Archive for January, 2006

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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My (Not So) Expert Opinion on the WBC

Sunday, January 22nd, 2006

As we get ready to put the month of January to a close, we move closer to the first World Baseball Classic. There are mixed reactions and opinions on this new idea invented in the Selig regime. Until recently, I have not really cared to think about it. Now, as we are very near to it’s birth, I’ve decided to weigh in with my thoughts on the idea, as well as opinions on criticisms I’ve heard mentioned.

Why I like the idea of the WBC

1. It allows us to cheer for our country – It’s always fun when the Olympics come around. As a kid, I used to hate waiting four years for the next time I could cheer on my country. Who cares that we didn’t really know a lot of the competitors names, aside from what the commentators and networks told us. It was just fun watching your country take on the best of the rest and come away as the winner. This World Baseball Classic gives me the opportunity to cheer on the United States as our best players represent the country that invented the game we love. What can be better than that?

2. It allows me to see some of the world’s unknown stars – It’s always fun when rumors begin to fly about a foreign star that is about to sign a contract to come play for a team in the United States. Usually it is the Yankees, Dodgers or the Mariners that end up reaping the benefits, but it is still fun nonetheless. The problem is, because we are not able to watch baseball that goes on in Japan, and because their websites are all in Japaneese, we do not know much about the players that come, other than what we are told. What a cool way to get to see some of the best in the world, live with our own eyes. Maybe someone will stick out for me and when that player comes over, I’ll have seen him play before. The more intimate you are with a sport, the more fun it is to follow it. Hopefully the WBC will give us that opportunity.

3. It allows me to watch the greatest players in the major leagues play before opening day for something that matters. – I hate watching spring training games because of the fact that players are simply going through routines to get themselves ready for the season. The players that are considered the “locks” to make the squad are not concerned with impressing the team or the fans in the spring. They are doing what they need to do to make sure they are ready for the season. Now, with the WBC, they will be playing for the pride of their country. As a result, the hope is that they will be giving it their all and playing for pride. Obviously that doesn’t mean sliding hard to break up double plays and bowling over catchers, but certainly players will play harder than they do in spring training, and for that I am excited about watching.

Why people do not like the idea of the WBC

Some people will argue against the WBC with the following arguments. I say phooey on them, and here is why:

1. It makes the baseball season that much longer – Is it possible to watch too much baseball? For some, like Ernie Banks, no. For me, and I am sure for some of you though, there comes a point where you need baseball games to go away for a month or two so you can rest and recharge for the next season. Now with the WBC, it makes the length of meaningful baseball that much longer, right? Wrong!!! We still have our couple of months off from baseball games. Because the WBC is in March, when spring training is taking place, it doesn’t increase the length of the season at all.

2. We are running the risk of injuries to our players – This is not a strong argument against the WBC, in my opinion, but it’s one that comes to mind anyway. Sure, we do run the risk of injury to our players, but then again, so does the other teams in the league. St. Louis could easily lose Albert Pujols for the season, just like we could lose Derrek Lee. Am I worried? Sure I am. But, what I have got to believe is that injuries can happen at any time. Whether it happens while a player is playing in the WBC or in Spring Training is irrelevant. Players are at risk as soon as they put on their uniform. We can’t think about it or it will eat us alive.

3. Pitchers will be forced to work too many innings – Do you really think this is true? If I read the schedule correctly, the US could play a max of 7 games if they win the whole thing. That takes place over two weeks. So basically you have a game every other day for two weeks. That is nothing compared to the usual cumbersome schedule that a player is forced to go through during the regular season and especially the playoffs. With the teams allowed 30 players, that figures to mean that each team will carry anywhere from 12 to 16 pitchers. With that being the case, lets look at some of the numbers.

Assuming that each of the seven games goes nine innings, that means a total of 63 innings for pitchers to pitch. If you got each man equal amount of time on the mound, that accounts for a total of 3.9 innings of work for the entire WBC. That is far from pitcher overuse. Obviously starters will go longer than four innings, but even if they do, how much will going seven hurt? Starters will get one, maybe two starts at most. When you figure in what they would normally get in that span of spring training, it seems to work out to less from the WBC. Because of this, I am not worried about pitcher overuse during the event. Because we have the best of the best out there for our countries, we should also be able to put in any player and be confident that they will get the job done. With that being said, the need for overuse should be eliminated as a result.

Conclusion

While many people are skeptical and bitter at the idea, I think it will be a tremendous success. With the addition of Cuba to the mix, the tournament can now be billed correctly as a tournament of the best in the world. Because of this, I say “Bring on the WBC…Go USA”

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