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Takin' Care of Business

By Garrett Monaghan

According to Len Kasper, the last time a Chicago-based franchise swept a four-game series from a Washington D.C. franchise in Washington was 1894. Here are some interesting factoids to put that in a little perspective:

1) Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Hawaii, and Alaska weren't states yet.
2) The first motion picture patent was filed.
3) Julio Franco made his major league debut. He went 1-3 against Jaime Moyer.

Ok, so maybe beating the Nationals was historic, but it certainly didn't look that difficult. Despite some erratic starting pitching, the Cubs' bats were more than enough to put Washington away. It was nice to see Soriano and Fontenot start contributing more at the plate, although Milton Bradley still looks horrible. Fontenot has hit .278 this year when he's started at second base, and he looks considerably more relaxed now than he did when he was subbing for Ramirez at third. I'm pretty confident that we'll see substantially better production out of "Little Babe Ruth" in the second half.

Unfortunately, I can't say I've seen anything I like out of Kevin Hart. He's issued fifteen walks in fifteen innings so far this year, and only struck out five. While he hasn't given up many runs so far, it's only a matter of time if he doesn't figure out how to throw strikes. Hart will be out of the rotation the minute Ryan Dempster comes off the DL, and I doubt that the Cubs will keep him on the big league roster. Hart's only 26, so he still has some time to develop, but the Cubs can't be too pleased with his performance. Jeff Samardzija (The Sweet Serb? Little Z? The 'Mardj?) looked great yesterday, with the exception of one bad pitch to Adam Dunn. What I find most encouraging about Samardzija is his increasing tendency to generate ground ball outs. That's a great trait for any pitcher, and especially for one who pitches at Wrigley. If he keeps improving, Samardzija is going to make either a very good starter or an elite reliever.

With the ownership/bankruptcy situation still in a major state of flux, and the team starting to produce a bit more consistently; it seems increasingly unlikely to me that the Cubs are going to make any major moves at the trading deadline. If Fontenot hits more consistently, which seems likely, the Cubs don't need to upgrade at second; and as bad as the outfield has been, Soriano, Bradley, and Fukudome are unmovable due to their bloated contracts. I think any team that wanted him could have Bradley for a bucket of baseballs right now, but there's no way the Cubs will be able to deal him without eating a huge portion of his salary.

If Hendry does make a move, it'll most likely be in the bullpen. I don't think anyone expects the B.J. Ryan signing to produce anything useful, and Hendry's made it pretty clear that he wants another lefty reliever. Baltimore's George Sherrill would make a very attractive addition, but there are going to be a lot of teams after him, and the price tag might be more than Hendry wants to pay. Frankly, Hendry could upgrade the bullpen right now by cutting Aaron Heilmann and bringing Ascanio back up, but that's probably expecting too much.

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