Cubs Brewing Up Something Good

Nobody needs to tell any sports fan about the importance of playing division rivals. Red Sox/Yankees, Leafs/Senators, Browns/Steelers. Yup, division rivalry brings out the best and worst in teams. But what if a team like the Cubs are struggling in a season and they’re playing a potential playoff contender like the Milwaukee Brewers? Do the Cubs try and ruin the Brewers party or compete like they’re still in it?

First off, I hate Ryan Braun. That incident a couple of years ago is unforgivable and disgraceful. He tarnished the game I love and until he gives back his MVP, I’ll continue to have a dislike for the Hebrew Hammer.

Now, the Cubs. I’ve resigned myself to further embarrassment by being realistic in the hopes of the Chicago Cubs making a run for the playoffs. Stranger things have happened, but the truth is that their playoff chances are dwindling with each passing day. Geez, writing a blog about the Chicago Cubs is kind of like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, except for a beach ball named Wilson; it’s a baseball named Spalding.

“It was 1945, their last appearance in a World Series game.” as my beard grows long getting in the way of some tree root fashioned quill writing on a rock.

All right, it’s not that bad. This year has been more of a learning process with the club than anything else. When they’re good, they’ve been great, but when the Cubs have been bad, well–

In fact, I think the Cubs should concentrate solely on trying to defeat these division clubs because it would boost their confidence for next year if and when those prospects that Theo Epstein promised us see the light of day.

Of course there has been some great individual performances like Jeff Samardzija doing it all on the mound and getting the occasional win. I’m glad to see the return of Edwin Jackson after a dismal last season. Kudos to Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo.

So why are the Cubs having a so so season? Well, we were promised that by Theo Epstein. We’re also promised that next season will be better. Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora and all the supporting crew of prospects should see the light of day.

The Cubs aren’t out of it yet.

They’re not exactly in it either.

—Mark

Cubs’ Samardzija Slay The Giants On Memorial Day

Chicago Cubs v San Francisco Giants

Everybody loves an underdog story. Hollywood is riddled with them. They inspire and bring audiences to tears with their emotional wallop. Films like Rocky, Rudy and Forest Gump strive to not just pull at our heartstrings but to yank them. The Cubs did that yesterday.

They came from behind. They went the distance just like Rocky. The “Little Guy” getting a chance to play like Rudy. The Ordinary Fella doing extraordinary things like Forest. Most importantly, the Chicago Cubs beat the San Francisco Giants 8-4. First versus worst.

The Shark Samardzija got his first victory. Nate Schierholtz banged his first home run of the season and the Cubs proved that they’re not just plucky guys but a pretty good team.

“It was nice to get him the first win before June,” said Darwin Barney, part of the sudsy shower, Samardzija’s first since his rookie year when he picked up his first save, July 27, 2008. “I think it was on his mind a little more than he put out just by how happy he was today and the fashion that it went down.”

This was a very big win for the Cubs. Bonifacio hit a triple and the Cubs did what has been eluding them for a long time now, they scored with Runners In Scoring Position.

“I usually get mad at other things,” Samardzija said. “I get more mad at myself than bad pitch selections. Throughout the year, I feel I’ve been happy with how I’ve been pitching. The ball just hasn’t bounced my way. I wanted to keep my composure. You learn a lot about yourself in this game. When you come out of it and do things like this, you feel better with how you handled it.”

The Cubs handled it well and the only other thing that can happen this year would be a true Hollywood Ending.

—Mark

Cubs Seeking A Giant Win

I’m not even going to talk about Manny Ramirez signing with the Cubs. Whoops, I just did. Is this a good thing? Will it make a difference in the organization? Nobody will know and if perhaps, Manny eventually returns to the big leagues, I do believe in second chances and if he can contribute in any way, then it is a good thing. However, if he ends up “Manny being Manny” then see you later. Or it could end up, “Theo Being Theo”

Look it, the Cubs are doing the right thing. I believe that and I believe in the system. The organization has had struggles for a long time and with the core that is waiting in the wings, there’s no denying the Cubs are going to be among the elite clubs soon. I can promise you that. Sure, Jeff “The Shark” Samardzija is searching for his first win of the season, it doesn’t mean he ain’t a great pitcher. He’s working his ass off for the team.

“He’s the best pitcher in the league right now — American League, National League, Japanese league,” Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney said. “The wins will come. It’s one of those funny things — some days you come out and put up five runs in the first two innings, and it hasn’t happened for him yet.

The Cubs have one of the top rookies in the league with Mike “The Connecticut Crusher” Olt and one of the most exciting first basemen, Anthony Rizzo. Oh yeah, and that young kid called Starlin Castro who can cause bigger headaches than Pabst Blue Ribbon is putting together one heck of a season. Plus, the Cubs have a pretty decent support staff. The wins will come. I said right at the start of the season that it very well could be an individual effort this season. An extended spring training, a scouting report if you will. So, bring up Javier Baez and see what he’s got!

Yeah, today’s series isn’t going to be easy. The Giants are living up to their namesake, but if the Cubs can chip away this series and get some pop well, most of us know what happened in that biblical tale.

–Mark

Mike Olt “The Connecticut Crusher”, Rizzo and Cubs Pray For Padres

Chicago Cubs v San Diego Padres

In the topsy turvy world of baseball where anything on any given day can happen, the Cubs are starting to win. All right, it was against the San Diego Padres and perhaps it was due to those intriguing throwback uniforms the Monsignors of the sporting diamond were wearing. The Cubs silenced them 5-1.

It took a former Padre to beat them, but Anthony Rizzo did his job by getting a two run shot and Jake Arrieta collected his first victory of the season.

“I wanted to get deep into that game and preserve the guys in the bullpen,” said Arrieta. “I used my changeup more than normal because I had good command of it.”

Finally, that’s the way to do it.

So, I’ve come up with a nickname for Mike Olt. Are you ready? “The Connecticut Crusher” Even though he came up short last night, that name is his.

Two players that I’ve harped on this year Darwin Barney and Nate Schierholtz had a hit. These are the guys that need to step up or the Cubs will be left behind. However, with last night’s victory the Cubs are now 9.5 back.

—Mark

Cubs Give Tanaka A Perfect Ending

New York Yankees at Chicago Cubs

Did anyone check the temperature in Hell lately? Because it went down a few degrees last night. Yup, the Chicago Cubs defeated the New York Yankees 6-1 It was the first of the last two games Derek Jeter will play at Wrigley Field, the end to Masahiro Tanaka’s perfect season and a great game for potential rookie of the year honours to Mike Olt.

“We’re looking at playing our opponents, and when we step between the lines, there are big names out there,” Rick Renteria said. “Guys come up and they’re in awe — but I want these guys to see that’s a shortstop, that’s a second baseman, that’s a first baseman, that’s a third baseman [on the Yankees]. We know what they can do, what they can’t do. We have to play our best game against their best game, and see where it falls.”

Yeah, last night all the cylinders were firing for the Chicago Cubs. Mike Olt threw out Derek Jeter with a rocket from third and even fittingly, in a rain drenched Wrigley Field, the mighty Derek Jeter grounded out in the ninth. The last at bat of the game. It was that awesome. Plus, the stellar work of Jason Hammel who is turning into an ace by not giving up a home run in 31 innings.

Prior to the game, Starlin Castro gave Jeter the number two from the scoreboard, “That’s all right we don’t usually get more runs than that.” Just kidding. And Ernie Banks got his photo opp with the man.

“I like the history of the game,” Jeter said. “Obviously, we get spoiled at home, the size of the clubhouse and all the amenities that are in the stadium. I’m a baseball historian, so I appreciate the fact that there’s a lot of history that comes along with this ballpark. I’m happy that I get an opportunity to be here.”

And then the Cubs go on to ruin the party. So, the Cubs are now sitting nine games back and are on a three game winning streak with Jeff Samardzija set to take to the mound today. He’s looking for his first win of the season and has the best ERA in the majors. Can the Cubs strike lightning twice? It would be very sweet to have Tanaka lose his first and Samardzija get his first win of the season.

Only in Wrigleyville. The ivy still looks great!

—Mark

Yankee Doodle Came To Town

It’s kind of funny that the ivy is almost in full. The Cubs are slowly chugging away up the standings, sitting eleven games back and today they face their arch nemesis on the mound, Masahiro Tanaka. Yes, the New York Yankees are in town and with all the fanfare surrounding Derek Jeter’s elongated retirement party(Whatever happened to just having a press conference and saying, “I’m done.”) it should be a great series.

Wham Bam combination of Starlin Castro, Mike Olt and Anthony Rizzo are going to have their hands full with the surprising Yankees. Jason Hammel gets the ball in the first game of this two game series.

Will there be drama today? Will Theo Epstein be sitting anxiously somewhere away from the bleacher creatures biting his finger nails thinking about what could have been at Wrigley Field? Or will the Cubs prevail victorious over the Bronx Bombers and proving that there really is a plan to this one hundred plus years of a drought that some day soon could end.

Well, at least the Ivy looks pretty.

–Mark

Cubs Do It Just Like Old Times Against Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago Cubs

There’s something oh so satisfying with a victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. The Cubs beat the Brew Crew 4-2 yesterday and capped the series victory. The Cubs looked great doing it with those snazzy throwback jerseys circa 1937. Maybe they should unretired those jerseys more often. What do you think?

Let’s talk about Mike Olt. He’s the darling of the Cub Den and for good reason. He’s the first Cubs rookie to bang nine bobbers before June since Geovanny Soto and we know where that led to, don’t we?

I’ve been singing his praises way back in spring training and look what he did yesterday. Another home run folks. He now leads National League rookies.

“I’ve just gotten some good pitches to hit,” Mike Olt said. “As long as I’m doing that, I’m happy. The home runs come in bunches. Hopefully, I can keep it going.”

The other thing we know is Mike Olt was involved in the trade that sent Matt Garza to Texas. Yesterday, Garza was looking on popping sunflower seeds. At least his mouth was shut.

Tomorrow the Cubs take on the Yankees and they get their chance to square off against Masahiro Tanaka. Yeah, that Tanaka. 24-0 in Japan. He’s 6-0 since joining the Bronx Bast- I mean Bombers. The prized hurler that the Cubs tried in vain to acquire. Don’t worry Theo, I snagged him in my fantasy League.

—Mark