Browsing the Cubs Blog category
Geovany Soto says he has something to prove this year. I feel he’s had something to prove ever since flopping after his terrific rookie season in 2008.
That was already five years ago, and the only thing Soto’s proven since is that he’s an incomplete, inconsistent player. Occasionally we might see a glimpse of ‘rookie Geo’, but mostly Soto’s progressively struggled through his prime years. Good year, bad year…meh.
Who knows what Soto’s really trying to prove this season. That he can be a starter again, that more fringe seasons are left in the tank, or that he can live up to the expectations that followed him since winning the Rookie of the Year Award?
“I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain and I want to prove to myself and prove to the Texas Rangers that I am an All-Star caliber catcher and helps us reach the World Series.”
-Soto on ESPNDallas.com
Sometimes I feel the game came too easily for Soto upon his arrival with the Cubs in late 2007, a season in which he quickly earned the trust of Sweet Lou, so much so that he started Game 2 of the NLDS vs. Arizona. Then came his fabulous rookie campaign:
-First rookie backstop ever selected to start the All-Star Game.
-Hit two 3-R HRs against Milwaukee in one game.
-Inside-the-park HR at Houston.
-A 7 RBI game against Pittsburgh.
-Caught Carlos Zambrano’s no-hitter vs. Houston (in Milwaukee of course).
-Won the Pedrin Zorrilla Award (given to the most outstanding Puerto Rican player in the Major Leagues).
-Won the Rookie of the Year Award in a landslide.
-Finished 13th in the MVP voting.
The big leagues must have felt like easy money for Soto. He not only made the Show but he also made a name for himself, and worse, there was zero competition standing in his way for the starting job the next season.
Maybe it was the lack of competition that led Soto to show up at spring training overweight and out of shape in 2009? Had human nature won the best of him? Was Soto content letting the 2008 season do his talking for him, perhaps thinking there was nothing else to prove?
I didn’t think so, at least not right away. Sure, I’d concede Soto was showing some immaturity, but there’s no reason he wouldn’t bounce back, right? Well, wrong.
Soto, it seemed, just couldn’t get out of his own way. Soon thereafter he made the decision to skip working out with the Cubs in favor of joining team Puerto Rico for the World Baseball Classic–a decision that wouldn’t have made such a stink if he had actually been playing. Instead, Soto was used sparingly, sitting behind Yadier Molina and Ivan Rodriguez.
By the end of spring training Soto was suffering from a sore right shoulder, an injury that would noticeably limit his throwing ability in the early part of the season. And by the end of April Soto was hitting .109/.268/.130. Perhaps a coincidence, but Soto’s perceived lack of baseball activity in the spring combined with his wretched start to the season appeared to go hand-in-hand.
But the real kicker came in June when MLB announced Soto had tested positive for marijuana during the WBC. Not normally a story worthy of overreaction–a ballplayer smoking it up in his mid 20s–but now something was becoming clear despite Soto’s foggy judgment–he was nowhere close to being fully committed to baseball.
Of course the 2009 season was a total drag for Soto–a flop-job in the wake of all the awards from the year prior. Granted, he briefly restored faith the following offseason by shedding a ton of weight and showing up to camp in tip-top shape, but it didn’t last.
Soto stayed inconsistent throughout his Cubs career fluctuating between good and bad seasons. He never came close to the player many Cubs fans, including myself, thought he would be following his rookie season.
“I can do it [improve offensively], but I think in the past I haven’t worked on my swing in the off-season the way I should have,” said Soto to Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald.
What Soto thinks he should’ve been doing is unknown. It may mean he should’ve been working on different hitting exercises, or maybe it’s code for he simply wasn’t working at all during the offseason.
It wouldn’t be fair to accuse him of the later without knowing for certain, but it’s hard not to wonder if Soto cheated himself and the Cubs of reaching his once sky-high potential?
I doubt Soto will prove anything this season given his past performance. And unfortunately, whatever Soto is looking to prove, whether it be to fans, to baseball, or to himself…it all should have happened years ago.
Born in Venezuela.
Entering his 16th season in MLB.
Spent only one season in American League.
Longest stay with one team is 4 seasons with Cubs.
Personal catcher for Greg Maddux in Atlanta.
.994 fielding % ranks 15th all-time among MLB backstops.
Name that Cub! (Answer after the jump)
*Post updated on March 13, 2013
Something caught my attention last week while researching the oldest and youngest players on the Cubs’ roster.
While learning the Cubs have the fifth youngest roster in the majors, I also discovered they’re tied with Miami for having the most left-handed batters on a roster (9). (Things have apparently come a long way since Jim Hendry felt desperate enough to sign Milton Bradley in 2009.)
Moving on, (9) is a rough figure depending on which roster source you’re viewing. Some, for example, list Adrian Cardenas, who’s no longer playing for the Cubs. Brian Bogusevic is another example; a left-handed batter who may, or may not, make the team out of spring training. And, the number changes depending on whether or not left-handed batting pitchers are included.
Nonetheless, here’s a combination list of the Cubs’ left-handed bats heading into 2013:
40-MAN ROSTER – 8 or 13 including pitchers
*(Travis Wood bats right-handed)
Others (minor league or non-roster spring training invites)
(*) indicates pitcher
Minor League Totals (LHB currently listed on Cubs minor league rosters)
-18 left-handed batters total including Triple-A through Single-A rosters
As for switch-hitters, the Cubs have two of note: catcher Dioner Navarro and pitcher Lendy Castillo. Cleveland and San Francisco are tied for the most switch-hitters with (6).
In the Cubs minor league system (Triple-A through Single-A) there are 10 switch-hitting batters.
If you haven’t learned already, lat injuries linger, and usually much longer than players, coaches and fans think they will.
Remember waiting for Ryan Dempster’s return near the trade deadline last season? Yep, that was a lat injury.
So when Garza experienced discomfort throwing on Feb. 17 and was diagnosed with a sore left lat muscle, I pretty much ruled him out for opening day, despite the fact the Cubs were suggesting Garza would be out only one week.
Now, two weeks later, Garza still isn’t ready. The Cubs say they’re shutting him down another week…and he’ll likely miss the first month of the season. A big, big, disappointment for sure. But it’s hardly a surprise.
The Cubs must be cautious with Garza, especially if they still have visions of trading him, which can’t happen until he’s healthy. And if the Cubs are leaning towards signing Garza long-term, they’ll need to see for themselves that he can stay healthy.
Either way, those decisions are a long way off…even if Garza’s recovery doesn’t experience further setbacks.
Thumbnail sketch of Cubs’ spring training thus far.
Overall 4-4, Home: 3-2, Away: 1-2.
Cubs have lost 3 of last 4 games.
Couple of split squad games scheduled for this week.
Anthony Rizzo departs Cubs camp tomorrow to join Team Italy for WBC.
I could hardly wait to share the gem I discovered this week at archive.org. Available under ‘Old Time Radio Programs’ is a free download of a radio broadcast between the Cubs and Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field on
June 4, 1957.
You can listen to the game by clicking here.
The download is of the Dodgers’ broadcast and begins with Jerry Doggett, the radio man who joined the Dodgers’ booth in 1956 (and stayed with the team until 1987).
At the 7:00 mark Doggett turns the duties over to his long-time partner, and legendary play-by-play man, Vin Scully, who began his accomplished career with the Dodgers in 1950 (unbelievable!).
I was giddy with excitement to hear Scully’s voice crackle through the speakers, and he begins by informing the audience he’s just spilled a cup of coffee in his lap, and on a suite fresh from the cleaners no less!
On this Tuesday afternoon, the Cubs (who would go on to lose 92 games that year) fell to the Dodgers 7-5. The starting pitching matchup featured two players with ties to the Queen City. Cubs starter Dick Drott, a Cincinnati native, against a 21-year-old left-hander from the University of Cincinnati named Sandy Koufax. That, however, is where the similarities ended.
It didn’t take long for Duke Snider, Gil Hodges and Roy Campanella to open up the scoring. Campanella, who would leave the game in the third inning after being plunked in the ribs by a pitch (which we’re later informed during the broadcast the team doctor says the catcher is ‘ok’), doubled home Snider and Hodges in the bottom of the first. The Dodgers plated another run in the inning and then scored three more runs in the third, including a solo HR by Snider, to knock Drott out of the game.
Hodges went deep in the fifth extending Brooklyn’s lead to 7-0 after five innings. The Cubs finally broke through against Koufax in the sixth on a line drive, 2-R HR by left fielder Bob Speake. Ernie Banks (.285, 43 HR, 102 RBI), now in his fifth season with Chicago, turned the trick two innings later taking Koufax deep for a 3-R HR, which concluded the scoring for the afternoon.
Koufax (4-2) earned the win lasting 7.2 innings allowing 5-ER on 4 hits. He walked 5 and struck out 12, fanning Banks in his first two at-bats. The eventual Hall of Fame pitcher, who started just 13 games in this season, finished the campaign (5-4, 3.88). Four years later he blossomed into one of the most dominating left-handed pitchers of all time.
The 1957 season was the Dodgers’ (84-70) final chapter in Brooklyn. Ebbets Field closed in Sept. after the season ended and was later demolished in 1960. And for those of you wondering, Jackie Robinson had already retired the year prior in 1956.
I wasn’t able to catch the entire broadcast, which lasts 3 hours & 2 minutes, and is why I included the game recap so you can skip along to hear some of the more exciting game action (the advertisement are a treat to listen to as well).
But whatever time you do have available, it’s well worth the listen, even though the Cubs lost. But, we’re use to that by now anyway.
“There are millions of Cubs fans who did not grow up in Chicago. Why? It’s Wrigley Field. You see that great old ballpark on television–the ivy on the walls, the people on the rooftops, the bleacher bums, the old stadium–and it’s everything you ever dreamed baseball could be.” -Randy Hundley, former Cub
In 1925 more renovations took place at Cubs Park (Wrigley Field).
The left field wall was moved back at the request of the Cubs’ pitching staff.
This mid-season change created the ‘jury box’ look, still present to this day.
In 1926 Cubs owner William Wrigley attached his name to the ballpark.
Shortly after he began the construction of upper deck seating.
Wrigley hired the architecture firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White.
The same firm which designed the Merchandise Mart and the Wrigley Building.
* Photo: Temporary bleachers over Waveland Ave for the 1929 World Series.
I stumbled across this picture on the blog Old Time Family Baseball. The writer, Michael Clair, is a finalist to join the MLB Fan Cave for the upcoming season.
He recently snapped the photo while on a tour of Chase Field in Arizona. Not entirely sure why this particular lineup card is on display at the ballpark–the Cubs won the 2005 season opener 16-6 vs. the Diamondbacks.
Nonetheless, there are some former Cubs ties with players Luis Gonzalez (1995-96), Chad Tracy (2010) and Koyie Hill (2007-12).
As for the game, the Cubs scored in 7 of 9 frames, mashing the D-backs’ pitching for 23 hits. Starter Javier Vazquez was lit up allowing 7-ER on 10-H in 1.2 innings.
Derrek Lee (who would go on to have the best all-around season of his career winning the National League batting title (.335), a Silver Slugger Award and a Gold Glove while finishing third in MVP voting), went 4-for-6 with a HR and five RBI.
Aramis Ramirez went 3-for-4, including a HR, 4 RBI and 4 runs scored. Jeromy Burnitz had 3 hits and Nomar Garciaparra added 2 hits and 3 RBI. Even Corey Patterson had a big day going 3-for-5 with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored.
Carlos Zambrano started for the Cubs, but lasted only 4.2 innings allowing 3 runs on 7 hits with 4 walks and 8 strikeouts. Glendon Rusch took over in the fifth, pitched 2.1 innings allowing 2 runs, and earned the win.
Despite a promising start, the Cubs lost the next three games and hovered around .500 until the beginning of May, when they suffered a 7-game losing streak. A few weeks later the Cubs bounced back winning 7 straight to jump above .500, but the success was short lived.
The Cubs thereafter experienced two 8-games losing skids, one in July the other in August, that wipe the team out of postseason contention. They finished the campaign (79-83) under Dusty Baker, then in his third season as Chicago’s manager (sad trombone).
Jim Hendry’s trade of Ted Lilly to the Dodgers in 2010 was my coming to Jesus moment–the Cubs’ organization was truly taking a turn for the worse.
Here was a quality, left-handed starter, who for my money was the staff ace since 2007, being shipped to southern California (with Ryan Theriot) for Blake DeWitt. Holy hell.
I wouldn’t go as far to say Lilly was underappreciated during his tenure in Chicago, but I do think it’s fair to say he didn’t get the recognition he deserved.
Ask Cubs fans who the staff ace was during the back-to-back division titles in 2007-08 and most will give top billing to Carlos Zambrano or Ryan Dempster.
For certain, both guys had their moments, but neither was as solid as Lilly during his 3.5 seasons on the North Side.
From his first season with the Cubs in 2007 to the eventual July 31st trade in 2010, the southpaw managed 47 wins in 113 starts while posting a 1.114 WHIP and a sparkling ERA+ of 122.
Lilly not only proved to be a terrific ‘stopper’ when the Cubs were coming off a loss, but he was regularly juggled in the rotation to pitch in the Cubs’ most important series.
Theodore Roosevelt Lilly was the Cubs ace.
Unfortunately, that’s not how most Cubs fans remember him. Instead, it’s the memory of Lilly’s mound tantrum during Game 2 of the NLDS at Arizona, when Chris Young lit him up for a three-run HR in the second inning, prompting Lilly to slam his glove to the ground in frustration.
Granted it was the worst timing for a poor outing, but Cubs fans overreaction to Lilly’s brief loss of composure would’ve made one think he fired a ball into the stands, punched a teammate in the dugout or bumped an umpire…or any number of episodes Big Z was actually guilty of while acting in the roll of the Cubs’ staff ace (rolls eyes).
Still, nothing compares to Lilly being snubbed by Lou Piniella during the 2008 NLDS when the skipper went with Dempster, Zambrano and Rich Harden to start Games 1-3. The series was over before Lilly could throw a single pitch.
Meanwhile, since the trade Lilly has put up respectable numbers with L.A. He made 12 starts to finish out the 2010 campaign with a record of (7-4, 3.97 ERA). The following year, his first full season with the Dodgers, Lilly made 33 starts, pitched 192.2 innings and won 12 games with little to no run support. A nagging shoulder injury, however, limited him to just 8 starts last summer, although he still managed a (5-1, 3.14 ERA) record.
After three months of rehabbing, Lilly ultimately opted for arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in Sept., resulting in the Dodgers placing him on a modified throwing program this spring.
At 37-years-old, and in the final season of his contract, this may be Lilly’s last hurrah in the bigs. Los Angeles has a crowded rotation as it is, and any setbacks in Lilly’s recovery during spring training could see him as the odd man out in what would be his 15th major league season—the best of which took place with Chicago.
Daniel Shoptaw is the lead writer at C70 At The Bat: a St.Louis Cardinals blog (gasp!). He’s also the founding father and former president of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, of which I’m a member of the Cubs chapter.
For the past five seasons Daniel’s run a series called ‘Playing Pepper’ that previews the league’s 29 teams aside from those damn Redbirds.
It’s a simple format: Daniel relies on team specific bloggers to answer a few questions about their respective team’s offseason moves and expectations heading into the season.
His latest post tackles the Cubs, and I’ve posted my answer’s to Daniel’s questions below. To read the full article, which includes answers from several other Cubs bloggers, click here.
- Playing Pepper: How would you grade the offseason?
Bullpen Brian: Grade: B. Solid upgrades to the rotation and outfield depth. Third base and center field remain sub-par.
- Playing Pepper: What are your thoughts about the suggested Wrigley Field improvements?
Bullpen Brian: Long overdue and much needed. Wrigley Field has been updated many times, all for the better. These improvements should be the best yet.
- Playing Pepper: How long do you expect to see Carlos Marmol wearing the Cubbie blue?
Bullpen Brian: Not long. Marmol could be dealt by the end of spring training, or by July 31 at the latest.
- Playing Pepper: What rookie will make the biggest impact in 2013?
Bullpen Brian: The hope is it’s CF Brett Jackson, who struggled after his MLB debut last August: .175 avg, 59 K in 142 plate appearances.
- Playing Pepper: What will be the final record of the team and where will they finish in the division?
Bullpen Brian: 72-90, 5th Place. The Cubs’ record, I’m afraid, will depend heavily on what happens at the July 31 trade deadline.
- Playing Pepper: What one thing from your team are you most looking forward to watching?
Bullpen Brian: Player development: Is Jeff Samardzija No.1 material? A sophomore slump for Anthony Rizzo? Breakout year for Starlin Castro?
Finished 2nd in 1989 ROY balloting.
Converted from starter to reliever with Boston.
He pitched on ‘both sides’ of Chicago.
Spent 2001-02 with Cubs totaling 27 saves.
Set an MLB record with 54 consecutive saves.
Only pitcher in MLB history with 100 wins, saves & holds.
His son is an infielder with the Dodgers.
Name that Cub! (Answer after the jump)