October 2009

10/3 Lineup

Derrek Lee is back and in the Cubs’ lineup for Saturday’s game against the Diamondbacks. Tyler Colvin also is making his first start at Wrigley Field.

SS Theriot

RF Fukudome

1B Lee

3B Ramirez

2B Baker

LF Johnson

C Soto

CF Colvin

P Wells

– Carrie Muskat

10/2 Beer, balls & strikes

Koyie Hill didn’t really notice the two umpires sitting in the first row behind home plate Friday at Wrigley Field until a point in the game when pitcher Tom Gorzelanny needed a new baseball.

“I saw them on one pitch, when it was a foul ball or something, and the pitcher throws the ball back,” said the Cubs catcher, “and I went back to get a ball and I didn’t hear them but I saw the guys digging in their pockets to throw a ball back. I thought, that was pretty good. I didn’t think about it at the time, but now that I think about it, it’s pretty funny.”

Tim Williams and Joe Farrell, two traders on the Toronto stock exchange, are better known around Major League ballparks as the fake umpires. They were behind home plate at Wrigley Field calling every pitch between sips of beer, bites of their hot dogs, and posing for pictures.

Dressed head to toe in umpire gear minus their masks, Williams and Farrell had been to seven other Major League ballparks before Friday’s Diamondbacks-Cubs game. The only downside to their Chicago visit, besides the cool weather, was that Wrigley security confiscated their masks. Apparently, there’s a “no costume” policy at the ballpark. The two got them back with one out to go in the game.

“It was pretty funny, to say the least,” Gorzelanny said of the pair’s antics, a YouTube favorite. “It took me a while into the game [before I noticed them]. I saw them, and thought maybe they were imposters. I didn’t realize they were the real guys. They’ve got a good little gig going on.”

They sure do. Williams and Farrell had plenty of cold beer, courtesy of generous Cubs fans, and plenty of folks who wanted a souvenir snapshot. The two mimic the home plate umpire’s calls in perfect synchronization, signal the count, and whether balls are fair or foul. They’re into the game. Called third strikes are fan favorites.

“Reed [Johnson] and I talked about them earlier in the year, and we thought it was hilarious,” Hill said of the two. “Great seats, too.”
 
Williams and Farrell did pay for them. They were in Chicago on business, and bought the front row seats. What do Major League umpires think of the two?

“I’ve heard, secretely, they like us,” Williams said. “There’s a league mandate not to engage us during the game. I’ve heard they all like us, but they can’t talk to us during the game. We’ve heard from sources that they all find it entertaining.”

So do the players.

“They’re a pretty funny crew,” Gorzelanny said.

“I asked [crew chief Ed Rapuano], ‘How do you guys handle that?'” Cubs first baseman Micah Hoffpauir said, “and he said, ‘It’s fun for the fans.’ [Rapuano] said they had them last week in Toronto.”

And all the free beers?

“Perks of the business,” Hoffpauir said. “They had the whole get up. If you’re going to do it, do it right.”

Hill, who deals with umpires every day behind the plate, said he was impressed that the pair knew home plate umpire Paul Nauert’s name, and didn’t think their behavior was disrespectful.

“I think they have enough awareness of the livelihood of [the umpires] out there that they’re not going to trespass on that territory and ruin what they’ve got going,” Hill said. “They are pretty funny.”

– Carrie Muskat

10/2 Learning experience

If the Cubs sweep the Diamondbacks this weekend, they will finish with the same number of wins they had in 2007 when they won the NL Central in Lou Piniella’s first season in Chicago. But that year, their postseason play ended quickly as Arizona swept the Cubs in the NLDS. In 2008, the Cubs won 97 games, but were eliminated in three games again.

This year, the Cubs will finish with a winning record, but ask them, and it’s not a winning season unless you get to the playoffs. What can the players learn from this?

“The positives are that you remember the good times from last year and you remember how much of a struggle this year has been and you want to get yourself  back to [the postseason],” Piniella said. “That means for some of these guys working hard over the winter, and for all these guys thinking about what they need to do for next year to get back to where we were.

“This year here, it was a struggle for us,” Piniella said. “To these guys’ credit in the clubhouse, we’ve been able to hold it together and keep it respectable. It could’ve gotten away. You look at the list of players I have here on my desk and the amount of time they’ve missed [because of injuries], If somebody would’ve told [the media] this, and especially myself and my staff, you’d have shuddered a little bit. You’re talking about 40 percent of our roster, and for all of them, key people, and at the same time, all for at least a month apiece. It’s been difficult.

“We’re going to finish the season respectable,” he said. “We’ll finish in second palce in our division and over .500. It’s not what we wanted coming out of Spring Training, I can tell you that. But in a way, you can be somewhat thankful.”

– Carrie Muskat

10/2 No gold for Chicago

Lou Piniella was disappointed the city of Chicago lost in its bid for the 2016 Olympics.

“That’s a shame,” Piniella said Friday. “The city of Chicago would’ve been a wonderful host and it’s a shame the city got eliminated, especially so quick. It’s a great sports town and we would’ve offered the international community a great venue.”

That means the Cubs won’t have to go on a long road trip seven years from now to accomodate the games.

“Seven years from now,” Piniella said, “I’ll be in Montenegro.”

– Carrie Muskat

10/2 Lineup

Derrek Lee remained out for personal reasons, so Jake Fox is starting at first base for the Cubs in Game 1 of the final three-game series of the season. Here’s the lineup vs the Diamondbacks:

CF Fuld

RF Fukudome

3B Ramirez

1B Fox

2B Baker

LF Scales

C Hill

SS Blanco

P Gorzelanny

– Carrie Muskat

10/1 Ryno on managing

Ryne Sandberg talked about possibly managing in the big leagues and managing the Cubs on Thursday on the MLB Home Plate channel on SIRIUS XM Radio. Sandberg just finished his third season in the Minor Leagues, leading the Double-A Tennessee Smokies to the Southern League championship. Here’s a transcript:

Host BILL RIPKEN: “This is your third year managing [in the Minors]. It’s very rare to see a Hall of Famer want to jump back on the buses in the Minor Leagues and manage. This only tells me that you want to be managing back in the big leagues where you played so many years with Chicago. At this time of year, do you look at some of the clubs that are going through some transition with the managers and actually think, ‘Hmm, that’s pretty good. I might have to get this resume out pretty quick.'”

SANDBERG: “Ultimately I’d like to do this with the Chicago Cubs, and once this season’s over, I’d like to meet with the management and kind of see where I’m headed or their feelings on that. Once I get that feel, I can make some adjustments if I have to. But, yeah, you’re right, getting on the buses and going through the Minor Leagues again is all about getting back to the Major Leagues. I think that’s the proper way to go. I think it’s been very beneficial to me as far as seeing if I like it, No. 1, and seeing if I’m any good at it and learn some things along the way. So, it’s been a great three years.

“I feel after this Double-A season with managing National League rules along with having some games DH, I think I’ve experienced a lot. And now, I’m just kind of waiting for that opportunity wherever that would come from. Like I told the guys all year on my team, ‘We’re Double-A, we’re in the Minor Leagues, the No. 1 goal is to be a Major Leaguer somewhere.  And there’s 30 teams out there. And actually, guys, I’m right there in the same boat with you.’  We want to get to the Major Leagues, No. 1. No. 2, we want to do it with the Chicago Cubs.”

Host SETH EVERETT: “There is all kinds of speculation about Lou Piniella. You said you want to talk to management. I would imagine they have to make their decisions probably before they talk to you so that they can have some answers for you.”

SANDBERG: “Well, Lou’s under contract for next year and he’s taken this team to the playoffs the past two years and he has one more year left. I anticipate him coming back for that last year. I just want to be a candidate for that job after Lou is finished, whenever he’s finished. So, whatever that means for the organization, whatever they’d like to see me do, whether it’s coach at the Major League level or continue in the Minor Leagues, Double-A, Triple-A, whatever that is, I want to feel them out and see where I fit in as far as that goes.”

– Carrie Muskat

10/1 Lineup change – D-Lee scratched

Derrek Lee was scratched from the Cubs’ lineup Thursday for a personal reason, so Jake Fox was inserted at first base and will bat fourth. Aramis Ramirez moved up to third in the order. So, if you’re scoring at home, it will be:

SS Theriot

LF Taguchi

3B Ramirez

1B Fox

2B Baker

RF Johnson

C Soto

CF Fuld

P Samardzija

– Carrie Muskat

 

 

10/1 Lineup (if they play)

It’s raining at Wrigley, the tarp is on the field and the forecast isn’t good. Lou Piniella did say if the game is rained out, he’d like to still give Jeff Samardzija a start in the final three games, so someone could be bumped. Here’s the lineup if Cubs do play:

SS Theriot

LF Taguchi

1B Lee

3B Ramirez

2B Baker

RF Johnson

C Soto

CF Fuld

P Samardzija

– Carrie Muskat

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