Archive for February, 2006

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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Kerry Wood & 2006

Thursday, February 16th, 2006

As I was talking to Joe last night on the phone, I gave him a heads up. This season, the gloves come off as far as Kerry Wood is concerned. For some inexplicable reason, he seems to get a pass by Cub bloggers. There will be one villifying article after another with regards to Neifi, Corey and Jose (Macias.) but Kerry? Nary a peep.
Wood close-up smiling

But for my money (I mean the Tribís) there should be more scrutiny, more introspection and more expected. The production just isnít there and hasnít been for some time. Now comes word that Wood will probably miss the first two weeks of the season. Iíd be surprised to see him pitch before May Day.

So, the rest of you, have a field day ripping Neifi at every whim. His paycheck pales in comparison to the ìaceî of this staff. Did I say ace? According to Pat Hughes, thatís exactly what Kerry Wood is. Just listen to his interview with Joe. The first two or three minutes in he says it. Prior is second, Zambrano third.

Howís your partner’s Kool-Aid, Mr. Play-by-Play man?

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