Archive for December, 2006

A Tribute to Ernie Banks

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

Saturday and Sunday are slow days for readers. With that being said, we’ll be running small, simple things on the weekend. Generally they will be videos, pictures, or even links. Here is an example. A nice YouTube tribute to our own, Ernie Banks.

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No Offense, but I Take Offense

Friday, December 29th, 2006

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m addicted to the Hardball Times. If you haven’t had a chance to pick up their 2007 Baseball Annual, you really need to look into that. It’s loaded with great articles that will help you cope with the off-season down time that is the month of January. One of my favorites is the review of the World Baseball Classic, which is an event I didn’t have much time to watch. Reading their breakdown was a nice treat. Anyway, enough about that and on to what I wanted to talk about.

Geoff Young, who blogs about the Padres on Ducksnorts, wrote a column entitled “Thirty New Years Wishes for Thirty Teams” in which he basically broke down each team briefly. I took offense with his wish for the Cubs.

Cubs: A way to get back some of the $294 million they spent on free agents this winter. Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but giving huge wads of cash to the likes of Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis just ensures more desperate times. In Lilly’s case, though, he at least has one consecutive year of not sucking.

There are many that don’t like the money that Jim Hendry has spent this off-season, but I can’t understand why. Offense and pitching, so basically everything, was what we needed and it’s exactly what Hendry added.

Coming into this off-season, we needed to bring back Aramis Ramirez. Hendry did that in remarkable fashion by not allow the negotiations to get out of hand and move through the month of December. With virtually no free agent third basemen on the market, Hendry sensed the urgency and brought back the best one on the market at a slight home town discount. Sure, you can argue that a guy like Akinori Iwamura may have been a better option, but I disagree. Iwamura is a risk because he’s a foreign player with no MLB experience. Essentially, he’s a crap shoot that we can’t afford to gamble on. If he busts, we’re stuck with another Kevin Orie at third and longing for the good ole’ Ron Santo days. Ramirez, when surrounded by other hitters in the lineup who can protect him and help carry the load, is one of the best offensive third basemen in the game today. Baseball Prospectus has Ramirez ranked 5th among all 3B with at least 500 AB’s in 2006 in terms of VORP.

1. Miguel Cabrera – 78.7
2. Garrett Atkins – 62.7
3. David Wright – 54.3
4. Alex Rodriguez – 51.6
5. Aramis Ramirez – 44.5

Obviously there is a big gap between Ramirez and Cabrera, but when you factor in the fact that Atkins plays at Coors, it brings him down closer to Wright. So, Ramirez is close enough to be considered one of the top 3 in the majors, especially considering that the numbers he had last year were basically done without Derrek Lee in the lineup.

Others will complain that the Lilly and Marquis signings were not the right moves for this team, but I also take offense on this one as well. People tend to look at the contracts they signed and immediately look at the half empty cup of Cubs Kool Aid and not want to drink. You need to remember that the Cubs are not a poor team. People are constantly complaining that the Tribune Co. is never opening the wallet. This year, there were three huge names on the market in terms of FA. Barry Zito, Jason Schmidt, and Daisuke Matsuzaka were all potential # 1 starters available. The Cubs did not go out and get any of them, much to the dismay of the majority of fans. However, by going out and addressing the pitching need by bringing in Lilly, it allowed Hendry the opportunity to play a hunch when we signed Marquis. We were able to add two pitchers for the cost of just one of the other three.

If you look at the VORP for pitchers who pitched at least 150 innings last year, Lilly ranks 49th, which tells me that he’s a low # 2 starter if you take the top 30 and make them Aces. I’ll take that. Taking a look at Lilly’s Translated Pitching Stats, which is a way of converting pitching stats into a standard context. Lilly’s numbers are as follows:

Stats Wins Loss ERA
Actual 15 13 4.31
Translated 17 13 3.90

That’s a good looking set of numbers when you factor in the fact that he may have lost a few wins due to offense. With the Cubs upgrade this off-season, I think he’ll get more than enough run support to win 17 games in 2007.

Marquis numbers also translate out a little better. He doesn’t pick up any additional wins or losses, but he does see his ERA go from 6.02 to 5.26. I’ll be honest with you. I have no idea what went wrong in 2006 for Marquis. All I know is that he credits it to mechanical issues that have been diagnosed and fixed. If that’s the case, is it possible that we could see a return to 2005 form when he had 13 wins and an ERA of 4.13? Or is it possible that we could even see a return to the 15-7 season in 2004 with an ERA of 3.71? Hendry isn’t dumb. He spent a lot of time as a scout and was the Director of Player Development, in charge of scouting and minor league operations. He knows prospects and I believe he has the ability to see talent when maybe others do not. He saw potential in Michael Barrett and Ramirez when no one did. Those guys are anchors now for us.

Complain if you want about this off-season, but does it really make the job of being a Cub fan easier or more fun? Why not get excited that this team will be significantly better than last year and has the real possibility of winning the division this season.

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Barry Zito worth 8 Years?

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

And you thought Jim Hendry was crazy for what he gave Alfonso Soriano. Apparently, Barry Zito has rejected offers from the Texas Rangers and is likely to sign with the Giants.

A diary on the McCovey Chronicles mentions that the deal could be for 7 years and $126 million dollars.

No source is quoted so take that for what it’s worth. Regardless, this seems to be where Free Agency is headed and it is something that Major League Baseball needs to get under control or they risk completely pricing out small teams with low payrolls from the entire market.

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January Writing Project

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

As we head into the new year, I figured I would steal an idea I saw and participated in on a blog called ProBlogger. Each month, he runs a community writing project. My thinking is that we can turn this into a fun monthly feature on this site and even offer some prizes. This is a new concept, so we’ll start real easy.

The Topic
This month’s topic will be a fun one. In 500 to 750 words, make three predictions for the upcoming Cub’s season and explain your reasoning for each one.

The Rules
All entries for the competition need to be submitted via E-mail to joe@viewfromthebleachers.com by 5pm EDT on January 19th. We reserve the right to edit for spelling and readability purposes. After all the posts are in, the best ones will be posted over the next week and a winner will be chosen.

The Prize
This month, the prize is a good one. The winner of our contest will receive a brand spankin’ new copy of The 2007 Bill James Handbook. It’s loaded with stats and the usual quality Bill James analysis. What better way to ease through the off-season than to sift through this gem of a book.

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All Your Secrets Exposed

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

What would you do if someone stole your identity? Suddenly, all your deep, dark secrets would be known. Got a lot of debt on your credit card? They’d know about it. I can’t imagine how frustrating that would be, especially if it was due to no error on your part. That was the case for a number of baseball players according to a story I found the other day.

CLEVELAND — Former Indians player Jim Thome is one of close to 90 major leaguers whose identity could be at risk.

SFX Sports represents some of the biggest names in a variety of sports, and police said 38-year-old David Dright went through a Dumpster outside the agency’s Northbrook, Ill., office and recovered personal information on 80 to 100 Major League ballplayers.

“He was actually going through trash receptacles or Dumpsters and recovered numerous paperwork, documents, things like that,” said Detective Adam Hyde, of the Lincolnshire police.

Police weren’t looking for the ballplayers personal documents when they searched Dright’s Chicago apartment but knew what they had once they found them.

An attorney for SFX said they will work with their clients to ensure no identities were compromised, and Illinois police are doing the same.

“We’ve been in contact with Major League Baseball, also the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, and we’ve also contacted some of the players individually,” said Detective John Anderson.

Police said it appears that Dright attempted to get credit cards using the identities of at least two players. The extent of the fraud won’t be known until police can process Dright’s computer.

I wish those guys all the best. No matter how much people loathe the amount of money professional athletes get paid, we can’t help but to feel bad for them when something like this happens. Especially around the holidays.

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Cubs Quotes

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

These were taken from Baseball Prospectus:

“I have something to prove to myself and the city of Chicago, and that’s about it. I know what I’m capable of doing, and the Cubs know what I’m capable of doing. There’s a big upside.” ~ Jason Marquis

“He was going to get $20 million to $21 million from three or four different teams. That was definite.” ~ Jim Hendry, on signing Marquis.

“It’s not about saving money; it’s about feeling comfortable with what we have. The problem is what’s going on next door, [with the Cubs] throwing money around the way they have.” ~ White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen on the Brandon McCarthy deal.

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Nothin Happening…So Let’s Laugh

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

Here is a video to take you down memory lane.

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Twas the night before Christmas (NOT)

Sunday, December 24th, 2006

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that Jim Hendry would soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their bed,
While visions of World Series championships danced in their heads,
And mama in her Cubs tee, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap…
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of mid-day to baseballs below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature Cubs Caravan, and eight Cubs with Old Style beer,
With old Yosh Kawano, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be a first round pick.
More rapid than Cardinals his players they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Cedeno! now, Soto! now Wuertz and Zambrano!
On, Ramirez! on Theriot! on, Pie* and Soriano!
To the top of the bleachers! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the broadcast booth the beat writers they flew,
With the rack of corked bats, His Samminess too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the tarp
The plucking and sounding of each little harp.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the clubhouse tunnel Jim Hendry came with a bound.
He was dressed in hospital scrubs, from his head to his shoes,
And his clothes were all tarnished with pizza and booze.
A bundle of free agent signings he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes — how they twinkled — his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His most recent contracts were drawn up like a bow,
And the whites of Trib ownership’s eyes were as white as the snow.
The stump of a cigar he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook, when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the players’ bank accounts; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the VIP elevator he rose.
He sprang to his limousine, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

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Slammin’ Sammy

Saturday, December 23rd, 2006

Over the past few days, word has leaked out that Sammy Sosa wants to make a comeback in a quest to reach the 600 homerun plateau. According to the Associated Press, Sammy reports “I feel like I did when I was a rookie. I have a lot of spirit and a desire to return. I think I can play three or four more years in the form I am now.”

There has been some debate on this site over the idea of whether or not the Cubs should even consider retiring his jersey. While I don’t think they should go that far, I do think that the organization should attempt to reconcile with Sosa. Whether you hate him or not, you can’t throw away the contributions he made for the Cubs in his time here. When you take a look at the career leaderboards for the Cubs organization, Sosa appears prominently.

Leaderboards (Rank in Parenthesis)
Slugging % – .569 (2nd)
OPS – .927 (2nd)
Games – 1811 (10th)
At Bats – 6990 (8th)
Runs – 1245 (6th)
Hits – 1985 (9th)
Total Bases – 3980 (4th)
Homeruns – 545 (1st)
RBI – 1414 (3rd)
Walks – 798 (6th)

Now obviously you can’t discount the fact that he walked out on the team and lied about it. But does that discount him from all of the Cubs history? I don’t think it does. What are your thoughts?

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