Archive for October, 2007

Critiqueing the Cubs Mailbag

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

One of my favorite things to read on is the mailbag questions and answers. Each week, Carrie Muskat takes a stab at the many questions posed to her by the Cub fans out there. Sometimes I agree with her answers and sometimes I don’t. I’d like to turn it into a semi-regular feature in which we critique her answers and give the questions an answer courtesy of our site. I’ve put the original question in bold followed by Carrie’s reply all in block quotes. I’ve followed that with my response.

Tell us the Cubs are going to hold onto Prior. He is certainly young enough to make a return from rehab and continue to be a top pitcher. ~ Mark B., Cornelius, N.C.

They would like to keep Prior, but what complicates matters is that the right-hander will be a free agent after the 2008 season. Let’s say the Cubs sign him for next year, and he isn’t able to pitch until August — and then choses free agency and leaves for another team. That means the Cubs would’ve paid him for two months of work. He received $3.575 million in 2007 and didn’t make one big league start. The Cubs have invested a lot of money in the right-hander, and in a perfect world, a two-year deal with incentives through 2009 would make more sense. The question becomes whether Prior will accept that.

At this point, Mark Prior is arbitration eligible. What that means is that the Cubs have a few options. First, they can work out a contract for any number of years at any terms. Second, they could outright non-tender him, which essentially means he becomes a free agent. Or third, they could take the case to an independent arbitrator to decide. In that instance, both Prior and his camp submits their case and gives the judge a salary amount for 1 year they feel he deserves. At the same time, the Cubs also submit their case and their number and the arbitrator looks at the information and decides which number the player deserves. He can only choose from the two numbers submitted, and is not able to average the two or give any other type of number. My thinking is that if the Cubs decided to go that route, Prior’s camp is going to bring up his age, his dominant 2003, the fact that some of his injuries have been flukes and current medical reports that have him on a time table to return around opening day. My guess is that it would be a good enough case to get their number accepted. The question will be if the Cubs are willing to risk that or if they want to go the route of trying to work out some sort of deal. I see no reason why Prior would accept. It just wouldn’t be in his best interest. On a side note, Carries spelled chooses incorrectly.

I had to laugh when you said [in the Oct. 22 Mailbag] the fact the Cubs have Aramis Ramirez at third is one of the reasons Chicago wouldn’t go after Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod is decent at third, but he’s a great shortstop and that happens to be the biggest hole the Cubs have. If they don’t pursue A-Rod, it should only be because of the money he commands, not because we already have a third baseman. ~ Mike L., Las Vegas

I do know Rodriguez played shortstop — despite what some e-mailers may think — but I don’t think shortstop is the “biggest hole” the Cubs have. Ryan Theriot may never hit 50 homers or drive in 150 runs, but he’s solid offensively and defensively. Bottom line: the Cubs are not likely to pursue A-Rod because of the money he and his agent, Scott Boras, will ask for.

I agree with Carrie 100% on this one. To pursue A-Rod would he a huge mistake. Scott Boras is going to command upwards of $30 million per year for somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-10 years. That would put the end of the contract at a ripe old age of 41. Last I checked, we’ve already spent quite a bit of money in a long term contract on Alfonso Soriano. Let’s not forget that the money that goes to pay for those salaries comes ultimately out of your pocket. Seeing as how I don’t attend Wrigley Field, it’s not me who has to pay the $100 tickets that will certainly be coming soon as the payroll gets higher and higher. I agree that A-Rod is a tremendous player, and perhaps one of the best of all time, but the amount of money it’s going to take to get him just doesn’t add up. Remember, no team has ever won a world series with him.

I was wondering if there was any chance the Cubs would sign Kendall again. I read they weren’t expecting to keep him, but I think he would be a good investment because he would be able to mentor Soto and Kendall is one of the better catchers the Cubs have signed. ~ Michael H., Chicago

As far as experience, handling pitchers and being a smart ballplayer, Kendall is one of the best. He can do the little things. The downside is he threw out two of 51 basestealers. If the season opened tomorrow, Soto would be the Cubs’ starting catcher. He does need tutoring, and Kendall, a free agent, has to decide if he wants a backup role.

Not only does Kendall need to accept a backup role if he were to return, but to sign a player that is still capable of being a starter is going to take a good bit of money. With Henry Blanco already signed for $2.8 million, which is one of the most expensive backup catcher salaries in all of baseball, it would be silly to think the Cubs would invest, at a minimum, an additional $6 million to sign Kendall. If you look around the league, one of the ways these teams are winning is by trusting the talent they have within the organization. Give your young guys a chance and develop young talent so you can spend on areas of absolute necessity. It’s time for the Cubs to give that a try at the catcher position with Soto, as much as I love Jason Kendall.

You whiffed on this one. Chuck W. of Highland Park, Ill., asked last week, “Who was the last Cubs manager to make the playoffs twice during his stay in Chicago?” A quick check of history on the website shows the Cubbies won NL pennants in ’32, ’35 and ’38, all led by Jolly Cholly Grimm. Add in ’45 during his second stint, and Charlie Grimm is Chicago’s career leader in championship NL seasons. His four pennants also exceed any South Side manager as well. ~ Herb G., Anaheim, Calif.

Yes, I whiffed. Thanks to others who pointed this out. I misread the question, and thought Chuck W. wanted to know who managed the team to the playoffs in consecutive seasons. I will defer to Cubs historian Ed Hartig from now on.

Way to go Carrie. You’ve got the entire internet at your disposal and you mess it up. I’m just glad I wasn’t asked that one, because I would have been clueless without the internet.

Just before the playoffs, a story circulated that as soon as the Cubs were done playing at Wrigley Field, the field would undergo a major re-do. Is this happening and if so, what is the full nature of the project, what is being done and should it be ready for Opening Day 2008? ~ Tim B., Bensenville, Ill.

I expect an announcement soon. The outfield was re-sodded for the National League Division Series, but the Cubs have been evaluating how to improve the playing surface.

Just to update this one a little. Paul Sullivan ran a story on the 22nd that the Cubs are “awaiting city approval to begin a major renovation of the playing surface at Wrigley Field but expect to have the project completed by early December.” (Full Story)

I’ve heard that Mark Cuban put in a bid to purchase the Cubs. What are his chances of getting the rights to the Cubs? ~ Chris C., Lenoir City, Tenn.

Cuban has expressed an interest in buying the Cubs, but I’m not going to handicap who has the best chance. MLB owners will meet in Chicago in November, and there could be some discussion at that time about the team.

I’m not going to handicap the field, but I will make you this guarantee. Mark Cuban WILL NOT own the Cubs. If I’m wrong, I’ll send out a prize for the first person to e-mail me and call me out when it goes down.

I am a Cubs fan in Japan. On Oct. 18, Hiroki Kuroda, a pitcher for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in Japan, became a free agent. Last year, the Cubs wanted to acquire him. Do the Cubs want him this year? ~ Koji K., Kanagawa, Japan

The Cubs did scout Kuroda, 32, and saw the right-hander pitch several times. An 11-year Japanese league veteran, Kuroda opted not to come to the U.S. last year. It might have been because his father was battling cancer. Kuroda also had bone chips removed from his elbow. The Cubs are always looking to improve their pitching, but I’m not sure if the team will get involved in the bidding. The Cubs would not have to pay a posting fee, such as the Red Sox did to get Daisuke Matsuzaka. This year, Kuroda was 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA in 26 games, including seven complete games.

I’ve heard the Cubs named linked to Kuroda for awhile now, but I don’t think they’re genuinely interested in signing him. There is a difference between scouting and offering. I think the Cubs were merely watching to see what he had to offer. My disappointment comes in the fact that Carrie didn’t explain why there would be no posting fee, as we saw with Dice-K, Igawa, and Iwamura this past off-season. Kuroda was rumored to be coming over from Japan last year, but opted to sign to play one more year in Japan. Because he is an unrestricted free agent, it means he’s free to sign wherever he chooses, including a totally different country. The reason for the posting fee system is two fold. First, it compensates the Japanese team that is losing a player under contract. They get the posting fee to help ease their burdens. Second, it’s designed to be a way to assure every team, including small market teams, have a fair shot at foreign players. The system is broken, which is a post for another day. The main point is why he would not require the posting fee.

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Through The Rear View

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

I was tempted to do this piece earlier in the year, but it still didn’t feel right to me. As I considered the subject matter for this latest installment of Through The Rear View, I was still thinking of the upcoming world series and the drama that it took to get a team like the Rockies to the fall classic. How it seemed, that down the stretch, there was a strange sense of destiny for the Rockies to get where they are now. Every hit that they needed, and every out that they had to have somehow seemed to fall the way of the Rockies. I remember that I felt the same way in 2003 when I felt that the Cubs were riding the same sort of mystical wave into the playoffs and beyond. All they way up until those fateful nights in October, versus the Marlins. My look back on those days will always include certain players and certain events. One of those players is Samuel Sosa Peralta. Sammy Sosa. Slammin’ Sammy.

Sammy represents the paradox of my Cubs fandom. My love for the Cubs blinded me for a while with Sammy. It was hard to look past his incredible late life growth spurt, but I did it. It was hard to not cheer for the guy who seemed to always be smiling and enjoying his time at the ball park. The guy that tried his hardest to steal the home run race away from the Goliath, never mind that it was another extension of the Cubs-Cards rivalry. I was admittedly caught up in it.

Little by little though, it grew harder to not look past his antics, corked bats, and everything else. I became aware that I had become one of those fans. One of those fans who conveniently looks past the problems at home to complain about guys like Barry Bonds and other alleged cheaters. These revelations and realizations are part of the reason that I am (kind of) against the potential sale of the Cubs to one Mark Cuban. I just don’t want to become THAT organization to the rest of the world, if Cuban becomes the owner and the Cubs suddenly win a championship. I don’t want anything to taint the organization more than history already has. I honestly don’t know what would be worse. The scenario that I laid out above, or the Cubs becoming the Washington Redskins of baseball. People giggling, while the organization and owner spends boatloads of money and still can’t build a winner. I almost can’t help to think that it would be door number two, if I had to choose. While Dan Snyder’s prowess as a shrewd businessman may not have translated into success with the Redskins, he does at least dress and act the part, while maintaining some dignity and respect. In a way it’s a catch-22.

Yet, I digress…

I’m not going to get into the whole statistical analysis of Sammy’s 17 year career or his rise to the professional ranks. There are half a dozen statistical web pages that will do that for you. I am simply going to wonder aloud about what might be next for Sammy Sosa. I genuinely hope retirement.

Seriously. Because of the love I once shared for Sammy with the majority of the Cubs Nation, I hope the man retires. Despite all that has transpired with his relationship with the CUbs he is still an indelible part of our history.

Think about it. His walk away now, would be a pretty storybook ending to a colorful and not always storybook career. Look at it. Sammy comes back after a mysterious year off to cleanse his…soul. He comes back to the team where it all started for him. Then he battles back from the minor leagues to get another shot at the big leagues. Showing the talent and ability that he always had, a smaller Sammy comes back to post pretty decent numbers
(AVG .252 | HR 21 | RBI 92 | OBP .311 | SLG .468)

Not a statistical bonanza by any means, but definitely a victory for the sake of his legacy. A milestone year in which he became the first player to hit a home run off of every team in the league. A feat he reached in conjunction with becoming only the fifth player in baseball history to hit 600 home runs. His 600thoff of the team he had built his legend with and doing it while batting against the pitcher wearing his former number. There is something strangely poetic, ironic, and almost scripted about all of that. Isn’t there?

So, why not put the whole thing to bed and retire. While I doubt that Sammy will do it, I wish that he would. There were certainly enough times in Sammy’s life that he did what I wished him to do, why not this?

As we drive on, that’s my View Through The Rear View.

Through the Rear View appears every Wednesday. If you have a topic to suggest, send Tony an E-mail.

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Looking Back at the Transactions – Offseason Edition

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

I’d like to take a look back at the season from a transaction standpoint and break down what went well and what went not so well. I picked out a few key moves that took place this year to look at how our GM did. We’ll start with what happened leading up to the year that was 2007.

November 9th, 2006 – Signed Wade Miller as a free agent

Thought Process: My guess is that with the health of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood in doubt, Hendry would take a chance on Wade Miller who returned from surgery in 2006 to start five games for the Cubs. He pitched in a somewhat limited role in an all but meaningless time of the year, but the Cubs were encouraged by the short outings. At a salary of $1.5 million, it’s not to hard to see the rationale.

How it turned out: – Let’s just say it didn’t go too well for Wade. After starting the year at the fifth starter, which is a death sentence in the early part of the year due to rainouts and off days, Miller made three starts. He was shelled in Milwaukee (who wasn’t this year?), got through five innings against San Diego and then ended his year by getting blasted by the Cardinals. He was placed on the 15 day DL in late April and was eventually transferred to the 60 day DL before finally being granted his unconditional release in August.

Verdict: This one was probably the wrong move in hindsight, but it was worth the risk.

November 14, 2006 – Signed Mark DeRosa as a free agent

I’m proud to say that I endorsed this move even before it was made. At the same time, I also wanted the Cubs to bring in Steve Trachsel in that same post. Many saw Mark DeRosa as someone who had a career year in an extended sub / spot starter role in 2006. I really felt good about DeRosa and I’m glad Hendry did too. To me, we saw a player that simply needed to play on a regular basis. Some players are just like that. They can’t do well as a bench player. On a side note, I was way off on the amount I thought it would take to sign Greg Zaun, who signed for $3.5 million, not $1 million.

Verdict: Definite win for Jim Hendry

November 16, 2006 – Traded David Aardsma and Carlos Vasquez (minors) to the Chicago White Sox. Received Neal Cotts

Boy, if the season was just one month, this would have been one of the best trades in history for both teams. Both guys completely stunk in 2006 for their teams. Both were in need of a change of scenery in a bad way. For the Cubs, Aardsma was supposed to be a potential future closer after coming over in the deal that sent LaTroy Hawkins to the Giants in 2005. For Cotts, after a lights out 2005, he bottomed out in 2006. After the month of April, things went sour for both players, with Cotts and Aardsma both out of action by early June.

Verdict: Push

November 20, 2007 – Signed Alfonso Soriano as a free agent

This is probably the biggest area of discussion for everyone. A lot of people are mixed on the feelings for this move. You can make the argument that the Cubs would not have been in the playoffs without this move, but you can also argue that the money could have been spent elsewhere and still improved the team. It’s hard to refute either argument. If I had to make a decision on this move right now, I’d say it was a mistake, but one we had to make. My fear now is that with Soriano having the leg issues, you have to wonder if he’ll be subject to them in the future. Alfonso Soriano without the legs is not worth the money we paid for him. However, if we get the Soriano with power AND speed in 2008, I think you’ll see a lot of people change their tune.

Verdict: TBD, but looking to be a loss for Hendry

December 6, 2006 – Traded Freddie Bynum to the Baltimore Orioles. Received a player to be named later (Kevin Hart)

At the time, no one really cared about this deal. In fact, I would venture to guess that most didn’t even remember the deal until I mentioned it now. When Kevin Hart came over from Baltimore, he had trouble with his motion and was not a major factor in the Baltimore Orioles plans. He was a throw in for the deal to get Bynum and the Cubs turned him into a player who made key contributions down the stretch. Credit the Cubs scouting department and their minor league coaches for turning Hart into a player that has a legit chance at making the rotation outright out of spring training.

Verdict: A win for Hendry with potential to be a big win.

December 7th, 2006 – Drafted Josh Hamilton via Tampa Bay in the Rule 5 draft and then sold him to the Reds

Who knew a doped up addict would turn in a decent year for once? I don’t know where the Cubs would have played Hamilton anyway, especially seeing that they would have had to keep him on the active roster or return him to Tampa Bay. My guess is that they knew that and drafted him for the sole purpose of making a little money in the process.

Verdict: I actually like this move. I’m not sold on Hamilton’s return from addiction. Once you’re an addict, you’re always an addict. I hope he’s completely sober and stays that way, but I like that the Cubs took some money for a player they weren’t able to use anyway.

December 19, 2006 – Signed Jason Marquis as a free agent.

This is another one of those moves that if the season was a lot shorter, it would have looked brilliant. Unfortunately, the Cubs bought a pitcher that pitches well in the first half but not so well in the second half. Lifetime, Marquis is 43-28 with an ERA of 4.22 in the first half and just 25-33 with an ERA of 4.97 in the second half. It’s hard to say that’s worth the money spent.

Verdict: I would have rather seen us spend the money elsewhere. Maybe we can try to move Marquis in June next year around the time he’s due to go in the toilet.

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Expanding on the Hendry Q & A

Monday, October 22nd, 2007 ran a Q & A with Jim Hendry the other day. I decided that I’d post my responses to the questions and Jim’s answers. Here is the source of the article. Did anything that happened in the NLDS help you in terms of determining what needs to be done to make the Cubs better in 2008?

Hendry: Not necessarily. From June 1 on, we were the second-best team in all of baseball. It wasn’t like in April or May we beat the Rockies five out of seven. We finished the second half and played extremely well to get in, and we got beat. That same team that looked so good against us [in the NLDS], they turned around and in the next four games, got swept. I thought the Phillies were the best team in the league in September — that’s what our scouts were telling us. When we played the Phillies, it was a tough match for us. And they were three and out [against Colorado]. It’s baseball. If Cleveland beats Boston, it doesn’t mean Boston wasn’t the best team in the American League over 162 games.

Joe Aiello: I’ve got a few things for you Jim. Double plays sound familiar? How about all the runners left on base? How about the fact that our biggest bats in the lineup forgot to show up for the series? You can tell yourself that your team was the “second-best team in all of baseball” after June 1, but what matters most is what you do from October 1st and on and your team was probably the worst. So you don’t say, “OK, we need to add players to improve situational hitting?”

Hendry: No. You have to look at it globally. In the second half, we were saying we need to get better on this and that for next year. That was talked about and kicked around before somebody had a bad game in the playoffs. We’re not going to turn our back on Rich Hill, for example, because he had a bad game, or say, “Gee, Ted Lilly was terrible that night [in Game 2 of the NLDS] — what are we going to do with Ted?” We wouldn’t have been playing in the postseason without Ted.

You want to improve and you want to change things. Even if you’re the World Champions, I think you come into camp next year with four or five different guys on your roster. That’s the way the game is now.

Joe Aiello: Jim, the question was about situational hitting and you decide to make your argument with pitching? Why not just answer the writer that called you out with a tough question? Will most of those changes come from within the Cubs system or will you be active in the free agent market?

Hendry: I don’t know. It’s too early to tell. One thing we’ve been good at in the offseason is with new acquisitions and the free agent signings, which were very good last year, but you can’t predict outside help. You can’t predict somebody wants to come to your place. We’ve had a good track record — people want to play here. Trade-wise, we tried to make a trade or two that would’ve been as significant or more last year than probably any of our free agent signings except [Alfonso] Soriano, and sometimes they don’t work out. The other team isn’t obligated to trade you their better players.

Joe Aiello: What free agents before this year have been overly good? LaTroy Hawkins? Glendon Rusch? Nomar Garciaparra? Perhaps it was the great signing of Neifi Perez or Wade Miller. I’m a fan of your trading, Jim, but don’t get too carried away and think that because your free agent signings did well this year it means you’re the free agent signing god. I have a tough time convincing fans that.

Hendry: That’s OK. We haven’t made a lot of bad trades over time. You try to look at ways to help your club. If you want to make a trade, you have to go into the offseason thinking you have to have something that’s going to help them, as much as the guy you’re going to get is going to help you.

You probably get a hundred suggestions [from the fans] — “Why don’t they trade this guy and that guy and get so and so?” Those guys, they’re talking about the other team might not want to trade. I think a great majority of the GM’s feel the same way I do, that if you’re going to make a good trade in the modern day now, it’s going to have to be talent for talent.

Every club is doing exactly what we’re doing. Every club is putting their plan together, the one or two things they really need, the things they’d like to get to augment the club. You have to be cognizant of that. You say, “I’m willing to help you maybe even a little more than I’m getting back at times to get that fit.” That’s what we’ll try to do.

Joe Aiello: I agree that sometimes you have to take back less than you want, but don’t go out there and admit that, please. Is finding a regular catcher a top priority?

Hendry: I’m happy with [Geovany] Soto. I think Soto has a great chance to be the catcher on Opening Day.

Joe Aiello: I agree 100%. I don’t think you can afford to make an offer to Jason Kendall based on his resurgence down the stretch, and you already have close to $3 million invested in Henry Blanco. Give Soto a shot and see if he can turn into the real deal behind the plate for cheap. Does the Tribune Co.’s situation and the pending sale of the Cubs affect what you can do this offseason?

Hendry: I don’t think so. I believe in the near future, I’ll get the payroll for the offseason. I have no complaints about how we went about our business in the last 12 months. Everything that [team president John McDonough] told me and [Tribune executives Dennis FitzSimons and Crane Kenney] above John told us that we would be able to do last offseason and this season, they backed that up. There’s been no indication that we’re not going to do anything but go forward.

I commend the company for allowing us to try to put the best product on the field in very tough times for them. It’s very admirable to sit in this seat, knowing what they went through in the last 12 months, and whether it was all the things we did in the offseason and signing [Carlos] Zambrano for $91.5 million, there was never a “No.”

I believe our payroll will go up [in 2008]. I don’t know how much. If it stayed the same or close to the same, I wouldn’t complain about it.

Joe Aiello: The one thing that makes me a little nervous about Jim’s response here is the first sentence. Any time he’s been asked about if the sale of the team affects his ability to make trades or sign players, he has always stated that it doesn’t. To see him say now, “I don’t think so”, makes me a little nervous that he’s not 100% certain it won’t come into play. I don’t look for a big off-season from this team. Will there be any changes to manager Lou Piniella’s coaching staff?

Hendry: I’ll go see Lou this next week [to discuss that]. We won the division, and I felt [the coaches’] work ethic was good. I think you have to give the coaching staff credit, not just Lou, when you’re in last place at the end of May, and you end up having the fortitude to win the division.

Joe Aiello: The only one I could see being removed would be Mike Quade. I’m not sure where they’d send him, but I don’t expect him to coach third base next season. The Cubs farm system has been maligned in the past, and this season produced several standout players who contributed.

Hendry: We felt last offseason, the farm system was better than advertised. When the big league club had a bad year, like last year, and somebody doesn’t come up and be Willie Mays right away, the whole farm system was maligned. It wasn’t easy to sit back all winter and watch [player development director Oneri Fleita] take some abuse I knew he didn’t deserve, and I’m glad for him now [to be rewarded with a promotion]. [The Cubs’ farm system] was never maligned in the general manager world by my peers. I think a lot of people critical of our farm system couldn’t name 10 people in our farm system.

The other thing that people don’t realize is that way larger than 50 percent of the equation of player development is your scouting department. It doesn’t matter who you are, but if you don’t have the talent to begin with, it’s hard to develop them. We now have arguably if not the top, certainly one of the top three scouting directors in baseball [in Tim Wilken]. You have a 20-year history with Tim and you can put his record up against anybody. I see an upswing in our farm system after his first two Drafts. If he can do that for three or four more, and we’re increasing our commitment in Latin America, and increasing our commitment in Asia and Europe, we’ll get even better. Do we have a little gap of the same kind of players maybe the last two drafts from a couple previous? Yes. Maybe some of the guys we were high on in Tim’s Draft, maybe they won’t pan out.

I can promise as a general manager, I have zero worries that between Tim Wilken, and Fleita, and [scouts] Paul Weaver and Steve Wilson in the international market we will have a continual flow of Major League players.

Joe Aiello: I really like Tim Wilken. During his tenure with the Blue Jays, they had 12 straight first round picks reach the Majors. Roy Halladay, Shannon Stewart, and Vernon Wells are just a few of the names. If he can do with the Cubs what he did in Toronto and Tampa Bay in terms of young talent, the Cubs will be in great shape. I’m excited to monitor some of the young talent this year in the minor league focus.

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From Right Field – Moneyball

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Typically, I go in phases when it comes to reading. I’ll chew books up and spit them out in great regularity for periods of time, and then I burn myself out, and not turn a page for weeks. My wife and I have recently moved, and in doing so, we’ve made trips to the local library a scheduled event. I’d always heard about the book, “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis and had attempted to pick up a copy while killing time in airports during business travel. It never worked out. Two weeks ago, my wife came home with a little surprise, she looked it up, and sure enough the local library had a copy. I was off and reading.

For those of you that haven’t heard of “Moneyball,” the basic gist of it is how the Oakland A’s General Manager, Billy Beane, has consistently put the organization on the winning side of baseball since he came on board. Billy and his staff, which at the time of writing consisted of Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi, turned baseball on it’s head, with their new approach at how and what attributes are more important in determining winning in baseball. Stats, that “old man’s club” in baseball would like to make us think of as important, really are meaningless, where as On Base Percentage, Walks, Pitches per At Bat, etc., are more heavily weighted. Obviously, Mr. Beane and his crew were onto something, as we saw in the early 2000’s. Even as they lost players like Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada, they continued to win.

For my taste, I’m not much into Sabermetrics, as I am completely math challenged, but Micheal Lewis begins with the touching on the history of this newer stat idea by discussing Bill James’ approach, and his thought processes gaining a toehold with others throughout the the last three decades. It’s light in math, and more into the history of how James came up with the roots of Sabermetrics. As someone that loves to just get a glimpse into the psyche of a baseball player, Lewis also tells the tale of Billy Beane’s major league career after being a high draft pick. I actually found the thought process that Billy went through being a young player fascinating. Mostly because he had some of the same thoughts running through his head, as I do when I’m thinking about my silly little baseball “career.” At a higher level of competition, it was somewhat comforting knowing that even a guy with loads more talent still questioned himself on a daily basis.

The second two thirds of the book really begin to cover how Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta ran the Oakland A’s during two of the most extraordinary seasons by one team. To top it, with one of the smallest payrolls. They’d put a winning product out on the field, with no name players, draft picks that weren’t highly sought after, and making sure Art Howe managed to fit their new way of thinking. It’s really no wonder that teams like the D-Backs, Rockies, and Indians (three smaller market teams) made the playoffs. One which is awaiting for either the Red Sox, another team that is following Beane’s model, or the Indians. If you haven’t picked up this book, I recommend that you do. You’ll see baseball management in a whole new light. And perhaps you’ll start to get a bit angry at how a team like Oakland can be competitive each year, while the Cubs cannot.

Matt’s Notes:

  • Saturday night I began to watch the Red Sox / Indians’ game. I know Joe loves Mr. Buck, but I can’t stand him. Even worse, is Tim McCarver. I’ve never listened to a guy that has absolutely no clue as much as him…well, with the exception of Joe Morgan. He was lamenting on how could any player lay off a pitch that looked to be right down the middle. Upon the replay, as you could see even during the actual pitch, the ball was really low and inside. I think only a terrible hitter wouldn’t be able to lay off that pitch Tim, or might that have been you?
  • We channel flipped Saturday night between the Bulls’ pre-season game, the Red Sox / Indians, and the Illini / Michigan game. It wasn’t until later in that game that Brent “I gotta tell ya, there’s the big fella” Musburger came up with this horrific statement, “They pulled out some trickeration.” Trickeration? You’ve got to be kidding me. Brent, you’re homerishness is reaching new levels.
  • My fingers are crossed for a Tribe win tonight. I thought the series would go seven, and here we are. Go Tribe! UPDATE: Booooooo!!!!
  • A much needed vacation is scheduled for this week. No “From Right Field” next Monday. I’ll catch everyone in two weeks.
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