Archive for December, 2007

From Right Field – Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

Monday, December 31st, 2007

To scare everyone, I was going to post a picture of myself drinking champagne, while in a diaper. A creepy Baby New Year, if you will. You’ve all been spared. There’s no way I could convince my wife to take such a picture, and I’d have needed to start drinking about a week ago to get the courage up to do so. Although, being a Cubs fan does lead to drinking quite often…and heavily.

For the New Year, here’s a short list of what I’m happy about, and what I’m going to piss and moan about next season.

Happy Items:

1.) The signing of Kosuke Fukudome. No matter what we put out in right field last year, surely they could not be any worse than this unproven Japanese maestro of the On Base Percentage. I’m looking forward to seeing if his OBP is a Japanese baseball enigma, or if it will measure up to the levels of the MLB. I’m confident that he’ll continue the trend of quality Japanese players joining the ranks of the MLB.

2.) Another notch on the belt for some of our young arms. Rich Hill now has two years to build off of, as does Sean Marshall. It’s time to turn the corner gentlemen and prove yourself as number three to five starters. Remember the days when the Cubs had all righty starting rotations? We could have a southpaw majority in 2008

3.) Carlos Zambrano. Oh, I know I beat you down, lift you up, and then smack you around here. BUT, this is it big man. It’s time to pony up to the bar and get your talent and head on the same page. Heck, I’d be happy if you could get them on consecutive pages. I don’t want to hear any more proclamations about how you’ll win the Cy Young. Just go out and do it.

Sad Items:

1.) Ryan Theriot love. I just don’t get it. He’s scrappy, I get that. But he sucked at the plate all year long, and really didn’t show much range at SS (which would explain why the organization had moved him to Second Base in the minors). I’ll be honest, the whole SS position scares me this year. The idea of Ronny Cedeno possibly manning that spot scares to p-o-o-p out of me as well.

2.) The loss of John McDonough. If there’s one thing the Cubs did (or do) right, it’s marketing. Good grief, is there ever a game you go to that doesn’t have some sort of a giveaway? They’ve packed the seats for one reason, John McDonough and his marketing staff. Let’s hope his departure doesn’t let this marketing machine falter. Kudos John, and good luck with making the Blackhawks relevant in Chicago and the NHL again.

3.) The unresolved bullpen. Dempster is a closer…..no wait, he’s a starter……no wait, he might be the closer. Holy shakalakadingdong, make up your mind Lou. It’s January and the guys don’t know their roles yet…..or is it still? I’m not sure, with the exception of Marmol, any of them really knew when they were going to go in. Is Dempster the greatest closer known to man? Of course not. But, is he serviceable with Marmol and Howry in front of him? Hot damn, yes. Let’s leave that three man end of game rotation in place.

I could go on, but honestly, there’s chilled champagne in the fridge, numerous morsels to snack upon, and dwelling on the Cubs can lead one to thoughts of suicide. One more year down, another year ahead to look forward too. At least April…maybe May, and June. Then we’ll see where we’re at from there.

Happy New Year everyone!

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Sunday Morning Webtopia

Sunday, December 30th, 2007
  • Yesterday I posed a trivia question and the response was staggering. Actually, the response was four guesses, all good, but all incorrect. Who was the the last Cub to get six hits in a game? The answer may surprise you. Click Here for the box score of the game, so as to not give away the answer.
  • I found some interesting driving laws on CNN.com. Who knew that in Montana, it is illegal to have a sheep in the cab of your truck without a chaperone? – (View Story)
  • Jeff Passan, one of Yahoo’s signature baseball writers, checks in with a column entitled “New Year’s Major League Baseball Resolutions” that has some humorous resolutions for various people associated with the game. Brian McNamee’s made me chuckle. – (View Story)
  • Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune weighed in on his feelings regarding a Wrigley Field name change. – (View Story)
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    Saturday Morning Trivia

    Saturday, December 29th, 2007

    This is going to be a new feature on Saturday’s during the off-season and on a semi-regular basis during the season. Sometimes it will be Cub focused and sometimes it won’t even be baseball focused. No matter what, web searches are discouraged. Leave all guesses in the comment section. Have fun, and feel free to send me other trivia questions for use on the site.

    Q: Who was the last Cub to get six hits in a game?

    I’ll post the answer Sunday morning in the comment section.

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    A Graphical Look at Baseball History

    Friday, December 28th, 2007

    I’m not sure where I found the site, A Graphical History of Baseball, but after browsing it a bit yesterday, I found it amusing. It’s interesting to see the numbers broken down into a graph. It helps to identify trends fairly easily. Here were some that I found noteworthy, from a National League point of view.

    Despite all the cry of OBP being the key to winning, we really haven’t seen that major surge upward since Michael Lewis wrote Moneyball. Perhaps teams have figured out that while OBP is important, it was simply something undervalued and available cheap for Billy Beane, which was the whole premise of the book. 1913 or so looks like a tough year for hitters, reaching just a tad over .290. It’s interesting to note major spikes in the data as well. Take a look at the spike in 1920. Here is the reason:

    The Joint Rules Committee voted to ban the use of all foreign substances (saliva, resin, talcum powder, paraffin) as well as any other alterations (shine or emery) to balls by pitchers. As a result, the American League opted to allow two pitchers from each club the option to use a spitball for one more season. The Nationals set no limitations as long as all “practicing” pitchers were identified and any other pitcher who was caught cheating would be suspended for a minimum of ten days.

    Baseball Almanac

    Are stolen bases really dying? If you look at the trend in the NL, which is widely considered the stolen base league, you notice that they declined consistently in the 20′s till the 70′s. If we take that trend, we should see the rise of the stolen base right around 2060. I look forward to that.

    I wish the teams would stop building small parks. These small ballparks with little to no foul territory is killing off one of the most exciting plays in all of baseball, the triple. Really, is there anything more entertaining than watching that hitter round second and dig for third only to slide under the tag and look up to the umpire, his helmet flopping over his eyes, to see him wave “safe”. Bring back the triple.

    Fielding in the beginning years of baseball…bad. Fielding in the modern era…good.

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    The Day After the Day After Christmas

    Thursday, December 27th, 2007

    I don’t like shopping. In fact, I would go as far as to say that I hate shopping, despite the fact that everyone says we shouldn’t say hate. It’s too crowded and I can’t seem to find the patience to wait in long lines to return items I received that either don’t fit my body or my wants. Instead, I’m waiting until the day after the day after Christmas. It should be shorter lines and far less stress this way. The same goes for the Cubs. I’m sure we all have things they’ve given us over the year that we would like to return. It’s easy to be non-creative and say you want to return the time spent watching futility all these years, but what fun is that. Instead, let’s talk about things more creative. I’ll give you some of my returns and hopefully that will spark your ideas and allow you to reap the benefits of this new return day.

    Mark Prior – With him signing with the Padres, officially parting ways with Chicago, I’d like to return him. I’d like to return all games pitched by Prior for the Cubs. I understand that it means we probably don’t get 2003 and the memories involved in that year, but I think I’m willing to forget that as well. It was a tough draft overall in 2001, but I think I would have settled for David Wright, who was picked by the Mets in the supplemental first round at number 38.

    Michael Barrett vs. Carlos Zambrano – I’d like to return this one because it meant the exit of Barrett from the team. I was a big Barrett fan. I would love to have him back for this year in case Geovany Soto doesn’t pan out. I’m not sold, just yet on Soto. In seven minor league seasons, he had a high batting average of .273 before last year. I understand guys can finally figure things out and have a breakout year, but it sure would be nice to have someone else in the mix beside an aging Henry Blanco who could handle the everyday catching duties should Soto fail.

    Manager Excitement – After being burned by Don Baylor and Dusty Baker despite incredible excitement over their signing with the team, I’m returning my excitement over Lou Piniella. I’m not saying I want Piniella to get fired or that I think he’s doing a bad job. He’s doing a great job, but I know that eventually, like every manager before him, he’ll fall from grace and have to go elsewhere. I’d like to return my excitement over a manager and pour it into individual players instead.

    So there you have it. Those are the Cubs things I stood in line to return. What are yours? Be creative.

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    San Diego…Where Cub Castoffs Go To Die

    Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

    Michael Barrett, Greg Maddux, Glendon Rusch, Shawn Estes, and now….Mark Prior (Source).

    The Cubs non-tendered the former first round pick earlier this month and the Padres have signed him to a one-year deal with a $1 million base and incentives. Prior and his agent made it clear that they didn’t want to sign anything more than a one year deal and the Cubs weren’t willing to invest any more money in him without the promise that he would come back in 2009 if they paid for rehab in 2008. San Diego appears willing to take a chance on him. I admit, when it was all the rage to trade Prior for Miguel Tejada a few off-seasons back, I was not willing to take that chance. I have to say, I am not worried that he will come back and be a star. We probably should have moved him when we had the chance. Now, we have to let go and move on.

    From a Padre standpoint, if Prior can come back mid-season and pitch the way he once did, the Padres would have a heck of a rotation with Peavy, Young, Maddux, Wolf and Prior.

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    VFTB Christmas Giveaway

    Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

    As a way of saying thanks to the readers, I’d like to play Santa Clause with a couple of people who comment on the site. All you have to do to qualify to win is leave a comment using a valid E-mail address so I can find you. The comment should answer the following question:

    I’ve been reading this site since ___________

    I’ll pick some random winners tomorrow. The prizes are as follows:

    1. a $15 What If Sports gift card (http://www.whatifsports.com/locker/)

    2. a Todd McFarlane Toronto Maple Leafs three pack figurines similar to the one in this photo (View Photo)

    3. a Copy of Reel Baseball DVD / Hardcover book set (View Amazon Page)

    4. a Copy of the 2008 Hardball Times Baseball Annual – (VIew Checkout Page)

    5. a guest post on the site to rant about something that irks you about the Cubs or baseball in general. Subject to editing for grammar, prose and language.

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    Matt Claus

    Monday, December 24th, 2007

    Wow. It’s Christmas Eve. Jeez, next weeks column falls on New Year’s Eve. How lucky am I? It seems like months ago we were all commenting back and forth about the Cub’s run to the playoffs. Perhaps the sight of the ivy turning red. Now I’m looking out my back window at twelve inches of snow. Again, the Cubs fell short in their annual quest to reach the World Series. 32 years for me, and 99 for them. Good grief.

    About this time last year, I was a relative lurker here at View From The Bleachers. I posted a comment here and there, and typically only when something really got me fired up. It wasn’t long before the mention of an essay contest for a writing position at this establishment popped up, that I decided that more people needed to hear my voice on all things, but mostly the Cubs. I know of you might actually enjoy this column, and some of you are positive it’s a waste of cyberspace. I thank the first half of you, the second half of you just have to learn to love me, and my round about way of expressing my heartbreak of being a Cubs fan all these many years.

    Oddly, the essay that scored me this lucrative position (we’re paid in Disney Dollars, and sometimes love), was about our favorite whipping boy, Carlos Zambrano. Carlos pretty much epitomized the Cubs season into one large ball of energy, or some of you might call fat. He started slow, got aggravated, popped a dude in the mouth, declared his season was “restarting,” got on a roll, almost faltered in the stretch run, and fizzled when he was needed most (Joe doesn’t agree with the fizzle part). We had great expectations that were met with mediocrity, saw the fire we were waiting for, the team that on paper finally showed up in June, almost ran out of gas during the stretch run, and with high hopes, disappeared faster than a storm in the Arizona desert.

    Throughout the year, I kept thinking back to the pre-season picks Joe had the writers of VFTB do (Joe apologizes for misplacing them). Would they make me look like a baseball genius, or a laughing stock? I think I had the Cards winning the NL Central, and the Cubs winning the Wildcard, with the Phillies and Padres filling out the bracket. Not too shabby. For awhile, I thought the Cards were going to catch the Brewers and the Cubs. Oh to be a genius just once. I didn’t have the highest hopes for the Cubs, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt. After all, the last time a new manager came to town, they exceeded my expectations. I never quite got too excited, and always had the sinking feeling that this was not the year, no matter how things were going. There just wasn’t the magic….something just didn’t fit.

    As I look at this year’s team, I’m not sure I feel that much different. Granted the addition of Fukudome is probably better than anything we had in Rightfield last year, and yes, I know Mr. Hendry probably has one more move up his sleeve, I’m fully seeing a team that wins the Central, and probably gets left off the dance floor one more time. It’s too fitting for them to win it on the 100th anniversary. I for one would find it a bit too convenient. I know, it’s my cynical mind at work again, but mass marketing would benefit so hugely from such a amazing set of circumstances, the conspiracy theories would be flying for years to come.

    So, then again, maybe this is the year. It’s all falling into place, and I for one, would love to be proven wrong. Not like that’s a marginally tough thing to do. Hopefully, I’ll be sitting here the same time next year, wearing a nice Chicago Cubs “2008 World Champions” sweatshirt.

    Happy Holidays, everyone.

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    Sunday Morning Webtopia

    Sunday, December 23rd, 2007
  • Sam Fuld was the subject of an article written on MiLB.com by Jonathan Mayo concerning his life as a role model. – (View Story)
  • MLB Trade Rumors takes a look at the 2009 MLB Free Agent List. Obviously it’s not set in stone because a good amount of these players will negotiate a contract with their team. Still, it’s fun to look ahead and see what is out there. – (View Story)
  • Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus has a video about Kosuke Fukudome – (View Story)
  • JC Bradbury posted his solution to “Rid MLB of HGH”. I don’t know that I agree with his thoughts, but it’s interesting. Here is a snip. Be sure to read the whole article at his site.

    The second and most important step is to pull human growth hormone off its list of banned substances. This sends a credible signal about the efficacy of growth hormone in improving athletic performance. Education alone won’t do it. As a public school student during the “Just Say No!” era, I am well aware that propaganda serves only as comedy to the target audience. As long as human growth hormone remains on the banned list, players are going to assume there is a reason. It is a waste of resources to search for a urine test to remove it from the game. Instead, tell players, “This stuff doesn’t work. If you want to use it, go right ahead and be an idiot. But, don’t complain when you experience pain and swelling and that you have to buy new hats, shoes, and gloves.”

    December 20th, 2007

  • Mitchell Lichtman poses the question “Does reliever over-use lead to poor subsequent performance?” – (View Story)

    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 columns. Send all submissions to:
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