Archive for March, 2006

Conspiracy?

Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

I don’t believe that there is a conspiracy. I do not think that the Cubs are actively covering up injuries so that they aren’t revealed until after all the season tickets are renewed and the single game tickets are sold. A conspiracy indicates a concerted and well planned out effort between multiple parties to commit and cover up a subversive act. This line of thinking give the Cubs and Tribune Company far too much credit.

First, let’s look at this management team’s record with injuries:

2004:
Mark Prior comes up sore in spring camp. The Cubs say it’s an Achilles problem, and he’ll be ready in mid-April. Turns out he also has an elbow problem, and he doesn’t pitch until June.

Kerry Wood comes out of a game with a sore triceps. Cubs announce it’s precautionary, and he’ll miss one start. He doesn’t pitch for 2 months.

Todd Hollandsworth fouls a ball off his shin in June. The Cubs insist he is day-to-day. He doesn’t play another game in 2004, yet remains on the roster for several weeks, forcing the Cubs to play short handed during that time.

2005:
Larry Rothschild says that Prior isn’t pitching against hitters in spring training, because he can better evaluate him in simulated games. There’s nothing to worry about. Prior begins the season on the DL and misses one start.

Kerry Wood goes on the disabled list with a shoulder problem in May. He returns at the end of June and makes 5 more starts. The Cubs then announce that he will need offseason surgery on his shoulder labrum,but continue to use him out of the bullpen despite being out of the Wild Card race in August. The Cubs say that moving the surgery back will not keep Wood from being ready for the start of the 2006 season.

2006
Despite reassurances from the team that Wood would be ready for opening day, Kerry is behind schedule in rehabbing from shoulder surgery and is set back further when he is forced to have knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

Mark Prior reports to camp and is brought along much more slowly than the other pitchers, which the Cubs claim is due to his past spring training problems. Rumors about Prior’s health begin to circulate after his Cactus League debut is pushed back, but the Cubs insist everything is fine, right up until March 14th, when it is announced that Mark will be seeing Doctor Yocum, to have his shoulder examined after he reported pain following a long toss session.

Now let’s take a closer look at the way the Prior’s latest injury situation has been handled. After his slow start, rumors began appearing in late January that Prior had a shoulder problem. As the talk became louder, the Cubs answer was to site a late December respiratory infection as the reason for Prior’s lack of progress. Evidently, this was the type of respiratory infection that only prevents one from pitching off a mound, as Prior was:

“…doing all the other drills — fielding, sliding, hitting. He can play catch. He just hasn’t thrown off a mound”.

When Will Carroll at Baseball Prospectus reported that Prior was having shoulder problems a few days later, the Tribune acknowledged the rumor by having Paul Sullivan deny it, while simultaneously taking a veiled shot (10th paragraph)at Carroll in the paper.

This isn’t a well formulated conspiracy, it’s the sort of dog-ate-my homework crap we’ve been getting from the Cubs for the last several years. The question here isn’t “how can we trust the word of Cubs management on injuries?”. What we as fans should be asking is:

“How can a front office that routinely botches injury situations like this be trusted to run a baseball team?”

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Just tell us the truth

Tuesday, March 14th, 2006

Most of the regular posters here have been Cubs fans for many o’ twenty-four hours – I personally have been watching Cubs baseball since 1968 when I was a fifth grader growing up in suburban Clarendon Hills, IL. We’ve been through thick and thin as Cubs fans but I think most of us would agree that the past few years have been somewhat more frustrating than even the terrible decade of the 70s.

To have had the possibility of greatness dangled in front of our eyes only to be snatched away by fate has not been easy. So it was with a great deal of alacrity today that most of us found out that Mark Prior is indeed injured after all. Many of us have commented about how unusual it seemed that Prior was still doing towel drills in mid-March; the reassuring words of the management did little to assuage our growing apprehension as we watched one of our cornerstone players do little to nothing to get ready for the upcoming season.

And so it was today that the cat got out of the bag. It appears that all of a sudden Prior has developed some soreness in his pitching shoulder and because of this sudden soreness will visit one of the most preeminent orthopaedic specialists in the country. Said Chicago GM Jim Hendry: “It’s unfortunate…the first time he’s ever complained of discomfort since we got here [in spring camp] is today. It will be perceived any way people want to perceive it…”

Well here’s how I perceive it Mr. Hendry – it’s more of the same. The same line that we’ve been getting about our pitchers for over two years. If you have apprehensions, why not be candid? We are grownups for the most part, we can handle it. Perhaps it is true this time – perhaps the Cubs were indeed handling Prior with kid gloves for no logical reason. But I would be seriously remiss if I were to say that I trusted you Mr. Hendry, I feel like you’ve let us all down once more. You could have gotten more pitching in the offseason, there were plenty of guys available.

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This just in…

Tuesday, March 14th, 2006

Mark Prior and Derrek Lee will be seeing Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles about their sore shoulders tomorrow.

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Aramis is on fire

Sunday, March 12th, 2006

Today Aramis’ 2 for 3 included 2 runs scored, 3 RBIs and his second homerun. Aramis is now hitting at a torrid .700 clip. Baseballs must look like beachballs, everything is in slow motion. Murton was a perfect 2 for 2 with 2 runs scored and is hitting .471 for spring. Jerry Hairston was also a perfect 2 for 2 with 2 runs scored (.444;) both John Mabry and Restovich were 2 for 3, the latter had 3 RBIs to show for his efforts. Maddux, Ohman, Dempster and Howry combined to throw six innings of five-hit ball and gave up one earned run.

On the downside Ronny Cedeno continues to struggle at the plate – he’s now batting .167. Felix Pie is hitting .231 and Neifi continues to be Neifi batting a paltry .222. Guzman got rocked and Williamson struggled in his one inning of relief.

Were the season to start tomorrow my guess is that Dusty would go with Neifi at short and Hairston at second. Neifi will move to second on days when Cedeno gets the start at short and Walker is as good as gone.

UPDATE
Mark Prior threw 35 pitches today in a simulated game, 25 days after spring training started. If Prior isn’t nursing some kind of elbow soreness or something then I’m the Pope o’ Rome. Something’s wrong with this picture…why is this guy always out of shape when it’s time for pitchers and catchers to report?

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Something doesn’t add up…

Thursday, March 9th, 2006

Dusty Baker says:

“I wasn’t aware of (Greg Anderson dispensing drugs to Barry Bonds) because I don’t condone the use of steroids. I’ve got a little boy 7 years old, and I want to protect him and all kids…I didn’t have any clue. I thought he was Barry’s weight trainer. He was given the OK from upstairs. What are you going to do when he was given the OK from upstairs?”

Sports Illustrated says:

“The Giants training staff wanted nothing to do with Bonds’ three trainers and urged management to ban them from the clubhouse, according to a source familiar with the conversation. The Giants had unofficial background check done on Bonds’ trainers and learned that World Gym was known as a place to score steroids and that Anderson himself was rumored to be a dealer.”

So which is it Dusty? DId you not know that Anderson was a steroid dealer, or were you prevented from doing anything by management? I realize it was the training staff that complained to the front office, but something tells me you knew about their complaints. I mean you were so close with one of the trainers on that staff (Dave Groeschner) that you had the Cubs hire him prior to the 2004 season. Baker’s denial is sad. And he’s only going to get more questions about Bonds as Barry gets closer to the all time home run record. Combine this PR nightmare with a slow start for the Cubs, and Dusty may not be around very long in 2006.

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Looking for two good men

Tuesday, March 7th, 2006

For fantasy baseball that is. Our league is a head-to-head league and it is set up to closely approximate real baseball. No fake positions like ‘corner infielder’ or ‘utility;’ no rotisserie or cumulative scoring for mathematics majors. This the real deal. If you want to succeed you must manage your team like a real manager would – this means having a decent bullpen, a couple of guys that can play multiple positions, and participation is key since our league allows daily changes. Draft night is next Tuesday at 8:30 PM CST.

Contact me at my VFB Email address if you want to join the Efnet_#cubs Yahoo league; most of us are regulars in the Cubs chat channel.

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Who’s hot and who’s not

Tuesday, March 7th, 2006

Well we’re now less than a month away from Opening Day and already we’re starting to see some trends. From my vantage point it appears as though West Tenn Diamond Jaxx and Iowa Cubs fans should be licking their chops – West Tenn stands to gain a quality starter (Marshall,) first and third basemen (Dopirak and Scott Moore.) Iowa stands to gain a bonafide first baseman in Brandon Sing, an upgrade in center in Felix Pie and front of the rotation starters in Jae-kuk Ryu and Angel Guzman.

So here’s my list of “who’s hot and who’s not:”
Who’s hot – Brandon Sing (2 HRs,) Angel Pagan (.444 with speed,) Aramis, Scott Moore, Brian Dopirak (2 HRs,) Jacque Jones.
Who’s not – Neifi Perez (.231 batting average, no surprise there,) Marquis Grissom (.182 average, Dusty has already said his performance doesn’t matter,) Adam Greenberg (Adam might get cut if he doesn’t turn things around,) Juan Pierre, Casey McGehee (bad baserunning and poor average might send him back to West Tenn instead of Iowa,) Todd Wellemeyer (likely to be traded after two poor outings) and Les Walrond (this guy needs to get cut yesterday.)

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In Prayer for a Hero

Monday, March 6th, 2006

Kirby Puckett was my baseball hero growing up. I just had to get him in each year’s fantasy draft with my friends, even if it meant overpaying for him by drafting him a round too early or trading way too much to get him once the season started. I just loved when I was able to watch him play the White Sox on TV and I’ll never forget his leaping catch or his game winning home run in extra innings in the World Series against the Braves. He was a great ballplayer and I was devastated when he had to retire due to glaucoma. It cut his career way too short and I’m glad to see baseball put him in the hall of fame.

Now, imagine my sadness to wake up and learn that Puckett suffered a stroke and is in critical condition after brain surgery. Health concerns cut his baseball time short and I’m praying that those concerns don’t also cut his life short.

Note from Mastrick: Bye bye to you too Kirby, we’ll miss you man.

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Fun game!

Sunday, March 5th, 2006

Unless you’re Jerry Hairston Jr. that is. Hairston seemed to be okay after being beaned early in the game, but it’s fair to assume that he’ll be out of the lineup for a couple of days pending word from the doctors.

It was great to actually see the 2006 version of the Cubs for the first time. Eyre looked nasty and Howry came in for an inning. Jake Fox looked superb behind the plate on defense – his fundamentals as a catcher were definitely there, especially the way he blocked balls in the dirt. I was also impressed with Hill and 6-7 lefthander Sean Marshall, who is known for his changeup but really got my attention with a couple of wicked benders. Brandon Sing continued to impress with the bat – look for Sing to take over first for Iowa. And to think he was unprotected in the Rule 5 draft!

Jae-kuk Ryu (pronounced You Jay-cook in Korean) also appeared to have promising stuff; not a pigeon was to be seen during his time on the mound. Many of you may remember that Derrek Lee’s father Leon signed Ryu to a contract as a 17 year old. Look for an Iowa team that is about 100% better this year. Tomorrow Angel Guzman gets the start – because of the WBC we’re getting a real good look at the Cubs future and some of these kids have me excited.

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