Archive for February, 2006

Why not?

Monday, February 27th, 2006

Crazier things have happened. I was browsing through Rotoworld and I saw the following little factoid:

Free agent Roger Clemens gave up a homer to his son, Koby, on his first pitch in a simulated game at Astros minor league camp today.
After the homer, he went up and in on Koby next time through.

Clemens can’t play for Houston unless he sits out until May 1st – perhaps the Cubs should take a run at this guy. Sure, it would cost some money but maybe bringing the first Cubs championship to Wrigley in 98 years might intrigue the Rocket…

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Did Hendry Make a Mistake?

Saturday, February 25th, 2006

As the rumors last year were flying that Dusty Baker was on his way out, Jim Hendry quietly made no such move. There were speculations on managers like Grady Little, Bob Brenly, Uncle Lou Pinella, and even Joe Girardi. I mentioned in a comment section of one of the posts that I really liked Joe Girardi. I thought he was a good leader and will never forget the time he had to announce the death of Daryle Kile to thousands of angry fans who wanted a game to begin.

This season Joe Girardi, who has no big league manager experience, will be molding and shaping the young Florida Marlins. I caught this article awhile back and it made me wonder if maybe Hendry made a mistake after all. Sure I harped on Joe for having the facial hair policy, but now here he is working the guys butts off in spring training. Normally that wouldn’t sound so revolutionary, but then you have to catch the part where it says that he runs the foul poles right along with the players. At 41, Joe isn’t exactly an old fart. He’s leading by example and I think that is the only way to lead.

Here are some highlights of the full article:

With temperatures in the 80s on Tuesday, Marlins pitchers lined up for one of the most grueling drills of spring training: “running poles,” a series of 14 sprints across the outfield grass from foul pole to foul pole.

That’s when left-hander Scott Olsen looked over at manager Joe Girardi and said with a sneer, “Why don’t you run with us?”

In the clubhouse a few minutes later, Olsen wrapped a cold towel around his head and marveled at how Girardi, 41, outpaced many players.

“He ran, like, 12 poles and he wasn’t even fazed,” Olsen, 22, said. “He might have run more than 14. I ran my 14 and got out.”

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Stupid should hurt

Friday, February 24th, 2006

Well I’ve got to give Hendry credit on this one. A fair number of people disagreed with Hendry’s dumping of Corey Patterson – you can call it what you will but that’s what it was. If either of the guys the Cubs got for Patterson amount to a hill of beans then I’m going to become the Pope o’ Rome. But I liked the trade because two slim chances were better than no chance at all.

Now that Corey is comfortably situated in his new environs he’s begun to speak a little about his time in Chicago and where he intends to go in an O’s uniform. Corey blamed part of his failure in Chicago on all the advice he received. According to Corey he tried incorporating all of the advice he was getting and his willingness to do that degraded his performance even further (Mastrick snorts derisively at the deliberate distortion of the facts – Patterson consistently refused to listen to the Cubs coaches!)

When asked about the approach he plans to take with the Orioles, Patterson was simple and forthright: “I pretty much just stick to my strengths — know myself and go from there…basically, what it comes down to is you wait for a pitch in your zone. If you get it, try to take advantage of it. If you swing at a bad pitch, you swing at a bad pitch…you can’t worry about it, because if you do that, you’re not focusing on the next pitch. And that’s what it comes down to.”

Later Patterson was asked about his low walk totals and this is how he responded: “I don’t even pay attention to that stuff. I just play the game, and that’s all you can do,” he said. “The numbers will be there at the end. Some of the people that walk may get on base, but they can’t steal and end up clogging the bases. Sure, you want to get on base, but there are a lot of different ways to look at it. The main thing is knowing yourself and knowing your strengths.”

Sorry folks but that fella is dumber than a box o’ rocks. I hope he banks the $2.8M he gets paid this year because I see a beer truck in Corey’s future.

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Prior threw 20 pitches today

Friday, February 24th, 2006

Today’s Chicago Tribune and made light of the fact that Mark Prior threw off the mound today. Nine days after pitchers and catchers reported, Prior threw twenty pitches and said that it felt “awkward;” according to Mark it was the first time since his last start in September that he threw off a mound. Twenty pitches? What did he do the rest of the practice, talk baseball with Dusty? No wonder rumors are flying around about his health.

I seem to recall last year during spring that Prior said it might be a good idea to throw year round in order to avoid the elbow tenderness. What happened to that idea? I sincerely hope that Prior is 100% ready to go by Opening Day – he was a #2 overall draft pick and the Cubs really need him to live up to that level of expectation.

If Mark is indeed nursing an injury that’s one thing – but if he’s as healthy as he claims he’d better start working overtime because that level of preparedness and work ethic ain’t gonna cut it.

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Stats Stats & more Stats

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

One of my favorite things about baseball is how you can compare basically every player in the league based on their stats. No other team sport can you really do that as effectively as in baseball. As we get ready to get into the meat of Spring Training, I’d like to put together a series on various stats that are not considered common. My goal is to establish the purpose of these stats as well as to provide you with a benchmark for evaluating what would be considered an exceptional, above average, average and bad performance. For example, most people understand the basics on batting average. It’s generally considered a good season if you put up an average above .300. However, when we get to stats like Slugging %, On Base %, OPS, etc., most people fall short in their ability to translate or decode those statistics. My goal is to provide you with not only a quick tutorial, but also a quick reference for when you want to come back to it.

With all that being said, I’d like to get your requests for some common stats or not so common stats that you would like to be better informed on. I will do my best to help out with as many as possible. Just leave your suggestions in the comment section. The series will probably run in the latter half of March and will be followed by our season preview articles.

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Lee: “I think my future is here”

Monday, February 20th, 2006

Man, talk about a way to brighten up my day. To a certain extent I’ve been dreading what would happen insofar as Derrek Lee’s contract status, especially after last year’s implosion. But Lee made his feelings known in today’s Chicago Tribune – he isn’t going to insist on trying the free agent market and seeing what top dollar is. Rather, he’d like to stay right where he is in the Friendly Confines and will possibly forego a little salary to stay in Chicago.

Said Lee: “I think my future is here. I like it here. I want to win here. I see myself being here…if it’s a deal I feel is fair for me, I would sign it. It’s still a business. I always look at it as if there is a deal that makes me happy now, why not sign it? I don’t think $2-3 million a year more is going to change my life.”

This is about as close as a major professional athlete can come to telling you he wants to sign now; hopefully Lee’s statements will galvanize the Cubs’ brass into action and result in an early contract signing. Even if Lee doesn’t put up last year’s numbers he’s a vacuum cleaner at first base – he personally can cut a team’s infield errors in a drastic way. And who knows, he might even better last years numbers!

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Sportscaster Curt Gowdy Dies

Monday, February 20th, 2006

Mr. Gowdy was 86. Geezers such as Mastrick and myself will recall his days announcing The Game of the Week with Tony Kubek. A Red Sox and a Yankee. Even then there was an East Coast bias. Funny, tho, I don’t remember it that way.

From The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown –

Curt Gowdy was the 1984 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award.

The longtime “Voice of the Red Sox,” Gowdy made his broadcasting debut in 1944 atop an orange crate in Cheyenne, Wyoming, doing the play-by-play of a six-man football game between Pine Bluff and St. Mary’s before 15 fans in sub-zero weather. His enthusiasm and distinctive style during his subsequent broadcasts of minor league baseball and major league recreations over KOMA in Oklahoma City earned him an opportunity with the New York Yankees and Mel Allen in 1949. Two years later Gowdy became head man on the Boston Red Sox broadcast team. He left the Red Sox in 1966 for a ten-year stint as Game of the Week announcer for NBC.
Gowdy was the 1970 recipient of the George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting for his “blend of reporting, accuracy, knowledge, good humor, infectious honesty and enthusiasm.” He was the first sportscaster to be so honored and was also named “Sportscaster of the Year” on three occasions.
Gowdyís numerous network assignments ran the gamut of sports: from the World Series to the Super Bowl to the Montreal Olympics to the “American Sportsman” series. Among other “blue-chip” sporting events, Gowdy has broadcast 13 World Series and 16 All-Star Games.
As Gowdy recalled: “I tried to pretend that I was sitting in the stands with a buddy watching the gameópoking him in the ribs when something exciting happened. I never took myself too seriously. An announcer is only as good as yesterday’s performance.”

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Spring is in the Air

Friday, February 17th, 2006

Or at least that’s what I’m told. It’s a balmy 1 degree in Chicago, but somewhere in Arizona, I’m told that it’s warm, and spring training is getting under way. This is a different spring from the last two years, as this Cubs lineup isn’t as settled as the last few years. Let’s take a look at what issues the Cubs will sort out during spring training:

2nd base
This will be the most hotly contested position battle all spring. The Cubs have 3 players vying for time at 2nd base, and there appear to be different opinions within the organization as to who should start. Dusty Baker has referred to Todd Walker as his starter when asked, while Jim Hendry seems to favor Neifi Perez. Walker, of course, would provide a much needed left handed bat in the lineup, while Neifi is an upgrade defensively. The dark horse is Jerry Hairston, who, after falling out of favor with the team last year, wants to shake the “utility player” tag and finally win a starting job.

The Rookies
Matt Murton and Ronny Cedeno aren’t in position battles per se, but they will have to fight their manager’s preconceived notions about young players. Yeah, I know that Dusty says he isn’t biased against young guys, his actions speak louder than his words. Murton doesn’t worry me as much, since he has hit well at every level and performed well while getting some playing time last year. Cedeno hasn’t starting hitting until late in his minor league career, and while he .380 winter ball, my enthusiasm was tempered a bit after finding out that Jose Macias hit .400 in the same league. Ronny could also be hurt by our surplus of middle infielders. It isn’t tough for me to imagine Ronny getting off to a bad start, and Dusty moving Perez to shortstop and platooning Walker and Hairston at second.

The (other)Outfielders
Juan Pierre and Jacque Jones are both coming off subpar seasons. While Pierre seems a cinch to bounce back if he can keep his legs healthy, Jones is out to prove that his last two seasons are not the beginning of decline for him. Jacque says he wants to hit .300 again, and I’m all for that. In fact, if both Pierre and Jones can get back on track, I’ve already got a snappy nickname picked out for them: The French Connection.

The Starting Rotation
I’ve been tough on Jim Hendry this offseason, but I do need to give him credit for one thing. By re-signing Glendon Rusch and hanging onto Jerome Williams and taking a flyer on Wade Miller for down the stretch, he’s done a good job of building much needed depth in the starting rotation. And the most important thing he’s done is make Kerry Wood less important. The past few years, the Cubs season has hinged on the health of Wood, Prior and Zambrano, but hopefully we can take Kerry out of that equation. This year to win, Prior and Zambrano will need to be excellent and Greg Maddux will need to be better than last year, but I no longer feel like the rotation’s success hinges on Wood. If both Rusch and Williams show they are able starters this spring, Kerry can take as much time as he wants coming back. And if Wade Miller is anywhere close to his former self, Kerry can make his yearly trip to the disabled list in August as well. In my mind, I consider any production we get out of Wood this year to be gravy.

So, what are you looking forward to seeing out of the Cubs in spring training?

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Blue collar, baby

Friday, February 17th, 2006

I like a good work ethic. My father taught me to show up to work fifteen minutes early. He called it Lombardi Time – if you showed up ten minutes early you were late. So I appreciate it when I see athletes putting in their work in the offseason or others who show up early to training camp. So here’s my Cubs 2006 Blue Collar Team thusfar:

CF Juan Pierre – From what I read this guy kept a strict workout regimen during the offseason and kept himself in tip-top shape for his Cubs debut. I expect big things out of this guy provided he gets protection from the #2 hitter.

2B/CF Jerry Hairston – Hairston appears to have rehabbed his ankle (not an easy thing to do if you’ve ever messed one up) and should be off to the races in the battle for second base. He also showed up to camp one week early.

SP/RP Glendon Rusch – Glendon didn’t want to wait for workouts to start; he arrived at camp on Wednesday and immediately began throwing off a mound. I like the attitude!

RF Jacque Jones – Jacque showed up a week early too; he’s making a positive impression on me because he’s trying to fit in and at the same time telling us how he wants to improve. I will be ecstatic if he hits in the .290s this year because this guy seems to love having landed in Wrigley Field.

SP Kerry Wood – Enough has been said about Woody in previous posts but he threw off a mound for the first time the day he hit training camp and has stuck to a rehab regimen throughout the offseason. I wish Kerry only the best of luck – what can I say, I like the guy.

SS Ronny Cedeno – Ronny’s the captain of my Blue Collar Team. He finished on the DL with broken hand bones. He went straight to winter ball where he was a top ten hitter in his league and then showed up to spring training three days early. This guy gives you everything he’s got and I will be absolutely elated if he wins his position against Neifi and does a kick-butt job as our number two hitter behind Pierre. If he and Juan can develop a rapport like Sandberg and Dernier did Lord help the other defenses!

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