Notes: Awards show Lee's key
Slugger named week's best again; Prior improving
LOS ANGELES -- If Derrek Lee had to pick his favorite year, it would be 2003, when he won the World Series with the Florida Marlins. But he's had two pretty good weeks so far in 2005.
Lee was named National League Player of the Week for the second time this year, edging two of his teammates, Neifi Perez and Glendon Rusch.
Lee has been carrying the Cubs, and entered Tuesday's game ranked among the NL leaders in nearly every offensive category.
"You need some guys, some carriers on your team and some helpers on your team," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "He's a guy who's shown that he can carry a team. As a manager, you feel fortunate to have a guy like Derrek and a guy emerging like that. You think about coaches and managers around and think, 'Where would Phil Jackson be without Michael Jordan or Shaq or Kobe [Bryant]?' You've got to have them."
Lee downplays his successful start, saying he hasn't done one thing different. But he is listening to hitting coach Gene Clines, who focused on the big first baseman's feet this spring.
"[Clines] was saying the key for me is keeping my feet slow and quiet," Lee said. "He said it's never my swing, it's my feet. And whenever my feet are right, I'm swinging the bat well."
It's something he works on in batting practice, trying to establish a good base. As much as he's enjoying his success, Lee would like the rest of the Cubs to experience what he did in 2003.
"It's good to do good yourself, but it's all about winning," he said. "It's only fun when you're winning. We're playing good baseball right now, so we want to continue like this. The fun part is getting to the playoffs -- that's when it's really fun."
As much as the Cubs appreciate Lee's hot start, they don't want him to stop.
"I'm looking for a greater finish than I am a start," Baker said.
Step by step: Mark Prior can touch his left shoulder with his right hand. He can't touch his face yet.
Prior is showing more mobility with his right arm after being hit in the right elbow by a line drive on Friday. The compressed fracture in his elbow limits his movement, but he's getting better. And he's learning to shave with his left hand, since he can't quite bend his right arm far enough.
"I'm feeling better," said Prior, who still has pain and isn't ready to throw yet.
Young guns: Jerome Williams, acquired from the San Francisco Giants in the LaTroy Hawkins trade, started for Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday and did not get a decision. He gave up two runs on seven hits and struck out four in a 7-2 loss to Oklahoma. Williams spent all of 2004 with the Giants.
Could he be called up to the big leagues with the Cubs?
"It depends on him," said Baker, who talked to Williams after the deal was completed. "He has to lose some weight. He has to get his arm in shape; he has to get his pitches together. We're looking at him hopefully sometime this season."
Asked to pinpoint how much weight Williams needed to lose, Baker said, "A little bit."
Williams apparently has invested in some barbecue restaurants in the Bay area and Hawaii. That's not the problem.
"We've got to keep him away from the fast food," Baker said.
Extra bases: The Cubs have to make a roster move prior to Wednesday's game to make room for John Koronka, and Baker indicated one of the Cubs' young pitchers will be sent back to Iowa. ... Aramis Ramirez has homered in three straight games heading into Tuesday's contest. The last Cub players to homer in four straight were Matt Stairs, who did so in 2001 on June 2-6, and Fred McGriff, who did so the same year from Sept. 20-23. The Cubs record is five consecutive games. ... Jose Macias is improving. His left knee flared up on him, but he's available to pinch-hit. ... Jerry Hairston Jr.'s leadoff home run Monday night was the fourth game-opening homer by a Cub at Dodger Stadium. Billy Cowan did so July 17, 1964, off Don Drysdale; Rick Monday connected off Rick Rhoden on July 17, 1976; and Lenny Randle led off a May 12, 1980, game with a home run off Don Sutton. ... With a win Tuesday, the Cubs would end May with a winning record for the third year in a row. The last time the Cubs ended May with a winning record in three consecutive seasons was 1987-89.
Triple play: Lee is leading the NL in the two key offensive categories -- home runs and RBIs -- and is close in batting average, making him a legitimate triple crown candidate. The only Cub who came close was Heinie Zimmerman, who was originally credited with winning the triple crown in 1912. He led the National League in home runs (14) and batting average (.372). He also was listed as the RBI leader. But, according to baseball historian Ed Hartig, there were several contested games from the 1912 season that originally weren't counted, and they now are, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
RBI was not an official stat until 1920, so all RBI totals pre-1920 are after the fact, Hartig said. Honus Wagner and Billy Sweeney benefitted the most from the contested games. Including those games, Wagner won the RBI title in 1912 with 102, Sweeney was second with 100 and Zimmerman third with 99.
Since then, Billy Williams came nearest to winning the triple crown in 1972 for the Cubs. He finished first in batting average (.333), second in RBIs (122) and third in home runs (37).
Rock and roll: When reliever Todd Wellemeyer suggested the team should change the start-up song of "Jump" by Van Halen, we asked for your suggestions.
Well, Cubs fans have very different tastes in music. There is no clear winner among the songs sent that ranged from "Thunderstruck" by ACDC, to "Go, Cubs! Go!" by Steve Goodman, to the Frank Sinatra version of "Chicago -- My Kind of Town."
There were the obvious choices: "Start Me Up" by the Rolling Stones and "Let's Get it Started" by Black-Eyed Peas. However, one fan wrote he will boycott the team if they chose the Black-Eyed Peas song. Wellemeyer and some of the other Cubs feel that's been used enough -- same is true of "Sirius" by the Alan Parsons Project (think Bulls games).
Adam C., a high school pitcher, suggested "Apocolypse WOW!" by Reggie and the Full Effect. His team plays that before his games, and it gets him pumped up. There were several Rush fans out there who suggested "The Spirit of Radio," "Tom Sawyer," and "One Little Victory." Jim K. even included the lyrics to "One Little Victory," which he called a "very determined, get-out-there-and-play kind of song."
The lyrics include, "Celebrate the moment/As it turns into one more/Another chance at victory/Another chance to score."
Several fans thought the Cubs should stick with Chicago bands, like Smashing Pumpkins and its song "Today." There were lots of people who defended "Jump," too. Tim M. of Chicago said, "'Jump' is one of the many things that's great about coming to Wrigley. Let's keep it."
Chris L. of Chicago also wants to keep "Jump." He wrote, "Van Halen is classic rock, which bridges the gap between the old and young fans. 'Jump' is upbeat and has proved its longevity. It's not some hip-hop/pop song of the summer, which anyone over 30 has trouble relating to. The song is a modern tradition -- please don't try to change it."
And Heather wrote to keep "Jump," noting that "there is something about hearing it blaring through the speakers at Wrigley Field that sends goosebumps up and down my arms when it's played. I remember listening to the radio in 1984 with the magical season of the Cubs, and WGN played it before every game. I'm sure a lot of the players don't understand the connection with the song, but as a long-time fan, I really do love to hear the first few bars of that song. I've also downloaded it as my cell phone ring tone."
Wellemeyer looked at the long list of musical suggestions.
"Since we won our last three games there, let's leave it alone," he said.
Minor matters: David Aardsma, acquired from the San Franciso Giants in the LaTroy Hawkins' deal, gave up one run on three hits over five innings for Double-A West Tenn in a 5-2 win over Birmingham. Aardsma struck out five and walked five. ... Ryan O'Malley gave up three runs on 10 hits over five innings in Iowa's 7-6 win over Round Rock. Mike Fontenot was 3-for-5 with three RBIs. ... Eric Patterson was 4-for-5 for Peoria in a 7-4 loss to Clinton.
On deck: John Koronka will make his Major League debut on Wednesday to close the series at Dodger Stadium. Koronka was 3-5 at Iowa this year.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.