A Trip Around the Minors...

Iowa
Felix Pie-I don't know what to say about Pie's performance anymore. He is hitting .193, thanks in large part to a 3 for 4 game last night that saved another otherwise after a 4 for 27 week. You can try to convince me that all guys have BA that fluctuate due to big games, but with Pie, we need some consistency. He has some mildly impressive stats for the week; 3 out of his 6 hits were doubles, he only K'd 3 times and he managed to collect 5 RBI's and 5 runs. But those stats seem hollow when you're batting worse than you did in the Bigs.

Rich Hill-Hill made two starts this week, after his 6/5/08 start was rained out. Last Friday night, he threw 5 scoreless innings, giving up only 1 hit. But he also walked 7. 7 walks in 5 innings? Ouch. Wednesday night proved Hill's ability to work around walks isn't going to work on a consistent basis. 4 innings, 6 walks, 3 earnies. If you look at the hit stats for the week, it's pretty good: 4 hits in 9 innings of work. If you look at the walk stats, you realize why he's at AAA: 13 walks in 9 innings.

Kevin Hart-Back to AAA on Thursday. Didn't pitch Thursday night.

Bonus-Before being recalled by the Cubs yesterday, E-Pat was hitting .326 with 93 total bags in 59 hits. He also stole 10 bases without being caught. The biggest concern from a statistical view is his K's...41 in 47 games.

Tennessee
Tyler Colvin-Colvin had a rough week. 3 hits in 25 AB's. Not a single walk. He managed to collect 3 RBI's last Saturday. While his strikeout total has now settled below one per game, he still has as many K's as he does hits. Those thinking he was on the fast-track may need to reconsider.

Donnie Veal-Veal got lit up in his one start, coming on Wednesday. He must've been talking to Rich Hill, because he walked 5 guys in just 2 innings of work, giving up 4 earned runs. Obviously, he didn't have his A game or his control in the game. Despite that, his ERA is still at 3.10. He just needs to cut down on the 40 walks in 72+ innings.

Jeff ND-Jeff ND threw in one game this week. His numbers were consistent with his number over the course of the year. 3 earned runs over 5 and a 1/3, dropping his ERA from 5.34 to 5.32. He walked 4, which has to be a concern of the Cubs after he finally seemed to be coming around, giving up only one free pass in his last two starts combined. Positives? He has thrown at least 5 innings in his last 4 starts and has K'd at least 4 in each of those starts.

Bonus-Not a focus on any player, but worthy of note. The Smokies, currently sitting in the basement of the Southern League at 26-41 and 14 games back, decided to reverse their fortunes a few weeks back by burning some of their equipment. They have lost 6 games straight.

Daytona
Tony Thomas-Thomas is currently riding a 8 game hitting streak, despite Dunedin's attempt to end it Wednesday night, walking Thomas 3 times. With Wednesday's hit, Thomas hit the 100 total base plateau. He also scored 6 runs this week. The icing on the cake is two more stolen bases for Thomas.

Jose Ceda-Seeing how much Ceda has struggled this year, the Cubs have pulled him for the rotation, at least for now. That doesn't come as that great a surprise to me; when I saw him pitched he looked more like a reliever than a starter. Ceda made three relief appearance this week and fared no better. While his one performance was solid; 2 innings of one hit, 3 K baseball, he struggled in the other two. On Monday, he only gave up 1 hit and walked no one, but thanks to a hit batsmen, he yielded 2 earned runs. Last night, he gave up a earnie in one inning of relief.

Bonus-Blake Lalli (a NDFA who signed before the 2006 draft as a fifth year senior can) has been a overlooked man for Daytona. The catcher turned first basemen is second in the Florida State League in hitting with a .327 average.

Peoria
Josh Donaldson-Things are hopefully looking up for Donaldson. His batting average is safely up over .200 now, at .207. He's only played in 3 games this week, but went 4 for 12 with a double and a HR. Donaldson's struggles have been primarily against right-handed pitching, where he's hitting only .182. In limited plate appearances against Lefties, Donaldson is actually hitting .306.

Bonus-Blake Parker (16th round, 2006), a right-handed relief pitcher, has a 1.31 ERA over 48+ innings this year. Parker has nearly one K per inning, while only walking 17.
Josh Vitters-Boise opens it's season in 4 days.

Edmonds, Throwbacks, Z Hitting, a Signing, & Soriano

Until further notice...I still hate the guy. But yesterday, Jim Edmonds may have "become a Cub" in my mind. Dude all but won yesterday's crazy game for us on the offensive side. May have. Until further notice, I still hate the guy. The Cubs trailed from the 2nd inning until Edmonds scored a run w/ a sac fly in the 7th (there's no such thing as a "sac fly," I've heard-just a HR ball that didn't make it out of the ballpark) and then the game tying HR into the basket in left to tie it up in Bottom 9. Edmonds was coming up again in Bottom 11 with the bases loaded when Lou pinch hit Reed Johnson for him. Johnson was HBP, Cubs win, game over. Great stuff.

Lots to get to, so let's get some notes up:
  • I'm in to uniforms. If you never have, check out the UniWatch Blog at that link. Great stuff. That said, I thought yesterday's throwback uniforms worn by the Cubs and Braves were really cool. Check 'em out here and here.
  • WTF? I don't care what Carlos Zambrano's batting average is (.362, by the way), you don't leave him up to hit in Bottom 7 with 2 outs and the tying run on 2nd. You pinch hit there (Micah Hoffpauir perhaps?). I realize that Bobby Cox even went with a pitching change there, but I don't care what your pitcher is hitting-you do not let him hit there. Factor in that Z was then yanked after walking the leadoff batter in the 8th, and you DEFINITELY do not let Z hit there. The only way you do is if you're going to let the guy go at least one more full inning. C'mon Lou-let's not start getting cute here.
  • The Cubs signed Ben Broussard on Wednesday after learning of the extent of Soriano's broken hand. Broussard is a lefy stick who most recently has been bouncing around with SEA, TEX, and was most recently cut by NYY. He's basically a "just in case" policy that likely won't see time with the club-if we do, we it trubble. Oh...and Broussard has his own band or something.
  • Finally, an update on Soriano's injury ($) from BP injury expert Will Carroll. Carroll is actually fairly optimistic, saying it will take about a month to heal and that Sori should be able to make it back in the quoted six weeks. Why? Because the injury occurred to Sori's ring finger. Biomechanical studies have show that this finger contributes very little to a hitter's swing. He should make a full recovery and be back around the minimum.

Short Hop

  • The Cubs have recalled Micah Hoffpauir and E-Pat to replace Alfonso Soriano, with Kevin Hart also being sent back to AAA in anticipation of interleague games starting tomorrow.

Throwback Thursday

This afternoon's Cubs/Braves game will have a bit of a different feel to it. Not because the Cubs will be playing their first of many straight games without Soriano bunny-hopping around the outfield, but because the clubs are set to don 1948-style retro jerseys in the first ever throwback game at Wrigley Field. The team is really taking this thing a lot further than most clubs, and the details seem fairly cool:

The game should be a treat for TV viewers, who can watch the first two innings in black and white with fewer camera angles. The telecast will try to go without a center-field camera and use basic graphics at the start, and then add a camera or another technical advancement as the game progresses. Commentators Len Kasper and Bob Brenly will don appropriate 1948 garb in the booth.

Fans attending the game are encouraged to join Kasper and Brenly in dressing in 1948-style attire. The ballpark experience will have a classic feel, from music to scorecards to ingame and postgame activities. For the first hour after gates open, Kelly Eisenberg smokey links make a return for $1 a piece and select vendors will sell drinks in the stands for 75 cents.

Finally, I'd be remiss not to post this little entry from The Muskrat's mailbag. This is just a great sample of why her regular mailbag articles are among the absolute dumbest things on the interweb. It speaks for itself:

Could you please tell me what a "throwback" game is? Is it a game that does not count in the standings?
-- Rick H., Bourbonnais, Ill.

The game does count. The Cubs will play a throwback game on Thursday against the Atlanta Braves, the first such game at Wrigley Field. It's called "throwback" because the players will wear uniforms from the past. The Cubs will wear replica 1948 uniforms while the Braves will take part wearing uniforms resembling those of the 1948 Boston Braves.

WGN-TV will present a special broadcast of the game to commemorate its 60th anniversary. If you're going, and have any clothes in the attic from 1948, get in the swing. Broadcasters Kasper and Bob Brenly will be decked out in timely outfits.

Alfonso Soriano Breaks Hand

UPDATE 6.12 @ 7:35 AM: The Cubs will in fact be recalling Micah Hoffpauir from Iowa today. And, smartly, they'll be dropping the 13th pitcher in favor of another hitter, probably tomorrow, heading in to the interleague play that will take us nearly through the end of the month (series @ TOR and TAM, then home vs. the Chi Sox and BAL, then at the Cell against the SOX). This article suggests the Cubs may be adding either Eric Patterson or Matt Murton to the lineup. EPat is hitting .326 with a .875 OPS and 5 HRs for Iowa this year. The Big Murt is hacking away at a clip of .311 with an OPS of .811, but only 1 HR in a comparable number of ABs to Patterson.

If the Cubs don't recall Murton here, though, someone is going to have to remind me why the hell we're keeping this guy in the organization. Murton is, in essence, a AAAA player or a 4th OFer on this team. He's also basically our backup LF. He would be the starting LF on a number of MLB clubs. If he could play CF at all, he would have been on the Cubs all year. Now our starting LF goes down-and there's a shot that we're NOT going to use him in LF? Instead there's a chance we'll recall another 2B in Patterson, move our current 2B to LF, and then roll with Fontenot, Cedeno, and Patterson at 2B?

Do the right thing here Hendry-let's give Murton the shot he has earned.

------------------

"Minimally displaced fracture of the metacarpal of his left ring finger." What the hell does that mean? It means that Cubs All-Star LFer, Alfonso "The Glass Ego" Soriano, will be out of the lineup for the next six...count 'em six...weeks with a broken hand. Soriano could well be out in to August. Ouch.

In the 2nd inning of tonight's brilliant complete game by Ryan Dempster, Soriano got drilled on the left hand by a Jeff Bennett pitch. Video of the pitch and resulting injury is available here. Doesn't look good, folks. X rays taken at Northwestern Memorial hospital have revealed the fracture just under the fourth finger on Sori's left hand.

Early word is that Micah Hoffpauir will take Sori's place on the roster tomorrow (now that his 10 required days in the minors after being sent down are up). This move was expected to be coming anyway, though, with Daryl Ward not yet healthy and the inter-league series coming up. Looks like Lou will stick with 13 pitchers for a bit longer afterall.

With the injury, we can expect to see a lot more of Mark DeRosa in LF and, possibly, Micah Hoffpauir as well. Hoffpauir's bat could replace some of the lost pop that went down with Sori. With DeRosa likely shifting to OF, we'll also be seeing more of Lil Mikey Fontenot and probably Ronny Cedeno at 2B. And expect the "who will/should hit leadoff" debate to come back to the forefront.

I know we here at TD have had some gripes with Soriano this season, but it's hard to argue that we're not going to miss him over the next six weeks. We survived, and thrived, without Sori earlier this year. Let's hope the Cubs can step up and keep this amazing streak of baseball going even with the star on the bench. The race for NL's best record and the incredibly valuable home field advantage in the playoffs aren't going to wait.

More on this as the story develops.

Minor League Movers...


Iowa
Iowa made it's second pitching roster move in as many weeks. This time, they subtracted Randy Keisler to reinstate Andres Torres from the D.L. This move was a bit baffling. Keisler, a left-handed starter, was 4-6 with a 3.14 ERA. But this was a pure numbers move...the Cubs have a 5-1, 2.08 ERA Randy Wells, a 3-3, 2.76 ERA J.R. Mathes, and a 4-4, 2.59 ERA Mike Burns in the rotation. Rich Hill wasn't supposed to be here; he's the one who's clogging the rotation and leading to this move. The other news is the return of Sean Marshall from the D.L. this week...the corresponding move has yet to be announced.
Tennessee
No Moves
Daytona
Billy Petrick was placed on the D.L. last Thursday, allowing the Cubs to add Todd Blackford from Extended Spring Training. Blackford was the Cubs acquisition in the Todd Hollandsworth trade. Also headed to the D.L. was another pitcher, Adam Harben. Harben was acquired in the Phil Nevin trade. To replace him, the Cubs called up Billy Muldowney (8th round, 2006) from Peoria. The fact that Blackford was chosen over a majority of the Peoria roster makes me believe that he was either throwing amazingly in Mesa or more likely that his stay is expected to be short and he will be sent back down as soon as one of these two come off the D.L.
Peoria
Just a week after being sent back to EST, Alberto Cabrera returned to the Chiefs to replace the roster spot vacated by the promotion of Muldowney. In the first non-pitcher related move, the Chiefs also added Jonathan Wyatt from Daytona and sent Leon Johnson (10th round, 2007) back to EST.
Boise
Look for a special Boise roster posting in the coming weeks as they get under way.

Shawon Award #2 - Erin Andrews

I've been thinking for the past few weeks who I believe deserves the Shawon Award (an award given for awesomness in the eyes of Arthur) and it has been tough. I thought about Soto and his great hitting, Fuku for being fuku and even Al "I have a glass ego" Soriano for his comeback...but as I sat on my carpet and thought about this deeply I realized one thing --> Lionel is getting married soon and how is this affecting my life.

Well, first off his wedding is on the 14th of June (please do not send any boxed gifts to Lionel c/o Towel Drills...we will however take anything that fits into an envelope)...and this means that after Saturday he can no longer enjoy the sweet comfort of any other lady besides his beautiful bride.

Second...I am somewhat jealous of this fact. Why? not because I want to stop milling around the farm but because Lionel now has 2 incomes to play with...

So with that being said I now annuonce the winner of the second Shawon Award - Erin Andrews. For all of her heart, dedication and decent looks she defines what sports casting should be about.

Keep on keeping on Lionel.

Arthur Gets his Wish

As the baseball card above predicted, Lance Dickson is now a star; he is the TD fan favorite backup starting pitcher of the early 90's (not too many qualification on that one). It was a tight race, but thanks in part to Arthur's lobbying, Dickson won. For the record, Dickson was the 23rd overall pick of the Cubs in the 1990 draft. Later that year, at age 20, Dickson made his major league debut, starting three games, going 0-3 with a 7.24 ERA. Obviously a good idea to bring him up, as Dickson never returned to the Bigs.
We now move on to relief pitchers of the early 90's.

"100 Years of Hope": June 1908

Another off day yesterday, so today's a great time to put up the latest installment of The Muskrat's "100 Years of Hope" series.

Muskrat seems to be getting a bit bored with the series-she did a fairly half assed job this time around. As interesting as last month's effort on Orval Overall was, June's offering is short and fairly uneventful.

That is, with one notable exception. It seems the above pictured 3B Henie Zimmerman was a first class bastard. On June 2nd, Zimmerman started a bit of a donybrook. Upset by some comments made by teammate Jiy Sheckard, Zimmerman decided to launch a bottle of ammonia at Sheckard's face, the bottle exploding in Sheckard's eyes. Sheckard's eyesight was saved, but Zimmerman was not. For his efforts, the entire team (led by manager Frank Chance) beat Zimmerman to a pulp. No word on why the eff a bottle of ammonia was lying around ready to be used as a weapon in a fight.

Zimmerman, though, didn't seem to learn his lesson in tomfoolery (yep-I just used both "donnybrook" and "tomfoolery" in the same post-jealous?). He would later be suspended while playing for the New York Giants for his role in a game fixing plot in the same 1919 season that would bring baseball the Black Sox Scandal. Sounds like a bad dude.

For the record, Towel Drills does not endorse the throwing of chemicals at people's faces. Not without a permission slip or doctor's note or something anyway.

Whaaaaaaa?


To date, I have avoided most Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts, opting for a Sunday night of cartoons. While the majority of it has to do with the quality of Sunday night programming on Fox, it also has something to do with Joe Morgan. I hate Morgan. I hate him with every fiber of my being. Since I couldn't get the radio broadcast synced with the TV broadcast, I suffered through it. Here's some of what I heard:
.200=.300-Joe Morgan said that a .200 hitting pitcher was equivalent to a .300 hitter because he didn't play every day. Huh? The point he seemed to be making was that a .200 hitter was a valuable asset because he could help your team with the stick. But how does a .300 hitter (who averages a hit a game over 3-4 AB's) equal a pitcher who gets a hit roughly every two games (since they usually bat 2-3 times a game)?
Sweet Lou-Joe rambled about how Lou hasn't erupted this year because while the team has endured some losing streaks, he has remained calm and been Sweet Lou. Two things wrong with the comment. First, is two games really a streak? Second, last time I checked, the nickname "Sweet" Lou wasn't referring to Lou being a nice guy, but good try Joe.
1 run leads are harder to save-This comment needs no explanation. Nor did it need to be said. Good analysis, Joe.

Mark Cuban: A Cubs Fan's Dream

Somehow, we here at TD have avoided comment thus far on the impending sale of the Cubs and Wrigley Field, as well as on the possible future ownership of the club by freaking stud Mark Cuban.

I think I speak for my boys here at TD when I say that our favorite choice for the future owner of our favorite sports franchise is and will continue to be Mark Cuban. I get wet dreams thinking about this guy owning the Cubs. I would think any sports fan would. Name me one guy that is more dedicated to providing the absolute best for his team or one owner in sports that is more about building the best possible team he can in an attempt to, above all, win more than Cuban. The guy's the man. If Lou Pinella was my dream manager-then Cuban is my dream owner.

Cuban "gets it." He really seems to understand what it is that makes the Cubs so special. And I think he'll work to protect it. Here's what he had to say Friday on "Waddle and Silvy":

Cuban: Well, I mean, you know, the Cubs experience in Wrigley Field is what it is. I mean, there's nothing more special in all of sports than going to a Cubbie game. You know, it's more in terms of you've got to be a partner with the people that live around you. And there's peoples live who don't go up and down based off of the Cubs, they have to live in that area and how can you be partners with them so schools, and community centers and the rest can benefit from the Cubs and Wrigley Field and, you know, those are would be some of the things I'm including on my list.

Would you want Wrigley Field to be part of the deal?

Cuban: Absolutely. Definitely would want Wrigley Field to be part of the deal because you have to protect the experience. The state's job is to look out for the citizens of the state of Illinois, not just for Cubs fans and that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be a good match and, you know, separating the two, again, it's Sam Zell's final decision, but it'd be important to me to own Wrigley because you want to protect Wrigley. You know, a lot of people question whether a new owner is going to come in and change it and change the ivy and change just the feel of it and the experience of it, and that's something I would not want to do.

What more could you ask of out of the next owner of our club? This guy? Or some group of suits who want to figure out how to run the club "like a business" and turn it in to the Florida Marlins with their $21 million total payroll? (Yes...I know they've won 2 World Series lately...just take the point).

As you likely well know, the sentiment on Cuban's potential ownership is that the old boy's baseball club will attempt to keep the bratty billionaire on the outside. The thinking being that the old white men that own MLB clubs won't want to deal with a young hot shot mouthing off about umpires or baseball policy. Whatever. Baseball is enjoying the most popularity it has had in a long time. But it's still getting taken to the woodshed by the NFL in terms of money and national consciousness. Cuban could provide a huge shot in the arm to all of baseball (and by that I mean, of course, cash money) through ownership of one of its most famous franchises. Straight up, it's a good thing for baseball.

Though Trib owner Sam Zell continues to drag his feet, word is that the financial books that all of the MLB approved Cubs bidders have been pining for are close to being released. Like, this week close. And Cuban is saying he's going to "pull out all the stops" for his bid:
"It's about being a good citizen. It's about contributing to the community, and to me that's viewed to be just as important as Major League Baseball or the Tribune Co. You know, what can I do for Wrigleyville? What can I do for the community? And what are the ways that I fit in and add value? … There are a lot of things we can do communitywise that can enhance my chances, and so I'm gonna pull out all the stops."
My impression on all of this is, in a nutshell, Sam Zell straight doesn't give a shit. Dude wants cash, and lots of it. Zell is about as cuthroat a business man as you'll ever find. He didn't buy the Cubs to sit in the front row, eat hot dogs, wear a foam finger, and cheer along with the rest of us. He bought it as a high stakes version of "Flip this House." He's coming in, cleaning house, figuring out how to squeeze as much cash as possible out of the deal (thus the deal with splitting the club from Wrigley Field), and is moving on to the next property. If Mark Cuban comes in and lets the cash do the talking, putting up the highest bid, I'd like to see that schlub Bud Selig and his group of old guy owners try and stop Zell and Cuban from pushing through the sale.

Free Mark Cuban!