Archive for November, 2007

From Right Field – Young Guns

Monday, November 5th, 2007

Every year, we see some of are old baseball buddies ride off into the sunset. Some on their own terms, others kicking and screaming. I’m looking at you, Julio Franco. I always get a bit nostalgic when I see that someone I loved watching when I was younger, moves on. It’s like a piece of my past dies, which is kind of a morbid way of looking at it, but sometimes that’s the way my brain works.

Growing up, I loved some oddballs players, along with the typical “heros” of the day. Guys like Lou Whitaker, Ricky Henderson, Kirk Gibson, Dennis Eckersley, and Carlton Fisk. As a second baseman in Little League, I was naturally drawn to Ryne Sandberg. So much so, that I made my Mom make me a custom jersey with the number 23. I wore that number at every level I played at, until just recently.

Everytime I start to think about how the game doesn’t have stars like it did then, or guys that don’t play like those old timers, I have to remind myself that there’s a whole new generation of “Young Guns,” for lack of a better term. Kids that play hard, play the game the right way, and make the game look ridiculously easy. They’re my “must see guys” and if there’s a game on in which they’re playing, you’ll find me comfortably lounging on the couch.

Matt Holliday. Colorado’s new power man. His defense can be a bit shaky, but his bat makes up for it. Humidor, or not, this kid can hit.

Grady Sizemore. You seriously thought I wouldn’t mention this fine young stud? HA! He’s my man-crush Part One. We’re talking all the tools in this kid. He makes hits to the gap look routine.

Eric Byrnes. Man-crush Part Deux. He’s not going to dazzle you with his hitting, although he can hit, it’s his leather that I love to watch. I’ve never seen anyone go balls out on anything and everything hit his direction. And yes, he plays left but, I had to throw him in somewhere.

Hank Blalock. Too bad he’s in Texas, and seeing him play can be a serious chore. I’d throw A-Ram into here as well, but I get to see him anytime. I’m not sold on Ryan Braun just yet, let’s see how he does over a total season, and after National League pitchers get an off season to review his work.

J.J. Hardy. Youth has been served in Milwaukee, and it’s going to make the Cubs road to the Central Division tough over the course of the next few years. Hardy is a big reason for that. I also have to throw in Tulowitski of Colorado in here. That kid can throw some leather when ever he steps onto the diamond.

I have the same problem in any sport. I see kids wearing jerseys, and giggle. Thinking of how those players could never hold a candle to the players of my youth. Sitting back, you realize that these guys are in better shape, have more tools at their disposal, and better training at every level. Once I get past that, I sit back and just watch. Youth is a wonderful thing in any sport.

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Sunday Morning Webtopia

Sunday, November 4th, 2007
  • A-Rod has an unusual suitor this off-season, the minor league Toledo Mud Hens – (Source)
  • The Cheater’s Guide to Baseball blog takes a look at the Mike Cameron suspension for next year as well as the fact that teams get advanced notice for the drug tests. – (Source)
  • Kosuke Fukudome (LF) is still undecided about whether to jump over to MLB. The deadline for him to file is November 12th. (Source)
  • John Brattain takes a look at how interested teams can counter Scott Boras and his statements this off-season in regards to A-Rod and his monstrous contract demands. (Source)
  • Instant Replay will be discussed at the GM meetings this week. (Source)Every Sunday morning, we’ll highlight some good writing around the web and beyond. Feel free to send me submissions of things you run across, whether it be good youtube videos, sports related blog posts, or good guest columns. Send all submissions to:
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    Cub Roster Moves

    Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

    On this bright and sunny Saturday, I give you some info on the Cubs rosters

    Cubs and Daryle Ward exercise option for 2008, add pitcher Adam Harben to the 40 man roster, and decline options on Cliff Floyd and Steve Trachsel

    CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs and Daryle Ward have exercised his mutual option for the 2008 season. In addition, the team has selected right-handed pitcher Adam Harben and declined the options on outfielder
    Cliff Floyd and right-handed pitcher Steve Trachsel.

    Ward, 32, batted .327 (36-for-110) in 79 games with the Cubs last season after signing with the club as a major league free agent December 15, 2006. The left-handed batter led the team with 54 pinch-hit appearances, batting .268 (11-for-41) with 18 walks in that situation. Ward batted .381 (24-for-63) in 19 starts and posted a .370 average (20-for-54) with runners on base.

    Since the beginning of the 2006 season, Ward’s 33 pinch-hits rank second in the majors behind only Orlando Palmeiro, who has 35. Ward’s 21 walks as a pinch-hitter over the last two seasons leads the big leagues while his 21 RBI in a pinch role rank third in baseball behind Olmedo Saenz (27) and Javier Valentin (22).

    Ward’s 72 career pinch-hits rank tied for fifth among active players, along with David Dellucci and Saenz. Mark Sweeney leads all active players with 163 career pinch-hits.

    Harben, 24, went 0-1 with a 1.80 ERA (1 ER/5.0 IP) in three August rehabilitation outings with Rookie League Mesa after he spent the 2007 campaign on the minor league, seven-day disabled list with an injured right elbow. Acquired from Minnesota September 5, 2006, to complete the trade that sent Phil Nevin to Minnesota, Harben had a 3.96 ERA (54 ER/122.2 IP) in 29 games (22 starts) with Double-A New Britain in 2006.

    Floyd, 34, hit .284 (80-for-282) with nine home runs and 45 RBI in his first season with the Cubs, making 63 appearances in right field and 17 in left field. Trachsel, acquired from Baltimore August 31, 2007, in exchange for pitcher Rocky Cherry and infielder Scott Moore, went 1-3 with an 8.31 ERA (16 ER/17.1 IP) in four starts for Chicago.

    Minor League Free Agents

    The following players have filed for Minor League free agency:

    Federico Baez – P
    Cory Bailey – P
    Gary Cates – IF
    Jorge Cortes – OF
    Ben Howard – P
    John Nelson – IF
    Mike Nannini – P
    Mike Mahoney – C
    Ryan O’Malley – P
    John Webb – P

    Names of note that did not file were:

    Koyie Hill – C
    Josh Kroeger – OF
    Les Walrond – P

    With none of these players currently on the 40 man roster, it would mean they could be selected by another team in the Rule 5 draft coming up in December. If selected, they would need to remain on the active roster for next season or be offered back to the Cubs.

    Former Cub, Matt Stairs, signs with Toronto

    This one comes as a relief, because from what I heard, he was being considered by the Cubs for a platoon in RF. This takes away that possibility.

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    LA Bound, Instant Replay and Yes, Barry Bonds – Again.

    Friday, November 2nd, 2007

    Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox. Great win but horrible series to watch. I was not to far off with the Varsity versus Junior Varsity theme now was I. Let’s get to this week in baseball.

    Torre Coast to Coast
    I figured after how things ended in New York, Joe Torre was not going to walk away from baseball. Instead he decided to move from one storied franchise to another. According to ESPN, Joe Torre was hired Thursday to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers, taking the job two weeks after walking away from the New York Yankees. He takes over a team that finished fourth in the NL West this season and hasn’t won the World Series since 1988. Torre’s contract is for three years and slightly more than $13 million.

    Interesting move here. Of course there is Torre-love in LA and there should be. Excitement however, should not be muddled by ridiculously high expectations. Case in point. This we do know, Joe Torre is a winner. We know being a winner in NY means winning the World Series. What does it mean to the Dodgers? Will Torre turn already-good Dodgers to a long time playoff team, just like he has done for Yankees in past decade? This will be fun to watch play out.

    The Future of Instant Replay
    A limited use of instant replay will be formally recommended by general managers for the first time next week, some GMs are predicting privately. There would be nothing binding about the recommendation, assuming that the GMs vote that way in their meetings in Orlando, Fla., next week, and it is unclear if or when Major League Baseball would implement a system. According to baseball insiders, some general managers say that sentiment on the issue has shifted from a split of opinion to a solid majority in favor of instant replay, and they expect that will be reflected in the votes taken at their meetings.

    When I read this I think of two things, 1) I see baseball trying to implement some sort of NFL review system, where a manger gets one or two reviews a game. 2) That immediately leads me to think of the Wild Card playoff game, Matt Holiday sliding into home diving past Michael Barrett, the umpire slowly giving the safe sign and in the midst of Colorado’s celebration, Bud Black throws the challenge flag.

    No thank you.

    That play was exciting to me. I know what I am going to hear from Cubs fans, what if the Cubs lost that way, wouldn’t you want the instant replay? My response will still be no. Baseball is already a slow moving game. It is a 162-game regular season, costly and inaccurate calls against teams balance out. In my mind, there is something unique and thrilling about the human element of the game of baseball.

    Performance Enhancers
    As everyone knows, former Senator George Mitchell investigation on baseball steroid use it expected to be released soon. It promises to be a bombshell. OK, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but we do know it will include many names; names which have so far not been disclosed publicly; names of well-known players.

    This could get really nasty and messy. Take this scenario. Player A is called out for using steroids, OK now what? What will Major League Baseball do? don’t forget about the players that have already been named. What will be the punishment? An obvious answer is suspension, but you know as fast as that first suspension is handed down, the Players Association will be there. Very messy indeed. I just hope this investigation is less witch hunt and more plan of action on how to get performance enhancers out of the game of baseball for good. I can dream, cant I?

    Who Said It?
    Speaking of performance enhancers, I may have to consider renaming my Who Said It, closing to guess what stupid thing Barry Bonds said this week. As luck may have it Bonds was in the news again as I was writing my column and of course he is not happy.
    Barry Bonds would boycott Cooperstown if the Hall of Fame displays his record-breaking home run ball with an asterisk. By the way, that includes the introduction ceremony. He will not have any part of it.

    I won’t go. I won’t be part of it,” Bonds said in an interview with MSNBC that aired Thursday night. “You can call me, but I won’t be there.”

    Of course Hall of Fame vice president Jeff Idelson declined to comment. And of course, Bonds says he has nothing to hide, he says and I quote, I will look you in the face. I have nothing to hide, nothing. So look all you want to. What do you think; does the record breaking home run ball deserve an asterisk?

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    MLB Trivia

    Thursday, November 1st, 2007

    If you listen to 670 the Score, you know may have heard of John Dewan of Baseball Info Solutions. Each week he’s on with Mike Murphy talking about a Stat of the Week. Last weeks stat was a good one. I thought I’d post it to see how you do. Web searches are highly frowned upon. Have fun and leave some guesses in the comment section.

    It’s the Name Game—sing it with me—you know, that old sixties song: “Nick! Nick, Nick, bo Bick, Bonana fanna fo Fick, fee fy mo Mick…Nick!”

    OK, I’m dating myself. This is silly, but it’s fun. What I want you to do is come up with the most valuable last name in the major leagues last year. Not the most valuable player, but the last name that was—when you add the stats of all the players with that last name together—the most valuable in total.

    To give you one example, Albert Pujols is a pretty valuable player, but he’s the only Pujols in baseball. On the other hand, there were four Molinas in the major leagues last year (three brothers and a Gustavo, all catchers), but were the four Molinas better than the one Pujols?

    Got it? It’s a game—the Name Game—come up with the top last name in the major leagues last year.

    We’re going to use Win Shares (courtesy of The Bill James Handbook 2008) to tabulate the scores. Bill James initially devised Win Shares as a way to relate a player’s individual statistics (batting, pitching and fielding) to the number of wins he contributed to his team. As a single number, Win Shares allows us to easily compare the accomplishments of each player and to compare players across positions. We credit a team with three Win Shares for each win. If a team wins 100 games, the players on the team will be credited with 300 Win Shares—or 300 thirds-of-a-win. If a team wins 70 games, the players on the team will be credited with 210 Win Shares, and so on. (Some players accumulate 0 Win Shares; the best player in baseball last year had 37.)

    So, was one Pujols better than the four Molinas? Well, in fact he was. Albert had 32 Win Shares, while the Molinas had a total of only 29 for the teams they played for (Bengie 13, Jose 4, Yadier 12, Gustavo 0).

    Go ahead and think of all the last names in baseball. Then guess which last name had the most Win Shares last year. (Hint: Pujols and Molina are not in the top ten.)

    If you guess the number one name without looking below, pat yourself on the back. When we did this game on the air in Chicago, callers got four of the top five names but missed the leader.

    I have the list of the top 10, and I’ll post them tomorrow. Have Fun!!!


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