of keeping the Sox in first place.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

First place finish

The White Sox reached first place in the A.L. Central Division on the final day of the first half of the season before All-Star Break. Now, they just need to repeat for the next half.

A 15-5 victory of the Royals today featured a franchise record-tying four homers in one inning. Carlos Quentin had two homers on the day, including a grand slam, making it four for him within the last 24 hours. He can keep hitting below .250 as far as I'm concerned if he keeps knocking homers with men on base.

Dayan Viciedo also hit a monsterous homerun almot all the way to the left field concourse. He is looking more and more like this year's Gordon Beckham, a rookie addition making a huge contribution.

It remains to be seen if the Sox will make a trade within the next few weeks to increase their chances of holding onto first place. Daniel Hudson did not do well today at all, even though the Sox gave him an 8-1 lead, but if you believe Ozzie Guillen, Hudson will get a good, long look as the fifth starter. On the other hand, if you believe more in Kenny Williams fidgety trade fingers, the Sox may add to the rotation through a trade sooner rather than later.

As I've said before, I'm hope for a trade for a power-hitting lefty DH, if anything, and I don't want the Sox to give up Beckham to make it happen.

In other news, Paul Konerko is headed to the All-Star game as a replacement.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Peavy's done

Jake Peavy is officially out for the season with reports that he will have some kind of experimental-sounding surgery on his detached chest muscle (ow!) next week. So, a year after Kenny Williams gambled on a trade for the then-injured Peavy, the deal can't be graded any differently than as an "Incomplete."

Peavy came to town with awesome credentials, but also as a bit of an injury concern--nothing in the arm, mind you, but enough to keep him off the mound for stretches. Then, of course, he started so poorly this year, and really was the fifth-best pitcher in a five-man starting rotation. He was much better of late, but now it will be next spring before we really know if he was turning things around.

How badly does this hurt the Sox chances this year? Amazingly, even without Peavy, they still have the best pitching staff in their division, and the second or third-best in the American League. There is more pressure now on Freddy Garcia to continue a stellar season, and the loss of Peavy could make Williams pursue a trade for a pitcher when what he really should do is get his hands on a lefty DH slugger like Adam Dunn.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sox look ready for second-half pounce

The White Sox, having beaten the Angels two in a row this week, are still looking like a team ready to make its big move. Yes, they are still in third place, but it's all bunched up at the top of the A.L. Central, and going into the second half, the Sox are looking at least as good as the Tigers and probably better than the flagging Twins.

Now, the bad news: Jake Peavy, who seemed to be turning around his season of late, is probably headed to the DL. Until he walked off the mound in pain last night, the Sox pitchng staff, top to bottom, looked every bit as good as we thought back in spring training. Looks like Daniel Hudson gets another try.

Offensively, the Sox have been looking great, scoring without homeruns when they need to, dominating with power when they can. With the resurgence of Carlos Quentin and the pretty impressive arrival of Dayan Viciedo, the only sagging spots in the line-up have been those occupied by Gordon Beckham and Andruw Jones/Mark Kotsay.

What can the Sox do to help their chances in the second half? If Viciedo plays well enough to stay, that could solve the Beckham problem by pushing Omar Vizquel, Brent Lillibridge or even Alexei Ramirez to second base. That would still leave currently-injured Mark Teahen as a third base or DH option.

Of course, GM Kenny Williams loves to make moves, so trading for another veteran infielder or a regular DH (too bad Jim Thome isn't available) wouldn't be out of the question.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Prolonging the pain

The Cubs had a rare offensive outburst today, beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 9-4. How rare? Well, nine runs is more than they scored in their previous five games combined.

Have they turned a corner of some kind? Only the next corner on a path leading them to a losing season. The team's strength--starting pitching--has become, if not bad, at least inconsistent. Add that to a list of already bad compenents: Bad fielding, bad hitting, bad baserunning and bad attitudes (at least where Carlos Zambrano is concerned--the rest of the team seems to have no attitude).

I've said before that it's time for Lou Piniella to go, and I still think it's the only way to salvage this season on a positive note. Yes, the players are the ones playing and Lou can't play for them, but at least part of his job is to motivate them, and he can't seem to get that job done anymore. If you fall in with the crowd that thinks GM Jim Hendry deserves more blame than Piniella or his players for the sad state of the Cubs, that may be hard to argue--which only demonstrates further how messed up this team is.

I wouldn't be saddened if the Cubs sent both Piniella and Hendry packing before the end of this month, though presumably Hendry will be busy shopping a few of his players--Kosuke Fukudome, Xavier Nady and Mike Fontenot, I'm betting--to real contenders. If a new GM were to be brought in this moment, with some weeks to go before the trade deadline, he would be hard-pressed to make the sort of deals that could boost the Cubs division hopes.

My guess is still that the Cubs will be stuck with Piniella and Hendry until the end of the season. Who's next? Ryne Sandberg as manager and Greg Maddux as GM. (I am not saying it's a good idea, but the writing is on the wall.)

Want another crazy idea? How about Bob Brenly as manager and Steve Stone as GM? Tony LaRussa as GM and manager? Is Leo Durocher still available?

Meanwhile, Dusty Baker is managing a first place team. Reality bites.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Back in the swing of things

Just back from a week of vacation, and I know there's a lot to discuss, but for now just a brief post recognizing our two Chicago All-Stars, Matt Thornton of the Sox and Marlon Byrd of the Cubs.

The picks are surprising, not because the players picked weren't deserving, but because of who was left off the list: Paul Konerko and Alex Rios from the Sox and Carlos Silva and Carlos Marmol from the Cubs. Konerko still has a chance to get in on fan vote, and I wouldn't be surprised if Marmol gets on at the last minute if someone else bows out.

Meanwhile, the Cubs are right now allowing the Reds to have another epic inning, and are losing 13-3. I have some thoughts on the Cubs, Lou Piniella and Jim Hendry that I will share over the next couple days.

The Sox are down in Texas, where they had a nifty 5-3 victory Friday night, but lost last night, and remain two games out of first. We'll talk more of the Sox' second half chances this week.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sox streak; Zammy the Clown's final performance?

So much to talk about, so little time...

--The White Sox have a 10-game winning streak, reportedly their longest since 1976 (?!), and everything is clicking. Even Gordon Beckham homered yesterday in the Sox-Cubs crosstown clash at The Cell. Excellent pitching and just enough hitting allowed the Sox to sweep the first-place Atlanta Braves earlier this week, which should convince many that the streak is for real, and not just a hot run against cold teams (though playing the Cubs twice in two weeks really helps).

--Carlos Quentin is still punishing pitchers, homering yesterday off Carlos Zambrano, but it's even better to see him driving singles up the middle and to the opposite field. It's 2008 all over again.

--Jake Peavy had his third straight strong outing, though again, two of those have been against the Cubs and the third against another the National League foe, so it remains to be seen if he can deliver against the American League.

--The Zambrano tirade is all over the place, so I won't get into the details, but his most recent meltdown into Zammy the Clown has many people demanding and believing that Zambrano's days are over as a Cub. How that will happen remains to be seen. The Cubs once again have held onto damaged goods for far too long, and (as with Milton Bradley) are forced to try to move a player who is suspended. Who will want him? (Even the Mets have to be shaking their heads...)

I'm not saying Zambrano didn't deserve to be suspended. It was the only remaining option. It's unfortunate because it leaves the already sad-sack Cubs a man down. And, it only reminds us that GM Jim Hendry should have tried to move Zambrano long ago, when teams like the Mets were still interested and their praise could have convinced Zambrano to wave his no-trade option.

I don't think Zambrano's days as a Cub are over. I think he will apologize and will be allowed to come back to the team--but only long enough for Hendry to move the once-promising (always promising, it seems) pitcher to another team, probably for a couple of iffy minor leaguers.

There are further implications to consider after this episode: Lou Piniella, I fear, has lost his team. They are not just bad, and behaving badly--they are unresponsive. With the exception of Marlon Byrd, who is a true gamer, they are a lackluster group. Zambrano's tirade yesterday apparently was aimed partly at Derrek Lee for not diving at a ball hit down the line by Juan Pierre, and while Lee's resume is impeccable and Zambrano's criticism questionable, Lee has not been the same strong fielder lately that he was earlier in the season and throughout his career. You could say the same of the entire error-prone group, of course.

The Cubs, like it or not, may be headed for a rebuilding. That project should start with Piniella's dismissal.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

.500 club

The White Sox have won six in a row and 11 of 13, and are now back at .500--34-34. That was unthinkable just a couple of weeks ago, when it looked like A.J. Pierzynski, Jake Peavy and others could be headed out the door at any moment.

This weekend, they swept the Washington Nationals. They survived an outing against phenom Stephen Strasburg and came away with a win, finally got the kind of effort they had been expecting from Peavy, who threw a complete game victory, and today brought out the bats for unlikely staff ace Freddy Garcia, scoring six runs on 15 hits in a 6-3 win.

The winning streak hasn't come against the best of teams--crappy interleague foes like the Cubs, Pirates and Nationals, and this week, the Sox will face a real test at home in an interleague match-up the Atlanta Braves, a bonafide first place team. Are the Sox for real? Are they putting it all together the way we expected when we saw the group of players that assembled for spring training?

The next three games, before another weekend dance with the cupcake North Siders, should tell us how much work there is left to do.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Sox are back (?)

The White Sox have won seven of nine games behind improved pitching and some lively hitting from Carlos Quentin and others. Good signs of things to come? Maybe...

The Sox pitching staff was impressive against the Cubs over the weekend, but the Cubs have been pretty woeful of late. This week, they beat up Pittsburgh, but everybody does that (well, except for the Cubs).

More promising is that CQ has been pounding the ball recently, and while Gordon Beckham continues to disappoint and Mark Teahen is injured, it's Quentin's role in the line-up that is most significant for the Sox in taking more advantage of stellar seasons thus far from Alex Rios and Paul Konerko. If the meat of the line-up is getting on base and driving in runs, that should be enough for Sox pitchers like Mark Buehrle and Gavin Floyd, each of whom looked good in their last outing. And, amazingly, Freddy Garcia is still vexing everyone.

Unfortunately, Jake Peavy continues to be a source of stress, annoyance and disappointment. The dreaded "shoulder problems" issue has come up, for now only pushing back a start, but we'll see. Peavy actually has tried hard through a tough season to contribute to team unity and motivation, but the Sox need his arm, not his coaching abilities.

Meanwhile, a winning streak and some good vibes could go a long way toward mitigating the supposed tension between GM Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen. There have been almost daily reports about how the two don't need to get along to win, or that they actually do get along--whatever... Just win, baby.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lilly no-no? Not

The only trouble with a Cubs pitcher and a Sox pitcher building toward a no-hitter on the same day is that they were doing it against each other. When neither Ted Lilly nor Gavin Floyd had given up a hit through six innings of Sunday night's crosstown series closer at Wrigley, I was not necessarily too surprised. Both of them had been down this road before. Having said that, my money was on Gavin Floyd to go longer with his no-hit bid. I figured Lilly had been too star-crossed recently and still maybe wasn't 100% after his injury. I didn't think either of them would actually get the darn thing.

But, Floyd lost his no-hit bid after 6-2/3, but Lilly went into high gear, holding on until the 9th, when Ozzie Guillen's deployment of Juan Pierre as a pinch-hitter had base hit--any kind of basehit-written all over it. A basehit was what he got, and though Carlos Marmol nearly gave away Lilly's fine effort by walking two (one intentionally) and balking, Lilly at least got the one thing the Cubs line-up has been too stingy to give him lately--a win.

The Cubs' 1-0 victory saved them from being the victoms of a crosstown sweep. And what do you know, the Stanley Cup made an appearance...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Missed opportunity

There was a podium standing behind home plate before the start of the Cubs-Sox series Friday. It looked just about the right size to hold a certain championship cup won this week by a certain local hockey team. The podium, the game's delayed start (?) and the fact that about half the stadium was wearing Blackhawks gear only fed the buzz circulating throughout Wrigley Field: The Blackhawks, fresh from their downtown parade and rally, were on their way to Wrigley, where they would place the Stanley Cup on the podium and unite previously un-unitable Cubs and Sox fans in celebration.

Most of the park was so certain it would happen that they screamed during the national anthem, ala the United Center experience that is probably the best local sports tradition we have (at least since the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley was turned over to whatever random celebs are in town). Kurt Elling, the fine local jazz singer who sang the anthem Friday, didn't seem to get what was happening, and didn't try to sing any louder, so it wasn't the same, but was still a nice moment.

Unfortunately, the Blackhawks and Cubs management--including the two Blackhawk execs who used to work for the Cubs, totally blew it. The Stanley Cup didn't show up, though it seems like it would have been pretty easy just to load the Blackhawks and the Cup onto a bus after the rally and send it right up Clark St. to Wrigley. A great opportunity was missed, and the crowd's disappointment was palpable, especially because all they were left with was a hot, humid afternoon watching two baseball teams who look less like contenders with every game they play.

And it gets worse: Instead of the Stanley Cup being walked out to the podium, we got the "Crosstown Cup," the unnecessary marketing ploy that supposedly is giving the teams something to play for--apparently bragging rights just weren't enough for two groups of fans that still love to harrass each other. As the Crosstown Cup was placed on the podium, it was showered with boos (and perhaps booze...), though maybe some of the disdain was for Crosstown Cup sponsor BP... I am not friggin' kidding-BP...

Oh, yeah, the Sox beat the Cubs 10-5.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Chicago's best pitcher

As we count down toward this weekend's cross-town series, let's have some fun: Who is the best pitcher in Chicago?

My vote goes to the guy who notched his 8th victory against no losses today--Carlos Silva. I doubt I will get much argument otherwise, though some might suggest Ryan Dempster, John Danks, Freddy Garcia, carlos Marmol or Sergio Santos as alternatives. Dempster and Danks have been very good hard-luck cases for the most part, and Garcia has been a pleasant surprise. marmol has been mostly electric, and Santos an almost perfect single-inning artist, but Silva has been dominant against all comers.

At 8-0, Silva has the best start to a season by a Cubs pitcher since Ken Holtzman's 8-0 in 1967. Who woulda thunk it?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Losing to the losers

The Cubs just lost two out of three to last-place Houston, and only a late comeback this afternoon helped the White Sox avoid being swept by last-place Cleveland. It gets worse: On Friday night, both teams started their respective series by handing wins to opposing pitchers who previously were winless.

This could be the lowest point of the season for both teams. The Sox are 9.5 games out of first place, and the Cubs are 7.5 out of first. Both the Cubs and the Sox have had positive moments--in particular, the Cubs' recent series win in Texas stands out--but they also both have been sub-par against certain losing teams. The Cubs have been dominated by Pittsburgh and to some extent Houston, and the Sox have had their hands full against the Tribe.

Neither manager has done anything inspired of late. They both don't say much anymore beyond admitting that they don't have any answers. In a different season, perhaps both would have been fired around June 1. Instead, both may end up overseeing teams that get dismatled in the next couple months through fire-sale trades. I'm betting one way or another the Cubs will be moving one of their big-contract guys--Derrek Lee, Kosuke Fukudome or Alfonso Soriano--and would not be surprised to see the Sox hustle Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski or Bobby Jenks out the door. ther have been trade rumors about some of these players already, but mid-June is when the trade fun really starts, and barring sudden winning streaks, both teams likely will be active in trades.

Is it too early to say there's always next year?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Scenes from a soggy, sorry game




Mark Buehrle didn't make it out of the 6th inning Tuesday night, coughing up a 4-1 lead in what eventually became a 9-6 loss for the White Sox. It was an occasionally rainy, painfully slow night. Among other things, it made me wonder whatever became of Buehrle's off-season efforts to strengthen his shoulder for better performance into the late innings. Buehrle actually has pitched 8 innings three times this year, but hasn't made it past the 4th inning in three other games.

Buehrle has had an amazing run with the Sox, with a World Series championship, a perfect game and a no-hitter to his name, so maybe that's why so many people cheered for him as he was pulled and walked toward the dugout, but I had to agree with the lady sitting behind me and Mrs. SBW at the game last night, who responded to the cheers with "Don't applaud him! He wasn't any good tonight!" Nope, he sure wasn't.

Some fans may prefer to blame the Sox line-up or Peavy alone for the Sox' fairly pitiful season, but Buehrle thus far has been pretty bad in what was shaping up to be a pivotal season for him. If it's true the Sox hold two aces, both of them have failed (Let's not even bring up Gavin Floyd, who as I write this is already losing 5-2 tonight in the 2nd inning).

I have to believe that the Sox are perilously close to backing up the truck, regardless of what the GM may say publicly. It may be almost imperceptible, but the line-up actually has been picking up steam of late (Witness Gordon Beckham's two hits and two RBIs last night). Now, for the Sox to turn their season around, Buehrle and Peavy both need to get going.

Above are a couple photos from last night's pre-game activities, taken from the Scout seats, where Mrs. SBW and I took in the game. The Missus felt a lost evening was at least partially saved by sightings of three celebs--Joe Mantegna, who threw out a first pitch, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who seemed like he was riding the well-coiffed Mantegna's coattails, and Steve Dahl (not pictured).


Friday, May 28, 2010

Lights out

It's been a couple days since a power outage made the lights go out at Wrigley Field, but Cubs pitchers seem intent on maintaining the theme, as Ted Lilly, Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol combined Thursday for the Cubs' second 1-0 shutout in three games.

The Cubs have a problem, and it's a great one to have--too many good starting pitchers. Tom Gorzelanny has pitched as well as anybody, and certainly better than Carlos Zambrano, yet all it took was one bad outing (though really it was more like just two bad innings) for the lefty to probably lose his starting spot to Zambrano. It's not fair to Gorzelanny, but we must assume that the Cubs will be shopping him as trade bait--unless Zambrano waves his no-trade clause and the Cubs can convince another team that the now former set-up man can still be an effective starter.

In the pen, Sean Marshall, having one of his most effective stretches as a Cub, appears to have solidified the wobbly eighth inning strategy, which actually could give the team reason to keep Gorzelanny to have another lefty option for other relief scenarios. However, it's also been reported that Andrew Cashner, who has been lights-out himself as a starter in the minors, has now been assigned to the bullpen. That seems to suggest a bullpen assignment with the big league club may not be far off.

Carlos Marmol has been better closing of late after a shaky but ultimately impressive outing in Texas last weekend, so from top to bottom, the Cubs pitching options are looking better by the day. We'll know when things aren't working again if Jeff Samardzija gets the call.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Maydaze

It's been 10 busy days or so since my last post. Since then, the future of both Lou Piniella and Ozzie Guillen has been questioned, Carlos Zambrano received a ticket back to the starting rotation, Sox GM Kenny Williams has been asked if he will rush to the trading table, the Cubs signed Bob Howry (!) to solve the bullpen problems and interleague play has begun.

--I don't see either the Cubs or White Sox managers getting fired before the season is done, though I'd revisit that opinion for Guillen if the Sox find themselves in last place for a long stretch. If the Cubs remain sub-par it will only become more obvious that Piniella is keeping the manager's office warm for Ryne Sandberg next season (not that Sandberg would be the best choice), and barring his own desire to be done with the Cubs, Piniella should be around until the end of season no matter what happens.

--Williams has denied the Sox will rush to trade players like Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski, though there is definitely a market for both of them. Assuming the Sox don't get any better, I'll bet at least A.J. is gone by the trade deadline. Maybe Andruw Jones, too, if he manaages to retain any of the value he had the first month of the season. But, once Kenny starts trading, will he stop at just one or two deals?

--Zambrano's imminent return to the starting rotation will end a strange, interesting, but ultimately misguided experiment. I now wonder two things: 1) Will Zambrano com back refreshed and thankful to be a starter, or further damaged? and 2) Is his return as a starter contingent upon some agreement with Jim Hendry that he will wave his no-trade clause if asked?

--Finally, we have Bob Howry... again. Howry was terrible with the Diamondbacks this year until he was recently released, and certainly doesn't look like a viable candidate to lock down the 7th or 8th innings that have been so much trouble for the Cubs. The only thing Howry may have going for him is that he usually gets better and stronger as the season goes on. Still, I'm guessing there will be at least a few painful outings before we get a sense if that will happen.

--Oh, yeah, interleague play: I think its okay, and kind of introduces a little variety at a time when the baseball season might otherwise settle into a routine pace. I think seeing the Sox play Florida (and win last night) is better than seeing them play more games against Cleveland and Kansas City. I fear seeing the Cubs play the stacked line-up of American League teams, but it may be better than having to face the Cardinals more often.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rookie mistakes

Judging from the boos heard at Wrigley Field Monday night, no one would have blamed you if you thought it was Fidel Castro playing shortstop, rather than Starlin Castro. But, a three-error performance, plus a brain-fart that allowed a runner to advance, is not going to earn praise.

After Starlin's sterling debut in Cincinnati, he has shown nice patience at the plate, but also now has four errors in the field. What can the Cubs do, though, but put up with the newbie mistakes that are sure to come when you promote a 20-year-old to the majors?

Castro basically earned that promotion back in spring training, but the Cubs weren't willing to give it to him until it was clear they were a losing team that needed to jump-start its line-up (Given the bullpen woes, I thought we would see Andrew Cashner promoted first). Now, they are seeing some of the rookie jitters they would have seen back in April had they brought him to the major league level then, and only time will tell if Castro can overcome those initial blunders.

Although, if the Cubs have any better ideas for giving a slumping line-up a boost, they can go ahead and send Castro back down for some seasoning.

In other words, fans should get used to him, and try to cheer for him the next time he does something well--at least as loudly as they booed him Monday night.

Here's more buzz on the Cubs' latest wonderboy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Cell, May 6, 2010


Juan Pierre sizes up Jays' pitcher Dana Eveland while on deck... The Sox eventually lost 2-0. John Danks pitched well enough to win with seven strikeouts in seven innings, but Eveland and his bullpen mates, including, Kevin Gregg, held the Sox line-up to just three hits. The Commish and I enjoyed the view from the Scout Seats, but the night was cold and the overall attendance pretty sparse. The Scout Seat pre-game spread was good, though I think they have dialed down the choices in recent years. The best offering was a warm blueberry-peach cobbler for dessert--a perfect ending for a chilly night in May.

In the second photo, Alex Rios digs in against Eveland. He hit the ball very hard that night (though only went 1-4) and seems to really have re-gained the line-drive stroke he was missing last season. I chose not to take a photo of the jack-ass who jumped from the stands late in the game and ran through the outfield, not wanting to grant him the attention of my dozens of readers. He was the third fan to run on an MLB field in three nights after two previous incidents in Philadelphia, including the now famous Taser incident.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Welcome to the big leagues, Mr. Castro

The Starlin Castro Era began at about 6:40 p.m. Central time tonight when the rookie shortstop, just called up from West Tennessee, took his first major league at-bat against Cincinnati's Homer Bailey. The second pitch he saw was a nifty curve that tailed in over the plate, and Castro almost visibly buckled. But, the next time he saw it, on the fifth pitch, he knew just what to do, waiting on it and then driving it over the right field fence for a three-run homerun.

Not bad for a newbie.

The sound you heard in the background a moment later was the hype machine starting up. What a wild turn of events in just the last 24 hours, since rumbings of Castro's imminent arrival began.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Milton Bradley update

During the off-season, when the Cubs traded Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva, I thought it was a bad move to cap all the bad moves, mainly because the Cubs had already destroyed whatever was left of Bradley's value on the market that he had not destroyed himself.

But, that Silva deal is looking better by the day. Not only has the seemingly good-natured Silva pitched quite well, but Bradley is up to his old tricks, supposedly walking out on his new team before asking them for help dealing with stress.

I'd like to think the Cubs did everything they could to help Bradley on and off the field last season. He didn't always make it easy, and where they might have failed, I hope Seattle can help Bradley salvage something of his career.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Soriano's streak

I have called him the team albatross and have been horrified by his fielding, but all is forgiven now that Alfonso Soriano is hitting--and more specifically, hitting homeruns. He has a four-bagger in each of his last four games and looks to tie the franchise record in Pittsburgh tonight (Don't say I jinxed him--people have been talking this since last night).

I'm kidding when I say all is forgiven, though it is until he starts slumping again. We all know from past experience that Soriano is streaky, and I still think his in the midst of one of those streaks. Working with Rudy Jaramillo supposedly has made him more patient at the plate, and there have been some definite differences, like when he lays off an outside pitch more frequently than he used to. He also has hit to the right side more often--at least from my seat it has looked that way. But, until we see it last all season, we'll still call him a feast-or-famine kind of guy. (Soriano also supposedly stopped using his annoying, fundamentally-unsound hop when catching fly balls, but it seemed to me he has gone back to it the last few games).

I don't think anyone can change Soriano too much, but enjoy the streak while it lasts. Maybe it will last a little longer than in past seasons, and maybe he can carry the Cubs for a few weeks, too.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pierre vs. Pods: Place your bets

I was a pretty big fan of the new Scott Podsednik last year after the Sox picked him up (actually one year ago yesterday), though I knew there was probably no keeping him at the end of the year. He finished with an average above .300, and, evoking 2005, was a major catalyst in several Sox wins. Still, you had to figure the Sox got the best and maybe last of what the old speedster had to offer. They let him go to Kansas City and traded to minor leaguers to L.A. to get Juan Pierre, another aging speedster, but one who over the years has been a far better hitter than Pods.

But now, Pierre is batting ninth for the Sox, and there are good cases being made by other outfielders for him not to be playing at all. Meanwhile, as Mark Gonzales pointed out in the Tribune today, Pods is hitting .326.

Still, as much as I like Pods and relish his 2005 contributions to the Sox, I'll be very surprised if he's able to maintain that average. In fact, I'll wager that by the end of the year, Pierre has both a higher batting average and more stolen bases.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Outside Wrigley, April 29, 2010




I walked up to Wrigley Field last Thursday to enter the Cub-Arizona Diamondbacks series opener, and was met with an immigration protest. About 50-60 people (my count, though it was hard to tell who was protesting and who was watching the protesters) were there to speak out against Arizona Senate Bill 1070. In the days since, the MLB Players Union and several player have spoken out against the bill. The protesters wanted MLB to move the scheduled 2011 All-Star Game out of the D-Backs park unless the new law is repealed.




April showers

The White Sox were 9-14 for the month of April and the Cubs were 11-13, not too far from what I had expected--although if I didn't know which team had which record, I probably would have guess it the other way around. Both teams won back-and-forth contests today to start the month of May on the right foot, so we'll see if we can get them both abov .500 in the next week or so.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sweeps!

A great weekend to be a fan of both the White Sox and the Cubs: Both teams did nothing but win, as the Sox swept the Mariners and the Cubs swept the Brewers. Which was more gratifying? The fun of being a fan who Swings Both Ways is that you don't have to decide.

The Sox won in especially exciting fashion--two walk-off wins on homers and the third victory coming on a bottom-eighth blast. The Cubs, meanwhile, were dominant in Milwaukee, controlling games with great pitching and persistent offense.

I love to see the Sox come back late because you always believe they have it in them. Ozzie Guillen laments having to win by the homer, but it's the never-say-die attitude of his teams that allow for those moments. On the other hand, like most Cubs fans, I am never comfortable with the Cubs leading until the high-fives start and the team walks off the field, so it was great to see them in control and confident.

Both teams have had major ups and downs thus far in the early going, but what a great weekend!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Comeback kid

Andruw Jones is not the same player who hit two homers in his first World Series appearance back in 1996 as a 19-year-old. He's been through a lot of ups and downs--and we're just talking about his weight--and turned 33 yesterday.

But, Jones continued what is looking more and more like the start of a comeback year by celebrating his birthday in a similar fashion to that long-ago WS appearance: Two homeruns, including the walk-off game-winner in a much-needed 7-6 win for the White Sox over Seattle.

Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin also broke out of mid-April swoons with homers of their own, and Gavin Floyd toughened up after a difficult start to keep the Sox ahead for much of this game. However, Floyd was done in by J.J. Putz, who relieved him with the bases loaded and promptly gave up a grand slam. The bats showed some late-inning life for once, though, and tied the game to set up Jones' bottom-ninth heroics.

Jones right now looks like a slightly younger version of Jermaine Dye. It's early, so who knows how long the comeback will last, but it's clear one of the team's least risky off-season moves is paying off.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bad teams wear black

The Sox, at 5-10 after last night's perfect game-revenge blowout by the Rays, are apparently off to their worse start since 1997. Things haven't been going great, but I didn't think the Sox were doing any worse than they might have done in previous Aprils. I guess we have had it pretty good.

I still like the look of this team, and the balance of the Sox line-up, though it seems like they are missing Jermaine Dye's bat more than anyone thought and Carlos Quentin might be pressing too much trying to make up for the power outage. The starting rotation has not lived up to its billing, but I'm betting we will be singing a different tune about that but this time next month.

Gettig back to last night's game, it was Mark Buehrle's first outing against the Rays since his perfect game against them last July. He was good early, but the Rays rae in 2008 form alread, and the huge chip on their shoulder from last year's perfect game helped them to a 12-0 knockout.

Panic time? Not yet.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Z plot thickens

In a shocking development, the Cubs are moving Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen. Zambrano had a horrible Opening Day in Atlanta, but has been decent since then. He pitched well enough in a 4-0 loss last night to win--the reason why the Cubs didn't win is pretty obvious from the final score.



Zambrano's arsenal and talent suggest he could be dominating in short stints, but that's the same reason he's been looked to as a starter. His weakness--emotional imbalance--seems to have mitigated since Zambrano said recently that he would stay cool this year. The thing is, it is not too hard to envision close-game bullpen situations bringing that weakness to the forefront again.



One thing is for certain: The Cubs have been killed not only by a lame line-up, but also by an awful bullpen. This move is Lou Piniella's answer.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Soriano dilemma

What's to be done with Alfonso Soriano?

Maybe that's not the top question on everyone's mind after the Cubs just lost two of three to Houston (3-2 today in 10 innings, with Carlos Marmol blowing his first save), but it certainly has been the pressing theme of this young season.

Soriano already has three errors in left field this season, even though he hasn't played in every game and has been pulled in the late innings in a couple others. When I was at Wrigley last Thursday, Soriano came in as a pinch hitter and was greeted with a chorus of boos even louder than those showered on Jeff Samarzdija an inning later when handed Milwaukee the lead.

Uncharacteristically, Soriano walked in that at-bat, and though he has been average at best at the plate this year (.263 after 0-3 today, 1 HR, 3 RBIs, 1 SB), he has shown some positive signs--better plate patience, and a willingness to hit the ball to right field or give it a slap of solid contact rather than airing out a homerun swing on every pitch.

His fielding has been worse than ever though, and after an easy drop yesterday on a soft liner, he said he would eliminate his trademark hop. If that's all that was needed, why didn't he do it sooner, or why didn't coaches force him to do it? I think the answer is that the hop, though obviously not a sound fundamental way of fielding, isn't really the problem. Soriano has maintained a positive attitude, but it seems like the threat of being pulled from the field, perhaps combined with the pressure to produce batting in a different spot in the order, has played with his head enough that he's just too tentative.

There have been rumors, denied by GM Jim Hendry, that the Cubs could buy out Soriano's contract. That would be a mistake this early in the season. It doesn't seem like the Cubs can really trust him in the field, but if his hitting gradually improves and he starts on a power streak, they could realistically trade him for some decent value later in the season. If that happens, the Cubs probably will have to cover some of the tab, but if they can get a warm body or two and get Soriano to an American League city where he can DH, or to a National League team in dire need of bats, it would be worth it.

It seems in the last couple games like center fielder Marlon Byrd has expanded his range more into left field. That may further hurt Soriano's confidence, but it's probably the best thing to do until the Cubs have a chance to move him in a deal.

Friday, April 16, 2010

April 15, Wrigley Field






Derrek Lee (above, far right) and other Cubs salute Jackie Robinson scholarship winners on J.R.'s special day, while starter Carlos Zambrano (below) and everyone else warms up wearing Robinson's No. 42.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ups and downs up north

Went to Wrigley today for this first time this season, and will have a post on that tomorrow...

For now, a look at the White Sox, still in Toronto (Still?), where a brilliant extra-inning win was followed by almost being no-hit, which was followed by John Danks and a crushing offensive effort shutting down the Blue Jays 11-1, which was followed tonight by, you guessed it, a 7-3 loss.

Will the real Chicago White Sox please stand up?

The 11-1 victory further showcased Andruw Jones, who had three hits and his third homerun of the year and is looking like a more frequent starter than anyone expected. Carlos Quentin also kept up his hot streak with a grand slam. The line-up delivered 15 hits overall. Danks didn't give up a hit until the fifth inning.

But, the bats took the night off tonight. It was nice that Donny Lucy got his first career homer, and Alexei "formerly the Cuban Missile" Ramirez hit his first homerun amid what has been another lackluster start for him. But, Jones, Quentin and Paul Konerko were hitless.

Splitting a four-game series in Toronto isn't a bad thing, but the next time the Sox have an 11-1 drubbing or an 8-7 extra-innings comeback, they need to bottle it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wins and boo birds at Wrigley

The Cubs are unbeaten at home, now 4-4 on the season and everyone inside and outside of the dugout seems happy, but one of the Cubs isn't catching any fan love--and he's having trouble with fly balls, too.

The Cubs beat the Brewers 7-6 today, getting a bit of a streak going after beating the Brew Crew 9-5 in Monday's home opener. Today, they came back in the eighth from being down 6-3, with Ryan Theriot and Kosuke Fukudome coming up with the big run-scoring hits. Theriot had a huge day, going 4-5 with two stolen bases, Fukie added two hits and three RBIs, and Jeff Baker continued his mini-tear witha pair of hits. Also, slumping Geovany Soto had his first homer of the year, which reached Waveland Ave. Carlos Marmol was unhittable for the second straight appearance and got the save.

But, the boo birds were out, too, for Alfonso Soriano, who made two more bad plays in left field, bobbling a ball, which allowed Rickie Weeks to get to third after he doubled, and later completely misplaying a ball at the wall so that it bounced back past him toward the infield. Judging from the crowd reaction, you would have thought he had a chance to catch it, but I think every time he does something wrong now, fans imagine Sam Fuld or Tyler Colvin doing someting graceful and acrobatic to make the play that Soriano messed up.

Making matters worse, Lou Piniella, per his new policy, pulled Soriano on a double-switch late in the game, which gave the crowd a good, long opportunity to let Soriano know what they think. I'm definitely not a fan the albatross power hitter, but found it kind of sad and slightly unnecessary, particularly after Soriano had scored the first run of the day for the Cubs after doubling earlier in the game.

Soriano seemed to have a pretty level-headed attitude about the whole thing after the game. With the size of his contract, he's not trade bait, so hopefully he can keep his chin up.

Off to Wrigley tomorrow for some summer weather and another matinee.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

From hit parade to almost hitless

Just a night after the Sox had their biggest offensive explosion of the season thus far, they were almost no-hit tonight by Toronto's Ricky Romero. Eeveryone in the line-up took the night off except for Alex Rios, who for the second night in a row seemed to relish sticking it to his old team. Rios hit a 2-run homer with no outs in the eighth just after A.J. Pierzynski was hit by a pitch--again A.J. ends up as the Sox' good luck charm.

The luck didn't last too long though, as the Sox still lost 4-2. Well, this is one of those rare losses where it could have been worse.

Hopefully, the line-up won't be too shell-shocked after tonight because they had a great team effort coming back to beat Toronto 8-7 in extras on Monday. Andruw Jones hit two homeruns and was 3-4, Alex Rios was 3-5 with a stolen base, and Mark Teahen continued to break out of his slump with a 3-5 night that included a game-tying homerun in the ninth. It all made up for another bad performance by Jake Peavy, who suddenly looks like he's trying to throw the ball through a brick wall when he's on the mound.

Well, it's still early...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weekend update

After their first weekend of play for the 2010 season, both are teams are 2-4, with line-ups on both sides of town still struggling mightily. The White Sox actually did manage five runs Sunday, the most either team has managed since the Cubs scored five in a hopeless effort back on Opening Day.

The Sox got a nice surprise from Andruw Jones Sunday in the form of an eighth inning game-winning hit that kept them from losing their fifth in a row and getting swept by the Piranhas. Paul Konerko had a two-run homer to continue his tear, and the Sox got solo shots from Mark Kotsay (finally make Ozzie look good for sticking with him) and Gordon Beckham, but Jones' pinch-hit single may have been the brightest moment for this team since Game 1.

Mark Buehrle also was good enough in holding the Twins to four runs over eight innings, keeping a somewhat taxed bullpen off the field.

The win came after a frustrating 2-1 Saturday loss in which a gutsy performance by Freddy Garcia's was wasted. The Sox had a number of scoring chances, but couldn't manage timely hits, and all the recent talk of aggressive base-running backfired at one point when Alex Rios, after his lead-off double, was doubled off of second on a fly ball out.

The Sox head north for a series in Toronto early this week, and it seems unlikely they will find their hitting touch in a dome (damn domes...), but at least they won't have to face Roy Halladay anymore.

The Cubs really should have won all three games in Cincinnati, yet they leave losing two out of three, and when they don't get sabotaged by their own bullpen, they can always count on Alfonso Soriano's clumsy fielding to do the job. On Sunday, Soriano's fumbling of a catchable fly ball in the seventh inning--while not extending the inning, since it would only have been the second out--changed the karma of a game in which Tom Gorzelanny had pitched very well.

After Soriano's error, and with the bases now loaded, Lou Piniella decided to take his anger out on Gorzelanny, removing the lefty for... another lefty, Sean Marshall. Still, Marshall has been dominant this past week, and we've been hoping he'd get the call more often, so the change wasn't a complete surprise. In any case, the karma had changed for the Cubs, and what we got next was a pure bad luck play in which a possible double-play grounder deflected off Marshall's glove and brought in the tying run.

The Reds scored two runs an inning later, and three runs is just too much for this Cubs team. The Cubs didn't do much hitting against rookie starter Mike Leake, with Kosuke Fukudome collecting three of the Cubs' five hits, but they didn't need to, as Leake awarded them seven walks. Still, except for an RBI single by Derrek Lee, the Cubs did nothing with the free runners. The worst was a waste of a bases-loaded, no-outs situation in the first inning. So maybe a little of the bad karma was there from the beginning.

Saturday featured the Cubs' second win of the season and a nicely modulated performance by Carlos Zambrano, who fell behind early 3-0, but didn't implode, and kept the Cubs in the game until homers by Soriano, Fukudome and Jeff Baker brought them a 4-3 lead. Carlos Marmol was at his unhittable best un the ninth for the save, but Zambrano was most impressive. With the obvious exception of his no-hitter in 2008, I've rarely seen get tougher to hit and more calm as a game has gone on. It was an especially nice recovery after his Opening Day horror show.

Home opener for the Cubs tomorrow against the Brew Crew.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Plenty to fix, but plenty of time

The Cubs and White Sox are both 1-3 after four games. I'd say it's about what I expected from the Cubs, but I really thought the Sox might be 3-1 at this point, licking their wounds today after their first loss of the season to the Piranhas.

Panic time? No way. Though there have been some troubling trends--bullpen ineptitude and lack of hitting in key spots has bothered both teams--there's plenty of time to work things out. Here's what our teams have been up to since Opening Day:

White Sox
Game 2 -- Indians 5 Sox 3

Jake Peavy certainly looked like he would be tough to hit on a cold night, and when the Sox jumped out 3-0, you had to feel good. But, Peavy labored to throw 106 pitches in just five innings, and gave the lead back, no doubt further ruffling the feathers of anyone who was worried/annoyed by his crappy Spring.

Peavy will work things out on his own. Journeyman reliever Randy Williams gave the Indians the go-ahead run and Bobby Jenks later gave them insurance, but it certainly didn't help that the Sox only had two hits. The Sox scored their first run in Ozzie-ball fashion, as Juan Pierre walked, stole second and third, and scored on a sac fly by Paul Konerko. Later, the Sox got their other runs on a two-run homer by Paulie, the only guy on the team who hit consistently through the first few games.

Game 3 -- Indians 5, Sox 3

Yep, same result, though this one went to OT (Sorry, March Madness still on the brain...). Again, just one batter was responsible for all three runs--this time Carlos Quentin, who had a three-run homer. And, again, the bullpen didn't hold. Usually reliable Matt Thornton lost a 3-2 lead for the Sox, and new guy J.J. Putz gave the tribe the two-run lead in the 11th.

Game 4 -- Twins 4, Sox 3

Another 11-inning game, and the extra work is not necessarily what the bullpen needs. I thought the Sox actually had a chance to start with a sweep of the Indians before running into a tough game against the Twins and resurgent starter Francisco Liriano. The good sign from the line-up in this one is that Sox hitters drew five walks from Liriano, but they only had one run-scoring hit, a two-run double by Alex Rios.

Scott Linebrink and Williams, the latter perhaps not long for Chicago, couldn't keep a brief lead in this one, which I guess is an old story against the Piranhas.

Mark Kotsay and Mark Teahen both remain hitless after four games, Omar Vizquel only has one and lead-off man Pierre only has two, so some of the fresher additions to this line-up have the Sox looking at lot like--well, like they did last year when no one was hitting for long stretches. Quentin and Konerko both are looking motivated, and Teahen probably will come around soon, but Ozzie Guillen's love of Kotsay is being tested. We'll see more of Andruw Jones, but he's got to hit, too.

Is Jermaine Dye still available?

Cubs
Game 2 -- Braves 3, Cubs 2

What looked to be the Cubs' first win was derailed at the worst possible time, the bottom of the eighth, when reliever John Grabow gave up a two-run, go-ahead homer to Chipper Jones. That left only legendary closer Billy Wagner to face for the Cubs, and he struck out the side in the ninth.

This one featured another of Lou Piniella's patented early hooks for his starter, Ryan Dempster (seems like that happens a lot in Atlanta). Dempster was dominant, continuing on a strong spring, as he retired the last 11 batters he faced. He left with a 2-1 lead, as the Cubs hit for him with two outs and a man on first in the sixth. A textbook pinch-hit situation, yes, but the Cubs had the lead and a pitcher who seemed to be vexing the opposition (Demp actually had loaded the bases with Braves twice, but got out of it both times, which I think sometimes shows you more than when a starter piles up strikeouts). He also had at least another inning's worth of pitches in him, maybe two, having reached 95 on the pitch count meter before he was pulled.

Still, Lou was looking out for his guy early in the season and counting on his pen to do the job, so we'll cut him some slack.

Offensively, the Cubs have the Braves' defense to thank for extending an inning and giving them both of their runs.

Game 3 -- Cubs 2, Braves 0

Randy Wells is just so impressive, somebody who will not overpower the opposition (six hits, two walks and just one strikeout in six innings), but will hand the bullpen a lead more often than not and put you in position to win. He was nearly unhittable in Atlanta last season (before an ill-fated early hook), and in this one, he looked more hittable than opposing starter Tommy Hanson in every area except one--Wells allowed no runs, whereas in between wicked strikeouts of Cubs batters, Hanson gave up solo homers to Tyler Colvin (his career first) and Marlon Byrd.

That was enough, with Grabow again struggling in his relief appearance, but Carlos Marmol bailing him out. Marmol had a tough ninth for the save, but really nothing out of the ordinary for Marmol.

Game 4 -- Reds 5, Cubs 4

Again, a not-overpowering-by-any-means Carlos Silva pitched well enough to hand the bullpen a 3-1 lead, but Esmailin Caridad coughed it up. He gave up a grand slam on a center-of-the-plate pitch to drew Stubbs, though his biggest mistakes were walking two batters to start the eighth inning. I was surprised Lou didn't pull him at that point. Despite the overall bullpen troubles, Sean Marshall actually has been very good and it might have been a good situation for him.

Good news here is that Silva continues to be a pleasant surprise. Bad news is the Cubs couldn't do much with 11 hits of their own (three by Derrek lee, including a homer, and four by Mike Fontenot), and left the bases loaded to end the game.

No one has been hitting especially well for the Cubs, except Kosuke Fukudome, who always hits well early before fading. Lee took four games to heat up his bat, and Ryan Theriot need four games to get his first to hits of the season. Alfonso Soriano had a couple bright moments this week, but looks lost in the middle of the line-up, and as usual, in the field. The Cubs still face the old problem of what to do with their albatross.

Geovany Soto has started slow, too, and it appears that if he is given a chance for a comeback this year, it will have to happen in spurts because he's already losing playing time to Koyie Hill.

Right now, I like the idea of giving Colvin and Fukudome more starts instead of Soriano, though I'd like to see Soto have a few more games to figure things out.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Some guys have all the luck

Starting his eighth straight Opening Day and tossing seven innings of three-hit ball in a 6-0 victory just wasn't enough for Mark Buehrle. He had to go and complete a totally improbable between-the-legs, football-snap defensive play, too (Find it at the White Sox website, but MLB.com and other still have it posted as well).

It's not like Buehrle is the best athlete or the best pitcher around. He just works hard and occasionally ends up in the right place at the right time under the right conditions to do something pretty wonderful. After a no-hitter, a perfect game and many other memorable moments, "The Long-Snap," as I'm hoping the play will come to be known, is just another example.

I wonder if Buehrle will be asked to sign a lot of photos of this play in the years to come, and how he'll feel about autographing a photo in which the main feature is his ass.

The news from the other side of town is that there is no such thing as good luck. The Cubs lost 16-5 to the Braves, and--well, luck didn't have much to do with it unless you count a fly ball dropped by Braves centerfielder Nate McLouth that was wrongly called an out and led to a double play. That was pure Cubbie luck, but the call certainly wasn't the difference in this wipeout of a game.

What was the difference: Bad pitching and sub-par defense on a couple key plays. Carlos Zambrano was saying all the right things this spring about being a good boy, but quickly gave up a 3-0 lead given to him off the bat of new Cub Marlon Byrd and ended up giving up eight runs in a dreadful 1.1 innings. He also had a field error, as did Derrek Lee on a rare poor throw.

No, Zambrano didn't lose his cool, at least not in as visible a manner as he has in the past, though he seemed unhinged and hurried as the six-run first inning unfolded, rather than writing it off as a bad start in a long game to come.

Believe it or not, Zambrano didn't put the game out of reach, as the Cubs line-up scored five runs (though on only five hits), the other major blow being a homerun by Aramis Ramirez--nice to see some of his power after a weak spring. But, the bullpen did put the game out of reach, with Jeff Samardzija giving up six runs and walking three in one-third of an inning, and Justin Berg giving up two runs while also walking three. Time is growing short for Samardzija to fulfill any positive promise, and Berg just made the Cubs look foolish for letting him survive the spring demotions.

With one game in the books, the Sox are looking at Opening Day like it was a good omen. the Cubs are just looking the other way.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Just getting started

A nasty week-long cold has me filled with delirious thoughts, so maybe that's why I'm picking the White Sox to win the A.L. Central Division in 2010.

The headache, fever and ticklish sinuses are combining with a few other strange notions--that Alex Rios is going have an epic 30 HR, 30 SB, 100 RBI year; that the Piranhas will give up more power-runs and score fewer of their own patented small-ball runs in their new park; and that the Sox will have not only the best starting rotation in the A.L. Central but also the best bullpen, while the Joe Nathan-less Twins bullpen struggles--to convince me that the Sox are destined for an 87-75 record and division crown.

That's exactly where I had them a month ago.

My delirium has its limits, of course, and though the Cubs were better than the Sox this spring (18-12-3 to the Sox' 12-17-5), and have emerged with some surprises--Tyler Colvin on the roster and Carlos Silva in the rotation--I still see them no better than 83-79. That's not bad, and a game or two better than I had them a month ago, but I don't think they have the horses to beat either the Cardinals or Brewers.

That might change if Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee play well and stay healthy all year, and if Carlos Zambrano doesn't implode, and if Colvin plays like a Rookie of the Year candidate, and if Alfonso Soriano excells batting sixth, and if Silva pitches better than he has in years, and if Carlos Marmol chills out, but that's a lot of ifs.

Barring a worsening of my own health, I'll be taking in the Sox opener with The Commish tomorrow afternoon at The Cell. Let's hope it's not a repeat of 2007. I don't like the Mark Buehrle-Grady Sizemore match-up, but aside from that, the Sox seem well-poised to get off to a string start.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Peeved about Peavy?

Take what you want from spring training. I tend to write off poor performances by veteran pitchers, who seem like they are just trying to work on control more than anything else, and veteran hitters, who seem to work more on honing their timing and their sense of the strike zone.

It's a little surprising that a lot of people are worried about the White Sox' new ace Jake Peavy. I do think Peavy may have some difficulty initially with homerun balls at the Cell, but only relatively speaking for a guy who has been otherwise extremely hard to hit over his career. In any case, I expect the notoriously tough competitor to adjust very quickly by pitching certain types of power hitters different than he might have in San Diego's big Petco Park.

I'm not worried at all that Peavy lost a game to the Charlotte crew yesterday because he actually did well--seven strikeouts in just four innings and no walks. The three earned runs in that stretch are about as bad as it gets for Peavy, and something the Sox line-up should be able to overcome.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Millar time? Guess not...

On the surface, Kevin Millar's release from the Cubs yesterday might be read as the Cubs arguing against the theory that a good-vibe clubhouse guy can change everything for the team. However, Millar's recent career stats and current age, plus Chad Tracy's relative youth, power potential, natural third base abilities and left-handed bat are difficult to ignore.

Tracy is the obvious choice, and though most of us (Millar included) were surprised when the Cubs chose Tracy over Millar yesterday, in retrospect Millar would have had to hit .350 (he hit .242), pound a few homers and make a couple eye-catching defensive plays at third this spring just to even the battle. That's how big and bright Millar's reputation and personality are--he made us overlook the obvious for a while, and it was kinda fun.

Of course, organizationally-speaking, it would have been easy to give Millar a brief shot at the beginning of the season to see if he had some curse-busting magic left. The Cubs could have simply sent Tracy down for a bit, ready to call up at the first sign of Millar not cutting it or the inevitable Aramis Ramirez injury. Let's hope the rest of the Cubs can manufacture their own good vibes this year, unlike 2009.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Demp dominates

Ryan Dempster has looked good this spring for the Cubs, though never better than Sunday, when he struck out nine in seven shutout innings. Carlos Zambrano has been grabbing headlines over his weight loss and new supposedly serious attitude, and Ted Lilly's injury has been a major concern, but in the middle of it all Dempster has looked fantastic this month and could put together another season like 2008, when he went 17-6.

Also, Tyler Colvin did end up making the team. He leads the Cubs this spring with a .468 average and 13 RBIs. Which one of our outfield vets will pay the price in bench time?

And, finally, Andres Blanco is no longer a Cub, having been shipped to the Rangers. So... Mike Fontenot had better be for real this year.

The Sox lost two split squad games Sunday, though the upside was that Gavin Floyd pitched well in a 5-0 loss to Texas, going six innings with six strikeouts and two earned runs; and bullpen brothers Scott Linebrink, Matt Thornton and J.J. Putz each pitched a scoreless inning in a 10-8 loss to Kansas City.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Colvin makes it interesting

Several reports today suggest that versatile Cubs OF Tyler Colvin could make the Opening Day roster. The way he's been hitting--leading the Cactus League in hits, whatever that's worth--he deserves consideration above Sam Fuld, Micah Haffpauir and others.

It remains to be seen how much playing time he'll get. It's been suggested that Alfonso Soriano could lose at-bats, but as much as I think Soriano has crippled the Cubs at times in the past, he has looked good this spring and I doubt Lou Piniella will take him out much unless he obviously slumps from the start of the season.

Right now, I wonder if it's more likely that Kosuke Fukudome could be the one on the short leash. He started slow this spring, though has picked it up the last few games. Colvin replacing Fukie still gives you a lefty hitting second, and for now at least, one with a bit more pop in his bat and probably more speed. One big difference, however, us that Fukudome is showing his typical plate patience this spring with seven walks in 13 games. Colvin has none in 17 games, though you could argue that you need to swing and hit to get noticed in spring training, rather than take pitches. Hopefully, Colvin would be more selective when the games start counting.

In any case, Fukudome could keep his job and playing time by starting hot, which he has done in the past. If Soriano and Fukudome both start well, then Colvin could be back in the minors before too long, but that also would means the Cubs are doing well, right?