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After working last night, I came home and turned on the TV to watch the Cubs play the Mariners in Las Vegas. The game felt like a regular season baseball game. The crowd was buzzing, the starting lineup contained a full compliment of Major League caliber talent, and the announcers weren't interviewing players and managers between innings.
Speaking of the announcers: I had been on record, quite vociferously, that I wanted Brenly & O'Brien LLP to be calling the games. I stand corrected. After watching a handful of games this season called by Len Kasper, I am his #1 fan. Kasper is excellent. He doesn't sound like an ass... he isn't boring... he doesn't lecture... he doesn't try to sound like a TV commentator... he just calls the game... and he does it well. Something the Cubs haven't had in their booth since several years before Harry Caray died.
Bob Brenly is still growing on me. That is partially because he is taking over for Steve Stone. I have a feeling that if he was following Joe Carter, I would have equally high praise for Brenly as I do Kasper... but he isn't following Joe Carter. He is following Steve Stone.
At a few moments in the game last night, Bob said some boneheaded remarks, but overall did a very good job. I am still getting used to the fact that he doesn't talk nearly as much as Stone did. At times you forget he is in the booth. I especially enjoyed his anecjoke about betting his believe bracelet at the blackjack table. Any humor that doesn't revolve around who picked up the check at dinner last night is better than what we've been treated to for the last seven years.
|April 2, 2005||Spring Record: 14-17, Box Las Vegas, NV|
|Ex #1||Chicago Cubs||4|
On the field: I saw some things that impressed, and some things that didn't. The good first. Both Corey and Aramis hit round trippers last night. The difference for me was that Corey just sort of hooked his while Aramis crushed his. I didn't think Corey got real solid contact, but it is good to see a little pop out of his bat. Aramis? Jim Hendry - sign him.
Although the game outcome didn't matter, the Cubs lost two opportunities to score some extra runs. The first occured when Nomar Garciappara hit into a double play, removing Corey Patterson from the basepaths. Aramis Ramirez then followed up with the aforementioned blast.
Later in the game, Michael Barrett was caught stealing on what appeared to be a botched hit-and-run. Barrett was looking back at the plate, but Scott McClain didn't swing. Later that at-bat, McClain hit a long double that may have scored Barrett.
While the double play was just unfortunate, the caught stealing was a mental mistake. These are the little things that must be corrected if the Cubs are going to win enough games this year to make the playoffs. We've been told that the Cubs were working specifically on baserunning, but that didn't appear evident last night.
Swing mechanics: A camera shot last night showed Aramis sitting on the bench next to Nomar. This is good. However, I would like to ensure that Corey Patterson and Jeromy Burnitz stay as far away from each other as possible. Burnitz' swing is scary. I don't even want Corey watching Burnitz hit unless he has a counselor telling him that Burnitz is an example of how not to hit. If these guy's swings start looking any more similar... uh oh.
Pitching Observations: Dempster looked servicable last night. A bit like a fifth starter. He gave up a few dingers, but otherwise pitched well. I think we could play .500 ball when he pitches.
Micahel Wuertz did something last night that he has never done before. He impressed me. His outing looked like he knew what he was doing... impressive.
Chad Fox? Bad. Really Bad.
Todd Wellemeyer did well last night too. If you didn't see the game, here is what happened. The defense decided they would take the ninth inning off. To begin, Angel Echevarria, playing at first, botched a routine groundball to his right. Next, Jose Macias (3B) fielded a bunt but decided not to throw the ball for some reason. Then, Todd Wellemeyer fielded a second bunt and paniced. He made a stupid decision and tried to get the runner at third... only to load the bases with no outs, with the ball having not left the infield.
Ichiro Suzuki then proceeded to swing at the first pitch thrown to him in an obvious attempt at a sacrifice fly. However, David Kelton caught the ball 45 feet off the infield dirt in shallow right field and threw a strike home. The runner did not attempt to score. Wellemeyer then induced a GIDP to end the inning. Wellemeyer's stuff was impressive, and the fact that he escaped the inning without letting a run score (and the 2.45 ERA this spring) probably should ensure him a spot on the active roster.
Finally, since we played him last night, and Ichiro didn't get a hit for the first time this spring, its time for me to sing the praises of Ichiro. He is the best contact hitter in baseball and I predict one of two things will happen this season:
And finally, I think he will be the AL MVP this year. Go Ichiro!
|March 31, 2005||Record: 14-16, Box HoHoKam Park Mesa, AZ|
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