Archive for February, 2009

Cubs Convene on Cosmic Convergence of Coincidences

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Originally posted by Tim McGinnis at Tales from Aisle 424


Today is many things. It is the day pitchers and catchers officially report to Spring Training. It is also Friday the 13th. While I have done my best to not draw too many conclusions about the possible ramifications of such a coincidence, I’ll admit that the thought has festered.

It is my hope that this is the first step of many by the Cubs organization to tell the baseball gods where to stick their curse, but I believe it was probably just a small clerical oversight when planning out the Spring Training schedule. My guess is that Crane Kenney (he who felt it necessary to bless the dugout before the playoffs last year) simply didn’t check his calendar closely when the date was first set.

Generally, I’m not a big believer in Friday the 13th, but this day also marks a major anniversary for me. It is the eleventh anniversary of my first purchase of my season ticket package in Aisle 424.

You may wonder how I have remembered the exact date of my purchase when I have difficulty remembering what I had for dinner last night (Waffles!), but it is not so much because I remember the date I purchased the tickets, I remember because of what happened the very next day.

On February 14, 1998, Harry Caray collapsed into a coma while dancing with his wife, Dutchie, after a Valentine’s Day dinner. He never regained consciousness and died four days later.

So, it stands to reason that I killed Harry. I certainly didn’t mean to, and if I had any inkling that was going to be the penalty for fulfilling a personal dream, I certainly wouldn’t have done my little I-Got-Cubs-Tickets Jig after getting off the phone with the Cubs’ ticket representative.

Eleven years later, the Cubs begin their quest to avoid the 101st year of championship drought at a point in time that has some historically bad mojo tied to it. You can see why my optimism might wane a bit.

But instead, I choose to take this as an opportunity to stand up and shove this cosmically tainted day in the faces of the baseball gods and spit at their feet. This is a new time

Cleaner movies

, when I will not fear black cats, bad karma, or shady conspiracy theories. I dare them to do their worst.

Now where did I put that rabbit’s foot?The Hard Word dvd

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Alright, lemme hear ya…good and loud.

Friday, February 13th, 2009

As we get ready to start the long journey toward October, I want to hear what type of ideas you have for posts and topics as well as features for the site. It’s your site to read so let me know what you want to see. I’ve been leaning toward more extensive minor league coverage and discussion on the organization as a while rather than primarily the big league team. Give me some feedback as to what you want. Don’t be afraid, even if you’ve never commented before.

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Rotisserie Baseball

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

I’d like to play a Rotisserie league this year with 10 teams and a live auction draft on ESPN.

If you’re interested in playing with me, let me know why you should be the guy for the league.

I’ll provide a prize for the winner of the league. Send all entry explainations to

Please include the following:

Experience Playing Rotisserie Style
AIM name if you have one
Reason why you are the right choice to play with

The Last Unicorn trailer

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Stop Treating Symptoms and Solve the Problem

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Originally posted by Tim McGinnis at: Botched psp Tales from Aisle 424

If life could be lived in a bubble, where actions did not have cause-and-effect reactions, I would have absolutely no problem at all with players like Alex Rodriguez using steroids. He could set all of the records, make all of his money, and deal with all of the negative publicity that comes from it because that was his choice.

I have wavered in my stance on the steroid issue for some time and have gone from a libertarian viewpoint, like my good friend James Wilson at Independent Country, to a viewpoint of indifference similar to that of Joe, posted previously on this site.

But as I think more about the ramifications that steroid use by athletes such as A-Rod, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, etc., have on the actions of young athletes, the more I do feel that something needs to be done, and like it or not, the government is the only one that is in any position to do so.

The problem with steroid use, as opposed to recreational drug use, is that steroids have been shown to dramatically improve one’s ability to play sports. Sports that, when played at an elite level, can increase your earning power beyond most people’s dreams. Currently, what lesson do aspiring athletes learn from A-Rod using steroids? That you can earn almost half a billion dollars before you are 40 years old by hitting a baseball really far, sleep with Madonna (and basically any other woman you choose), and occasionally do a tough interview with Katie Couric or Peter Gammons. What a hard life.

Its bad enough that sports is usually the only ticket out of abject poverty for a lot of kids in Latin American countries and the inner cities of the United States, but now there are seemingly magic pills that will help anyone get the edge to get out of those situations. Not only that, but if you get caught, you say you are sorry, you have a suspension, and you move on. There are people who will help you not get caught by getting around the tests. The potential payoff is far greater than the perceived risk.

So now you have a bunch of kids shooting up in order to be able to bench press more weight, run faster, and jump higher. The kids who aren’t in dire economic situations, but who are also gifted athletes get left behind by the cheaters, so they start using. It just snowballs.

Do you know how casinos prevent most people from cheating? They beat the living crap out of those that are caught. There is real incentive to play on the level. Do you know how you know that the Bellagio isn’t rigging its slot machines and playing with stacked decks? The gaming commission will shut a casino down without hesitation if the house is caught unfairly tipping the odds more into their favor. Again, the risk of the penalty outweighs the potential reward of taking tourists for a few more dollars here and there.

So who can provide that kind of pressure on multimillion dollar professional sports teams and the multibillion dollar sports leagues? Plain and simple, it should not have to be the government’s job, but since the American public clearly can’t turn off the TVs or stop buying tickets to games being played by enhanced supermen, the sports leagues have no reason to be tough on users.

The government is the only entity with enough power to do anything about it. Unfortunately, as is usually the case with the government, they are going for the high-profile, cosmetic actions that they can point to during elections to prove they are tough on drugs and a friend of safety for children. They are not solving the problem, they are merely treating symptoms. They are chastising individuals for their actions, hoping that lessons will be learned by others who do not want to go down that same path of destruction.

That lesson is not being heard. Athletes know that there are far more users that are not getting caught than ones who are. They know down deep inside that despite no physical proof, there are guys like Sammy Sosa and Luis Gonzalez who fall into the category of “Everyone knows they used, but we can’t prove it.” Sosa gets to keep all of his money. He will go into the Hall of Fame. Luis Gonzalez gets to keep the extra millions he made after suddenly becoming a 50+ homerun hitter after showing no potential for that level of power production at any level of his career before that. There is no disincentive on the player’s part.

The teams keep making money. Even the small-market teams are profitable now after the resurgence in popularity fueled by the 1998 homerun chase between two allegedly juiced superstars. The Cubs just hired a bunch of employees for the summer, the new owners (once approved) are rumored to be interested in increasing the team’s administrative headcount and increase the number of scouts. Who else is hiring in this economic environment? Clearly, the status quo works for the teams, and by extension, the Players Union because they like the rising salaries that result from the rising attendance figures and increased revenue streams.

So instead of trotting Barry Bonds out to a perjury hearing, and holding hearings where they scold players and owners for being irresponsible while doing their best to look indignant while on camera, they should be fining the hell out of any sports franchise that has a player tested positive for steroids or other illegal performance enhancers. You hit these teams hard enough in their bankbook they will start to rethink their evaluation and hiring of players.

They will not want guys like A-Rod on their team. They will start building clauses into long-term deals that void remaining years, and allow fines that will allow them to take back some of the money they already paid for medically enhanced statistics. Barry Bonds would have been dropped from a roster long before he had a chance to break Hank Aaron’s homerun record. The extra revenue the Giants brought in during his chase wouldn’t have been worth the risk. If you think they would have been too loyal to drop him, notice they had no problem dropping him as soon as his chase was over and there was nothing left to market. He became a drain on their resources instead of a benefit, so he is out looking for work.

Teams would step up testing so they could make sure they had done their homework before signing players, minimizing their risk. Do you think that Tom Hicks, the owner of the Rangers (who says he feels betrayed by Alex) would have gone ahead with an investment of $252 million over 10 years if he had the added risk of getting nailed with a $50 million fine if one of his players is caught using? He would have done his homework. He would have built clauses in to protect himself from that risk. He would have taken action to create vigilance around the team to prevent the use of illegal performance-enhancers, instead of pretending that what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse. Suddenly, the statistics would not be the key to big money anymore. When the risk of using steroids outweighs the potential gains, the demand will go down and usage will drop.

There would still be cheaters because there will always be someone who can find their way around rules. There would still be people who get away with it, because no monitoring system is flawless. But fining the teams would finally create an incentive to become more vigilant of their players and to act accordingly to keep the sport as clean as possible.

When steroids are finally stopped being perceived by young athletes as a magic ticket to riches, they will heed more of the warnings about shriveled testicles, impotence, and death. Until then, they are willing to risk a couple of shrunken balls because they think that one day they will be able to sleep with Playboy bunnies on a big pile of money.

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A-Rod Did Steroids and I’m OK With That

Monday, February 9th, 2009

A-Rod admitted that he used steroids while he was a member of the Texas Rangers and it’s rocked the baseball world like a hurricane. As for me, I’m OK with it. It doesn’t bother me in the least bit that he or any other player (Barry Bonds included) has used steroids. Call me crazy, but I really have come to a conclusion that it’s not that big of a deal for me to hear it for a few reasons.

First, I fail to care because athletes are not my heroes. I have long since gotten over the idea of putting an athlete or a celebrity on a pedestal simply because they’re “famous”. When we’re kids, we idolize these guys and hold them to this higher standard that they ultimately can only fail to live up to. Growing up, my sports heroes were Barry Sanders, Kirby Puckett, and Lawrence Taylor. I loved to watch them do the things they did on the field and loved to collect their baseball / football cars. They were my idols. Slowly I watched each one fail to live up to the standards I set for them as idols. I watched LT get busted for drug use and Barry Sanders father a child outside of marriage. I watched Kirby Puckett be accused of sexual assault and eventually pass away a forgotten man. I’ve learned that these guys, like me, are human. They fall into temptation and the cultural pressures to live up to the hype and as a result, use these PED’s.

Second, I fail to care because steroid use and other PED use is going to be around for ever and has been around for as long as anyone can remember. Though out history people are always trying to get an edge, whether it be sports related or not. Before we go busting on guys for doing these drugs, ask yourself if you’re just as guilty. How many of us have downed that extra cup of coffee after a long night to focus on the task at hand? How many, if given the opportunity at work to make multi-millions by taking a pill, would not at least consider it, especially if we never were going to get caught? People are always going to seek out ways to get an advantage over the competition and baseball is no exception. Does it make it right? No, legally what Alex Rodriguez did was wrong, but it’s awfully hard to slam the hammer down on him when I’ve never been in that position.

Third, I fail to care because I understand that sports are not that important in the grand scheme of things. Over the past year or so I’ve seen multiple people around me battle things like brain tumors and pancreatic cancer. I see people without a job and struggling to get out of debt. Those are the important things in life. I didn’t think I’d ever get to a point where I could say that sports are not one of the more important facets in my life, but it’s happened. I would urge you to not go crazy over A-Rod and instead go crazy for your family. Go crazy for your faith. Go crazy for the important things in life, and A-Rod is not it.

I’m in no way saying that what A-Rod did was right. I’m not going to condone his actions. What I will do is not dwell on it and definitely not make it more than it is, another news story. What were your thoughts on this story? Does it bother you? Does it make you want to stop watching baseball or sports in general? Let’s discuss!!!

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Reader Comment Friday

Friday, February 6th, 2009

Today’s reader comment comes from Mastrick regarding Micah Hoffpauir. If you’d like to get your comment or post featured, send it to me at

Well here’s a player that has really surprised me – Micah Hoffpauir.

I thought Micah was going to be a career AA or AAA first baseman, a gap hitter with good average, a decent number of doubles but not too many homeruns.

I’m glad to see that the Cubs are giving Micah a bonafide chance to make the 25 man roster – in 2008 he hit .342 with a .934 OPS for Chicago – he had 27 homeruns and 108 RBI with both Chicago and Iowa.

Untamed Heart the movie Micah will be a definite upgrade over Daryle Ward as a bench player and he might give D Lee a few days off at first. Last year I was pleasantly surprised about Fontenot, this year Hoffpauir’s my guy.

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Getting to Know Justin Sellers

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

It’s day two of the getting two know series and today we focus on the other half of the Michael Wuertz deal with the A’s. Today we get to know middle infielder, Justin Sellers. Here is what Baseball America and John Sickels had to say about him over the past few years in their prospect handbooks.

2006 – “The son of former big league pitcher Jeff Sellers, Justin played at Marina High (Huntington Beach, CA) with top A’s prospect Daric Barton. Marina also has produced big leagers Kevin Elster, Marc Newfield, Steve Springer and Craig Wilson. Sellers’ tools and feel for the game impressed many teams, but his lack of size dropped the Cal State Fullerton recruit to the sixth round. One A’s official insists that if Sellers were even 6 feet tall, he could have been a late first-round pick. Signed for $150,000, he’s fluid in all aspects of the game. He has a smooth, level swing that allows him to hit for a high average. A baseball rat with fantastic instincts, he’s an excellent defender with good range to both sides and solid arm strength. He’s also an above-average runner. Sellers isn’t expected to fill out much because he has a small frame, and he offers little in the way of power. Oakland has worked with him to tame his approach at the plate and help him with his transition from metal to wood bat. With a good spring, he’ll be the everyday shortstop in low Class A.” ~ Baseball America

Brain Damage full

“Sellers was a sixth round pick last June, out of high school in Huntington Beach, CA. He is the son of Jeff Sellers, former Major League pitcher. Justin is a small guy but a very good athlete. Right now his best skills are on defense: he is an excellent defensive shortstop, possibly a Gold Glove candidate if he hits enough to play regularly in the Majors. That’s the problem: he may not hit enough. He controls the strike zone well, which is good, but he lacks power and does not drive the ball. He held his own in the Northwest League against older players, which is a good sign, but we need to see some full-season data. Scouts praise his work ethic and instincts, but are they enough to overcome his lack of size and strength?” ~ John Sickels

2007 – “The son of former big league right hander Jeff Sellers, Justin committed to play for Cal State Fullerton but signed for a relatively modest $150,000 bonus as a 2005 sixth rounder. A Marina High teammate of Daric Barton in 2003, Sellers was the youngest Kane County player for much of 2006. Oakland has considered making him a switch hitter but hasn’t gone ahead with the experiment yet. Sellers has passed fellow 2005 draftee Cliff Pennington as the best defensive infielder in the system. He has a feel for defense, making difficult plays look easy thanks to soft hands, smooth footwork, surprising range and a solid-average, accurate arm. Offensively, he controls the strike zone and has the bat speed to sting balls from gap to gap. His above-average instincts play well defensively and on the bases, where he’s a slightly above-average runner. Sellers had more fly outs than any A’s farmhand in 2006. He hasn’t adjusted his homer-oriented approach despite evidence that homers won’t be a big part of the game. They definitely won’t be if he doesn’t respond to the organization’s pleas that he hit the weight room and get stronger. Today’s A’s value defense more than most clubs. Sellers will need to show more professionalism to reach his ceiling as an everyday shortstop whose bats profiles for the bottom of a lineup. A stronger, more coachable Sellers will earn a spot in high Class A.” ~ Baseball America

“A sixth round pick in 2005 out of high school in CA, Sellers has emerged as an excellent defensive shortstop. His range, hands and arm strength all rate as quality tools, and he’ll have no trouble fielding the position at higher levels. His hitting is another matter. He controls the strike zone effectively, and he makes good contact. But he doesn’t the ball very much, and given his size and relative lack of strength, it seems unlikely that he’ll develop much power. If he can’t get the hitting going, he may end up as a utility player down the line, although he is young enough to move beyond that, especially given that he starts off with the advantage of strike zone judgment in his favor. Look at Sellers as the hitting equivalent of a projectable young strike-throwing pitcher in A-ball who doesn’t throw hard but might someday.” John Sickels

2008 – “A high school teammate of Daric Barton, Sellers is the son of former big league right hander Jeff Sellers. He opted to sign with Oakland for $150,000, bypassing a commitment to play at Cal State Fullerton. Sellers is a natural defender at shortstop, with soft hands and above-average range. His arm strength isn’t great, but it’s enough to get the job done and plays up because of his ability to read balls off the bat and get a quick first step. Sellers has exceptional instincts that translate in the field as well as on the bases. Offense is the question. Sellers led the organization in fly outs in 2006 and he still hits too many balls in the air. He drops his back shoulder and pulls off pitches, minimizing his ability to drive balls. He needs to stay to the middle of the field and work to his strengths and not try to sell out for power, mostly because there simply isn’t much power there. He went 9-for-16 to finish his Hawaii Winter Baseball stint on a roll, batting .281 there overall. Sellers profiles as a solid-average defender who’ll hit at the bottom of a lineup. While he improved some areas of his approach, he needs more maturity and added strength when he reports to Double-A this spring.” – Baseball America

Rats – Notte di terrore psp

Conclusion – It seems that this is another kid, like Robnett, that hasn’t really fully reached his peak, but certainly has potential. Perhaps he’s the new Ronny Cedeno for us. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the mix for a backup infielder spot late in the year if he can show any hitting at all this year early in the year.

Day on Fire trailer

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Getting to know Richie Robnett

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

I decided to postpone the post on comparing the two rosters (last year and this year) and instead take a look at what the scouts had to say over the past few years about the two prospects we received in exchange for Michael Wuertz. Taking a look at the Baseball America Prospect Handbook and the John Sickels Prospect Handbook over the past three years, I found the following for Richie Robnett:

2006 – “I was VERY high on Richie Robnett entering the 2005 season, comparing the ’04 first round pick out of Fresno State to a cross between Jimmy Wynn and Kirby Puckett. His season was OK but ultimately a disappointment. The good news: he showed a lot of raw power, with 30 doubles and 20 homers implying that he should show plenty of pop at higher levels. The bad news: he struck out way too much, didn’t work the count as effectively as he did in college, and was too tentative on the bases. His OPS came out at 6 percent worse than California League average. Robnett is very toolsy but raw compared with many of his fellow college guys. He does have good defensive tools, including plus range and a strong arm. I am still very intrigued with his tools, but his skills were less developed than I had hoped. GRADE – C+” ~ John Sickels

“Robnett received the top bonus ($1.325M) of any A’s 2004 draftees and also got an invite to big league camp, but his first full prop season was a mixed bad as he racked up 40 more strikeouts than hits. He was slowed early by a hamstring problem that kept him from getting into a rhythm. He made some adjustments in the second half, leading to 14 homeruns in his last 60 games. Robnett offers one of the best packages of tools among Oakland farmhands. Compact and muscular, he has tremendous bat speed and above-average power, but needs to make more contact and work the count better to take advantage of it. He has the athleticism to play center field and the arm for right, but he still needs work at both positions because of bad jumps and poor routes. He’s an above-average runner, though he already lost a step since college. The A’s were happy with the improvement Robnett made during instructional league and believe he’s close to breaking through. He’ll likely return to high Class A in 2006.” ~ Baseball America

2007 – “Robnett has the physical tools, but it hasn’t quite come together for him. He makes and attempt to work the count, but he simply swings and misses too often. His approach isn’t very subtle, as he swings hard trying to put charges into balls that he should try hitting the other way. He’ll kill a mistake pitch, but unless he becomes more selective he won’t see enough of them at higher levels. Robnett has lost some speed since college, cutting down his effectiveness as both a runner and fielder. His overall tools are still intriguing, but he has to make progress in 2007 or risk getting buried. GRADE C” ~ John Sickels

“Scouts outside the A’s organization frequently put Robnett at the top of their follow lists because his tools stand out in the system. Those tools got him picked in the first round in 2004 out of Fresno State and earned him a $1.325 million signing bonus. While he has athletic ability and still runs well, Robnett’s best tool is his raw power. He’s short but stocky and strong, quick to the ball and able to hit balls out of any ballpark. Harnessing his power remains a concern though, because he lacks pitch recognition and strikes out too much. The rest of his tools don’t play of to their grades because he’s so raw, even after two full seasons. He has the speed to play centerfield and a slightly above-average arm would play in right but he doesn’t project as an above-average defender due to inconsistent routes and other fundamentals. A broken hamate bone in 2006 didn’t help matters, and he struggled in a brief stint in the Mexican Pacific League. Robnett is headed to Double-A Midland, likely in center field, flanked by prospects Travis Buck, Myron Leslie and Danny Putnam.” ~ Baseball America

2008 – “Robnett’s name surfaces frequently during trade talks, as other clubs obviously value his wide base of skills. The Dodgers we unsuccessful in signing Robnett out of high school as a 32nd-rounder in 2002, and he increased his stock at Fresno State, going in the first round to the A’s for $1.325 million two years later. Robnett’s best tool is his huge raw power. He’s not tall, but stocky and strong, and his quick hands and powerful forearms produce enough juice to leave any ballpark. He’s a good athlete who runs well, but will be limited to a corner outfield spot because of suspect routes and poor reads and jumps. He has above average arm strength, and right field is the best fit. He still swings and misses too much, for a variety of reasons: lack of pitch recognition, lack of patience and poor two strike approach are key contributors. After being added to the 40-man roster, Robnett will head to big league camp this spring with an outside chance to make the club, but Triple A seems a more likely destination.” ~ Baseball America

Conclusion – The common theme here seems to be that Robnett is a very raw hitter that needs to cut down on strikeouts and harness the power he has. To me, as I was reading those reports and comparing them to a current Major League player, my mind kept flashing to Adam Dunn. I could be way off, but that was who he reminded me of. From a prospect standpoint, he reminds me a little of Brian Dopirak, who was always highly touted in our system, but never lived up to the hype. I’m hoping for the Dunn comparison.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at Justin Sellers. While you’re waiting, be sure to head over to John Sickel’s website and pick up the latest edition of the Prospect Handbook as well as to Baseball America and pick of their handbook.

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Are You Happy With This Team?

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

I’ll have the post about comparing this year’s team to last year’s team up soon. In the meantime, I’d like to hear from you on if you’re happy overall with the job Jim Hendry has done this off-season on the whole and do you feel more confident in our chances this year?

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