Carlos Zambrano returned from the DL Monday... and got crushed by the Nationals.

It's over. (Tales From Aisle 424)

To confirm that it's over, the Nationals went into Wrigley last night and beat the shit out of the Cubs. THE NATIONALS. (Cubs f/x)

Alfonso Soriano could be getting surgery on his left knee.
(Chicago Sun-Times)

Paul Sullivan thinks upcoming free agent Rich Harden could get 4 years/$50-60 million from a team(I think that's absolutely absurd). (Chicago Tribune)

Cubs' chairman Crane Kenney won't be going anywhere when the Ricketts take over. (WaxPaperBeerCup)

Some of the Cubs' 2009 draft picks are already performing well, particularly first round pick Brett Jackson.
(The Cub Reporter)

Is Reed Johnson still alive?
(Bleacher Nation)

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Last night, the Cubs had a heartbreaking loss, again. The one responsible for blowing the game was Kevin Gregg, again.

In the bottom of the ninth inning with the Cubs leading 1-0, Gregg(pictured left) walked the light-hitting David Eckstein in front of the middle of the Padres' lineup. After somehow retiring superstar slugger Adrian Gonzalez, Chase Headley made Gregg pay with a two-out, game-tying double. Following an intentional walk to Kevin Kouzmanoff, Kyle Blanks really made Gregg pay with a three-run bomb to give the Padres the 4-1 victory, and give Gregg his sixth blown save in 29 chances.

Well thankfully, we won't be seeing anymore of Gregg in the ninth inning:

"I think we're going to make some changes as far as what we're going to do in late innings," Piniella said. "We'll have some more tomorrow."

Piniella didn't say who would be his new closer, though Carlos Marmol and Angel Guzman are considered the likeliest candidates.
Link(Chicago Tribune)

This was something I hoped to see after Gregg blew two saves in Florida, but the Cubs reported he'd dealt with a bit of a tired arm, and Gregg said he believed he fixed a problem in his mechanics that had led to him tipping pitches. Tipping pitches or not, you're not going to do well throwing 92 mph fastballs right down the heart of the plate to major league hitters as he did again tonight. They aren't holding softball bats, after all.

In his replacement will be Carlos Marmol or Angel Guzman, and I really believe it's a coin flip as to who the Cubs will choose for the role.

Really, I don't think there's any guarantee Marmol would be better than Gregg in the ninth inning. When Marmol's on, he's the nastiest pitcher on the planet. Unfortunately, we haven't seen that half as frequently as we did last season. While he still has a solid ERA of 3.51 and 67 strikeouts in 56.1 innings pitched, he has a -whopping- 52 walks in that span.

Now move Marmol to the ninth inning where the pressure is on a much greater deal, and hitters are being more patient. They're taking the at bats more seriously, doing anything to get on base. They may even be taking a strike. If Marmol continues to struggle with his control, that's really asking for trouble.

As for Guzman, he's been the Cubs' most consistent reliever all season long. The 27-year-old right-hander has a 2.42 ERA and has walked only 15 batters in 52 innings on the season. He has a superb WHIP of 0.98, and has allowed just a .590 OPS.

The question with Guzman(pictured right), is can he handle the pressure of the ninth inning? It's a whole different animal than any other inning, as I alluded to when discussing Marmol's control problems. We don't know the answer to whether or not Guzman can handle the role, but you don't know until you try him there.

And really, what do you have to lose? Even if Guzman's not what he's been in the setup role, he can't be much worse than Gregg at closer. I feel at this point they have to take a chance and if it doesn't work out, oh well, it wasn't working out before. If he is miserable in the role(which would really surprise me), then give Marmol a shot.

However, if it reaches that point, it will simply be a battle between Guzman and Marmol to potentially be the closer heading into 2010, as the Cubs' playoff hopes will be gone. It's not like those chances are looking great the moment anyway. That could change if they could start holding on to the leads in the ninth though. Who knows, maybe Guzman or Marmol could have an effect on the back of the bullpen like Francisco Rodriguez did for the 2002 World Series champion Angels.

As for Gregg, it's going to be interesting to see what the Cubs do with him. My guess would be he won't be pitching in many more crucial situations. They might be better off just making up an injury for him at this point like they did for David Patton and Andres Blanco(and please can they replace Miles with him now?). That would be the end of his time in a Cubs uniform, as he will be a free agent when the season is over. I don't think there's a Cubs fan out there right now that would have a problem with that.

UPDATE(8/18, 7:30 PM ET): Carlos Marmol, not Angel Guzman, was just named the closer. Marmol better throw the ball over the damn plate.

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Can Cubs pitcher Randy Wells win the NL Rookie of the Year award?

Cubs 26-year-old rookie Randy Wells continues to pitch tremendously. He's allowed just one run in his last two starts over 15 1/3 innings pitched. Up until these last two starts, everybody was talking about what a nice surprise he's been and all, but now, people(including myself) are using his name and National League Rookie of the Year in the same sentence.

I decided to take a look at him and his competition for Rookie of the Year, to see just how good his chances are. There's of course two months left in the season and a lot can change, but these are pretty much all of the players that deserve at least some sort of Rookie of the Year consideration at this point...

Pitchers

Randy Wells, SP, Chicago Cubs: 8-4, 2.73 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 65 K, 23 BB, 102.1 IP.

Case For: He has wins in eight of his last nine starts. Really, he should have at least a few more wins and a loss or two less. In his first six starts, he never allowed more than three earned runs(which he only did once), and never got a win. He hasn't allowed over four earned runs in his 16 starts, 12 of which were "quality starts".

Since entering the rotation, he's been the Cubs' most consistent starting pitcher, and one of the best starting pitchers in the National League. Pitching in such a big market and for a popular team nationally, along with dominating on an ESPN national telecast on Monday help his chances.

Case Against: As I said, he should have a better record, but not everybody on the BBWAA(Baseball Writers Association of America) will realize that. And many put more into W-L record than they should. He also wasn't a hyped prospect at all, and isn't the flashy 95 mph type that some fans tune in to see. Some think he's a fluke and won't be able to get by below-average stuff for much longer.

J.A. Happ, SP, Philadelphia Phillies: 7-2, 2.97 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 76 K, 35 BB, 106 IP.

Case For: Very impressive left-hander that many around baseball are talking about. A terrific 2.97 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 13 starts. 9 of the 13 starts are Quality Starts. He pitched in 12 games out of the bullpen before stepping into the rotation, and had a 2.49 ERA as a reliever.

Until the Cliff Lee trade, he was the most reliable arm in the Phillies' rotation this year with Cole Hamels strugling, and has played a big part in the Phillies having a five-game lead in the NL East. He also got a lot of publicity as being one of the players the Phillies wouldn't give up in a Roy Halladay trade, and pitched three innings in the playoffs last season, so the voters are well aware of who he is.

Case Against: He'll likely need to get into double-digit wins and has only two months to get three more. The Phillies also might want to be careful with him the rest of the way, as they should be in good shape in the NL East and will need his arm in October.

Tommy Hanson, SP, Atlanta Braves: 5-2, 3.25 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 41 K, 26 BB, 61 IP.

Case For: The 22-year-old is probably the most hyped pitching prospect this season and people have paid close attention to him. Great power arm with electric stuff. In a few years when we look back, many think he'll be the best starting pitcher from this rookie class. He has solid numbers across the board, and had a four-game stretch where he allowed just three earned runs over 24.1 innings pitched.

Case Against: He didn't get called up until June and has only ten starts. Unlike Wells and Happ, he's not pitching for a first place team, and while his numbers have been very good, Wells and Happ are better thus far in many categories.

Dan Meyer, RP, Florida Marlins: 2-1, 2.21 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 37 K, 13 BB, 14 Holds, 2 Saves, 4o.2 IP.

Case For: The 28-year-old left-hander is having a great season out of the bullpen for the Marlins. He's allowed just a .193 batting average and .577 OPS. What's been even more impressive is what he's done against right-handers, allowing just a .160 batting average and .460 OPS in 75 at bats.

Case Against: For one, it's possible over half of the BBWAA writers even know who he is. as he's a middle reliever pitching for the Florida Marlins, a team nobody even in that state watches. And while he's been great, you better be a special middle reliever to have any sort of chance for this award.

Alberto Arias, RP, Houston Astros: 2-1, 2.27 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 35 K, 17 BB, 9 Holds, 39.2 IP.

Case For: The Astros' right-hander has nasty stuff, and has been dominating at times this year. He was particularly incredible during a span that he threw 26 straight innings without allowing an earned run.

Case Against: Like I said with Meyer, it's tough for a middle reliever to get votes for this award. Arias' stuff and great streak definitely caught the eye of many, but it won't be enough.

Ronald Belisario, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers:
1-3, 2.42 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 46 K, 20 BB, 10 Holds, 48.1 IP.

Case For: He's been out with inflammation his elbow for about a month, so those outstanding numbers could look even better. He's been a big reason the Dodgers have had one of the best late-inning bullpens in baseball, and has 10 holds. He's averaging 8.57 strikeouts per nine innings pitched, and is holding hitters to a .209 batting average and .572 OPS.

Case Against: Same things I was saying about Meyer and Arias. He's also likely out a couple more weeks so he won't heave much time to help his chances.


Position Players


Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pittsburgh Pirates: .291 AVG, 66 H, 7 HR, 32 RBI, 9 SB, .351 OBP, .491 SLG, .842 OPS, 226 AB.

Case For: He's already one of the most exciting players in the game. He has unbelievable speed that makes him very dangerous on the basepaths, and runs down everything in center field. He can also swing the bat and for power, as we saw last week when he hit three homers in a game. Everybody loves watching this guy play and he's already the best player on the Pirates.

Case Against: He plays on the Pirates. You usually have to be pretty damn good to win the awards in baseball playing on a last place team, but hey, McCutchen appears to be. Not being up until June hurt his chances, as he's only played in 53 games. He'll be starting and leading off in about every game the rest of the way though, so he should have enough at bats.

Colby Rasmus, CF, St. Louis Cardinals: 251 AVG, 78 H, 11 HR, 35 RBI, 1 SB, .308 OBP, .424 SLG, .732 OPS, 311 AB.

Case For: One of the few rookies that's been a contributor since the beginning of the season. He's having a solid year for the surprising first place Cardinals. He's played very well in center field and has 31 extra-base hits. Baseball America ranked him the #3 prospect in baseball before the season, and he's been a very hyped prospect for a few years. Most of the BBWAA members knew of him before he even played a game for the Cardinals because of that.

Case Against: He was terrific in June when he hit .333, with a 2 homers, and a .869 OPS in 84 at bats. However, he's been bad every other month: .662 OPS in April, .703 OPS in May, and a .688 OPS in July. He's 0 for 4 to start out August as well. Overall, his numbers look alright but undeserving of the award at the moment.

Dexter Fowler, CF, Colorado Rockies: .256 AVG, 83 H, 4 HR, 29 RBI, 24 SB, .358 OBP,
.392 SLG, .750 OPS, 324 AB.

Case For: Similar to McCutchen, in that he's an exciting talent that covers a ton of range in center field and is batting leadoff for his team, the NL Wild Card-leading Rockies. He's gotten on base at a .358 clip and has 24 stolen bases. Those two things have played a big part in him scoring 47 runs on the year.

Case Against: Not much in the power department yet, and if that's the case, you need a higher batting average than .256 to please many of these voters, even though he's getting on base a lot.

Gerardo Parra, LF, Arizona Diamondbacks: .280 AVG, 78 H, 5 HR, 41 RBI, 4 SB, .319 OBP, .423 SLG, .742 OPS, 279 AB.

Case For: The 22-year-old has been absolutely clutch this year for the Diamondbacks, getting a bunch of hits in crucial situations. With none on, he's just a .210 hitter with a .589 OPS in 157 at bats. With runners on though, he's batting .376 with a .963 OPS and 38 RBI in 117 at bats. With runners in scoring position, he's hitting .397 with a 1.115 OPS and 33 RBI in 63 at bats.

Case Against: The team he's on doesn't help, and his on-base percentage only being 39 points higher than his batting average won't be good enough for many of the voters with a sabermetrics viewpoint.

Chris Coghlan, LF, Florida Marlins: .265 AVG, 69 H, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 5 SB, .347 OBP, .388 SLG, .735 OPS, 260 AB.

Case For: Everyday player for a Marlins team that is four games over .500. He's been a solid player that's done a lot of things well.

Case Against: Nothing really sticks out in his game. He's definitely behind at least McCutchen, Rasmus, and Fowler for rookie outfielders right now.

Omir Santos, C, New York Mets: .273 AVG, 53 H, 6 HR, 28 RBI, 0 SB, .310 OBP, .428 SLG, .737 OPS, 194 AB.

Case For: Geovany Soto, a catcher, won the Rookie of the Year last season. He's been one of the few bright spots for the Mets offensively. Heck, he has only one less home run than his superstar teammate, David Wright.

Case Against: He's not going to get enough at bats and his statistics are solid but not great anywhere. And he's a backup catcher.

Casey McGehee, IF, Milwaukee Brewers: .323 AVG, 60 H, 9 HR, 34 RBI, 0 SB, .373 OBP, .538 SLG, .910 OPS, 186 AB.

Case For: McGehee has been a huge surprise for the Brewers. He's drilling the ball and given them some nice offensive production at second base with Rickie Weeks lost for the season. The .323 batting average and .910 OPS will catch the eyes of the voters, as well as the 9 homers in just 186 at bats.

Case Against: Only 186 at bats and not an everyday player. While he's been solid defensively at second base, he's been brutal at third base, with an .884 fielding percentage in 28 games there.

Jake Fox, IF/OF, Chicago Cubs: .300 AVG, 33 H, 8 HR, 27 RBI, .344 OBP, .591 SLG, .935 OPS, 110 AB.

Case For: Got his name out there by leading the entire minor leagues in the triple crown categories(batting average, home runs, runs batted in) at Iowa this season. Then he came up to the Cubs in May and didn't stop hitting. He has tremendous power and has 16 extra-base hits in just 110 at bats. He's been a great RBI guy and has a 1.003 OPS with runners on base.

Case Against: Not enough at bats and it's unlikely he'll be an everyday player anytime soon with his inability to really handle any position well defensively. And if there's a Rookie of the Year from the Cubs, it's going to be Wells.

Garrett Jones, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: .312 AVG, 34 H, 10 HR, 17 RBI, .380 OBP, .679 SLG, 1.059 OPS, 109 AB.

Case For: His first game of the season was on July 1st. He already has 10 homers. He's just absolutely crushing the ball and his incredible stretch that came out of nowhere is getting national attention.

Case Against: It's just 109 at bats so far, he's already 28, and hasn't ever been considered much of a prospect. He's also batting just .146 with runners on and .095 with runners in scoring position. Nine of his homers have been solo shots.


Looking at what he's done compared to the competition, Randy Wells indeed has a great shot at winning the National League Rookie of the Year award. Right now I think it's basically a coin flip between him and J.A. Happ. However, McCutchen is making a late charge and odds are about every voter is a fan of his.

Regardless, Wells is having a superb season and there's no way the Cubs are anywhere close to being tied for first place right now without him. There's no Cubs pitcher I'd rather have on the mound right now. There's no other Cubs player's uniform kids should be buying from the Halloween costume store to go trick or treating this Halloween... even if they wear plus size costumes. That's how good he's been!

But seriously, if the playoffs started today and the Cubs were somehow in, I think he might be starting game two or three. He'd rather have that opportunity than this award.

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Our "Random Retro Cubs" series is back. This time we take a look at the Cubs' "other", but arguably better, rookie from 1989, Dwight Smith.

Years Played: 1989-1996.

Teams Played For: Chicago Cubs(1989-1993), California Angels (1994), Baltimore Orioles (1994), Atlanta Braves (1995-1996)

Positions: Left Field (238 games) Right Field (173 games), Center Field (98 games.) He was also used heavily as a lefty pinch hitting specialist throughout his career, espcially with the Braves in 95 and 96.

Bats/Throws: Left/Right.

Career Line: .275 AVG, 244 R, 497 H, 46 HR, 226 RBI, 42 SB, .333 OBP, .422 SLG, .755 OPS.

Best Cubs Season: 1989 - .324 AVG, 52 R, 111 H, 9 HR, 52 RBI, 9 SB, 31 BB, 51 K, .382 OBP, .493 SLG, .875 OPS.

Awards/Leaderboard: 2nd in 'Rookie of the Year' voting in 1989.

Fun Facts: Dwight Smith burst on to the scene in 1989, hitting .375 over the first few months of the season. He finished the season hitting .324 which would have been 3rd highest in the league, if he had a few more ABs and qualified.

Dwight attended Spartanburg Methodist College, a small junior college in South Carolina, which has produced a slew of major league talent, including, Reggie Sanders, Orlando Hudson and Mookie Wilson.

Dwight loves to sing and is very good at it. He sang the National Anthem several times before games at Wrigley field. The first Cubs player in history to do so. He also sang the Anthem before a World Series game in 1995 in Atlanta.

My Take: Dwight's rookie year in 1989 is really the first year I can say I was a real true die hard Cubs fan. I was just a young kid and had been watching the Cubs on WGN ever since my parents got cable in 1987, but 1989 is when I really started watching a ton of games and rooting hard for them.

That summer I was watching the Cubs play the Mets, with my friend Sam, who was a Mets fan. Dwight hit his first career home run in a Cubs win and then hit his 2nd career home run the next day in another Cubs win. I instantly became a huge Dwight Smith fan, telling my friend how good he was and how he had beat the Mets two days in a row. I started collecting Dwight Smith cards and have a bunch of them still to this day. The rest of that season, I got excited every time he came up, he became my 2nd favorite Cub, only to Ryne Sandberg.

As the year went on Jerome Walton got more and more attention, with his speed and hitting streak and Dwight kinda flew under the radar. I hoped he would win rookie of the year but he finished 2nd to his teammate Walton, despite much better numbers.

Dwight had a few mediocre seasons after that before one more very good one in 1993. Even when he was struggling he was always one of my favorites though. Jerome Walton may be in the history books as that season's rookie of the year, but Dwight Smith will always be my favorite Cubs 1989 rookie.

Link To Dwight Smith's Baseball-Reference Page

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