Archive for March, 2009

Notes From Rehab

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

The World’s Greatest Living Cubs Fan, my dad, has been living in a SubAcute Rehabilitation Care Facility since early February. We had hoped that he would have been out of there by now, allowing us to have taken a quick roadtrip to Mesa, AZ, but such was not the case.

My dad’s roommate is also a Cubs fan so that’s working out OK. At 1:00 pm today my dad’s roommate asked me to set their TV to Channel 9 so there’d be no chance of them missing the 1st pitch at 3:05pm. That’s a couple of hard core Cubs fans in rehab for you.

So what did they see today?

  • They saw a full house at HoHoKam Park.
  • They saw Rich Harden not pitching today (he was “under the weather”).
  • They saw Geovany Soto catch.
  • They saw the Cubs’ leadoff man, Alfonso Soriano, get 2 hits.
  • They saw Milton Bradley get caught off 3rd base, then strikeout and single.
  • They saw Aramis Ramirez hit a single, fly out and slap a single to center.
  • They saw Mike Fontenot fumble a ground ball, which led to 2 unearned Padres runs.
  • They saw Nick Hundley throw out Mr. Soriano on an attempted stolen base.
  • They saw Carlos Marmol pitch 2 shutout innings, looking sharp.
  • They saw the Padres’ starting pitcher, Mr. Correia strike out Fontenot and Soto, then walk Sam Fuld and give up a pinch hit 2 run homer to Reed Johnson.
  • They saw Kevin Gregg pitch in the 5th and 6th.
  • They saw Mr. Waddell pitch in the 6th and 7th, then get pulled by Lou and replaced by Angel Guzman. Mr. Guzman retired 6 in a row and got a hit himself.
  • They saw and heard Fergie Jenkins reminisce with Lou and Bob prior to the retirement of his Cubs uniform #31 (shared with Greg Maddux), which will occur on May 3rd.
  • They saw a “slug bunt” which Ryan Theriot played well.
  • They saw and heard Bruce Miles discuss the Cubs spring training and upcoming season.
  • They saw Micah Hoffpauir hit some long outs.
  • They saw Andy White score on a high bouncing single by Esteban German.
  • They saw Paul Bako look at strike 3 with 2 out and 2 on.
  • They saw Kevin Hart hit the first batter he faced in the butt; hit the 2nd batter he faced in the back, then, following a double play, he gave up an RBI single and got the 3rd out with a fly out to right.
  • They saw the Cubs win 5-3.
  • They saw and heard Len interview Ryan Theriot.

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Marching Towards Madness

Friday, March 20th, 2009

I stand by what I wrote about Bradley the other day at the bottom of Sherm’s post.  Which was basically to ask, what numbers can we expect from Bradley? Should he have been our (only) major free agent acquisition? And I realized in that post that, due largely to an inability to stay healthy (to stay far less healthy than “injury prone” Cubs like Soriano and Ramirez), his best Runs, HR’s, RBI numbers were equal to that of Mark DeRosa’s best numbers.  My comments in some respects begged the question stats vs. production. The obvious answer is stats AND production, but a guy like Bradley clearly forces to pick one or the other. But that is a further topic for another time.

Now I’d like to talk about his baggage.  I don’t remember the details of Bradley’s transgressions, tearing his knee up when “baited” by an ump. Hurling something at the base of the stands when upset by a fan? Going up to the broadcast booth to confront broadcasters he felt insulted him or his family?
We lived through the Dusty Baker years, the LaTroy Hawkins years, the Moises Alou years, the Kent Merker years, where I frankly thought the team was populated by selfish brats who I didn’t enjoy rooting for.  So I really hope Bradley knows there is no place for that in Chicago.  He says he does.

We all saw these Quotes:

“He’s not sullen. He’s not melancholy, a word Bradley said makes him think of storm clouds.
“That’s not me,” he said. “The thing people might not know about me is that I’m extremely shy. For me to start talking to people I don’t know at all, it’s uncomfortable. Usually, I’m pretty quiet in the beginning until I feel people out. Then my personality starts to come out.

“Bottom line is, I’m as serious as a heart attack about baseball and winning. My last goal in life, my bucket list, is winning a World Series, and that’s it. I don’t care about personal accolades, fame. I don’t need any of that. Money is great because my family is taken care of, but the only thing that’s going to make me happy is winning.””
“Yes, I’ve made mistakes. Yes, I haven’t handled things properly in the past. I was immature, I was childish. That’s how I reacted. My self-defense mechanism was to lash out. Maybe it’s my own insecurity.”
Bradley says he can handle situations better now. Bottom line, he just wants to play and be judged like everyone else. Source

I don’t know how many baseball players I would like to sit around and talk to. Mostly they’ve not graduated from college, they’ve largely not attended college, they sit around for hours at a time dreaming up exotic wet willies and chewing gum tricks. Immaturity is a word you can associate with them, but not a word you are likely to hear come out of their mouths. Certainly not in reference to themselves and their own transgressions. So when Bradley says, “Yes, I’ve made mistakes. Yes, I haven’t handled things properly in the past. I was immature, I was childish. That’s how I reacted. My self-defense mechanism was to lash out. Maybe it’s my own insecurity.” I find myself willing to listen.

So in that same artical when he says , “The thing people might not know about me is that I’m extremely shy. For me to start talking to people I don’t know at all, it’s uncomfortable. Usually, I’m pretty quiet in the beginning until I feel people out. Then my personality starts to come out.”  I am drawn to that and think, here is a person given to self reflection, not a useful trait for athlete’s but a vital one for human beings, and he might stand out from his peers as a person that I’d like to talk to.  Who knows.?.

In that list of players we’ve lived through above, the player Bradley most reminds me of is LaTroy Hawkins.  Hawkins was a seemingly personable guy , a family guy, who found himself in a role he wasn’t suited for (closer) and felt cornered and trapped by Chicago media/fan scrutiny (which is a nice word for obsessive criticism).  And couldn’t handle it.  Bradley comes in as our free agent savior, a role his production suggests he will not be, so like Hawkins, he will be cast out of position.  How will he respond?   Here is a nice possibility from Muskat’s article: “It’s vital for me to be on the field — more than even being productive,” he said. “If I’m out there, I know that’s going to happen anyway. I just have to be out there, and I will.” Source

And here are some that are not so nice (along with some ones blogetary):

“Well, you can get a healthy guy to go out there and play 162 games, but he won’t do what I did in 120.”
As crudely self-serving as that sounds, Bradley is mostly right. His numbers last season were All-Star quality.
But that shouldn’t excuse the fact that Bradley was prone to sporadically calling in sick, including missing 10 of 11 games in early August as the Rangers lapsed from wild-card contenders to pretenders.
Plus, at the same time when Bradley was randomly removing himself from lineups, Michael Young was playing nearly every day despite having broken fingers on both hands.

Young never complained about Milton. That’s not Michael’s style. But his teammates certainly noticed.
When asked about that Sunday, Bradley gave an unsettling answer.
“If I’m being paid, and I’ve got the commitment to me that I give to them, you make more of an effort to be out there every day,” he said. Source

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Both of Bradley’s quotes above and the summary of his time in Texas contradict his quotes about maturity.  Maturity is not about needing to be constantly reaffirmed about how important you are.  I know because I am immature, am I writing all right?

I’m not.  My first failed novel is called, “The Second Excuse.” It refers to something I learned as a Bear fan–that it is the second excuse that reveals the lie.  “I can’t go out with you tonight because my parents are in town, AND I have to go to work in the morning.”  You realize your first excuse doesn’t cover it, so you pile on other ones hoping to build a predominance of evidence.  Maybe your parents are in town, maybe you do have to work tomorrow, but you can’t go out with me because you don’t want to.  As a detective clue it is about as informative as knowing that usually an unattributed source is quoted directly  in the same article.  But I was reminded of my failed novel when I read this, “Milton Bradley did not report to the ballpark Wednesday. He has the flu, and his wife is in labor.” Source

I think we’d all agree that a laboring wife is reason enough to not show up to the ballpark, but doesn’t The Second Excuse make this feel like: I’m not showing up, cause I don’t want to.?.  I am not taking a stand against Bradley. I have no idea what this year will hold, who could? He seems like a partially thoughtful introspective guy. I get mad and do stupid things, so what aspersions can I cast? But there are serious enough questions to ask if Trader Jim did his due diligence for Cub Fans this winter, that make me ask, This it? This is enough?

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Mining for Gold in the Bill James Gold Mine – 2009

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Last year the folks at Acta Sports sent me a copy of the Bill James Gold Mine. Thankfully, this year’s edition found it’s way into my mailbox yesterday and I consumed it immediately. I’d like to highlight a few choice nuggets for you and see if they don’t generate some discussion.

“Alfonso Soriano led off for the Cubs in 105 games, but scored on a teammate’s home run only once. He scored on his own home run 29 times.”

I see some concepts that jump out to me right off the bat:

  1. Does this mean the order should feature Aramis Ramirez and then Milton Bradley, with Derrek Lee moving down to the fifth or even the six spot being someone like Soto and Fontenot in an effort to get more power behind Soriano?
  2. I’m curious to see what the disparity between scoring on your own home runs and other’s home runs is for other folks that hit for power. Soriano isn’t the prototypical leadoff hitter that slaps the ball. I’d be interested in seeing the numbers for someone like Grady Sizemore.
  3. 105 games at leadoff and we still won 97 games. What’s all the fuss about?

Kosuke Fukudome’s inaugural Major League season didn’t go as well as hoped, but Fukudome handled good pitching when given a chance. He batted .281, with a .781 OPS, against pitchers with a 3.50 ERA or lower.

I believe in Fukudome and I expect big things from him. He hit the good pitchers and he hit the bad pitchers. He just didn’t hit well against the pitchers in between.

I don’t want to give away too much more of the book, but I do want to give you a heads up on some of the other things included in it. Some of the other topics include:

  • Team by Team nugget pages
  • The 96 Families of Hitters
  • Know When to Walk Away, Know When to Run
  • A whole article on Alan Trammell
  • Pitch Work Load Discussion
  • 2008 Clutch Hitter of the Year
  • The Ten Commandments of Sabermetrics
  • Answers to Unusual Questions

That’s just a snip. I’m telling you the truth. Go out and get the book. I don’t recommend books unless I truly enjoyed them and want you to share in that. Go get this one.

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'Holy Review Copy Batman'

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

One of the perks to having a blog, especially one that has been around for going on six years, is that you get a decent amount of free perks from time to time. I remember the first time I got an e-mail from a publicist asking me to review a book and how nervous I was. As the years have gone by I’ve realized that I get more requests than I can possibly fill. As a result, I’ve decided to mention each book that I get and only “promote / review” the ones I truly enjoy and would highly recommend to you. With that being said, here are the books that are on the reading list for this baseball season. I get nothing if you buy these books through the link I’ve provided. I’ve simply done it to make it easier if you did want to buy any of these.

Mudville – Kurtis Scarletta (Buy the book)

This one intrigues me a little. I had never given the idea of baseball fiction a chance until last year when I was sent a copy of The Comeback Season and enjoyed it. Like that one, this one is a young adult novel, so it should make for an easy read. It focuses on a strange kid that comes to town and what happens as a result.

The Baseball Prospect Book 2009 – John Sickels (Buy the book)

I’ve bought the prospect book put out by Sickels for the past couple of years and I’ve yet to be disappointed. This year I decided to only purchase this book as opposed to also buying the Baseball America prospect book as well. Sickels does a great job giving you a synopsis on the various names to know in each of the systems in the Majors. It’s a great book to purchase if you’re trying to learn a little more about some of the kids that are on the horizon for the Cubs, which makes watching the team a little more enjoyable each year. It’s also a load of fun to look back at past issues and see where he hit and where he missed with his breakdowns.

Sweet Lou and the Cubs – George Castle (Buy the book)

This one is basically a breakdown of Lou’s time with the Cubs and seems like it will offer a behind the scenes type of look at what Lou has gone through since coming to Chicago. I’m a little skeptical on this one, but I’m willing to give it a try. I tend to question “insider look” type books and know that most people won’t let just anyone into their lives and bear their soul, especially Lou Piniella. Hopefully I’ll be proven wrong.

Cubs by the Numbers – Kasey Ignarski, Matthew Silverman, & Al Yellon (Buy the book)

I’m not generally a big fan of historical Cubs books or even historical baseball books, but this one interests me a little. I’m curious to see how the team has been broken down based on the number on the back of each player over the course of history. It should be fun and educational to learn about some of these guys that fans who have followed the team for 40-50+ years reminisce over.

As They See ‘Em: A Fan’s Travels in the Land of Umpires – Bruce Weber (Buy the book)

One of the best books I’ve read in awhile was You’re Out and You’re Ugly Too, which was a memoir written by former umpire, Durwood Merrill. In that book, Merrill took you inside what it was like to be an umpire in the big leagues, including the fact that they are always on a road trip and away from their family. This one seems like it will be a lot like that one, so I’m definitely looking forward to devouring it sometime this season.

A Chicago Tavern a Goat, a Curse, and the American Dream – Rick Kogan (Buy the book)

This one is short and sweet and comes in with a strike against it in my book for the simple reason that not only to I not believe in “the curse”, but I despise any talk about it. I’m going to go into it with an open mind, but I really hope it focuses more on the tavern itself and it’s history rather than the “curse” and what that’s met for the team.

Wrigley Field’s Last World Series – Charles Billington (Buy the book)

This is actually the second time this book was sent to me. I tried to get into it the first time and just couldn’t. I’m going to give it another try, but as I mentioned before, I tend to shy away from the historical type books and instead gravitate toward the topical discussion type books.

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– Tom Verducci (Buy the book)

I was actually a little surprised to receive a review copy of this one, but I pleasantly accepted. It’s a Harry Potter type book in terms of # of pages and should be a bit of a marathon to get through. Some would poo poo the idea of reading about the Yankees, but I’m interested in what Joe Torre has to say about what went on when he was there. I believe he has some things to say and I’m ready to hear them.

2009 Minor League Baseball Analyst - Deric McKamey (Buy the book)

Year two that this one found it’s way to my mailbox and I was pleased by that. This one differs a little from the John Sickel’s book in that McKamey doesn’t really go too in depth on each of the prospects. Instead, he provides the book more as a tool for fantasy baseball players to use as a good reference for drafting, especially for keeper leagues. He presents some Major League equivalents for some of the players, which really completes the book.

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Jonah Winter & Andre Carrilho (Buy the book)

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This is a children’s picture book and features an awesome cover. The picture to the left doesn’t do it justice. This one has a cool cover that, when moved back and forth, makes Koufax throw a pitch off the mound. The artwork inside is tremendous and I’m very much looking forward to reading this one to my son this season. He’s three and should enjoy looking at the pictures.

The Hardball Times Season Preview 2009 – (Buy the book)

This one makes me laugh a little. In the 2007 edition, Rob G from the Cub Reporter was asked to write the Cubs preview. In 2008, I was asked to write the preview. 2009 bring yet another writer for the Cubs section. Either they haven’t liked what they’ve gotten from Rob and me over the the past few years or they’re looking to get fresh voices each year. I tend to lean toward the former. Oh well, I’m looking forward to reading this one over the next few weeks leading up to opening day.

The Fielding Bible – Volume II – John Dewan (Buy the Book)

This is a new one for me. I didn’t receive volume one and I’m curious to see what this one is all about. It’s loaded with stats and graphs for the dork in me. Jose, a long time reader and commenter we haven’t heard from in awhile, would hate this one. I’m anxious to give it a try, because I love all the things I’ve received from Acta Sports over the years. This one should be no exception.

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Is OF Defense Overrated?

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

Bruce Miles had a question posed to him the other day that I thought I’d post for discussion:

Q. With Alfonso Soriano in left and Milton Bradley in right, how crucial will the play of Reed Johnson and Kosuke Fukudome be?

Miles: It’ll be especially crucial, with Johnson and Fukudome having to cover a lot of ground.

The Cubs have talked up Bradley’s defensive ability. He played on only 20 games in the outfield last year for Texas, so we’ll have to wait and see. – (Source

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So I ask. Do you put as much stock in defense as some do? I tend to be one that leans toward the importance of defense in the IF and C position and that the OF defense, as long as you don’t have Adam Dunn out there, should be satisfactory. What are your thoughts?

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Separated at Birth?

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Tim over at The Sports Hernia The Hunt for Red October download

tossed this one to me and I wanted to give them props for it. What the heck is going on with Chad Gaudin’s face?

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Meet your 2009 Cubs

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

I am going to use just the spring training stats to project the team when camp breaks. This is just for fun…but you must admit that it would be interesting to see what would happen if that was how the team was chosen. Those who do best in the spring — make the team out of camp. Like high school basketball tryouts. Of course, I know that the “big money” guys are just taking their time and stretching it out — we all know these guys can turn it on whenever they have to. (Except the playoffs, but that’s another story altogether, folks.) They will all be ready when the season starts and we’ll never see these hardworking, fresh young players again. Until we trade them to the Orioles when they’re out of options. But that’s a story for another day, too.) Anyway…

At first base, just off a fine spring which saw him hit .311 with 2 homers and a team leading 10 rbi’s would be Micah Hoffpauir. His back up at first — Jake Fox with his two homers, six rbi’s and .368 obp. DLee (who grounded into his first spring DP today) would start the year in Iowa thanks to his woeful spring — .200 with no homers and a paltry 2 runs batted in.

At second base, the “en fuego” Mike Fontenot. Team second .421 average (for regulars), 2 dingers and 8 knocked in. No errors all spring. Miles and his .267 can stay at back up second and short.

Shortstop is Theriot. Who else would it be? Hitting .444 with an obp of .469. His fielding pct. of .897 is frightening, but the job is his to bobble.

Third base is Ramirez, even though his spring has been weak. Rivas is hitting .240 and has more errors than rbi’s.

Left fielder? Well, Doug Deeds, of course. Solid spring, .281 average and .314 obp. Has played flawless LF and knocked in 5. Taguchi has 7 ribbies and a .391 obp, but his average at .222 is underwhelming. Soriano and his .200 average, .273 obp and 2 homer/3rbi line? Rooming with DLee in Iowa.

CF — Not close. Sam Fuld gets the nod. .286 average, .375 obp and two homers. No errors. One assist. Pick the backup between Gathright (.273 average and .360 obp with two steals in three attempts) Johnson (.242 average and .263 obp and a fairly weak blog) or Fukudome, the Japanese Dreidle.

Right Field goes to Milkit Badly, by default, because he’s done fair since returning from his game one owie and because Hoffpauir is playing first.

Backup catcher — hard to call. Hill at .364 average and .417 obp plus 4 rbi’s. Bako and his sizzling .167 average and .250 obp without an rbi. I’ll take Hill. By the slimmest of margins.

So here it is:

Theriot SS

Fontenot 2B

Ramirez 3B

Hoffpauir 1B

Bradley RF

Soto C

Deeds LF

Fuld CF

Pitcher

I know it’s insane, but hey, it’s been a slow news day. Thought?

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You Be Lou: Closer

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Well, since things are kinda slow around here (and since Ginger Rush brought it up in the previous post Six Reasons Why ) let’s have another You Be Lou.

This time, the closer. What’s your preference? Marmol? Gregg? Someone else? State your case and again I’ll keep tabs and report back once the season starts and/or an official announcement has been made.

Meantime, have a nice weekend. :-)

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You Be Lou: Fifth Starter

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

As long as sherm and Joe were discussing pitching earlier in the week, let’s hear from you. If you were Lou, who would you cast as your starting rotation? Specifically, your fifth starter since the rest are pretty well set.

I’ll keep tabs on the responses and later on when/if an “official” announcement comes out I’ll sprinkle some love around for those who came the closest. (And, we’ll do some other “You Be Lou”s as the spring/summer progresses.)

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