Thursday, April 27, 2006

Hey, Hey from Mesa

View my Cubs photos from this season
Well it's been a busy time since my last blog, D Lee's injury, and then Barrett, Mad Dog keeps rollin, and a very nice outing by Sean Marshall. As I mentioned last year around this time, this blog will not be a day to day rundown of the Cubs progress through the season. There are many blogs being written chronicling the Cubs travails, including those from Bob Brenly and Len Kasper as well as from many fans and season ticket holders who attend the games at Wrigley. One of of my favorites is, Bleed Cubbie Blue a very well written and informative blog, maintained by Al Yellon a long time bleacher bum. I could use this blog to blabber on about what is right and wrong with the ballclub and give statistical analysis etc. but that takes a lot of time and currently I am spending all my time in production working on "The Boys of Spring" film as well as trying to earn a living. That being said I will try to keep updating this blog at least once a week, letting you know the progress of "The Boys" film and any other notes of interest, like when I go down to Fitch Park and check in on Wood, Prior, and Miller. Of course before and during spring training when I am close to the team, this is your place to go for Cubs info.

Check out the new movie trailer for Vince Lloyd "The Voice of Summer" on the CUBSDVD page. We have had wonderful feedback on the DVD, Vince was a natural storyteller and was at his best the day I interviewed him. If you haven't ordered a copy yet, be sure to pick one up and email us your review of the interview, all reviews will be automatically entered into a drawing to win a Cubs memorabilia package which includes a Ron Santo autographed unused ticket from the final game at old Hohokam Park in 1996. The last spring training game in 1996 was an exciting Cubs win in the final at bat, we were filming for the "Boys of Spring" documentary and had a camera shooting Ron and Pat broadcasting the game on WGN radio, when Ozzie Timmons hit the game winning HR, Ron literally jumped out of his seat! We will be giving away the prize package during this season's MLB all-star break so order your copy of Vince Lloyd "The Voice of Summer" and email us your review to win. You are also helping two great non-profit organizations when you purchase the DVD; find out more about them on our website.

Go Cubs!


This Santo autographed ticket will be part of the prize package

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Kerry Wood Today

View my Kerry Wood photos from today

Went down to Fitch Park to check out Kerry Wood's pitching. He did 3 sessions, the first 2 about 15 pitches each against Mesa Cubs hitters Puello, Brown, Inoa, and Reynolds.

Before the last round, he was asked if he wanted to throw a 3rd session, and he gave an enthusiastic "Yes."

This is the Balls and Strikes and Results for his 3rd session: (21 total pitches)

There were no players in the field while Wood pitched.

To Reynolds:

Ball
Strike
Fly ball to left
Ball
Foul
Strike
Ball
Strike Out swinging

To Brown:

Ball
Strike
Foul
Strike Out swinging

To Inoa:

Strike
Strike
Ground ball down the 3rd base line, depending on 3rd baseman could have been a double

To Reynolds:

Strike
Ball
Ball
Ball
Fou
Fly Out to Centerfield

After the final session, Wood shook all the minor league hitter's hands, and thanked them.

After his 3rd pitching session, he practiced fielding grounders and covering 1st base.

He said "Coming back from surgery is a mental thing, it's mostly mental."

When asked what's the next step? He said "I hope a game on Thursday" (in AZ)

One of the coaches (didn't get his name) indicated Wood is about a month away from pitching in a game for the Cubs.

From my perspective he looked strong and relaxed, of course he wasn't going up against the big boys. Wood's rehab looks to be on schedule, and if his next pitching assignment is in a game here in Az this coming week I will try to get out and watch it.

Timothy

Friday, April 14, 2006

Going to See Woody Tomorrow

View my photos from Chicago
Good to get the win today, it will be interesting to see how the Cubs starting pitching does these next two games. With pitching in mind I'm going to Fitch Park tomorrow to see Kerry Wood throw, and will let you know what I saw. Here are a few pics from my trip last weekend to Chicago.

Talk to you tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Weekend in the Windy City

I'm going to pretend like today's game didn't happen, and talk about this past weekend: I returned late last night from the windy city, and it surely lived up to its name. Ate way too much, including a nice meal at Harry Caray's restaurant in Rosemont. To my surprise on the wall behind the table we were seated at, was a picture me. In the photo is Harry, wife Dutchie, and Cubs Senior VP of Marketing and Broadcasting John McDonough taken in 1997 at HoHoKam Park with my hands and microphone clearly visible on the left side next to Harry. Possibly, you could have seen my head in the photo, but unfortunately it is behind the frame. The waitress looked at me a little funny when I asked her if they wanted me to autograph the photo. At any rate I think I'll send them a thinner frame to put it in!

Saturday was the only game I was able to attend at Wrigley Field over the weekend and what a game it was- what a series it was - Cubs Sweep! Cubs Sweep! I love doing public address work for the Cubs in spring training, but I also love to be a fan and just enjoy a game sitting in the stands. I knew the game was going to be played in cool temperatures; I think the high on Saturday reached just over 40 degrees, with a cold wind. It felt like Bears football weather. Considering I had left Arizona the day before, where the high temp was 81, it was an adjustment. The cool weather didn't stop us one bit from enjoying a Cubs come from behind victory.

I went to the game with a fun group from Partners for Prosperity, a non-traditional financial planning company. Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad, Poor Dad) had been one of their clients, and if you're interested their website is www.partners4prosperity.com We got down to Wrigleyville early, and stopped at Bernie's Tavern before making our way across the street to find our seats, and watch the end of batting practice. We had good seats in section 110, just past 3rd base on the edge of the infield.

As luck would have it, we had 4 college aged Cardinals fans sitting in the row directly in front of us. They left their jackets and their manners in St. Louis but didn't need the former as evidenced by the empty Whiskey bottle underneath their seats. Their mission was obvious - be as obnoxious as possible, pick up on the girls seated in front of them, and down as many beers as they could afford. They were having the time of their life throughout most of the game, with the Cardinals holding a 2 nothing lead in the bottom of the 6th when their Cubs bashing party came to a screeching halt as a 300 pound Dick Butkus look alike Cubs fan, clad only in jeans and a T shirt decided to join them. He had probably consumed more alcohol than the four of them put together, and while I'm sure they would have liked him to leave, as he didn't have a ticket there, they appeared too intimidated by him to do anything. Butkus then proceeded to lead the section in Cubs chants through the comeback innings, as he stood on a seat, twirling his shirt in the air above his naked torso. By the time the game was over, all 4 of them slunk out like whipped pups, with one muttering under his breath, "I hate the Cubs, I hate the Cubs". Coming from a Cardinals fan, that is music to the ears. This is the kind of stuff I don't get to see sitting up in the pressbox. As we were leaving the game, loud chants of SWEEP, SWEEP echoed throughout the Wrigley concourse.

There was tremendous energy at the friendly confines, and even though it's only an early series, the team showed a lot of character coming back from deficits to victories and sweeping the redbirds. I still think we're going to need some solid contributions this year from any of the rehab trio, Wood, Prior, and Miller, or it will be an uphill struggle. However, looking back at spring training, and the first week of the regular season, this Cubs team seems to have a quiet confidence and a resilient composure, a lot like their first baseman, Derrek Lee. Now that Lee has a new contract, and stated he's committed to winning with the Cubs, we can look to him as a catalyst for success this year and into the future.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Mark Prior Today in Mesa

Just returned from Fitch Park, I was able to watch Mark Prior today, this is what he did:

Warm up tossing with catcher about 40 feet apart

Long toss, about 25 throws

Simulated pitching on flat ground about 25-30 throws (looked about 1/2 to 3/4 speed velocity)

On mound, 10 pitching motions with towel, last 3 or 4 good velocity

On mound, 10 warm-up tosses

On mound, 10 throws looked close to full velocity (coach stood next to plate simulating a batter on about 5 of these)

That was the work-out, with breaks to talk about delivery, motion etc. with coaches. He seemed in good spirits, although he appeared irritated with the location of a few throws.

Well I am off to Chicago tomorrow morning, very excited, even though the weather looks a little iffy. We have tickets for Saturday's game but not tomorrow's home opener. This is quick work/pleasure trip and I will be back in Az on Monday night. With my laptop currently on the fritz, I'll have to wait till Tuesday to let you know how the trip went. (Will have some photos also)

Talk to you then,

Go Cubs!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Great Start, but...

The Cubs 16-7 pounding of the Reds sure was a nice way to open the regular season but what I am really watching for this season is consistency. As I mentioned the other day, this team will put runs up on the scoreboard. Recent Cubs teams relied heavily on the long ball and HR's didn't always mean a lot of runs scored. This team has some new dimensions-call it small ball or whatever you want- two main ingredients I noticed all through spring training were more plate discipline and overall team speed.

The Cubs finished among the MLB leaders this spring in fewest strike-outs, a good sign as patience at the plate has been missing for several years with this club. Matt Murton is a perfect example; this young guy rarely chased bad pitches this spring. Cubs announcer Bob Brenly asserts Murton will be one of the top hitters in baseball this year, while I temper that enthusiasm I do believe eventually he has the ability to become a top hitter. Patience at the plate is something that needs to be worked at; over the course of this season will the Cubs be consistent in this approach? A player to watch in this area is Jacque Jones the free swinging high strike out outfielder worked much of the off-season with Tony Gwynn. If Jones can bring his average up, strike-outs down, and hit more to the opposite field the Cubs offense will get a big boost. Of course, pitching will likely determine the Cubs overall fate this year, we'll talk about that later.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Many Questions, do the Cubs have Answers?

The 2006 Cubs have a difficult challenge ahead with the current starting pitching rotation, but who knows, maybe Sean Marshall will be the surprise of the regular season. Starting pitching aside this club has more team speed, and has made much needed improvements defensively. Having a true lead-off man with speed like Juan Pierre will be a huge help offensively, a missing component in recent years. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez will be counted on heavily to carry the offensive load, especially early until it's clear how much production will come from the young players and new additions. One thing the Cubs have this year is versatility with Jerry Hairston, Neifi Perez, Freddie Bynum, Angel Pagan, and John Mabry - all capable of playing multiple positions. Dusty appears to have a nice blend of speed, power, and defense, but for the Cubs to succeed over the long haul this season Matt Murton will need consistency at the plate, Ronny Cedeno will need to play strong defense, and Jacque Jones will need to hit well above last years .249 avg.

As far as pitching, more question marks. I won't even go into the Kerry Wood, Mark Prior situation, as it's a wait and see thing. Anything positive they can get out of those two this season will greatly help, but right now they can't be counted on. That leaves Zambrano, Maddux, Rusch, along with Sean Marshall and Jerome Williams for the starting rotation. Williams will start the season in long relief duty with the Cubs only needing 4 starters in the rotation early on. Marshall looked great this spring, but prior to his disappointing game in Las Vegas, he had only pitched 10 innings in the spring training games. At this point, he's still a big question mark, as is Williams who gave the most free passes of any Cubs pitcher, walking 13 this spring. Angel Guzman looked healthy and strong coming back from injuries, and could figure into the mix, but will start the season in triple A. It's possible that Wade Miller coming back from his surgery could help out the rotation, but that won't be until May or June. The Cubs spent money to bring in relief pitchers Scott Eyre and Bob Howry, shoring up one of their deficiencies. Overall the relief staff looked solid this spring, although Ryan Dempster struggled with walks and giving up hits before getting out of jams.

While the WBC tournament benefited younger players by giving them experience, it may have hindered Michael Barrett and Henry Blanco who missed time with the pitching staff. Dusty says he likes to use all the players on his roster, and this is a team where he can certainly do that. This Cubs team seems to have confidence and good chemistry, and showed flashes this spring of a club that will score some runs. They will have to hang tough early on in the season with the current starting pitching, and in order to make a serious move at the playoffs they will eventually need some kind of help from the rehab crew of Prior, Wood and Miller. The optimist in me thinks if the Wood and Prior get healthy this could be at least a wild-card team, the pessimist in me thinks, even if they get healthy they will still finish no better than 3rd in the division. The realist in me says it's been 98 years since the last World Series Championship, the fan in me says anything is possible- bring on the regular season!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Good-bye Sin City, let the Games Begin!

View my Cubs photos from the morning of the White Sox game

Just got back from Las Vegas, sorry for not blogging since Thursday but my laptop went belly up in Sin City. I won't delve into how the Cubs games in Vegas played out as most of you probably saw them telecast on WGN, so I'll do a little spring training housecleaning and then re-cap the Cubs spring season.

Our last game of the spring season at Hohokam on Thursday drew 12,879 fans, the final spring home attendance figure was 154,978 for 14 games, 39,015 below last years record setting mark. It's believed the WBC tourney, fewer games, and a rain-out all played a part in the decline.

As most of you know the Cubs picked up Freddie Bynum from the A's, sending John Koronka to the Texas Rangers in a 3 way deal. Bynum gives the Cubs more speed and versatility as he has played both middle infield spots and all 3 outfield positions. The Cubs have more speed as a team than they have had in quite some time.

I will post some pictures from Las Vegas later today and also my break down of the team along with my take on each player from the last month and a half. The end of spring training is always bittersweet for me as I lose my day to day contact with the Cubs but it's exciting to start the regular season and each year's new quest for the World Series. It's hard for me to believe that 2006 was my 23rd spring with the Cubs. Our intern (Kyle) from Scottsdale Community College who helped out in the PA booth this season informed me that it was 2 years before he was born when I started the Cubs gig. Man that makes me feel old; I think I'll start telling people that in my first spring training with the Cubs (1984) I was only 8 years old.

Nobody came up with the correct answers in the Vince Lloyd "Voice of Summer" quiz by the April 1st deadline, apparently even with the clues it was to difficult. So here are the answers:

Billy Williams - "He came from a small town in Alabama and almost quit baseball..."

Lou Boudreau - "They ought to take Sutcliffe out of there right now."

GM John Holland - "I've got to take the budget down to Wrigley...and I might get canned."

Wilt Chamberlain - "He's still the greatest physical specimen I ever saw."

Jack Brickhouse - "If I'm going to do a lead-off man, it might as well be the President..."

Ron Santo - "He never had any speed, couldn't run a lick."

Lou Boudreau - "We would talk baseball until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning on the road."

Fergie Jenkins - "He was one pitcher who hated to be taken out of the game."

Harry Caray - "He couldn't stand Milo Hamilton, and Milo didn't like him."

Adolfo Phillips - "...had his ass in the dugout half the time at the plate."

Lou Boudreau - "He had as good a baseball mind as I have ever encountered."

Those are the people Vince talks about in the trailer on the CUBSDVD page. We will have another contest to give away the Ron Santo autographed ticket soon so check back.

More later