It took Alfonso Soriano 119 at-bats to hit his first home run last season.
You may even remember the dramatic solo blast.
Soriano tagged St. Louis flame-thrower Jason Motte in the top of the ninth inning to tie the game 6-6. More specifically, his smash was just one of two home runs Soriano hit to the opposite field in 2012 (video here).
Unfortunately, the Cubs would go on to lose this particular game on a walkoff hit by Yadier Molina (Grr!). But Soriano, as we came to see, was ready to embark on a home run tear.
Despite the fact Bryan LaHair already had 10 HRs, including one during this game, Soriano not only caught LaHair, but went on to stroke a team-leading 32 HRs by season’s end. It marked his second-highest home run total (33) since joining Chicago in 2007.
According to hittrackeronline.com, Soriano finished second in the National League in ‘No Doubt’ home runs (11), defined by the site as “the ball cleared the fence by at least 20 vertical feet AND landed at least 50 feet past the fence. These are the really deep blasts.” Giancarlo Stanton led the NL with 12 no-doubters and Josh Hamilton took top honors in the American League with 15 deep blasts.
Soriano went yard 15 times at Wrigley Field. But his longest home run at the Friendly Confines, a 429 ft shot off San Diego’s Eric Stults, was only his fourth longest of the season.
SORIANO’S LONGEST HRs 2012
- 452 ft off Zack Stewart, US Cellular Field (video here)
443 ft off P.J. Walters, Target Field
435 ft off J.A. Happ, Minute Maid Park
Much of the credit for Soriano’s eventual power surge is credited to manager Dale Sveum gently nudging Soriano to switch to a lighter bat. This appeared to allow Soriano to regain some bat speed that’s naturally lost in a 36-year-old body with tattered legs.
Meanwhile, with the Cubs relying heavily on Soriano to carry the offense this season, the hope is he can come out of the gate much quicker than he did in 2012.
Coupled with a healthy body (Soriano also battled a nagging knee injury for six weeks last year) and Anthony Rizzo protecting him in the order, there’s reason to believe Soriano could take a crack at hitting 40 HRs, which he’s done on one other occasion, hitting 46 with Washington in 2006.
Not only would this be a huge lift for a Cubs offense, which is likely to struggle scoring runs, but the trade possibilities for a healthy, homer-happy Soriano could net Chicago a pretty return at the trade deadline.
However, the truth of the matter is Soriano could also get off to another slow start, suffer an injury or simply show signs that his tired legs are finally out of gas. That’s part of the risk the Cubs have taken by holding onto Soriano this winter and throughout the beginning of the season.
But we also know Soriano brings more to the table than just home runs. His leadership and work ethic are praised by the organization and teammates alike.
That doesn’t erase the albatross of a contract hanging around his neck and squeezing the Cubs’ budget, but another solid year would be a fresh reminder not all of Soriano’s remaining 2 year, $18 million contract is dead money that’s gone to waste—even if it takes him another 120 at-bats to find his groove.
An interesting post at Retrosheet.org lists occurrences of teams caught batting out of order. That sounded like a ‘Cubbie occurrence’ if I’ve ever heard one.
So after searching through the data, I’ve listed the occasions where the Cubs were involved, both as the guilty party and as the team reporting the infraction.
There’s some good stuff in the recaps. Enjoy.
- 4/16/2004 – In the top of the seventh inning, Cubs manager Dusty Baker intended to place two new players in the lineup with a double switch but failed to tell Umpire C.B. Bucknor. When the Cubs batted in the bottom of the inning, shortstop Ramon Martinez came to the plate in the ninth spot in the order and doubled. The Reds protested that the Cubs were batting out of order. Pitcher Kent Mercker, the proper batter, was called out. Baker argued with the umpires but was told that the call stood. Yelling & screaming, he tossed his lineup card on the ground and was ejected by Bucknor. Baker threw his hat, walked away and returned; he tossed his hat again, stomped to the dugout and kicked some items in the on deck circle before finally leaving the field. The Cubs won in the bottom of the ninth, 11-10, when Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou hit back-to-back homers to end the game. When Baker arrived home that day, his son called him "Mad Dog."
- 9/5/2003 – The Brewers’ Bill Hall started to bat out of order in the bottom of the second inning against the Cubs but did not complete the plate appearance. Hall was listed eighth in the batting order but came to the plate in the seventh spot the first time through the order. He took the first pitch for a ball before the mistake was rectified. Keith Osik took his proper place at the plate, and despite being spotted ball one, struck out on five more pitches. Hall then popped out to end the inning. The Cubs won, 4-2.
- 9/26/1993 – In the second game of the doubleheader, the Pirates were not clear about their batting order against the Cubs. In the bottom of the first, the first five players batted in order. The fifth-place hitter, Al Martin, knocked in the game’s only run with an infield single. The scoreboard listed Tom Foley batting sixth, Tom Prince seventh and Rich Aude eighth. The correct order was Aude, Foley and Prince. When Foley batted in Aude’s spot and grounded out, the Cubs properly did nothing. Aude led off the second, which matched neither lineup, and singled to center. The Cubs then talked to the umpires about the batting order. Aude was taken off the bases and Prince was declared out. In spite of the difficulties, the Pirates won the game, 1-0.
- 9/24/1964 – The Cubs official lineup showed Ernie Banks playing first base and batting fifth. John Boccabella started the game in his place and grounded out in the second and fourth innings. However, in the sixth Ron Santo tripled and so did Boccabella, scoring Santo. The Dodgers manager Walter Alston then protested the batting order. Boccabella’s triple was nullified and Santo placed back at third. Ernie Banks was deemed to be the proper batter and was called out and given a time at bat. However, this was an incorrect ruling by crew chief Frank Secory. According to rule 3.08(a)(3), Boccabella became the first baseman and the proper fifth place batter when he took the field in the top of the first inning as an unannounced substitute. Therefore, it was incorrect to remove Boccabella’s triple and to charge Banks with a time at bat. Boccabella finished the game at first base, collecting a single in the eighth inning. The Cubs won with a two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning thanks to three walks, an error and Santo’s sacrifice fly. The final score was 4-3.
- 7/6/1962 – In the top of the second inning with two outs, seventh-place hitter Mack Jones was the scheduled batter for the Braves. However, Del Crandall, eighth on the lineup sheet, strode to the plate and walked. Pitcher Bob Hendley should be the next batter but now Jones came to the plate. After Jones singled, the Cubs protested the order of the batters. The umpires ruled Hendley out and disallowed Jones’ single. The Braves went on to win the contest, 5-3, on Eddie Mathews’ 2-run homer in the tenth inning.
- 8/1/1951 – In the first game of two at Wrigley Field, the score was tied at one apiece in the top of the seventh inning. The Giants had the bases loaded with no one out after two singles and an intentional walk to catcher Wes Westrum. Davey Williams ran for Westrum, who was hitting in the eighth spot in the lineup. The Giants failed to score in the frame and Williams remained in the game playing second base and Sal Yvars entered the contest to catch and bat in the first slot in the lineup. In the eighth inning, the Giants had a run across with two out and runners on first and second. It was Williams turn to hit but New York manager Leo Durocher insisted to plate umpire Lee Ballanfant that Yvars was the proper batter. Ballanfant correctly did not comment on the idea and allowed Yvars to come to the plate. Since Yvars struck out for the final out of the inning, the Cubs remained quiet about the batting out of order. Chicago scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth to win the contest, 3-2.
- 7/28/1950 – The Cubs played in Brooklyn in a game that started at 8:30pm. After a 30-minute rain delay in the third and another that lasted 1:20 in the eighth, the contest finally ended at 1:21am. The official lineup presented to the umpires by Cubs manager Frank Frisch showed Bob Borkowski batting second and Carmen Mauro third. In the first inning, they batted in reverse order but both made outs. They repeated the process in the fourth inning. However, in the fifth inning of the score less game, the Cubs started the scoring. With two out and a run in, Wayne Terwilliger reached on Pee wee Reece’s throwing error, scoring the second run for the Cubs. Mauro then singled to left, scoring Roy Smalley. Dodger coach Clyde Sukeforth then pointed out to Umpire Lou Jorda that Mauro was out of order. Borkowski, the proper batter, was called out, the run was nullified and the inning was over. The Cubs eventually won the game, 12-5.
- 9/16/1949 – The New York Giants were at Wrigley Field to play the Cubs. In the bottom of the tenth inning, the Cubs batted out of turn and, when the Giants did not realize the mistake, the Cubs scored the winning run! The Cubs had runners on first and third with two outs when relief pitcher Bob Rush, in the eighth spot in the order, should have come to the plate. There was a "double switch" after Emil Verban pinch ran for Smoky Burgess in the ninth and remained in the game at second base and in the ninth place in the order. Verban came to the plate to hit ahead of Rush and walked to load the bases. The Giants failed to speak up. Mickey Owen then pinch hit and singled in the winning run. Once a pitch was made to Owen, the Giants lost the ability to speak up about Verban. Due to not complaining about Verban, the No.9 hitter, the correct next batter was the No.1 hitter, Bob Ramazzotti, so Owen was hitting in the lead off slot. The cellar-dwelling Cubs won, 5-4.
- 7/27/1935 – In the first game of two at Wrigley Field, the Reds started the top of the fifth with the pitcher due up. Instead, the batter at the top of the lineup, short stop Billy Myers, hit instead and singled. According to the next day’s Chicago Tribune, the "radio announcers caused quite a commotion in an effort to arouse [manager Charlie] Grimm, but to no avail." Lew Riggs then stepped to the plate and once a pitch had been made to him, it was too late to protest the hit by Myers. Riggs struck out, Myers stole second and Babe Herman singled to left with Myers moving to third. Now Grimm came out to protest the batting out of turn – two batters too late! The Tribune’s account said: "Umpire [Cy] Rigler suggested to him that it might aid his pennant drive if he would try reading a rule book." Jim Bottomley then knocked in the run that should not have scored. However, the Cubs swept the double header, so only marginal damage was done by this event.
- 8/31/1932 – The Cubs beat the Giants at Wrigley Field in a ten-inning game that witnessed an eclipse. The two teams combined for nine runs in the extra frame, as the hosts won the contest, 10-9. The confusion started in the eighth inning, when Stan Hack pinch ran for Charlie Grimm, who was in the sixth spot in the lineup. Marv Gudat pinch hit for Gabby Hartnett in the seventh spot and made an out to end the inning. He remained in the game at first base. At the start of the ninth, Zack Taylor entered the contest as the catcher, and would have to be in the sixth batting spot in the lineup, because he was the only player entering the game and that was the only empty spot. In the bottom of the ninth, Mark Koenig batted in his eighth spot and then Frank Demaree hit for Bob Smith. The Cubs scored one run to tie the game, 5-5. The last hitter of the inning was Johnny Moore in the fifth spot in the lineup. The only new player in the top of the tenth for Chicago was pitcher Guy Bush, and he was relieved before retiring anyone by Leroy Herrmann, who should be in the ninth spot in the order.
After the Giants scored four runs in the top of the tenth, the Cubs half of the inning went as follows: Billy Jurges pinch hit for Taylor and made an out. Gudat fouled out. Koenig homered into right field bleachers to make the score 9-6. So far, everything is OK. Taylor then singled to right, although he is out of the game because Jurges hit for him. The Giants don’t realize the mistake and therefore say nothing. If they had spoken up at this time, the proper batter, Herrmann, would be called out. He would have been the third out of the inning and the game would be over. Herman singled to center. English hit an RBI-single to center. Cuyler hit a three-run homer into the centerfield bleachers to win the game.
- 8/11/1925 – The Braves were in Chicago playing the Cubs. The lineup showed Les Mann hitting fifth, Andy High sixth and Gus Felix seventh. In the top of the first inning, there was one out, one run scored and runners on first and second after four hitters had come to the plate. However, Felix (seventh) strode to the plate in Mann’s place (fifth) and walked to load the bases. High then singled home two runs and Mann ended the inning by grounding into a double play. All three of those players batted out of turn and the Cubs could have spoken up multiple times about the situation. Two of the runs could have been eliminated had they protested to the umpires. Boston went on to win the game, 9-2.
- 7/19/1923 – The Cubs played in Philadelphia this day. Before the game the announcer listed John Kelleher playing third and batting fifth for the Cubs. However, when that spot in the lineup came up for the first time Bernie Friberg batted. He singled to left, knocking in the first run of the game but Umpire Bill Klem declared that Kelleher should have batted and called Friberg out for batting out of turn. Since Friberg was not in the lineup he should have been considered a pinch hitter and allowed to bat. When the Cubs took the field in the bottom half of the inning, Friberg went to third and played the rest of the game, which was won by Chicago, 7-1.
- 6/28/1919 – The Cardinals played in Chicago, losing to the Cubs, 6-5. In the contest, the Redbirds batted out of order for the first eight innings, only correcting the mistake in the ninth. The batting order, as given to umpire Bill Klem, showed Doc Lavan batting seventh and Frank Snyder batting eighth. However, the two players batted in the opposite order starting in the second inning, when the Cardinals scored two runs. Those tallies would not have counted if the Cubs had spoken up about the miscue. Since St. Louis manager Branch Rickey changed the batting order for this game, neither the Cardinals players nor the Cubs realized that the two players were out of order. Lavan came to the plate in the ninth in his proper spot (for the first time in the game) and the Cubs protested that he was out of order when he was actually in order for the first time in the contest!
- 9/6/1915 – The Cubs were in St. Louis for a holiday double header. In the bottom of the second inning of the first game, with two out and Tom Long on first, Bruno Betzel tripled. However, Frank Snyder was the proper batter but Cubs manager Roger Bresnahan did not notice. Snyder then batted (also out of order) and singled in Betzel. The mistake was not discovered by the Cubs until the fifth when Snyder and Betzel batted in the proper order, which they did for the rest of the contest. The Cardinals won the first game, 3-2, in 12 innings and then swept the Cubs, 10-0.
- 5/25/1908 – The Cubs hit out of turn in the first inning against the Giants in Chicago. Pat Moran was listed seventh and Joe Tinker eighth in the lineup. However, when the seventh spot came up with two out in the bottom of the first, Tinker strode to the plate and made the third out. Moran then led off the bottom of the second with a single to center and eventually scored. In the third inning, the batters hit in the correct order and the Giants objected. However, umpire Bob Emslie showed John McGraw the lineup sheet and that was the end of that. The Cubs won the contest in 10 innings, 8-7.
- 8/11/1905 – Brooklyn was visiting Chicago. Catcher Bill Bergin struck out to end the fifth inning but then came up again to start the sixth. He singled and eventually scored but the Cubs won, 3-2.
- 6/17/1891 – The Colts (now Cubs) played in Cleveland. Through the seventh inning, the Colts’ Bill Hutchinson batted in Malachi Kittridge’s place in the batting order but the Spiders let it go. In the seventh, Fred Pfeffer walked and Hutchinson, batting out of turn, singled, moving Pfeffer to third. As Kittridge stepped to the plate, the Spiders told umpire Tim Lynch that Hutchinson batted out of turn. This out ended the inning, killing the Colts’ rally.
Happy Friday. Cubs single game tickets go on sale today at 10 a.m. CST.
We’re basically a month out from the Cubs’ home opener vs. Milwaukee on Monday, April 8. Details for purchasing tickets are listed below, per the Cubs website. See you in the virtual waiting room…
Your options to purchase tickets:
-Call 1-800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827)
Via the Internet:
-Visitors to cubs.com can purchase tickets beginning at 10 a.m.
-A virtual waiting room will be used for all Internet orders.
*The virtual waiting room will begin accepting customers at 9:30 a.m.
-At 10 a.m., customers will be selected from the virtual waiting room.
*All Internet customers will need a valid Cubs.com account.
Tickets can be purchased by telephone beginning at 10 a.m.
Call 1-800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827)
*Customers will be limited to eight tickets per Marquee game.
*For updated ticket pricing, please visit www.cubs.com.
Chicago Cubs Ticket Office at 773-404-4242
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?
I wrote a post earlier this week discussing Harry Caray impressions, which sent me searching for a Harry video for today’s post.
I found this gem with Caray summing up the 1991 season finale by saying
“Sure as God made green apples, someday the Chicago Cubs are going to be in the World Series, and maybe sooner than we think.”
Caray says the Cubs have the ingredients for a winner, but it “requires a veteran manager because this is a veteran team–a mixture of guys who are young but still veterans.”
The reference is aimed at the Cubs (77-83) managerial change after just 37 games, when Don Zimmer (18-19) was replaced by Joe Altobelli (0-1), who warmed the seat for one game until Jim Essian (59-63) took over.
As far as those young veterans on the Cubs (from youngest to oldest):
Position Players: 22- Gary Scott, 23 – Jose Vizcaino, 24 – Rick Wilkins, 25 – Jerome Walton, 26 – Joe Girardi, 27 – Mark Grace, 27 – Dwight Smith, 28 – Shawon Dunston, 31 – Ryne Sandberg
Pitchers: 23 – Chuck McElroy, 24 – Shawn Boskie, 24 – Mike Harkey,
25 – Heathcliff Slocumb, 25 – Greg Maddux
The Cubs finished the year with four straight wins, including a three-game sweep against the Cardinals. The video begins with Maddux wrapping up his 15th win of the season, a complete game, 7-3 victory against St. Louis on the season’s final day.
As Caray wraps up the postgame show he reads “Total: 7-10 & 2 for the Cubs…3-6 & 0 for the Mets.”
It’s impossible not to love this man.
-Cubs HR 2011: Total: 148 – Solo: 82 – 2-R: 47 – 3-R: 19 – Grand Slams: 0
-Opponents: Total: 162 – Solo: 86 – 2-R: 50 – 3-R: 18 – Grand Slams: 8
-Cubs with 3-HR Game: zero
-Cubs with 2-HR Game: Soriano (2), Pena (1), Aramis (1), Soto (1)
-Cubs Inside The Park: Tony Campana (1), 8/5 vs. Cincinnati (Mike Leake)
-Cubs Three Consecutive Games With HR: Carlos Pena, 6/20-22
-Cubs Back-to-Back HR: Soriano & Soto, Pena & Aramis, Aramis & Soto, Soto & Soriano, Aramis & Pena
-Cubs Pinch-Hit HR: Reed Johnson, Geo Soto, Mike DeWitt, Bryan LaHair
-Cubs Walk-Off HR: Reed Johnson, 4/20 vs. S.D., Geo Soto, 6/30 vs. S.F.