Archive for October, 2006

Finally, we’re getting somewhere

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

In the Tribune today, Larry Rothschild has something positive to say about the Cubs plan for Mark Prior.

“Going in we need to look at it like we can’t count on him, and if he’s back it’s a big plus,” Rothschild said. “We can’t get caught short. … You hope if he does everything he can, and if everything happens the right way, you have a pitcher who’s obviously going to help.”

This is what I like to hear. It’s the mindset the Cubs should have had last year. Instead, we counted on not only Prior, but Wood, and Wade Miller as well. Those three assumptions came back to bite us.

The Cubs need to go into this season as if they have never even heard of Mark Prior before. We need to treat him like he was when he first burst onto the scene, an added bonus. If we get 10 starts out of him, great. If not, oh well, we’re prepared anyway.

That being said, in my mind right now, I see the rotation looking like this:

1. Carlos Zambrano
2. Rich Hill ~ I hope he’s as good as we saw
3. Sean Marshall ~ I’m giving him a shot
4. ?
5. ?

That leaves us with 1 lock and 4 question marks. I’d fill the rotation from # 2 to 5 with two players from our system (i.e. Marshall and Hill) and then I would go out and get two arms.

Obviously, it would be very unrealistic to assume the Cubs would make a run at Barry Zito AND Jason Schmidt, but I think one of them is reasonable. Barry Zito would be my first choice. That would leave another spot to fill. I’d take a good look at the following and make my play:

  • Jason Marquis
  • Adam Eaton
  • Vicente Padilla
  • Gil Meche

There isn’t a lot on the market this year. We need to get what we can and hope that the losing last year gave our pitchers the big league experience they may not have gotten otherwise. Hopefully that will help in the long run.

Ryan Dempster gets the vote of confidence

He also endorsed the return of Ryan Dempster as the Cubs closer, saying one bad stretch should not erase the job he did in 2005.

“He just let things get to him a little more than the year before,” Rothschild said. “He knows what went wrong, and there was nothing wrong arm-wise or velocity-wise.”

I’m fine with this move. I’ll be honest with you. I never put much stock in closers. One minute, Brad Lidge is the best in the game, one Pujols blast later and he’s terrible. Guys are up and down and I think Ryan will be back next year in full force.

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Some idle Cubs musings

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Well it’s the best time of the year for us Cubs fans, the offseason. A time when we all have hope, some of our young ballplayers are already playing fall baseball and pitchers and catchers report in just four short months.

Speaking of pitchers, Mark Prior is in the news again. The new word/excuse is that he has “loose joints;” Prior is still months away from pitching and both orthopaedic specialists said that he needs to strengthen his shoulder. STOP THE PRESSES! Mark Prior needs to condition himself! My perspective is, the sooner we get rid of this guy, the better. He has to be one of the biggest busts in Cubs history when you consider what he could have been; he’s Kevin Brown without the good years.

Also, the Cubs are going to bid on the rights to negotiate with the Seibu Lions’ star pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. Daisuke was 17-5 this year with a 2.13 ERA. He is a power pitcher and he will cost some team $20 million just for negotiating rights – that money will go to his erstwhile Japanese team and you can bet agent Scott Boras will get top money from the Cubs, Mets, Yankees or Red Sox. Adding this guy, Jason Schmidt and Carlos Lee would put the Cubs right back in contention in one year.

Kerry Wood is throwing the ball from 50 feet and is working out with the Cubs in Arizona. I suspect he will be given an incentive-laden deal but we’ll have to see what Uncle Lou (pictured above) thinks about that. Cubs prospects appear to be playing well in the Arizona Fall League, with relief pitcher Lincoln Holdzkom leading the way.

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I’m in love with my Uncle

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

As I made perfectly clear, my first choice for manager was Bob Brenly. My reasoning was that he would come in with a plan after seeing the team for the last two seasons. Since then, I have changed my stance. After watching yesterday’s press conference, I have come to realize that I am beginning to acquire a healthy man crush on my Uncle Lou. Obviously, this is wrong on many levels, but I just can’t help myself. Lou is everything I need and more in a manager.

One of my biggest pet peeves about a team is lack of hustle. I can deal with losing if I know they did everything they could to prevent it. Dusty didn’t take care of this issue in his tenure here. One of the main things Lou said yesterday was that his teams “always hustle”. Preach on, brother. You’re speaking my language.

Piniella also talks about his view that with the right pieces, this team can win right away. Again, my eyelashes are beginning to bat in your direction Uncle Lou. Keep whispering those sweet nothings in my ear. I’m liking how they sound.

What’s that you say, Uncle Lou? Look at your what? Yeah, that ring you have does sparkle nicely. It sure would be nice to see the Cubs sport them too. Piniella brings a World Series to the table. That alone speaks volumes to players. When you’ve got a guy that brings winning to the table, guys are going to listen. Piniella took a Pete Rose coached Reds team from 5th place under Rose to a World Series the next year. I seem to remember the Cubs playing pretty poorly this year. Perhaps Piniella can do the same in Chicago.

I know that I could be setting myself up for failure and heartbreak by falling in love, but it just feels so right. Why don’t you join us?

On a side note, the latest podcast is posted. We’re now a part of 360 the Pitch network, so we’re excited about that. Visit our site to listen via the player right on the website. It’s very convenient. ~

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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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