Cubs Win! Cubs Win! How? A combined effort of solid pitching and timely hitting gave the Cubs their first victory of 2011. Everyone contributed and provided the kind of teamwork that will carry this team to new heights. As a diehard Cubs’ fan, I am very encouraged by this team’s tenacity to hang in there. I am pleased by the effort that everyone gave. Indeed, this will be a fun group to watch. Mike Quade deserves a world of credit for the way this team has come together. I think there is good reason to be optimistic this season.
Carlos Zambrano struggled early but managed to keep the game close. Cramping in his hand forced him to leave the game, but Kerry Wood came in and took care of business. Sean Marshall followed Wood and also shut down the Pirates. Then in the bottom of the 8th, the Cubs came to life and battled for a 5 run inning. The beauty of that inning was that everyone contributed with timely hitting.
60602722.jpg Alfonso Soriano had a key hit and of course, Blake DeWitt delivered in the clutch. Dewitt, who struggled in Spring Training, deserves a lot of credit. His confidence needed a boost and he needed that hit as much as the team did. It was a total team effort.
60602747.jpg I like the way that this team sticks together and supports one another. It is refreshing. Carlos Marmol came on in the 9th and struck out the side for his first save of the young season.
60602748.jpg In fact, the bullpen retired the last 9 Pirate batters of the game. Now that’s a solid bullpen!
Matt Garza is on the bump today. He will be starting his first game in a Cub uniform. If he can have a solid outing, then the Cubs should win again. Garza seems like a really good teammate. He’s a gamer, you can tell. With the addition of Garza, Carlos Pena, and the return of Kerry Wood, I believe the club house chemistry is finally coming together. Mike Quade has good reason to like his chances this year. Teamwork is what champions are made of and the Cubs are showing signs of having the right chemistry.
Good job to everyone! Keep up the good work! Go Cubs Go!!!
This week, the GM Meetings are under way in Orlando. Now is the time to start entertaing trade possibilities. Will Jim Hendry make a move to acquire a legitimate lead-off hitter? With an offense that has struggled to score runs, the Cubs could use a “spark” at the top of the order.
In 2010, the Cubs juggled the batting order relentlessly in pursuit of somebody to fill the lead-off spot. Ryan Theriot began the year leading off, but was traded to the Dodgers. Kosuke Fukudome took his turn, but stuggled with his bat. Alfonso Soriano was moved down in the order and his days of leading off are over. Other players were given the opportunity to ignite the offense, but nobody fit the role.
Starlin Castro was the best available option, but hasn’t developed much in the stolen base department. Hopefully, he can work on it and find success. For the time being, he really isn’t ready for that responsibility. The Art of Stealing bases requires an astute student of the game. It requires a player to read the pitcher, the catcher, and the defense. There is more to it, then just taking off for second base. It is an art, to be sure. Tyler Colvin, Blake DeWitt, and Jeff Baker, have all led off for the Cubs, none could pull it off. A lead-off hitter requires the ability to get on base and put pressure on the defense. It requires the ability to steal bases. It is a huge responsibility that requires knowledge, talent, and skill. Not just anyone can be inserted at the top of the order. It requires a special player, a player with athletic prowess and brains.
Ricky Henderson was probably the best lead-off hitter ever. He knew how to get on base, then once there, he knew how to rattle the pitcher and defense.
Ricky Henderson got on base and made things happen. He didn’t wait to be bunted over. He didn’t wait for somebody to get a hit. He didn’t wait for anything. He was off to the races. He set his goal and went after it. He would steal second, but Henderson didn’t stop there. Very often, he would steal third base as well. The defense was in disarray and the pitcher lost concentration. Ricky Henderson was a very effective lead-off hitter. He set a record for walks drawn. He set a record for stolen bases. Ricky exemplified what a lead-off hitter should be. That is why he is in the Hall of Fame today. The Cubs need such a lead-off hitter. The Cubs need a spark to ignite a sleeping offense.
With Brett Jackson and Brandon Guyer still developing, Starlin Castro is the closest thing to a lead-off hitter that the Cubs have. However, it appears that Castro is better suited for the #2 hole, which brings us back to the question of WHO will lead off next season? If Jim Hendry is to acquire a true lead-off hitter, then he will most likely need to trade for one. But who?
I have compiled a short list of candidates that Jim Hendry may be interested in trading for.
Rajai Davis, of the Oakland A’s, an outfielder that swiped 50 bases last season. His OBP was .320 and his batting AVG was .284. Oakland is in search of power hitters.
Brett Gardner, of the New York Yankees, another outfielder, stole 47 bases. He had an OBP of .383 and a .277 batting AVG. He was the spark that ignited the Yankees’ offense time and time again.
Gardner gives 150% all the time. The Yankees are in need of a solid, left-hander to anchor their bullpen.
Chone Figgins, of the Seattle Mariners, had 42 stolen bases, a .340 OBP, and a .259 batting AVG.
Figgins is a third baseman, but played second base last season, and has played in left field as well. The Mariners are searching for power hitters.
Will Venable, of the San Diego Padres, another outfielder, had 29 steals, .324 OBP, and a .245 AVG. He appears to have more potential than his numbers reflect.
The Padres are looking for more power, not to mention, prospects.
Michael BournE, of the Houston Astros, recently won a gold glove and led the NL in stolen bases with 52.
He batted .265 with a .341 OBP. Houston needs pitching and power.
The 5 players listed are my personal favorites to lead-off. The Cubs need a spark at the top of the order and will need to make a trade to make it a reality. Who will lead-off in 2011? Will Jim Hendry make a move to improve the top of the batting order? Will Starlin Castro learn the Art of Stealing bases? What do you think the Cubs should do about the lead-off situation?
The San Diego Padres ran into a brick wall on Monday as Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs came calling. The playoff contending Padres fall a game back of the Giants for the divisional lead and a half game back behind the Braves in the wildcard race.
Big Z returned to the mound on Monday and pitched seven shut out innings while surrendering only three hits as his mother watched on. Carlos Zambrano escaped the bases loaded jam in the seventh to earn another win. Big Z has allowed two runs or less and pitched five innings or more for the tenth straight start, the most such string by a Cubs’ starter since 1920. It was vintage Zambrano. Big Z is 7-0, with a 1.07 ERA in his last 9 starts. Zambrano hasn’t been throwing as hard as he used to but has been effectively mixing up his pitches and keeping hitters off balance. Whatever he is doing, it’s working. Big Z is back, and better than ever!
The Cubs would need a quality start from Big Z since the only run of the ballgame came in the top of the seventh when Blake Dewitt lined a single scoring Alfonso Soriano who had reached on a double to left. The San Diego Padres had solid pitching and solid defense but the Cubs’ pitching staff was even tougher.
Sean Marshall pitched a scoreless eighth.
Carlos Marmol entered the game in the ninth with a 1-0 lead. That’s when it got really interesting. With two outs, Marmol gave up a single and Chase Headley was awarded first base when a pitched bounced between his feet. The umpire, apparently thought that the pitch had hit Headley. It did not. Mike Quade came out of the dugout to argue but to no avail. There’s no replay in baseball. Then, Marmol walked Tony Gwynn, Jr. to load the bases and Cubs’ fans were biting their nails at this point. At least, I was. Everytime Marmol pitches, there is lots of drama. The game hangs delicately in the balance, sort of twisting in the wind as it were.
Nick Hundly hit a drive to left. It scared me when he hit it, because I thought it was going to be a grand slam but to my relief, it was caught for the final out.
Carlos Marmol made his 300th career relief appearance and notched his 35th save of the season.
The Cubs’ pitchers outdueled one of the best pitching staffs in the majors for the shutout. The Cubs have come to play in the final week. Hope it doesn’t SPOIL San Diego’s fun too much. After all, it’s still payback time. Remember 1984. I haven’t forgotten and the Cubs haven’t either! Go, Cubs, Go! Let’s do it again tonight!