Archive for September, 2006

Where do you stand?

Saturday, September 30th, 2006

Kerry Wood has said recently that he feels like he owes the Cubs because of his injuries. He feels like he hasn’t earned the paycheck he’s collected from the team.

”This organization has given me everything I’ve got and gave me a chance to play baseball, and they drafted me. There’s definitely loyalty here. I love Chicago, I love the fans, I love the stadium, I love Wrigley Field. I love everything about the situation I’m in, but I understand the reality of the game. Hopefully, it’ll be only one conversation [with general manager Jim Hendry]. We’ll talk and decide what’s best for the organization and best for me, and hopefully that’s staying here.”

~ Chicago Sun Times

So my questions to you are as follows:

1. Do you want Kerry Wood back next year?

2. If yes, in what role?

3. What is the most (guaranteed money) you would pay per year and for how long?

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Baseball’s Big Weekend

Friday, September 29th, 2006

We’re in for a big weekend of baseball as things get sorted out. We break down what to expect.

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Does the manager matter?

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

So, it appears there are only 3 days left in the Dusty Baker Era. The rumor mill is running rampant about who will be the new manager. Joe Girardi is currently the front runner in most people’s minds, but it’s also known that Jim Hendry likes Atlanta’s Freddy Gonzales (who would have been hired prior to 2003 had Baker not been available) and today in the Tribune, Phil Rogers floated the name of Trey Hillman, the current skipper of the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japanese League.

My question is, will it matter? The team was dreadful this year. Dusty Baker surely didn’t distinguish himself, but who could have? And no, I’m not advocating that Baker be retained. He should have been fired at the All-Star Break. Would it have done any good for the season? Maybe not in the standings. But it might have sent a message: the excuse making is over, the country club is closed, you will play the game correctly, or not at all in Chicago. Instead, Jim Hendry continued his “evaluation” and Andy MacPhail continued taking clavichord lessons or whatever it is he does with his time. And now that we’ve seen that this team can lose 90 games, in the worst division of a bad league, Jim Hendry will hold a press conference soon to announce the name of the new Cubs manager. And there will be much talk of a new beginning, and a different direction and concentration on fundamentals and all that. And I ask again does it matter?

No, it doesn’t. Not initially. I will not look at our new manager and say “the day is saved, surely with Joe Girardi/Lou Pinella/Trey Hillman/Freddy Gonzales/St. Jude at the helm, this team will be turned around. It won’t. So don’t let the Cubs sell you on the fiction that a new manager will change everything. Because this team is going into the offseason with the following needs:

Two starting outfielders
Starting shortstop
Starting second baseman
Two, possibly three good starting pitchers
Most of a bullpen
Possibly a starting third baseman

Experts consider this to be a weak free agent class, but that doesn’t matter much, as the Cubs haven’t exactly distinguished themselves in the free agent market, regardless of what players are available. While it would seem to be the ideal time to try and rebuild the entire team with youngsters, that often takes a long time (Florida notwithstanding) and GM Jim Hendry has neither the minor league talent, nor the time (with a 2 year contract) to enact such a plan. My fear is that the Cubs will introduce a new manager this offseason, and sign some mediocre veterans to supplement whichever young players they consider building blocks and be done with it. Maybe they’ll catch lightning in a bottle, probably, they won’t.

So when the Cubs hold that press conference, that is supposed to bring hope to our hearts; remember one thing. Without an upgrade to the players on the field, the manager won’t make much difference.

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Three Reasons Why Girardi IS Our Guy

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

Over the next two days I want to address why Joe Girardi, who is a hot topic these days, IS and IS NOT a good choice for this team next season. In case you have been living in a cave over the last few days, the Florida Marlins have said in a round about way that Joe has “zero chance” to return to Florida next season. He has already said on numerous occasions that he wants to be in Florida. Keep in mind that I will argue both sides so please don’t tear me down after one day. Wait and hear both sides.

Let’s begin today with the three reasons why Joe Girardi is the manager we need.

1. He is a hometown favorite

Growing up in Peoria and attending Northwestern University, Joe has major ties with the city and the state of Illinois. Because of that, it would be a great PR move by Hendry to bring in a guy like Girardi to replace Baker next season. Fans have pretty much fitted him for a uniform and to not hire a favorite like Joe would be a major risk with a fan base that has begun to show signs that sellouts are not the norm for a club that loses close to 100 games in a season.

Joe spent seven seasons as a member of the Cubs and was beloved during that time. He has always been one of my favorite Cubs, especially due to the class and poise he showed the day the picture to the right was taken. The day Darryl Kile died in his hotel room was a day I’ll never forget. Watching Girardi deliver that message to the fans while still maintaining composure and privacy for the family was very inspiring.

Girardi would do wonders toward lifting the spirits of weary Cub fans and give them something to look forward to watching next season. An off-season of uncertainty is in the works and adding a guy like Joe would ease that burden immensely.

2. He has shown he can get the job done with young talent

Let’s be honest for a minute. Who in their right mind picked Florida to finish any higher than 5th in the NL East? I certainly didn’t, as evidenced by my picks for the NL East this spring. Joe has taken a team of nobody players and instilled confidence and determination into them. He’s groomed his pitchers into reliable starters. About the midpoint of the season, I looked to see who the leader in wins on the Marlins was. To my surprise, Dontrelle was not even in the top 3. Instead, we’ve seen the arrival of guys like Anibal Sanchez, Josh Johnson, Scott Olsen, and Ricky Nolasco. Aside from the last one, those names would probably be unknown in spring training to the common Cub fan. Now, their names you know.

Dan Uggla? If you would have asked me in March what sport Dan Uggla played, I probably would have told you he was a character in the Caveman Games video game I used to have on my Commodore 64 computer. I just didn’t know. Now, names like his and Hanley Ramirez have emerged as budding players in the league. Joe Girardi has helped make these guys the players they are. If Florida isn’t able to see that, we need to show them.

3. He is young

Sure, a lot of people will tell you that youth brings inexperience, but it also brings fresh ideas to the table. Joe Girardi brings a perspective on the game and the players playing today that a guy with more experience can’t. Players change and sometimes, the older you get, the less and less you relate. Girardi has fresh ideas on how to run a team and has received some experience this year that should count for something.

Because he’s young, Joe is a guy that could be around and a part of this team for the long haul.

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Cubs enjoy ninth inning heroics

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

Tonight the Cubs pulled off a ninth inning miracle, defeating the Milwaukee Brewers in a come from behind victory by the score of 3-2. Rich Hill clearly did not have his best stuff ñ it was evident from the first inning that he had trouble with his release point, especially when pitching from the windup. Nonetheless, Hill proved that he could pitch even when he wasnít on top of his game; he gave up just two runs in seven inningsí work. Itís fair to say at this time that, barring a trade or offseason injury Hill will be in the starting rotation for 2007.

Henry Blanco nearly cost the Cubs the game in the middle innings when it appeared that he had missed a sign for a suicide squeeze from third base coach Chris Speier ñ Matt Murton was hung out to dry between third and home and was summarily tagged out. Wuertz came in and struggled but he was able to get out of the inning keeping the Cubsí to within a run of the Brewers. Dave Bush pitched masterfully but turned the game over to Milwaukee closer Francisco Cordero, who promptly served up a gopherball to pinch-hitter Freddie Bynum to start the ninth. Juan Pierre hit his 199th basehit of the season and later scored when Hank White atoned for his earlier transgression, lifting a pitch into left center for the game-winning hit.

The Dusty-o-Meter is now down to three games as the Cubs will use a Thursday off day to pack and get ready for a season-ending series with the Rockies. In other news, St. Louis maintained it’s slim lead over the Astros as both teams eaked out victories.

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