Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

September 2009 Archives

Big Z, Big $$, Little Sense

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Keep him or trade him? Love him or hate him?

Call him your ace or call in a cavalry of physical and psychological therapists?

In other words, what do the Cubs do with Carlos Zambrano?

Cubs pitching carries over

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Lou Piniella said before the game that as he looks to next year he doesn't see much need to bolster the pitching staff.

And Ryan Dempster, last year's Game 1 playoff starter who's signed for three more years, along with Aaron Heilman and Carlos Marmol showed what he meant in a game they kept low-scoring until Jeff Baker had a chance to win it with a homer in the ninth.

Cubs can see clearly now ...

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What if the Cubs' Derrek Lee hadn't started slow the first five or six weeks of the season? He might have 40 homers and 120 RBIs and challenging Albert Pujols for the MVP award.

What if Milton Bradley was never signed by the Cubs? Considering they're 16-9 (.640) this season when he doesn't play, they might be on their way to a 104-win season.

And if Aramis Ramirez (14 homers, 61 RBIs in 76 games) hadn't been on the DL for two months? And if Tylver Colvin's 1-for-3-with-an-RBI debut means anything about his long-term big-league ability?

If, if, if. Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

At least the Cubs have finally, clearly begun to lock their sights on making the most of next year and hitting the ground running toward actually contending again.

MILWAUKEE -- Unless a general manager puts together a World Series-winning team on his watch, he usually will be remembered most for the deals that went wrong. That means Jim Hendry faces a tall task in separating himself from the Milton Bradley signing.

When the Cubs identified a left-handed-hitting right fielder with pop as their biggest offseason need, Hendry had three free agents to consider. He showed mild interest in Raul Ibanez and no interest in Bobby Abreu. The man Hendry wanted all along was Bradley. Keep in mind, Bradley's former team, the Texas Rangers, got more out of him than any of the other five clubs he had played for, but Texas was willing to offer only a one-year deal.

Hendry swept in with a three-year, $30 million offer and Bradley was ready to slip on a Cubs cap. Bradley didn't even last a full season with the Cubs, and this will go down as one of the franchise's worst signings. It's certainly in a neck-and-neck race with the December 2000 signing of catcher/infielder Todd Hundley, who got a four-year, $23.5 million. At least Hundley lasted two seasons, though he hit a combined .199.

Hundley, who had his own run-ins with fans, was one of the many stains on Andy MacPhail's resume with the Cubs. Bradley belongs to Hendry, who at least gets credit for admitting he made a mistake by sending Bradley home two weeks before the end of the season.

''I don't think anybody's a miracle man where things work out all the time,'' manager Lou Piniella said Monday. ''In this business here, when things don't work, somebody's going to take some heat. It's unfortunate. This guys [Hendry] is the same guy who put together the team that won 97 ballgames and he did a hell of a job. When things don't work, well, you've got to point them at somebody. It's unfortunate in this business, but that's the way it works.''

Memory Lane with Cubs' Milton Bradley

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Milton Bradley, we hardly knew ye.

Only 5 ½ months into the first of what was supposed to be three seasons for the Cubs worth $30 million, the oft-slumping, more-oft-distracting Bradley was suspended by the Cubs for the rest of the year over comments he made to the media in recent days, culminating with an interview with the Daily Herald Saturday in which he took shots at media, fans and even the organization.

The chances of him returning to the team next season reside somewhere between those of the team making the playoffs this year and Hack Wilson being named NLCS MVP next month.

With that in mind, we look back on the Life of Milty as a Cub, in quotes from the 40-RBI man himself:

Too much ``negativity'' for Cubs' Bradley

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Not surprisingly, given his reaction to adversity and even to basic media questions this season, Milton Bradley appears to want out of Chicago as much as many in the organization seem to want him gone.

The Daily Herald's Bruce Miles got Bradley aside in the clubhouse this weekend and asked, among other things, if he had enjoyed his first season in Chicago.

``Not really,'' Bradley told him. ``It's just not a positive environment. I need a stable, healthy, enjoyable environment. There's too many people everywhere in your face with a microphone asking the same questions repeatedly. Everything is just bashing you. You go out there and you play harder than anybody on the field and never get credit for it. It's just negativity.

For the Glove of God

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Sam Fuld made another diving catch Monday night in the outfield (great play even if it turns out he trapped it) to end the fifth inning in a one-run game - raising again the question of whether this guy should get more playing time as the Cubs look toward next year.

And what about Andres Blanco - Mr. Spectacular almost every time he gets a start in the middle infield?

If the Cubs proved anything in their 2-0 win over Milwaukee Monday night - other than they still can't hit - it's how important fielding is to a team that expects to win.

Is Big Z a bona fide ace?

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You want to know what the Cubs got for their $91.5 million when they signed Big Z to that five-year extension two summers ago?

Then watch his starts Friday night in New York and next week in Pittsburgh.

Cubs vs. White Sox play-by-play

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Top of the first: Scott Podsednik leads off the game by ripping a ball past Cubs center fielder Kosuke Fukudome that gets stuck in the ivy. The speedy Podsednik, who would have easily reached third, is sent back to second. Gordon Beckham follows with a routine 1-5-3-4 double-play grounder that sees Podsednik tagged out in a rundown between second and third and Beckham in a pickle between second and first. A.J. Pierzynski's at-bat yields a tapper to first that seems uninteresting compared to all the action before.
White Sox 0, Cubs 0

Bottom of the first: Fukudome grounds out to Alexei Ramirez before Ryan Theriot pops up a bunt to the pitcher Carlos Torres. Aramis Ramirez grounds out to the other Ramirez for a quick 1-2-3 half inning.
White Sox 0, Cubs 0

Top of the second: Paul Konerko swings at the first pitch and hits an easy fly ball to Fukudome in center. Carlos Quentin fouls out to Jake Fox (who is filling in for proud father Derrek Lee). Chris Getz ropes a two-out single into right field and then takes second when Fox muffs a pick-off toss from pitcher Ryan Dempster. Ramirez makes the Cubs pay by singling through the hole to score Getz. Koyie Hill throws out Ramirez as he tries to steal second to end the threat.
White Sox 1, Cubs 0

Bottom of the second: Milton Bradley reaches on a broken-bat infield single that Ramirez can't get to in time. Fox swings at the first pitch and pops out to Podsednik in cetner. Soriano does virtually the same thing and Torres fans Jeff Baker for out No. 3.
White Sox 1, Cubs 0

Top of the third: Dewayne Wise starts things off by flying out to Bradley in right. Dempster strikes out Torres on a 2-2 pitch before Podsednik lines a single into left. Beckham flies to Bradley down the right-field line.
White Sox 1, Cubs 0

Bottom of the third: Koyie Hill taps weakly to second for the first out. Ramirez makes a spectacular play on a Dempster ground ball, ranging deep in the hole and showing off his arm on the assist to first. Fukudome hits a flair to left-center that drops in for a two-out single. Theriot hits a liner off Torres' glove, but the pitcher is able to scramble to the ball and retire him in time.
White Sox 1, Cubs 0

Top of the fourth: Pierzynksi grounds out to Fox at first for out No. 1. Konerko goes down swinging at a pitch in the dirt outside. Quentin laces a ball between Ramirez and Theriot for a two-out single. Getz hits a weak grounder to Baker at second for the final out.
White Sox 1, Cubs 0

Bottom of the fourth: Torres plunks Ramirez with a pitch and the Cubs third baseman takes a very, very slow walk over to first base. Bradley flies out to Quentin in left, who fights the sun before making the catch. Fox strokes a single to left-center, allowing Ramirez to race around to third. Soriano strikes out swinging on a breaking ball, leaving it up to Baker, who hits into an inning-ending 4-6 fielder's choice.
White Sox 1, Cubs 0

Top of the fifth: Ramirez kicks things off with a solid single to left. Theriot makes a nice running play on a Dewayne Wise pop-fly down the left-field line and Torres strikes out while trying to lay down a sacrifice bunt. Ramirez steals second as Hill's throw bounds into center, but there is no advance. Podsednik works a walk to bring Beckham up with two on and two out. The rookie third baseman chops out to third to end the scoring chance.
White Sox 1, Cubs 0

Bottom of the fifth: Hill blasts one to deep right that Wise snags after turning the wrong way not once, but twice. Dempster flies to short center for a much less exciting putout. Fukudome fans to complete the 1-2-3 half inning.
White Sox 1, Cubs 0

Top of the sixth: Pierzynski singles to right field to give the Sox a baserunner. Dempster buckles down and strikes out Konerko and Quentin before hitting Getz right between the ribs. Ramirez sends Bradley to the warning track, but his fly out ends the inning.
White Sox 1, Cubs 0

Bottom of the sixth: Theriot flies out to right and Ramirez bounces to third for two quick outs. Bradley strikes out for out No. 3 and is showered with boos.
White Sox 1, Cubs 0

Top of the seventh: Wise hits a lazy fly ball to Soriano in left for the first out. Torres strikes out quickly and Podsednik does the same thing. Ron Santo really belts out the seventh-inning stretch.
White Sox 1, Cubs 0

Bottom of the seventh: Fox doubles to the wall in right-center to give the Cubs an excellent chance to tie things up. Soriano fails to get him over in the form of a boo-inducing strikeout. Baker singles to right and Wise guns out Fox at home plate for the second out. Baker advances to second on the throw. Torres gets Hill swinging on a 2-2 pitch to preserve the lead.
White Sox 1, Cubs 0

Top of the eighth: Beckham singles up the middle and scores when Soriano slips trying to catch a Pierzynski fly ball to left. The Sox catcher races around to third on the play. Konerko singles him in to widen the margin. Lou Piniella comes out to pull Dempster from the game. Angel Guzman strikes out Quentin and pinch-runner Mark Kotsay is thrown out trying to steal second. Getz works a walk and steals second and Guzman walks Ramirez. Wise pops out to right.
White Sox 3, Cubs 0

Crosstown Crossroads

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Lou Piniella said he's looking forward to hanging out with Ozzie while they shoot some sort of commercial Thursday.

Derrek Lee said he's sure it'll be exciting when the Cubs and Sox face off today at Wrigley.

But really?

Usually there's something on the line for at least one team -- when you're playing in June, somebody's still playing for something.

But now? It's hard to imagine anything even worth bragging about, win or lose -- anything worth getting worked up about.

``Seems kind of strange, doesn't it?'' Piniella said. ``It really does. Playing them in September.

``I'll get a chance to hear a little bit of [Ozzie's] chatter. I enjoy talking to him about baseball, and about life in general. He's a philosopher.''

Piniella was in an upbeat mood after Wednesday's game, but he wasn't joking about Ozzie.

``Really, I enjoy talking to Ozzie,'' he said.

Maybe that's it. Maybe that's what today's one-day circus with the sagging tents is all about.

Talk. Chatter. Crosstown banter between two ships passing in the night during seasons adrift.

Maybe in all that talk, somebody will have sense enough to ask for directions.

Cubs' 2010 rotation?

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Consider Randy Wells for a minute. And then consider the Cubs' rotation for 2010.

``I don't know where we'd be without him,'' teammate Milton Bradley said after Wells beat Houston tonight to become the franchise's first rookie since Kerry Wood in '98 to win 10 games.

Wells (10-7, 2.90) is a converted catcher who languished in the minors until the Toronto Blue Jays made him a Rule 5 pick before last season - then returned him to the Cubs when they didn't think he was worth keeping on their 25-man roster.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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