Cubs Feeling Patriotic

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I have to say this for the Chicago Cubs, when they fire on all cylinders, it’s a high octane joyride. That sounds like a review for an upcoming Stallone movie instead of a baseball game.

Yesterday’s dominate win against the former Montreal Expos, the Washington Nationals 7-2 put the Cubs at two wins in a row and continues their push to the playoffs. Against the backdrop of trade rumours involving Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija, the Cubs stuck to their game plan providing and once again, silencing their detractors.

“It was a grind for me,” Hammel said of his outing, in which he improved to 4-1 with a 2.35 ERA at Wrigley. “It wasn’t that easy today — not that it ever is. I was struggling to find my slider command and missing up with it a lot. I was able to command my fastball to keep them honest and mixed in the changeups.”

Do I feel good going into today’s road trip with my family? You better believe it. A two game winning streak, a chance to sweep the series and then they take on Boston.

We’re going to be up in the grandstand between home and first. Section 16. Edwin, you’ll be pitching on the first of July. You have to win one for us, buddy. I’m counting on you.

—Believe It.

—Mark

Cubs In A National Fog

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It may have been foggy at Wrigley Field last night, but the Cubs saw everything clearly, carving out a 5-3 win over the Washington Nationals.

Cubs’ sensational pitcher Travis Wood struggled and was yanked in the sixth, but the great thing about yesterday’s win was that the Cubs managed to put some runs on the board and not rely solely on pitching.

Justin Ruggiano cranked a two run double in the seventh. You don’t hear his name often but Ruggiano has been steady and going through the rest of the year, could provide an anchor to a possible Wild Card spot. For those interested, the Cubs are now 8.5 back. Some readers may think the Cubs don’t have a shot, but you never know, do you?

“It was nice to help out,” said Ruggiano, who missed time this season with an injury and posted his first-multi RBI game since April 23. “You always feel like hitting in front of [Anthony] Rizzo, you’re going to get pitches to hit. You want to make sure you swing at strikes when hitting in front of Rizzo because he’s been on fire. In my mind, he’s an All-star, he’s been an All-Star.”

As usual, the team of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro continued their successful bid for a spot in the All Star Game. Rizzo went 3-4 while Castro chipped in with two RBI’s.

Junior Lake literally hit the wall and was taken out of the game. There appears to be no sustaining injury and should be back in the lineup soon.

So, the Cubs are on last year’s pace with a record of 33-44 The question of, “Are they the same team?” No. The Cubs have some new faces, but they’re playing with a whole different vibe then last year. The games are closer and when the team does lose, they’re fighting back and getting some pretty decent pitching. They may or may not get a Wild Card spot, but are laying the groundwork for future stars Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez.

Other detractors might think that the Edwin Jackson experiment has failed, but maybe he was overpriced but every now and then he can show flashes of brilliance.

All right, the Edwin Jackson experiment failed.

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Take A Trip Down Holiday Road

It’s that time of year again. No, I’m not talking about All Star Game’s, Trade Deadline’s or even baseball. Ok, maybe there’s some baseball there.

Yes folks, it’s that time once again for the phrase that strikes fear and excitement in the hearts of Americans and Canadians alike; Family Vacation.

On Saturday, my family and I are embarking across the border from our home and native land in Canada to the friendly nation of awesomeness, the United States. We’re going to Boston to visit that oh so great city but most importantly, and you knew there’d be baseball in this somewhere, we’re going to see the Cubs take on the Red Sox on July 1. What makes this so great, you might ask? Well, you Americans celebrate your birthday on July 4th, and to us Canadians, July 1st is Canada Day. We’ll be in the US on Canada Day. let me tell you, I’ve been getting grief on that.

I think it’s pretty cool that the game we’re going to see is on Canada Day because I’m a Cubs fan from Canada, my Twitter feed is @canuckcubbie and it’s against the Red Sox. What a great way to celebrate, eh?

One of my favourite films is Vacation starring Chevy Chase. That movie never loses appeal, especially since now that my wife and I have a young son who’ll no doubt be asking us, “Are we there yet?” at least five times. We’ll be eating sandwiches at roadside stops, visiting unusual landmarks and under no circumstances will we be tying my Mother In Law to the roof of the Hyundai.

Are we going to see Wally World? No, this is Fenway. The only thing that can be more discouraging than a “Closed For Renovations” sign at Fenway, is a Rain Stoppage.

There’s a little bit of the Griswald’s in all of us.

So, cue up, “Holiday Road” here we come Boston, Edwin you better win one for us.

Awe Heck, here it is:

Cub’s Arrieta Striving For Perfection

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For all the things that are going wrong for the Cubs, there are some things that are oh, so right. Last night’s incredible victory over the Cincinnati Reds proved without a question of a doubt that Jake Arrieta is for real. last night, a Perfect Game was in his sights, and folks, he pitched a beauty of a game. There were a lot at stake in the game including the fact that there has never been a Perfect Game pitched by a Cub. What? you might think. Get outta here? Alas, folks, it is true. However, Mr. Arrieta provided fans, teammates and cynics alike a little hope that through six innings, the Cubs starter can bring some magic to a storied franchise.

“I was pretty gassed there, unfortunately,” Arrieta said of the seventh. “It was a pretty humid night, long inning there in the sixth running the bases — which really isn’t all that tough in itself, but couple that with being on the mound and having that long layoff, it adds a little bit to it.

Yet, the Cubs succumbed to fate and to yet hung on to something even more important than the ultimate prize in a pitcher’s career; a victory. The final tally was 7-3.

Perennial Cubs favourite to lead the Northsiders in the annual All Star Game Anthony Rizzo, bashed his 17th home run of the season.

The Cubs are slowly keeping pace in the Wild Card race at 8.5 back. However, as long as trade talks between the Cubs and the Toronto Blue Jays resume with Jeff Samardzija, the team has to stay focused. They’ve got good days ahead and with the return of Castillo and soon Emilio Bonifacio, the Cubs are looking very good right now.

Believe it!

—Mark

Cubs Can`t Give Samardzija A Break

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There must be some kind of truth to those pesky curses that baseball in Chicago boasts about. Anthony Rizzo went ten straight games where he hit a home run and the Cubs won, then they lost two straight. The Cubs had the Reds in the palm of their hand all the way up to the ninth inning and then as clichés go, the wheels came off.

The Reds dominated the Cubs in the ninth scoring all their runs and cruising past the Cubs 6-1. But there’s another curse that’s building and growing like a fungus in the ivy at Wrigley. Why can’t Jeff Samardzija get any support? There’s no question he’s been playing extremely well this season, but for some unexplained reason, he’s not getting the support in those games. Would the Cubs record be better if the runs came in during those games? Of course. I’d bet a dime to a dollar that the Cubs would be ahead of the pack in the Wild Card chase. Wanna bet?

Samardzija is 2-6 and most of those games have been great outings. He’s kept the Cubs in the games, but imagine for a moment that if the Cubs won those games that he pitched in, that his 2.53 ERA was a team effort that helped. The Cubs would be a heck of a lot closer than the nine games back in the Wild Card race. Admit it, all you cynics have to agree that the Cubs are a little bit better than we gave them credit for at the start of the season.

“He’s being a professional,” Anthony Rizzo said. “I’m sure it’s not easy reading where he’s going, when he’s going, who he’s going to, who we’re getting if he does get traded. It’s just a distraction and not easy, and he’s dealing well with all of it.”

And this is true. Despite the business dealings that may or may not be going on in the board rooms, Samardzija continues to help out the Cubs.

Believe it.
—Mark

Cubs in Pirate’s Davy Jone’s Locker

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So, my campaign to bring Stephen King to a ball game is off to a sluggish start. I still haven’t heard any news back from the horror master, but then again, I didn’t expect to anyways. Aw c’mon, like you didn’t think it was a good idea?

Speaking of horror stories, see what I did there? The Cubs lost a heartbreaker against their divisionary foes, The Pirates 2-1. it was an important series for the Cubs to win but now they plunged deeper into Pittsburgh’s Davy Jone’s locker also known as The Wild Card Race, where the Cubs sit at 8.5 back. Impossible? No. Welington Castillo is back and that should boost the team morale. Plus, those nifty throwbacks. Man, they look good.

“I’m proud of these guys, because they’re trying to — this is a very tough division and these are the games that you’re starting to fight, you’re starting to feel yourself, and we didn’t just come out and lay down,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “We kept playing, and we just fell short.”

That pretty much sums up yesterday’s loss. Plus, the fact that the Cubs went 0-6 in RISP kinda contributed to the defeat.

The good news is that Jason Hammel pitched very well and continues to get better.

“It’s just another 2-1 loss; there’s a lot of close ball games, but we’re playing well,” Hammel said. “We just can’t scratch and claw those runs that we need. It’s just a matter of learning how to do that, and that’s what’s going to make this team a winner.”

Although I don’t believe that’s entirely true. Like a lot of transitional teams(Rebuilding is such a cliché), the Cubs will have games where their pitching is great and defence is off or hitting is on the mark. of course, championship calibre teams have all working on just about every game. That’s a no brainer and in the Cub’s case, that’s all right.

I could say that it’s just awesome when the Cubs win a game or I could say it’s amazing when the Castro and Rizzo hit it long but I would be fooling myself. I want the Cubs to win. I want Nate Schierholtz to stare down the pitcher. I want to marvel in the youthful enthusiasm of Junior Lake. What about Luis Valbuena giving that familiar sideways peace sign to the eye? I want to see Jeff Samardzija smile once in a while and Pedro Strop to be lights out awesome. The reality of course, is that the pitching staff has been good, sometimes incredible.

just like I dream about hanging out with Stephen King at a Red Sox game, I dream more of the Cubs winning the whole damn thing.

Believe It.

—Mark

Cubs Betting On Wild Card

Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs

There wasn’t a more fitting ceremonial pitch than having Wayne Newton chuck it over the plate.

That was a huge win for the Chicago Cubs. It seems that the Pirates always have their number, but yesterdays 6-3 win was important in so many ways. First off, it was the Cubs eleventh win in June. Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are doing what their contracts are telling them to do. Hit the ball and hit it often. Castro exceeded last year’s home run total of ten.

“This is the best I’ve felt about this team since I’ve been here,” said first baseman Anthony Rizzo. “Everyone is just kind of starting to expect to win games now. We always did, but everybody’s starting to come in with that swagger.”

No truer words have been spoken about this team. So let me talk about the other players who have contributed significant roles on this club that has the best record since May 17. Yes, there’s Luis Valbuena who quietly is getting things done against the star power of Rizzo and Castro but what about Chris Coghlan’s home run and Neil Ramirez’s commanding strikeout against reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen? Is it too early to say that these Cubs are for real? Would I be putting a curse on the storied franchise? Naw, there’s all ready one of those on the team.

So, despite the off field situation with Jeff Samardzija, who could be a Cub when they get it together or he could be pitching somewhere else, the Cubs are playing good ball.

“I think everything in this game is contagious, whether it’s positive, negative, hitting, defense, offense,” Chris Coghlan said. “I think we’re having more team at-bats, if that makes sense. I think you see guys grinding them out, and I think the confidence is getting higher just because of more offensive output. I think the pitching has been really dominant the whole year, and I think offensively we’ve been more consistent and allowed us to win more.”

It’s easy to forget Junior Lake, Nate Schierholtz(who is, ahem, on the upswing) Justin Ruggiano and Mike Olt in this 2014 edition of the Bad News Bears but maybe just maybe a 6.5 game back Wild Card Race isn’t that far back. What do you think?

Believe It?

—Mark

Stephen King Is A Cubs Fan

 

Stephen King

Stephen King and I go way back. We go back almost thirty years. God, I can’t believe it’s been this long. The first time I was in grade eight(yes, you read that correctly) I discovered a copy of The Shining in the school library. The cover was green because the original cover had been ripped off by many students signing out the copy so they had to rebind the book. It was also a good sign it was going to be a great read.

I read the book through French class where the teacher was a Father Roy. He was a priest who if you got him on the wrong side, he could be one of the most intimidating guys I’d ever meet. He wouldn’t kick you out of the class, but he’d give you a look that said, “Start saying your Rosary”. I thought I was going to say ten Hail Mary’s when I showed him that copy of The Shining. Instead, he made me do a report on the book. To this day, I can’t tell you a thing about the verb Etre but man, I can tell you everything about Danny Torrance.

To this day, I’ve read about thirty-five books from Mr. King. Misery followed The Shining and after that Pet Semetary prevented me from passing Math during summer school. Are ya starting to see a pattern here?

The man has been a big part of my life. When I got into screenwriting, the man published his fantastic book “On Writing” which to this day, doesn’t stray too far from the laptop whenever I start a new project.

Stephen King is a great guy and an amazing writer who will go down in history as one of the most influential writers. He gives back to the community, just ask a grade eight class in New Brunswick. Most importantly, he gives back to us.

He has a work ethic that is unparalleled by anyone. The way he cranks out story after story is not the work of someone who “phones” it in, but of a writer that loves to tell stories. He encompasses what every writer wishes to be,” A storyteller” that’s his job and he does it well.

He’s also a baseball fan. Not just a baseball fan, but a Boston Red Sox fan. Don’t believe me? Check out “Faithful” it’s a beautiful read about a die hard Sox fan and the 2004 Boston team.

This July 1, my family and I are doing the trek to Boston to see the Cubs/Red Sox game. It’s going to be incredible sitting in the sacred stands of Fenway. Of course, I’m there to cheer on our beloved Northsiders but also I’m there to enjoy this incredible game with my family.

An idea occurred to me this week as I was reading King’s latest, “Mr. Mercedes”. I would love to take Stephen to a ballgame. It might be a little late to take him to this game, but it would be really cool to go to a ballgame with Stephen King. I don’t want to talk about writing or drill him with questions or even hitting him up for wanting to adapt a novel because that’s my dream gig but two guys going to a game. America’s National Game. Passing The Time. A thank you for helping me with the passion and love of the craft. The loser has to wear the other team’s cap holding a sign saying, “I love Cubs/Red Sox Nation”

Thank you Stephen, your Constant Reader.

—Mark

Can The Chicago Cubs Make The Playoffs?

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Miami Marlins

It’s a simple straight forward question. Sure, they’re going to be many folks out there who’ll lynch me for even posing the question, but consider these event that have happened recently.

Yesterday, the Cubs beat the Marlins in a convincing win 6-1. The dynamic duo of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo led the attack with Castro belting out two RBI doubles and Rizzo had three hits.

Jake Arrieta had 11 strikeouts. He simply dominated and is giving Samardzija a run for his money.

Wait! There’s more. Nate Schierholtz crushed the leather into the second tiers outfield. It’s their first back to back road series win since last year.

“In terms of the way we’ve been performing, we’ve been playing well, and as long as we keep doing that, we give ourselves a chance,” manager Rick Renteria said.

The team has today off before hosting the Bucs tomorrow. Now, the Cubs need to win division series. That’s how champions are crowned. it’s going to be a tough haul for sure, but consider the recent promotion of star prospect, Kris Bryant to triple A Iowa. Could this mean an eventual promotion to the Cubs before season ending?

“Is he dominating Double-A right now? Of course he is,” The often coy Theo Epstein said. “Does that mean his development is complete? No.”

The Cubs are currently eight games back in the Wild Card hunt. We know that anything can happen in baseball as witnessed by the, Kansas “Holy crap, I didn’t see this coming.” Royals and their ten game winning streak. Who is their hitting coach? Dale Sveum. And who did he manage last year?

Exactly.

There’s another factor at work here. Joe Madden, arguably the game’s most respected manager and commander in Chief of the dismal Tampa Bay Rays believes that his team still has a shot. If that’s not believing, I don’t know what is.

So, do the Cubs have a shot this year?

“They’re playing pretty consistent baseball and having some really good at-bats in key situations, and all the cliches come into play — timely hitting, good pitching and defense,” Renteria said. “Hopefully, it continues. It’s a long season and consistency is important.”

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Can’t Get Samardzija a Win

Chicago Cubs v Miami Marlins

There’s a rumour going around that the Cubs have been talking with ace starter Jeff Samardzija about a possible contract extension. Last night’s difficult loss against the Marlins looked like it was a possible resume addition for the one they call The Shark. The Cubs lost 6-5

The problem with the game was that the Cubs played well. Is it some voodoo hex on the Cubs(duh?) that Samardija only has two wins this season and yet his ERA is below 3.00 What? Only in Wrigleyville can stuff like this happen.

“It’s the way it goes,” Samardzija said. “I go out and pitch and keep doing my job and keep making improvements. I really like how the ball has been coming out the last couple times. … You pitch deeper in the games, and you have a better chance to win the game.”

Although Samardzija wishes he will stay a Cub, winners want to win. It’s that competitive spirit born within these athletes that they want to win it all. I certainly don’t blame Jeff for wanting out of Chicago for greener pastures but I don’t entirely think it’s true. He’s been in Chicago for some time now and I believe he’s just as excited as the rest of us about the future of the Cubs. When that future happens is in Theo Epstein’s hands.

“There’s really nothing to talk about,” Samardzija said. “I told my agent early after Spring Training that I wanted to go out with no distractions and pitch. As far as I’m concerned, nothing has changed. I’m going out to do my job with no distractions. You have to win these ballgames, so you have to prepare for your team.

I think the question the Cubs should be asking themselves is what kind of team do they want to be. Are they going to be a pitcher’s team or an infield team? Guys like Jake Arrieta, Travis Wood and Jason Hammel are quality guys that could back up Samardzija. Ok, ok, Edwin you’re included as well. Although it would be nice to have a pitcher like Adam Wainwright on their team, it would be a huge sacrifice and next to impossible.

There’s a lot of talent on the club. Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Luis Valbuena, Mike Olt, Junior Lake and Emilio Bonifacio have all led the charge this season and provided some quality games that is a precursor to next season when the kids come up.

Believe it.

—Mark