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Game 88 Open Thread: July 4 2008

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Zambrano Looper
8-3, 3.13 9-5, 4.26

happy 4th everybody. it’s a holiday weekend, the cards are playing the cubs, and the teams are fighting each other for first place; jim edmonds is back in town (and welcome back to ya, jed). it doesn’t get much better than this.

i'll be at a barbecue tonight and away from the computer, so overflow threads will be pre-programmed. i don't know whether to expect heavy traffic because it's the cubs, or light traffic because it's the 4th of july. erring on the side of caution, i'm gonna pre-program two overflows --- one will open an hour after game time, and the second will open an hour after that.

historically, card-cub game threads have not brought out the best in the VEB community. most people keep the rivarly in perspective and are able to enjoy the sparring without being obnoxious about it. but there always seem to be a few dicks who show off their most unpleasant, vulgar, and unintelligent characteristics when the cards play the cubs --- indeed, they think it’s cool to act that way when the cards play the cubs. don’t be one of those dicks. have all the fun you want in the game thread; just don’t drive people off my site with repugnant behavior. and if you observe someone else behaving that way, flag the post or write me an e-mail.

i exchanged views this morning with al yellon, my friend over at Bleed Cubbie Blue. his answers to my questions are here; head over there to see my answers to his questions. if you do drop by BCB during the weekend to exchange views w/ the northsiders, remember that you are representing our community ---- be good-humored, fight fair, and refrain from trolling. thanks ev’yone.

1) Jim Edmonds appeared to be toast when he came to the Cubs; he even got called out by Lou Piniella for his lax production after his first week or so in Chicago. How'd he turn it around?
That's a mystery to me, too, but I'm certainly not complaining. In 36 games as a Cub Edmonds is now hitting .294/.391/.587, better than his career numbers, with 8 HR and 24 RBI. He's played a competent CF --- it's clear that he doesn't have the range he used to, but he catches most everything he can get to --- and has contributed to many wins, most notably with his game-tying, last-of-the-9th HR against the Braves on June 12, a game the Cubs won in the 11th on a walkoff HBP. Even some Cubs fans who hated the idea of "that hated Cardinal" in a Cubs uniform are coming around.

To answer your question more directly, Edmonds had an injury in spring training that limited him to six ST at-bats. Clearly, it hadn't totally healed during his time in San Diego and they gave up on him. He's healthy now, and the Cubs have a productive CF platoon (Edmonds and Reed Johnson) at a cost to them of about $1.6 million for the entire season ($1.3M for Johnson, and the minimum for Edmonds, as the Padres are on the hook for the rest of his contract).

2) After half a season of watching Fukudome, do you think the contract he signed is a) a bargain, b) overpriced, or c) fair ?
The contract is fair. Fukudome has been exactly as advertised -- an on-base machine (.395 OBA) who has mid-range power and plays an excellent RF. His best value to the Cubs has been his patience at the plate -- this has rubbed off on his teammates, as they are on pace to break the club record for walks in a season. He is the Cubs' first Japanese-born player and Japanese players are noted for their disciplined approach to the game, something that has been missing from Cub teams for many years. For that alone, he's worth it.

3) What is the secret of Ryan Dempster's success this year? Are you worried he will wake up one day and turn back into the old Ryan Dempster?
Cub fans always worry about just about everything. But Dempster, apart from one disastrous start vs. the White Sox, has been consistent all year. The "secret," which really isn't one, is that Dempster dropped about 30 pounds and spent the winter doing intense workouts, because he realized that returning to starting pitching would require him to get into better shape. Part of his routine was running up and down Camelback Mountain in the Phoenix area before spring training, something that anyone who's hiked those trails would tell you is a tough task. It has paid off. Dempster is also a smart player who understands what it takes to succeed. He'll make the All-Star team and it'll be well-deserved.

4) Matt Murton, Felix Pie, Ronny Cedeno, Eric Patterson, Rich Hill . . . . a lot of highly touted Cub prospects are going stale, rather than establishing themselves as regulars. Does that trend worry you, and what do you think is the reason for it?
Technically, Murton isn't a Cub prospect -- he was acquired from the Red Sox in the Nomar Garciaparra trade. "Highly-touted" is a relative term, too; of the ones you mention, only Pie and Hill had that tag on them, and Hill only in the later stages of his minor league career. Since producing several good-to-very-good position players and pitchers in the 1980's (Shawon Dunston, Mark Grace, Joe Girardi, Greg Maddux among others), the farm system has become fallow in recent years. This I would attribute to bad management and bad drafting more than any other factors. In the last few years under Oneri Fleita and scouting director Tim Wilken, the system has begun to rebuild, and I hope that bears fruit in years to come. Also, keep in mind that although the players you name have had less success than hoped for, the Cub farm system has produced, in the last ten years, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, Michael Wuertz, Sean Marshall, Sean Gallagher and Carlos Marmol.

5) Which pursuer do Cub fans fear more --- the Cardinals or the Brewers?
Personally, I fear the Brewers more --- and don't take that as an insult, Cardinals fans. I still can't figure out how your team is doing it, and I look forward to Larry's answers to my questions on that topic. Milwaukee has a great offense --- their weakness, as was apparent in their unbelievable meltdown loss to Arizona yesterday, is their bullpen. This weekend series will go a long way toward setting the tone for the rest of the season, just as the September 2003 series in Wrigley Field did for the Cubs that year, and the July 2004 series, also at Wrigley, did for the Cardinals in that season. Let the games begin!