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Man, oh man, I wanted the Cubs to win today.

It’s not just because I was at the game, my first of the year. I’ve been fairly clear that I don’t expect the Cubs to be terribly competitive this season (in terms of, say, a playoff spot), but that doesn’t mean I’m ready – in April – to watch the Cubs lose heartbreaker after heartbreaker. It just felt like we all needed a win today.

Thanks to the Cubs’ bats and Matt Garza’s arm, we got it. The Cubs slapped hit after hit off of Zack Greinke in the third – and Alfonso Soriano stole a base, drawing the biggest cheer from the crowd – making for plenty of offense.

I had a blast before, during, and after the game. A big thanks to (and I apologize if I’m inadvertently missing anyone – I believe I warned you about Old Style squiggles) Steve, Spencer (who hooked a pale author up with some sunscreen), Al (from BCB), John (from Cubs Den), Ramin, Curtis (from As I See It), Jim, Tom, and Phil for helping make it a great day. Oh, and Tom Ricketts. More about that later.

The game was so awesome that we all had a nice laugh about this, rather than fearing an impending bullpen implosion…

  • Ryan

    See what happens when Byrd and Soto aren’t in the lineup…

    • Matt3

      and when johnson is in the lineup

    • art

      and when they give a kid (Clevenger) a chance.

    • Doug Dascenzo

      It looks like at least for this game, the Byrd…

      ( •_•)

      ( •_•)>⌐■-■

      (⌐■_■)

      …has flown the coop.

      • cjdubbya

        YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

      • cjdubbya

        YEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

      • cls

        Nicely done

    • Borocks

      Ryan did you notice as I did that Clevenger won both his games.(Both Cubs wins)  He has handled the pitchers great and is hitting the cover off the ball.  He needs to start a lot more.

      • Cedlandrum

        I am not sure anyone likes Clevenger as much as me. Seriously I have been telling anyone who would listen that he has a great hit tool and was better defensively then given credit for. That said, Soto caught game one and two of the season and the starters were good. The bullpen sucked. He also caught the last dempster game in which the cubs gave up 2 runs and lost. I am not sure Clevenger would have made a difference in those games.

        The Cubs wins were great and Clevenger played great in them. But he is not the only reason they won, nor is Soto to blame for the losses. Soto’s struggles have been overblown. He has played in 5 games. In 3 of those games he was on base. In one of those games he was on base 3 times and another he hit a homer. He has had 2 not good games at the plate this year.

        So anyway all that to say that I like Clevenger. He should get some starts, but it is too early to say that he should be getting a lot more starts.

        • OlderStyle

          I sure have liked what little I’ve seen of Clevenger, but I know very little about him overall.
          Assuming the FO is inclined to move Soto at midseason, is Clevenger able to be the future starting catcher?

          • Cedlandrum

            He isn’t going to hit for power, but he will make a ton of contact. He could be a starter, so could Castillo. Castillo has a better arm, Clevenger is better fundamentally behind the dish.

  • TWC

    Matt Garza = great pitcher.

    Matt Garza = positively abysmal, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad hitter.  Even worse bunter.

    • Rick Vaughn

      Not exactly a gold glove pitcher either.

    • Spencer

      WHOA. You can’t just go and change your avatar without asking everyone first.

      • TC

        Yea TWC, this is really weird

      • Ian Afterbirth

        People should choose their avatars and keep them FOREVER!!!

  • Kyl-el

    There really was no reason whatsoever for Dusty Sveum to send Garza out there for the 9th with 103 pitches and an 8-run lead.

    It’s a long season. Save his arm when you can. Then, when it’s a one-run game in August, you can extend him and he’ll still have it.

    • Ryan

      his breaking ball was still pretty sick in the 9th inning. lol.

      I know what you’re saying though.

    • Joe

      Garza really wants to pitch complete games, and not just because his bullpen sucks. If it keeps his competitive fires aimed in the right direction, you have to consider giving him some leeway. Is he a guy who can’t handle a long season? I’m blanking on his injury history.

    • bricky9

      I’m shocked Theo didn’t hire you to coach the Cubs. You seem to think you’re smarter than Dale Sveum. What were they thinking in not hiring you. The reasons for keeping Garza in were obvious,and were expounded on in Sveum’s press conference after the game.

      • Kyl-el

        Yeah, yeah, MLB managers are always right. Nothing to see here…

    • DocPWimsey

      I agree with Kyle. However, I think that most managers would have made the same mistake. There are a few stats around which managers manage instead of allowing to arise naturally from the game. Saves are the most obvious example. Complete games shutouts are another: managers will let the pitcher “go for it.” OK, fantasy fans everywhere thank you, but in real baseball, a W is a W. Let’s face it, they could have sent me out to the mound and probably gotten out of the 9th with a W. (That’s called hyperbole, by the way.)

      Like saves, I think that managers should just ignore these things. Put in the reliever who hasn’t pitched in the longest time or the one who’s dying to try his new pitch on real batters or whatever: but save Garza’s arm.

      • KyleNovak

        While I definitely agree with you (and Kyle, his alter-ego Kyl-el, and many others) about Garza’s unnecessarily high pitch count, this really brings to light a couple of interesting observations and sources of future controversy:

        The fact is, many of these guys WANT to pitch the complete game, stay in for the shutout, or go on three-days rest in the playoffs, even in a situation like Garza’s (or to a lesser extent, Samardzija).  It’s engrained in athletes that you need to “man up” and not show signs of weakness, even if you are tired or playing hurt.  If you fight through it and you triumph, you get lavished with large amounts of praise (see Schilling, Curt – 2004 World Series).  If you fail, the severity of the fatigue or injury is a subject of ridicule and occasionally gets labeled as an excuse by the media and analysts (see Lackey, John – 2011 Regular Season).

        Managers looks at the numbers (even if they are less important ones like wins/losses, saves, etc) for All-Star selections, and what pitcher wouldn’t love to be selected?  All-Star bonus clause in their current contract?  Leverage in future negotiations for their next hopeful payday?  Yes indeed!     

        Don’t think baseball writers and statisticians are exempt from enabling this kind of behavior either.  Every year they will write articles and have roundtable discussions; carefully stating their case for who they think will win the Cy Young (and eventually get elected to the Hall of Fame).  They’ll talk about the leaders in strikeouts (or K/9), innings pitched, WAR, ERA (or ERA+, FIP, or xFIP), quality starts. . .

        (About that. . . . Let’s say a pitcher is at eighty pitches and is clearly struggling with their control during one start, having walked five, hit a couple of batters, and given up two earned runs in three-plus innings with his team leading 4-2.  What percentage of pitchers would willingly say to their manager/pitching coach during a fourth inning visit to “take them out to preserve their arm, because they just didn’t have it”?  My guess is not very many.  So our hypothetical pitcher battles on and ends up going 6 innings, giving up another couple walks and another run, departing with a one-run lead, and throwing 115 pitches.  That registers as a quality start.  Was it worth it?  I would very much say no.  It’s just that going deeper into games looks better to many of the fans, the media, and the talking heads.  Anyways. . . continuing on)     

        and yes. . . even complete games and shutouts.  Look at last year’s NL Cy Young race between Kershaw, Halladay, and Cliff Lee.  It was incredibly close and each pitcher had a strong case to be given the award.  Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs disputed who was the most valuable.  More pitches (even unnecessary ones) mean possibly more innings, which means more chances for strikeouts, which could mean a lower FIP, which means a higher WAR.  Remember when Halladay had to leave a start early against the Cubs last year because he was bothered by the heat?  It’s arguable he *lost* the Cy Young due to that poor four inning start (in which he took the loss).  It was definitely the right thing to take him out, for the sake of his health you do the same thing 100 times out of 100.  It’s just that sometimes in the scheme of that particular season, one start can mean that much.  Obviously, my examples are very specific and not every situation will be always relevant like the ones above, but my point is that can pick out a number of situations that *are* relevant each year.

        Another point is that I really do believe that the manager eventually could become strictly a figurehead, serving primarily to motivate and simply oversee the day-to-day activities.  One of the “coaches” on the bench (tablet or laptop in hand) will have the sole responsibility of dictating in-game player decisions (pitching changes, pinch hitters, defensive replacements, even stolen base attempts).  So the “coach” consults the complied advanced statistics and requested that Garza be lifted in the 7th or 8th inning, and no amount of protest from Garza himself would change that.  It could become a distinct reality.  Billy Beane told his catcher, Kurt Suzuki, to not block the plate anymore following Buster Posey’s season-ending injury last year.  Who is to say this won’t trickle down even further?  

        It’s possibilities like this which will continue to cause heated debate between current and former players, analysts, bloggers, and executives alike.

    • JustSwain

      I’d be much more likely to listen to you if you didn’t use the term Dusty Sveum. When Sveum uses a double switch to take out his best batter when that batter would have been the fifth hitter the next inning, you can call him Dusty. When Sveum puts in a pinch runner with men on second and third, but replaces the runner on 3rd instead of the one on 2nd in a two run ballgame, you can call him Dusty. The things that made us hate Dusty weren’t open to interpretation, they were very very tangible. Besides, it looked like the infield shifts Sveum was using worked like a charm against the Brewers. I’m kinda digging him.

      • Kyle

        I could have lived with all of the stupid things Dusty did, as long as he didn’t torch Mark Prior’s arm. But he did.

        And Sveum just took his second step down that dark path. Still plenty of time for him to turn it around, though.

        I love a lot of what’s Sveum is doing. I can’t deny that his emphasis on baserunning has paid off. He’s been very will to make smart platoon decisions. The defensive shifting has been fun to see in action.

        • JustSwain

          It would be impossible for Sveum to torch Garza’s arm the way Dusty torched Prior’s he’d have to find a completely different way to do it. Prior went from 116 innings to 211, his second year. Thats a predictive no-no for pitchers, and puts them at increased risk of injury, pretty much everyone in the league knew that by 2003, but not Dusty! Sveum just left Garza in a game so he could go for the shutout. Up 8 runs, not the smartest baseball move out there, but not so uncommon either.

  • bricky9

    CUBS ARE AWESOME!!!!!

  • Andrew

    I didnt get a chance to see the game but wouldve liked to see lendy or even camp get a full inning of work in an easy outing

  • bricky9

    For those of you who think 100+ pitches is too much. Pitchers used to pitch every 4th day,not every 5th day,and it wasn’t uncommon for a pitcher to throw up to 150 pitches in a game. I remember David Cone still popping the catchers mit in the mid 90′s at 150 pitches.

    • Kyl-el

      Pitchers also used to get hurt, a lot, and have shorter careers.

      Some guys can handle it, some guys can’t. Unfortunately, the only way to tell which guys are the David Cones and which ones aren’t is to push them until their arm breaks or doesn’t.

      There’s a time to push a guy to go much deeper into the game when you need him to. That time isn’t with an 8-0 lead in the second start of the season.

      • bricky9

        I say again,I’m shocked you aren’t managing the Cubs. What credentials do you possess that makes you smarter than the professional manager? Maybe you should have Theo’s job you’re so smart. Arm chair quarterback I think. Please tell me what makes you smarter than the guy currently steering the boat?

        • Kyle

          “Please tell me what makes you smarter than the guy currently steering the boat?”

          Easy: I wouldn’t have let my starting pitcher throw 119 pitches in an eight-run game.

        • Par

          Dude, just because someone gets a manager’s job it doesn’t make him a genius. I’ve heard Sveum speak. He’s not. It was unnecessarily risky this early in the season, and it does bring to mind Dusty leaving Prior in for evelenty billion pitches with a ten run lead. Remember why he did that? It was because he rightfully had no faith in his bullpen. After leaving Dempster in for 108 pitches in his first game, it’s a trend that certainly bears watching.

        • drew

          Its gonna be a long year if thats the kind of stuff being said after every time someone disagrees with Sveum. Only a small % of people in this world have been managers in the big leagues, but they certainly arent the only ones who are allowed to second guess Sveum’s decisions.

  • Cory

    I may have a bit of man crush on clevenger just saying but I love this guy patient good bat and called a great game nice job kid

  • rcleven

    Put Soto on the bench and ride Clevenger until that bat cools.

    • Stephen

      Ive been a fan of both clevenger and soto over the last few years but Clevenger needs to remain on the bench. He may be the future catcher but right now we have soto. I think you have to hope he gets hot and then has an increased trade value. I think if he sits on the bench, his value decreases. So as much as I love Soto, I think his days are numbered, but if he can get hot and a little consistent there will be pleny of teams calling for his services. He has above average offense (or at least he can), average to slightly below average defnse and calls a pretty good game.

      • rcleven

        i don’t mean to replace Soto for good at this time. Competition is good for the team. Soto looking over his shoulder just might make him a better player. Also lets FO know weather they can deal from strength.

    • Steve

      ….”but what if it hurts Sotos psyche??”

      • rcleven

        Not Too worried about Soto’s psyche. These are athletes we are discussing. If an athletes crawls into a hole because he is splitting time with a teammate who is doing equally well or better then I would not want them on team anyway. Competition should only want to make you do better.

  • http://i Cory

    I tend to agree about letting soto play to increase his trade value but with the way clevengers been hitting you have to play the hot hand and in case nobodies noticed the 2 games the guys caught the starter went 8 n 2 3rds coincidence maybe but the kids got to be doing something right back there! Haven’t seen his arm tested and haven’t heard much about it anybody know how it is?

  • http://i Cory

    I tend to agree about letting soto play to increase his trade value but with the way clevengers been hitting you have to play the hot hand and in case nobodies noticed the 2 games the guys caught the starter went 8 n 2 3rds coincidence maybe but the kids got to be doing something right back there! Haven’t seen his arm tested and haven’t heard much about it anybody (Brett/Luke) know how it is?

  • JustSwain

    I know 2 games vs. 4 games is an extremely small sample size, but why not let Clevenger start until he puts up an 0 for? We all know Soto is slumping, do we just keep him in and hope he hits out of his slump, or do we see if Clevenger is as good of a hitter as he has appeared to be in his limited action so far? he hit like .315 for his last two years in the minors including a .400 BA when called up to Iowa in over 80 plate apperances. Just because he flew under the radar doesn’t mean he isn’t the real deal. Of course two good games don’t mean that he is, I’m just saying, play him til he stops hitting. Worst case scenario is that he goes 0 for against Wainwright, and best case is he keeps his pitcher in the game for 8 2/3rds innings and goes 3 for 4…you know….like he did today.

  • Tom Bassias

    Brett! It was great meeting you today. Not only did you bring the victory but also the shut out!

    Garza was amazing! We started out slow because we were following the lead of the Red Sox and Yankees. I think it’s safe to start winning some more games now…

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Likewise, Tom. Glad you stopped by.

  • Featherstone

    Great win for the Cubs today, but it gets me thinking a bit about our pitching rotation. I know we all have been clamoring for a stud ace to top our rotation and I am beginning to wonder if we already have it in Garza. He has been outstanding in his year+ since being traded for and if we can pair him we another great pitcher via Free Agency (Hamels, Greinke) we could have the 1-2 punch needed to be a contender especially come playoffs. I am even more in the camp now that we need to get a major prospect haul at the deadline (at least 2 blue chip prospects + other) or sign him to an extension.

    • JustSwain

      So first off, I think we should extend and keep Garza, especially looking at who we are likely to pick up as FA s over the next couple years. That being said he is not an Ace #1 pitcher, or at least he hasn’t proven himself to be one yet. Though he is still fairly young at 28 and has been getting better with age, he still does not possess a winning record as a pitcher, and its hard to establish yourself as an ace without one of those. For comparison Chris Carpenter is 52 games above .500. Also, during his best year he went 15 and 10 with a 3.91 ERA, for comparison during Zach Grienke’s best year he went 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA and won the AL Cy Young. Garza is good, but he is not an ace…yet. One stat of his that is right up there with those guys is K/9…he’s been elite in that category his whole career, leading me to believe that when he matures, he may emerge as an ace. If he keeps pitching like he did today, well, yeah he’s not only an ace, he’ll win the Cy young easily, but he’s not going to go 8 2/3rds scoreless every outing. He’s got good stuff, but to become an Ace he’s going to have to achieve some personal milestones; lets work on the winning record thing first, then a 200 strikeout year (He was only 3 shy last year!), then top ten on the Cy Young ballot, then no one will even have to discuss whether he is an ace or not. I think that might be the deciding factor in the end, if you have to ask yourself whether a pitcher is a legitimate Ace…he’s not. In fact over the last four years, Dempster has had a better record, a lower ERA, a higher strikeout rate, and More Innings Pitched.

      • Featherstone

        I would have to say that wins are a poor measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness, they are solely a measure of his offense behind him. He also pitched the prior years in the AL East against the Yankees and Red Sox while having the Rays behind him as offense. His peripheral stats have improved significantly since coming to Chicago suggesting a change in his approach to more of a groundball pitcher while still maintaining his excellent K/9 ratio. To this point he has thrown his 4-seamer a lot less while relying on his excellent slider, changeup, and his 2-seamer. I think if you only looked at his years in Tampa you could say safely he is only a #2 at best, but since coming to Chicago I firmly believe he has made the step forward to anchor a rotation a be the Ace he had the potential to be all along.

        • JustSwain

          Wins might be a poor measure of a pitchers actual arm, but if your team doesn’t win more games when you pitch than they lose, you are not an ace. Stuff wise, I like his stuff, but he doesn’t have the command of a Wainwright, or Cliff Lee’s devestating changeup, or the 100mph fastball of a Verlander. He’s not usually overwhelming, he doesn’t leave batters looking confused most days like those guys do, and he has never shown the ability to match them statistically either. I think Garza is really good, I just think you have to have at least one really dominating year before batters are going to treat you, or think of you, like an ace. He set it up by having a 3.32 ERA and getting 197 strikeouts last year, heck, if he does that again this year I’ll revisit the conversation, record be damned, but I think he’s got to go out and prove he is an Ace before I’ll call him that. Maybe its just a useless term, interpreted differently by everyone to the point where it has no meaning. So lets reduce it to terms that are easier to agree on. I like Garza, he has really good stuff, I loved the way he pitched Thursday, hope he keeps it up, and lets not trade him unless someone is willing to throw in the kitchen sink. If he has another year like last year, combined with his post season stats and experience, he’s going to be an extremely tempting target for a contender down the stretch.

  • ty

    Matt is one of the best pitchers. I pray that his in-ability to throw over to first base is a mechanical issue and not psychological–throwing underhand was effective today on the easy plays. Our starters have been brilliant. Was that you Brett barechested covered in blue paint?

  • http://i Cory

    I honestly think garza is a ace a 2 at worst and I think sharks ceiling is higher then most and will continue to develop you have to consider how much he’s evolved and his overall athleticism and build should keep him healthy giving him work horse potential. Id love to see hamels here if philly can’t keep him I think chicago is definitely a option similar weather and potential to contend soon. I also don’t think greinke is even a option he’s got personality issues and had past reported social anxiety Chicagos not the place for those sort of problems I really think a big city would eat him alive so hamel or bust.

    • Featherstone

      You’re completely right about Greinke, I knew that about him but forgot when I posted. I was more referring to a pitcher of is caliber, but now that Cain is locked up that really only leaves Hamels.

      • JustSwain

        Yeah Greinke’s home road split shows he doesn’t deal well with stress. Milwaukee is a good place for him, those fans wouldn’t boo him during the middle of a 10 game losing streak.

        Anibal Sanchez is a FA after this year as well if I remember correctly. He’s the one I realistically want to target. Honestly, I bet we stay out of the Hamels bidding war the same way we stayed out of the CJ Wilson bidding war for the same reason. The contract he is going to get is going to be determined by a scarcity of available top end starters, not simply by his talent as a player, so any team that gets him is going to overpay. On the other hand, if we are going to contend next year, it will probably be for the wild card so we’ll want a dominating starter for the one game playoff, and Hamels is the only one who is going to be available as an FA. Now that I think about it…I don’t know what I think about it.

        What do you guys think, are the Cubs going to realistically pursue Hamels, or will they stay out of the bidding?

  • JulioZuleta

    I blame myself for the Garza error/non-complete game. I had just turned to Brett the pitch before and said “first April complete game since Prior”.

    • Spencer

      for shame.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yup.

    • hansman1982

      YOU ARE HEREBY BANNED FROM ALL FUTURE APRIL POTENTIAL CG GAMES!!!

  • gratefulled

    Yeah, but I wouldn’t have laughed my a$$ off when Garza got LaHair confused for the dude in row 20 seat 8. The look on Garza’s face was priceless. Clevenger came out to the mound and Garza, with a dumb-founded look on his face says, “what the f*ck was that?”

  • BN”Legs”

    Nice to see today Brett. You should go to more Cubs games…this was a great one to be at!!!!! Thanks for being a part of my “Bday Bash in the Bleachers” this year!!!!!!!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Right back atcha, Jim. I hope the rest of the Bash was a great time.

      • BN”Legs”

        Oh it was….it was! You left right when it started to get ugly :-)

  • JNasty

    A couple days ago everyone had decided Dejesus couldn’t hit anymore and he shouldn’t be batting leadoff. Now that he is batting .318 I have just one comment, “Don’t F**k with Dejesus!”

  • Tony S

    Amen JNasty. Both stewart and dejesus have been much maligned during spring training and the early games but both have shown why the FO signed them. Stewarts defence has stood out to me and dejesus has been raking the last few games getting on base and playing good d. Great sliding catch today.

  • Cheryl

    It appears that DeJesus is better than most of us thought. Let’s not jump to conclusions about him. he may be exactly what is needed at leadoff. But I still think Castro would be better in the number two position.

    • hansman1982

      Castro is potentially a future #3 hitter. Might as well get him in there now and get him comfortable with the role.

      • Drew

        Hopefully his ceiling is higher than what “should” be a #3 hitter, and his actually ceiling is a #2.

        • hansman1982

          I am confused.

    • die hard

      Memo to mgr Sveum

      Keep Byrd and Soto on bench
      Move Castro to leadoff so he bats an extra one per game
      Soriano to 3rd in lineup
      Put DeJesus 4th behind Soriano to inject some speed there
      LaHair 5th

      try it…it could work

  • RY34

    Great game Garza! Love to see Clevenger hitting the ball well; dump byrd asap!

  • rbreeze

    I like Dale Sveum and I think he will be a good manager long term.  But Mike Maddux was my first choice because he and Nolan Ryan seem to know how to handle pitchers, especially starters.  I know that not all pitchers are blessed with the ability and arm that Nolan had but he is teaching them something down in Texas and their starting pitchers usually go deep and throw 100 pitches or more per game and then come back for more the next start.  You don’t hear much about arm trouble down there either. 

    I think the Cubs will settle down and win around 70 to 75 games this year.  Lets see what Bosio can bring out of this staff too!!  Go Cubs!!!

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