Archive for December, 2007

Vice President of Rules and On-Field Operations and New Rules

Friday, December 7th, 2007

As we have spent the last few days engrossed in baseball meetings,watching the American League get better, the Cubs stay static and most free agents go to California, I wanted to write about something that caught my eye this week.

The Boston Red Sox are not only World Series champions but now they are getting rules named after them as well. On Monday, Bob Watson, Vice President of Rules and On-Field Operations for Major League Baseball, said that managers will no longer be able to wear the pullover jackets as part of their in-game uniforms. It is going to be a Francona Rule. As we all know, Boston’s skipper typically wears a pullover and has butted heads with the league when asked to display his uniform top, especially this summer when MLB uniform police went into the Red Sox dugout during a game versus the Yankees to check Francona’s uniform.

According to Watson, You can only wear your uniform top or jacket. You cant wear your night-shirt, or whatever it is. You can wear it before games, or after games, but not during games. You have to have your uniform top at all times. Oh, and it gets serious – the first offense for not wearing a uniform top would be $1,000, second offense would draw a $5,000 fine, and a third time would result in a one-game suspension. Attention John Gibbons and Eric Wedge, Toronto and Cleveland coaches, Bob Watson is watching and you are next.

Are you kidding me? In a game where ticket prices are so expensive, the average fan can barely make it out to the ballpark and one of the most prestigious records in all of sports may have to be marked with an asterisk because of steroid use, this is how you are spending your time? Wow.

How about someone takes a look at making the game more fan friendly or figure out how to address the disparity not only between the two leagues but small versus big market teams as well. I mean will the Kansas City Royals ever be able to compete with the Yankees or Red Sox? I just think there are bigger fish to fry here and a little individuality never hurt a game filled with narcissistic millionaires.

BUT if I was the Vice President of Baseball Rules and On-Field Operations, what rules would I implement? By the way, is that not the lamest baseball title ever? It sounds like it should be a class in the Harry Potter series. I managed to come up with a few new rules:

The Ryan Dempster is Not a Closer Rule. It looks like we may have to enforce this rule after once AGAIN, Sweet Lou talks about the possibility of Dempster as the Cubs closer. I will say again, he is not a closer, especially when Marmol is just sitting there waiting to be utilized. This rule will ensure other teams do not make bonehead decisions regarding the closer role.

The I Couldn’t Even Imagine the DL without Mark Prior Rule.This simply states any player has the option to skip out on the DL if Mark Prior is not there for support. Luckily for players who get hurt this season, no worries he’ll be there.

The Kenny Williams Thou Protest Too Much Rule. This rules states that any general manager that has to sit and watch their divisional opponent get light years better right before their eyes, should immediately blame loose-lipped sources and the media for failing to land the big names.

What rule would you enforce?

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Cubs Acquire Tim Lahey from Tampa

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

From the Cubs media relations department:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Chicago Cubs today acquired right-handed pitcher Tim Lahey from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for cash considerations. Lahey was selected by the Rays from the Minnesota Twins with the first pick in the major league portion of today’s Rule 5 draft.

Lahey, drafted by the Twins as a catcher in the 20th round of the 2004 Draft, was converted to a pitcher beginning with the 2005 season. He owns a 15-6 career mark with a 3.91 ERA (78 ER/179.1 IP) and 38 saves in 123 minor league relief appearances while walking 70 and striking out 146.

In 2007, Lahey went 8-4 with 13 saves in 16 chances and a 3.45 ERA (30 ER/78.1 IP) with Double-A New Britain, including a 3.06 ERA (23 ER/67.2 IP) from May 1 through the end of the season. The six-foot-four-inch, 250-pounder averaged 2.16 groundouts for every flyout while walking 33 and striking out 56.

Lahey produced a 2.30 ERA (7 ER/27.1 IP) over his final 20 appearances dating to July 6 before he was promoted to Triple-A Rochester, appearing in two games to close out the season. His 50 games pitched (all in relief) and 37 games finished with New Britain both ranked fifth in the Eastern League.

In 2005, his first professional season on the mound, Lahey’s 15 saves with Rookie League Elizabethtown ranked third in the Twins minor league system.

The 25 year old from Worcester, Mass., graduated from Princeton (N.J.) University in 2004 and was Honorable Mention All-Ivy League his junior season and Second Team All-Ivy League as a senior.

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Are The Tigers Doing It the Right Way?

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

Seeing that the Cubs have not won a World Series in a long time, I figured it might be fitting to ask you guys your thoughts on the team the Tigers have begun to build over the past few months. I use them as the example, because I can decide if I like the way they’re doing this or not. There is no question they have put themselves in a position to compete for the World Series in 2008, but at what cost? As you know, I’m a big proponent of home grown talent, and this past month or so has seen the Tigers sell all of their top prospects away. Let’s take a look at what’s gone down since the World Series ended.

10/29/07 – Acquired SS Edgar Renteria from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez.

11/12/07 – Acquired Jacque Jones from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Omar Infante

12/4/07 – Acquired Denny Bautista from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Jose Capellan

12/5/07 – Acquired Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera from the Florida Marlins in exchange for Burke Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz, Dallas Trahern, Andrew Miller, Mike Rabelo and Cameron Maybin.

There is no question that the Tigers have been active in the trade market and the Dave Dombrowski has been on the phone a great deal in that past month. But has he made the wise moves?

Many look to the latest deal for Cabrera and Willis and nearly go insane. However, both of those players bring with them a bit of risk. For Cabrera both Cabrera and Willis there is the signability issue. Both will be free agents in a short time and will command a great deal of money based on what they were getting in Florida. Failure to sign them would mean the deal essentially was a mortgage of the future for one or two years at best, especially with the age of some of their other stars (i.e. Gary Sheffield and Ivan Rodriguez). They’ve gone for it all, but at what cost to the future? Let’s take a look at some of these names that many have not heard of and see what exactly they gave up to get where they’re at.

Cameron Maybin – Maybin came into the off-season ranked number three on the top 50 rankings in all of baseball put out by MiLB.com earlier in the month and number one in the Tigers organization coming into the 2007 season. The scouting report on his was as follows:

It may have seemed surprising when Maybin, after just 20 at-bats above Class A ball, was called to the big leagues in 2007. But that’s a testament to how the Tigers, and most around baseball, felt about the young center fielder’s maturity and makeup. He’s not too bad on the field, either.

Wherever Maybin has played as a pro — in the Midwest League in 2006, the Florida State League, his brief stop in the Eastern League and the Arizona Fall League, where he played until the shoulder issue that had bothered him all season shut him down — he has stood out as one of the best players on the field. He can do everything well and he’s still improving. Even at his age and with time lost to injury, he’s not far from bringing his five-tool talent to the big-league stage full-time. He didn’t do much in his first taste, but he will assuredly be one of the most exciting players in baseball for a long time. It just won’t be in Detroit. He was sent, along with five other players, to the Marlins in return for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Florida does have an opening in center field, one that the 21-year-old Maybin might step into.

Being compared to Torii Hunter would be alright with me if I was Maybin.

Andrew Miller – Ranked as the number two prospect in the Tigers system by Baseball America coming into the 2007 season.

Jair Jurrjens – Ranked as the number four prospect in the Tigers system by Baseball America coming into the 2007 season.

Eulogio De La Cruz – Ranked as the number six prospect in the Tigers system by Baseball America coming into the 2007 season.

Gorkys Hernandez – Ranked as the number seven prospect in the Tigers system by Baseball America coming into the 2007 season.

Dallas Trahern – Ranked as the number eight prospect in the Tigers system by Baseball America coming into the 2007 season.

Mike Rabello – Ranked as the number 18 prospect in the Tigers system by Baseball America coming into the 2007 season.

Burke Badenhop – Ranked as the number 22 prospect in the Tigers system by Baseball America coming into the 2007 season.

So we see that the Tigers have essentially gutted the farm system of blue chip talent to go for it all now. Did they make the wise decision? Is this a strategy the Cubs should employ now with guys like Felix Pie, Sean Gallagher, Tyler Colvin, Jeff Samardzija, Josh Vitters, etc.?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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Rumor Update

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

There is a strong rumor out there that the Cubs are close to making a deal for Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts. Some sources say it would be a two for one, other sources saying three for one. The names that I have heard as potential trade bait are: Ronny Cedeno plus a pitcher- Hill or Marshall or Gallagher and possibly an outfielder depending on whether it was Hill or Marshall. As of now these rumors are pretty strong and frequent.

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Meet Your New Cub – Jose Ascanio

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

In case you haven’t yet heard, the Cubs shipped Will Ohman and Omar Infante to Atlanta in exchange for Jose Ascanio. Unless you’re a die hard Braves fan, you have probably not heard of Ascanio. Before I introduce him to you, I want to express all the best to Ohman. For some reason, I was a pretty big Ohman apologist, so I’m disappointed to see him go. As for Infante, I knew he would be gone before the season. I even said so when he was acquired.

Here is some information I have rustled up on Ascanio. Keep in mind that the scouting reports are from before last year as the new prospect books haven’t come out yet.

Baseball America ranked Ascanio in the Braves top 30 prospects in 2006, but he’s seen himself fall from those rankings this past year. Here was the scouting report on him coming into ’06.

The Braves had high expectations for Ascanio heading into 2005, but he took the mound just five times before a fracture in his lower back ended his season. The prognosis is he’ll be ready for the 2006 season, though the Braves have concerns because of the severity of the injury. Ascanio has a slight build but possesses an electric arm that produces overpowering fastballs up to 97 mph. His breaking ball and changeup have lagged behind, but he showed signs of developing a better feel for both offerings before being sidelined. Ascanio command wasn’t as consistent last year as in the past, but much of that has been attributed to his back injury. The Braves have been careful with him during his first four pro seasons by limiting his appearances and pitch counts. If he can stay healthy, Ascanio has the potential to be one of the organizations top pitching prospects.

Since that report, Ascanio’s numbers have looked like this:

2006: 0-0 with an ERA of 4.57 and WHIP of 1.62 and 60 K’s in 69 IP
2007: 2-2 with an ERA of 2.54 and WHIP of 1.08 and 71 K’s in 78 IP

He saw his stock rise a lot last year out of the pen, which even got him a look out of the pen for the Braves. He throws hard, which is something Ohman didn’t, but as we’ve seen with the White Sox that doesn’t always turn into success. They found that out with David Aardsma and Andy Sisco last year.

In response to the trade, BA had this to say:

Ascanio, 22, made his big league debut with the Braves in 2007, posting a 5.06 ERA with 13-6 K-BB in 16 relief innings. His callup came on the heels of a fine season with Double-A Mississippi: 2-2, 2.54 with 71-18 K-BB in 78 innings. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2001 and brought along slowly because of durability concerns (he’s 6-feet, 170 pounds) and because he suffered a lower back fracture in 2005. Ascanio’s arm is electric, though, and he pitches at 95 mph and touches 97. His 84-88 mph slider is a plus pitch. In five minor league seasons, Ascanio has posted a 3.57 ERA to go with 224-84 K-BB in 260 innings. (Source)

My Take: It’s tough to get your hands around a deal like this. Ohman had burned some bridges with the Cubs when he claimed they knew he was hurt and still pitched him. It’s hard to see him coming back this year after that. Infante was a player that didn’t seem to be needed, so I wasn’t surprised to see him go. Did the Cubs get enough out of this deal? I’d like to say we did, base on Ascanio’s year last year. We really won’t know till a few years down the road. It’s a player with a high ceiling, so we roll the dice and hope for Yahtzee.

Talking Chop of Sports Blog Nation has positives from the Braves side as well. – (Source)

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Cubs Trade Ohman & Infante

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

From the Cubs Media Dept.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Chicago Cubs today acquired right-handed pitcher Jose Ascanio from the Atlanta Braves for left-handed pitcher Will Ohman and infielder Omar Infante.

Ascanio spent the majority of 2007 with Double-A Mississippi and was named to the 2007 Southern League All-Star Team while going 2-2 with 10 saves and a 2.54 ERA (22 ER/78.0 IP) in 44 games (one start). The 22-year-old righthander also enjoyed his first taste of major league action with 13 relief appearances, earning three promotions directly from Double-A to the majors in the second half of the season.

The Maracay, Venezuela native struck out a career-high 71 batters while walking just 18 with Mississippi last season. Ascanio’s 2.22 walks and 10.36 baserunners allowed per 9.0 innings pitched both ranked fourth among Southern League relievers. In addition, Baseball America named his fastball the best in the league this past year.

The six-foot, 170-pounder allowed two runs or fewer in all but one of his Double-A outings, producing a 1.89 ERA (16 ER/76.1 IP) in those 43 games. Additionally, he limited the opponent to a .234 batting average while surrendering just one home run in 314 batters faced.

Ascanio made his major league debut July 13 vs. Pittsburgh and finished his first campaign in the majors with a 1-1 mark and a 5.06 ERA (9 ER/16.0 IP) in 13 relief outings, collecting his first major league win September 14 at Washington with 2.0 shutout innings in the Braves 8-5, 13-inning victory.

Originally signed by Atlanta as a non-drafted free agent in October of 2001, Ascanio owns an 18-13 career minor league record with 19 saves in 135 games (19 starts). He has posted a 3.54 ERA (119 ER/302.1 IP) while striking out 259 compared to 105 walks. Ascanio has allowed just 15 home runs to 1,286 batters faced (one per 85.7 batters faced).

Ascanio has posted a 2.70 ERA (2 ER/6.2 IP) with no record in six relief appearances for Leones del Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League this year.

Ohman, 30, went 6-8 with one save and a 4.33 ERA (77 ER/160.0 IP) in 220 career relief appearances with the Cubs after he was selected by Chicago in the eighth round of the 1998 Draft. He was 2-4 with one save and a 4.95 ERA (20 ER/36.1 IP) in 56 relief appearances for the Cubs in 2007.

Infante, 25, was acquired by Chicago November 12, 2007, from Detroit in exchange for outfielder Jacque Jones and a cash consideration.

It’s my day to post tomorrow, so I’ll talk a little more about this deal and other goings on tomorrow. Until then, feel free to leave us your thoughts on the deal.

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Winter Meeting Thoughts From An Outsider

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

The winter meetings are heating up in Nashville, which means there is a whole lot of talk going around about potential trades and discussions about who’s going where. The Cubs seem to pretty silent thus far, which is pretty discouraging in one sense, but in another sense it says that they feel as if they are somewhat comfortable with where they are at.
Due to the fact that they resigned Kerry Wood, the Cubs feel pretty solid in their bullpen. It appears that Kerry Wood, Bob Howry, and Carlos Marmol will compete for the closer job.

I am pretty uncomfortable with our starting rotation. As it sits now we have Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, and Rich Hill set in place. There is talk that the Cubs are working hard to trade Jason Marquis, but I cannot imagine who would want him. In many trade talks the name of Rich Hill comes up. It came up in the Carl Crawford trade rumors, which are now dead. There has been talk today originated by ESPN that the Cubs might look to trade Sean Marshall to the Reds for Josh Hamilton, but that the Reds would need more to accept a trade than that. Everybody knows that the Cubs are trying real hard to deal Mark Prior before the arbitration deadline. All of this means that the Cubs have real shifty four and five slots in their starting rotation.

The big pitching name being discussed at the meetings is Johan Santana. With, surprise surprise, the Yankees and Red Sox leading the way in trying to make a trade for him. Why aren’t the Cubs ever involved in this mix? They make a lot of money. They can hang with the big boys. Instead of looking to add a pitcher to the four or five slot, why not look to add a pitcher in the one slot? That’s what the big guys are doing. Here is something that sticks out to me as well. Think about the fact that the Red Sox and Yankees are not looking to buy Johan Santana from the Twins, they have the young guys in their organization that would make the Twins listen. Organizationally good from top to bottom. Potential names out there are Erik Bedard, Dan Haren, and Hiroki Kuroda the Japanese pitcher that most believe is the best free agent pitcher out there although the Cubs are only linked to seeking Kuroda.

The Cubs failed to get Kaz Matsui, which might be a blessing in disguise and there are not many other rumors about the Cubs making any moves in the middle infield barring a move for Brian Roberts from Baltimore. The moves the Cubs will most likely make are in the outfield. Today there was discussion that Matt Murton is on the trading block. The Cubs are going hard after Fukudome. Today some new names popped up in potential trade rumors. Nick Swisher from the A’s, Nick Markakis from the Orioles, Raul Ibanez from Seattle, and Orlando Hudson from the D-Backs.

We’ll see if this weeks meetings hold any answers or just a lot of teasing as often happens.

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From Right Field – Bah Humbug

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

I was all set to write a lovely post on the men I hate in sports. I know, it would of been a great precursor to the holiday season. Bah humbug, and all that sort of thing. Thank goodness the Cubs decided to pull an Ebenezer Scrooge on us, and raise ticket prices again. Tickets went up 12 to 23 percent depending on the game and the seat. Bah humbug, indeed. The Cubs throw a piece of coal in my stocking and it was just past Thanksgiving. Awesome.

I’ve already written about how I don’t go to many games anymore, but that was more about the fanbase. Another reason is the pricing. I can’t stomach shelling out my hard earned cash for a team that always looks good on paper, but never delivers. OK, they don’t always look good on paper either. Two years ago, I decided I was priced out of the Terrace Boxes, and settled for Upper Deck Reserved. After looking at the increases, I’m pretty much pigeon holed into that section. I refuse to pay more than $20-22 for a seat. It’s simply plain old ree-dic-you-lous. How the heck can anyone think of taking a his family to watch a game at these prices? Then there’s parking, or mass transit, plus food and drinks, and the possible trinket or two for the kids.

2008 Prices Prime Regular Value
Club Box IF $80 $70 $50
Club Box OF $66 $58 $33
Field Box IF $66 $58 $33
Field Box OF $56 $50 $28
Terrace Box IF $52 $44 $26
Terrace Box OF $46 $40 $23
Upper Deck Box IF $52 $44 $26
Upper Deck Box OF $46 $40 $23
Terrace Rsvd IF $36 $28 $16
Terrace Rsvd OF $32 $24 $16
Upper Deck Rsvd. IF $22 $16 $11
Upper Deck Rsvd. OF $20 $16 $10
Bleachers $45 $36 $22

As with the Cubs, I’ve been a huge Chicago Bulls fan as well. Until the past few years, I went to typically two to three games a year at the United Center too. That was, until they pretty much priced me out. Like them, I don’t feel I’m getting much bang for the forty plus dollars I’m spending on a ticket to sit in the stratosphere, then shell out even more cash on over priced beer, nachos, and pretzels. Guess what happened to me attendance at Bulls games. Exactly, I don’t go. Welcome to the “Matt doesn’t attend your games anymore” club, Chicago Cubs. Here’s what got me even more, Cubs brass thought they were being nice and actually stated that they gave the fans a reprieve last year, by holding tickets at their 2006 prices. Wow, who do I thank? The Cubs are only behind the Red Sox in the cost of tickets. Hey guys, at least that stinking franchise has seen a World Series in the past, Oh, I don’t know……50 some odd years. Put a winning team on the field, and I mean more than one year in a row, and then bump the prices. I don’t really care that for the first time in decades you shelled out millions to get a free swinging outfielder that refuses to hit lower than one in the batting order, you resigned the players that needed to be resigned, and you finally fixed a playing surface that was as good as the one at Portage Park. Good grief.

Of course, this is the huge problem. No matter how much they charge, the well know Cub “fan” dunderheads will still keep filing the park, leaving those of us with good fan morals to eventually throw our hands up in disgust and pay anyway. Sigh. There’s no winning. Then again it’s the Cubs, so we should be used to that. God bless them, each and everyone. I’ll enjoy the game from my couch one more year.

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Sunday Morning Webtopia

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007
  • According to the San Diego Union Tribune, the Padres are ready to make a run at Mark Prior and Matt Clement. (Source)

    The Padres are among the clubs trying to trade for Cubs pitcher Mark Prior, General Manager Kevin Towers said yesterday, and Towers expects to revisit trade talks during the upcoming winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn.Prior, a San Diego native and USDHS alum, has made it known he wants to pitch for the Padres.

  • Jerry Crasnick talks about some of the free agent hurlers in this off-season class. Mentioned as a potential non-tender in the list was Mark Prior. Jason Marquis was mentioned as a potential trade target as a salary dump. (Source)

    If the Cubs decide to cut Prior loose, the line will stretch around the block. When asked how many clubs would have an interest in Prior if he’s suddenly free in December, one NL executive replied, “Twenty-nine.”

    And it remains to be seen how much Prior will pitch in 2008. The Cubs would love to have him back by May, but Prior, who had shoulder surgery last April, hasn’t even begun throwing off a mound yet.

    Even if the Cubs don’t trade Prior, there have been some rumblings that they’re listening on Jason Marquis. After a strong start last season, Marquis posted an unsightly 5.73 ERA after the All-Star break. The Cubs owe him $16.25 million over the next two years, and he didn’t exactly ingratiate himself with manager Lou Piniella with his performance down the stretch.

  • Josh Vitters and USA team member Tyler Colvin were both listed in the top 50 prospects list on MiLB.com. It’s good to see both of these guys ranked so high, especially Colvin who many thought was an overdraft when he was picked in the first round in 2006. He’s beginning to show all the critics they were wrong. They profiled each of the top 50 and even have a brief video snip on each of their player pages.#44 – Tyler Colvin – (Player Page)

    #30 – Josh Vitters – (Player Page)

    Complete Top 50 List


    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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