Archive for August, 2005

Apology and Opinion

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2005

First, I would like to give an apology to everyone that has logged on the past few days and have seen the same Matt Murton article each time. I am in the process of moving, so my schedule has been swamped. Once this weekend is over, it’s back to normal for me. As for these other guys, who knows. =)

Second, I’d like to pose a quick opinion question to the readers. Do you like when we as a staff share our opinions of other events going on in sports? Sometimes it’s hard to write all Cubs everyday and not bore everyone with repeat opinions. Sound off on your opinion so we can gauge it.

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Matt Murton

Saturday, August 20th, 2005

With the activation of Jerry Hairston from the disabled list, the Cubs sent Matt Murton to the minor leagues today. The Chicago Sun-Times interviewed Dusty Baker about the situation, and Baker offered up an interesting quote about trying to teach young players:

”The only thing about teaching at the big-league level is you can’t teach them until they make a mistake,” he said.
”You don’t tell a guy about the cutoff man until he misses it. You assume they know that stuff when they get here.

Well, I hope that Dusty and Corey Patterson had an extended tutoring session following today’s game against the Rockies, because Patterson made about a week’s worth of mistakes in only 9 innings. In the 2nd inning, Patterson led off with a bunt that Rockies 3rd baseman Garrett Atkins threw into the right field corner. Corey advanced to third, but failed to notice (and an assist should go to Chris Spier on this one) that home plate was totally uncovered. Unfortunately, Corey asked for time so he could clean his pants before he realized what was going on. Then, Patterson was cut down at the plate on Mark Prior’s grounder despite actually beating the throw, because he made one of the most comically bad slides that I have ever seen. Think Willie Mays-Hayes coming up a foot short of second base in Major League. Later in the game, Patterson was doubled off first base on a flyball, as the throw from the left fielder just beat his sprint back to first. Of course, it wouldn’t have mattered if Corey had beat the throw, since he had overrun 2nd base on the play, and then failed to retouch it on his way back to first. Finally, in the ninth inning, the Rockies walked the dangerous Neifi Perez to load the bases with 2 outs and pitch to Patterson. Corey promptly struck out on three low outside pitches that he couldn’t have hit with a telephone pole.

Now, Corey wasn’t the only one who made mistakes in the game (Mark Prior missed a sign for a suicide squeeze bunt, and Todd Walker fell asleep and was picked off first base by the catcher), but I’m picking on him for a reason. Corey was sent to AAA to work on his hitting and fundamentals, and it’s pretty obvious that he hasn’t learned anything while down there. And I can’t fault Patterson for that, because he was obviously recalled too early because Jerry Hairston was injured and rather shift Lawton or Burnitz to center field, Dusty Baker insisted on playing Jose Macias. And it’s also obvious from Baker’s comments above that Patterson likely won’t be getting any additional instruction now that he’s back in the majors. So why wasn’t Patterson returned to the minors today, instead of Murton? Because despite all his protestations, Dusty Baker does not trust young position players. Surely he could have found the hot hitting Murton a few more at bats, but he all but refused to let Matt bat against right-handers.

Dusty Baker seemed to be obsessed with protecting Matt Murton, but why? He didn’t want to Murton to struggle and have his confidence hurt, but if he’s going to play in the majors, Matt’s going to have to learn to work through his struggles at some point. Take the case of Willy Taveras in Houston. After a sub par April, and a terrible May, Taveras has rebounded to hit .332 with a .360 OBP since June 1st and he leads the team in stolen bases and is third in runs scored. He was not “protected” by his manager, he was made to work with the coaching staff on his game, and eventually, Willy was able to get on track. But Baker and his coaching staff don’t have the time to teach young players; that’s why Corey Patterson ultimately had to go back to AAA to get instruction, and why the Cubs couldn’t risk letting Murton lose his confidence. When Jerry Hairston was injured, Baker could have easily shifted Jeromy Burnitz to center (around 45% of Burnitz’s starts came in CF last year), thus getting Burnitz, Lawton and Murton, his best hitting outfielders, onto the field on a daily basis. Instead, Patterson was recalled after spending only 1 month in AAA (and only about two weeks that having any kind of success) and thrust right back into lineup without having shown any real improvement. When Hairston was activated today, Patterson should have been sent right back to AAA, but instead Murton will go, since the manager didn’t trust him. And while it seems like the best thing for Matt Murton now, since he’ll be able to play everyday, let us not lose sight of this fact: the Cubs have essentially elected to start a player who is hitting .233 this year, because they’re afraid to use a guy who is hitting .339.

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Thru Cub Eyes: Andre Dawson

Friday, August 19th, 2005

The Hawk. Seen by the public as a quiet star who went out and did his job every day and did it to the uttermost, he sure has a lot to say in Carrie Muskatís compilation Banks to Sandberg to Grace. Like that unorthodox contract he proposed because he wanted to play for the Cubs…

Andre Dawson

Dallas felt fairly uncomfortable with the process because it had never been done before. He thought it was some sort of ploy on our part, some sort of trick, and he just really couldnít figure it out at the time. He elected to have the Cubs lawyers look it over and evaluate it before making a decision.

It was a blank contract. It had nothing. Nothing. We just said fill in the terms. Whatever you think Iím worth, just jot it down on the contract and weíll respond to it. I just knew I didnít want to get back to Montreal.

In í89 things just fell into place for us. We were winning ballgames we probably shouldnít have. Everything was sort of Cinderella for us. We came out, day in and day out. And had a lot of fun. Dwight Smith was the comedian and Ryne Sandberg would get him going. Because of all the young players we had, I think people looked at us as overachievers.

The year I won the MVP, I was in Wrigley Field for the announcement and Harry telephoned. I think he was out in California, in Palm Springs. And he said ìI want you to go and have dinner on me at my restaurant tonite. Congratulations. You deserve it.î

I said thank you. Actually I had other plans to go out in the suberbs to Bob Chinnís, but we decided weíll stay and go down to Harryís and have dinner. At the end of the dinner, the waiter comes up and he puts the check on the table, and he has these two glasses of champagne. He gives me the bill and he says ìOh, by the way, hereís a drink. Itís on Harry.î

I thought that was kind of funny. My wife looked at me, and I looked at her and I said ìOh, well.î It kind of made my night, actually.

I pretty much saw the writing on the wall once the sixth season was up and over with. When they brought Himes in, there wasnít really any communication. I was told by some front office staff that he felt intimidated because I was a little bit more respected than he was. Himes made an offer to Sandberg and and to Maddux and then he pulled Madduxís offer off the table.

[Himes] would come by and speak to other players in the locker room and just walk by me. A lot of the players picked up on it. At the end of the season they made an offer ñ I think an offer for me to basically turn down. To me it was more of a media ploy. It was a ridculous proposal.

The ironic thing about it is, that he signed two players to replace me, one who retired and the other one had a horrible year and they got rid of him. Willie Wilson and Candy Maldonado. Then they lost Maddux, too. I thought that was even more devastating than my situation. The people he went out to try to replace Maddux with were the same thing. One guy had a disastrous season, a starter who really didnít pitch right.

The only ties I have with Chicago are the fans and some of the media. The media treated me real well. Had it not been for that, I think I wouldíve left Chicago feeling very bitter. But I realize those are situations that as a player you canít really control, I accomplished a lot of what I set out to do there, and most of it was to make sure the game was enjoyable, and the fans allowed that to happen.

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Time to make the change

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

Ladies and gentleman, our new hitting coach, Carlos Zambrano:

”My back has been bothering me, so I didn’t want to swing too hard,” said Zambrano, who has four career home runs and is hitting .259 this season. ”If I swung like I wanted to hit a home run, I would have made an out.”

WHY can’t Patterson understand that?

Carlos vs. Corey head-to-head: Who’s got the most potential as a hitter?

Patterson 370 .271 .383 .655 .243 .076 26 0
Zambrano 58 .259 .414 .672 .328 .086 24 1

4-3 Zambrano! Plus, he can pitch a little.

I’m not actually suggesting that Z become the hitting coach, nor that he take over for Patterson in CF. What I am saying is that Patterson has been HISTORICALLY awful this year and Z is a frickin’ HERO.

I noticed also that Lawton has gotten off to a slow start with us (.602 OPS) and that Nomar’s abysmal start has put him as a worse hitter this year (so far) than Neifi. That speaks volumes about data sample; another reason to take the table above as tongue-in-cheek and the reason PA (plate appearances) are included.

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A fitting homage to the unsung heroes

Wednesday, August 17th, 2005

Check out, if you haven’t already. Put together by a couple of brothers who are also vendors, this site has a baseball card for (currently) 46 Wrigley vendors, complete with stats (for some), interesting facts (beer vendors include political campaign employees, game developers, former boxers, DJs, actors, comedians, jugglers, and accountants; pretty cool reading!

After looking at it, this site seems like such a natural progression of the experience at the field. I wouldn’t have thought of it, but it seems like there oughta be something like this on! It’d be cool to have the same thing for ushers, concessioneers, ballhawks, and other notables who make the Wrigley Field experience complete.

There are some good stories and a slick and intuitive design; I look forward to their additions to the site. Here’s hoping they add a “Vendor Tales” blog or something to the coming soon page…there’s gotta be some good stuff in their heads.

Looks like the card design itself is inspired by the ’82 Topps cards. Nice.

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Top 10 Fav. Fans (Part 3)

Tuesday, August 16th, 2005

I know everyone has been waiting in anxious anticipation for the next installment in this series, so I will make you wait no more. Here is # 5 & 6.

# 6 – The Casual Fan
One of the things I cannot stand is being at the game and just about everyone around me is only there because it’s the cool thing to do. Sometimes I wish that the Cubs did not have the privilege of playing their games at a tourist attraction park. It’s annoying the see people who are there and have no knowledge of the team whatsoever, yet call themselves Cub fans. I have no problem with people going and enjoying the ambiance that is tied to Wrigley. Go right ahead and do the tourist thing. However, please do not pretend that you like the team, when the fact is, you really couldn’t name more than 2 players on the team.

Maybe i’m being a little hard about this one, but it just seems that these people take away seats from people who follow the team religiously and would love to be at the game.

# 5 – Yankee Fans
How could I get through this countdown and not mention Yankee fans? As you know, I was able to take in a game last week at Yankee Stadium. I was extremely excited about being at the historic “House that Ruth Built”. After leaving the game, however, I developed an incredible disgust for fans that cheer for the team from the Bronx. Here are some of the things that left me with a sour taste toward Yankee fans.

  • Near the start of the game, the Yankee fans in the bleachers spotted a guy wearing a NY Mets cap. When seeing this, they proceeded to curse him out and call him all sorts of vulgar names, until he finally got up and left the bleachers. What is the point of that? I understand the Mets are a rival, but what the heck did this guy do to these people? Shut up and watch your team instead of focusing on someone in the stands with a Met cap on.
  • Yankee fans proceeded to curse out every White Sox fan in attendance every time the Sox fans clapped or cheered. Sure, you don’t want the team to get beat at home, but is it really necessary to be a jerk to the visitors?
  • All the Yankee fans around me were talking about how they would improve their team if they were in charge. They talked about things like being conservative with spending money and how guys may be too pricey for the team. This made me laugh because the Yankees have a payroll that is the equivalent of like 5 teams combined. What made them over the top annoying though was the fact that they knew nothing about anyone if they didn’t play in NY. The White Sox have the best record in the majors and these guys couldn’t even pronounce half the players names. How could you be talking as if you know what to do as a GM, and then pronounce all the players names wrong?
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Today in Baseball History

Monday, August 15th, 2005

All my gratitude to The Baseball Page folks.

On August 15, 1916, future Hall of Famers Babe Ruth of the Boston Red Sox and Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators engage in a memorable pitching duel at Fenway Park. Ruth defeats Johnson, 1-0, in a 13-inning classic.

On August 15, 1911, the Cleveland Naps release future Hall of Famer Cy Young. The legendary righthander will sign a contract with Boston, where he will finish out the season and complete his career with an all-time record of 511 wins.

On August 15, 1965, the San Francisco Giants celebrate ìMasanori Murakami Dayî at Candlestick Park, in honor of the first Japanese-born player to make the major leagues. Usually a relief pitcher, Murakami makes his first and only major league start that day, as the Giants defeat the Philadelphia Phillies, 15-9.

On August 15, 1990, Mark McGwire of the Oakland Athletics becomes the first major league player to hit 30 or more home runs in each of his first four seasons. McGwireís 30th home run – a 10th inning grand slam – gives the Aís a 6-2 win over the Boston Red Sox.

On August 15, 1989, Dave Dravecky of the San Francisco Giants breaks his arm in making his second start after a return from cancer surgery. Although Dravecky earns a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Expos, he will never pitch in the major leagues again.

On August 15, 1945, Commissioner Happy Chandler negotiates a contract to have Gillette become the sponsor of the World Series, replacing Ford Motot Company. The razor company pays a record $150,000 for its affiliation with the Fall Classic, surpassing the $100,000 price tag previously paid by Ford, which had been the World Series sponsor since 1934.

On August 15, 1978, the Oakland Aís trade veteran slugger Willie Horton to the Toronto Blue Jays for another aging hitting star, Rico Carty. As part of the deal, the Blue Jays also receive a minor league pitcher. Horton, who batted .314 in 32 games for the Aís, will join his third team in 1978 after starting the season with the Cleveland Indians.

On August 15, 1965, Washington Senators third baseman Ken McMullen ties a major league record by starting four double plays in one game. McMullenís defensive efficiency helps the Senators defeat the Baltimore Orioles, completing a three-game sweep of their geographic rivals.

On August 15, 1955, future Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle ties a major league mark by switch-hitting home runs for the second time in his career. Mantleís pair of homers help lift the Yankees to a 12-6 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

On August 15, 1958, one of the greatest Cub fans in history is born in a hospital in Auburn, Indiana. He grows up to idolize such greats as Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandburg and Mark Grace. His other favorite player is Freddy Patek of the Royals.

Later, much of the joy and magic of the game would be replaced with cynicism and disillusionment. But even the juiced players and the Cubs scalping their own fans wouldn’t totally dampen his spirits. Through it all, he realizes that Baseball remains the greatest game and always will be. At 47, I’m beginning to wonder if the Cubs will ever win it all in my lifetime.

Keep Hope Alive.

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Book Review: Juicing the Game

Monday, August 15th, 2005

I know what you’re thinking. “Not another book about steroids and Major League Baseball…I’m sick of the whole topic”. Well, I ask you to give this particular book a chance. I first heard about Juicing the Game while listening to the author, Howard Bryant, being interviewed on WGN radio as part of his book tour. I turned it on in the middle of the interview, and Bryant was basically retelling some of the anecdotes from the book. The truth is, the stories he told were so good, I wrote down the title at the end of the interview, and went out and purchased it the next day. My only fear was that Bryant had perhaps used all the best material on the radio show, leaving me to read nothing but filler. Turns out, my fears were baseless. To say Bryant’s book is about steroid use sells “Juicing” short. Bryant does not just give us the standard nuts and bolts about steroids and home runs. Instead, Bryant shows the reader how baseball culture changed to the point that the home run became so important that players, owners and press were willing to overlook baseball’s steroid problem as long as everybody was making money. In doing so, Bryant has written what may one day be considered the definitive history of baseball from 1992 to the present. Luckily for the author, baseball has provided him a compelling cast of characters, including: Fay Vincent, Bud Selig, Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Cal Ripken, Donald Fehr, and George Steinbrenner. And while most people have fairly strong preconceived notions about what these men are like, Bryant does a good job of trying to show us the full picture of each one. Thus you may come away thinking that Fay Vincent is not quite the martyr he claims to be, that Giambi is more than just a cheating scumbag, that Steinbrenner’s distaste for the small market owners is not totally unfounded. I also found Bryant’s portrayal of Barry Bonds to be extremely even handed, although it didn’t do much to change my opinion of him.

The main drawback to “Juicing” is that it covers so much ground that it’s bound to run across some subject that doesn’t interest a particular reader. However, I found there was more than enough there to entertain me, and that many of the side stories were as interesting as the main narrative. Included among these were Sandy Alderson’s crushing of the umpires union, the full story of the Questec system and a look inside the contentious relationship between the big and small market ownerships in baseball. The only other downside I can think of is that people who saw me carrying “Juicing the Game” around would incredulously ask me “you’re reading Jose Canseco’s book?“.

In conclusion, if you’ve got any interest in baseball history, and what goes on behind the scenes with players and ownership, I cannot recommend this book more highly. It will definitely change the way you think about the game.

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Top 10 Fav. Fans (Part 2)

Saturday, August 13th, 2005

I apologize for not getting this posted yesterday, but it was the first day back to work after a long summer break. So, without further delay, here is # 7 and 8.

# 8 – The know it all
It seems like just about every game I go to, I sit right next to, in front of, or behind one of these guys. In case you’re not familiar with this type of fan, it’s the only one that comes with his own sidekick. This is the fan that is at the game and persists to talk the entire game as if he was a high up official in one of the teams organizations. He proclaims to his sidekick, who is almost always a complete baseball moron, all this meaningless info that a lot of times is wrong and the sidekick just listens in amazement. Each time I sit by this fan, I am so tempted to begin a banter back and forth to show him up in front of his admiring friend. It’s almost like the desire of guy to show up another guy in front of his hot girlfriend. Each time, I refrain myself and instead, sit in annoyance at yet another of my favorite fans.

# 7 – The Bartman
Before you get your panties in a bunch, no, Steve Bartman is not at each game I attend. However, there are many Bartman’s at each game that affect it each and everyday. It drives me insane when a ball is hit hard down the line and a fan reaches over the fence and snags it while it’s still in play. Can they not see that the umpire just signaled “Fair Ball”? Instead of seeing the play finish itself out, we are left to watch a ground rule double. To make matters worse, these fans are NEVER dealt with by security. In my opinion, if you reach into the field of play and affect a ball that is IN PLAY in any way, you should immediately be ejected from the stadium, no exceptions. It’s impossible to make a mistake on this. Just don’t reach over the fence. If parks will not make that rule, then here is another idea. Put 2 feet of distance between the fans and the wall down the line. This can be done by either removing a row of seats OR by moving the wall in by 2 feet. Both would result in the team losing money (seats) or spending money (wall), but in the end, it would assure that what’s hit in play, stays in play.

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