The Cubs Hit Peak Over Rockies, Bon Voyage Bonifacio

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Why is it that the excitement always mounts on the trade deadline? Sometimes, it’s way better than a playoff race, Opening Day, or the playoffs(sometimes)

Why? Hope Springs Eternal.

Take for instance yesterday’s victory over the Rockies. Jake Arrieta. His tenth quality start. The Cubs didn’t exactly cruise to the win, but it was steady and convincing. The Cubs’ll take it.

Yesterday was bittersweet. What started the season with a kind of a back door grab by signing veteran Emilio Bonifacio turned into a smooth deal that landed Bonifacio in Atlanta with Jimmy Russell for catching prospect Victor Caratini. How will this move play out? Only time will tell.

“It’s hard to wrap your head around it,” Russell said. “It’s obviously a shock. There’s nothing that can kind of prepare yourself for this. It’s still kind of weird. I don’t know how to feel; there’s a lot of excitement, mixed emotions. It’s going to be a good thing.”

Absolutely it’s shocking. The Cubs are finally a team that players would really like to play for. They’re turning into the next Oakland Athletics. I liked Bonifacio. He’s an amazing talent who can work just about every position on the team. He’s not quite the pitcher that Johnny Baker is but I hated to see him go.

But—

I believe it’s the right thing for both clubs. Both players might get a shot at the post season with Atlanta and the Cubs are getting another stud in their ever growing stable of champions. That’s going to bode well in the future.

But—

Pretty soon, oh heck, I’ll say within two weeks, we’re going to see the fresh face of Javier Baez at second base.

“The way the organization has been going and acquiring players and drafting and developing kids in the system, I would hope it comes to the point where it shifts in a different direction,” manager Rick Renteria said. “All of us are hopeful that will be the case in the near future. That’s been the hope and desire of the organization to get to a point like that. Things happen over the course of seasons and things change. Right now, we’re hopefully moving in the right direction.”

Get ready folks, Just. Get. Ready.

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Send Into Extra Innings But Come Up Short

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Did anyone expect the Cubs to pull out the heroics two nights in a row? A show of hands? Just what I thought, oh wait, there’s someone in the back with their hands half mast. There’s one in every crowd.

Last night the Cubs fell to the Rockies 6-4 in ten innings. It seems Luis Valbuena has picked up steam crushing his eighth home run of the season and sending the game into extra innings.

“We just fell a little short,” Chicago manager Rick Renteria said.

Ok, I’ve noticed a pattern in Renteria. At the start of the season he was talkative and hopeful. Check out this quote:

“I’ve been involved in a youth movement my whole life,” Renteria said. “Players, in essence, keep us young. I try to use everything I’ve ever had as a parent — for example, dealing with whatever moments of frustration or issues that might have occurred in the family — to my advantage. I’ve used that in my thought process through the game and teaching.”

That was a quote after he was hired as manager. Remember the start of the season? Now we get, “We fell short.” So has the speeches.

You know, there’s a part of me that wants the Cubs to go all the way this season, you know, win it all. Then, there’s another part of me that says, “Wait, hold on. There’s help coming. Be patient.”

The start of that help came yesterday with Felix, no not that Felix, but Mr. Doubront from Boston for an as yet to be named later player. There’s not much to get excited about with that deal an ERA of 6.07 makes me want to go, “Oh hey, that’s awesome, he should fit in well with the club.” but I’m feeling more like, Meh? The Cubs have also acquired Jonathan Martinez in the Barney deal.

It’ll be an interesting day today. Rumour has it Emilio Bonifacio is headed to Kansas City. Will this happen? Will Javier Baez see action?

I can’t stand the suspense.

Believe it.
—Mark

Cubs’ Baker Johnny On The Spot

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The Cubs continued their winning ways last night, er should I say this morning. This game had all the elements of a classic North Side matchup. It was windy. Damn windy. It was damp and chilly forcing Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies to run for cover. In the end, the Cubs proved mighty in their victory over the Colorado Rockies in the 16th inning with a walk off hit from the new and improved(and a slightly more mature) Starlin Castro 4-3.

It was also in true Wrigley wonder, well it was weird. John Baker, yes that John Baker, pitched. He did his job and then in the bottom of the 16th inning, he drew a walk. I tell you folks, these kind of things don’t come around too often. A Pennant Race? Who needs one. A World Series ring? Probably end up in a pawn shop anyways. The Cubs are all about these kind of grind out wins.

“They asked if I’d be willing to do that, and I said, ‘Yeah,'” he said. “I’m not going to say I don’t want to pitch at Wrigley Field in the longest game of Cubs history in the 100th anniversary season and give myself a chance to get the win. I trust my stuff.”

But Baker wasn’t the only star in Chicago. Emilio Bonifacio was a triple away from hitting for the cycle.

Sometimes it’s these kind of games that make fans forget of the struggle that the Chicago Cubs have gone through these one hundred plus years. They don’t come around too often but when they do, it’s marvel to see.

“It’s really cool,” Baker said. “It’s really, really cool. I was having trouble not smiling on the mound. You never get opportunities to do things like this. I think about how many guys I played with who were pitchers and never got a chance to pitch in the big leagues. This is something I’ll cherish for a long time.”

Believe it.

—Mark

Wada Win For Cubs

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Yesterday was, perhaps a turning point in the future of the Cubs. Darwin Barney is now an LA Dodger and most likely going to have his first shot at a post season. This is baseball, right? Anything can happen.

The Cubs soundly beat the Colorado Rockies in a suspenseful game if you include that eighth inning bases loaded Anthony Rizzo at the plate kind of nail biter. Of course there wasn’t a grand slam, I mean this is the Cubs right? for a brief moment, the friendly folks at Wrigley almost witnessed a chance at immortality for their young captain.

Tsuyoshi Wada collected his first win as the Cubs beat the Rockies 4-1 and earning his first win.

“I appreciate that the Cubs used me again after that outing I had [against San Diego], which wasn’t very good,” Wada said “My command was definitely better than last time, and it’s the second time I pitched in Chicago, so I was a little more relaxed. The last time I was more excited and anxious about that game.”

The Cubs have virtually no chance at a post season, but stranger things have happened to this club. With the Dodgers signing Barney and the deadline fast approaching, who should the Cubs deal? Is it Nate Schierholtz or send Junior Lake down? Schierholtz is on a bit of a hot streak lately, but I think he’s good trade bait.

“When you have players who are working together over time, continuity does seem to help,” manager Rick Renteria said. “You can’t guarantee that change won’t occur after the Trade Deadline. I wish I could tell you that I have a crystal ball and I know exactly what’s going to happen, but I don’t.

All right Ricky, I’m going to tell look into my crystal ball and see what’s going to happen.

I see a lot of smoke. I see a face. A big C on a shirt. Bonif, oh no wait…

Baez.

The ball is cloudy, I see no more.

Believe it.
—Mark

Despite Catch of The Year, Rizzo And Cubs Stymied By D’Backs

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If there’s one word to describe Anthony Rizzo, it has to be, “Amazing” and you better believe it’s a damn cliché when I say the “Amazing” Anthony Rizzo or Captain Amazing. Because folks, that’s exactly what he is, amazing.

Sure the Cubs lost yesterday. The Diamondbacks poisoned any chance of the Cubs making the Wild Card but that will forever be known as “The Catch” Why? Because in true Cubs lore, only a player like Rizzo could destroy a Rawlings, make a catch like that, tie the lead in the National League in home runs and still end up losing the game.

Cubs eventually succumbed to the D’Backs 3-2

“We need to just win,” Rizzo said. “It’s another close game. We keep fighting and we’re in a position to tie it up. We didn’t come through, but we have to keep grinding.”

So, is it just another curse for the Cubs? Since the trade, they’re 11-13. Coincidence? Or is it just a case of a struggling team. Emilio Bonifacio will be back soon and Arismendy Alcantara made the first cut so you know what that means? Darwin Barney and Nate Schierholtz are most likely on the move. Or what about Junior Lake? He could be sent down. In baseball, anything can happen.

“We’re well aware trades will continue to take place and guys will be shuffled in different positions and get experience across the board and they’ll fit guys in certain situations,” Jake Arrieta said. “That doesn’t take away from our mindset of going out there and trying to win every series.

It could sound like a broken record. It might be a cliché taking one series at a time but I tell you, these are just growing pains. Theo Epstein’s plan is a year away from fruition. It’s working. Cubs fans aren’t the most loyal fans in sports; they’re the most patient.

106 Years? Pretty soon we’ll be saying “Last year’s World Series Champions”

Believe it.

—Mark

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 Get Samardzija a Win

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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

Cubs Feel The Lake Effect

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Are the Cubs for real? Junior Lake, yes that Junior Lake who fell into the kind of obscurity that Starlin Castro fell into last season came back yesterday and almost took the cover off of the ball twice as the Chicago Cubs went on to defeat the Miami Marlins, 5-2.

Oh yeah, then there’s the Shark. Jeff Samardzija, who’s having one of the best seasons of his career that may or may not be seen in that awesome marble hall in upstate New York one day. This of course, is after he leads a bunch of super charged young ballplayers to that hallowed space in baseball yore. Yes, it was his tenth quality start in thirteen and you know, he won yesterday. Boo freakin’ Ya!

“I love how we’re playing,” Samardzija said. “We’ve got an edge, but we’re having fun, and that’s important for a young team. Everybody’s doing their job. Every time I go out there, 33 times a season, I want my team to feel like we have a really good chance to win that day. That’s my job.”

So after yesterday’s victory, the Cubs have won five in a row and currently have the best winning streak in baseball. I have to say, I never saw this coming. Eleven hits yesterday to Miami’s five and the reason? Emilio Bonifacio banging in his first home run of the season.

“The reality is the confidence is there, but we all understand that every single day you go out there, you’ve got to play the game,” Rick Renteria said. “You don’t want to get too high, and ride it as long as you can, pick each other up, keep believing in each other. In the long run, hopefully, it’s something that’s sustainable and we keep moving forward.”

Moving forward is what the Cubs have been doing. Sure, they’re not going to win every game but when that confidence that Renteria speaks about is in full swing, then great things will happen.

Believe it!

—Mark

Cubs’ Samardzija Slay The Giants On Memorial Day

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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

The Cardinals Protect The Nest Against Cubs

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One of the things that managers dream of is to have their pitchers play deep into the games, lead off hitters to get on base and clean up hitters to do just that.

The Cubs are having trouble this season in just about every area, with the exception of Bonifacio who is doing a great job in his role.

“I wasn’t efficient enough, and that’s what led to the high pitch count and early exit,” Jake Arrieta said. “I feel bad for having the bullpen come into the game too early there. There’s no reason they need to be in the game before the sixth or seventh at least. That’s what I’m harping on the most.

There isn’t any reason. Great teams have pitchers that duke it out and chisel their way throughout the game. Craftiness goes a long way. The Cubs have decent pitching, but when Samardzija who hasn’t earned his first win even though he’s pitched extremely well all season, exposes the holes in the Chicago Cubs team.

The key for the Cubs is to get Jeff his win. Once they do that, then maybe the Cubs can turn that all elusive corner and put more wins up on the board.

Give them the credit where it’s due though, the team does manage to claw their way back into the games, but can’t seem to finish the job.

“I’d be more concerned if we didn’t fight back and get into those positions,” Rick Renteria said. “We make sure our guys keep fighting.

—Mark