Archive for February, 2008

Previewing the Cubs via Podcast

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

We’ve been doing team previews and yesterday was the Cubs. I’ve been waiting to do it for awhile and Rob G was a great person to do it with. Thanks go out to him. Here is the post we did on the Pitch:

Forget about Lou Piniella kicking dirt or Carlos Zambrano going after his catcher in the dugout. Chicago Cubs fans agree: 2008 is as good a year as any to think World Series.

“The Pitch” confirms Cubs fans’ feelings, albeit with two of the web’s biggest Cubs homers in the mix. The Cub Reporter’s Rob G. joins the show to offer his take on outfield addition Kosuke Fukudome, who anchors the new bullpen now that Ryan Dempster is taking a shot at the rotation, Félix Pié’s battle for center field and predictions for the Cubs’ big bats.

The Cub Reporter (Rob G., author)

2008 MLB Season Preview: Chicago Cubs

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New Website Features

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Check out all the new things we’ve added to the View From The Bleachers for the 2008 season.


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Pittsburgh Pirates Preview (Podcast)

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

It’s not exactly the most optimistic team preview you’ll hear from The Pitch. But if may be the most opinionated.

As the show visits Pittsburgh Lumber Co. author Matt Bandi, it taps into perhaps the most volatile fan base in the big leagues in its Pittsburgh Pirates edition of The Pitch’s 30-team 2008 MLB Season Preview. Bandi sounds off on the fallout of the Oliver Perez trade, Doug Mientkiewicz’s advice for his new team, young superstars and the future for the Bucs’ ownership.

Pittsburgh Lumber Co. (Matt Bandi, author)

2008 MLB Season Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

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Florida Marlins Preview (Podcast)

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Never doubt the Marlins — they have two World Championships. But never count on them to play “Moneyball,” either, as evidenced by Florida’s questionable offseason trade of their biggest fish, Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, for seven Detroit Tigers prospects.

The curiosity about the deal is directed at “Marlins Today” author Matt Birnbach in the Marlins edition of The Pitch’s 30-team 2008 MLB Season Preview. Hosts Joe Aiello and Brandon Rosage prod Birnbach about Marlins top player Hanley Ramirez, the team’s pending stadium deal and its walk-happy rotation.

Marlins Today (Matt Birnbach, author)

2008 MLB Season Preview: Florida Marlins

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Los Angeles Angels Preview (Podcast)

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

While most MLB pundits consider the Angels to be a lock to win the AL West, The Pitch isn’t so sure. Yes, they are the favorites. But a new-look rotation for their division rivals in Seattle threatens the Halos’ stranglehold on baseball’s smallest division.

Hosts Joe Aiello and Brandon Rosage put Big ‘A’ Baseball’s Richard Nickerson on the hot seat regarding Anaheim’s division dominance, as well as the team’s trade of great-hitting SS Orlando Cabrera for SP Jon Garland, the acquisition of Torii Hunter and its flourishing farm system.

Big ‘A’ Baseball (Richard Nickerson, author)

2008 MLB Season Preview: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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Is It A Foregone Conclusion?

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

All the players have reported for Spring Training, and the focus has now shifted to one player not in Cubs camp yet. No, I’m not referring to Aramis Ramirez, but rather Brian Roberts. It’s funny because I half heartedly expect to pull up the 40 man roster on and see a dash where a number should be and Roberts name as part of the team. It’s almost like the team and the fans have accepted the fact that it’s going to happen and now just continue the waiting process. Me? I’m not so sure it will happen. I wrote in an earlier post that we didn’t need to get Roberts because we had Eric Patterson already in house. (Source)

I still maintain that if given the chance, E-Pat could produce with enough effectiveness to almost equal the production of Roberts while still allowing us to save some of the prospects we would have shipped in the deal. However, I’m also a realist and know that Patterson’s chance of cracking the starting lineup this year on a consistent basis is about as much as Brittany Spears chance of staying sober and becoming a productive member of society. That being said, I’d like to look at why the Roberts trade makes sense for the Cubs and for the Orioles.

The most recent word I have seen has Matt Murton, Ronny Cedeno and a pitching prospect (presumably Sean Gallagher) going to Baltimore. If we work from that deal it doesn’t make sense for the Orioles at all. However, if they can pry someone like Felix Pie or Tyler Colvin away as well, things begin to look a little nicer in return. More than likely, Colvin will be the more attractive outfielder, as the Orioles brought in Adam Jones to play CF in the Eric Bedard deal.

From the Cubs point of view, Roberts gives them a bona fide leadoff man, which also allows the team to move Alfonso Soriano out of the one spot. According to the Chicago Sun Times:

Soriano has been running at 75 percent speed, on orders from the Cubs’ medical staff, as part of his conditioning program leading up to camp. And when asked Sunday whether he thought he could get back to stealing 40 bases a season, he said, ”I don’t know yet. I have to see maybe in a couple weeks, see how I feel in my legs. (Source)

The fact that the legs are even a concern tells me that he won’t be stealing 40 bases again any time soon. Without the speed, his value as a leadoff man is diminished greatly. If Soriano can’t run, the Cubs need someone to anchor the top of the lineup and get on base. Roberts would provide the speed Soriano lacks and allow newcomer Kosuke Fukudome to have some protection in the heart of the lineup. With Derrek Lee, Ramirez, Fukudome and Soriano as the 3-6 hitters in the lineup, the Cubs should be able to score a boat load of runs on a consistent basis.

From a subtraction standpoint, Murton’s exit is perhaps the hardest to deal with, seeing that many would argue that he hasn’t ever been given a legit opportunity to play on a consistent basis. I would argue back that it’s because he’s not that good. People go googly eyed about his plate discipline, but that discipline hasn’t turned into the BB% you would expect out of him. Cedeno seems to have played himself into the doghouse with the errors and strange mental mistakes in the field, despite being hyped as a no hit, good field shortstop coming up. The new acquisition of Alex Cintron also leaves Cedeno expendable.

From a pitching side, Baltimore would get a guy in Gallagher that projects as a number 3 or 4 starter with high upside. He keeps the ball in the park and has three above average pitches (Fastball, Changeup, Curveball). Right now, the Cubs can afford to move him along with possibly a guy like Jason Marquis to clear up some of the jumble in the rotation coming into camp.

Overall, the trade makes sense for the Cubs, which seems to be why they are so anxious to make the trade. But, does it make sense for the Orioles?

Roberts is going to be 30 years old this year and is signed through 2009 at $6.3 million in 2008 and $8 million in 2009. With the Orioles moving Miguel Tejada and Eric Bedard, it’s clear that they are interested in rebuilding. That being the case, Roberts is a piece that needs to go. The hold up at this point is the desire to maximize the return on perhaps the last significant bargaining chip the Orioles have left to play. Murton would fit in nicely in LF, but would probably continue to push for consistent starting time with Luke Scott. Cedeno would jump right in as the starting SS, and if he translate some of his winter ball production into the Majors, the Orioles would have a nice SS at a cheap price. That leaves the remaining piece of pitching, which is sorely needed. Everything I have read in the past has the Orioles insisting on two of the young arms in the Cubs system, Sean Marshall being the second. Assuming only one comes back in return, the Orioles have to hope Gallagher is the real deal or the whole deal turns into a bust.

I know the Cubs will not part with both Marshall and Gallagher and are high on Colvin and Pie. That leaves one pitcher and the patchwork players in Murton and Cedeno. To me, that doesn’t seem like a slam dunk deal just waiting for signatures. If Hendry can wait this one out and get Roberts for his price tag, I’ll be very impressed. Until then, let’s not start ordering our Brian Roberts jerseys just yet. OK?

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Cubs Sign Alex Cintron to MLC

Monday, February 18th, 2008

From the Cubs Media Relations Department:

MESA, Ariz. – The Chicago Cubs and infielder Alex Cintron have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Cintron is expected to report to camp on Tuesday.

Cintron, 29, has a career .277 batting average (525-for-1897) in all or part of seven major league seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks (2001-05) and the Chicago White Sox (2006-07). The versatile infielder has played 338 big league games at shortstop, 109 games at second base and 88 games at third base.

The switch-hitter is a career .305 hitter with a .347 on-base percentage vs. left-handed pitching and a .267 hitter vs. right-handed pitching. Cintron batted .243 with seven doubles, two home runs and 19 RBI in a 2007 season in which he was limited to 68 games following offseason right elbow surgery, three stints on the bereavement list and one stint on the restricted list. In 2006, Cintron batted .285 with 10 doubles, five home runs and 41 RBI in 91 games in his first season with the White Sox.

Cintron broke into the big leagues in 2001 with the Diamondbacks and enjoyed his most productive season in 2003, when he set career highs with a .317 batting average, 70 runs scored, 13 home runs and 51 RBI in 117 games. He played in a career-best 154 games a year later and saw action in 122 games in 2005, his final year in Arizona.

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The Clemens Mess

Monday, February 18th, 2008

From Right Field

As the Cubs set up shop in the Arizona sun this past week, things were heating up in Washington with Roger Clemens, and his former trainer Brian McNamee. As we saw from the daily coverage of the hearings, which sadly reminded me of the circus of a few years ago, there was a lot of finger pointing. Except this time it wasn’t Rafael Palmeiro definitely pointing to members of Congress. Oh where have you gone, Mr. Palmeiro? Hiding south of the border? Like Raffy, I’m afraid we’ll all have the same memories of The Rocket years down the road, as he made a mockery of his career by thinking the general public, and the baseball fan base is really that unintelligent. Then again, we’ve seen Giants’ fans stand by Barry Bonds for years, so maybe we are somewhat mindless sheep.

For those of you that have been living under a rock, here’s the gist. Roger Clemens’ former personal trainer has stated under oath, that he had injected Roger at least sixteen times with HGH and/or anabolic steroids. With a probable Hall of Fame induction in jeopardy, Roger has obviously refuted the allegations. Stating continually that he’s doing this because it’s tarnishing his name, as well as not be true. He has, however, stated that McNamee injected him with vitamin B12 and lidocaine.

Over the past month, I’ve been quietly watching this unfold. I’ve never been a fan of Roger Clemens, but I have always admired any pitcher than can still bring it every fifth day as they reach their late 30’s and into their 40’s. The thought that Roger might have been on the juice never entered my mind, as I had always heard he was one of the hardest workers in the off season. I can barely catch my breath after two trips down the basketball court, and that is my off season regiment for baseball. Guys that work hard in the off season, should be better prepared for the long haul of the baseball season.

I started to lose my faith in Mr. Clemens when he repeatedly stated he only had lidocaine and B12 injections. I just found that too odd. Wouldn’t it be easier to just take a Flintstones vitamin to get your daily dose of B12? As far as I knew B12 didn’t do anything for you anyway, to which it really doesn’t (Source). Lidocaine is strictly used to dull joint pain, and B12 is typically treated for anemia or diet deficiencies. Sounds like a Flintstones chewable would do the trick, Mr. Clemens. Then again, a subsequent article (Source) states HGH doesn’t help athletes much either. It typically increases muslce mass without showing much improvement. It’s when the addition on anabolic steroids is combined with HGH, it provides a punch.

Clemens agents issued a 49 page report comparing him to other pitchers that had late career success (Source). They argue that his success was in fact from the way he adjusted his pitching style, and developed a split-finger. Obviously, as we age we all come up with ways to compensate for abilities we’ve lost along the way. How would the addition of one split-finger fastball suddenly give Clemens a 141-66 record after training with McNamee? Sounds fishy to me. The same report offered up names of Curt Shilling, Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan, to compare Clemens’ numbers too. While Ryan and Johnson are fine pitchers to compare one self too, I’d keep Mr. Schilling out of this. The rumors of his use of enhancers have been around for years. One positive in the report? Clemens numbers are hardly as good as Ryan’s. His average of inning pitched was below that of Johnson’s 7 1/3, and his strikeouts-per-nine-innings was almost two belong Ryan’s numbers during the same ages.

Of course, by early February, everyone wanted in on this action, and a small group of professors offered insight into the previous report issued by Clemens’ camp (Source). They stated that comparing Clemens’ career with only those pitchers that were successful in the second half of their careers minimized the chance that Clemens numbers would seem out of the ordinary. This group took a much larger control group for their statistical analysis and found Clemens’ numbers to actually be quite out of the ordinary. Clemens career is a basic reversal of a pitcher’s typical career. Whereas most pitchers become better during their mid to late 20’s, and peak around 30, Clemens declines during his twenties and oddly peaks towards his late 30’s and early 40’s. They do, however, point out that there is no proof that any substances played a part in the number crunching.

Whether or not Clemens’ did or did not take anything to further his career, or give him a boost in his performance, is really more a case of he said, he said now. I’ll agree with Clemens on one point. His name is certainly tarnished either way this goes. Unfortunately, I think the case against him is greater now, with Chuck Knoblauch, Andy Petitte and Roger’s own wife confirming McNamee’s allegations, he needs to come clean. It’s over Roger, your image is tarnished either way. Play fair now, because it certainly doesn’t look like you did during your career.

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I Know It’s Wrong, but Who Cares?

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

Yovani Gallardo has been diagnosed with torn cartilage in his knee and is expected to miss four weeks following surgery.He’s set to go under the knife Tuesday and is likely to begin the season on the disabled list after suffering the injury during a throwing session earlier this week. This could leave the Brewers with a three-four-five of David Bush, Carlos Villanueva and Chris Capuano to begin the season, though Gallardo could bump a member of the group by the middle of April. Manny Parra and Claudio Vargas will also be in the mix. (Rotoworld – 2/17/2008)

Is it wrong to be happy about this? The Brewers are the main team that could pose a threat to us this year and now they’ll have one of their best young arms starting his second year recovering from a knee injury. That’s some nice news for Cub fans.

Jason Marquis responded to the fact that he isn’t guaranteed a spot in the rotation out of spring training this season with the following, “I’m competing against myself, and every time I touch the baseball, I’m working on things to get me better,” Marquis said. “My ability will speak for itself the way it has in the past.”

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