The Cubs close out the nominal first half today, having returned to last place yesterday.

  • Throughout the year, Dale Sveum has been appropriately tough on closer Carlos Marmol. The largest issue between them, early on, was Marmol’s reluctance to stick to the game plan, and to trust his fastball. Eventually, Sveum got through to Marmol, who started pitching well again. And then Marmol had a really terrible outing two days ago against the Mets. Does Sveum have harsh words for Marmol? Nope. He’s got Marmol’s back. Per Paul Sullivan: “I told Marmol today,” Sveum said, “‘Hey, don’t think too much into that [because] it wasn’t like you were all over the place. You were just missing on some sliders and things didn’t work out, but the bottom line is you got the out when you had to and jammed the guy and got a soft liner and fortunately we got a double play out of it. You still came back and made your pitches …. The bottom line is you threw the strikes when you had to.’ I told him on paper it didn’t look to good, but we’ve seen the other ones much worse than that. You can call it a hiccup, but the bottom line is we won the game and that’s all that counts.”
  • Jeff Samardzija had another good start – at least relative to his miserable June – yesterday, and Dale Sveum is happy with the adjustments Samardzija is making. “We knew there were going to be some growing pains,” he said, according to the Tribune. “He went through them and keeps understanding how to do it three times through the lineup. [He can] settle down after something bad happens and regroup, like he did today. I have confidence in him.”
  • Interim hitting coach James Rowson will get consideration for the full-time job after the season says Dale Sveum, though there has been speculation that the job is ticketed for Boston Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan, based on his connection with the Cubs’ new front office. The Cubs’ offensive numbers have been pretty much the same under Rowson as they were under Rudy Jaramillo, but it’s an incredibly small sample size.
  • After the break, the Cubs’ rotation will go Dempster-Maholm-Garza-Wood-Samardzija, which is obviously a bit of a shake-up from the previous order (including Dempster pitching two starts in a row). The takeaway? The Cubs want their three tradable pitchers going first, obviously. And they want Samardzija going as late as possible to get him extra days off.
  • Both Steve Clevenger and Dale Sveum were disappointed by the third strike call yesterday that ended the Cubs’ 3-1 loss to the Mets. Prior to strike three, Clevenger had taken two pitches in the exact same location, and both were called balls. Too close to take with two strikes? Maybe. But when the ump has already called the pitch a ball – twice – I can’t argue with taking it a third time.
  • Deadspin highlights a peccadillo from the Daily Herald, which recently published a Cubs headline, “Not a total train wreck,” in the sports section of a daily whose front page headlines included one about an actual deadly train wreck. The greater sin? Since going behind a paywall before the season, the Daily Herald has almost completely vanished from the online conversation, taking Bruce Miles with it. A terrible shame.
  • The official ground-breaking on the Cubs’ new Spring Training facility in Mesa is on Wednesday, and I’m sure it’ll be quite the ceremony. It’s exciting to see things getting underway, finally, and it’ll be a nice reminder that there’s still work to be done at Wrigley Field.
  • A nice write-up on third base prospect Dustin Geiger, about whom you heard more this morning in the Minor League Daily.
  • Adam Greenberg is featured on today’s ‘Outside the Lines,’ which I am recording. I can barely bring myself to watch it, because I still feel so bad for the kid.
  • bluekoolaidaholic

    Yep, Cleavenger was robbed, all 3 pitches were in almost the same spot, and yes, they all were balls.the 3rd slightly closer. However, they WERE within Maddux/Glavine range, and thus too close to take. IMO.

  • King Jeff

    Cub Gone Wild, willis, Bric, Big Joe, RY34, Leroy K., and MikeL. A week and a half ago you guys all stated to some degree that Shark was done, he was a reliever at best, that he had his chance to start and never showed he could do it, that his arm was worn out, or that the league has figured him out. Where are all of you guys now? Why is there no talk about how good he has looked his last two starts from you guys? You sure are fast to pile it on when a guy is struggling, but there is no discussion about it when Shark turns it around?

    • hansman1982

      this X eleventy bajillion

    • Finner

      I benched him on my fantasy baseball team this past week. Talk about motivation…… Nothing but love for the Shark. I hope he is able to keep learning and getting better.

    • RY34

      all hail the king, good point, i will wait until he has put together four solid starts to combat the absolute four horrible starts he had in a row before i commit. i will admit he has rebounded nicely in his last two starts. maybe he read my post on here that he should come down off his high horse, not think he is so great and be willing to make changes! coincidence or not!

      • King Jeff

        Yeah, I’m in no way saying that this is going to be Samardzija every start going forward, but you do have to like the possibility. All of us could tell his curve was getting him killed and he couldn’t do anything with his fastball without breaking stuff to complement it. He has adjusted, and hopefully he will continue to learn. I do appreciate that you came around to discuss this RY, it seems we have entirely too many posters here who like to come in and spread negative vibes and then disappear. It’s nice to actually discuss these things in a way that’s not such a knee jerk reaction to everything that happens.

        • RY34

          No problem, go Cubs, the second half will hopefully consist of more consistent play until of course Garza and Demp are traded.

    • Bric

      King Jeff- To clear up how I feel about Jeff Samardjia- I don’t like him. Never did. I was against the drafting (which I saw as a Hendry P.R. stunt, just as Gretsky and Dunston were), huge signing bonus, always thought he was over-rated, don’t like his attitude about insisting on starting, think he’s waiting for a job on ESPN as soon as his career doesn’t pan out (nice haircut), and that’s about it. I seriously doubt my opinion will ever change and hope he gets traded so he can be an above average reliever on some other team. I don’t wish him any ill will I just don’t want to see him on the Cubs. JMO so I guess we just agree to disagee. :)

      • RoughRiider

        You’ve got to be kidding. Nobody waste picks like that for a “P.R. stunt”. Granted teams waste picks on drafting somebodies kid (Sveum this year) but it’s in the low low low rounds. I get it you don’t like him for some inexplicable reason but I’m guessing you will change if he turns out to be a solid starting pitcher.

        • Bric

          Rough Riider, what up? Haven’t seen you on here in a while. You’re right about coach’s kids (Brenly’s son is another) but I think that’s done more out of loyalty and respect to the relative because the kids will probably get drafted somewhere anyway so keep them in your own system so you can watch them and easier to stay together.

          But as far as the P.R goes, if you know Chicago, you’ll know that there’s a huge ND fanbase, including a large number that live south of Archer Ave. When Hendry, the publicist/ used car salesman, drafted Shark in the 7th round and paid a gawdawful signing bonus to get him he guaranteed a headline for the top story on the sports page which keeps the good people living along Cermak interested in the North side and not so much in that other team a few blocks away. You know, the one that had just recently won a world series.

          It also guarantees that that other team’s draft recap gets bumped to the bottom right corner next to the stories about the Bears’ OTA schedule and which Bulls will be playing in Italy for the summer. Gretzky and Dunston (which we don’t hear much about from Luke or the other guys that follow the minors teams in detail)? Same thing. Big names mean headlines. To him, the name on the jersey was worth it. Any real production was just candles on the cake. Again, jmo.

          • OCCubFan

            As I recall the only area that is both south of Archer Avenue and along Cermak is —— Chinatown. I do not wish to prejudge any ethnic group, so perhaps many residents of Chinatown are Notre Dame fans.

            • Bric

              I’ve always heard that Cermak is the dividing line but that’s questionable. However, anywhere south of Archer is definitely all Sox territory until you get way south past chicago Heights and back into the suburbs.

              • DocPeterWimsey

                Hyde Park has a lot of Cubs fans. That’s because so many of the residents are attached to the University and moved to Chicago only knowing about one Chicago team. Indeed, given the ridiculous proportion of Harvard grads there, “Sox” means Red Sox there.

      • MaxM1908

        I’m kind of with you, Bric. I have a very uneasy feeling toward Spellcheck. On the one hand, I want him to do well since he is in a Cubs uniform. But, on the other hand, something just rubs me the wrong way about the guy. I think I’d be happier if he turned into two highly touted pitching prospects. I’m sure my opinion is probably unfairly colored from when I was living in Des Moines when he was with the Iowa Cubs–I heard from local business owners and people connected with the team that he was a raging asshole.

        Oh well, in the meantime, I hope he dominates a Cub. At least then his assholedom would be partially justified.

      • King Jeff

        Bric, you are right, and I shouldn’t have grouped you with everyone else who was commenting on Shark. You’ve been around and commenting here as long as I can remember and you always articulate your likes and dislikes well. I remember you not being high on Samardzija as far back as a few seasons ago, and I agree with you on a lot of your points. I also see a lot of Shark’s good points and can see a lot of potential in him. Do I think he’s a future ace, no I don’t. I do think he can be a solid middle of the rotation starter, and if it doesn’t work out or he proves to be injury prone, he has a future as an above average reliever.

      • rocky8263

        It seems Bric is more concerned with non baseball issues than Sharks pitching.

        • Bric

          Yep, I do get sidetracked alot but I always try to remember the bottom line- production. Sosa was a productive member because his bat and arm far outweighed the relatively minor negatives of the corked bat, possible steriods and questions about leadership, integrity, etc. Same with Z until he became a sideshow that HAD to go. This isn’t pro wrestling.

          Jeff and others have solid points about Shark’s upside but I think it’s a mistake for the new management to label him a building block for the future. Questionable attitudes and a “me first” mentality have a nasty way of spreading and it would be crying shame for the younger players like Rizzo and Castro to start learning by example. Theo should’ve learned that last year in Boston.

    • Drew7

      Its the same with Baker playing over LaHair against lefties. All it takes is Baker on a hot-streak and LaHair continuing to look like an oaf against lefties and the critics go silent.

  • Jackalope

    Just came across this crazy stat–according to baseball-reference, Darwin Barney has accumulated the 7th most WAR in the NL this year (3.6 WAR), right behind Matt Holliday and right before Ryan Braun. Fangraphs has him at only 52nd in the NL (1.2 WAR). Apparently b-ref loves them some Barney defense, enough to make him a border-line MVP candidate.

    • Turn Two

      Yeah, I read that in the paper the other day too, not an expert on those things, but it seems odd that according to baseball-reference, Jed-Lowrie is the best WAR in baseball.

    • ColoCubFan

      I really hope Barney isn’t included as a throw-in on some trade. I’ve always enjoyed watching him play. Good defense, good hustle, I wish he had a better OBP, but usually can’t have everything. Trade him in a year or two if they have to after some youngsters establish themselves.

      • Josh

        I could see him being thrown in with Garza if he is sent to the Tigers. They have been getting awful production from their 2B and rotation, so that would fill two needs.

    • MichiganGoat

      Yeah but Fangraphs has his WAR at 1.2, so basically BR has him valued as three times as valuable as Fangraphs rates him. This is why I don’t really like WAR way too much variation between Fangraphs (which I think is more accurate) and BR.

      • King Jeff

        BR’s dWAR is crazy and throws off the balance of their WAR rankings. It’s good for comparing players at the same position for the same year, but I don’t see a whole lot of additional value to the stat.

        • Turn Two

          I do not think Darwin Barney is an elite player, but on a team that needs a lot of fixing, 2nd base is something that is not broken. I would like to see Castro and Barney up the middle for many years to come and have 2 positions that defensively we do not need to worry about. Not to mention Barney’s baserunning is underrated and he is a decent hitter for second base. I do not want to see him as a throw in unless its to get a monster return combined with one of our starters.

    • cubfanincardinalland

      Kind of shows that WAR is really a pretty goofy stat. Realized that when Angel Pagan was like the 7th best player in baseball two years ago based on WAR.
      Although Barney is a solid 2B and we are crazy to trade him and break up an excellent young combination up the middle, unless the get a huge haul for him and Garza.

      • Jared

        It would be crazy to trade, you’re right! Not every player on the team is going to be a perennial all-star, and with Barney’s D, and some much deserved hustle points…I say keep him, keep him for a long time! More than likely wont ever have to break the bank vault open for him, yet you’d still have reliable ball from him on a day-2-day basis!

  • Dustin S

    The rotation change is a little interesting as far as Maholm goes. I knew they wouldn’t mind dealing him, but that bumps him up a notch on the likely to be traded meter.

  • ColoCubFan

    Hey Brett, how’s the fund raiser going. Going to have a fund-o-meter???

  • Stinky Pete

    Sometime in the past year, I read a good article by Chris Jaffee revisiting the Greenberg situation. I recall it talked about the pitcher being messed up in the head because of that pitch and how they faced each other in an independent league. It was a good article but I can’t find it.

  • willis

    I comment on a lot of stuff. I believe Shark is destined to be a top notch closer. But, his past two starts have shown a willingness to learn and adjust, something that is new from him this year. It’s wonderful to see. I actually really like Shark and the past two years have very much enjoyed watching him pitch. I root like hell that he is great every time out and will gladly eat my words if he does settle in as a solid #3 or so for this team going forward. And it wasn’t one start, it was four or five pretty rough ones. We’ll see what happens going forward (we won’t for about a week and a half). I would love, love to pencil him in as a strong starter to build around, but I’m not holding my breath. Let’s hope he can continue the rebound from his bad June and put together a strong second half.

  • Jed

    Is Greenberg the kid who in his firstmajor league at bat got nailed in the face and never saw the majors again. If so, I feel bad for him too. That would suck to be so close to your dream and have it vanish just like that.

    • MoneyBoy

      Yup, Adam Greenberg … think “Moonlight” Graham!!

    • OCCubFan

      As I recall, it was not just his first at-bat, but the first and only major league pitch he ever saw that beaned him. Very sad.

  • Sevan

    Bruce Miles’ blog actually just recently came back from behind the paywall; so, head over and check it out again!

    • Rice Cube

      This is good news…I missed Bruce Miles, I’m just glad he was still allowed to Twitter 😛

  • BleedBlueInWestNeb

    loved the link yesterday to the Soler pictures in Mesa! that got me excited!

    • Brett

      Oh, yeah. I meant to include that in the Bullets…

  • Tommy

    Brett – I had to look up peccadillo. What on earth made you use that word? Well done, sir. Well done.

    • Brett

      Ha. Thanks. I have no idea – it was lingering in the back of my head (probably heard it on TV or in a movie recently), and that situation just seemed like a perfect fit.

      You never know what you might learn at BN!

  • Tommy

    I live near Peoria, so I’m able to catch Chief games occasionally. From my humble, non-baseball guy (just a fan) perspective, Dustin Geiger is the real deal. He is the safest bet when he’s at the plate, rarely swings at bad pitches, and consistently shows power. Peoria is only low A ball, but so far, so good with that kid.

    Honestly, the Chiefs are a lot of fun to watch this year, with some exciting players (pitching staff is a tad underwhelming, though with a couple of exceptions). The one big disappointment for me thus far for the year has been Gerardo Concepcion who not only seems to have trouble getting guys out, but can’t seem to throw the ball over the plate, either. He’s young though, so hopefully he can turn it around.

  • #1lahairfan

    He has been forced to rely on his fastball. If he could use his changeup and curve more he would killing it down there.

  • rocky8263

    On the double play in the bottom of the sixth, the Mets runner from first to second ducked down allowing the throw to complete the play. Can’t remember seeing that before. Is this a rule? You’d think like a hard slide the runner would try to stop the play. All he needed to do was remain standing.

    • bob

      Once the out has been recorded, you cannot do anything to get in the way. I’ve seen interference called on a play like that a couple of times. Sliding in to break up the DP is OK because (theoretically) you were just going for the base and couldn’t stop.

    • Andrew

      I haven’t seen the play, but the runner between first and second (once he is forced out at second) does have to make an effort to get out of the way of the throw to first. This often done by sliding under the throw, sometimes running out of the baseline (if they’re way out), or ducking under the throw. If the runner interferes with the throw the runner at first is also automatically out. Only way a runner is allowed to try to break up the double play is by a hard slide, but they must touch the bag in the process of the slide.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        That is supposed to be a rule to this general effect. It came up quite a bit in the 1980’s, as Backman and Dykstra were flagrant violators of the rule but never called on it. (Backman would go absolutely ape feces if the umps did not call it on opposing teams, however.)

        And, of course, there is the famous Reggie play from the ’77 or ’78 WS, where he actually stuck his gluteus out to deflect a throw from Bill Russell, leading to a big Yankee rally.

        So, I guess that there usually is an exemption on that rule if there is an NY on your uniform….

    • hansman1982

      The only way he would have broken up the GIDP is if he took an 80mph fastball in the face. He was a good 15-20 feet from the bag when the out at 2nd was made.

  • Bart

    Maybe in Good Will Hunting when Sean and Will first begin to “talk.” Sorry…movie lover here. Great script…Robin Williams says the word.