So Jeff Samardzija Throws Pretty Hard

To understand how I feel about Jeff Samardzija, all you need to know about is one play. Does 20-17 say enough to you? In case it doesn’t, here’s a refresher. Anyway, it’s pretty incredible to see the guy go from balling on the football team at Notre Dame to pitching for the Cubs in only two years. As much as I couldn’t stand the guy, Samardzija was a darn good receiver for the Irish. It’s not too often that you see college-level D-I athletes playing more than one sport and playing well at it.

Anyway, after getting drafted in ’06 and going on to pitch in A-ball, Samardzija split his time between A and AA ball last year. This year, Samardzija got promoted from double-A to triple-A ball and even got called up after Kerry Wood went on the disabled list. I don’t know about you, but it pretty much blows my mind to see this guy pitching in the majors leagues so shortly after his college football career came to a close. This is a guy who could be in training camp right now and instead he’s already made the majors. Though he gave up a run to the Marlins in relief and blew the win for Ryan Dempster, the kid looked good humming between 97 and 99 mph. I don’t think he’ll be able to get by on speed alone at the majors (we already saw him get burned by Jorge Cantu), but I think it’s pretty amazing that he’s this talented at two sports. Makes you wonder, why wasn’t he playing quarterback instead of Quinn?

In Billy Beane, the A’s Should Trust

I learned my lesson (for the 82nd time) this year, that you can never underestimate Billy Beane. After he traded away Dan Haren and Nick Swisher leading into the season, I said the A’s had conceded 2008. They’re happily in 2nd place in the AL West, well over .500. What the **** do I know. Anyway, I think the Rich Harden trade definitely was one worth making for the Cubs, and was probably smart on the A’s part as well.

At first glance, the A’s got completely ripped off. Which probably means Beane got a steal. Sure, Beane was fleeced on the Tim Hudson deal after Dan Meyer decided to suck upon being dealt to Oakland, but there’s no doubting Beane’s track record — he’s awesome. Beane’s already received at least equal value in both the Haren and Swisher deals, and most of the prospects haven’t even come close to blossoming yet. So let’s break this trade down on both ends.

For the Cubs, they’re getting an ace who’s capable of pitching seven pretty unhittable innings in a ballgame. Rich Harden is one of the harder-throwing starters in the game, also possessing a devastating change up that he mixes in frequently. The dude needs a milk IV pumping into his bones not to mention a bubble to sleep in so he can be healthy, but he’s dominant when he’s out there, however infrequently it may be. The Cubs are essentially getting Mark Prior once again, and everyone knows how frustrating that can be. They’re rolling the dice and taking a gamble that can have a huge reward, and one that probably makes them the favorite at the sportsbook. If it doesn’t pay off, they’re not going to be hurt too much by losing the players they traded away. If it does pay off, they could be looking at winning a World Series. It was definitely a gamble worth taking.

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Padres Wisely Gambling on Mark Prior

Prior Wood CoverESPN, whose reporter Buster Olney wrote up the news of Prior’s agreement to a one-year, $1 million deal with San Diego, has a great graphic on Prior. In 2003, he won 18 games and finished third in NL Cy Young voting. In 57 starts since then, Mark Prior has won just 18 games. I don’t think anything else can better describe Prior’s downfall. Regardless of Prior’s lack of recent success, I agree with Obscure Sports Quarterly and think the signing was a wise gamble for Kevin Towers and the Padres.

With the rest of the NL West actively beefing up this offseason, San Diego needs to make some moves. They’ve acquired Jim Edmonds and signed Tadahito Iguchi and Randy Wolf. Their offense is so anemic they’ll need all the pitching they can muster. Even though he might not be able to pitch until June, should Prior give San Diego just 7-8 good starts before he gets hurt again, he’ll have been well worth the money.

Arizona is the defending NL West champ and they improved significantly by adding Haren. The Rockies re-signed Aaron Cook and added a few relievers. The Dodgers brought in Andruw Jones and Kuroda. The Giants signed Aaron Rowand (hehehe). With a small budget to work with, the least San Diego can do is gamble on a pitcher like Prior who has a high ceiling. For only a million bucks, the investment was well worth it and makes me wonder why no other team tossed out a few more greenbacks for the rights to Prior.

(Though this post has nothing to do with Kerry Wood, it has everything to do with the picture I selected. Oh the days, Cubs fans.)

What the **** Was Lou Thinking?

Let me go on record here: before the home run ball was served up, I was vehemently questioning why Lou Piniella, in the middle of a complete pitcher’s duel, screwed with the rhythm of the game and yanked his starter. I just couldn’t believe what he’d done. It was completely beyond me. There is no possible logic that justifies his decision. And for his stupidity, the Cubs could have to pay.

Even if they move on, I won’t forget this call. They will have had to play longer in this series because of that poor decision. You simply cannot be thinking about Game 4 in a best of 5 series. That is just faulty logic. Thinking about Game 4 in the middle of Game 1 leaves you with your pants down, your pucker exposed for the opposing team to take aim with penetration. And that’s exactly what the Diamondbacks did. Beating Brandon Webb could have ended the series right there. After that, who does Arizona throw, Doug Davis? Livan Hernandez? Micah Owings? Hardly an intimidating group. Taking out Brandon Webb would have all but squashed Arizona’s chances, and it should have been to priority for the Cubs. You really telling me Lilly and Hill can’t beat Livan and Davis? Please. Lou grossly mismanaged the situation, to the point that it makes me sick.

Should the Cubs lose this series, I would consider Lou’s move nothing less than a fireable offense. I cannot believe he made that dumb of a move.

Settle Down Cubs Fans

Yes, the rest of the sports world has taken notice. We all see. You’re tied for first. You happy? Back 8 1/2 games on June 23rd and it didn’t even matter. Good. Now you can settle back down, and we can all resume our days.

Seriously though, as anyone who has heard me do a radio interview this year knows, I said that the Cubs were going to make it close, and that it would only be a matter of time before the Brewers faded. Looks like that day has come. Funny enough, I think it’s permanent too. Not to say that the Brewers might not sneak back into first at some point, but I think the Cubs will win the division, and the wild card won’t be coming out of the Central. So there you go Cubs fans, go crazy folks.

A Save in a 12-1 Ballgame

Sean GallagherContributor JS emails in to alert me about an odd occurrence in the Cubs game on Wednesday. A save was awarded despite the final score being 12-1. On any given day in baseball, several closers will be awarded saves. However, it’s not often that a non-closer gets a save, especially in a ballgame where the margin isn’t three runs or less. So Carlos Zambrano went his obligatory five innings for the win, then came in Sean Gallagher to go the rest of the way, pitching four effective innings to get the save. Because it happens so infrequently, it’s a good time to bring up the three circumstances under which a save can be awarded:

Credit a pitcher with a save when he meets all three of the following conditions:
(1) He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his club; and
(2) He is not the winning pitcher; and
(3) He qualifies under one of the following conditions:
- (a) He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning; or
- (b) He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, or at bat, or on deck (that is, the potential tying run is either already on base or is one of the first two batsmen he faces; or
- (c) He pitches effectively for at least three innings. No more than one save may be credited in each game.

As JS astutely points out, Scott Boras must have had the “effectively” clause stricken from the rule books in order to help him make more money. Can’t say I disagree.

(AP Photo/Joseph Oliver)

Cubs Emotions Boil Over: Zambrano and Barrett Get into a Dugout Fight

I was utterly shocked — stunned and equally flabbergasted. There it was, clear as day. Right in the middle of the dugout. One of the worst on-field fights I’ve ever seen. Between a pair of teammates no less, not opponents. Check out my post at FanHouse for all the details. And man, is this the culmination of a crappy Cubs season or what?

What will this do for the team? I really thought they had a chance to get over the hump. Which way will this send the team, plummeting, or skyrocketing? Or nowhere — there bullpen’s too horrendous to overcome? But as they said in Major League, for the first time all year, the Cubs are showing some signs of life! And that my friends, is a good thing.