Archive for May, 2006

Season of Futility Continues

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

Box Score

An image can sometimes serve the purpose of encapsulating an entire event or series of events. Such was the case this afternoon. The Cubs were batting in the top of the 6th inning. The starting pitcher picks up a bat and uncharacteristically smashes into a helpless ice chest, spewing ice chips and water all over a Cub trainer.

What is so amazing is that this was not Carlos Zambrano or even Kerry Wood. This is Greg Maddux, the Professor. Mild Mannered Clark Kent.

The Season of Futility continues.

Another opposing pitcher who has had virtually no success this year comes out looking pretty good. Brian Moehler of the Marlins had an ERA of over 7.

The final score was 9-3. Miguel Cabrera spanked the Cubbies pretty good once gain with another 4 rbiís, totalling 8 for the series.

The seminal moment of the game seemed to occur in the bottom of the 5th. Maddux leading 3-1, got the first two outs in the frame. It seemed that Madduxís lead-off double in the top of the 5th wasnít having any debilitating effects (except his teammates couldnít score him from 2nd with no outs). The next guy grounds one deep to short. Ronny Cedeno fields, throws and skips it into Todd Walker, who doesnít handle it cleanly. No error is charged to either player, it is scored an infield hit.

The floodgates opened. The Marlins hit for the cycle after the 2nd out and all of a sudden itís 6-3. the major clout was a 3 run shot off of Joe Borchard, who was hitting .111 against right-handers before Maddux grooved one to Borchard.

After a stellar April, Maddux has self-destructed in May. He is now 5-4, about where most prognosticators assumed heíd be before the season.

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Dumb Things People Say

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

The fish rots from the head, or so they say (I’m not getting close enough to a rotten fish to confirm it). Well, the Cubs are rotten, and Andy McPhail’s management style is definitely part of the problem, not the solution. As if to illustrate this for us, Andy was able to put his silver spoon down long enough on Monday night to give a quick state of the Cubs address. I’m not going to break his statement down word for word, since War already did an excellent job of that already. But there was one particular sentence that caught my eye:

“We need to get at full strength and have everybody play to their accustomed level and see how we go from there and find out how good we can be,” MacPhail said.

In other words, expect no accountability. And expect no changes in the way the team operates. There will be no major trades for a player that might pick up the slack while Derrek Lee is out (although it seems to be too late for that anyway) and there will be no major rebuilding. The 2006 Cubs are a sound team, with injuries the only major problem. The Cubs will proceed through this season, evaluate the current roster, make some relatively minor changes in the offseason, and be surprised when the same crap happens again in 2007. Thank you Andy McPhail, you are a true visionary.

And for a quick bonus “dumb things people say” here’s Dusty Baker commenting on how the Cubs issued 7 walks in yesterday’s game:

“We had a ton of walks, Baker said. You can’t walk people. You walk them, you’re asking for trouble.”

Now, this isn’t a dumb thing per se. But considering that Baker recognizes that it’s bad for his own pitching staff to issue walks, but doesn’t think it’s important for his own hitters to draw walks against opposing pitchers.

Oh, in other news, the Cubs lost to the Marlins 5-4 tonight, when Ryan Dempster blew the save in the 9th.

Prediction: If there are no changes in either team’s management personel, the Marlins will be a better team than the Cubs in 2 years.

I hope to take a more serious shot at answering the question posed by Mastrick later this week.

Why did I come back from vacation again?

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Looking forward into 2007

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

Let’s forget discussing tonight’s game against the Marlins, there’s nothing to discuss. We were outclassed by a team that had a fire sale in 2005 and we were beat by a guy WE TRADED. But boy do they have a future! We all know what the problem is – our leadership needs to be replaced and some of the players do too.

My question to the readership of VFB is this: Supposing Andy MacFail was fired tomorrow and you were selected to take his job. What would you do about about the rest of 2006 and what would you do going into 2007? I will offer my specific solution after this has been discussed by the readership as an update. Some of my fellow writers may also wish to make updates; remember, you are the president, you have the $105M budget and you call the shots. The Trib will back you up if you stay inside your budget and offer concrete solutions.

Mastrick’s solution:
If I were appointed to do MacFail’s job I would spring into action the very first day. I would first call Jim Hendry into my office and make him the Cub’s head scout for Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. I would set his expectations that he could plan on being on the road on specific game assignments four days per week. If he offered his resignation *without pay* I would accept it. Then I would name Onieri Fleita as acting GM until such a time as Dallas Green could take over. I would then fire Dusty Baker, Larry Rothschild and Gene Clines and appoint Mike Quade as acting manager and Dick Pole as acting pitching coach. Quade would be free to hire his own bench coach and I’d encourage him to hire a ra-ra kind of guy. I would hold an immediate team meeting and set clear expectations for the team insofar as immediate specific performance improvements. If the Cubs didn’t show improvement by the All Star break I would trade every player that I didn’t plan on having back next year.

Insofar as 2007 I would hire a new manager and GM to one year contracts. Pay would be tied to individual performance metrics that would make them anywhere from the worst-paid to the best-paid depending upon their performance. I would not be interested in any candidate that did not want a performance-based salary, nor would I be interested in any candidate who insisted on a multiyear contract. The GM would be expected to have a starting rotation composed of Zambrano, Maddux, Marshall and two new top free agents. I would not want a relaxed clubhouse, rather I would expect my players to be like Siberian Huskies straining at the leash. The Cubs need to get out of their comfort zone and get into their stretch zone. It can be done if the leadership makes it happen.

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Sunday, May 21st, 2006

Box Score

Well that’s what today’s game was about and the Cubs’ players showed they had it. Respect for the game and themselves, they could have folded against a superior team but they showed spunk and vigor and deservedly won a game.

Jacque Jones is about to discover the good side of Wrigley – he’s about to come home to a hero’s welcome. From an offensive standpoint this guy is making it happen. Zambrano fought and scratched his way to a victory – his exchange with Ozzie and Pierzynski has me real curious. What was that all about? Sometimes I wonder if Carlos is part Klingon.

Tomorrow night the Cubs face former top prospect Ricky Nolasco, we gave him and others up for Juan Pierre. Rotoworld reports that Kerry Wood has soreness in his pitching shoulder and could miss his Tuesday start; Glendon Rusch is mentioned as a possible replacement. “It’s deja vu all over again” Hendry, why didn’t you do your job during the offseason?

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Saturday, May 20th, 2006

Okay it’s all over now except the shouting. I’ve had a chance to review footage of the Barrett/Pierzynski incident several times. The more I see it the more I’m compelled to say that both players should receive suspensions of equal length – Pierzynski for instigating and Barrett for reacting in an unsportsmanlike manner.

Even Barrett admits that the original hit was clean, what bothers me is how the Sox’ catcher lowers his shoulder into Barrett after the play just like a pulling guard would in football. It is unfortunate that Barrett reacted in an immature manner but it’s hard to imagine how I would respond in a similar situation.

Now the Cubs will lose their second-best hitter for several games. I hope that Barrett will show some character and apologize for his actions; Pierzynski has a questionable reputation and anybody that watches this incident can clearly see why. A normal ballplayer would have given Barrett a hand and pulled him up to his feet. But I’ve yet to hear anybody accuse AJ Pierzynski of having class. Hope you enjoy immortality AJ, your picture with Barrett ranks right up there with Robin Ventura’s photo op with Nolan Ryan.

Joe’s Take

Pierzynski’s Role – A.J., while I agree is easy to hate, plays aggressive baseball. I do not blame him for any of this fight and I actually would not even suspend him. If you watch the film, he went in hard, which any good baseball player in a rivalry better do. If you slide in that circumstance, you’re a pansy. Plain and simple. It’s not being a thug to barrel over a guy. The objective is to win. As far as the plate slap, who cares? In a moment of pure adrenaline like that, of course you’re going to have that release. That was perfectly fine. Then, he gets up, DOES NOT walk toward Barrett, Barrett simply grabs HIM. They exchange looks and Barrett clocks him. Where in that is A.J. an instigator? He’s not.

Barrett’s Role – You block the plate? Expect to get pounded!!!! Don’t come up and be a hot head. Barrett lost his cool and HE is the only player besides the ones off the bench that were involved that should be disciplined.

Feel free to disagree with me, but you’re wrong. =)

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