Some random observations from my latest visit to Wrigley Field for the Cubs-St. Louis Cardinals game on Tuesday night:
Hero: Jeff Baker, who started in right field, continued his phenomeanl hitting against left-handed pitching, going 3-for-4 and driving in the Cubs' only run with a sixth inning single. Baker is 16-for-31 (.516 BA) against lefties this season. Baker's three singles came against St. Louis southpaw Jaime Garcia (5-0). He lined out to first baseman Albert Pujols against right-handed reliever Mitchell Boggs in the eighth.
I wish Chicago Sun-Times columnist Joe Cowley would stick to telling White Sox general manager Ken Williams how to do his job.
In Thursday's Sun-Times, Cowley, a former longtime White Sox beat writer, advised Cubs fans to not get their hopes up in regards to the North Siders signing St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols. He suggested that any Cubs fan who dares dream of Pujols donning a Cubs uniform in 2012 should "pick up the nearest stapler and punch it into your chest to help snap you back to reality."
Hero: Starlin Castro went 4-for-4 with a triple, scored three times, and drove in three to break out of his slump and pace the Cubs' 17-hit attack. It was his third four-hit effort of the season.
Hero: Ryan Dempster (1-4) had his second straight solid start, allowing two runs (both earned) on five hits while striking out four and walking none.
"I'm doing a better job of executing pitches," Dempster said. "I was able to keep the ball down, for the most part, today."
Hero: Carlos Zambrano (4-1) won his 10th straight road start with eight terrific innings as the Cubs (14-16), sporting classy 1944 replica uniforms, took two of three in the series and four of seven on the road trip. Zambrano, whose first pitch was delivered with an old-fashioned windmill windup, allowed one (earned) run on five hits while striking out four and walking one.
"He was Big Z today, he wasn't Carlos," Cubs center fielder Marlon Byrd said. "I saw 92, 94 (MPH) on the board today. He's a power pitcher, and that's what he has to do to win."
Did you catch Big Z dancing in the dugout as a recording of the Glenn Miller Orchestra's "In the Mood" blared over the Dodger Stadium public address system? It's welcome to see him enjoying the game again.
"He did what he did easily, to me, without a lot of pomp and circumstance," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "He just went after hitters. When he's got some soft game to go with his moving fastball and can locate, he's really tough. He went right after guys and attacked them."
Zambrano's last road loss came last June 25 at Comiskey Park - his infamous meltdown game.
Wednesday's scheduled game between the Cubs and Colorado Rockies was postponed by rain, bringing a dismal end to a disappointing 3-5 homestand.
The Cubs' chances of winning a second straight world championship and third straight National League pennant were not looking promising on Aug. 16, 1908 when Philadelphia right-hander George McQuillan outdueled the Cubs' Jack Pfiester in a 1-0 Phillies victory at Chicago's West Side Grounds.
Hero: Starlin Castro (3-for-4) contributed a two-run double in the fourth inning. Castro, who had his sixth three-hit game of the season, was 7-for-13 in the series with four RBI and is now hitting .418.
I remember fondly throughout my childhood the February day in which my father would bring home a stack of baseball preview magazines.
I would devour those things and have continued the practice into adulthood. All of that reading material has helped me get through those final few weeks without baseball, but I learned long ago that such publications should not be believed as gospel.
The Cubs' season was at a crossroads when the St. Louis Cardinals visited Wrigley Field for a three-game series, June 22-24, 1984.
There are several interesting storylines heading into the 2011 major league season. Among them:
(Editor's Note: Twenty-third in a series recalling the 30 greatest moments in Cubs history.)
The 1998 Cubs will never be mentioned when the greatest teams in franchise history are discussed.
(Editor's Note: Twenty-second in a series recalling the 30 greatest moments in Cubs history.)
When a Jody Davis sacrifice fly in the ninth inning finished off a 5-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field on Aug. 1, 1984, the Cubs moved into first place to stay. But even by the time the North Siders had fattened their NL East lead to seven games over the second-place New York Mets in early September, I still was waiting for bad things to happen.
(Editor's Note: Twenty-first in a series recalling the 30 greatest moments in Cubs history.)
Cubs fans entered the 1969 season with high expectations and those sentiments were echoed by manager Leo Durocher during spring training.
(Editor's Note: Seventeenth in a series recalling the 30 greatest moments in Cubs history.)
(Editor's Note: Fifteenth in a series recalling the 30 greatest moments in Cubs history.)
The Cubs were in first place entering play on Aug. 29, 1989, but their grip on first place wasn't exactly secure.
(Editor's Note: Fourteenth in a series recalling the 30 greatest moments in Cubs history.)
It seems so long ago, but it's only been a little over two years since the Cubs, with the best record in the National League, clinched their second straight Central Division title with a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sept. 20, 2008. My confidence in the Cubs was never - before or since - as high as it was in '08. And the highlight of that magical regular season came on Sept. 14 when Carlos Zambrano pitched the first Cubs no-hitter in over 36 years.
The acquisition of pitcher Matt Garza by the Cubs, along with two minor leaguers, from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in exchange for five prospects - that include right-handed pitcher Chris Archer, outfielders Brandon Guyer and Sam Fuld, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, and catcher Robinson Chirinos - is a brilliant and gutsy move by general manager Jim Hendry.
(Editor's Note: Ninth in a series recalling the 30 greatest moments in Cubs history.)
The Cubs were riding high when they played host to the Colorado Rockies on May 30, 2008. They had won their previous four games to improve to 33-21 and held a 1.5-game lead over second-place St. Louis in the National League Central.