By David K. (bold) & Paul M. Banks
It appears that the wild card will likely come out of the NL Central this season, do you have your playoff rotation set yet? Would it include Ted Lilly? A pitcher who’s famous for slamming his mitt down on the ground in last year’s NLDS and….uhmm….not really much elseâ€¦
*Big Z is obviously the number one guy, even though he has allowed 14 earned runs in his last two starts.Â Ryan Dempster would be my number two with Rich Harden as the three.Â Whether or not Lilly is in there will depend on Lou Piniella’s preference of a three-man or four-man rotation.Â A four man rotation is my personal preference to keep the arms healthy for a potential, hopefully deep run into October.
By the way, I think your trashing of Lilly might be a little uncalled for.Â Sure he gives up a ton of longballs, but he has actually been pretty steady, especially since the All-Star break (6-1 since June 10th).Â Being the only lefty in the rotation serves as a nice plus, especially against a potential playoff opponent like the Phillies who have left-handed bats like Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.Â *
Ok. Maybe I was a bit hard on Lilly, but he is a rather nondescript fellow. Is Ryan Theriot (5th in NL in BA) both the unsung hero and pleasant surprise of the season?
*Unsung hero of the season, maybe.Â Pleasant surprise of the season, no way. Theriot stats are by no means sexy, but to be cliche, he does all the little things that don’t necessarily show up in the box score.Â He is the definition of Johnny Hustle both as a shortstop and a base runner.
He works counts and never tries to do too much at the plate.Â (I saw a ridiculous stat recently during a WGN broadcast where something silly like only 28 of his base hits have been to left field.Â Everything he hits goes to center or right which means he’s not trying to pull the ball all the time just like a good hitter is taught.)Â His versatility to hit in several different spots is a luxury for Lou.
As for the pleasant surprise of the year, it has to be Ryan Dempster with Reed Johnson a close second, and Jim Edmonds receiving votes.Â I will admit that I was expecting Dempster to be out of the starting rotation by June when he was switched from the closer role this off-season.Â Instead, Dempster should be in the discussion for NL Cy Young.Â He is in the top ten in the NL in wins, strike-outs, ERA, and innings pitched.Â Of the 22 National League starters to throw at least 150 innings, Dempster has given up the least amount of hits.Â Plus, that little glove twitch-thing he does during his wind-up is pretty entertaining.*
Iâ€™ve enjoyed watching Dempster pitch this season. Every time I have, he has been DEALING! I watched the thrilling comeback victory in Miami on Friday night. When Darryle Ward hit the go ahead 3-run blast, it reminded me of Doug Glanville’s heroic in triple in game 4 of the 2003 NLCS. Tell us all about Mr. Ward….
*That game was the perfect example of why Cubs fans feel this season is “the one.”Â Chicago is never out of a game with their big inning potential (as demonstrated by their 8-run 7th inning outburst on Sunday.)Â Although that is sort of how I felt during ’03 too, so who knows. As for D-Ward, he is an important part of what has been a very valuable bench as he is primarily used as a pinch-hitter.Â He has struggled for the most part this season going just 5 of 41 in pinch-hit opportunities, but what you saw against the Marlins Friday night is a sign of what he is capable of. *
I know they just won four of their last five, but given the odds and competition in front of them, is it time to say “Hey Cardinals, thanks for coming!” at least from a division stand point?
*I’ve counted the Cardinals out about 17 different times this season, but like Matt Damon in the final poker scene of Rounders, they keep hanging around.Â They are definitely still alive in the wild card race, but seven and a half games is a lot to make up, especially when there is still a very talented Brewer ball club ahead of them in the division standings.Â The Cubs and Cards do play six more times this season, so I’m certainly not quite ready to make that declaration quite yet. Plus, being a Cubs fan, I don’t want to run the risk of jinxing any chance we have in ending that one hundred year thing.*
Yes, I have heard a little something about that 100 year thing maybe once or twice. If Ryan Dempster isnâ€™t the most colorful guy on this Cubs roster, who is?
*I mean, I don’t nearly spend as much time in the Cubs locker room as Erin Andrews does, so I guess she would be a better person to ask about that.Â I know Dempster does a mean Harry Caray impersonation.Â Los seems like he is always joking around in the dugout when he is not starting. *
Yep, Canadians just seem to be better naturals when it comes to comedy. Look at the tradition of great comedians who came out of Second City Toronto. And wait till Lou Piniella sees me in a dress…that will really turn some heads! Moving on, what makes Geovany Soto so good? He doesnâ€™t get the pub that Fukudome, Soriano, or D. Lee do, but seriously he rocks…
*Besides his sweet hair-do, everyone seems to blow Geo not just for his hitting, but for his ability to handle the pitching staff as well as he does.Â Rarely does a rookie backstop have the respect and intelligence of Geo when it comes to knowing and working with the pitchers.Â From everything I have heard and read about Soto, he also has a great attitude about “team” baseball.Â During a stretch when he struck out in eight straight at-bats, he kept a positive attitude and was joking around, not getting into a mental rut about it.Â And as a catcher, your number one duty is handling the pitching staff, not hitting the crap out of the ball.Â Fortunately for the Cubs, Geo does both of those very well.*
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