September 2011

9/25 Tinkerbell, Hannibal Lecter & Minnie Mouse

Sunday was rookie hazing day, and probably the first time John Gaub, Rafael Dolis, Bryan LaHair and Tony Campana wore the costumes they did. Some didn’t quite fit — Gaub’s short ruffled dress didn’t quite close in the back and DJ LeMahieu had a tough time getting his bright blue skin-tight animal outfit zipper to close. Last year, the dress Casey Coleman was to wear ripped and had to be stapled. The veterans took it easy on Coleman this year, and he was given a bright orange prison jumper with a Hannibal Lecter mask. He seemed to be enjoying it. Tyler Colvin missed last year’s hazing because he didn’t finish the season with the team after being hit in the chest with a broken bat. He had a Minnie Mouse type dress to wear. Andrew Cashner was decked out in a MC Hammer type black and gold get-up. He had to wear his cowboy boots with it — there wasn’t another option. Campana was dressed in a bright green Tinkerbell-type fairy dress. He kept the wand tucked in his socks. The Cubs veterans didn’t spare anyone, giving costumes to the masseuse, video coordinator and one of the bullpen catchers. It’ll be a long flight to San Diego.

— Carrie Muskat

9/25 Cardinals, Cubs salute Pujols

Albert Pujols is usually the one in Cardinals’ red launching balls out of the ballpark, but he went 0-for-4 in what could be his last home game for the team. The crowd of 41,469 saluted the free agent to be in each at-bat with a standing ovation. Cubs starter Randy Wells stepped off the mound in the first to let the fans acknowledge Pujols, then got him to line out to second base, igniting a double play.

“I respect Albert, I think everybody respects Albert,” Wells said. “It’s a nice moment for him. To be honest, I thought he was getting his regular cheers [in the first]. When I saw he was tipping his hat, I’m not going to say, ‘Let’s go.’ This is his town and he definitely deserves it.”

“It’s a tribute to a great player,” Mike Quade said. “No matter what city you’re in, people appreciate quality. I’m just glad he didn’t do damage today. Wells handled him well.”

Carlos Pena said he got goosebumps when the crowd rose to salute Pujols.

“That was a special moment for baseball,” Pena said. “You’re talking about arguably the best hitter who has ever existed. Not only has he done that on the field but he has also been an unbelievable citizen here in the city of St. Louis. He’s been a great guy in the community. You can’t ask anything more from him.”

Pena drew two walks and had a chance to chat with Pujols at first. Did he ask the Cardinals slugger what’s next?

“No,” Pena said. “That’s the question of the ages. I wish him the best. He deserves the best. The fans don’t want him to leave. It is truly a pleasure to watch him play, hit and try to beat him. Every chance you get, you try to neutralize him. What a fierce competitor, but most importantly a well-respected professional and hands down, one of the best guys in baseball.”

The multi-million dollar question now is whether Pujols will stay in St. Louis or leave. There have been rumors circulating about him possibly switching sides and going to the Cubs.

Said Pena: “I see him in a St. Louis uniform.”

— Carrie Muskat

9/25 Cubs vs. Padres

Monday will be a kids day for the Cubs against the Padres. Expect catcher Steve Clevenger to start behind the plate. Pitching matchups for the Cubs’ final series vs. the Padres, which opens Monday at Petco Park:

Monday: Casey Coleman (3-8, 6.64 ERA) vs. Mat Latos (8-14, 3.60)

Tuesday: Matt Garza (9-10, 3.35) vs. Anthony Bass (2-0, 1.66)

Wednesday: Ryan Dempster (10-13, 4.53) vs. Wade LeBlanc (4-6, 4.83)

— Carrie Muskat

9/25 Marmol has work to do

Carlos Marmol will not be asked to close Sunday’s series finale against the Cardinals. The Cubs right-hander, who threw 30 pitches Saturday, needs a day to regroup. Marmol blew his Major League-leading 10th save on Saturday in the Cubs’ 2-1 loss to the Cardinals. He now has a 5.79 ERA against St. Louis this season, and a 5.72 ERA against National League Central teams.

“Injuries happen and the struggles we had in the four, five spot I understand,” Cubs manager Mike Quade said. “‘Marm’s’ struggles have been more than I thought they would be. The main thing is to find a way to get him back on track. Here we are at the end of the season and have a long winter to find that out.”

Marmol walked three batters in the ninth on Saturday, the third time this season he’s done that.

“It’s all about command and yesterday he didn’t have command of either pitch,” Quade said. “I find it amazing he was one pitch away from getting out of it.”

Jeff Samardzija could be called on to close Sunday.

— Carrie Muskat

9/25 Extra bases

Heading into the series finale against the Cardinals, here are some pre-game Cubs notes and tidbits:

* Aramis Ramirez may not play until Tuesday, and there’s a possibility he may be done for the season. He did some exercises in the field on Sunday to test his strained right quad.

“I think it’s solely up to him and if he feels he can help us or not,” Mike Quade said Sunday. “We’ll let him determine how he feels physically.”

 * Starlin Castro leads the National League with 202 hits, 12 more than the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp. Castro could become the youngest player (and first 21-year-old) to lead the NL in hits. He will be 21 years 188 days when the season ends. Before this season, the youngest NL hits champ was the Cubs’ Charlie Hollocher in 1918, who with 161 hits was 22 years 83 days at the end of the season. Thanks to Elias and Ed Hartig for the info.

Castro would be the third Cub in the last seven seasons to win the NL hits crown, joining Juan Pierre in 2006 and Derrek Lee in 2005. However, he would only by the fifth Cub in the last 70 seasons to win the hits title, joining Pierre, Lee, Billy Williams (1970) and Phil Cavarretta (1944).

Castro would be the 15th Cub to lead the NL in hits (dating to 1876), the most different players to lead the league for any NL franchise. It would be the 16th overall hits title for a Cub, tied with the Phillies for second-most in the NL and trailing only the Cardinals (20). 

* Castro has reached base safely in a career-high 36-straight games. That breaks the 82-year-old club mark for a shortstop. Woody English had owned the mark by reaching base safely in 34-straight games streak in 1929. He’s hit safely in 45 of his last 50 games since July 31 (70-for-217/.323). The last Cubs player to have a longer streak was Jerome Walton, who had a 43-game streak in 1989.

* Jeff Samardzija has eight relief wins this year, the most in a single-season by a Cubs reliever in 25 years when Lee Smith won nine games in 1986.

* Alfonso Soriano has recorded his 10th-straight season with 20 homers and his eighth overall campaign with 25 blasts, his first since 2008. He has 85 RBIs this year, his most since 2006 with Washington (95). Soriano has 24 RBIs starting Aug. 27, tied for the most in the Majors by any player in that span.

* Carlos Peña has 97 walks, third-most in the NL. That sets a modern day record (since 1900) for most walks in a season by a Cubs first baseman. Mark Grace had 95 walks in 2000. Since 2001, only Sammy Sosa has drawn more walks in a Cubs campaign than Peña. Sosa had 116 free passes in 2001 and 103 in 2002.
Peña enters the day with a .229 batting average. Only one player has ever recorded at least 97 walks and a batting average of .229 or less: Ken Harrelson in 1969 with Cleveland and Boston (99 walks, .221 batting average).

* Carlos Marmol will be happy to say goodbye to Busch Stadium and the Cardinals. He has a 5.79 ERA against St. Louis this year, with two saves in four opportunities. He is 0-1 with a 8.53 ERA in six games at Busch, and 1-for-3 in save opportunities. Against the NL Central, he has a 5.72 ERA.

* Thinking out loud: Interesting that Ramirez says he wants to play for a contender. At the Trading Deadline this year, didn’t he say he would not waive his no trade clause when contending teams were inquiring?

— Carrie Muskat 

9/24 Hit parade

Starlin Castro is now the youngest Cubs player with 200 hits, and moving up the charts:

* Most hits 21-years or younger, single season, since 1900 in MLB:

1. Lloyd Waner, PIT, 1927 (223 hits)
2. Alex Rodriguez, SEA, 1995 (215)
3. Ty Cobb, DET, 1907 (212)
4. Buddy Lewis, WSH, 1937 (210)
5. Joe DiMaggio, NYY, 1936 (206)
 Hal Trosky, CLE, 1934 (206)
7. Vada Pinson, CIN, 1959 (205)
8. Starlin Castro, 2011  (201)
9. Al Kaline, DET, 1955 (200)
 Garry Templeton, STL, 1977 (200)

* Cubs all-time single-season hit leaders

13. Juan Pierre, 2006 (204 hits)
14. Billy Williams, 1965 (203)
 Augie Galen, 1935 (203)
16. Kiki Cuyler, 1931 (202)
 Woody English, 1931 (202)
18. Starlin Castro, 2011 (201)
 Bill Buckner, 1982 (201)
 Billy Williams, 1964 (201)
 Charlie Hollocher, 1922  (201)
22. Ryne Sandberg, 1984 (200)

— Carrie Muskat


9/23 A walk in the park

Carlos Pena drew two walks Friday, and now has 96 for the season, a modern day record for Cubs’ first basemen. The old mark was 95, set by Mark Grace in 2000. Since 2001, only Sammy Sosa has more walks in a single-season for the cubs. He drew 116 walks in 2001 and 103 in 2002.

— Carrie Muskat

9/23 Castro gets 200th hit in first

Starlin Castro is now in elite company. The Cubs’ 21-year-old shortstop singled to leadoff Friday’s game, hitting the second pitch from St. Louis’ Chris Carpenter for his 200th hit of the season. Castro is the youngest Cubs player ever to total 200 hits in a single season. Billy Herman had 206 hits in 1932 and Augie Galan had 203 hits in 1935, and both were 23 at the time.

Since the modern era began 111 years ago in 1900, Castro is the 10th player to reach 200 hits in a season 21-years-old or younger. He joins Alex Rodriguez (1995), Garry Templeton (1977), Vada Pinson (1959), Al Kaline (1955), Buddy Lewis (1937), Joe DiMaggio (1936), Hal Trosky (1934), Lloyd Waner (1927) and Ty Cobb (1907). Kaline is the youngest, reaching the milestone when he was 20; the others were 21.

Castro swung at the first pitch from Carpenter and fouled it off before lining the next one into center field for his milestone hit. He now has hit safely in 44 of his last 49 games since July 31.

Castro also has reached safely in 35 straight games, the longest stretch ever by a Cubs shortstop, topping the streak of 34 set by Woody English in 1929. Castro is the first Cubs player to reach safely in 35 in a row since Jerome Walton had a 43-game streak in 1989.

— Carrie Muskat

9/23 Something to play for

The Cubs played most of their regulars against the Brewers in the series just completed at Wrigley Field, and took two out of three. Mike Quade said he will stick with the regulars in this series against the Cardinals, who are still alive for a post-season spot.

“I feel a responsibility to the game,” Quade said. “We’ve got guys with good numbers against [Chris] Carpenter so you [start them].”

Bryan LaHair is hot, so Quade is staying with him in the lineup as well. LaHair has hit safely in 12 of his 14 games played with an at-bat, and has hit safely in 10 of his 11 starts.

“You try and do the right thing to beat a club,” Quade said. “We want to play well. It was great these guys didn’t let Milwaukee make any hay against us at our place. It doesn’t matter where you’re at — you’d like to beat these guys.”

— Carrie Muskat

9/23 Moneyball

Mike Quade was Oakland’s first base coach from 2000-02, and the Cubs manager admits he’s interested in seeing the new movie “Moneyball,” based on the book by Michael Lewis, who followed the Athletics in 2001.

“I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say I was a little curious,” Quade said. “I know enough people who are planning to see it and see it soon and people I respect. I’ll get a feel from them.

“I’m a rental guy — I’ll wait until the DVD comes out,” he said. “That way, if I don’t care for it, I can just turn it off.”

Since Quade was there, he’s eager to see what liberties were taken.

“Curiousity will get the best of me, so I’ll probably see it,” he said.

— Carrie Muskat