Archive for June, 2004

Sometimes you just know

Wednesday, June 30th, 2004

Coming into this game I was feeling good. Every now and then you just have a gut feeling that your team is going to win. I thought my feeling was wrong when the Cubs went down 3 after a horrible job in LF by Alou. The Cubs just kept clawing away at a less than effective Andy Pettite. Then, thanks to a gift from Biggio, my gut proved correct. Cubs win.

For some reason, the Cubs have had the Astros number to this point. I am going on record right now with yet another Beltran prediction. Here goes!! Carlos Beltran will be traded yet again before the July 31st deadline. The reason for this is because Houston is falling farther and farther out of the race. They won’t be able to sign Beltran next year without difficulty, so you may see him going to another team and in return, the Astros getting some prospects and pen help.

tomorrows game is another matchup of Clemens and Clement. This reminds me of a post Dave did the last time these two hooked up this year. I feel like it would one of his best. If you do not know which I am referring to, check it out here. It’s a must read.

Final Round of World Series of Blogs

Due to a computer problem of late, I was unable to get the final round of the World Series up and running. It is now time to see which blog is going to be the 2004 champion. Voting has begun. Vote early and vote often for the blog you feel should win it all. Polls close on July 14th. The winner will be announced, and an interview with the winning writer will be posted within a few weeks if all goes well. Good luck to both blogs, and thanks to everyone who has campaigned, linked, and voted. It has been a great success. Hopefully it has served the purpose of making people aware of some really good non Cubs blogs out there.

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The All Low Payroll Team

Monday, June 28th, 2004

With the All-Star game quickly approaching, I look at the voting and see potential lineups that if assembled on a real team would feature a payroll higher than even the Yankees. That got me thinking about who would be on an all star team of players making next to nothing. I decided to do some research and came up with an All-Star team of players whose salaries do not exceed 1 Million for this season. My team features a starting lineup with players who play those positions and a bench featuring three OF, two IF, and a back up C. The pitching staff is made up of five SP, and a bullpen of six. So, without further delay, I present the ALL-Low Salary team. All stats are current as of games played on 6/27/2004.

Catcher (2)

Name: Victor Martinez
Team: Cleveland Indians
2004 Salary: $304,500
Avg: .306
HR: 10
RBI: 54
Runs: 43

Name: Rod Barajas
Team: Texas Rangers
2004 Salary: $500,000
Avg: .285
HR: 12
RBI: 30
Runs: 27

First Base (2)

Name: Lyle Overbay
Team: Milwaukee Brewers
2004 Salary: $326,000
Avg: .336
HR: 9
RBI: 55
Runs: 35

Name: Ken Harvey
Team: Kansas City Royals
2004 Salary: $317,500
Avg: .335
HR: 8
RBI: 32
Runs: 26

Second Base (1)

Name: Orlando Hudson
Team: Toronto Blue Jays
2004 Salary: $322,000
Avg: .284
HR: 7
RBI: 31
Runs: 32

Shortstop (2)

Name: Michael Young
Team: Texas Rangers
2004 Salary: $450,000
Avg: .327
HR: 10
RBI: 45
Runs: 51

Name: Bobby Crosby
Team: Oakland A’s
2004 Salary: $300,000
Avg: .276
HR: 10
RBI: 33
Runs: 30

Third Base (1)

Name: Hank Blalock
Team: Texas Rangers
2004 Salary: $550,000
Avg: .310
HR: 18
RBI: 52
Runs: 48

Left Field (1)

Name: Adam Dunn
Team: Cincinnati Reds
2004 Salary: $445,000
Avg: .264
HR: 22
RBI: 48
Runs: 49

Center Field (4)

Name: Scott Podsednik
Team: Milwaukee Brewers
2004 Salary: $400,000
Avg: .259
HR: 9
RBI: 26
Runs: 49 / SB: 31

Name: Vernon Wells
Team: Toronto Blue Jays
2004 Salary: $870,000
Avg: .300
HR: 9
RBI: 30
Runs: 41 / SB: 6

Name: Rocco Baldelli
Team: Tampa Bay Devil Rays
2004 Salary: $320,000
Avg: .291
HR: 6
RBI: 34
Runs: 43 / SB: 6

Name: Corey Patterson
Team: Chicago Cubs
2004 Salary: $480,000
Avg: .281
HR: 9
RBI: 31
Runs: 40 / SB: 9

Right Field (1)

Name: Miguel Cabrera
Team: Florida Marlins
2004 Salary: $320,000
Avg: .289
HR: 17
RBI: 50
Runs: 50

Starting Pitcher (5)

Name: Carlos Zambrano
Team: Chicago Cubs
2004 Salary: $450,000
Record: 8-3
IP: 102.0
ERA: 2.56
K’s: 95

Name: Dontrell Willis
Team: Florida Marlins
2004 Salary: $353,500
Record: 6-5
IP: 87.0
ERA: 4.03
K’s: 61

Name: Brandon Webb
Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
2004 Salary: $335,000
Record: 3-8
IP: 95.0
ERA: 3.88
K’s: 69

Name: Horacio Ramirez
Team: Atlanta Braves
2004 Salary: $330,000
Record: 2-4
IP: 59.1
ERA: 2.28
K’s: 31

Name: Cliff Lee
Team: Cleveland Indians
2004 Salary: $303,200
Record: 7-1
IP: 88.2
ERA: 3.86
K’s: 72

Bullpen (6)

Name: Brad Lidge
Team: Houston Astros
2004 Salary: $360,000
Record: 1-3 / Saves: 4
IP: 43.1
ERA: 2.49
K’s: 67

Name: Joe Nathan
Team: Minnesota
2004 Salary: $440,000
Record: 1-0 / Saves: 22
IP: 35.2
ERA: 1.26
K’s: 42

Name: Francisco Rodriquez
Team: Anaheim Angels
2004 Salary: $375,000
Record: 1-1 / Saves: 7
IP: 40.2
ERA: 1.11
K’s: 63

Name: Shingo Takatsu
Team: Chicago White Sox
2004 Salary: $750,000
Record: 4-0 / Saves: 3
IP: 28.1
ERA: 0.95
K’s: 19

Name: Akinori Otsuka
Team: San Diego Padres
2004 Salary: $700,000
Record: 5-2 / Saves: 2
IP: 36.2
ERA: 1.47
K’s: 42

Name: Juan Rincon
Team: Minnesota Twins
2004 Salary: $330,000
Record: 8-3 / Saves: 1
IP: 38.2
ERA: 2.09
K’s: 47

Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2004 Payroll friendly All-Star Team. Looking at this list, there is a lot of good young talent on it. In case you’re wondering about the payroll, let me save you the trouble of getting out the calculator to add it up. The total payroll for the ballclub is 10,186,500. Even teams like Milwaukee and Montreal could afford to field this team. I would love to see what this team could do in a season. Maybe one day when I am bored I will try to assemble it on Out of the Park Baseball and see what they can do. All I know is I would take them anyday.

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Why It Stinks To Have a Great Pitching Staff

Saturday, June 26th, 2004

As I was at work today, unable to watch game 2 of the Cubs/Sox series, I turned on ESPN 2 to get a score update. I was reduced to scanning the bottom line scores scrolling by to see how the team was doing. I fully expected the Cubs to win this game. We had Zambrano on the mound, and the Sox were featuring a kid who had just been called up from the minors. I felt pretty confident it would be a low scoring game for the Sox and that the Cubs would get the job done. However, when I first caught the score, it was 3-0 in the third inning. I was very confused. How could the Cubs be down 3-0 with Big Z on the mound? Eventually I saw that the final was 6-3 in favor of the Sox. I was very disappointed, and it got me to thinking about why it stinks to have a great starting 5. Here are a few reasons that I came up with.

1) When the Starters give up more than 3 runs, I get angry – I actually expect every starter we march out there to be spotless every game. Our staff is that good, that it is entirely possible for any one of them to pitch a shutout on any given day. As a result, when the staff gives up a bunch of homers as Zambrano did today, or walks a bunch as Prior did yesterday, I get frustrated to the point that it is painful to even watch when they are winning. I expect so much from these guys that when they fail just a little, it hurts. I am really going to need to just not expect as much from these guys. After all, is it possible that one year we could have four 20 game winners? Its definitely a possibility, but I don’t want to get my hopes up.

2) With a great pitching staff, the offense seems to be too relaxed at times – To me, it seems that our offense over-relys on a great pitching performance at times. They come out sluggish and fail to play good, fundamental, run scoring baseball. They get leadoff hitters on, but don’t seem to score. They have bases loaded and no outs or one out, and somehow only come away with 1. I think that if our team knew that the only way we were going to win was out slugging the other team, we’d be putting up a lot more runs. Our offense needs to play with a little more urgency. Last year, down the stretch, it seemed like we were jumping in front every game. We were always putting a run or two on the board in the first inning or two. This is something that gave our pitchers some breathing room and comfort. If we can start doing that a little more, the second half of the year will be very enjoyable.

3) People seem of overestimate our guys – We have such a great staff, that they are noticed in the league. People talk about them day in and day out. As a result, they are so hyped up that they can’t possibly live up to ALL of it. As a result, people get disappointed with above average years.

In closing, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE our staff, but I just wanted to show you a different perspective.

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Video Game Reccomendation

Saturday, June 26th, 2004

I don’t know if I have ever mentioned it on here or not, but I really enjoy video games. Usually I play a certain game for an ungodly amount of time for about a month or two. Then, the game gets boring and I move on to another game. One of my favorite types of games are baseball games. I enjoy them for a different reason than most people do. I enjoy baseball games in which I can wear a lot of different hats. I can manage, be an owner, and be a GM. I don’t generally go for all the fancy graphics and things of that sort. As long as it is a hard core statistical game with great managing and GM modes, I’m hooked.

Some of the games I have enjoyed in the past are Tony Larussa Baseball II, Front Page Sports Baseball ’98, Sammy Sosa High Heat Baseball, and Baseball Mogul. Those games had me hooked for hours.

Those games, while good in there day, pale in comparison to my new baseball game love. This game is so in depth and deep that I am hooked. The game I am referring to is Out of the Park Baseball 6. This game has so many cool features. Don’t believe me? Read about them here. Some of the features include a rule 5 draft, amateur draft, and manager personal life feature in which you date, get married, have kids and may some day see one get drafted.

While this game does not focus on high quality graphics, it more than makes up for it with a small learning curve, while keeping the challenging factor. It will test your ability to draft, trade, and manage your way to the top. I highly recommend this game if you are a fan of managing the Cubs or any other team.

Note – This game when purchased does not come with real players. However, if you would like information on how to get them, drop me a line and I will assist. If you have this game already, please let me know what you like and dislike about it. Also, if you have any other good baseball recommendations that are not the cliche MVP Baseball, or All Star Baseball 2004, please let me know.

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I believe I had that one

Friday, June 25th, 2004

Crystal BallEvery now and then, you make a prediction using your crystal ball that people ridicule and laugh at, and something strange happens. It actually happens. Well, I hate to tell you naysayers “I told ya so”, but I did. I Predicted that not only would the Cubs not get Beltran, but that the Astros would to replace Biggio in CF. So far that is the first of what looks to be all my predictions that come true.

I am not too disappointed about this trade for one reason. The fact of the matter is, one player does not all of a sudden make a team win the World Series. If that was the case, we may as well hand the title to the Yankees now, because they have an All-Star team in NY. This is why we play the games. Anyone can get hot or hurt at anytime. Houston has a lot of work to do to catch up to the Cards. Beltran will help, but they still have to get hits. It is going to be a great race down the stretch.

~Prediction~

Over on Brian Hipp’s Site I predicted that over this next stretch, the Cubs would do the following.

1-2 vs. St. Louis
5-1 vs Chicago White Sox
2-1 vs Houston

Watch and see my psychic powers!!!!!

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Friday Five: Potato Chips

Friday, June 25th, 2004

I like to pretend to myself that I am a man of few vices. I drink alcohol, though seldom excessively. I do no other drugs. I am in control of my temper. I do not womanize, I do not gamble, I am punctual, and I do not spend excessively. I have a healthy diet for the most part, primarily because I love vegetables and don’t like cheese, salad dressing, condiments, or dessert.

However, there are two things which I can definitely say are vices:

1) Dr. Pepper

2) Potato Chips

Now, ranking the top five Dr. Peppers I’ve ever enjoyed would be impossible, as each one surpasses the previous one. But there are many varieties of potato chips, and I eat so many that I estimate I’ve cost my heart about three years of lifespan. Unless artificial heart technology is ready by the year 2028 or potato chip manufacturing becomes a lost, arcane art in the next couple of years, potato chips will be the death of me.

With that in mind, here are the top five potato chips I’ve ever tasted:

5: Lays Classic Potato Chips: Readily available, greasy, salty, over forty percent of the chip’s weight has to be grease.

4: Cape Cod Potato Chips: Also available at most grocery stores, this is the last of the readily available potato chips on my list. Cape Cod makes a variety of potato chips, each with fancy names, but their plain chips are the best. Flavoring on a potato chip always falls flat; the goodness of barbecue sauce or sour cream and onion, much less “sea salt and vinegar” simply cannot be conveyed with a cheap powder.

3: Ole Salty’s Potato Slices: As a surly teenager in rural Illinois, Ole Salty was one of the few pleasures I enjoyed. Please do not infer sexual innuendo into that statement; it refers only to the simple joy of eating a nice, thick, salty potato chip.

2: The chips at the Bitter End, Austin, Texas.

Crunchy, hearty flavor. Heavily salted in an effort to get you to buy beer. Dark, robust color. Magnifico!

1: The Bar at Harry Caray’s Restaurant in Chicago.

I’ve only been there once, in late April of 1992. It was a surprise visit to Chicago, and I was lucky enough to convince my mom to go with me to a Cubs game. Afterwards we took a taxi to Harry Caray’s, but we were dressed like slobs so we couldn’t get in to the actual restaurant. However, a memorable treat awaited me at the bar — the free potato chips they served! I loved them so much I took a bag back to Texas with me; by the time I got home the whole bag was soaked with grease. The chips were magnificent.

UPDATE: The View From the Bleachers may fall short on journalistic quality in other ways, but we always correct our mistakes when informed about them. I was there twice.

On a day when a division rival acquires Carlos Beltran and the Cubs lose 4-0 to the division-leading Cardinals, comfort can only be found in vegetable oil, salt, and potatoes.

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How do you fix something that isn’t REALLY broken?

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2004

As I look at the calendar, I am constantly reminded just how quickly July 31st is approaching. As all baseball fans know, that is the beginning of the stretch run. Teams have reloaded with the ammunition for the chance of winning the World Series. Last year, Jim Hendry retooled the Cubs lineup by adding Randall Simon, Aramis Ramirez, and Kenny Loften. These moves helped plug some glaring holes in the Cubs lineup: a leadoff hitter/CF, a third baseman, and a left handed bat off the bench. Hendry recognized weaknesses and sought to fix them. However, this year is a little different. For the first time in as long as I have been seriously following this team, they are actually favored to go deep into the playoffs, if not win the whole darn thing. That means this team is already built to accomplish that feat. As a result, there are not as many glaring holes as last year.

To this point, this team has yet to play a single game in the regular season with the 25 man roster that was “favored” to win the World Series by ESPN’s Peter Gammons. So how do we know what this team is actually capable of? To this point, we really don’t. So, as the trade deadline quickly draws near, Hendry faces a question of how exactly do I fix a team that I am not sure is broken. I would like to give my opinions on each position as well as make my prediction for what will happen as the trade deadline draws near for the Cubs.

Catcher

No move necessary here obviously. Michael Barrett has been 100% better than Miller was last year. His .305 batting average is 3rd behind only Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. His defense, which in the beginning of the season was in question, has improved incredibly. As a whole, he has been a major strength for this team.

First Base

No move necessary here. Derrek Lee is here to stay. His recent hot streak, which include a current 11-14 run, has ignited a Cubs team. He is now beginning to show Chicago just why we acquired him in the first place. Not only can he hit the baseball, but his defense has been one of the major reasons guys like Ramirez and Walker have been having the fielding years they have. By saving error after error, it allows those guys a chance to feel confident with their fielding and throws.

Second Base

This is a position that Hendry may decided to deal with. While an upgrade is not needed here, there is a slight log jam at the position. With Mark Grudzielanek coming off the DL and Todd Walker hitting a hot streak, the Cubs are faced with a situation where they must choose between 2 above average second basemen. One starts, the other is left struggling to find his niche off the bench and in an occasional start.

I don’t like platoons, never have and never will. I feel like it’s best to stick with a guy and see what happens. I’m not sure if Dusty is considering a platoon or sticking with one guy, but the fact of the matter is and will be that the Cubs NEED to move one of these guys. While I would love to have both of their bats in our lineup, as pointed out yesterday, it’s just not possible.

Prediction - My prediction for this situation is that the Yankee’s will come a calling and Hendry will be listening. Grudzielanek would be a perfect fit for the Yanks. He is a FA after this year and is not a major salary burden. It would give Steinbrenner the quality bat he needs at second, and essentially complete the team that will probably be representing the AL in October. The question is what the Cubs get in return. Odds are it would be a veteran for prospect deal.

Shortstop

Going into the season, all the rave was that the Cubs needed to upgrade here. With a non-hitting, 5 million dollar burden at short, the Cubs will not be dealing to upgrade this position. The fact of the matter is, Gonzalez will get another chance when he comes back to try to earn some of the money we’re paying him and then shown the door in the off-season. No one wants to trade for him when they can get him next year for a lot less.

Third Base

“Now batting, third baseman, Ron Santo……(cough, cough)…..correction, Aramis Ramirez.” This kid is legit and here to stay. He is our Ron Santo reincarnated. He hits for power, drives in runs, and this year has played a decent third base. This kid will be a major reason we are alive down the stretch. He has been money with driving in runs and could end up leading the team in RBI’s. God bless you Mr. Ramirez. Thanks for not being a bust.

Left Field

With Alou as hot as he is, I think we need to just cross our fingers and enjoy the ride. Hopefully this is a bust out career year for him. Don’t look for him to be going anywhere. He will be our starting Left Fielder come October.

Center Field

All you ever hear on this site is how much I hate Corey Patterson. That being said, what you are about to read may surprise you. I am actually leaning toward KEEPING Corey Patterson. Yes, you heard me correctly. Don’t adjust your screen! The fact is, I really want to believe the hype that goes along with Corey. He is a kid with a huge upside. He has speed, power, fielding skills, base stealing ability, bunting ability. The list goes on and on. The one thing not on that list, however, is consistency. If he can add that to the list, he would be a huge player. I am willing to take my chances. Sure, I would love to see Carlos Beltran in the Cubs line up, but if we were to go get a player like that, he would be nothing more than a rent a player for 3 months. That’s not what I want for this team. I want players that are going to re-sign and help us in the future, like A-Ram. Beltran however is represented by Dr. Evil, who will command from the Cubs the sum of ONE TRILLION DOLLARS!!!! I know, I know. The Tribune owns the Cubs, they can afford it. However, what many aren’t looking at is the other players that are on this 25 man roster that are currently making next to nothing. These guys are going to need to get theirs and if Beltran has all the money, what are we going to give to Prior, Zambrano, etc.?

Prediction - Cubs will make no moves concerning this position. Sorry to burst your bubble. Beltran will go to, plug your ears, THE HOUSTON ASTROS. Their signing of Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite must provide at least a winning series in the playoffs if not a World Series. The team they have right now is not going to get them that. By moving Beltran into CF, it allows them to take Biggio and move him around the field. He can play 2b, 1b, or LF.

Right Field

Lets face it, Sammy is the heart and soul of this team and city. He isn’t going anywhere. It would be a huge PR nightmare if he were moved. End of story. I look for him to really put up some good numbers down the stretch. He knows the potential that this team has. He knows this might be his chance to win the World Series and will do everything he can to ensure that it happens.

Starting Pitcher

Matt Clement is the one name that you could see in trade talks. With the quality pitching put in by Glendon Rusch, Clement becomes expendable, especially because of his contract demands next year. Prior, Wood, Zambrano, and Maddux are locks to be here. With Guzman on the way, Rusch could serve as an acceptable stop gap until Guzman arrives next year.

Prediction – As much as it pains me to say it, I look for Matt Clement to be pitching somewhere else down the stretch. I think it would be a huge mistake but the Cubs to rely entirely on Rusch, but you have to get something for Clement before you lose him. With the Phillies and Yankees struggling with injuries to their rotation, both could be suitors for the young right hander down the stretch. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Clement go to the Yankees with Mark Grudzielanek in a package deal. It would be a great investment for the Yanks and not cost them in the long run.

Bullpen

This is an area that has given the Cubs some trouble of late, but how can you really fix it? When we go out and spend tons of money on our pen like we did a few years ago, what happened? Our pen sucked!!! When we don’t spend money, some players like Borowski pitch great (last year). The fact is, bullpens are like a crap shoot. You never know what you’ll get. Get a few guys that you know will be reliable and run with it. The Cubs have that in place. With Hawkins, Farnsworth, Remlinger, and Merker, the pen should be fine.

Prediction – Cubs get a pen addition in the Grudzielanek/Clement trade to finish off the pen. With a trade with the Yanks, perhaps a player like Paul Quantrill or Tom Gordon could be pitching in the pen for us.

So that’s it. Now you see how this year could be more difficult for Mr. Hendry. How do you fix a team that really isn’t broken. You have now seen my predictions. Please let me know where you agree or grossly disagree. Just remember, come August 1st, I will be posting a big fat “I told ya so!!!!”

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Community of Cub Fans

Monday, June 21st, 2004

One of the major things that I like about putting my opinions on the internet is that I get to see other people’s responses and opinions on a lot of topics. So, I would like to know how many of my readers or other writers have AOL instant messenger or AOL. I would love to start to build a network of people. So, if you could, E-mail me your screenname or leave it in the comment section. If anyone is curious, my screenname is jaiello78. IM me anytime.

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Round two coming to an end

Sunday, June 20th, 2004

So far the World Series of Blogs has been a great success. Round two will be ending this Friday and the two blogs leading their poll will move on to the final round. The World Series. Good luck to those blogs.

Also, as you will notice in our last post, we passed the 10,000 hit mark over the weekend. That is just because of people like yourself that read this blog consistently. Thank you so much for getting us to the point we are. I think I speak on behalf of Dave when I say that we are both having a blast with this site and with this season. We welcome any suggestions you have for topics, site improvements, criticism, Friday Five topics, etc. We love to hear from everyone. Thanks again for 10,000. Next up, 100,000!!!

Can we put Grudzielanek at SS?

I wrote about this idea a while back. With Alex Gonzalez out, we are stuck with a platoon of Ramon Martinez and Rey Ordonez at SS. This leaves us with just an average SS in terms of batting. Why not put Mark Grudzielanek at SS and then use him as our leadoff hitter? He did an alright job last year as our leadoff hitter, so why not. Coming into this year, a big question mark for this team was going to be our defense. However, to this point our defense has been one of the best in the league. So, even though Grudzielanek doesn’t play the best SS in the world, he brings a better bat to the table than Martinez and Ordonez. He would be a potential .300 hitter and a leadoff man. In return, our defense might take a slight hit. At this point though, offense is what this team is lacking. Our Starting pitching has been great this year. Their ERA as a group has been in the neighborhood of 3.50 and that’s with the disaster that was Sergio Mitre starting the number of games he did. If he didn’t have to be activated, it would be lower. Our pitchers deserve some runs. Grudzielanek and Walker would be a nice 1-2 punch at the top of the order. Our lineup could look like this.

1) Grudzielanek
2) Walker
3) Sosa
4) Alou
5) Ramirez
6) Lee
7) Patterson
8) Barrett
9) Pitcher

That’s a line up that should be able to put some runs on the scoreboard. I think we ought to give it a try.

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