Archive for June, 2006

Coaching

Friday, June 30th, 2006

Some years ago I went to work for a company that was based upon a philosophy called Total Quality Management (TQM.) The main precepts of this company were as follows: 1. Superior quality products; 2. A belief that customer satisfaction was *the* minimum criterion for success; 3. Employee empowerment and 4. A belief that customers should be given good value for their money.

The company didn’t have “managers” per se, they had “coaches.” When you asked them about that they told you that “managers manage, coaches lead.” Before I left I learned some good things from that company, particularly insofar as management is concerned. They were real big on motivating employees; later on I went to work for a monolithic computer manufacturer. What I learned from them was how to quantify and measure performance.

When I look at the Chicago Cubs I see a real “mom and pop” old-line company where politics count more than results. The decision-makers seem very preoccupied with playing CYA games and not too concerned with driving results. The Cubs front office needs a total revamp – the current oligarchy needs to be dumped and the new management should be held responsible for measurable goals. Were I the Tribune’s CEO I would hold the front office accountable on the basis of season ticket sales, paid attendance, actual attendance, concession sales, P&L and post-season attainments (they increase revenues and build brand loyalty.) The front office should also be held accountable insofar as hiring farm system personnel who can draft and develop future players, and a dugout manager and coaching staff that have certain skillsets and ability to drive specific measurable, obtainable results.

The guys in the dugout need to be able to motivate – to get guys to always try hard and give that “little something extra” when necessary to get to first place. I believe that a skilled motivator should meet with each player privately at least once a month to discuss performance. Team meetings should be held everyday before the game; they should be primarily inspirational in nature.

Dugout personnel should also be good teachers – part of their performance evaluation should be how they’ve improved their players. Guys like Larry Rothschild and Gene Clines should be measured on “deltas,” i.e. how their players have improved or diminished. If they can’t teach they don’t need to be on the payroll. Sorry guys, go to work for the Red Cross if you want to work for a charity.

Obviously none of that stuff is going on now, but if I were running the Cubs that’s how I would make it happen. The Cubs are not going to change until the fans vote with their dollars; this is a very reaction-oriented management and they do not respond until the radio stations get vapid and the fans stop showing up. VOTE WITH YOUR VOICES AND YOUR DOLLARS Cubs fans!

Update: Rotoworld reports that the Cubs are likely to skip Glendon Rusch’s next rehab start for Iowa in order to get him back up to Chicago as soon as possible. They speculate that Angel Pagan will be sent down; this move makes zero sense to me as the Cubs already have Dave Otto to throw lefthanded batting practice. We’ll see what happens…

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What’s your least favorite Cubs team in your lifetime?

Friday, June 30th, 2006

With today’s 6-2 drubbing at the hands of the best baseball team in Chicago, our Cubs stand at 29-50. For me this has been the most miserable Cubs season of my lifetime. I was born in ’71 and probably didn’t become aware of standings until probably 1982 or ’83, so I’m counting the last 25 years.

It’s just awful this season; we can’t hit, can’t pitch, can’t play defense, and there’s little hope around the bend.
We can hope the Trib will sell to a passionate, knowledgeable owner, but we can also hope Prior will heal magically, that Neifi follows the Kevin Elster career path, that Pierre becomes the “li’l menace” he once was, that Ronny Cedeno runs full speed into Ozzie Smith in an airport one day and their DNA gets mixed up, that the Yankees give us Cano, Wang, Johnny Damon, and Rivera for Kerry Wood, and that Ramirez stops disappearing when we need him most.
My plan is to shrug my shoulders and let these Drubs play out the string, not spending a red f’ing cent on the Cubs until they get a sustained-success organizational approach which everyone in the organization buys into.
For right now, I’ll keep close tabs on what’s shaping up to be the worst season as a Cubs fan in my life. What’s yours? ’69? ’77? ’85? ’90? ’94? ’95? ’99? ’04? Which one stunk the most for you?

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Former Cubs prospect takes Prior to school

Thursday, June 29th, 2006

Today’s action featured two pitchers who have spent quite a bit of time on the disabled list – I remember Geremi (then spelled Jeremi) as a hard-throwing Cubs prospect with a potentially high ceiling. Then along came the arm injuries and the Cubs decided to cut their losses and Gonzalez went elsewhere. Today he came back to Wrigley and showed Mark Prior how to pitch effectively in Wrigley Field, something Prior has apparently forgotten how to do.

Granted, Prior had 9 K’s and it’s nice to see a Cubs pitcher mow down the opposing side. However, in 5 2/3 innings he also gave up 8 hits, 4 walks and one homerun and that just ain’t gonna cut it. This Cubs team needs wins the same way a recovering addict needs days of sobriety, and Prior’s starts have thusfar have had the same effect as relapses. Today’s loss moves Prior to 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA; if he is “making strides” as mlb.com claimed in it’s wrapup, I didn’t see it. I saw a pitcher who was defeated rather decisively and could have been beaten worse.

Next up are the White Sox – I’m really looking forward to this series, if only to see what happens when AJ Pierzynski has to face Carlos Zambrano. I look for Michael Barrett to swing a hot bat, beyond that what happens is anybody’s guess.

Dusty-o-Meter: 84 games left
Hendry-o-Meter: 408 games left

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A Bite of the Onion

Thursday, June 29th, 2006

This comes from The Onion and is very funny.

Disabled List Offers Mark Prior Two-Year, $8 Million Extension

CHICAGO—Mark Prior, the right-handed pitcher who has spent the first few years of his career on the disabled list, is now considering accepting a recent two-year, $8 million offer from the DL that would keep him not playing through the 2008 season. “I couldn’t even imagine the DL without Mark Prior—over the years, he has become the face, stiff right elbow, strained subscapularis muscle, and inflamed Achilles tendon of our organization,” said Kirk Gibson, manager and longtime former member of the DL, which is currently rebuilding by claiming young arms such as Kerry Wood, Ben Sheets, and Mike Maroth. “We firmly believe that Mark’s best injuries are still ahead of him.” While Prior’s agent says the pitcher is exploring his options, experts predict that it is “inevitable” that Prior will return to the DL and, with the loyalty he’s shown in the past, likely finish his career there.

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Well what do ya know

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

Today the Cubs reversed a trend and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat (instead of vice versa.) Marmol looked very strong, striking out seven and he held the opposing team to one earned run, which was given up after he had left the game. But what really made the game enjoyable was the two homers by Pierre and Lee and the five-run rally that put the game away. Too often we have seen the Cubs squander chances (although they did some of that today as well) and they’ve lacked the ability to hit in clusters. Dempster came in and closed the game out as well; I don’t agree with Dusty’s decision there but Dusty’s a lame duck anyway.

Tomorrow Mark Prior takes the mound for a 1:20 start that’s being televised on WGN. I’ll be watching very closely to see if it’s the Mark Prior from the first game, or the Mark Prior from the second game that’s pitching.

Dusty-o-Meter: 85 games left
Hendry-o-Meter: 409 games left

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Make it five in a row

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

So what should we do, trade the whole team? This isn’t a “team,” it’s a grouping of players. True, the manager doesn’t pitch and he doesn’t catch, throw or hit. But what do you do when you have a systemnic breakdown? What do you do when your manager continuously makes bad lineup choices, when he can’t inspire the team or teach them to play fundamental baseball? What do you do when you have a hitting coach that knows nothing about hitting or a pitching coach that doesn’t know the first thing about pitching? What about a GM who has one good year and then takes his team (including the minors) on to failure?

This Cubs team will find a way to lose games. Besides firing MacFail, Hendry and Baker, Gene Clines and Larry Rothschild need to get the heave-ho too. The sooner the better; Hendry today gave Dusty his usual vote of confidence and I’m sure that Andy would give his if asked. The Cubs are now on pace for a .368 winning percentage – the worst Cubs team ever earned a .364. We are witnessing history.

Dusty-o-Meter: 86 games left
Hendry-o-Meter: 410 games left

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Cubs Quiz

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

Instead of actually writing something constructive about the Cubs, I’ve decided instead to give our readers this quiz to take.
Each answer has a point value:
A – 0 points
B – 1 points
C – 2 points
D – 3 points
E – 4 points

1. Cubs fans are:
A – extremely loyal
B – extremely drunk
C – getting fed up
D – apathetic
E – part of the problem

2. Jacque Jones is:
A – a steal!
B – a .300 hitter
C – the only option for right field
D – there’s still a chance he can be traded, right?
E – par for the course

3. Matt Murton:
A – should be benched
B – should be platooned
C – has red hair
D – needs at-bats
E – won’t be here next year

4. Neifi Perez is:
A – a number 2 hitter
B – a gold glove defender
C – a decent bench player
D – taking up a valuable roster spot
E – blackmailing Dusty Baker

5. Jim Hendry’s contract extension was:
A – a good move
B – a necessary evil
C – possibly premature
D – a big mistake
E – highway robbery

6. In 2007, the Cubs will be managed by:
A – Dusty Baker
B – Joe Girardi
C – Bob Brenly
D – somebody new
E – the college of coaches

7. Carlos Zambrano:
A – needs to control his emotions
B – needs to let his emotions control him
C – will toss a 163 pitch no-hitter
D – is the only thing worth watching on this team
E – is the 6th best hitter on the team

8. Derrek Lee’s wrist injury:
A – definitely cost us the Pennant
B – probably cost us the Division
C – may have cost us the Wild Card
D – cost us two extra weeks of contending baseball
E – probably hasn’t healed correctly

9. The Phil Nevin trade:
A – was a stroke of genius
B – didn’t cost anything
C – was about 6 weeks too late
D – will cost Matt Murton his job
E – Phil Nevin is still in the league?

10. The 2006 Chicago Cubs need to:
A – look to the 2005 Houston Astros for inspiration
B – get everyone back healthy
C – trade for a superstar player
D – blow up the team – trade everybody
E – blow up the team – collect the insurance money

Scoring:

40 – 31 points: You are the angriest Cub fan possible. You’re angry at everyone from Andy McPhail to the fans that continue to attend games. Heads need to roll, and fans need to stay away.

30 – 21 points: The team stinks, and you know it. If somebody offered you a free ticket, and you had nothing better to do, you’d still go a game and heckle every Cub player or coach that got within earshot.

20 – 11 points: You know the team is bad, but you still love the Cubs too much to go cold turkey. You still find yourself shouting at the TV when Dusty Baker makes another tactical blunder, despite the fact that it means nothing.

10 – 5 points: You are still kidding yourself if you think this team has any hope. Please, seek help.

5 – 0 points: You are one of the following: Andy McPhail, Jim Hendry, Dusty Baker.

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Radio Show Archive

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

On Sunday I was a guest on Sports Talk Cleveland for about 25 minutes. I have clipped the appearance and have posted on the site for your listening. The topics covered in the clip are:

1) What’s wrong with the Indians?
2) Why I’m blogging for the Devil Rays now
3) Have the White Sox taken over the city of Chicago?
4) Kerry Wood’s future?
5) Mark Prior’s progress and future?
6) Maddux trade winds
7) Is the slide blamed on Derrek Lee?
8) Blockbuster trade prediction
9) Closing thoughts

Listen to the MP3

Enjoy and feel free to use the comment section to let me know your thoughts on what was said.

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Why do we suck?

Monday, June 26th, 2006

Comparing the boxes of the starters for both teams provides just one one facet of a million-faceted gem that is the Crown Jewel of the Cubbies’ 2006 Crown of Thorns.

Batting averages of starting Brewers vs. starting Cubs:

MIL CHI
.286 .248
.270 .241
.263 .327
.274 .249
.290 .230
.261 .277
.263 .290
.263 .226

ERA of appearing pitchers:

MIL CHI
3.10 4.94
3.51 5.89
n/a 4.46
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