Archive for May, 2009

So who's got the better 'stache?

Friday, May 15th, 2009
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Today was a slow baseball day as the Cubs got rained out and will play a makeup game in late July.  So permit me to drift off topic somewhat – Steve Rosenbloom The Message movie wrote an amusing story today comparing Mike Ditka to Joel Quenneville in terms of their mustaches.  Remember when a mustache was something that distinguished pitchers in general?  Rollie Fingers looked like a bit of a picadillio with his, I’ve read that he and other A’s were paid extra for their 19th century ’staches.  Then along came Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage, they wore Fu Manchus to look intimidating.

Nowadays you don’t see as many pitchers sporting facial hair, some teams even have rules against it.  I’ve worn a mustache since 1985 for two reasons:  1.  Both my father and grandfather sported one and 2.  I’ve got a big nose.  The mustache makes it so your nose doesn’t stick out so much, it’s sorta like not wearing shirts with broad horizontal stripes if you weigh 250 like I do.

I’m hoping to see more guys in baseball wearing mustaches again, for what it’s worth I pick Quenneville over Ditka in the best ’stache contest.

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GirlieView (05/15/2009)

Friday, May 15th, 2009
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Well here we are, May 15 already, can you believe it? One week closer to Memorial Day and the start of Chicagoland’s “summer” even though it’s still been in the 40s nearly every night lately! I am looking forward to doing some serious gardening … been in yard-cleanup mode for the past two months and that gets old fast. Maybe GirlieView will explore some gardening talk as the temperatures increase. What doe that have to do with Cubs baseball, you ask? Why IVY of course! I can tie nearly anything in when the need arises!

It’s been a rough day around here today so maybe we all actually need to talk about baseball for a little while. Let’s get to the week.

As I gathered info for this week’s post, I found it interesting that last week I wrote about a 6 win/1 loss week, but yet I feel much better (in my gut) writing this week’s review even though we went 4-2. Things are looking up on several fronts. The bullpen is inspiring more confidence, even Soto has begun to contribute (slightly) more offensively! Speaking of confidence, Joe posted the results of the first monthly Cubs Confidence Survey with some interesting results! More on that later.

Fri 8/Sat 9/Sun 10

Tough weekend. Randy Wells had a good showing in his first start for us (standing in for Carlos Zambrano and his pulled hamstring which by the way is shaping up nicely and he’s expected to re-join the rotation next week) but the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead for him and we lost 3-2. The offense had some missed opportunities as well and are perhaps equally (or more) to blame. Even more painful than the loss itself was the injury to Aramis Ramirez’ shoulder. Just not a good Cub day all around. Late in the day Friday the Cubs announced the signing of Ryan Freel from Baltimore for Joey Gathright (no loss there IMO). You can read more about that signing and people’s opinion of it here.

Saturday was pitiful. You could almost see the despair on the player’s faces. If they themselves took the confidence survey that day, they’d have had no boxes to check. The 12-6 loss prompted some discussion about fundamentals which is actually one of my favorite topics to chit chat about (even though I missed this particular discussion). Isn’t it funny how when the going is good, the fundamentals seem better, and when the going is bad, everything is magnified? Do you think they actually play better when they’re winning, or are the mistakes just not as evident since no one really cares once the W is recorded? What are your thoughts?

Is it a good place to mention how much I hate Ryan Braun? It has nothing to do with the fact that he did well against us. It’s all about his cocky self-love … every time I see him watch himself on the replay screen my skin crawls. He talks to himself all the time, no doubt letting himself know how wonderful he thinks he is. I was particularly miffed about the whole pitch-to-the-head thing during Saturday’s game. What did you guys think, did the ball hit his head or hit his bat? Len and Bob seemed convinced it hit his bat, not his head, and based on my previously stated disdain (for Braun, not Len and Bob!!) I will agree. So if it hit his bat and not his head, then he lied about it. To his defense I think any player is going to take a base when the umpire offers it, so I’m ok with that. I’m not ok with all the drama and posturing that followed. Ok, so you got away with it Ryan. No need to play it up as if Dempster landed you square between the eyes (which I kind of wish he did, heh heh!) And then all the glaring and fist-pumping again later when he hit his home run in the 7th … he’d do well to take the high road and learn some humility. Not gonna happen, I know!

I’d better start practicing a little brevity here or this week’s column is going to stretch all the way into next week!

Sunday was a better day. This was the first glimmer of hope I saw from the bullpen in some time. Guzman, Marmol and Gregg preserved a nice game for Sean Marshall and the Cubs won 4-2. Some of the players wore pink wristbands, and Ryan Freel, Milton Bradley, Geovany Soto, Mike Fontenot, Aaron Miles and Ryan Theriot used pink bats in support of MLB’s annual Mother’s Day “Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer” initiative that raises awareness about breast cancer. Thanks guys! (Monday off.)

Tues 12/Wed 13/Thurs 14

San Diego came to town. I love their pale yellow uniforms. Pale yellow is my favorite color. I know no one cares :-) When I was young they wore some hideous gold’ish color if I’m remembering correctly. Ok, moving on! Briefly, this series went win, win, and win! Tuesday 6-2

, win for Harden over Peavy with Bradley and Scales home runs. Wednesday 6-4 with a Soriano leadoff home run followed by a Theriot home run on the first pitch of his at bat (and he followed up with another one later!) Geo homered, the bullpen continued to show some life … things are looking up. Win for Lilly.  Thursday 11-3 highlighted by a 6-run 5th inning and a 4-run 6th inning. Johnson, Scales, Fukudome, Miles and even Ryan Dempster all had two hits apiece. Poor Chad Gaudin didn’t look very good in his first outing against the team that let him go. I don’t miss him, but I wish him well. Just not against us! Also on Thursday Milton Bradley’s suspension appeal ruling was delivered, one game, same fine. Some related discussion here.

As I mentioned earlier, Joe posted the results of the first monthly Cubs Confidence Survey on Thursday night. I found the results to be really interesting. They got me to thinking … of course people who had good weeks (Guzman, Theriot for example) scored well and people who had rotten weeks (Lee) scored badly. Then you have the perennial favorites (Soriano) scoring well and the real suck-ups (Cotts and I’m sure Samardzija if he was still around) scoring poorly. But for the mid-range guys, I got to wishing there was some way to know whether the respondents rated their confidence in the player as a whole, or their confidence that the player is filling the role they are supposed to be filling, which is how the survey was supposed to be completed (Joe worded it much more eloquently than me.) There’s a difference. It was Dave L. who taught me that last year. I hated Jason Marquis (not as much as I hate Ryan Braun!) Really couldn’t stand the guy, thought he sucked and had zero confidence in him when he took the mound. (Didn’t help that he ruined my visit to Wrigley when I sprung for the good seats across the aisle from the pink-hat guy and we lost like 12-3 or something hideous like that.) Hated Marquis and reflected that in my blog posts. Dave taught me, though, and he was right, that he was filling the role he was assigned. He was the fifth starter, much like Marshall, and your fifth starter isn’t going to be your shining star. Sure we’d all have loved if he did better. But he was adequately filling the role that he was assigned. I lightened up on him then.

My point is, I tried to score the players in that light, when I completed the survey. They might not be my favorite, and they may not always be the best, but if I am confident they can adequately fill the roll to which they are assigned, that’s good in my book.

Hope you all have a great week!

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Where is the fairness?

Friday, May 15th, 2009
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In case you missed it the other day, umpire Paul Schrieber issued an apology yesterday for pushing Magglio Ordonez gently out of the way after he turned to question a call of balls and strikes. You can see the video courtesy of ESPN here. That got Jim Leyland out in a tizzy and he got ejected arguing what I feel is a very valid point.

Schrieber’s Apology from ESPN.com

“In yesterday’s game, after I called Magglio Ordonez out on strikes, I inadvertently placed my hand on his back and ushered him away from home plate so I did not have to eject him for arguing balls and strikes,” Schrieber said in a statement issued before the Tigers-Minnesota Twins series finale on Thursday. “I should not have placed my hands on him, period. For doing so, I apologize to both Magglio Ordonez and the Detroit Tigers.”

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My question is this: Why is it that umpires are allowed to simply apologize for a mistaken contact, but Milton Bradley gets a 1 game suspension only after a lengthy appeal for simply having the bill of his cap come in contact with the ump. It seems like profiling a person simply do to a past history, which is garbage. If nothing else, umpires should be held to the same standard as the players.

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Cubs Confidence Survey Results

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

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The first of the monthly installments of the confidence survey went great. We had almost 250 participants, which should help with the “sample size” issue. Here are the results and thanks for participating. Feel free to subscribe to this site in your reader or e-mail to make sure you know when next month’s survey is taking place. That said, the results:

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Quick Hits: Time For Testing

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

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  • Ryan Theriot hit two homers, giving him five on the year. The knock on him has been that he’s a singles hitter. If working with Von Joshua really has given him that extra base power (not just HR) then he becomes an above average shortstop for this team. I really hope this success proves to be legit. Hopefully he’s not taking female meds like another slugger.
  • Another nice outing by Guzman and his ERA is slowly declining, while my confidence is rising.
  • Marmol picked up his third save, though that probably wasn’t the plan when Lou brought him in in the 8th.
  • Nice to see Geo get on the board with his first HR. Some things come in bunches. Hopefully this will be one of them.

I wish I had more, but I wasn’t feeling well last night and only made it through three innings of play. Did I miss something? Oh yeah, Derrek Lee sucks…..still.

I’ve got the confidence survey results, and I’ll be posting them tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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Call me crazy but…

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

I’m ready for a new look at Wrigley. No, not a new stadium, I mean a substantive change that keeps what we love but adds value. What I’m talking about is a retractable roof. Our redheaded stepsister to the north has one and they are a budget-oriented team. So why can’t we or shouldn’t we?

My reasons for making this enhancement are as follows:

  • Anybody that’s attended an April game knows it’s cold, if there’s any growth for ticket sales it has to be in the spring;
  • More free agents would consider Chicago a friendly destination were it not for the weather;
  • No more rainouts, no more day/night doubleheaders, again an attraction for free agents (not to mention out of town fans who want to come to Chicago;)
  • The Cubs can afford it and finally,
  • It would put to an end the periodic calls for a new stadium.

I love the Wrigleyville neighborhood and a retractable roof might also allay concerns about night games.  They could all be played under the roof to minimize concerns about noise.  What do y’all think?

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Minor League Spotlight – Tennessee Smokies

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Today we take a look at the AA affiliate of the Cubs, the Tennessee Smokies. This is the third year the Cubs have their AA team being represented by the Smokies. Previously they were signed on with the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx. All stats and team info is current through games on 5/11/09.

Team Record: 14-13 (1 GB in the North Division)

Offense Summary – A below league average offense that averages 4.37 runs per game, compared to 4.67 for the Southern League. They haven’t been all that successful on the base paths, with 19 steals and 15 CS. They refuse to walk, drawing a league low, 86, so far. With top prospects in the system at this level, you’d hope to see more offense.

Pitching Summary – An above average staff that doesn’t rely on the strikeout to get hitters out. They draw a lot of contact, which could be dangerous if some of those start getting through to find alleys and holes. It’s a young staff, the youngest in the league at an average age of 23.6, which comes in a full year below the Southern League average.

Fielding Summary – Middle of the road fielding %, but outstanding at catching runners trying to steal with a tremendous 64% caught stealing rate. The next closest is Carolina with 40%. You don’t run on the Smokies.

Baseball America Top Prospects on the Roster

Top 3 Next In Line For the Majors

  1. Tony Thomas – Before this season, I wouldn’t have listed Thomas as the # 1 guy to potentially get the call in AA, but his hot start has me excited for what could be. He’s not, and probably will never be, someone who will win the game for you with his glove at 2B, but his bat is good.

  2. Wellington Castillo – You gotta figure that Geo’s season last year wasn’t a fluke, but just in case, Castillo would probably be the next in the line of catchers to try to win a fulltime job. He’ll probably end up as a potential trade piece should Geo show he’s the real deal.

  3. Jay Jackson – I’m intrigued by this kid and the way he pitched last year. It’s hard to say someone in AA is in line for the Majors, though it happens often, but Jackson is someone I think could be there sooner rather than later if he continues to move quickly through the system. He’s young, but he did see action in all levels of A-Ball last year and is starting the year with Tennessee this year. It’s an aggressive approach with him that I hope pays off with a young, back of the rotation type guy.

Team Hitting Stats

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Team Pitching Stats

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Are Lee's Productive Baseball Days Over?

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Three Quick Hits from Tuesday:

  1. Bullpen – Three scoreless innings of work yesterday out of the pen brings me to ask the question: are you beginning to see hope for this pen? I’m beginning to have a little confidence in the back end of the pen with Marmol, Gregg and even Heilman. If Guzman’s recent success is really evidence that he’s beginning to turn the corner, then we have him in the mix as well. I believe Ascanio is going to be a great addition, despite his low approval rating in the confidence survey so far. If that’s the case, then the pen would have five dependable guys. That would begin to encourage me. Thoughts?
  2. Derrek Lee – Maybe someone didn’t explain to Derrek that he was supposed to hit the ball on Tuesday. He looked brutal in his first three at bats, striking out swinging twice and looking in the third at bat. A big pile of yuck was what he produced. I’ll be honest, and you guys know I’m a bit of a Lee hater, but if this bulging disc is something that isn’t going to go away permanently with surgery then we may be seeing the last of a productive Derrek Lee. I would hate to see that happen, primarily because he’s signed for $13 mil for this year and next, but also because you never want to see someone just up and decline. I went on record as saying that he started to look good at the plate and was going to have a good month. Now that I hear this disc issue could be a long term issue (source: Bruce Levine on Waddle & Silvy), I’m beginning to wonder.
  3. Starting Pitching – A fun game to watch if you like good starting pitching. In the end, Jake Peavy’s line shows three earned runs, but he was really good. Harden’s line also shows a pair of earned runs, but it came on a pitched that was absolutely golfed out of the park to the opposite field by one of the best hitters in the game in Adrian Gonzalez. It’s great to see Harden looking good, yet not striking out every hitter. I would love to ask him if that has been his approach the last two outings because it’s working.
  4. New Nickname – I’ve decided to begin calling Bobby Scales by the name B-Skillz. He continues to make the most of his opportunity and, I think, deserves to stick with this team until he shows otherwise. Loved the fact that he booked around the bases after the homer like he was embarrassed to be out there after hitting it. It’s not his game, and it amused me to see him react to it.

Minor League Quick Hits

  • Peoria got smashed in one of the doubleheader games yesterday, being one hit by Quad Cities.
  • Casey Coleman (AA) tossed six shutout innings and only allowed two hits to earn a no-dec because of a lack of runs. The team laid a goose egg on the board.
  • Big day for everyone at the plate in Iowa. Check out the box:

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We’ll be back later today with a look at the Smokies around 2p EDT.Nobody’s Fool buy

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Sports Illustrated's best and worst baseball owners

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Today Sports Illustrated

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listed their five best and five worst owners – noticeably absent in either list was the Cubs ownership group (who are the owners anyway?) Seriously though, I’d have to give Sam Zell and the Trib positive marks for holding their composure during this period of uncertainty. Here in Nashville we watched former Predators owner (and current Wild owner) Craig Leopold conduct a fire sale with a team that was knocking on the door when it came to becoming a quality hockey franchise. So in my view we’re lucky as the dickens that the Cubs didn’t pare the payroll down to about $60 million in search of a buyer. We all know that the Cubs would still draw at the gate right? Even if that meant going out to the ballpark to boo.

There were some amusing names amongst the names of the successful, most notably the owner of the Rays Stuart Sternberg. Since when does one playoff appearance make a rock-solid ownership approach? C’mon SI, we all liked seeing perennial cellar-dweller Tampa Bay have it’s cinderella season but isn’t this a bit premature? When you draft first every year you’re gonna get a few good players. But will they be able to sustain the quality of play we saw last year…methinks not.

I’m also a bit skeptical about the Steinbrenner family (if everybody had their kind of money they’d be a second division team) and the Cards’ owner DeWitt. Does being an also-ran every year make one a good owner? And why in the world did he let Walt Jocketty go – if we didn’t have a relatively good thing going with Hendry I would have begged for the Cubs to get Walt when he was available. In this writer’s opinion the success the Cards have had is largely due to some good players and a very good manager in Tony LaRussa.

The remainder of the best (Boston and the Angels) and all of the worst owners were pretty much on the mark. Noticeably absent from the best were Twins owner Carl Pohlad (who always seems to have a pretty good team) as well as the Phillies’ ownership group (who haven’t had a losing season since 2002.) Missing from the worst owners are the Pirates’ owners (since 1986 as follows: Pittsburgh Associates, Kevin McClatchy and Robert Nutting.) When was the last time the Pirates were even relevant?

At the time of this writing the Cubs’ ownership situation has not been resolved and nobody appears to be in any hurry to resolve it. The economy is in the early stages of recovery and I think both participants in the deal are taking a wait and see approach. My advice to the new ownership group would be to take the reins as early as possible; lack of leadership is never a good option.

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