Archive for January, 2006

Thru Cub Eyes: Ernie Banks

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

In honor of Mr. Cub’s 75th birthday, we offer this very special edition of Thru Cub Eyes, from the fine compilation of Cub anecdotes, put together by Carrie Muskat in Banks to Sandberg to Grace.. Happy Birthday, Ernie. You remain the most loved Cub of all time.


Many of the players didn’t quite understand my own philosophy. I believe in forgive and forget, and keep your mouth shut and listen to whatever somebody is trying to tell you and you can learn something. I tell my children that. But it was just misinterpreted that Leo disliked me. He made my life better, he made me a better player.

I remember in St. Louis, I hit two home runs and drove in seven runs one time against Steve Carlton. I mean, there’s many things I was proud of. I was the oldest player on the team at 39 years old. Most people wouldn’t have even been on the team at that time. But [Leo] inspired me to reach inside of myself and do more. And that’s what I did….It was just inspiration to let somebody know that somebody in your life — it could be a wife, it could be a manager, it could be a coach — could light your fire, that would stimulate your life and that’s what happened to me when Leo came here from ’66 to ’72.

Another time, one of the most touching things that ever happened to me, in New York, we were losing the game and Leo sent up Jim Hickman to pinch-hit for me. As we were passing Jim said “”Ernie, I’m sorry for doing this.” He apologized for pinch-hitting for me. Leo didn’t hear it, nobody else heard it. I didn’t want to embarrass him. I just looked up and said “You can do it.” And I went on back to the dugout. It didn’t bother me. What I’m saying is, embarrassment and unkind things that we must all learn from really can make us better — better people, better individuals.

“Let’s Play Two.” That started in ’69. Like most things, it just kind of come out. It was July and over 100 degrees and everybody was kind of down a little bit. I came in the locker room and Jimmy Enright was there and alot of writers were around, and I said “Boy, this is a great day. Let’s play two.”

They all woke up and looked around and it stayed with me for a long while. Then we played a double-header in Houston, and me and Lou Brock fell out in the firs game of the double-header. It was about 120 degrees in Houston. I hit a double and faintedand Lou Brock hit a triple and fainted. They took us out and ever since then, most of my friends around the league always remember that. “You always want to play two, but what happened that day in Houston?”

The great joy in my life is to come out to Wrigley Field now. Coming out here is better than going to a psychiatrist. It’s real therapy for me. The other parks are OK, but it’s special coming here. The people are enthusiastic. They really love this park and they love the players and they love everything about it. It’s the epicenter of all our lives and that’s why I enjoy coming here so much.

I wasn’t around when they talked about the money part of the game. You approach playing at Wrigley Field for the love of it, and the other part is the friendship you can build when you’re here. The friendships you make while you are here are much greater than all the money you will make in your life.

So now, I want my ashes to be spread over Wrigley Field with the wind blowing out.

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Compare and contrast

Monday, January 30th, 2006

Hopefully by now most of you have had a chance to listen to Joe Aiello’s interview with Pat Hughes. Pat stuck his neck out a little and had some interesting things to say in this interview, so it’s a ‘must listen’ if you haven’t done so already. Please see the article immediately before this one if you have not.

Let’s compare and contrast Pat’s incisive style to another journalist, one who happens to write for Here’s what Carrie Muscat had to say about Jacque Jones in her current article entitled Mailbag: Right time for Miller time?

Pierre, Jones and Murton probably won’t keep the ballhawks outside Wrigley Field’s bleachers happy, though Jones (who bats righty) won’t have to watch well-hit balls land in what he dubbed “Death Valley” — the left-center-field area at the Metrodome in which a lot of his extra-base hits were caught.

Bats righthanded? If Jacque Jones “bats righty” then I’m Santa Claus. C’mon Carrie, do your homework.

Thanks again to Joe for a great interview with Pat Hughes, one that Cub fans should certainly take a moment to listen to.


The Cubs have avoided arbitration with Jerry Hairston by signing him to a one year deal worth $2.3 million.

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Pat Hughes Interview

Monday, January 30th, 2006

Sunday I had the opportunity to once again interview Cubs radio man, Pat Hughes. It is always a great time talking baseball with him and I look forward to future conversations. I recorded the interview for you.

Listen to the 20 min MP3. Enjoy!!!

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A quiet move that made loud sense

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

The Cubs announced that they have hired the services of baseball up n’ comer Tim Wilken to be their new Scouting Director. Not much fanfare was associated with the fact that former Cubs Scouting Director John Stockstill has left the organization to take a similar position with the Orioles.

Well here’s my take, this acquisition is going to take a while to bear fruit but it should greatly benefit the Cubs. Nothing against Mr. Stockstill but the Cubs top draft picks generally have not moved through the progression to the major leagues. Every year Baseball America and Fantasy Baseball Fantastics come out with ‘top 50 prospects’ lists and the Cubs never seem to have more than two guys on these lists. So what gives? This is an organization that has emphasized over and over it’s commitment to acquiring and developing talent.

IMO the problem has been in the selection criteria the Cubs use to draft talent; this became especially evident after the team’s 2005 draft. One quality lefthanded pitching prospect and the rest of ’em will never see two years’ service in the majors combined. And that is probably why Mr. Stockstill took a lateral move to Baltimore.

Best of luck to Tim Wilken, he had a great track record choosing talent at Toronto. And thanks to the Cubs brass for having the good sense to realize they had a problem in this area.

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One down, five to go

Friday, January 27th, 2006

Today the Cubs announced that they have signed Mark Prior for the 2006 season for $3.65M. As you all know, the Cubs control Prior through 2008 but Mark changed his contract status (as was his right) and had asked for $4M. I hope he’s happy with the $900,000 raise because I value his output on this team.

That leaves four more arbitration-eligible players who must be signed by Feb. 1st if the Cubs wish to avoid arbitration hearings; in arbitration there is no compromise, either the team’s offer or the player’s request are awarded. Those players are Will Ohman, Jerry Hairston Jr., Juan Pierre and Carlos Zambrano. The Cubs should come to an agreement fairly quickly with Ohman and Hairston, since there is little that divides them in aggregate dollars. That leaves Pierre and Zambrano, and both should get pretty close to asking price. I have every confidence that Jim Hendry will get these guys signed.

So who is the fifth player? Derrek Lee, that’s who. No, Derrek is not eligible for arbitration – rather he is free as a bird after 2006. I saw all I needed to see in ’05, I consider it imperative that Lee is inked for four years and I think he’s worth $56-60M. If Lee goes FA he ain’t coming back as a Cub so let’s get ‘er done Hendry!

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Aramis Working Hard

Friday, January 27th, 2006

Best news I’ve heard in awhile. I hope Aramis is well and hustles on infield grounders and provides much needed support for Lee.
from our friend Carrie Muskat – –

The Cubs third baseman battled a variety of leg injuries, from a sore groin to a sprained ankle to a strained quad. He missed the last month of the season, and has spent the winter following a strength and conditioning program.

Cubs athletic trainer Mark O’Neal and Tim Buss, the strength and conditioning coordinator, both visited the Dominican Republic this winter to get a first-hand look at Ramirez’s condition. All reports have been good. Ramirez is strong and running well, and either O’Neal or Buss talk to his trainer every other week for updates. A healthy Ramirez should hit 30-plus homers, drive in 100 runs and take some of the pressure off Lee this year.

“Think about it — not only is he a power hitter, but he doesn’t strike out much,” former Cubs third baseman Ron Santo said of Ramirez. “When he goes to the plate, in my mind, that pitcher is in trouble and that’s the way he is. There’s no doubt in my mind that this guy is going to put up big numbers if he stays healthy.”

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Things to look forward to

Thursday, January 26th, 2006

I’ve spent most of this offseason glum about the outlook for my Cubs in 2006. I haven’t posted a thing because I was student teaching, and after I finished and was able to catch up on the Cubs I was down in the dumps.
I became a Cubs fan when I was very young and I remember, in my youthful naivete, being optimistic about the season to come. As I aged and critical analysis began to overpower the boundless optimism of youth, I have unconsciously reversed my offseason approach. Where once I looked for reasons to believe, now I look for reasons to disbelieve. That reversal is due partially to a deeper understanding of the game and partially to being stung year after year by the Cubs.

This offseason I’ve made a conscious decision to see the Cubs through the eyes of li’l Dave again. No, not my wee-wee. The younger, hopeful version of me. With that in mind, here are 10 things li’l Dave is looking forward to this year:

1. A full season of Jerry Hairston at 2b. Good defense and ability to get on base, plus a little speed. I choose to believe that Dusty will give him 500 at-bats, at least, and that he’ll make Dusty look good by doing so. The total package will add up to a slightly above-average to significantly above-average second baseman. He had 380 AB last year and was jerked around all over the field and in and out of the lineup; I’d expect his OBP to go up a tick and a little more consistency overall.
2. Mark Prior. If he makes 28 starts he’ll win 16 games and be a feared opponent.
3. Carlos Zambrano. He is, I think the only unqualified “good thing” about the Cubs this year. I expect big things from Big Z. His production makes his antics irrelevant.
4. Derrek Lee. He’ll regress to the mean a bit, but even 90% of Derrek is a wonderful thing.
5. The kids: Matt Murton and Ronny Cedeno (Murton is far left in the picture, Cedeno in the middle. Neifi Perez is far right). Matt gets on base. Ronny plays nice D and can’t help but hit better than Neifi. His starting actually turns Neifi into a strength; 200 replacement level at-bats plus excellent defense off the bench.
6. A healthy Aramis Ramirez. He missed about 40 games and 150 plate appearances last year, and maybe half his games last year he was lame. Sure, his defense is is smooth as Ron Santo in the broadcast booth, but his offensive output is as smooth as Hughes.
7. Mike “The Butcher” Barrett. Like it or not, his offense makes him one of the better catchers in baseball. I’d put him at #7 behind Victor Martinez, Mauer, Varitek, Pudge, Kendall, and Posada, considering offense and defense. Henry the White’s defensive skills round out an above-average catching core.
8. Juan Pierre. Simply by NOT being Corey he brings value. He should get on base, steal a few bases, and catch some balls out there, all while not being Corey Patterson.
9. A halfway decent bullpen. The additions of Eyre and Howry ain’t exactly Sutter and Tidrow, but they move Ohman, Wuertz, and Wellemeyer/Novoa/Williamson to less important roles. The Bullpen should be around league average — a refreshing change.
10. Greg Maddux adding to his legend. He’ll be a .500 pitcher and put up a 4.50 ERA, but he’s still an all-time favorite of mine and he’ll have those games where he’ll give up 3 hits in 7 innings to bring memories of the old days.

Take yourself back to when you were endlessly optimistic about the Cubs. What are you looking forward to this year?

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How can you justify it?

Monday, January 23rd, 2006

Sure, the Cubs signed Wade Miller. Blah blah. You’ve read it on 9,000 sites already, so why am I going to post about something that has already been said. With that in mind, let me turn your attention to my second love, college basketball.

This past weekend, all three remaining unbeatens lost. On the same day, I might add. When the polls came out this week, who is now at the top? The UConn Huskies? How is Duke, who has clearly been the best team in the nation all year not still number 1? How can a loss against a tough Georgetown team, in which Duke fought back from a double digit hole, knock them down a notch? When you can explain that to me, let me know. Thank God that the polls in basketball are meaningless other than for a matter of pride.

Important Note: – I hate the Duke Blue Devils with a passion, so this doesn’t not upset me. It simply makes me confused as to WHY?

In other news, the referees gave out a technical foul in a game this weekend to a coach who fainted after a call against his team. Apparently the refs thought he was trying to show them up. However, how can you justify NOT taking the call back when the guy doesn’t get up and has to be carted off the court receiving medical attention? It just doesn’t make sense.

Now, Conference USA is blasting the Refs for the decision.

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Respect for the game

Sunday, January 22nd, 2006

Today’s Rotoworld reported that “Barry Bonds plans to tells Giants manager Felipe Alou that he doesn’t want to bat second this year.” Recently we’ve all seen where Soriano has told the Nats that he will not play in the outfield, and of course we all remember the hissy fit that Sosa threw about being batted lower in the Cubs order (after telling everybody that it was really okay.)

This is exactly what’s wrong with many of today’s stars. It seems we’ve got a certain number of players with heads the size of basketballs who tell their teams what they will and won’t do. Whatever happened to the days when the manager called the shots? What ever happened to the day when the player said ‘yes sir’ and followed his orders? Some of these so-called stars can hit thunderous homeruns but fail miserably at other aspects of the game. Soriano in particular is almost laughable at second – as Steve Stone would probably say, ‘he has the hands of a sturgeon.’

Ryne Sandberg felt the same way, in his induction speech he said: “When did it become okay for someone to hit home runs and forget how to play the rest of the game?” He went on further to say that “learning how to bunt and hit and run and turning two is more important than knowing where to find the little red light at the dug out camera.”

And that is exactly what’s wrong with today’s class of superstars. They don’t respect the game the way guys like Ryno did, I’m not even sure that they respect themselves.

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