The “first half” is in the books, and we’ll be able to ruminate over that half in the coming days. Today’s the Home Run Derby, though, which – to me – is still a lot of fun.
- Speaking of that first half, Dale Sveum named his MVPs yesterday. Ryan Dempster? Starlin Castro? Bryan LaHair? Alfonso Soriano? Nope. A couple of relievers: James Russell and Shawn Camp. “Those guys have been phenomenal in the first half. Without those two guys, we would’ve been in a lot of trouble,” Sveum told reporters, presumably not making a joke with that last bit. “The combination of both of them has been tremendous. They’ve been consistent all season long. To have the numbers they have and handle the position they’ve been put in where they haven’t been put in in their careers speaks volumes for what they’ve done for this team this year.” I have no problem with the selection from Sveum’s perspective – the two relievers really have been excellent. But I do have a problem with the fact that a couple middle reliever/set-up men are the plausible MVPs for the Cubs in the first half. It speaks volumes about the relative weakness in the rotation and the lineup. Instead of being a good story, it’s actually a bummer.
- A scathing note about Cuban signee Gerardo Concepcion in Danny Knobler’s latest (which is, in part, about Tigers interest in Matt Garza, about which, more later): “The Cubs spent $6 million and a 40-man roster spot on 20-year-old Cuban pitcher Gerardo Concepcion, but scouts who have seen him pitch in the Class A Midwest League have come away totally unimpressed. ‘They’re trying to tell people it’s just mechanics that he needs to get straightened out,’ one scout said. ‘But I’m telling you, he stinks. If he was in a junior college game you were at, you’d leave.’ Concepcion is 2-6 with a 7.39 ERA in 12 starts for Peoria.” There isn’t really anything in there we don’t know already, in terms of his performance thus far. Still, he’s a 20-year-old transitioning to a new system, a new style, a new league, and a new country. I still say we don’t know what he’s been working on, and it’s silly to panic at any point this year. If he struggles next year, and/or returns to Peoria, then it’s time to think about using the word “bust.”
- The Cubs changed up their post-All-Star break rotation a bit, now going Maholm-Dempster-Garza in the three days after the break. Purportedly, that schedule works better with Dempster’s throwing schedule. Originally, Dempster had been going first. Conspiracy theory? The Cubs are giving themselves an extra day to finalize a deal for Dempster before he has to start again in a Cubs uniform (it would be unreasonable to hold him out until 5th; and a deal can’t be announced during the All-Star festivities). I don’t buy it, but that would be your theory. Alternate conspiracy theory? Remember the last time the Cubs shuffled Dempster’s start day? Everyone figured it was because it would be his last start as a Cub, and a Friday at Wrigley was better than a Saturday for whatever reason. Maybe this time, Saturday is better than Friday?
- Dale Sveum says he’s going to try and find more days in the second half to give Alfonso Soriano a break here and there. You know what else would give him a break? If he were DH’ing on an AL team. Just sayin’.
- Ryan Dempster with the zinger, when asked about Starlin Castro’s progress at shortstop this year: “Obviously he’s not turning around and looking in the outfield when pitches are going this year. That’s always a good step.” Dempster was, of course, referring to this. Dempster went on to say nice things about Castro, but that’s boring.
- Chris Volstad was optioned back to Iowa yesterday when Ryan Dempster was activated. You already knew that, but I didn’t explicitly say it (after the transaction happened, that is) in this space at any point yesterday. So there’s your official notice.
- A little more on Jae-Hoon Ha’s Future’s Game experience.
- MLBullets at BCB looks at some of the leaders from the first half.