Category Archives: Cubs

A number of players quietly putting up big years

Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez, in the shadow of phenom Stephen Strasburg, is putting up a Cy Young-like season in the early going.

McGILLIGAN: Despite being less than 50 games into the season, there’s no shortage of craziness, stupidity and life-altering occurrences – here’s to you Baltimore Orioles fans – taking place.

Here are a few of less talked about stories:

Resurgence of Adam Dunn

After playing like something even the scrap heap wouldn’t want to be associated with in 2011, Dunn has found his stroke again. He was tied for third in homeruns in Major League Baseball with 12 heading into play Tuesday and sixth in RBI. After a disastrous 2011 where he hit fewer homeruns (11) than millions he was paid by the White Sox (12), Dunn’s future was in doubt. Credit him for turning it around and producing a solid stat line so far this season.

Quiet Cy Young Performance

If you’re talking about a Cy Young candidate on the Washington Nationals, the first name that comes to mind is Stephen Strasburg. The young ace has been nothing short of spectacular for the upstart Nationals. However, Gio Gonzalez has been tremendous in a Washington uniform as well. With a record of 4-1, 1.94 ERA and second in strikeouts in the National League, Gonzalez and Strasburg give the Nationals perhaps the best one-two punch in the league.

Slugger struggles while another emerges

Much like Gonzalez is excelling in the shadow of Strasburg, Edwin Encarnacion is in a similar albeit different position. Until recently, reigning homerun king and Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista has struggled to regain his form, however, the team was getting its power hitting from Encarnacion. With 11 homeruns, he’s making people think he’s finally living up to his expectations and helping Jays fan forget about Bautista’s early season swoon.

Grantland’s Derek Jeter diary

Written by Mark Lisanti, this fake journal of Jeter’s innermost thoughts is ridiculous. If it doesn’t make you laugh three of four times out loud then you have no sense of humour. Here’s an excerpt regarding Jered Weaver’s no-hitter: “That’s a fantastic accomplishment for him, even if it carries an asterisk because he did it against the Twins. I don’t agree with the asterisk thing, they’re a major league team, but that’s just the way they officially record it. I always get Jered mixed up with his brother Jeff, who is now probably a surfboard mechanic in Escondido. Who knows? We don’t keep in touch because he lost us the World Series against the Marlins in ’03.”

Bryan LaHair is off to a blazing start for the Chicago Cubs, hitting .356 with an OPS of 1.154 while putting up nine doubles, nine dingers and 20 RBI.

LIVINGSTONE: I was going to write a separate post on Chicago Cubs Bryan LaHair, but I figure he fits well into one of the big surprises of the season less than 50 games in.

LaHair, who was named the starting first baseman for the Cubbies this year after spending much of the last four years in the minor league system – outside of 45 games with the Mariners in 2008 and 20 with the Cubs last season – wasn’t expected to be the machine he has been to start the year.

Lets look at what he’s done so far:

  •  LaHair has more homeruns (eight) than Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, combined (Pujols has ONE and Fielder has FIVE). He also makes $483,000 this year – about the same amount that Fielder will get for those five homeruns he’s hit.
  • Combined, the entire Cubs team has 13 homeruns – LaHair’s eight make up more than 50 per cent of the entire team’s round trippers.

Drafted in 2002 by the Mariners in the 39th round, LaHair has toiled away in the minor leagues, waiting to get his chance to do what he now currently doing – putting up All-Star-like numbers. What makes it more impressive is the fact a superstar in the making in Anthony Rizzo is waiting in the wings to come up and take first base from him. Being able to produce under that kind of pressure –  especially in a city just itching for Rizzo to get called up – is nothing short of remarkable. The way LaHair is playing, and if he keeps it up through the season, it’s going to be tough for the Cubs to move LaHair into the outfield (he can play there, too) to make room for Rizzo.

For a team that sits at the bottom of the Central division (as of Tuesday morning the Cubs are in a three-way tie with the Brewers and Pirates for third – and last – with a 15-20 record) and has little to be excited about so far this season, outside of Starlin Castro (.333, 1 HR, 21 RBI) and pitcher Jeff Samardzija (4-1/2.89 ERA), LaHair is putting on a show for a city dying to see its Cubs compete.

If he can establish himself as one of the premier first basemen in the National League – or outfielder, depending on what the Cubs do with Rizzo – the Cubs could find themselves in the thick of a wild card race sooner rather than later.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Superstitions and Turk Wendell

The oddest of them all, former MLB pitcher Turk Wendell set the standard of weirdness in baseball with his interesting antics and superstitions.

LIVINGSTONE: I love vinyl. No, not what you’ll find on the side of the house – although it does appeal to me as my siding of choice when I become a homeowner – but what the needle drops on. Listening to records helps me relax – or boogie, or blow of steam, depending on the mood – and I happened to be listening to Stevie Wonder’s 1972 release Talking Book tonight when the song Superstitious began blaring from my older-than-my-grandmother record player (it’s not, but it’s sure close).

The song got me thinking about the superstitions of athletes. Jumping over the baselines, tying cleats or skates a certain way, putting on equipment in a specific order, eating a certain piece of fruit before a game, wearing the same pair of underwear in games you pitch (I hope no one actually does the last one), but whatever it is, athletes have them. Hell, baseball in general has a number of superstitions (see: Top 50 Superstitions and rituals in baseball on Bleacherreport.com), followed by players and fans alike.

This brings me the ultimate man of superstition. So ultimate he was named the most superstitious athlete in professional sports by Men’s Fitness magazine. He did a kangaroo-like jump over the baseline every time he ran on and off the field, he brushed his teeth in between innings, he wore number 99 in honour of Rick ‘The Wild Thing’ Vaughan from Major League.

Hell – his contract with the New York Mets was signed for $9,999,999.99 – in honour of his number.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Turk Wendell.

Quirky, outspoken and full of out-there antics, Wendell was a fan favourite wherever he played. Drafted in 1988 by the Atlanta Braves, the eccentric reliever got his major league debut in 1993 with the Chicago Cubs (he was traded in 1991 and pitched two years in the minors). It wasn’t a great start to his career – he pitched in only a handful of games in 1993 and 1994 before coming into his own in 1995. In three years with the Cubs he pitched in 187 games and posted a 3.88 ERA with the club before a late-season trade in 1997 to the New York Mets.

With the Mets, he lead the team in 1999 and 2000 in appearances and in five seasons posted a 3.34 ERA and a 22014 record over 285 appearances.He never did get the elusive championship ring, but came close with the Mets when the team played its crosstown rivals The Yankees in the subway series of 2000. his career began to decline after that series. He landed with the Phillies the following season, was on the DL in 2002 after elbow surgery, pitched for the Phillies in 2003 and then made some short stops with the Colorado Rockies before being cut.

In many ways, Wendell’s antics on the field inspired many young baseball players – well, maybe just me, but who really knows – to pick up some of those superstitious antics and make them their own. Now, I don’t think I would let a baseball thrown by the umpire hit me in the chest – Wendell requested the ump roll the ball to him on the mound, and if he didn’t he would let it go past him, or hit him in the chest.

Yeah, it’s strange, but hey, we’ve got our quirks. Waving to the center fielder waiting for him to wave back before you pitched the start of an inning, yeah, it’s strange, but if I was the center fielder and the game was close, I wouldn’t be messing with Wendell’s routine.

Stats aside, Wendell was a weird dude. Sure, rituals and superstitions are commonplace in the game of baseball, but it seems not as openly strange or visible like the days of Turk. In thinking about what Turk-esque like players are out there in the game today, none really come to mind. Giants closer Brian Wilson might be the closest thing to the Turk – but wearing a Onesie suit to the ESPY and just talking like you’ve been drunk you’re entire life, I don’t think that necessarily counts. He’s just strange.

So to Turk, thank you for making superstitions known to the baseball world. And thanks for making knee-high socks an acceptable thing.

Check out The Bleacher Report’s Top 10 list on Wendell’s antics.

A power bat? Where? I’m guessin’ left…

Subs outfielder Alfonso Soriano would be a good power bat addition to the Jays roster - however, the salary he is owed could be an issue.

STRADER: Does anybody get the feeling the Blue Jays aren’t happy with either left fielder?

I am.

One, because AA doesn’t make anything public, and his desire for an impact bat just became public. Two, because it’s not JP Arencibia that’s going to lose his job, I don’t care how many people want to focus on the low batting average.

How would the Baltimore Orioles feel if they’d given up on Matt Wieters?

Pretty dumb, I would imagine.

There’s way more to being a catcher than hitting and I don’t think the organization is as frustrated with Arencibia as some of the fans are.

(That damn debut is going to haunt this kid until he hits….)

No, there is a position on the field that doesn’t seem to be filled by that reliable, crushing, middle of the order bat, just yet.

So, with Anthopolous reportedly telling MLB network radio’s Jim Bowden that a middle of the order bat is his true desire, to “wear down” other teams, it appears that a trial run with a kid for a couple seasons is not what Anthopolous wants. And look around the diamond.

Do you move Rasmus? Nope. He’s looking confident and skilled again, and there’s a speedster in the wings.

Is it Escobar? Nope. Once again, not the power development that has been hyped, but there’s talent waiting on the depth chart there too in a young Cuban who’s looking all world.

No, left field, which I believe in two to three years will be occupied by Jake Marisnick could use a dominant, power-hitting, veteran.

So for fun, ‘cause speculation with the Blue Jays brass is always wrong, let’s take a look at Major League outfields and see if we can find a power-hitting veteran, that would come cheap, is on a team that wants to move him, and also a squad looking to add to their young talent.

Melky….I don’t know….Delmon….would Detroit trade anything right now?….Logan Morrison….is he proven enough?….Brennan Boesch…certainly a lot of talk about his ceiling….Jason Bay…I could only dream he becomes reliable again and lands in Canada….

Nope, I think I found the perfect hole filler. His team will absorb a lot of his contract. He would hit the snot out of the ball in Rogers Centre. And in a couple years, he would happily be replaced by a young outfielder, because he’s in his mid-30s.

Yep, I never thought I would say it, but I want to see Alfonso Soriano in a Blue Jay uniform.

Because of his critics, price tag, and lack of a market, I believe he would only require a couple mid-level prospects to get him.

His OPS is always above .700, this guy can simply hit the ball.

And without having to be the go-to guy in a lineup, he would be an unreal complement bat.

As I’ve said before, I’m patient. I’d rather see Travis Snider for a full season, leave him alone, let him play.

But if we’re going to see 24 and 25 year olds platooned with Rajai, replaced for defensive reasons, not playing against left-handed pitchers, then bring the vet, and wait for Marisnick and Gose.

Maybe Thames and a mid-level pitching prospect would get us Soriano?

And how wicked would he look sandwiched in there with Edwin, Brett, Adam and that dude in right field?

I’m thinking pretty good.

Of course, it looks like my Jenkins prediction was a little out of left field too….

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,