Archive for November, 2006

Drive-By Blogging

Monday, November 13th, 2006

As long as I’m in the neighborhood, thought I’d share a bit of this n that and then move on before my next cameo.

Since I missed the official greeting somehow allow me to welcome the newest member of the VFTB staff, Nick Bettilyon! First Mastrick, now NBAD. Just goes to show, you comment enough, and sooner or later you get your own caricature and a key to the executive washroom. Helps if you can put two sentences, together, too. If you were a true Cubs fan, Nick you’d take that bag off yer head!

Recently visited the Louisville Slugger Museum – well, I saw the gift shop and picked up a small bat with the Cub logo on it that any 7-year old would be proud of. Also saw the Big Bat out front. What a spectacle that is.


It stands (er, leans) 120 ft. long and 9 ft. diameter at the base; 3 ft. 6 in. diameter at the handle with a 6 ft. 6 in. diameter knob. The total weight of the bat is approximately 68,000 pounds. The hollow interior has a 30,000 gallon capacity. The bat is constructed of ASTM A36 carbon steel. Awesome.

Since we were visiting my brother and he was hungry and he was paying, we didn’t go through the museum and factory. I did however get my first Kentucky Brown which was delicious.

Congratulations to Greg Maddux for winning yet another Gold Glove and to Zambrano for his Silver Slugger. Those gloves are pretty good size. Wonder where The Professor puts them all?

In a less noteworthy vein, I see that Wood was re-signed. Why don’t they ever listen to me?

Over the week-end I attended Ball State’s season opener over Northern Colorado. Neither team looked that good tho the Cardinals showed some good hustle. I was more disappointed in the third full gym. I am used to SRO and not being prompted by the announcer when to stand up and cheer. Again, the tickets were free so I can’t complain. A day out with the guys was way overdue.

Tonight is IU’s first game of the season. Go Hoosiers! Only one year away from the big debut of Eric Gordon in the cream n crimson. Sorry, Joe. Couldn’t resist. Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers.

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1991 Draft in Review (Part I of II)

Monday, November 13th, 2006

After looking at the 1990 class and seeing potential hall of fame players coming out of it, it would be easy to assume that was the norm. However, 1991 was a much weaker draft class on the whole. The biggest story involves the #1 overall selection. Before we get to that, I want to summarize what we saw from the 1990 draft.

1990 1st Round breakdown
High School Players – 16 (6 became ML starters)
College Players – 10 (4 became ML starters)

Potential Hall of Fame players in the draft – 4 (Mussina, C. Jones, Pettitte, Percival)

1. Brien Taylor – LHP (NYY) – Taylor was a very hyped pitcher out of East Carteret High School in North Carolina. He signed for $1.55 million, which was huge at the time. His high school numbers look like this:

29-6 with a 1.25 ERA, striking out 476 hitters in just 239 innings. That is just utterly ridiculous on the whole. Unfortunately for the Yankees, who had a very good draft in 1990, totally drafted a bust with this pick. Taylor missed the entire 1991 season due to contract negotiations stalling out. He had a very promising 1992 and 1993, pitching in A and AA respectively. After the season, his career took a turn for the worst as Taylor got in a fight outside of baseball and hurt his shoulder with the severity to need surgery. He never recovered fully enough to regain the zip on his fastball and and became very hittable. He bounced around the Yankee farm getting shelled until being released in 1999. He was out of baseball that year, never to be heard from again.

2. Mike Kelly – OF (ATL / Stats) Drafted out of Arizona State University, a school that has produced MLB names like Barry Bonds, Reggie Jackson, and even Cub favorite Rick Monday, Kelly made it to the major leagues in 1994 with the Braves. In 30 games, he hit a promising .273. Unfortunately, the following year, he would fail to reach even the Mendoza line. That prompted the Braves to cut their losses and deal Kelly to the Reds for a pair of middle relievers in Chad Fox and Ray King. Not a bad deal if you ask me. He would bomb out in Cincy and be traded to the Devil Rays for Dimitri Young, who was actually pick two spots after Kelly

3. David McCarty – OF (MIN / Stats) Drafted out of Stanford University. Other notable people to attend Stanford include: Mike Mussina, Jack McDowell, John Elway, and White Sox GM Kenny Williams. McCarty spent his career as a bench player with seven different teams over 11 seasons.

4. Dimitri Young – 3b / OF (STL / Stats) We get our first meaningful contributor out of this class at number four. Dimitri was picked out of Rio Mesa High School in California. Young has been a starter in the majors since 1997 and was even selected to the All Star game with the Tigers in 2003. He has hit .289 with an on base percentage just a shade under .350 for his career. Baseball Reference compares him to players like Raul Ibanez, Jacque Jones, and Kevin Millar. Not superstars, but above average ballplayers that can help a team win. If only he could field.

5. Kenny Henderson – RHP (MIL) Was drafted and never signed. He went to the University of Miami and entered the 1994 draft and was picked in the 2nd round by the Expos. He declined and returned for his senior year of school. In 1995 he was picked in the 5th round by the Padres. He never made it to the major leagues.

6. John Burke – RHP (HOU / Stats) The second player in the draft to not sign comes at the number six spot out of the University of Florida. Burke re-entered the draft in 1992 and was picked by the Rockies. He played two short seasons in the majors for the Rockies with no success to speak of.

7. Joe Vitiello – OF (KC / Stats) Vitiello attended the University of Alabama, which claims such names as Lance Cormier and Florida Marlin Taylor Tankersley. Vitiello broke into the majors in 1995 and was a bench player for 7 seasons with the Royals, Padres and the Expos. He finished his career with 172 hits and a career average of .248.

8. Joey Hamilton – RHP (SD / Stats) Drafted out Georgia Southern University, which generally has a powerhouse IAA football program, Hamilton showed promise with the Padres, posting three straight double digit win seasons in 1996 to 1998. He was voted to the 1994 Topps Rookie All Star Roster for his performance. Other names on the list included Raul Mondesi, Manny Ramirez, and Javy Lopez. Hamilton would finish the good years of his career in 98 and never win more than 7 from that year on.

9. Mark Smith – OF (BAL / Stats) Drafted out of USC, which has produced baseball names like Mark McGwire, Tom Seaver, Dave Kingman, Jacque Jones, and the golden boy, Mark Prior, Smith bounced around as a bench player for the Orioles, Pirates, Marlins, Expos and Brewers in a short 8 year career. He finished with a career average of .243.

10. Tyler Green – RHP (PHI / Stats) The son of ex-pro football player Charles Green, Tyler was drafted in the first round of the 1991 draft, 10th overall out of Whichita State University (gotta love their logo). He never quite lived up to his first round status, partly because he was hampered by shoulder and elbow problems the first three years of his pro career. Overall, he had a career record of 18-25 with an ERA well over 5.

Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the picks in round one as well as other notable selections from the 1991 draft.

Complete Draft Series
1990 Draft – Part I / Part II

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Ron Santo finally has an heir

Sunday, November 12th, 2006

Hendry scored a point today by signing Aramis Ramirez. I feel vindicated in my approach to the Musketeer’s contract negotiations — we weren’t going to hear the truth from either side, so I decided not to listen until he was signed.

But now he’s a Cub for the rest of his prime years. Yes!

In lesser news, the Cubs extended Kerry Wood’s subsidized Disabled List tour. The important part of the article above is this line:

Wood will return as a reliever, hoping to regain his arm strength after rehabbing a rotator cuff injury since August. He said in September he felt an “obligation” to return, and lived up to his word.

Two things to say:
1) A reliever. Great. They didn’t mention how much he’ll make to not pitch on consecutive days for an inning or two here and there.
2) Kerry Wood is a living embodiment of the Cubs.

  • The old Chicago White Stockings were dominant. So was Kerry Wood when he first came up.
  • The Cubs were a dominant team at the turn of the century. Wood was a dominant pitcher at the turn of the 21st century.
  • The Cubs made the playoffs and were close to the World Series many times from ’08 to ’45. Wood was in the playoffs in ’98 and ’03 and was close to the World Series in ’03.
  • The Cubs have done jack squat ever since 1945. Kerry Wood hasn’t contributed significantly since 2003.
  • The Cubs’ seasons have been cut short by injuries more than a few times. Same with Kerry Wood.
  • Through it all I have still rooted for the Cubs. I’m still rooting for Wood.

P.S. Do an image search for “disabled list” on Google. Our own Mark Prior is the top result! He’s the best!

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Sammy turns 38

Saturday, November 11th, 2006

I ran across this picture while browsing the various sports pages; most of you probably know by now that Sammy is trying to make a comeback so that he can hit 600 homeruns. No, it’s not to win the world championship that always eluded him, it’s that mythical number than only a few ballplayers have ever hit that’s dangling in front of Sammy’s eyes.

Anyway, I found this picture of His Samminess standing on his La Romana estate, watching as workers positioned the various adornments that will help Sosa and an estimated crowd of up to a thousand celebrate his birthday. It reminded me of an experience I had in the restaurant business – a very regular female customer was to have a fiftieth birthday party and I was asked to work it. I went in early to set up the bar, tables, etc. and to my surprise she was there supervising her own birthday party! The party came and went and I got the impression that most of the people really didn’t want to be there, they just came because she was influential and had lots of money. They weren’t real friends – real friends would have put on a party for her.

The symbolism of Sammy standing their by himself distinctly reminds me of that moment, watching as they prepare a party that he has thrown to honor himself.

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This week in AFL Baseball and other notes

Saturday, November 11th, 2006

Before I begin, I want to shamelessly plug the latest podcast entry that Phil and I did for the Big League Baseball Report. In the podcast, we break down the Gary Sheffield trade and make our predictions for 11 of the top FA and their future destinations this off-season. It’s a good listen because Phil and I disagree on almost all of them. If you’d like to listen, click here to be taken to the site.

Alright, now on to the focus of the actual post. Each weekend, until it’s over, I want to let everyone know what is going on out west with our prospected. There are other leagues beside the Arizona Fall League, but none of them are as formal and as easy to follow as the AFL. While no longer a haven for top prospects like it once was, the AFL still is a valuable place to send a guy who needs some extra at bats or wants to work on getting some more experience on the mound before spring training. If you want more information on what the Arizona Fall League is all about, here is a quick blurb from my favorite site, Wikipedia.

The Arizona Fall League is a minor league baseball league which operates during the Fall in Arizona at five spring training complexes. Each August, Major League Baseball clubs hold a position draft to determine the players who will go to Arizona. Most are AA and AAA Minor League players. Each club can opt to send one player considered a Class A player. Only one foreign player is allowed, but only if that player does not come from a region that participates in winter ball. The league is designed for these prospects to refine their skills and perform in game settings in front of major and minor league baseball scouts and team executives, who are in attendance at almost every game. Play begins shortly after the end of MLB’s regular season in early October, and ends in mid-November.

The Arizona Fall League teams are not exclusive affiliates of any one team; instead, each MLB team provides six players who team up to fill the 30-man roster of each team. MLB teams also send coaches. The affiliations generally change every year.

For the Cubs, most of the names playing are not pig ones. However, a few of them could crack the 25 man roster as soon as this year. Here is the list of baby Cubs playing out west.

  • Lincoln Holdzkom – P
  • Carmen Pignatiello – P
  • Adam Harben – P
  • Jacob Fox – C
  • Scott Moore – 3B
  • Eric Patterson – 2BHere are the results for the games from this week taken from

    Monday – W (10-6) – Recap / Box Score
    Tuesday – W (21-4) – Recap / Box Score
    Wednesday – W (4-0) – Recap / Box Score
    Thursday – W (5-4) – Recap / Box Score
    Friday – L (1-2) – Recap / Box Score

    In other news, I ran across this article in the Tribune this morning. It’s an interesting idea.

    If the Cubs are for sale, Don Levin wants to buy them.Amid rampant speculation that Tribune Co. will sell all or some of its holdings, Levin, a wealthy businessman and lifelong Chicagoan, is eager to make a bid on the baseball team he has been rooting for his entire life.

    “I would never do this for the money,” said Levin, who owns Chicago’s popular minor-league hockey franchise, the Wolves. “I’d do it to be the guy who after 98 years could help make a winner of the Cubs.”

    Levin, 59, said Friday that he planned to call Cubs President John McDonough as a first step in expressing his interest and in ascertaining what Tribune’s plans are for the team and for the company.

    “Will they sell it in pieces?” he asked. “Because if they break it up and sell the Cubs separately, I hope they will talk to me. I’ll pay a fair price.

    “I’m not a television guy. I’m not a newspaper guy. That part of Tribune Co. is not what I’m looking for. But if they want a sports guy and someone who cares deeply about what happens to the Cubs, that’s me.”

    ~ Chicago Tribune – 11/11/2006

    The Wolves have been a very successful franchise that, in my mind, have almost eclipsed the popularity of the once storied Blackhawks. If he can do something like that, I trust he can do what it takes to get the Cubs in a position to win the World Series.

    And finally, congrats go out to Carlos Zambrano for winning the Silver Slugger award for the pitcher spot. He’s turning into a beast at the plate. We even joked about putting him in LF this past year. Way to go Big Z!!!

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    Gary Sheffield to the Tigers

    Friday, November 10th, 2006

    Detroit doesn’t waste time in making their club better in their retooling for next year’s run. This afternoon, it was announced that the Yankees dealt disgruntled slugger Gary Sheffield to the Tigers for three pitching prospects. Here is some info on the prospects.

    Humberto Sanchez – SP
    Picked in the 31st round in the 2001 draft, Sanchez spent his season in 2006 splitting time between AA and AAA. In AA, he went 5-3 with a 1.76 ERA in 11 starts. He was promoted to AAA where he made 9 starts. His AAA numbers were 5-3 with a 3.86 ERA. In his minor league career, he averages 8.84 K/9. He doesn’t give up the long ball very often, but does walk a few. He has improved his control significantly since being drafted though. He throws a mid 90’s fastball, an average curveball, and a below average changeup. He needs to work on that third pitch to be considered a prospect with a chance to succeed in the majors.

    Kevin Whelan – MR
    Whelan is a product of the Tiger’s 2005 draft. He was selected in the 4th round out of Texas A & M. He played catcher while in college but was converted to a middle reliever. He also throws a mid 90’s fastball, a slider, and the ever interesting pitch, the forkball. He had a great year in AA for the Tigers pitching 54 innings with a record of 4-1. He saved 27 games and had an ERA of 2.67. Look for him to move to AAA this coming season.

    Anthony Claggett – MR
    Claggett was also a product of the 2005 draft. He was selected in the 11 round. He pitched in high A ball this season and put up sick numbers. In 59.1 innings of work, he posted a 7-1 record with a 0.91 ERA. He also saved 14 games and averaged about 9 k/9.

    On the surface, it may look like this was too much for the Tigers to give up for an aging Sheffield. I disagree. The Tigers owe it to their fans to make a good run at this next year. They have a young nucleus in place already so why not try to make the big run?

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    Time for My Plan

    Friday, November 10th, 2006

    Alright everyone, the Free Agent Frenzy starts tomorrow. So, I decided to give you my plan as the new GM of the Chicago Cubs.

    Here is my off-season shopping list. I am including a quick rationale for my choice and then give you the roster breakdown.

    Barry Zito
    This one, in my mind, is a must for Jim Hendry. Nothing he could go after will say that the Cubs are serious more than getting a guy like Zito. It’s going to be a bidding war. Assuming that the Cubs have not won the Matsuzaka sweepstakes, Zito is the best pitcher on the market. Hendry needs to add him to the mix. approximate Salary – 15 million per year

    Steve Trachsel
    No, i’m not crazy on this one. Trachsel was one of my favorite pitchers when he was with the Cubs. He’s a good veteran to have in the mix and would give the Cubs a starter with experience, instead of having to turn to a guy like Marmol, Marshall, or Guzman. He would be cheap enough and valuable enough in the event we wanted to move him if Prior was 100% again. Let’s not forget too that he won 15 games last year, one behind Zito and Zambrano. That is a good number four or five pitcher if you ask me. approximate Salary – 3 million per year

    Julio Lugo
    I can’t sit through another season of Ronny Cedeno or deal with Ceasar Izturis. I watched this guy with the Devil Rays most of last season and he was the table setter for their offense. He is just 30 years old as well. He struggled out west in LA, but in Tampa, his numbers were great. He hit .308 with a .373 OBP and an .871 OPS. Couple that with 18 SB, just 4 CS and some rock solid defense and you’ve got yourself a great hitter for your lineup. Approximate Salary – 8 million per year

    Dave Roberts
    At 34 years old, Dave Roberts looks like he’s in his forties. He’s still playing well though. Last year, with the Padres, Roberts hit .293 and got on base at a .360 clip. He doesn’t hit for power, but he has the speed to steal Juan Pierre type bases. Last year he stole 49 and was successful 89% of the time. That’s well above the 70% threshold to be considered valuable. Because of his age, Roberts would allow the Cubs flexibility in going with a shorter contract to keep CF open for Pie if he ever gets his head out of his butt. Approximate Salary – 4 million per year

    Carlos Lee
    I debated whether to go for Lee or J.D. Drew. Yes, Drew is younger, but he’s very injury prone. This is going to be one of our big boppers. We can’t go sign a guy who very well could be hurt. Lee has essentially reached his peak in my opinion, but we have at least 4 years of that peak. .300 average with 35 to 40 HR and 110 to 120 RBI is a must for this offense. We need to make a second bold statement beside Zito and Lee gives us that statement. Let’s get him in here and rub it in the Sox face for what they let go. He has said he wants to play in Chicago so let’s make that happen. Approximate Salary – 14 Million per year

    Mark DeRosa
    This guy can fill out our bench very nicely, or start at 2b for us to give Theriot some time down in AAA to mature. He can play all over the infield and even plays a little in the corner outfield. He’s a hard nosed player that this team sorely needs. He’d add flexibility for Uncle Lou. Approximate Salary – 2.5 Million per year

    Greg Zaun
    I’m all for bringing back Henry Blanco. However, since the Cubs may not have that in their plans, let’s make another bold move and bring in a backup catcher that can actually hit the ball. Zaun is 35 years old, so you can’t imagine teams are going to be beating down his door. He did hit 12 homeruns last year in just 290 AB. He also had an OBP of .363, compared to Blanco’s 6 HR and .304 OBP. Approximate Salary – 1 Million per year

    2007 Opening Day Cubs Roster

    SP – Zambrano
    SP – Zito (L)
    SP – Hill (L)
    SP – Miller
    SP – Trachsel

    MR – Howry
    MR – Eyre (L)
    MR – Wuertz
    MR – Aardsma
    MR – Marshall (L)
    MR – Pignatiello (L) / O’Malley (L) – Depends on Spring Training
    CL – Dempster

    C – Barrett
    1b – Lee
    2b – Theriot or DeRosa
    SS – Lugo
    3b – Ramirez
    LF – Lee
    CF – Roberts
    RF – Jones

    C – Zaun
    IF – Izturis or Cedeno
    IF – Theriot or DeRosa
    OF – Murton
    OF – Pagan

    With my approximates in FA signings and the current roster of players, that would put the Cubs payroll at around 115 to 120 million dollars. That’s not unrealistic, especially if the Cubs are as serious about winning the World Series as our new president says they are.

    Notice that Kerry Wood is not coming back and Mark Prior is not even figured into the equation. I’d like to see the Cubs try to deal him for some top quality prospects to begin to build this farm back up.

    So sound off. You know you want to tear my plan to shreds. All I ask is that you be gentle.

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    JD Drew Files for Free Agency

    Thursday, November 9th, 2006

    Looks like JD Drew of the Dodgers had a clause in his contract that was similar to Aramis Ramirez. Drew is a terrific player, but does have a penchant for injuries. Should the Cubs make a run at him?

    Read about it.

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    What about third base?

    Thursday, November 9th, 2006

    Rotoworld has intimated that the Cubs might give Ramirez a “take it or leave it” offer; Aramis will be free to talk to other teams beginning on Saturday. I for one support this idea and hope the Cubs will make other plans quickly if Ramirez doesn’t accept their offer, reportedly worth $75 million for five years.

    One option would be to submit a bid tomorrow for Yakult Swallows third baseman Akinori Iwamura (pictured to the right.) Iwamura looks to be a 20-30 homerun guy, he’ll hit close to .300 and he definitely can play third. I expect that he will hustle on his way to first base and he probably will even bunt if asked – he also should hit the same at the beginning of the year as he does at the end. My guess is that his posting fee will be around $13 million; his stats are included below.

    The free agent market for third basemen this year is slim pickins’. Mark DeRosa leads the crop, followed by Pedro Feliz, Rich Aurillia, Tony Graffinino, Wes Helms, David Bell, Aaron Boone, Scott Spezio, Tony Batista, Jeff Cirillo and Fernando Tatis. Another complicating factor is that the Cubs don’t have any 3B prospects to speak of in their minor league system – Scott Moore projects at best as a 3B/1B bench player and lefthanded pinch-hitter.

    Hopefully the Cubs will get the job done with Ramirez tomorrow, otherwise methinks the best strategy is to outbid Cleveland, San Diego, Philadelphia and the Bosox for Iwamura.

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