Cubs Witness Royalty

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The Cubs are still in the hunt for their first win of the 2014 Cactus League campaign. Is anyone surprised? Not really. it’s to be expected by fans, management and team alike. They are after all, evaluating and trying to see the pop within the group and where every player is going to fit in with the 2014 edition of the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs have players that are hitting for power in Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez. They have their potential leads off man in Starlin Castro and their stable of young players. So where does the team stand so far? After three games and no wins(not counting the two cancelled games on the weekend) Not bad.

Castro left the game against the Royals early with a hamstring injury which isn’t too serious and should work itself out soon. There’s competition in camp for the lead off spot between Castro and Emilio Bonifacio.

“Starlin has the ability to put the bat on the ball pretty much anywhere,” Renteria said. “He handles the bat, he can manipulate the barrel quite well. He could fit in the [No. 2] slot quite easy. He’s a guy who was a 200-hit a year guy, so that’s a lot of hits. Having a guy who can get on base whether through a walk or hit is pretty good.”

It’s Starlin’s job for the taking. He needs the lead off to really elevate his game to the next level.

So here’s the thing: The Cubs are 0-3 while the Toronto Blue Jays are 3-2. While the comparisons between the two teams are minimal, with Dioner Navarro making the switch to the north; I believe the Jays have a lot riding on this year`s edition of the Blue Birds. While the Cub are really trying to find their swing and despite this year`s struggles that the Cubs will face, they`re in that good spot where they can be the team they want to be in the future.

It`s good to see Dale Sveum at third base.

Arizona`s looking good this time of year. It`s -22 Celsius up here and hopefully they`ll spread some sunshine and warmth up here.

—Mark

The Cubs Get Caught by Marlins

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The Cubs are a funny team. Far from playoff contention and yet, us fans still keep clinging to the faint hope that there might be some little glimmer that we can see in the final month of the regular season. Yesterday, the Cubs lost to the Miami Marlins 4-3. What made it worse was Bobby Hull’s erratic seventh inning stretch.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “Doing it for pride” The Cubs and their loyal fans must be feeling very proud indeed.

“After the first four hitters of the game, we didn’t put together anything,” Dale Sveum said. Things certainly did start well for the Cubs but things weren’t looking up for the rest of the game.

September is a month where some players are playing for jobs into next season while others are padding their statistics. For the Cubs, this will be a great chance to show some mettle. Yeah, Travis Woood, didn’t earn a quality start, but he’s played a great season and I hope he’ll be back next year.

In fact, that’s a good point. Very few players on this club are notched in for the long haul. During my vacation, David DeJesus became a Tampa Bay Ray.

“There are a lot of guys playing for their careers, including myself,” Dioner Navarro said. “I’m trying to take advantage of every opportunity I get. We’re a young team and trying to rebuild, if that’s what we want to call it.”

Dioner raises an interesting point. Are the Cubs rebuilding? Are they really? I’m not being pessimistic but can a team keep using that same excuse for the last few seasons? A team like the Cubs have a wealth of resources or should. The Yankees have remained consistently strong throughout the years, so why can’t the Cubs?

I don’t have that answer. I think the Cubs are almost there and they’ve played some really good ball this year and of course, some not so great ball.

A funny incident happened to me in Boston when we visited that beautiful city of theirs, I was walking by a cafĂ© with my son Darcy and he was wearing his Cubs cap and I was wearing mine, two symbols of hardship and adversity and a little pride. A father and teenaged son were sitting at the window drinking their Mocha’s and the father pointed to me and I pointed to him, that “Acceptance Point” the gesture that says, “Someday, the Cubs are going to win and that day will be awesome!”

—Mark

DeJesus Resurrected in Washington

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The Chicago Cubs put up a monster win yesterday by defeating the Washington Nationals 11-1. The win came on the same day as respected outfielder David DeJesus was traded to the Nationals for an as yet to be determined player.

Did the Cubs miss DeJesus’ presence? Nope. Nate Schierholtz, the most underrated outfielder in the game today smacked a three run homer in the 1st inning to drive in Junior Lake and Dioner Navarro. In fact, Schierholtz was practically a one man machine collecting 6 RBI’s and adding another home run for the game.

Jeff Samardzija had a great game as well. He was as dominate as team management expected him to be last night.

“Really, it comes down to getting the runs that we got,” Samardzija said. “The last thing you want to do is start walking guys. You put up four-to-five home runs and eight-to-nine runs, it allows you to really calm down.”

Now, I think trading David Dejesus was an odd choice. The guy has picked up the leadership role since Alfonso Soriano bolted for the Bronx and was the guy who scolded Starlin Castro for wanting to hide in the clubhouse after embarrassing himself in the last game. DeJesus told Castro to take a seat and cheer on his teammates. Now that’s leadership.

So, who knows? Maybe this is finally Theo Epstein’s team? Maybe this is the team that will lead the long suffering Cubs fans to salvation.

Maybe.

The Cubs try to continue their winning ways today when Chris Rusin gets the call. Game time is 8:05

In other news, My family and I are taking an east coast trip to Boston and then it’s off to Cape Breton and Nova Scotia until Labour Day. I hope to continue posting during the trip and perhaps post some pictures as well.

—Mark

You Can Take That To The Banks

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The Cubs lost in extra innings last night 6-4 to the Cincinnati Reds but the real star of the night was Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks. In November, Banks will receive his Medal of Freedom.

“I didn’t play in a World Series, I didn’t play in the playoffs, but this takes the place for me,” Banks said.

The “Let’s play two’ Hall of Famer is the stuff that any Cubs player has to follow. He is the perfect embodiment of the way players should play the game today. He played in an era before steroids and he’s played on some truly awful Cubs teams but he’s endured. His optimism and his talent for the game is breathtaking and I only wish I could have been alive when he played. A truly remarkable man. We have a photo of Ernie in our basement among other Cubs paraphernalia. Every time our three year old son Darcy is down in the basement playing he asks me who that guy is on the wall, I tell him it’s Mr. Cub. Years from now, if he’s reading up on the rich glorious history of the Chicago Cubs, I hope he turns to me and says, “I want to be like him.”

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There was also a ball game too. It also could have been a home run derby for the Cubs. Dioner Navarro, Nate Schierholtz and Donnie Murphy each sent some fans home with a souvenir but the Cubs fell in extra innings 6-4.

Despite the loss, it was good to see the team break a scoreless drought in 33 innings at Wrigley Field. it might have brought back some confidence to the team.

“We have the fourth best road record in the National League, but we have one of the worst home records in a place where we should take advantage of it,” Dale Sveum said. “It hasn’t worked out too well.”

Which goes back to the peculiarity of the season. Statistics matched with their record doesn’t make sense with the team and as the season winds down, the Cubs will be looking to rectify things and try some new things for next year.

It’s an afternoon game today as Chris Rusin and the Cubs try to take one from the Reds. Game time is 2:20pm

–Mark

Cubs Attack Cardinals In St. Louis- Call Animal Control!

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When everything goes well, they really go well for the Chicago Cubs. last night, the Cubs made it two in a row by soundly defeating their rivals the St. Louis Cardinals 6-5.

The Cubs scored with RISP’s, they scored with a comeback in the eighth and they of course, made it two in a row.

“There’s something about playing the Cardinals,” Darwin Barney said. “It’s not good to say, but you get up more for games like this. It’s just one of those things where they’re in the hunt and need to win some ballgames, and we’re playing spoilers once again. That’s a good club with an offense that’s on the verge of breaking out again. Let’s take them while we can.”

The Cubs improved to 52-64. Maybe .500 ball isn’t that far out of sight yet? This was the kind of game that Dale Sveum has wanted the Cubs to play all year. It hasn’t come easy, but it sure is a confidence booster. Dioner Navarro had marked his return by pinch hitting and getting an RBI double. So, when guys like Navarro can come in like that late in the game and produce, that’s what makes good teams great.

“It worked perfect,” Dale Sveum said. “We were testing Navarro today to find out if he could even play, and to get off the couch and get the game-winning hit. He’s the perfect backup catcher. You don’t worry about him because he’s so good off the bench.”

Wellington Castillo had a great game, knocking in a Home Run in the second inning. Castillo has been a quiet presence on this ball club. He doesn’t share the limelight with Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo or Junior Lake, but he gets things done when it counts.

Even though the Cubs won the series, it will feel even better today if Edwin Jackson can get the sweep. Game time is 2:15 eastern.

Donnie Murphy Powers The Cubs to Win Over Phillies

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What a night it was for Chicago Cubs’ newcomer, Donnie Murphy. Last night, Murphy banged two home runs into the stands as the Cubs downed the Phillies 5-2.

“I was just thinking base hit right there,” Murphy said of his ninth inning at-bat in a 2-2 tie. “But in a count 3-1, he didn’t want to put another guy on. I faced him [Tuesday] night. Thankfully, I knew he had a little giddy-up on his fastball.”

This was Murphy’s third home run since Sunday since being called up from Triple A.

Players like Murphy and Junior Lake continue to show the strength of the Cubs’ farm system and Triple A. The team’s chances of a wild card spot are all but gone, so to see the stellar play of these guys this late in the season is encouraging to the Cubs’ faithful.

“Each time I get called up, I’m not as nervous anymore,” said Murphy.

Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro was taken off of the field after a collision with Chase Utley. He’s listed as day to day.

“I don’t think anything was wrong or anything,” Dale Sveum said. “He was blocking the plate, guys have the right to do that. That’s what you want your guys to do, to do everything they can to get home plate.”

It was a convincing win and in light of the current PED scandals going on, it was good to see an “Old Fashioned” win the hard way. Grinding it out and sticking to it late in the game.

The Cubs look to continue their winning ways when Jeff Samardzija faces Ethan Martin. Game Time is 1:05 eastern.

—Mark

Every Story Needs a Villan

Scott Hairston was traded to the Washington Nationals for a pitching prospect following yesterday's game against the Pirates.

Scott Hairston was traded to the Washington Nationals for a pitching prospect following yesterday’s game against the Pirates.

Not only did the Cubs win yesterday, beating the smoking Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3, but Scott Hairston, who belted a home run, was traded to the Washington Nationals for a Class A pitching prospect.

“I was happy to contribute today, and it was nice getting the win,” Hairston said.

Carlos Villanueva got things rolling but it was a team effort because the bullpen was utilized. Hector Rondon, newcomer Pedro Strop, James Russell and Blake Parker all contributed in yesterday’s performance.

“You always don’t dwell too much about it, because I had to pitch out of the bullpen,” Villanueva said of thoughts of returning to the rotation. “I threw in some key situations out of the bullpen. I threw in the eighth inning a couple of times. It’s in the back of the mind, but you’ve got to get people out whenever you put me in.”

I have a feeling that we’re going to see a lot of shuffling and musical chairs for the rest of the season when it comes to the mound since the departure of Scott Feldman.

The Hero of The Day goes to Dioner Navarro, who got a walk off sacrifice to seal the deal after Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano got on base. Tony Rizzo scored.

So, where do the Cubs go from here? I see the Hairston trade as a positive move. In fact, I kind of anticipated it. It makes sense. Hopefully, they won’t have to trade Garza.

The only bad thing about yesterday’s victory was Darwin Barney’s errorless streak came to an end, but it was better to end the streak on a winning note.

“(The ball) hit my middle finger straight on,” Barney said. “It popped up on the lip (of the infield grass) and took a turn on the outfield grass. That’s what you have to deal with. That’s what outfielders deal with every day with the ball snaking like that. I will have to work on that.”

The Cubs don’t have far to go today as they travel cross town to meet their city rivals, the Chicago White Sox. Matt Garza gets the ball and game time is 8:10pm

–Mark

The Cubs Get Looted By Pirates

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The Cubs are in a tough division. Pittsburgh is the best team in baseball at the moment. Jeff Samardzija, the “Shark” was in tough waters with the Pirates and this time, the Pirates controlled the Shark infested waters.

Yesterday, the Cubs lost the series opener 6-2. Somebody once said, “In order to be the best, you have to beat the best” so playing teams like the Pirates is a true test for the Cubs and in most cases, the Cubs end up losing. Which is all right, they’re learning.

“My ball was up in the zone,” Samardzija said. “I just wasn’t able to be aggressive out there.”

Ask Starlin Castro.

In the eighth inning, Castro wandered from second base and got caught by my fellow Canuck, Russell Martin. Sounds simple enough, but with the Cubs down 6-2 and Castro on second base with Dioner Navarro up to bat, you kind of want to play it safe. Now’s not the time to hot dog it. However, that’s been Starlin Castro’s learning curve since he’s come to the big leagues. He’s got the tools but he hasn’t harnessed it yet. Teams like Pittsburgh will make him pay for it.

“It’s not a smart play,” admitted Castro.

That is the reason that when the 2013 National league All Stars are announced today, Starlin Castro’s name will not be announced.

The Cubs got an early lead in the second inning going up 2-1, but when you’re playing the best team in baseball, you can find out the hard way why they’re the best.

Scott Hairston connected with a two run homer that drove in Cody Ransom in the second inning, but that was all the Pirates would allow them.

“We’ve been pretty decent on the road and we’ve got to win these games at home,” Dale Sveum said. “We’ve got a tough home stretch with the teams coming in, but we’ve got to take advantage of playing at home and winning some games.”

The 2013 All Stars will be revealed tonight on Fox. I’m betting Travis Wood will be there, but I would love to see Nate Schierholtz get the nod. I’m not taking anything away from Travis, but to me, Nate has excelled this year on a tough Chicago team. I think it would be awesome.

The Cubs try to get a reprieve from yesterday’s tough outing when Edwin Jackson gets the call to the mound. Game time is 4:05pm

—Mark

Cubs Give Milwaukee Taste of Their Own Brew

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As trade winds are blowing for Matt Garza and possibly others, the Cubs gave Milwaukee a taste of homebrew when they handed them a 7-2 beating at Miller Park.

“It’s a blast when they spot you with seven (runs) before the fifth inning,” Garza said. “My job was just to put up a zero every time we scored and not let them get any momentum.”

Garza was exceptional in the win gaining 10 strikeouts in the game. With the win, the Cubs take their first series win at Miller park since 2010.

There are many questions as the trade talks loom over certain player’s heads. Even though Matt Garza is great trade bait, I don’t want to see him dealt because he can provide much needed leadership in the rotation. He’s gotten back from his injury and has played extremely well so it would be a shame to see him go. on the other hand, I think if I had to pick between Nate Schierholtz or Garza being traded I’d go with Garza and only because I think the Cubs would get a good market value in the trade depending on what is available.

“Obviously there are a lot of calls this time of year. We have a number of guys performing really well, including some guys who are under contract or under control for years to come. So it’s not like we’re rushing out to trade those guys. We owe it to the organization to see if there is something that makes us a lot better.” said Theo Epstein.

Ok, so I’ve touched on this before but the Cubs are second in the National League with Extra Base Hits at 247 going into the game, so why aren’t they higher in the standings? You’d think that extra base hits would equal more runs. Discuss.

on the plus side, Dioner Navarro walloped a three run home run which was his 7th of the season in the third inning to give the Cubs a 6-0 lead. He played a heck of a game.

The Cubs try to continue their winning ways today when they meet the Mariners. Game Time is 7:10 Pacific.

–Mark

There’s No Place Like Home For Dioner Navarro

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If you ever need someone to put on a clinic about how to play baseball; Dioner Navarro is your man to call. please call him. Yesterday, Dioner and the North Side Cubs taught the Chicago White Sox a thing or two on the fundamentals of baseball. Final score: 9-3

This has been a week of firsts for the Cubs and it all started with Jeff Samardzija’s beautiful display of deconstruction and dismantlement of the Chicago White Sox on Monday collecting his first Shutout of his career.

Dioner Navarro humiliated three baseballs yesterday on his way to collecting three home runs. just in case you thought it was too early in the morning, I’ll say it again. 3 Home Runs!

“I hit two one time in Little League,” Navarro said. “That was about it. It’s a great feeling and so surreal right now. I can’t speak right now. The most important thing is we got a ‘W’ and [Scott] Feldman did a good job.”

Awe shucks, Dioner. You just banged three home runs in a game, show some excitement you modest Cubs catcher you.

“Let’s not get carried away with a guy having a great game. … It’s just nice to have a backup catcher doing the things he does and handling the pitchers he handles.” Dale Sveum said.

So, the Cubs have won three in a row and although they’re 13 1/2 back of the leader St. Louis, the Cubs are still two up on the Brewers and with this win, don’t be surprised if it carries some valuable momentum going into June.

Well Done, Dioner.

The Cubs aim to finish off the White Sox today when Travis Wood takes to the mound to square off against Jake Peavy Game time is 2:20pm eastern.

—Mark