Archive for October, 2006

Welcome to Chicago

Monday, October 16th, 2006

I’m glad you’re here.

Full Story ~

Note from Chris:
Local radio in Chicago is reporting that Larry Rothschild will likely be brought back as pitching coach. My enthusiasm is now tempered.

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Preparing for Piniella

Sunday, October 15th, 2006

Today I noticed that was the latest site to confirm the apparent inevitability of Lou Piniella coming to the North Side. In this scenario, the dominoes will begin to fall this week when Piniella signs with Chicago; San Francisco will then scramble to sign either Brenly or Bruce Bochy, Washington will hire Girardi and Texas is expected to go with their bench coach Don Wakamatsu or Hokkaido’s Trey Hillman. In this year’s game of managerial musical chairs the music has stopped and there’s no chair left for Dusty.

Although Piniella was not one of my two favorites I am somewhat anxious to see what he can do. I remember Lou as a fiery New York Yankee leftfielder, one that wasn’t afraid to take on Reggie Jackson if he felt that the big slugger was dogging it. Since first managing for the Yankees, Piniella has made stops in Cincinnati, Seattle and Tampa Bay; each of those teams improved the year that Sweet Lou took over, by an average of over 14 games per team.

The website Management by Baseball broke down Piniella’s turnaround philosophy as follows: “1. Start at the bottom of the org chart and solicit suggestions in the “What needs changing/improving around here” line; 2. Act quickly and publicize the change, and 3. Follow up with more right away so you can accustom staff and adjacent departments that change is an on-going thing, and that it has payoffs.”

The site went further to elaborate by quoting a book entitled “Out of Left Field” by Art Thiel:

“Upon taking the job, one of his first phone calls was to trainer Rick Griffin, seeking an assessment of personnel from the ’92 team…

“I trust trainers as much or more than scouts,” Piniella said, “Be honest and don’t sugarcoat–nobody knows we’re talking.”

In a conversation that lasted two and a half hours, Griffin spelled it out, saying there really was only one guy who didn’t fit. A couple of days later the oft-injured, portly outfielder Kevin Mitchell was traded to Cincinnati for relief pitcher Norm Charlton, who would become vital in the Mariner’s climb.

Piniella called Griffin again: “How do you like that?”

“Wow,” Griffin said, “You work fast.”

“From now on, we’re going to work fast.”

And that is precisely what Sweet Lou must do, move quickly with respect to the “walking wounded” – the clock is ticking in Chicago for his new boss Jim Hendry as well as for the Cubs faithful, who have all waited so very long.

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Will the Cubs play Bochy ball?

Friday, October 13th, 2006

Today’s Tribune offered several bits of intelligence. First of all Dave Van Dyck opined that San Diego’s current manager Bruce Bochy might rapidly become the Cubs’ favorite in the managerial sweepstakes. Apparently San Diego might be interested in dumping Bochy and his last year’s salary – it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if they were after Girardi or Hokkaido’s Trey Hillman to compliment a pitching staff that will get younger next year.

Another piece of news was that Hendry has completed his first round of interviews, having met with Brenly, Listach and Quade this week in Arizona. The latter two appear to be headed toward promotions – my guess is that Quade will move to the major league coaching team and Listach will take over in Des Moines.

While I applaud the fine job that Bochy did in San Diego, I am not eager to see him wearing Cubbie Blue. He is exactly what this team does not need – another laid-back managerial style. But Bruce might be too interesting a prospect for Hendry to resist, having taken the Padres to post season play four times since 1995.

Bruce Bochy succeeded Jim Riggleman as manager of the Padres. In a curious twist of fate he was named NL Manager of the Year in 1996; he was preceeded in that respect by Don Baylor and Dusty Baker won it the year after.

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Johnny Callison 1939-2006

Friday, October 13th, 2006

56 days ago Joe asked the VFTB staff to list the top five sports figures we’d like to just go away. I listed Johnny Callison, I believe as my # 2 player I wanted to go away.


Well, be careful what you ask for I guess. Johnny Callison died yesterday at the age of 67. In that Friday Five post, I commented “He took something away from me when I was just 13 years old that I can never get back my innocence. Before that I considered professional athletes as god-like. By his cursing out a Cubs photographer right in front of me, Callison opened my eyes. I would have preferred to remain in a state of naïveté a bit longer.”

Not wanting to dwell on one myopic isolated moment of my life, let’s pay him the proper respect he deserves. This was written 10 years ago by Don Bostrom. My sympathies with the family.

When it comes to stealing the show in the All-Star Game, the Phillies are batting 1-for-66. But, oh, what a glorious, majestic hit the one was. Johnny Callison’s three-run home run off Boston’s Dick Radatz in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the 1964 All-Star Game at Shea Stadium 7-4 on July 7 is the signature All-Star moment in Phillies history. That swing was also the defining moment in Callison’s often distinguished, sometimes checkered major league career. It was his Andy Warhol moment, except that those 15 minutes of fame had quite a shelf life…32 years, with no signs of fading away.

In fact, that homer off Radatz seems like only yesterday to Callison because not a day goes by that he doesn’t relive it for some adoring fan. Callison, like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” repeats the same sequence of events, day after day after day. “I’ve seen that movie and I can relate to it a lot,” Callison chuckled. “Every day someone tells me about it. Good thing, too, because at my age, I’m having trouble remembering what really happened.”

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Seven Cub prospects named to Mesa AFL roster

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

The Mesa Solar Sox have announced their roster for this year’s Arizona Fall League. Here are the Cubs prospects that will be competing this autumn:

  • Lincoln Holdzkom (RHRP) Acquired in 2006 from the Florida Marlins for RHRP Todd Wellemeyer. Holdzkom is another Hendry Wounded Wing prospect, having had TJ surgery in 2004. He is 6-4 240# with a plus arm – he is an accomplished pianist and is the son of composer/arranger/pianist Christopher Holdzkom. Lincoln was picked in the 7th round of the 2002 draft after having been kicked off the Arizona Western University baseball team because of “insubordination.” He had a very good year in the minors, sporting a 1.76 ERA and holding opposing batters to a .236 batting average. Holdzkom pitched primarily for West Tenn and will likely start this year for Iowa;
  • Adam Harben (RHSP) Acquired in 2006 from the Minnesota Twins as the PTBNL for Phil Nevin. Harben was one of the Twins’ many pitching prospects, therefore he was expendable. Adam has plenty of upside, he is 6-5 210# and throws a mid-90s fastball, slider and change. This year for AA New Britian he was 4-9 with a 3.96 ERA. He walked nearly as many as he struck out but gives up few homeruns;
  • Carmen Pignatiello (RHRP) Selected in the 20th round of the 2000 draft, Carmen was converted to the bullpen this year and spent most of the year at AA West Tenn. He had a breakout year for the Jaxx, going 3-1 with a 2.69 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP;
  • Clay Rapada (LHRP) (Pictured right, above) At 6-5 180# Clay is a lanky southpaw sidewinder who is death to lefthanded batters. Used primarily as a closer at West Tenn, Rapada earned 21 saves and a 0.82 ERA before being promoted to the I-Cubs. He had issues thereafter with a broken fingernail and strained tendon on his pitching hand and didn’t pitch quite as well at Iowa;
  • Jake Fox (C) (Pictured right:) Jake tore up the Florida State League for Daytona, hitting .313 16 HR 61 RBI in 66 games before being promoted to West Tenn. Jake cooled off somewhat in Jackson but still finished the year with an impressive .294 21 HR 86 RBI line. After the season he was selected to Baseball America’s High Class A All Star team, joining Rich Hill who was chosen for Iowa;
  • Scott Moore (3B) Moore was acquired along with Roberto Novoa from the Detroit Tigers for Kyle Farnsworth. Most of you may already know that he represented the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx at the Southern League All Star Game before being promoted to AAA Iowa and then the Cubs. Scott compiled a .276 22 HR 75 RBI season before being called up to the majors where he earned a .791 OPS; a breakout AFL could earn him John Mabry’s former spot on the Cubs roster, and
  • Eric Patterson (2B)(Pictured right:) Cubs fans have to be really excited about E-Pat’s 2006, which eclipsed the previous year when he was named the Cubs’ 2005 minor league player of the year. After stealing 38 bases in 121 games at West Tenn, he was promoted to Iowa where he proceeded to take Des Moines by storm. Eric finished his season at Iowa hitting .358, stealing 8 more bases in 17 games. Patterson must improve his on base percentage and cut down on strikeouts a little (19% of his at bats) if he is to continue his progression toward the major league team.

    Noticeably absent from the Mesa Solar Sox (who are skippered by Cubs’ AA manager Pat Listach) is Grant Johnson, who had been named to the team by the Cubs in August.

    In other news, VFTB mourns the death of Yankees pitcher Corey Lidle. He was apparently on his way to Nashville, TN as he had reserved a room at the Union Station Hotel. Why he was flying north along the East River remains a mystery.

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Good News for Jim

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

According to this story, Joe Torre is staying in New York. That’s good news for Hendry, who can now continue to evaluate at the pace of a tortoise. This is a “big decision” for the organization. We wouldn’t want to screw it up. After all, we have a history of winning the world series every hundred years to protect.

I’m so glad we have such a diligent GM that takes months to prepare for his decisions, don’t get me wrong. I just wish he could have been doing this prep work during the season. Maybe he was just too busy on the phone trying to acquire Phil Nevin.

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Atta boy, Hendry

Monday, October 9th, 2006

Jim Hendry interviewed Joe Girardi today – I’m glad to see the sense of urgency and it appears that he will also be interviewing Mike Quade this week. If Hendry doesn’t go with Brenly I’d like to see him go with either of those two guys – I don’t see either Pinella or Torre (whomever is not going to be the Yankees manager) as being right for the Cubs job and Showalter would produce the “giant sucking sound” that Ross Perot described in the early 90s. Hopefully we’ll have our new manager by this weekend so that 2007 strategizing can begin.

I’m also interested in seeing whether or not the Yanks might be interested in sending A-Rod to the Cubs for Aramis Ramirez; the Cubs will have about a two week window where they can trade A-Ram before he will be allowed to file for free agency. This trade is starting to look more and more do-able!

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Tommy Declares for the College of Coaches

Monday, October 9th, 2006

Hey, just because it didn’t work before, doesn’t mean it won’t this time.

And I suggest the rotation be the gang from VFTB. We would provide balance (not too nasty, not too soft) youth and experience – at living! If we needed a Lee Elia moment, Mastrick is our man. Otherwise, Dave seems a natural to cover us with the media.

We are all motivated and have a true appreciation for the history of this organization. Some of us would regularly start the kids and none of us I know of mind the bases getting clogged up. I’d even let Prior and Wood clean the uniforms after the game (since Yosh is retired).

I think we should try it for a month anyway. OK, two months, 10 games for each writer. At the end we could come back with a healthy dose of reality and admit it’s tougher than it looks from our lofty perch.

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Pre-Season Prognostication (AL edition)

Monday, October 9th, 2006

It’s been a long week, so I’m going to dispense with the pleasantries and dive right in:

AL East
This seemed to be a pretty easy division to call. Only Tommy broke ranks and picked the Blue Jays to win it, and Dave and I actually both picked the entire finish correctly.

Good Call: Dave and I both pegged the Blue Jays leap frogging Boston for 2nd.

Bad Call: Joe picks the Devil Rays for third. He was blinded by the D-Ray love, even back in March.

AL Central
All of us saw this is a 3 team race, the only problem was, we thought that the 3rd team was Cleveland, not Detroit. None of us predicted the Twins to take the division, and we all had the Tigers 4th.

Good Calls:

Dave: “if Mauer/Cuddyer/Morneau have big years they(Minnesota) could take the division.
Chris: “If Jim Thome really is healthy, the White Sox offense will be better than last year”
Joe: “When you look at Mauer and Morneau, they just seem ready to shine.”
All: Kansas City stinks (yeah, we went out on a limb, I know).

Bad Calls:
Chris and Dave: predicted injuries to Detroit’s: Pudge, Guillen, Mags and Young. Only Young missed significant time.
Everyone but Joe had Cleveland finishing 2nd or higher.

AL West
Wow, seems like an easy division to predict. Only Joe’s pick of LA beating out Oakland for 1st place prevented us from a clean sweep on the AL West.

Good Calls:
Everyone but Joe picked this division exactly right.
Tommy: “Blalock fizzles after the break” (.651 OPS after June)
Mastrick: “anticipate another late season onslaught from the A’s.” (Oakland 48-26 after the break)

Bad Calls:
Joe and Tommy predicted big things from Casey Kotchman, but Kotchman did little in 29 games before being placed on the DL.

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