A Look Back at 2007 – The Month

The Cubs stumbled into June 7 games under .500 and 6 1/2 games back of the Milwaukee Brewers. Lou Piniella had to figure out a way to turn around the season. The Cubs frustration hit the boiling point on the first game of June against the Atlanta Braves. Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett slugged it out in the dugout, in full view of the cameras, but ended it in the clubhouse. Barrett ended up with stitches, both he and Zambrano apologized the next day….just hours before Mount Lou erupted.

A day after the Zambrano-Barrett fight, Lou Piniella finally lost it, kicked some dirt, yelled a little and was eventually suspended for 4 games. Ryan Dempster recently told XM Radio that is the event that turned the season around. Dempster said it took the heat off the players, turned it on Lou and gave them a chance to figure out how to play as a team. Most thought Piniella’s actions that afternoon was staged or premeditated, but whatever it was….it worked.

The Cubs started playing ball after Piniella’s suspension. But the month of June had one drama after the other. Tim Hudson hit Alfonso Soriano near the head the next weekend in Atlanta. Ted Lilly retaliated the next night and was ejected. Derrek Lee got into a brawl of his own with Chris Young less that a week later and Michael Barrett was abruptly traded on June 20th….and that was just the beginning.

The month started on a horrible note, finished with Lou’s crew being just 1 game under .500.

June – Reality TV at Wrigley

Cubs Record in June – 17-11 – season record end of June – 39-40 – 2nd place in the Central Division – 7 1/2 games back of the Brewers

– The Zambrano-Barrett Fight in the Dugout June 1, 2007 – The Ugliest of Them All

What started out as a beautiful day on the North Side of Chicago quickly turned very dark as the game between the Cubs and Braves took a backseat to the drama that unfolded in the dugout. Carlos Zambrano had another bad outing and allowed 7 runs, 6 earned, on 13 hits in 5 innings. Michael Barrett’s poor defense continued and led to a big 5th inning and at the same time apparently pushed Zambrano right over the edge.

Zambrano and Barrett exchanged words then punches in the dugout. The two were separated but continued their exchange in the clubhouse. Piniella and Rothschild had to break the two apart once again. Barrett ended up in the hospital and received stitches to his lip. The Cubs lost the game 8-5 despite a late inning comeback and home runs by Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Jacque Jones….but it was meaningless after the altercation between Zambrano and Barrett took place.

This game was the beginning of the end for Michael Barrett in a Cubs’ uniform. Piniella’s statement after the game said it all. “I have only so many players I can play and it’s about time some of them started playing like major-leaguers. Or get somebody else in here who can catch the damn ball or run the bases properly.

– The Eruption of Mount LouJune 2, 2007 – Going Down Kicking and Screaming

The Cubs lost their 6th game in a row and fell to a season-high 9 games under .500 in a 5-3 loss to the Braves. Like the day before, the game itself became secondary after Lou Piniella finally erupted in the 8th inning.

The Cubs were flat once again and continued making the same mistakes. Poor decisions, bad baserunning and leaving runners on base in scoring position. Rich Hill started the game but committed a throwing error that led to the Braves 3-run 4th inning. Hill left after the 7th with the game tied and once again the game was lost by the bullpen.

The Braves took the lead in the 8th but Angel Pagan led off the bottom of the inning with a double….Mike Quade was waving Pagan to third but Pagan was not looking at his coach and held at 2nd base. Rafael Soriano then uncorked a wild pitch that did not bounce as far away from Jarrod Saltalmacchia as Pagan thought. Pagan broke for third, but Saltalmacchia’s throw was right on target and Pagan was called out. Both Pagan and Quade thought it was the wrong call and Piniella ran out of the dugout with one objective in mind….getting ejected from the game.

It was Vintage Piniella at the ole ballpark, Mark Wegner ejected him after Piniella shouted, kicked dirt and apparently bumped the third base umpire. Bruce Froemming claimed Piniella kicked Wegner and that led to Piniella’s suspension.

– Mark DeRosa’s Grand Slam in the First Inning against the BravesJune 3, 2007 – Nothing But Baseball

With the Cubs season in jeopardy and their manager being suspended indefinitely before game time, Sean Marshall took the hill against the Braves. A loss would have dropped the Cubs to 10 games under .500. Sean Marshall responded with his first win of the year and threw 6 innings of shutout ball before allowing a single run in the 7th.

The big hit came from the Cubs first half MVP. Mark DeRosa cleared the bases in the 1st inning with one swing of the bat. DeRosa’s 2-out grand slam loosened up his teammates and they went on to a decisive 10-1 victory over the Braves. Alfonso Soriano and Derrek Lee both went deep on the afternoon and the dugout that had been filled with drama all weekend had smiles on the faces of every player….including interim manager Alan Trammell, who earned his first victory as a Cubs’ manager.

The 3-game series against the Braves changed the entire course of the season. It might have looked like a Two-Ring Circus or Reality TV but the Cubs turnaround started that weekend.

– Alfonso Soriano’s Three Home Run Game against the BravesJune 8, 2007 – Locked In

Sean Marshall earned his second win in a week against the Braves but the big story on that Friday night in Atlanta was Alfonso Soriano. Soriano hit three home runs in the first four innings and the Cubs walked a total of 7 times in the 9-1 win.

Marshall allowed just one run in 6 innings. The Cubs won their third in a row and were 5-1 in the 6 games since Piniella’s ejection.

Soriano’s three home run night would lead to Tim Hudson throwing one toward his head the next day and set the table for another drama filled evening on Sunday night in Atlanta in front of a national audience.

– Ted Lilly’s Ejection in the First Inning against the BravesJune 10, 2007 – The Clairvoyant Ump

Ted Lilly and the Cubs apparently thought Tim Hudson was intentionally throwing at Alfonso Soriano the day before, so on the third pitch of Edgar Renteria’s at bat in the first inning, Lilly plunked Renteria….and was ejected. The benches were not warned before the game but Jim Wolf thought Lilly’s actions were intentional and ejected Lilly. Both benches and bullpens emptied.

The Cubs claimed after the game Lilly was not throwing at Renteria, same as the Braves claimed they were not throwing at Soriano.

Renteria took out his frustrations with Lilly and popped Mike Fontenot in the face with his forearm after a late pop-up slide. Fontenot remained in the game, Renteria left in the 4th with an arm injury.

The Cubs lost the game 5-4 but showed all of baseball that the days of the “Loveable Losers” are long gone.

– The Derrek Lee-Chris Young BrawlJune 10, 2007 – Stay Classy

Carlos Zambrano’s outing was lost after the bench-clearing brawl between Derrek Lee and Chris Young. Zambrano had his best start of the season, to that point. Zambrano had a no hitter through 7 1/3 innings and threw his first complete game since 2005. Zambrano lost the game on the second hit he surrendered, a solo home run in the 9th inning by Russell Branyan on a 3-2 pitch….the Padres beat the Cubs 1-0.

Several of the Padres pitchers took exception to Alfonso Soriano admiring his home run the day before and appeared to take it out on Derrek Lee. Young threw toward Lee’s head, hit him and all appeared fine until Chris Young’s comments infuriated Lee. The usually level headed Derrek Lee lost his temper, took a swing a Young, the benches cleared and three players and a coach were ejected: Derrek Lee, Chris Young, Jake Peavy and Gerald Perry.

Home plate umpire Mike Everitt did not handle the situation properly. Everitt did not position himself in between Young and Lee and the ensuing conversation caused the melee. Ironically enough, Everitt was talking with Rob Bowen.

– Michael Barrett TradedJune 20, 2007

Lou Piniella set this trade in motion nearly three weeks prior. Piniella has the reputation for being very hard on catchers and Michael Barrett was his latest casualty. The Cubs traded Barrett to the Padres along with cash for Rob Bowen and Kyler Burke.

Bowen was eventually DFA’d and dealt to the A’s in the Jason Kendall trade but Kyler Burke had a good year for the Boise Hawks…. .254/.323/.446/.786 with 11 doubles, 10 home runs and 41 RBI’s in 63 games. Burke is playing winter ball in Hawaii, his numbers have been impressive…. .333/.402/.483/.885 with 8 doubles, a home run and 10 RBI’s in 26 games.

Michael Barrett ended up being Josh Bard’s backup with the Padres. Barrett’s numbers dropped and he did not hit a home run for the Padres in 44 games…. .226/.235/.286 with 8 doubles, no home runs and 10 RBI’s.

– Sammy Sosa’s 600th Career Home RunJune 20, 2007 – Back in the Limelight

The Cubs’ all-time home run leader came out of retirement and donned a new uniform in 2007 and while his bat was a little slower, the hop was still the same. Sammy Sosa hit 545 home runs in blue pinstripes and as fate would have it, Sosa launched his 600th career home run against the Chicago Cubs. Ironically enough the Cubs’ new number 21, Jason Marquis served up the dinger that landed in the right field bullpen of the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

– The Cubs Sweep the White Sox at the CellJune 22, 2007 – On Z Winning EndJune 23, 2007 – Get ‘Em On, Get ‘Em Over….Cubs Win!June 24, 2007 – Defensively Sweeping

The Cubs won the season series against the White Sox, 5 games to 1, and the 3-game series against the Sox in June allowed the Cubs to rebound from a rough trip in Texas.

The Cubs won the first game of the series behind a very good outing by Carlos Zambrano. Big Z battled Mark Buehrle and the only run he allowed was a solo home run by Paul Konerko. Zambrano struck out the first four batters he faced and seven of the first nine and tied a career high with 12 strikeouts.

Alfonso Soriano led off the game with a home run. Aramis Ramirez was activated from the DL, hit a home run of his own and added a RBI in the 9th. Felix Pie recorded a 2-out single in the 9th that drove in 2 and put the game away….the final score, 5-1.

The second game of the series was delayed by rain. Rich Hill pitched a gem but did not figure in the decision. Alfonso Soriano led off the game for the second consecutive day with a home run. The winning run came in the 9th after Cliff Floyd singled with 1-out. Angel Pagan pinch ran for Floyd, advanced to 3rd on a single by Daryle Ward. Ryan Theriot worked the squeeze to perfection and Pagan scored the winning run….the final score, 2-1.

The third game of the series belonged to Sean Marshall and the Cubs defense. Marshall threw 6 1/3 shutout innings and picked up his 10th win of his big league career. Alfonso Soriano went deep for the third consecutive game. Juan Uribe was called for obstruction in the 8th inning, Ozzie Guillen was ejected and the Cubs swept the Sox for the first time in a 3-game series at U.S. Cellular Field….the final score, 3-0.

– Alfonso Soriano’s Game Winning Single in the Bottom of the 9th against the RockiesJune 25, 2007 – Geaux Soriano!!

The Cubs appeared to have the first game of the series against the Rockies well in hand. Mike Fontenot was 5-for-5 on the night and Jason Marquis had a solid outing and was in line for the win. The Cubs built a 5-run lead when the defense took the field in the top of the 9th. Scott Eyre and Bobby Howry had trouble recording outs, Howry was charged on the mound by a fan and by the time the top of the 9th was over the Rockies scored 6 times and led the game 9-8.

Mark DeRosa led off the 9th with a bloop single to center. With 2-outs, Koyie Hill singled to left to put the tying run in scoring position. Ryan Theriot hit what appeared to be a routine grounder to Kaz Matsui, but he bobbled the ball to load the bases. Alfonso Soriano stepped in and singled to right center, Jacque Jones (Jones ran for DeRosa) scored the tying run and Koyie Hill scored the game winner.

– Jacque Jones’ Trade to the Marlins Falls ThroughJune 26, 2007 – Jones Remains A Cub

Several reports circulated early in the day that Jones had been traded to the Marlins, along with cash for a prospect. But the deal hit a snag and never went through. Jones’ struggles in the first half were well documented and the Cubs were trying to unload him and the remainder of his contract. Despite never finding his power stroke in 2007, Jones’ play in the second half helped lead the Cubs to the division title. Jones played a solid centerfield and hit the ball extremely well after the break.

Without Jacque Jones in the second half, the Cubs would not have won the division.

– Billy Petrick’s Major League Debut and Carlos Marmol’s First Career Save June 27, 2007 – One Win at a Time

The Cubs won their 6th game in a row on that Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley….their longest winning streak since 2005. Carlos Zambrano picked up the win, Mike Fontenot was 3-for-4 with a home run (Fontenot was 9-for-13 in the 3-game series against the Rockies) and Mark DeRosa hit a 3-run home run in the 3rd inning. This game would have been like so many of the others if not for Billy Petrick and Carlos Marmol.

Petrick made his debut in the 7th retired the first 3 batters he faced while reaching 96 MPH on the gun. Petrick walked Kaz Matsui to start the 8th, retired the next two batters he faced, but gave up a wind blown 2-run homer to Garrett Atkins. With the Cubs up by two, 6-4, Piniella lifted Petrick for Will Ohman but Petrick left the mound to a standing ovation.

Carlos Marmol pitched a perfect 9th with 2 strikeouts for his first career save. The future of the Cubs’ bullpen was front and center that afternoon at Wrigley.

– The Walk-Off – Aramis Ramirez 2-run Home Run in the Bottom of the 9th against the Brewers June 29, 2007 – Chippin’ Away

The Cubs entered the game 6 1/2 games back of the Brewers, but just 1-game under .500. The Cubs had to win the series to keep pace with the Brewers and give themselves a chance in the second half. The game started horribly. The Brewers scored 5 runs in the first inning off of Rich Hill. Hill left after 3 innings but the bullpen shut the door and did not allow another run.

Yovani Gallardo faced the Cubs for the first time and threw a gem but the Cubs offense kept fighting back and cut the Brewers lead to 5-3 going into the bottom of the 9th. Francisco Cordero had not blown a save all season and it appeared the Cubs were going to drop the all-important first game.

Alfonso Soriano reached on a 1-out single in the 9th, Mike Fontenot followed with a single to right. With Soriano on 3rd, Derrek Lee hit a sacrifice fly to right, Soriano scored to cut the Brewers led to 5-4. Aramis Ramirez stepped in and took the first offering from Cordero over the left center field wall….Wrigley erupted….Game Over! Cubs Win!!

For the first time since April, the Cubs were at .500 for the season.

A Look Back at 2007 – Struggles Out of the Gate

Quote of the Day

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." - Albert Einstein