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Trading Starlin Castro

English: Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs wa...

English: Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs waits to bat in 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rumors that Theo Epstein and the Cubs were shopping Starlin Castro in a trade swirled amid a USA Today report that the club is shopping everyone on the roster with the exception of Jeff Samardzija.

My initial reaction to this article was shock, because I don’t think Theo Epstein would be that foolish to trade a shortstop that is the only legitimate bat in the lineup and represent the very player that Epstein should be building around.

At 22 years old and under team control until 2017, trading Castro should not even be a consideration for a team that needs more players of his ilk to contend in the National League Central division.  Trading him for a bundle of prospects would further alienate a fan base that’s grown tired of waiting til next year.

Having made his ML debut just over two years ago Castro has already eclipsed 400 career hits while hitting over .300.  Far from a finished product he has started to drive in more runs, he is tied with Boston’s Mike Aviles for the lead among shortstops in runs batted in with 32, and is on pace to steal over thirty bases which would eclipse his career high of 22 set last season.

His defense is a work in progress as he has been prone to errant throws and mental lapses, but that’s just par for the course in the developing of a 22- year old in pro sports.

The closest thing the Cubs have to an untouchable, if there is such a thing in pro sports today, is the All-Star shortstop that should be patrolling the left side of the Cubs infield for the next decade and will be a fixture in the line-up when the Cubs are back on top.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports fan and an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC.  Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10.  View his show’s website here.

Baseball’s Early Award Winners

Josh Hamilton

Josh Hamilton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the quarter pole of the Major League Baseball season having been passed this week and Memorial Day on the horizon let’s take a look at my award winners at this point of the season.

Predictions sure to be debated and not necessarily an indication of the award winners come the end of the regular season, but let’s take a look at the best hitters and pitchers who figure to be in the conversation come October.

National League MVP: Matt Kemp

Despite missing time on the disabled list with a hamstring injury last year’s runner-up to Ryan Braun in MVP voting played like a man angry he was not elected as the league’s most valuable player in a season in which he almost won the Triple Crown and just missing going off for a 40 homerun/40 stolen base campaign.

Hitting .359 with 12 hr’s with 28 RBI and 29 runs scored the Dodgers Center fielder will look to make up for missed time when he comes off the DL June 1st.

Second Place: Carlos Beltran

Leads the NL with 14 homeruns and is second to Andre Ethier of the Dodgers in RBI with 38 while carrying a batting average of .292 for the reigning World Series Champion Cardinals. Beltran has stayed healthy while providing more than adequate numbers replacing Albert Pujols’ power numbers in the middle of the St. Louis lineup.

AL MVP: Josh Hamilton

Leads all of baseball with his 19 hr’s and 50 RBI and trails his teammate, Ian Kinsler for the ML lead in runs scored with 36. Oh and he’s hitting .378, three points behind Paul Konerko for the league lead and trails Derek Jeter for the lead in hits by two with 62. He’s doing all this for a team in first place by six games. A Triple Crown watch will be going well into the summer for Mr. Hamilton.

Second Place: Adam Jones

The Orioles Center fielder has come into his own this season for the surprising Orioles, who own the best record in the American League. Jones has 14 hr’s, 31 RBI, 33 runs scores, and has swiped seven bags while hitting .310 and playing Gold Glove defense at a premium position. The slugger is rumored to be close to signing an extension with the Orioles after his hot start.

NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw

Last season’s winner has picked up right where his 2011 season left off. 4-2 on the year, and his two losses came in which his team gave him 2 total runs of support. Owner of a nifty 1.97 ERA and tied for the league lead with a 0.90 WHIP for the NL West leading Dodgers gives Kershaw the slight edge over Cole Hamels and Brandon Beachy.

AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander

Last season’s AL MVP and Cy Young winner leads both leagues with 75 strikeouts and nearly thew his third career no-hitter two starts ago, coming a mere two outs away from pitching immortality with a third no-no. His 0.81 WHIP is best among starters and has limited opposing batters to a .172 batting average against his arsenal of pitches. Verlander beats out Jered Weaver and the resurgent Jake Peavy

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports fan and an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC. Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10. View his show’s website here. And read more of Patrick’s blogs here.

Memorial Day Standings

With Memorial Day a few days away and backyard bbq’s and pool parties about to be set off in full bloom this weekend, let’s take a minute to remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice to help make the United States the greatest country in the world.

Memorial Day is also the unofficial day when baseball teams realize they are who they are, not to steal from Denny Green’s famous postgame rant in a Monday Night loss to the Chicago Bears years ago, but sometimes teams are not who we thought they are.

Take a peek at the top of the standings across Major League Baseball and you will see five of the six division leaders are not the team that won the division a year ago.

The biggest surprise has to be the Baltimore Orioles who entered Saturday as owners of the best record in the American League. They are one up on the Tampa Bay Rays, four and a half on the New York Yankees, and six and a half on the cellar dwelling Boston Red Sox.

Will they maintain their hot start into the dog days of summer?

Who knows, but Buck Showalter has his team playing as good as they have in a long time.

The American League Central sees the Cleveland Indians two and a half games on top of the Chicago White Sox and five games on everybody’s preseason darling, the Detroit Tigers.

It will be interesting to see if Cleveland acquires a bat or another arm to keep the Sox and Tigers in their rear-view mirror in the AL Central standings. Much like the Orioles, many don’t think they will be in first place at the end of the season, let alone the All-Star break.

However, I beg to differ because this division will beat up each other because I don’t see a complete team dominating in the summer and putting some distance between the other teams in the division. This could be a three team race well into September.

The American League West is the only division to have last year’s winner atop the standings. The Texas Rangers are poised for a third straight trip to the World Series and will look to win their first title behind Josh Hamilton, who is the front runner for the Most Valuable Player award, and a lineup that strikes fear into even the best of pitchers.

Jered Weaver can attest to that. The Angels starter gave up eight runs in three and a third innings of work in a start vs. the Rangers after yielding only one earned run in his previous 21 innings of work, including tossing a no-hitter.

The Rangers own a six game lead on the Athletics but could see a run by the Angels who are six and a half games back after a sluggish start.

The National League East sees the Washington Nationals leading the Atlanta Braves by two games. Inspired by their Manager Davey Johnson and teenage sensation, Bryce Harper and flame throwing Steven Strasburg, the Nationals are turning their immense potential into wins. Leading the NL in ERA, the Nationals are a fun team to root for behind the ageless Davey Johnson.

The Nationals have a slew of questions to answer if they are to keep their place atop the standings in the East.

Does Harper start playing like a 19- year old?

What happens when Strasburg hits his innings mark? He is only allowed 160 after Tommy John surgery ended his rookie season two years ago.

How will injured stars Ryan Zimmerman , Jayson Werth, and Michael Morse fit in the lineup and will they stay healthy?

Who closes? The team has adopted a closer- by- committee approach but have All-Star set-up man Tyler Clippard ready to step into the ninth inning.

The NL Central leaders are Joey Votto’s Cincinnati Reds who head into Memorial Day weekend with a half game lead over the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals recently lost their All-Star first baseman, Lance Berkman for eight to ten weeks after he required knee surgery and are already playing without Allan Craig and his .373 batting average as he nurses a hamstring injury.

Can the Reds put some room between themselves and the Red Birds while they deal with injuries?

With stars like Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce they figure to score enough runs to keep their fifth ranked pitching staff in games. The biggest question is how recently promoted Cuban flame- thrower, Aroldis Chapman handles closing duties.

So far the early results are good as he is yet to give up a single run all season while striking out 43 batters in 24.1 innings.

The NL West boasts the team with the best record in all of baseball and very well could have the MVP, CY Young award winner, and Manager of the year all on the same team. Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, and Don Mattingly have the Dodgers comfortably in first pace and have done so with a dominating home field advantage.

Winners of 19 of the teams 24 home games have given Vin Scully’s Dodgers a six and a half game lead on the San Francisco Giants. A balanced attack that sees the LA squad second in ERA and second in batting average, the Dodgers seem poised for a return to the playoffs.

Of the six teams currently in first place the Rangers and Dodgers are the only two teams I see atop the standings come October.

Meaning the fun is just beginning!

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports fan and an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC. Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10. View his show’s website here. And read more of Patrick’s blogs here.

Baseball’s Civil War in Chicago

For as long as there has been two professional baseball teams playing in Chicago the two sides have despised each other that would make the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s proud.

As the City of broad shoulders prepares for another Civil War between the Cubs and Sox, I have already grown tired of the sophomoric and ignorant stereotypes that both fan bases throw back and forth at each other.

I have often found it humorous for one to be a fan of both teams, and I have yet to wrap my brain around having two favorite teams in any sports. However, is it possible to be a Cubs or Sox fan and not have the urge to throw the same tired insults at the other team, their fans, and their ballpark?

Denigrating one team does not make your team superior, it makes you look foolish.

I am a Cubs fan and support them through good times and bad. In many ways it is a marriage and as many times as I get disappointed or angry with the team, I always come back to them and believe that next year is right around the corner.

I am as loyal as they come concerning the supporting of my team. This is something that many Chicagoans pride themselves on. This trait is what makes Chicago fans the greatest in the world. This is not a biased opinion.

This fact is backed by my viewing Yankee fans boo Derek Jeter, Philadelphia fans boo Santa Claus, Los Angeles fans lose a football franchise on more than one occasion, and countless other cities struggle to fill their stadiums and arenas. Have you seen the empty seats in Miami during Heat games and the thousands of empty seats in Atlanta during the Braves decade of dominance in the ‘90’s?

This series brings out the worst in Chicago fans and a sample of what you will hear in any bar this weekend will go like this:

Cub fan: “The White Sox fans don’t care about their team and that’s why they can’t sell out their stadium.”

Sox fan: “Sox fans are just smarter and we don’t support a bad team unlike Cub fans who just go to Wrigley to get drunk. They don’t even pay attention to the game.”

Cubs fan: “At least our park is a historical monument and full of history and beauty unlike that monstrosity named after a phone company.”

Sox fan: “Well our park is clean and you don’t have to worry about concrete falling on your head or walking a mile to use the bathroom.”

Cubs fan: “No but the umpires and first base coaches need to worry about being assaulted.”

Sox fan: “Well your announcers are awful. All Ron Santo did was moan and groan. He was just a fan in the booth.”

Cubs fan: “Have you heard Hawk Harrelson?!”

Sox fan: “At least we won a World Series.”

Cubs fan: “That’s right; you have now won as many as you’ve thrown in the last 100 years.”

Tell me how many times you have heard this exact conversation?

I am willing to bet the answer is far too many.

My plea for Cubs and Sox fans this weekend is that we all get along. I pray no fights break in or around the stadium. The past few years have seen an increase in hostility, aggression, and drunken belligerence. Let us remember this is the city that brought us affable and players who personified class in guys like Ernie Banks, Luke Appling, Ron Santo, Minnie Minoso, Ryne Sandberg, and the man in the White Sox dugout this weekend, Robin Ventura among many others.

For three days I urge the fans of both sides to represent the best the city has to offer and not act like Albert Belle and Milton Bradley.

I am rooting for three well played competitive games and if the Cubs lose Friday afternoon, you better believe I will have my Cubs gear on for Saturday night’s game under the lights.

You will not see me bashing the White Sox if they beat the Cubs in every game this year, sure I will be disappointed, but more than if the Cardinals came into town and swept the series. That is the team’s real rival. I would think the best White Sox fans would agree in the same vein agree that they are more concerned with gaining ground on Detroit and Cleveland in the standings.

I am concerned about the fans on both allegiances that do not recognize this fact and have a distorted sense of reality. These are the fans that participate in conversations like the one I wrote about earlier and get tossed out of games and bars for engaging in buffoonery.

Both have great fans but it is the clowns to the left and jokers to the right who ruin it for the true fans.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard sports fan and former football player from Chicago. Patrick has been a fan of the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks from birth and is an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC. Patrick is the host of “The Wake Up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10. View his show’s website here.

Cubs Potential call up of Anthony Rizzo

On my radio program, The Wake Up Call on www.sportstownchicago.com yesterday morning, I discussed the likelihood of a call up of Chicago Cubs top prospect Anthony Rizzo.  The first baseman was acquired in an offseason trade with the San Diego Padres for the former first round draft pick Andrew Cashner, and reunited him with Theo Epstein, the man who drafted him in Boston.

Rizzo struggled mightily during a late season call up with the Padres last season and the Cubs front office has to be concerned of rushing him back to the big leagues.  In 153 at bats last season, Rizzo hit just .141 with one home run while accumulating a scant nine RBI’s.

Having success at the triple a level does not guarantee success in the Major Leagues as many hot-shot prospects that flamed can attest, but with Bryan LaHair playing like an All- Star a spot does not exist on the roster for the 22 year-old lefty slugger.

Calling him up now would be a disservice to the promising career of Rizzo.

To listen the podcast from the broadcast and get my thoughts on a potential call up of the slugging first base prospect, please click here

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard sports fan and former football player from Chicago, the greatest city in the world. The home of deep dish pizza, the greatest skyline in the world, and the best sports fans in America.  Patrick has been a fan of the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks from birth and is an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC.  Patrick is the host of “The Wake Up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10. 

Chicago’s Rookie Managers

After the season both Chicago baseball teams experienced last season a change at the managerial position was a must as the teams hope for a breath of fresh air and a new direction for the 2012 season.

The White Sox traded Ozzie Guillen to the Miami Marlins saying adios to the manager that led the team to its first World Series since 1918.  The outspoken manager wore his welcome out in Chicago after butting heads with General Manager Kenny Williams for the better part of the last three years.

When management declined to offer Ozzie an extension, the two sides agreed to the split that netted the Sox two minor league prospects from the Marlins, the Guillen once served as third base coach during the team’s 2003 World Series winning season.

The White Sox surprised many when they hired former Sox third baseman Robin Ventura who had zero experience coaching or managing on any level in baseball.

The decision to part with the manager and coaching staff from last season’s staff was made for different reasons as the team’s record under Mike Quade sealed the fate of the first year manager.

Finishing with the 6th worst record in Major League Baseball the affable Quade often appeared to be outmatched and in over his head as he struggled to manage the team’s roster.

Quade was particularly stubborn in his refusal to play the younger talent on the roster in favor of struggling veterans conceivably to give him a better record and a higher chance of returning for his sophomore season in the dugout.

The move backfired as Quade was told he would not return after the hiring of new President Theo Epstein who hired Dale Sveum, whom he had as the third base coach in Boston.  Sveum was most recently the hitting coach for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Many Cub fans had clamored for the hiring of former Cub icon and Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg who had climbed the ranks in the Cubs minor league system, having success at every stop.

The hiring of Sveum turned off a plethora of fans fantasizing about seeing “Ryno” in a Cubs uniform again and leading the team to the first World Series win since 1908.  Alas, Cubs fans were urged to believe in Theo and trust his decision making, after all he was the boy genius that ended the Red Sox curse with two titles in a four year span as General Manager of the Boston club.

Two teams in the third largest market in America hiring rookie managers.  Both fan bases surprised and perhaps even a little confused by the hiring of the two men put in charge of leading the teams back to the playoffs.

Ventura fills the shoes of Chicago’s last manager to bring a championship to the city, and will operate without the off the field distractions Guillen brought with him.

Sveum doesn’t have to do too much for Cubs fans to forget the Mike Quade era.  However, the pressure to win for Sveum is immense as the fan base is trying to remain patient under new management albeit with a clenched jaw and pursed lips.

The two managers will face each other in this weekend’s Cross-town classic where they will get a taste of the rivalry from the steps of the dugout.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard sports fan and former football player from Chicago, the greatest city in the world. The home of deep dish pizza, the greatest skyline in the world, and the best sports fans in America.  Patrick has been a fan of the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks from birth and is an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC.  Patrick is the host of “The Wake Up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10.  View his show’s website here.  To read more of Patrick’s blogs click here.

Cubs let one Get Away on Getaway Day

The Cubs lost 4-3 in 10 innings to the Reds in Cincinnati.  The loss in itself is not exactly an earth shattering revelation considering the Cubs came into Thursday’s matinee owners of the fewest wins in the Senior Circuit, tied with the San Diego Padres, with nine victories in 25 games.

However, the fashion in which the Cubs lost is what has many Cubs fans fuming.

The return of starter Ryan Dempster, who was activated off the disabled list prior to the game, along with reliever Kerry Wood, pitched a stellar ball game for eight innings.  In his time on the mound, Dempster gave up just three hits and one walk and didn’t allow a single reds run.

Dempster even got some run support which has been avoiding him like the plague in his starts thus far this season.  The Cubs got solo homeruns from Starlin Castro, first baseman Bryan LaHair, and Geovany Soto staking the Cubs to a 3-0 lead.  Seemingly enough for the Cubs to leave the Queen City with a rare win on a day Dempster was dealing.

Rookie manager Dale Sveum faced the decision of whether to extend Dempster beyond his 101 pitches, in his first start off the DL, or turn the game over to the Cubs closer Carlos Marmol.

Marmol has been shaky this year, well actually shaky may be too nice for a closer with a 6.23 e.r.a. and somehow leads the team in walks with 12 despite only pitching one out shy of a complete game.

Nevertheless, Sveum put the ball in Marmol trusting him to get three outs before he let in three runs.

Marmol allowed each of the four batters he faced to reach base, including issuing three more free passes.

Raphael Dolis, a closer for AAA Iowa last year came in to put a tourniquet on the bleeding, and induced a Reds double play, however the tying run scored and the Reds forced the game into extra innings.

Another blown save for Marmol and Ryan Dempster gets a no decision after his eight shutout innings of work.

Dempster is still without a win on the year despite possessing an e.r.a of 0.95.  What else can he do?

At the time I think Sveum made the correct call getting Dempster out after 101 pitches.  He was after all making his first start off the disabled list, and Marmol pitched a perfect ninth in Wednesday’s win.

Any goodwill Marmol earned after his Wednesday outing was quickly forgotten after his meltdown on the mound Thursday afternoon where even if you gave him a map, gps, and a navigator, he couldn’t find the strike zone.

Sveum has opened himself to second guessing after this game and will have to address questions about why he took Dempster out and if he has to find a new closer after another blown save.

My prediction is Marmol will still be the Cubs closer going forward, he is getting paid too much not to be, and no viable options are on the roster to replace him, unless you include Kerry Wood who was also activated off the DL prior to the game.

Can Dolis close in the interim and give Marmol a day off if the Cubs find themselves in a save situation over the weekend vs. the Dodgers?

I think that is the smart move.

Marmol needs a mental day off and while the old saying is that closers need to have a quick memory and get over blown saves and get right back on the horse, in this situation, I believe the Cubs and Marmol are best served seeing what Dolis can do, at least temporarily until Marmol finds the form that once made him one of the nastiest closers in the National League.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard sports fan and former football player from Chicago, the greatest city in the world. The home of deep dish pizza, the greatest skyline in the world, and the best sports fans in America.  Patrick has been a fan of the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks since birth and is an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC.  Patrick is the host of “The Wake Up Call”, a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10.  View his show’s website here

Down on the Farm with Cubs 3B Prospect Dustin Geiger

This morning I had the pleasure to interview Chicago Cubs 3B prospect, Dustin Geiger, on my radio show in Chicago called The Wake up Call which airs on www.sporstownchicago.com.

Dustin and I got in touch via Twitter about a week ago, and since then found him to be very engaging and appreciative of his fans and equally gracious.  In fact, Dustin gave away an autographed bat to one of his lucky followers.

Talk about being a class act.

To get the ball rolling I asked him the poll question for the show the day which was what his favorite sports themed movie was.  Not to my surprise he replied with Bull Durham. A movie following the minor league Durham Bulls and the exploits the players find themselves in as many are trying to make it to “The Show” while some are just trying to hang on a little bit longer.

Our conversation shifted to his childhood idols in baseball were and he picked a couple of winners and excellent role models and successful ball players as well as he rattled off the names of Yankee Captain Derek Jeter, from his favorite team, and Cal Ripken, Jr.

Geiger originally was a shortstop when he started out in little league, but shifted to third base as he entered high school.  Making the same move over to the right that his childhood here Cal Ripken made in the Major Leagues.  A move that Geiger said he relishes.  He welcomed the challenge with an open mind and a positive attitude, knowing it was in the best interest of the team.

Talk about being a team player.

Prior to the interview the one question that I was really curious to know the answer to, because it was one that I will never be in a position myself to have to make a decision with the same kind of profound impact on my life that Dustin had to make as a high school senior.

When I was a high school senior my toughest decisions revolved around where I was going to spend my Friday and Saturday nights.  The question facing Dustin as a high school senior I was so interested in discovering was his thought process in his decision to sign with the Cubs rather than playing college baseball for the next three years.

Major League Baseball requires college players to be three years removed from their high school graduation before they are draft eligible again.

This decision was not an easy one as Dustin recalled.  In fact the Florida native was ready to attend the University of Central Florida before ultimately making his lifelong dream come true and sign the dotted line and become a member of the Chicago Cubs organization.

Currently Dustin is on the disabled list recuperating from a broken hook hamate bone.  The bright side is that he is almost ready to resume swinging and get back into game action.

If you would like to listen to the entire podcast with Dustin on “The Wake up Call” with host Patrick Schmidt, you can listen here.  And you can follow Dustin on Twitter @D_Geiger.

Make sure you do follow him, because he is giving away another autographed bat at 1,000 followers.

A classy, engaging, humble, team player who is easy to root for, and I wish him a speedy recovery and hope he can climb the ladder in the minor league system and get to Wrigley real soon.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard sports fan and former football player from Chicago, the greatest city in the world. The home of deep dish pizza, the greatest skyline in the world, and the best sports fans in America.  Patrick has been a fan of the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks since birth and is an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC.  Patrick is the host of “The Wake Up Call”, a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10.  View his show’s website here

Baseball’s Future is now: Bryce Harper makes season debut

The most highly acclaimed prospect in all of baseball is headed to “The Show” with enough hype and pressure surrounding him to overwhelm the average 19 year old kid.

But that’s the big thing that sets Harper apart from the rest of baseball’s prospects, many of whom will never even reach it to the big leagues, let alone at 19.  Harper is not the average 19 year old kid.

Harper has been on baseball’s radar since around the time he received his driver’s license.  Appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated in high school will put the spotlight on you, and hitting homeruns over 500 feet will only make the light shine even brighter, something that Harper relishes.

Harper left high school early receiving his GED, so he could become draft eligible one year earlier than had he stayed in high school.  Attending community college in Nevada, Harper lit up the JUCO teams he faced.  He was the proverbial man amongst boys, even though he was many years younger than his competition.  He should have been getting ready for his junior prom, yet he was putting himself in prime position to be baseball’s number one pick.

For the second year in a row the Washington Nationals held the top pick.  Taking flame throwing, knee buckling pitcher, Stephen Strasburg the previous year, the Nats were looking for their face of the franchise to help boost sagging ticket sales and an anemic offense.

The face of the franchise was a 17 year old kid from Las Vegas, Nevada.

Harper joins a Nationals team that sits atop the National League East division, and is one of the early surprises of the season.  Harper was called to the big leagues, despite his struggles this season at AAA (one homerun in 72 at-bats), to fill the void in an offense that is without the team’s top two hitters, Mike Morse and Ryan Zimmerman.

Bringing comparisons of Mickey Mantle along with him to the Majors, Harper made his Big League debut Saturday night in Los Angeles vs. the Dodgers.

Showing off his throwing arm, that would make Andre Dawson, Vlad Guerrero, and Ichiro jealous, Harper almost recorded his first assist from left field (catcher Wilson Ramos couldn’t handle the ball after a collision with Jerry Hairston), hitting what would have been a game winning sac fly in the ninth had the Nationals bullpen not blown the save, and hustling all over the field that would have Charlie Hustle, Pete Rose himself proud.

Whether or not Harper will remain in the big leagues when Zimmerman is activated remains to be seen, but Harper is already making it very difficult to send the prodigal son back to the minor leagues.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard sports fan and former football player from Chicago, the greatest city in the world. The home of deep dish pizza, the greatest skyline in the world, and the best sports fans in America.  Patrick has been a fan of the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks since birth and is an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC.  Patrick is the host of “The Wake Up Call”, a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10.  View his show’s website here

Cubs take Sunday matinee vs. Phillies

With Matt Garza toeing the rubber for the Cubs Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia, Cubs fans got to witness a stellar pitching performance by their unquestioned ace.

Garza gave up a leadoff single to shortstop Jimmy Rollins in the first, then retired the next 18 batters he faced, including a season high 10 strikeouts, matching his highest total as a member of the Cubs.

Normally it’s Phillies fans that are beneficiaries of dominant pitching efforts behind their trio of Halladay, Lee, and Hamels, but Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick didn’t get the run support and couldn’t avoid some mistakes his defense made.

The Cubs took advantage of a misplayed a ball hit to right fielder Hunter Pence, when he misjudged a Jeff Baker liner that cost the club a run.  In the third inning Cubs speedster and resident pest on the base paths, Tony Campana forced Kendrick to rush a pickoff attempt that first baseman Laynce Nix couldn’t corral.

Campana scooted to third and would score on a sac fly from Starlin Castro, who had two RBI despite not collecting a hit, giving Garza all the support he would need on a day where he had everything working for him from the get go as the Cubs beat the Phillies 5-1.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is a diehard sports fan and former football player from Chicago, the greatest city in the world. The home of deep dish pizza, the greatest skyline in the world, and the best sports fans in America.  Patrick has been a fan of the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks since birth and is an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC.  Patrick is the host of “The Wake Up Call”, a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10.  View his show’s website here.

 

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