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State of the Ivy Address - All-Star Break, 2007

by Eric Freeman Jr., Special to BaseballEvolution.com
July 9, 2007

On Sunday afternoon, the Cubs ended the first half of the season the way they started it: in an inferior opponent’s ballpark, with their ace on the hill, losing by five runs. Carlos Zambrano was out-dueled in the season opener in Cincinnati by Aaron Harang, while LSU graduate Shane Youman, in his second start after replacing DL-bound Zach Duke, pitched impressively to earn his second straight win for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cubs, other than NL All-Stars Alfonso Soriano and Derrek Lee, will get three days of well-earned rest after winning 12 of their final 16 games to pull within 4.5 games of the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers. There are 75 games left for the North Siders, and with the All-Star Break in full swing in San Francisco, now is a good time to take stock of this roller-coaster first half of a season, and predict what the future holds.

Manager Steamy McEarsalot


We all knew what Chicago would be in store for with new manager Lou Piniella, and because he hasn’t taken anyone out with a baseball bat yet (key word: yet), this was a good acquisition for the Cubs. His fiery disposition and no-nonsense attitude have helped, if not improved, Cub play over the first half. While not being able to handle the pressure of taking a game into extra innings (the Cubs are 1-6 in extra inning games this year, worst in baseball), Piniella has been reliable for some memorable soundbites, like the infamous “I don’t care about feelings” tirade. You know that a manager is superb when he will get himself ejected (and suspended for four days), all for Angel Pagan. His temper will get in the way at times, but it also fuels the fire behind the play of the Cubs. And as of late, it’s been pretty darn good.

Bye Bye Barrett


My fantasy baseball team sucks. Luckily, I’ve started to learn from my mistakes (like trading away Johan Santana).  Similarly, the Cubs got rid of one of their “mistakes” in Michael Barrett. Negative energy is always present in a clubhouse, and the Cubs have had ample negativity for decades, but sometimes it helps to alleviate some of that frustration by donating a catcher to the NL West Olympics. But getting rid of Barrett wasn’t purely because of his McEarsalot Jr. alter ego. GM Jim Hendry said so. “Michael was a good hitter for us the last three and a half years,” Hendry said at a press conference. “Right now, our priority would be playing great defense behind the plate and getting other things going and swinging well.” So the trade had to do with, er, ummm, giving one of the better catchers in the NL to the team in first place in a different division? I swear I’ve heard Jim Hendry say “get things going” at least once every time I’ve seen him talk. Barrett will probably make it to the playoffs in San Diego, unless he gets into a skirmish with David Wells. That’s a fight I would pay to see.


Who’s Now??

Ryan “The Riot” Theriot (right) and Mike “Font E. Not” Fontenot are making me proud as an LSU student. Granted, I’m still torn about Shane Youman’s victory earlier today, but there’s definitely much to be happy about in The Windy City.  So happy, I’m making a chart!


Player

AB

R

H

2B

HR

RBI

SB

BB

K

AVG

OBP

SLG

Soriano

346

60

107

24

15

33

13

21

70

.309

.352

.532

Theriot

257

38

71

15

1

25

14

24

28

.276

.338

.354

Fontenot

104

19

37

8

3

16

2

4

14

.356

.376

.577

Now Soriano’s numbers here suggest he be named a candidate for the Dave Kingman Award, and he’s always been hotter in the first half than in the second, so I’m really worried. But Theriot and Fontenot have performed well, having worked together before for the LSU Tigers on their way to the College World Series title in 2000. They know what it takes to win, and the fans at Wrigley are excited about the pair, almost fed up with underachievers Mark DeRosa and Cesar Izturis, and still laughing about Neifi Perez’s 25-game suspension for stimulants, the only cure for “old.”

A quick word about Felix “I before E, even after P (unless you want to be an architect)” Pie: untouchable. The Padres inquired about him in a possible trade offer, and the Cubs replied that he is utterly, unequivocally untouchable. Expect him back soon.

On The Mound


Other than Chris Marmol, Rocky Cherry and Clay Rapada (those last two by far the two best names on the Cub roster) there isn’t a pitcher the Cubs possess with an ERA under 3.00. But so far, this bullpen has been solid, for the most part. Bobby “Golly Bob” Howry and Will “Oh No” Ohman can hold sometimes for Ryan Dempster, but it’s time for Howry to go. I’m giving him the “old” diagnosis, and he won’t be a Cub by the time the season’s over.

The starting five should do better in the second half. Ted Lilly will still win a couple here, lose a couple there, and finish somewhere around 15-15. Marquis is historically terrible in the second half, going 43-28 in the first half before dipping to 19-29 after the break. Zambrano, however, is known for being on fire in July-August, and Rich Hill and Sean Marshall have pitched decently of late, but have been let down by a poor offense and Golly Bob. One solid acquisition will rejuvenate this bullpen, leading the way for Dempster to close it out.

The Cubs will be yelled at and will disappoint at times, but 2008 already looks promising. Home grown talent will replace the giant spending adventures of Mr. Hendry, and new players will emerge as superstars. Need help understanding this? See Athletics, Oakland.




This article was written by a guest contributor to BaseballEvolution.com. You can be one as well. Mail your articles to submissions@baseballevolution.com.

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