Archive for November, 2007

McDonough Leaves for the Blackhawks

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

From the Chicago Tribune: “Cubs president John McDonough will be introduced as the new president of the Blackhawks at a noon news conference Tuesday at the United Center.

Hawks chairman Rocky Wirtz, who took over operations of the team following the death of his father William Wirtz in September, will present the team’s new president.

McDonough was scheduled to meet with Cubs department heads at 9 a.m. and speculation around Wrigley Field offices was that he would be leaving the club.”

I for one, am sadden by this, as McDonough was a key figure in what looked to be the revitalization of the franchise. More importantly putting a winning product on the field. Obviously, with the status of the Cubs ownership in the air, it’s a wise career move for him, so it’s understandable. It makes me ownder if news about the sale of the team maybe closer than we think, or he just felt it was time to jump ship.

I wish him the best, and hopefully he can get some excitement back into the Blackhawks. Lord knows they need it, as I’m not sure anyone knows they exist anymore, except for the die hard NHL fans.

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Come Ye Thankful People

Monday, November 19th, 2007

OK so it is Thanksgiving week and I want to begin a list of baseball things that I am thankful for. I know this is like a Fourth Grade writing assignment, but it might have some interesting things in it. Please add your own…

1. Leading the way
This Fall I have been reading a book called Opening Day by Jonathan Eig about baseball’s integration. It is an amazing story and Jackie Robinson is a tremendous hero. You should read the book. In the great Ken Burns documentary “Baseball” it is mentioned that in our national history there have been times where baseball has actually “led the way.” This was a time. I love this so much that my son’s middle name is Robinson. I also love that his number is retired all throughout baseball.
On a side note: I hate that entire teams wore his number on Jackie Robinson day this year. The Dodgers yes. A player per team yes. Entire teams no…it takes away from the meaning.

2. The All Star Game
I don’t care about all of your issues with the All Star Game. It is the best, most exciting on paper idea in sports. I love almost everything about it. I love the pomp. I love the player intros and the decor on the field. I love the fan voting and the memories of punching out the tiny holes on the punch cards on the stands. I love seeing the best and most popular players mixed together on the field each standing next to each other wearing different uniforms. I love Jorge Posada bringing his son out during the intros. I love A-Rod handing shortstop to Ripken during his final all star game. And I love, love, love Tommy Lasorda getting knocked down in the third base box that year…and of course Don Zimmer in the dugout laughing about it.
On a side note: I hate Chris Berman…he almost ruins the entire thing.

3. The clutch hit
There is almost nothing more exciting or devastating in sports than the clutch hit. The batter awaits the pitch and CRACK!!! the swing, the crowd noise, the announcer punctuating it with “BASE HIT” or “THERE IT GOES.” Remember Harry Caray’s rasp and brilliant “BASE HIT!!! CUBSWINCUBSWINCUBSWIN HOOOLY COW!!!!” How about Len Kasper’s puberty like voice change during the Cubs comeback against the Rockies at Wrigley this year. How about the Pujols home rum against Lidge that I think just landed.

4. The Vaudevillian side show
Remember when Morgana the kissing bandit would run on the field and they would actually allow it. I know that she would get arrested, but are you going to tell me that Morgana didn’t attract enough attention while sitting in the stands that she could have been stopped earlier. Baseball is sol drawn out that it has this odd side show about it. Think about it, a group sing along during a game. A timed break in between every three outs. How about sausage races and “Roll out the barrel.” Amazing!!!

5. The Moments
Kirk Gibson. Bobby Thompson. Carlton Fisk waving. Buckner’s legs. Jeter’s behind the back. The thought that this list can be added to every year. How many plays from any other sport have the same impact and are was easily remembered?

6. Mr. November
The country is grieving and baseball provides a respite. Following September 11, 2001 the nation was able to find some healing in the playoffs and World Series, fittingly in New York. President Bush climbs the mound in game one at Yankee Stadium and throws a strike…He threw a strike!!! Have you seen politicians throw opening pitches? Think about the pressure, and the throwing with a bullet proof vest on, and on and on. He threw a strike. Jaw dropping courage. Yet, sadly it was merely symbolic.

7. Poetry
The game is perfectly poetic. Long summer days and a long season filled with long games. 60 feet six inches. Ninety feet down the line. Wind affected fly balls. Bunts, and hit and runs. The ability to sit around take in a game and just enjoy life. The green of the field exploding in your eyes with the first peek through the concourse. The parent/child “Let’s play catch.”

8. Renaissance
I love the new baseball. I love interleague play and the wildcard. I love new stadiums and the fact that those stadiums have reembraced the old. I love that many of those stadiums have revitalized the cities and the teams that they represent. I love that most have manual scoreboards and that you can see what the scores are from around the league. I love that smart GM’s can build teams that have much stronger resources yet dumber GM’s who don’t know how to build teams.

9. “Centerfield”
How many good baseball movies and songs are there? Some really good movies revolve around baseball. Like really good movies. How about The Natural ( Bah Bum…Bah Bum Bum Bum)? Or “If you build it they will come”? I love the story of baseball and that can be told about baseball. And I love the song “Centerfield.” There is also a song “Right Field.” (It’s important you know.) Somebody should write a left field song.

10. Players that are so natural
Am I crazy or is Ken Griffey Jr’s swing one of the most purely gorgeous things around? What about how good A-Rod is? The heart of Derek Jeter. The intimidation of David Ortiz. The mastery of Greg Maddux. Some years back I remember an announcer saying that “It seems like Barry Bonds bats more than once in the line up…” because of the way that he impacted the games he was in. Baseball breeds the brilliant superstar…and in ways more than any other sport…the fall from grace.

11. Inside secrets and jokes
The blue and white flags. Eamus catuli. The guest conductor (which should cease immediately). The Harry Caray window. Throw the home run back. Right field sucks. Waveland and Sheffield. The rooftops. The ivy. Welcome to the Friendly Confines. All things particular to Cubdom. Most teams have these and this make baseball great.

12. The Hall of Fame
There is something sacred about the plaque wing of the Hall of Fame. Hear this: If you are a baseball fan you need to go. I mean it, get up now and go…Just GO!! You will lose your breath. You might actually cry.

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One Big Asterisk

Monday, November 19th, 2007

Over the weekend, news of Berry Bonds indictment of perjury, and obstruction of justice was the talk of sports networks, and radio. Even on my short weekend trip, I wasn’t able to avoid all the segments being produced. It started on Thursday night with an opening story on “Nightline,” and continued through this morning as I watched “Outside the Lines” in my hotel room.

Many of you know that I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of Barry Bonds. Even as a kid something about him just rubbed me the wrong way. It was about three years ago when things started heating up in this, that I stated to a co-worker that if anything happened it would be for these exact charges. They’d never get him on steroid use, but he keeps changing his story, and sooner or later it was going to catch up with him.

As I sat there listening to “Outside the Lines” this morning, it got me thinking. Which is usually trouble, and often makes me mad, and then I rant. This whole thing is going to put baseball into a bad light. Stories of the Mitchell Report stating that Major League Baseball knew Bonds failed drug tests, and hid them, makes them just as much of the problem as the players using. If it’s the case, I for one, will get that queasy feeling in my stomach much like I did during the strike. I want my sports played on an even playing field. I certainly don’t want to see that the actual league is perpetuating the problem, because the all mighty dollar is far more important than the sanctity of America’s game.

Many argue that steroids don’t make a player better, to which I agree, to a certain point. They won’t take the hole out of your swing, you won’t get around on that fastball better. You will, however, feel less aches and pains, have less time injured, and picking up that 34 ounce bat three to four times a day for six months, won’t bother you as much. It might feel down right light. So yes, you are getting an edge. I can see guys like Neifi Perez doing roids, he a utility player that, let’s be honest, isn’t very good. He needs every edge he can get. But Barry, McGuire, Sosa, Palmeiro? Please. These guys were way above average players before this whole thing started to shake down. There’s no reason for it.

I guess my real gripe at this point is that it isn’t just the players that have screwed the game up. It looks like Major League Baseball has too. Illegal drugs are illegal for a reason. No player should be above the law, and no league should hide it, perpetuate it, coddle those who use them, and close their eyes when it’s rearing it’s ugly head. It took me four years to come back to watching baseball after the strike. Ironically, it was the roid induced 1998 homer fest that brought me back. Sadly, it was because I believed America was cheering on a muscle bond roid head in McGuire, and thought the poor little shoe shine boy from the Dominican Republic needed more support. Oops.

I am deathly afraid of what this Mitchell Report is going to uncover. I think Major League Baseball is in for a scary time, where the last ten years are going to be looked at in a much darker light, and some of the die hard fans may turn our backs on the sport again. I know I might. If I wanted to watch a bunch of muscle heads, I can turn on American Gladiator.

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Roll Out the Red Carpet it is Award Season

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Unlike the American League MVP award race which looks to be pretty much a lock, the National League race is far from clear cut. Next Tuesday, Major League Baseball will name the National League MVP for 2007. I figured this post would be as good as any to break that down a bit. Keep in mind, since Barry Bonds won the award four consecutive times from 2001-2004; there has been no repeat winners. In 2005, our favorite St. Louis Cardinal took home the honors beating out D. Lee. Last year, Ryan Howard edged out Pujols to end his streak. Who is going to win this year?

First things first, what does MVP mean? Remember, there are no restrictions on the award such as MVP of a winning team or MVP of a playoff contending team,but we all know players who missed the playoffs are not in as serious contention as those who played in October. Exit Albert Pujols and unfortunately you might want to take Prince with you.

For those of you that live and die by statistics, I don’t do in depth statistical analysis because that is just not my thing. So, if you are a stat guy or gal, feel free to fill in numbers as needed, especially those not on the back of a baseball card. I want to discuss potential MVP candidates in a purely subjective way which eliminates any type of numerical ranking on my part. I do however,appreciate objective statistics and will try not to get stuck on what I believe are intangibles. Oh, and I don’t vote for pitchers.

I thought this was interesting to highlight how wide open the race is. According to the latest Rasmussen Reports survey of 500 baseball fans, in the National League, 22% of fans think that Matt Holliday of the Colorado Rockies should win the Most Valuable Player award. However, sixteen percent (16%) think honor should go to Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins while 12% believe Prince Fielder of Milwaukee Brewers should win the award. David Wright of the Mets received 9% support and two other Phillies, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley each garnered 5%.

So lets break down the top three:

Matt Holiday
Ever since the slide into home during the wild card playoff game when Holiday did a post game interview with a bleeding chin, he has been on my MVP radar. He is the 2007 National League batting champion, batted 340 during the regular season with 36 home runs and 137 RBIs as well as 50 doubles and an OPS of 1.012. As I mentioned intangibles, I think it is safe to say Holiday was a big reason why Colorado steamrolled into the playoffs. He is also a victim of a small market baseball team and gets nowhere near the coverage of one, Jimmy Rollins.

Jimmy Rollins
Granted he makes bold predications months before the season started that the Philadelphia Phillies were the team to beat in the east, but I can look past that because he backed those words to the end. He finished with a .296 average, 30 homers and 94 RBI. He also had 212 hits, 38 doubles, 139 runs, 41 stolen bases and an OPS of .875. He also became just the fourth player in baseball history to have at least 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 homers and 20 stolen bases in the same season. Some may argue Rollins isn’t even the Phillies MVP, let alone the National League MVP. Also, if it was just a numbers game, then Holliday would probably take the award but Rollins did it all the hitting, stealing, and fielding – every single game of the year 162 times. Impressive.

Prince Fielder
There is no looking past our neighbor to the north. Jelly doughnut jokes aside, Prince had a breakout year, he finished the season with 50 home runs, 119 RBI, a .288 batting average and an OPS of 1.013. He also had 35 doubles. He is the youngest player in major league history to reach 50 homeruns and he is part of the first ever father/son duo to reach that feat. Luckily for Cub fans and unfortunately for him, the Brewers did not make the playoffs.. Also, Prince was surrounded by a supporting cast with impressive numbers which may diminish his a bit.

Eric Byrnes
He is my dark horse and although I really don’t think he has the numbers to win, I at least want to add him in the mix. I admire baseball players that play the game as it should be played with heart. His batting average is a bit lower than the rest at .286 with 21 home runs, 83 RBIs and 30 doubles. Anyone who says, “Who needs time off? You take time off, you die.” gets some votes in my book.

My Ballot

1. Matt Holiday
2. Jimmy Rollins
3. David Wright
4. Chase Utley
5. Eric Byrnes
6. Hanley Ramirez
7. Ryan Howard
8. Prince Fielder
9. Chipper Jones
10. Albert Pujols

Whats yours?

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The All OPS Lineup & Other Notes

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

One of my favorite ways to rank players overall contribution to an offense when you don’t factor in stolen bases is to look at their OPS. I was curious to see who the top OPS guys were at each spot in the order and by position and decided to try to put together the idea offensive team. To get my results, I only looked at qualified hitters. Here are the results:

Top OPS by batting order spot (Position not important)
1st – Hanley Ramirez (1.001)
2nd – Derrek Jeter (.852)
3rd – David Ortiz (1.070)
4th – Alex Rodriguez (1.081)
5th – Garrett Atkins (.891)
6th – Brad Hawpe (.918)
7th – Robinson Cano (.923)
8th – Jack Wilson (.825)
9th – Tony Pena Jr. (.655)

What I find interesting about this lineup is that the number two hitter, Jeter, has one of the lowest OPS in the lineup. I generally consider the number two guy a high contact guy that gets on base. I also look at him as someone who has more power than the number one guy as well. I was surprised to see Jeter’s OPS as low as it was compared to some of the other spots.

Where did the Cubs finish in the OPS game?

Aramis Ramirez (.915)
Derrek Lee (.913)
Alfonso Soriano (.897)
Mark DeRosa (.792)
Jacque Jones (.735)
Ryan Theriot (.672)

Not qualified, but Daryle Ward had an OPS of .963 in his 110 at bats.

Misc. Notes of Interest

  • The Manager of the Year award results came out and Lou Piniella finished a surprising 4th. Seems to me that when you take a team from last place and one of the worst records in all of baseball to first in the division, you should get more props than that.
  • I ran across a plethora of interesting offseason free agent type posts. From rankings to predictions, all give some interesting tidbits, but should be taken as purely speculation. The longer I do this, the more I realize that predictions are completely worthless. No one knows what will happen, and no one ever revisits the predictions once it’s all said and done. In addition to that, most “analysts” employed by these companies are no different than some of the more intelligent bloggers out there. Enjoy some of these predictions.- Jeff Passan’s ranking of the 144 free agents and grouped by position, complete with small notes – (Source)

    – Chone Smith’s hitter projections for the 2008, though I’m not sure how you can predict that when you don’t know the lineup they will be a part of. Nonetheless, they’re available in a CSV format for you, which will open in Microsoft Excel. – (Source)

    – Keith Law presents a scouting report on the top 50 free agents for this offseason. He put it out last year and it’s part of the ESPN Insider Free Preview. – (Source)

    – Not really offseason related for this year, but Geoff Young, who is a blogger friend of this site took a look back at the wish lists for each team from last year and if they filled them. I was a little disappointed with the Cubs analysis, but oh well. – (Source)

  • If you’ve never taken the time to check out all the things on Baseball Reference, shame on you. They are turning into the authority for accessibility of statistics. Recently, they came up with a list of the minor leaguers that filed for free agency, ranked by their On Base %. It’s an interesting thing to look at, because these are guys that could be had for essentially nothing at all. Here is the complete list, along with a couple I noticed as particularly intriguing for the Cubs to consider.- Mark Johnson had an OBP of .440 playing in the Pacific Coast League (AAA). He’s 31 and plays the corner OF, C, and 1B. You may remember him from the Cubs system just a few years ago. He may be worth taking a shot on for his ability to get on base alone. He’s had chances with the White Sox, A’s and Brewers in the past, but not since 2004.

    Luis Sierra is a 19 year old infielder that fits the Rudy mold at 5’11” and 150lbs. He played his first year with the White Sox farm system and played 1B, SS, & 3B while hitting .301 / .395 / .443. He had 6 HR and 51 RBI in 68 games. That’s some nice power for a 19 year old and great plate discipline.

    Tim Raines Jr. is the son of former White Sox player, Tim ‘Rock’ Raines. He’s a 27 year old OF with speed (21 SB in 23 attempts). Like Johnson, he’s had limited experience in the Majors, but didn’t fair well with Baltimore.

    Richal Acosta is not a hitter, but a pitcher. I picked him out for a couple reasons. First, he had a K/9 ratio of 13.86, which was head and shoulders above the next person at 9.2. He’s a tiny little guy at 6’1″ but 145 lbs., which has to be an typo. From what I see, he didn’t pitch in 2005 or 2006 and suddenly came back on the scene in a big way with the Pirates. I’m going to shoot an E-mail to a fellow blogger and see what I can scout on this kid.

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