Posted on: August 18, 2011 3:14 pm
Jim Thome. Carlos Zambrano. Discuss. ...
FROM: Jack M.
Re.: Thome's 600th HR, like his career, comes with class, style
I attended a charity auction in the Peoria area in the winter following the 2002 season. The organizers reached out to Thome, asking if he could attend. He said he couldn't, due to a prior commitment, but donated various autographed items to the auction. Then, on the night of the auction, he showed up unannounced about a half-hour before it began, donated a sizable check, and gave a short speech. After this, he went to the airport and flew back to his prior commitment -- being introduced as a member of the Phillies. The guy's whole life was changing, and he made time for a small auction back home. Ever since then, I root for Jim Thome -- even against my favorite teams.
I know there are those who say, bottom line, it's about what they do on the field. And that's true. But watching a class act like Thome join the 600 club sure is more fun than watching a miscreant who can barely squeeze his enlarged head through the front entrance to 600.
Greetings! The difference between the Big Zero and Jim Thome, there is a reason why I cannot support certain players. And for the Union to file a grievance? The Big Zero CLEANED OUT HIS LOCKER. One may say that was done in the Heat of the Moment but, having played COLLEGIATE baseball, do you realize just how long it takes to do that ? The Big Zero has earned his nickname, and I wish the spoiled little child well with whatever he does in life.
You must be hell on wheels at the dart board, your points are so accurate. And very magnanimous to wish Zambrano well, by the way.
FROM: Wayne A.
Scott: If you check the background of Jim Thome, I believe you will find he went through high school at Limestone H.S. in Bartonville, Ill., which is across I-474 from Peoria. Almost everyone says he is from Peoria. If I am incorrect on this matter please correct me.
I checked, and you're right. Apologies to good ol' Limestone/Bartonville. I expect to see a Paul Bunyan-like statue of Thome there one day.
Re.: After yet another Zambrano meltdown, will Cubs learn lesson?
ZOOM-brano -- the Jim Piersall of this decade. Haven't we all seen enough of this emotional infant? A bowel movement with teeth is what he is.
Oh, man ... hold on ... I'm still doubled over in laughter ... I'll get to an answer in a moment. ... hahahahahaha.
FROM: Terry F.
I don't think that Z should be on the DQ List. This isn't really about Zambrano. He is what he is. This is about the Cubs. I agree with you in that they need to pay him whatever they owe him and move on. They supported him in his first fight, which was a mistake. When the second fight occurred, or perhaps before as there were plenty of other incidents like throwing the umpire out, they should have traded him or released him. Zambrano is responsible for his own actions, but the Cubs deserve far more blame than Zambrano this time, because they knew what they were dealing with and they let it happen.
Really hard to argue against those well-reasoned points. Cubs, your move.
Well done. Great article. However, it's not so easy cutting loose a guy making that much cabbage knowing you're NOT going to get ANYTHING in return. Are you forgetting the Cubs had two extensive injuries in their starting rotation this year? They even tried trading Carlos before the deadline. They even put him on waivers. NOBODY claimed him. Nobody wants him. The Cubs best hope is Carlos really does retire so it voids the contract. The very last thing the Cubs will do is let him go via release and by suggesting that, you don't know as much as you think you do.
Yeah, the Cubs never should have extended him in the first place. But if you remember, at the time of his extension, MANY teams would have paid top dollar for him based on his numbers. He was one of the top pitching free agents out there that year. The Cubs best solution is to do what they did. Let him sit for a month and NOT pay him. Let things cool off. See what he says in a month. If he retires? Awesome. If not? Move him to the Restricted list so he doesn't pitch again this year and try once again to move him in the offseason. If by Spring Training he's still hanging around like a snot, THEN you release him.
Cabbage. Love the term. And you're right, Zambrano is making so much cabbage even Peter Rabbit would be exquisitely jealous -- and better behaved.
FROM: Dorothy B.
He should be fired. I didn't watch all the game, but figured with that many home runs against him, he'd throw a fit and he did.
See? If you can see these things coming, why can't the Cubs?
I know he's a f------ nut, but why was he still in the game after giving up five homers?
Legitimate characterization of the Big Z(ero), and legitimate point regarding the Cubs.
FROM: Dan S.
Re.: Weekend Buzz: Giants need to fix their puny offense
Understand your column about Giants offense, but on the other hand they have three people in the ERA leaders and one at 3.5. Their game is low scoring, if they keep the opposing team in the game then they have a chance. If they had an offense like Cincy, for example, and score seven to eight runs but the pitchers give up eight or nine, what good is the high scoring offense? Sure it would take pressure off their pitchers to get four runs early.
Valid points, and we see the troubles the Reds are having. But isn't there a middle ground somewhere the Giants could find? The best argument right now is how banged up they are.
You're right on target. As a longtime Giants fan, it's really frustrating to see such futility at the plate. Outside of maybe Sandoval and Schierholtz, all the rest are hitting well below their career avg's. Belt could be a spark...two dingers [the other day] in Florida was a good start.
The Giants need a few new Belt loops.
Likes: The season Michael Young is having for the Rangers. ... Merle Haggard's take on Texas manager Ron Washington's lovely phrase, "That's the way baseball go." It's now a Haggard song, and you can download it on iTunes. The money goes to Rangers charities. ... Modern Family. Terrific characters and snappy writing. ... Steve Earle's book I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive. Very entertaining read, with lots of colorful, skid-row characters. Let's just say one of the main characters is a junkie doctor who helped country legend Hank Williams score dope and may have been the last person to see Williams alive (fiction, this book is fiction). Earle's CD of the same name is terrific, too -- especially the track Waiting For the Sky to Fall.
Dislikes: Being a captive audience to merchants on the other side of the airport security screening and paying something like $12 for a small "breakfast" to go at Starbucks. Highway robbery is what it is. In this crappy economy and in these days in which airplanes have scrapped food, that's got to be a great business to go into: Running a food shop between the security screening and the flight gates. I imagine those people all live in mansions, with servants, eating prime rib and lobster every evening.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Kiss a little baby
"Give the world a smile
"And if you take an inch
"Give them back a mile
"'Cause if you lie like a rug
"And you don't give a damn
"You're never going to be
"As happy as a clam"
-- John Prine, It's a Big Old Goofy World
Posted on: June 27, 2010 12:12 am
LOS ANGELES -- The Yankees skipped Phil Hughes' start this time around in deference to his innings-pitched count, but it was A.J. Burnett who again pitched like the guy who really needs to be skipped.
Turning in his fifth consecutive clunker in Saturday's 9-4 loss to the Dodgers, Burnett again was wild, looked lost and was working on mysteries without any clues.
Burnett now has lost five consecutive starts for the first time since 2005, when he was still pitching for Florida.
How difficult is that to do for the Yankees?
Very, it would seem. The Yankees rank second in the American League in runs scored.
"I'm pretty upset," Burnett said in response to a question about how calm he seems in the midst of his worst slump in years. "I'm pretty upset. But the guys in this clubhouse, they don't let you act that way.
"I've had a handful of guys talking to me."
Burnett, 33, has been high-maintenance throughout his career. Last season, Jose Molina evolved into his personal catcher. Molina no longer is around. And his current slide, coincidence or not, started about the same time pitching coach Dave Eiland took a leave of absence for personal reasons.
In the interim, bullpen coach -- and former pitcher -- Mike Harkey is acting as pitching coach.
"Everybody misses Dave here," Burnett said. "But I pitched 10 years without Dave also.
"We're not putting things on nobody but No. 34."
Which, of course, is Burnett's number.
"You look at everything and say, yeah, it could be," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Eiland's absence. "But A.J. knows what he has to do. He understands what he has to do.
"It's hard to pinpoint why. But he has to correct it and he has to work through it."
Over his past five starts, Burnett now has allowed 29 earned runs and nine homers. His ERA during that span is 11.35. On Saturday, 12 of 20 Dodgers Burnett faced reached base.
"Let's not forget that this game is not easy," Girardi said. "I've said all along that he's going to get out of this, and he will."
Last time out, Monday in Arizona, Burnett became the first Yankee to surrender three first-inning homers in a game since Ron Guidry in 1987.
Saturday in Los Angeles, the Dodgers scorched Burnett for two runs and three hits in the first, immediately vaulting them back into the game after the Yanks had scored three in the top of the first. But it was the third inning, when Burnett surrendered four walks (one intentional) and a couple of hits, that really cost him.
Burnett, who walked six (one intentionally) and has walked 17 hitters over his past 23 innings, said he had an "unbelievable" warm-up pre-game and that "the results were terrible but I felt a little better, believe it or not."
Burnett went through a rough time last August with the Yankees, going 0-4 with a 6.03 ERA in six starts, before pulling it together again in September (3-1, 3.83).
Difference now is, Eiland isn't around (and neither is Molina).
Still, Girardi said his inclination is to not skip Burnett's next start, scheduled for Friday at home against Toronto.
"We're 10 minutes after the game, but my thought is not to skip him," Girardi said. "It's a gut feeling of mine. His stuff is there. His command isn't. My gut is to run him out there."
Likes: Dodgers manager Joe Torre on Derek Jeter whiffing three times on his 36th birthday Saturday: "Well, it was my present to him." ... Jerry Reinsdorf for owner of the year. The White Sox, who won their 11th consecutive game on Saturday, have not lost since Reinsdorf scolded GM Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen. ... Nice run by Texas, too. ... Fernando Valenzuela never fails to elicit a loud roar in Dodger Stadium when they show him on the big scoreboard. ... Steve Martin's "leaked" tour demands for his banjo tour with the Steep Canyon Rangers. Great stuff. ... Pompilio's Italian restaurant in Newport, Ky. Good neighborhood place. Had lunch there a week or so ago. Added bonus: The Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman characters in Rain Man had a meal here in the movie (the scene where Hoffman's character insists on counting the toothpicks the drop off of the counter). ... Mojo, the new disc from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Don't love it, but like it quite a bit.
Dislikes: Carlos Zambrano signs a $91.5 million contract a few years ago and behaves like this. And the Cubs should not be happy that he went out to dinner with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen later Friday night. After that embarrassing public meltdown, he should have stayed in and looked in the mirror.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Well poor Tom Jefferson
-- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Jefferson Jericho Blues
Posted on: May 27, 2009 7:50 pm
Maybe the Chicago Cubs are right and they've been hosed by a rash of bad umpire calls lately.
Or maybe they're dead wrong and totally delusional.
Whatever, one thing could not be more clear in the midst of the emotion:
The Cubs are going to have to get a grip, because there is no way they can win this battle.
While Carlos Zambrano's sensational meltdown against Pittsburgh on Wednesday will be grist for video highlights and high entertainment the rest of this season and beyond, it was the Cubs' third major incident with an umpire in the past four days.
One day after being called out on strikes by plate umpire Doug Eddings, Milton Bradley on Sunday told Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune that, following an April 16 run-in with umpire Larry Vanover that resulted in a one-game suspension for Bradley, Vanover's colleagues are out to get him.
Monday night, starting pitcher Ted Lilly was ejected for chirping at plate umpire Bob Davidson over balls and strikes calls from the dugout. Lilly wasn't even the starter that night -- he had pitched Sunday in San Diego. Lilly told reporters that he was run after telling Davidson to "concentrate" more.
Tuesday, Davidson accused Lilly of lying, telling The Tribune's Sullivan that "everything [Lilly] said was bull. Everything I read in the paper that he said was untrue. He never said one of those words. What he said to me, you couldn't print in the paper."
Wednesday came Zambrano's tirade against plate umpire Mark Carlson. Zambrano was just activated from the disabled list on Friday. Now he's certain to miss more time with a hefty suspension.
One thing manager Lou Piniella liked about the addition of Bradley was that he thought the outfielder might bring an edge to the club that at times was soft last year. But they can't keep going on like this.
Losers of eight of their past 10 games, clearly, the Cubs are frustrated. But right now, they have the look of a team that's totally out of control.
If this persists, say goodbye to the notion of any close call going in their favor. The umpires have the final word. Teams have to figure out a way to get along with them. It's just the way it is.
Likes: Zack Greinke just keeps on rolling in Kansas City. He's now gone 14 consecutive starts without allowing a home run. That's a good baseball city in need of a good story, and good for Greinke. ... Baltimore set to summon catcher Matt Wieters from the minors on Friday. The Orioles continue to sail north under president/GM Andy MacPhail, even if they are fifth in the AL East. In Wieters, Nick Markakis and growing star center fielder Adam Jones, and with some young pitching developing quickly in the minors, this is a team that's a year -- maybe two at the most -- away. ... Texting taking a toll on America's teenagers? Very interesting story in the New York Times the other day.
Dislikes: You get the DVD from Netflix, you set aside for a few days, you finally pop it in and sit down to watch it one night and ... it's cracked and unplayable. At least Netflix is terrific in quickly solving the problem, and it happens only very rarely. But you've still gotta come up with Plan B that night.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
" If you want you can get to know me well
-- Matchbox 20, Argue
Posted on: March 14, 2009 5:06 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2009 9:17 pm
MESA, Ariz. -- All you Chicago Cubs fans who appreciate Mike Fontenot's hustle and grit, know that you sure aren't alone. Manager Lou Piniella essentially named him as the everyday second baseman Saturday morning before the club's Cactus League game with the Los Angeles Angels.
"Fontenot's basically winning the second base job right now," Piniella said. "He's played really well this spring.
"If that's the case, we'd rather keep him at second base as much as possible."
A month into camp, those ideas essentially have changed. Fontenot is hitting .371 with a.421 on-base percentage and making all the plays at second.
More conscious than ever about balancing his lineup with left-handers following last October's playoff debacle, Piniella also likes the left-handed Fontenot's strength. Even though he's only 5-8 and 170 pounds, Fontenot popped nine homers in 243 at-bats last summer.
Piniella right now plans to bat Fontenot sixth, lefty Kosuke Fukodome second and switch-hitter Milton Bradley in the cleanup slot.
"It breaks things up," Piniella said of batting Fontenot sixth. "I don't want to get caught with two left-handed hitters hitting sixth and eighth at the tail end of the lineup.
"Two, four and six is a real nice way to break things up."
Meanwhile, lefty Sean Marshall is throwing to well this spring that he's making another decision for the Cubs. The fifth starters' slot was open entering camp, following Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly and Rich Harden.
Marshall has been lights-out, compiling a 0.68 ERA over 13 1/3 spring innings, and has emerged as the clear favorite as the fifth starter.
"What we're looking for more than anything else is what we're going to do in the seventh inning," Piniella said, referring to his bullpen. "How we set up our pen in the seventh will dictate what happens everywhere else."
They're still unsettled on whether Carlos Marmol or Kevin Gregg, acquired from Florida during the winter, will replace Kerry Wood as closer. Likely, Marmol will wind up being that guy. Either way, one of them will pitch the eighth and the other the ninth.
Heilman probably will become the seventh-inning guy if Marshall nails down the fifth-starters' slot. Piniella is somewhat concerned that Marshall's move from the pen to the rotation will leave him with only one lefty reliever, Neal Cotts, though there are some options in camp, including veteran Mike Stanton and Jason Waddell.
As for Samardzija, 24, the Cubs continue to evaluate whether it would be best for both him and the team if he breaks camp as a long reliever or returns to Triple-A as a starter. The guess here is it may be very difficult for Piniella to resist bringing that arm north with him.
Likes: Nice chat with Milton Bradley on Saturday morning. I hope this three-year deal works out for him in Chicago. Yes, he has had issues. But he is an intelligent man, and quite likable when he doesn't have a chip on his shoulder. ... The way Jarrod Saltalamacchia's last name curves around the number on the back of his jersey, bending like one of those swimming pool noodles. If there were any more letters in that name, they would have to begin and end on his pants, not his jersey. ... The completely underrated song on Bruce Springsteen's latest disc, Working on a Dream, is Tomorrow Never Knows. It's spare, simple and excellent. ... Of the "fast-food" pizza delivery chains, I'll take Papa John's in a rout over Pizza Hut and Domino's.
Dislikes: Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol was wild against Los Angeles on Saturday, hitting two Angels in the third inning. Someone must have told Marmol that they were hitters from The Netherlands disguised in Angels uniforms. ... Aw, hate to see Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central bow out of the Michigan boys high school basketball tournament, but it's true. My Falcons were defeated by Dundee 38-23 on Friday night in the district championship game. Sounds like Dundee played a little defense.
Sunblock Day? It's the gorgeous part of the year in Arizona now. Warm sun, around 80. It's supposed to creep up to 90 in a few days, but for now, it's perfect.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Does anyone know where the love of God goes
-- Gordon Lightfoot, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Posted on: December 8, 2008 4:18 pm
LAS VEGAS -- San Diego general manager Kevin Towers described the Jake Peavy trade talks with the Chicago Cubs as "ongoing" during a discussion with several reporters Monday morning, then added a twist: If the Padres don't complete a Peavy deal by Christmas, they'll keep him.
"If we haven't made progress on a deal ... I don't want to go through the holidays with tons of holes and a guy who we don’t' know if we're going to move," Towers said.
As of now, the GM reiterated, he's speaking with exactly one club: The Chicago Cubs.
And in a development that should continue to keep these talks alive, GM Jim Hendry confirmed Monday that the Cubs are not a part of the bankruptcy filed by their current owner, the Tribune Co.
"All I know is I was told over the weekend that the Cubs are completely separate," Hendry said. "We're not worried. With new ownership in the next couple of (months), there have been no restrictions placed on me."
The Cubs are hoping to add a left-handed hitter, probably an outfielder, and also continue talking with the Padres regarding Peavy. They've already re-signed Ryan Dempster this winter, giving them a rotation of Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Rich Harden and, for now, Jason Marquis.
A third team likely will have to be included if Peavy is to head to the Cubs. Baltimore has been involved in those discussions.
Towers said he and Hendry have talked casually since arriving at the winter meetings and have "no major sitdown (planned) as of yet."
"I know where to find him," Towers said. "And he knows where to find me. He has a couple of things he's working on. Our focus is Peavy."
For this week and next, at least. And if no deal is completed by then, Towers said, the Padres likely will announce that they will keep Peavy.
"I don't think it's fair to our fans or to our ballclub to drag this thing out for the next couple of months," Towers said.
Posted on: November 18, 2008 4:44 pm
The Cubs didn't necessarily guarantee themselves a World Series win by re-signing Ryan Dempster on Tuesday. Depressing truth on Chicago's North Side, of course, is that the move probably didn't even guarantee them one playoff win.
But it's important to remember that, before the fall, this is a team that won 97 games last year and, as general manager Jim Hendry swings to get better this winter, bringing Dempster back so swiftly was a key move.
It frees up Hendry to set out for new business, and not worry about the old.
"A week before Thanksgiving, pitching-wise, we're in good shape compared to a lot of teams in the industry," Hendry said Tuesday afternoon.
Don't underestimate the Cubs getting pole position in the winter race to set 2009 rosters thanks to the ultra-aggressive Hendry.
Think Atlanta, which needs two starting pitchers, failed to trade for Jake Peavy and was spurned in negotiations with Dempster, isn't envious right about now?
The Cubs' rotation is at least four-fifths set now with Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden and Ted Lilly. Chicago's rotation led the National League in ERA (3.75) and winning percentage (.633) in 2008, and the winning part wasn't even close.
In going 69-40, the Cubs' starters far outdistanced St. Louis' rotation (second in the NL with a .587 winning percentage, 64-45).
Now, things change, and none of this guarantees cake and ice cream in 2009. But as far as starting points, the Cubs are far ahead of most of the rest of the industry.
There is still plenty Hendry would like to do. The Cubs' never-ending quest to add a significant left-handed batter remains a high priority. Adding even more depth to the rotation would be helpful, too. The Cubs have had several conversations with San Diego about Peavy this winter, and free agent left-hander Randy Johnson sure would be a nice fit in the rotation's No. 5 slot.
Dempster, 31, was 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA for the Cubs in '08.
"It's huge for us," Hendry said. "It was such a priority. Ryan did a terrific job. He had a phenomenal season. He's as good a clubhouse guy and teammate as we've ever had here."
Hendry, who acquired Kevin Gregg from Florida last week to help strengthen the bullpen, plans to meet with assistant Randy Bush and the rest of his brain trust again on Wednesday to plot where the Cubs' next moves.
"I don't think we're ever done looking," Hendry said. "There's always ways to get better. ... I wouldn't necessarily rule out anything."
Dempster's deal is four years at a reported $52 million, and he freely acknowledged he probably took a hometown discount to stay.
"For me, it's about being somewhere you like being," Dempster said in a conference call with reporters. "It's about being somewhere you think you can win.
"For me, it's more money than we deserve to be getting, but it's the marketplace."
Here's one more glimpse at the marketplace: Dempster said he did not receive any other firm offers, but since the free agent period opened up on Friday, he named Atlanta, the Mets, the Yankees, Toronto and the Los Angeles Dodgers as some of the teams that expressed interest.
Posted on: September 26, 2008 8:41 pm
MILWAUKEE -- Chicago manager Lou Piniella said the other day that Ryan Dempster will start Game 1 of the playoffs for the Cubs. Friday, he mapped out the rest of the Chicago rotation: Carlos Zambrano, who threw a no-hitter earlier this month, will start Game 2, followed by Rich Harden in Game 3 and Ted Lilly in Game 4.
Starting Dempster in Game 1 makes sense for two reasons: One, it's a reward for the man who successfully re-converted from closer back to starter and, so far, leads the Cubs in victories with 17.
Zambrano (14-6, 3.91 ERA) badly wants to start Game 1, but he historically has had difficulty controlling his emotions. No doubt, some of Piniella's decision hold Zambrano for the second game is partly related to the manager's ongoing effort to help Zambrano harness those emotions.
There is no guarantee that Zambrano won't be overly exuberant as he opens Game 2. But perhaps he'll work some of that out on the sidelines as Game 1 is played.
Harden (5-1, 1.77) and the left-handed Lilly (16-9, 4.17 ERA) will start the Cubs' two games on the road, Games 3 and 4.
Piniella has said all along that he has confidence in all four of his starters, and the fact that he's naming them now instead of working matchups when the Cubs find out who they'll be playing next week backs that up.
Now, all the Cubs need is an opponent.
If Milwaukee wins the NL wild-card, the Cubs will open their National League Divisional Series next week against the Los Angeles Dodgers.