Archive for March, 2006

Good stuff from the Trib

Friday, March 24th, 2006

Going to visit Wrigley this year? This May I’m going to fly up to Chicago to catch a weekend series between the Cubs and the Braves – I must admit it’s been a few years since my last visit to the Friendly Confines. It appears as though Michael Dizon and the folks at the Chicago Tribune have put together a great special edition that will appear in this Sunday’s Trib; according to Michael the supplement is a “survival guide for anyone planning to visit Wrigley this summer with info on the neighborhood, the stadium, the food, tickets, schedules, etc.”

So check it out if you get a chance!

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Big Choi with the Bosox (well sorta)

Friday, March 24th, 2006

Today former Cubs prospect Hee-seop Choi was waived by the Los Angeles Dodgers and was claimed by the Boston Red Sox. Speculation has it that Choi will be optioned to Pawtucket and will be a backup option in the event that Youklis doesn’t pan out at first. This makes two top former Cub prospects (Choi and Bobby Hill) that have been put on the waiver wire this week.

I wish Big Choi only the best of luck – with his infectious smile and great attitude Hee-seop is one guy I really wish would catch fire for somebody. I’ll never forget the play at first for the Cubs where the ball got stuck in his glove – Hee-seop had the presence of mind throw his glove (ball and all) to the player covering first to record the out. Not the first time it’s been done but it was still impressive.

Some interesting career stats – despite a mediocre .240 batting average he’s still managed to record an OBP of .349. He has 40 homeruns and 120 RBIs in 363 major league games. A native of Chun-Nam South Korea, Choi has compiled a .992 career fielding percentage and last year was tied for second with Sean Casey.

Hangun bimnida Choi Hee-seop!

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Are you worried about the rotation in April?

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006

Most of you all know that I’ve been very concerned about the number three, four and five spots in the Cubs rotation during the month of April. My concern is that the Cubs could find themselves six games back going into May when (hopefully) Wood and Miller are ready to pitch 80-90 innings for us.

This week I wrote Carrie Muscat asking if she thought Jim Hendry would make a trade given the current shipwreck that is called our starting rotation. Her terse response was as follows: “Did you look at other teams that train in Arizona to see how their starters were doing?” This seemed to indicate to me that Ms. Muscat was not too worried about the situation. I also noticed today at that Dusty said he was “not too worried” about the performances of Glendon Rusch and Jerome Williams.

So maybe I’m wrong on this one – perhaps Spring Training performance shouldn’t be used as an indicator of how players will perform in April. What do you all think?

Also, Angel Pagan is hitting .346 2HR 4 RBI in Mesa – Marquis Grissom is hitting .229 0 HR 4 RBI. Angel is a stolen base threat; Grissom has veteran experience and is close to the Cubs manager. So which one do you send to Iowa to start the season? My instinct says you play the hot hand and send Marquis down. Both players have minor league contracts.

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Soriano says ‘uncle’

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

Today the Washington mini-drama ended when Alfonso Soriano manned his position. To most this was an expected move, although many of us would not have been surprised if Soriano had done the incomprehensible and refused to play. The net-net of all of this is that Soriano has ‘faced’ himself in front of all of baseball. To the fans he has appeared as a selfish player who wants to tell his team what he will and won’t do; to the team he has made himself appear stubborn and intransigent. I seriously doubt that they will be offering him a contract extension in the nation’s capitol.

But Soriano hurt himself more than he did anybody else. For years now people around baseball have talked about how questionable his defense has been – his apparent unwillingness to try another position makes him very suspect entering his free agent year. This year Soriano lost his arbitration case but will nonetheless earn $10 million. My advice to him would be to find an honest broker and invest it; if he wants to find out how the tides of baseball ebb and flow all he has to do is ask fellow Dominican Sammy Sosa.

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Three young reasons to have some hope for April

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

Well we’re less then three weeks away from Opening Day and already some of us have had the blues because of yet another rash of devastating injuries to our pitching staff. But there might now be some light at the end of the tunnel – Kerry Wood supposedly looks real strong in rehab and there are a few young players who look like they might belly up to the table and save the season. Here’s who could save the Cubs’ season by coming up strong for the club in April:

Now most of us know who this guy is – history might look on the Cubs/Redsox trade of 2004 and call Nomar a toss-in. Murton has done nothing except hit at every level – AA West Tenn, Iowa, Arizona Fall League and the Senior Circuit. Matt is now hitting to the tune of a .556 on base percentage and a .710 slugging percentage in spring training. This guy is ready and I would rate him as an integral part of the Cubs future.

Sean has quietly stepped to the forefront in Mesa and that is awful hard to do when you are a 6-7 lefthander. Bothered by shoulder stiffness last year, 24 year-old Marshall has never pitched higher than AA ball. But he and his twin brother were dominant as a starter/reliever pair at Virginia Commonwealth and, despite his reputation for having a great changeup I think his out pitch will be a sharp-biting curveball. Sean has been solid at camp so far this year and looks like our best shot as the fifth starter.

Ryu Jae-kuk was signed by the Cubs as a 17 year-old after striking out 20 of the 21 batters he faced in his last high school game in Seoul, Korea. Now 21, he has grown two inches and stands at 6-3; he throws three pitches over the plate and tops out in the mid-nineties. Many people remember the unfortunate incident with the Osprey at Daytona, but despite that moment of immaturity Jae-kuk was voted West Tenn’s most popular player last year by the fans. I see nothing but upside for this kid, he’s only going to get better.

So despite the gathering clouds we still have some kids that can come through for us – only time will tell.

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Mad Dog a Model of Health

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

From our friend Graham Funk over at A Cub Fan Rants. Excellent point, Fergie!

HOF Cub Fergie Jenkins ponders why Mark Prior and Kerry Wood are hurt yet again in ’06. Meanwhile, Maddux, who turns 40 on April 14, manages to remain healthy after 20 big-league seasons.
“What is he doing that is good for him and the other guys haven’t learned it?” Jenkins said. “They have the best example in the world. Ö Don’t they talk to him enough? He has been with the team three years now, so there should have been something to rub off on these other young pitchers.”

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Time to lay the smack down

Monday, March 20th, 2006

Today when it was time for the Washington Nationals to play ball only eight players took the field. Alfonso Soriano, with an arrogance unmatched in the history of Major League baseball refused to man his position. The Nats have advised Soriano that he must play his position on Wednesday or go on the restricted list; as a restricted player Soriano could be forced to sit out the entire season without pay.

It is my hope that Bowden and Robbie will stick to their guns on this one. No secondhand solutions or trades to other teams – Soriano should do what’s best for his team or sit out the entire season. If Alfonso can’t show respect for our game then perhaps he should take his lil’ dog and pony show elsewhere. Maybe a Cuban team will take him.

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7 Reasons I’m Rooting for Bradley

Monday, March 20th, 2006

You gotta love the NCAA Tournament, right? Well, maybe not if you’re a Big 10 fan, and not one team from the conference has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. What do you do then? Adopt a team, of course. I’m taking Bradley, and here are my reasons why:

Because they’re local
Hey, they’re from Illinois, right? WIth the rest of the local teams idle, who else could I root for? Plus it gives people in Peoria something else to do besides river boat gambling, and whatever else it is they do in Peoria.

Because I love upsets
Bradley is the lowest seed left in the tournament, every game they win will have to be an upset. And what’s more exciting than that?

Because their wins haven’t been flukes
Most low seed upsets follow the same formula: the underdog comes out on fire, plays their best half of basketball ever, goes into the locker room leading by 30, then spends the entire 2nd half fending off the superior team’s comeback. But Bradley’s wins haven’t followed that pattern. Each time they’ve gotten about a 10 point lead, and then matched their opponent the rest of the way. These guys are playing terrific basketball, and show no signs of being intimidated by the big name schools.

Because they destroyed my bracket
Normally this reason would prevent me from adopting a team, but this year I didn’t submit my bracket to any pools. So I wasn’t that disappointed when Bradley took out Pittsburgh, who I had losing to UConn in the championship game.

Because it makes Billy Packer look stupid
Face it, almost nobody likes Billy Packer, except for the coaches at big name programs. And that’s because Billy is so biased it’s silly. Shortly after the brackets were announced, there was Packer on CBS, announcing that the mid-major Conferences had gotten too many bids, taking seeds away from more deserving schools in the power conferences. Well, the mid-majors have held up their end of the bargain, sending 3 teams to the Sweet Sixteen (4 if you count Gonzaga). Incidentally, two of the teams that Packer wanted in at the expense of mid-major schools were Maryland and Wake Forest (his alma mater) neither of whom was able to win a game in the NIT.

Because they might help make the term “mid-major” obsolete
Both Bradley and Witchita State play in the Missouri Valley Conference. Which means that the MVC has sent as many teams to the Sweet Sixteen this year as the SEC, Pac-10, and ACC, and more than the Big 12 (1), Conference USA (1) and Big 10 (0).

Because it’s been more than 20 years since a true Cinderella danced at the ball
Isn’t about time it happened again?

Anybody else out there adopting a team?

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Who’s gonna pitch in April?

Saturday, March 18th, 2006

Perhaps it’s time for the Cubs brass to make some modifications in it’s plans for this year’s starting rotation. Glendon Rusch (he of the 9.82 ERA) got slam-dunked yet again, this time by the Chisox – it really makes you wonder whose idea it was to give Rusch that nice contract. After all, this guy gave up 175 hits and 53 walks in 145 1/3 innings last year, so what did Hendry do? Gave him a two year contract with a pay raise. If Ozzie Guillen is the Wizard of Oz then Jim Hendry is the Scarecrow.

Since Rusch obviously can no longer pitch effectively now is the time to go out and get a bonafide starter. And the Cubs management needs to quit being tolerant of poor performers, Cubs players should obtain results or be traded. Let’s make a deal now.

Jerome Williams gave up four runs in the first today, his ERA stands at 9.00. There is still time to make a couple of moves.

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