In a very Cub-like move, the Indians have signed former Cub Rich Hill to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. Hill underwent Tommy John surgery in June of 2011.
Boston, however, deserves credit for saving Hill’s once promising career as a starter. The Red Sox lowered his arm angle and transitioned him to a full-time reliever in 2010. *(Hill did pitch some relief innings at Triple-A with St. Louis, but never reached the majors)
During the past three seasons, all with Boston, Hill is (2-0, 1.14 ERA) in 40 games–including 25 games last season after recovering from TJS.
Despite a solid season with the Cubs in 2007, in which Hill made 32 starts, pitched 195.0 innings and won 11 games, he lost the confidence of Sweet Lou the following season by walking 18 batters in 19.2 innings of his first five starts. The Cubs subsequently optioned Hill to Triple-A Iowa, where he finished out the ‘08 season, and his career with the Cubs.
Baltimore took a flyer by purchasing Hill from Chicago in Feb. 2009. But the southpaw pitched even worse with the Orioles, winning just three games in 13 starts while posting a 7.80 ERA. Then Boston came calling, made a few alterations and wound up with a decent bullpen arm.
It’s a bit surprising Boston let the 32-year-old go, which could now prove a big steal for Cleveland, if, in fact, Hill has fully recovered from his elbow injury. And that’s exactly what the Cubs are hoping for with recent Tommy John Club members Scott Baker, Arodys Vizcaino and Chang-yong Lim.
I was surprised to see Mark Bellhorn gracing the cover of my Cubs ticket to last Wednesday’s game against the Brewers, a spot typically reserved for Cubs greats such as Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and the likes.
Bellhorn did have a productive season with the Cubs in 2002 hitting .258, 27 HR & 57 RBI, and yes, he’s the same guy who hit a home run from both sides of the plate in the same inning at Miller Park–the first player to do so in National League history.
His 27 home runs mark the most ever for a Cubs switch-hitter and he’s also the first Cub to homer from all four infield positions, which is seemingly grounds to get a cover shot on a Cubs season ticket in 2012.
My most vivid memories of Bellhorn, however, are of his days playing with the Boston Red Sox. More specifically, it’s of his two clutch home runs against the Yankees during the 2004 ALCS–a three-run shot off Jon Lieber in Game 6 and a solo blast ricocheting off the foul pole in Game 7.
THE DOUBLE FLAPPER
Bellhorn was also most recognizable during his career for wearing a double earflap batting helmet, and to the best of my recollection, he may have been the last Cubs player to do so.
This is where I’m asking for your help. Has there been a Cubs player since Bellhorn who has worn a double earflap batting helmet?
Forgive me for bringing up the name Aaron Miles, but he may be a candidate, although I don’t remember him wearing one–or getting a hit for that matter.
No other Cubs come to mind, but something tells me I’m forgetting someone…drop me a line in the comments section if you know of another Cubs player to wear the double earflap batting helmet since Bellhorn did in 2002.
SANTO ONE OF FIRST PLAYERS TO INTRODUCE EARFLAP
Interestingly, it was Santo who pioneered the earflap after returning from a left cheekbone fracture in 1966–the result of being hit by a pitch.
As more and more players adopted the single earflap look only a few donned the double earflap style, which was mainly used by switch-hitters.
My guess is less than a handful of current players sport double earflap helmets and of those that come to mind: Shane Victorino, Orlando Hudson, Shin-Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo are four of them.
For curiosity sake, I’d also be interested to learn of any other major league players that should join this list (double earflaps are mandatory in the minor leagues).
Let’s see what we come up with naming other double earflappers for the Cubs or elsewhere around baseball!
As crazy as the Dodgers and Red Sox deal is financially for Los Angeles, I like the fact Magic’s group is going all in.
The Dodgers are one game back in the NL Wild Card and two-games back of the NL West leading Giants. But they essentially became favorites to make the postseason overnight with the arrivals of Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto this weekend.
The expectation, of course, is for Los Angeles to make a deep run in the playoffs–if not appear in the World Series. Anything less would seem an embarrassment of riches.
However, this deal doesn’t just set the Dodgers up in the short-term. They’ll be in position to remain contenders for years to come, even if the financial effects are haunting down the road.
If there was a price tag on repairing the damage done by the Frank McCourt era, this deal was it. And although it hardly makes sense on the ledger, it doesn’t have to if the Dodgers win it all.
EPSTEIN’S FINGERPRINTS ALL OVER BOSTON TRADE
The Red Sox, meanwhile, hit the reset button on the mess partly created by none other than Cubs president Theo Epstein.
Had it not been for Epstein’s outlandish free agent contracts doled out prior to his departure, the Red Sox likely wouldn’t need to tap out of the choke hold that was the $262.5M dollars they just shipped to Chavez Ravine.
Epstein, presumably against better judgment, had succumbed to the win-now mentality in Boston, one that works in direct contrast to his build-from-within strategy that ultimately ended the Curse of the Bambino and landed the franchise a second title three seasons later.
That’s exactly the approach Boston aims to return too given its new found financial freedom: renew a homegrown spirit, develop from within and spend a season or two rebuilding in favor of spending lavishly on the free agent market as Epstein had done.
While I truly believe Epstein was all about accepting the challenge of rebuilding the Cubs franchise, I also have to believe Epstein was fully aware of the situation he created in Boston.
His careless ways had turned to quick sand–a pit he wouldn’t climb out of—not without a lifeline from Tom Ricketts. “You haven’t won in how many years? Okay, sure…pull me out!”
Fitting how quickly Epstein is to remind Cubs fans ‘there are no shortcuts to rebuilding’. He would know. The colossal Dodgers & Red Sox deal proves it.
I wonder what Dale Sveum’s thinking with the Red Sox in town this weekend?
It was only six short months ago Sveum appeared in position to become the next manager of the Red Sox–not the Cubs.
Boston, of course, eventually tabbed Bobby Valentine as its skipper citing his experience and heavy-hand outweighed Sveum’s.
But Boston has fared only slightly better than Chicago in the following six months. The Red Sox are one-game under .500 and tied for last place in the very competitive AL East.
It’s not Cubs bad, but it might as well be by Bean Town’s standards.
Big Z wonders how many wins he'll have in 2012
Here’s a look back at the results of my Cubs Polls since the beginning of the New Year.
I asked: Which Cubs home series are you most looking forward to?
-Boston Theo Series (41%)
-Big Z & Ozzie’s return with Miami (35%)
-St. Louis (11%)
-Detroit & White Sox (5%)
A lack of plate patience has been yet another on-going problem for the Cubs this season.
Chicago’s free swinging and overly aggressive approach does a lot to explain why the Cubs stink at hitting with runners on base.
When you don’t have a lineup that’s collectively working the count, you don’t work the opposing pitcher. When you don’t work the opposing pitcher, you lesson his chances for making a mistake. And hitting the mistake pitch is often the difference maker in winning and losing games.
MLB and ESPN have together ruined Sunday Night Baseball.
I’ve totally gone numb after years of being force fed Red Sox vs. Yankees, most of which came with a side order of Joe Morgan.
I’ve seen Boston and New York battle so much in prime time that I know their clubs as well as the Cubs, even without caring to do so.
I have an idea what Sunday Night Baseball could be–what it should be–and it’s not Red Sox vs. Yankees at every given chance.
Instead, it’s a broadcast that should be reserved for games like Sunday’s match-up between Chicago and Boston. Games with great story lines, great history, and great fan appeal nation wide.
But that excitement was lost Sunday evening. It didn’t translate because, well, because it’s just another ho-hum broadcast of Red Sox baseball from Fenway Park. We saw that last week, remember?
Boston reminded us what good baseball looks like. The Cubs reminded us they don’t play good baseball.
The Red Sox played like contenders, pounding a lesser Cubs team into submission. The Cubs played like pretenders, offering us fans another humbling loss.
Third time this season the Cubs have committed four errors. Are you kidding me? Who’s the last playoff team to do that?
Two more boots from Starlin. Yeah, the kid’s young…but he’s repeating the same mistakes. Specifically on throws across the diamond. It’s a lack of concentration. And it’s worth Quade benching him a game.
I simply marvel at Jose Bautista.
He’s homered 13 times in his last 21 games and leads MLB with 15 HR.
His 35 intentional walks also ranks first in the bigs, and he’s reached base safely in 31 of 32 games this season.
Man, the Cubs use a bat like that!
Meanwhile, just look at where this guy’s come from: