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June 2009

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When Does it Become Time For a Change?

Written by , Posted in General

Ask yourself for a second if you truly believe this is a good baseball team. Is it really a team that can get hot and win the World Series? Honestly? I’m done believing that it is. People have been waiting patiently for Superman…err Ramrez to return and then everything will be all better. Bull. This team has issues and it’s time we wake up and see them.

I’m ready to see a change with this team, and I think the only way to make that happen is to make it be a drastic one. Assuming the team sale is finalized this year, I believe it’s time for a complete overhaul. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with a bunch of no-trade guys, and there is no one to blame for that other than Jim Hendry. I like Hendry, but he’s locked us in to some contracts that will really handicap us. It’s probably time for him to go.

I see, night after night, this team fail to do the little things to score runs and play winning baseball. I see a team that has been out played from a strategy standpoint, and I can only blame those things on the manager. I like Lou Piniella, a lot, but I’m beginning to believe he is one of the problems with this team and needs to go after this season as well.

I’m not sure what else can really be done to shake up the mix, but I know I’m done believing this year.

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  • sherm

    What CAN you change? That’s the problem. The outfield is locked in. Soriano, Fukudome and Bradley — that’s a ton of money that nobody will want. Ramirez and Lee aren’t going anywhere. Nor is Soto. Only major changes you could make, based on salary, no trade, and performance and/or lack of…is at short and second. Unless you can get a Hanley Ramirez? Might as well keep Theriot. He does okay. What second baseman is available? The Dodgers got O Hudson for a song…who is left at that position that we could go and get? And our pitching is good. I’d still like to see an honest to goodness closer, but we let a number of good ones get away this offseason.

    I’m equally as frustrated by our expensive “averageness” — is that a fair assessment? Delusions of mediocrity? And I’m more frustrated by the lack of hope that there is anything to be done to change it.

    I think we are stuck with the hope that this team, as is, can and will turn it all around.

  • cubbiedude

    I guess one answer to the question “When Does It Become Time For A Change?” is “When The Fans Stop Coming To The Games” or, to put it another way, “As Long As The Revenue Keeps Streaming In, What’s The Problem?”

    I hope that it does all turn around soon. I hope that Aramis Ramirez’ return sparks the team to perform as we were all expecting. And as the front office suits are promising.

    Unfortunately, until that happens, I find myself losing interest quickly.

  • sherm

    I find myself watching the Twins (travel takes me to Minneapolis fairly often these days) and thinking “wow…small market, reasonably low payroll, always competitive, stream of good players that no one has ever heard about…” How do they do that? And to top it off, they play good, solid baseball day in and day out.

    I’m inclined to say that baseball needs a salary cap. Then teams would seek quality, young talent and let it play; rather than just depositing money into big name busts (or not busts…it’s irrelevant, actually) and then strapping themselves financially over a period of time. In a game that is a self proclaimed monopoly and exemption — they should play fair and have spending limits. Force teams to rebuild their farm systems than to give advantages to those with the deepest pockets.

    That said, it’s not like the “era of free spending” has done much for the Cubs anyway…

  • I guess one answer to the question “When Does It Become Time For A Change?” is “When The Fans Stop Coming To The Games” or, to put it another way, “As Long As The Revenue Keeps Streaming In, What’s The Problem?”

    I actually think that this is blatantly untrue. You simply cannot say that Hendry and the Cubs are not doing what they can to win. And they have won. They have been in the playoffs two years in a row, and everyone in baseball thought that they would be there again this year. And they still could be.

    The Cubs have one of the highest payrolls in baseball, and they have, in recent years, done what they had to do to win.

    You can’t say that this organization doesn’t care about winning anymore.

  • MJ

    Dave, two years doesn’t make all the past years forgotten.

  • I have used the term stench of disaster to describe this season for over six weeks now. No longer do people say “it’s early.” Now they say “when Aramis gets back.” Well, Aramis is not that good — no one is — he would have to bat .775 to get the results people are putting onto him. We have a brittle team, filled with recurrent injury and threat of injury — Ramirez, Johnson, Soriano, Bradley, Lee, Zambrano, Harden, Freel. Good Lord, we might need the whole 40-man roster just to stay at 25.
    Last week we beat up on the bullpens of two AL teams — the White Sox, who are a bad ballclub headed nowhere and the Indians, who are worse than the Sox. It gave many fans a false impression that some corner had been turned. But it was only exciting because the two wins were from so far behind. Well, the problem with that is that the team had fallen that far behind two days in a row. Sure, the Indians blew that game. Sure, it was fun and we looked good. But there is no carryover because this is a .500 ballclub, just as it has been 14 times this season. This works out to every 4-5 games having the team return to break-even. Should we not expect this trend to continue? Will we be waiting for the Cubs to break out right around Labor Day and make a run? Do we hope to sneak into the playoff with 84-85 wins in a weak division and then sweep to victory in the playoffs?
    Is there anyone who really feels confident this team can win consistently against good teams? Every single day I see the team that put up no fight whatever against the Dodgers in October. They hit but not in the clutch. They make basic errors in baserunning almost daily. They make errors that kill them.
    And when Fernando Rodney puts the tying runs on base with no out, he proceeds to throw a fastball right over the heart of the plate to Milton Bradley. The Tigers saw a pitch like that the night before and a nobody off the bench rocked it into the bleachers. Bradley whiffed and then tried to break his bat. Didn’t even get that done. Rodney was off the hook and the game was over.
    Lou will retire, either before the season ends or shortly after. My prediction, made over a week ago.

  • sherm

    It’s not fair to rip Milton that way. It has been established here that he is great hitter. Statistically speaking. Always has been and therefore must still be. Plus, he’s been hot lately — over .300 in his last ten games or some such thing. Ergo, it’s not his fault that can’t seem to hit when it matters. So even when it appears that he’s stinking it up? He isn’t because you can’t prove it.

    How’d I do?

  • Dave, two years doesn’t make all the past years forgotten.

    It hasn’t just been two years though. It has been the past several years.

    This team/organization is and has been willing to spend money to put forward a winning team.

    Ergo, it’s not his fault that can’t seem to hit when it matters.

    Of course… he has been very productive this year in RISP situations, but you can ignore the facts if you would like.

  • It was time for a change after last season. But instead of getting rid of Soriano and Fukudome and Lee, the Cubs added Bradley. With the result that even with Lee now hitting they still have three big contracts that produce zilch.

    There’s always 2015 (after Soriano’s contract ends). In the meantime, at least we can have fun when they play mediocre teams with bad bullpens!

  • It’s not fair to rip Milton that way.

    And actually, it is fair to rip in that way. He DID strike out. See, that is also a fact.

    Now, just because he struck out doesn’t mean that he has not hit in clutch situations this year.

    But I don’t want to confuse you with too many facts.

  • I’m ready to see a change with this team, and I think the only way to make that happen is to make it be a drastic one.

    I continue to ask this of people who say this, but what changes can be made?

    What realistic changes could be made to shake up this team, either during this season or in the off-season?

  • sherm

    Of course… he has been very productive this year in RISP situations, but you can ignore the facts if you would like.

    Here are some facts about Milkit:

    1. He’s hitting .241 for the season
    2. He has 5 homeruns
    3. He has 16 rbi’s (still)
    4. He has walked 27 times, but whiffed 37
    5. He is hitting .278 in the late innings of close games (5 for 18)
    6. He is also hitting .200 with two outs
    7. He is hitting .205 vs right handed pitching
    8. He is hitting .169 on the road
    9. His batting average with RISP is .229 (that’s VERY productive?)
    10. His OSP is .746
    11. Against our division, he is hitting .178 (14 for 79)

    So, please, please, please…tell me which facts I am ignoring.

  • sherm

    Oops…I did the grey box backwards. Sorry, all!

  • Is batting average the only stat that you understand?

    Bradley, once again, has a .413 OBP and a .486 SLUG (which is an .899 OPS) with RISP. So yes, that is very productive.

    As for most of your other stats, I have never said that Bradley has not produced this year. I have simply pointed out that you are wrong about him not producing in “clutch” situations.

    Oh… and find the idea of clutch to be ridiculous, and an idea that doesn’t hold up to any kind of statistical analysis.

  • cubbiedude

    Dave, thanks for reading and thanks for commenting. I’m going to compare and contrast our comments with a fine tooth comb. I do this with all due respect so please don’t take it personally. I don’t like gray boxes so I’m using double slashes instead.

    //You simply cannot say…//

    Dave, this here’s America and I can say anything I please.

    //…that Hendry and the Cubs are not doing what they can to win. //

    Dave, I reread my comment and I did not mention the word “win”. Not even once.

    //The Cubs have one of the highest payrolls in baseball, and they have, in recent years, done what they had to do to win.//

    Dave, perhaps we could agree that the Cubs, with one of the highest payrolls in baseball, “have done what they had to do to win” with the possible exception, at the moment, of winning.

    //You can’t say that this organization doesn’t care about winning anymore.//

    Dave, once again, this here’s America and I can say what I please. Also, I didn’t bring up winning, not even once. On a related note, there is a difference between “caring” and “doing”. Joe’s original question was “when is it time to DO something?’ or words to that effect.

    I think we all agree that the Cubs winning more games would be a good thing. And I didn’t question the motivation of the Cubs’ front office. I am questioning the results to this point of the 2009 season.

    I will close this comment with a quote from Tommy Lasorda: “No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are, you are going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.”

  • sherm

    There’s a reason that batting average is still the only stat in the paper every day. And a reason that they base the BATTING TITLE on that alone. There isn’t an OPS title. There isn’t a BABIP title. Nope. Just a batting title. Based on? You got it. Batting average. So while you may be just so much smarter than the rest of us that you’ve evolved past the standard measurements, I still find batting average a fairly telling statistic.

    By the way, .229 with RISP is still 22 for 100, no matter how you slice it and that’s not clutch.

    You don’t believe in clutch? Why? Because Bill James says it doesn’t exist? For examples of clutch? See Jordan, Michael. See Brett, George. See Montana, Joe. See Woods, Tiger. See Aiello, Joe.

  • There’s a reason that batting average is still the only stat in the paper every day.

    Really? You want to use the failing newspaper industry as a reason for anything?

    And a reason that they base the BATTING TITLE on that alone.

    Yea… because baseball is to beholden to traditions.

    I don’t care that other people awards for batting average. I don’t care if it is in a newspaper or on the back of a baseball card. I care about what tells us about the true performance of a player.

    I would rather have a player hit .230, with a .400 OBP and a .500 SLUG than a guy hit .300 with a .350 OBP and .400 SLUG. OBP and SLUG are the two greatest predictors of run scoring. But hey… why should we care about run scoring? No one gives a title to “Best Run Producer” or “Best Run Scorer.” So runs must be worthless?

    For examples of clutch? See Jordan, Michael. See Brett, George. See Montana, Joe. See Woods, Tiger. See Aiello, Joe.

    Hahaha. You do realize that Jordan, Brett, Montana, Woods, etc. were all just as good in non-pressure situations as they were on pressure situations, right?

    This is why I don’t believe in clutch. Because those who are “good” in the “clutch” this year may not have been good last year, and may not be good next year. “Clutch” is not a repeatable skill.”

    Players are either good or bad. And good players are good in all situations, and bad players are bad in all situations. Now, good players have slumps (see Milton Bradley, 2009) and bad players have good streaks (see Neifi Perez).

    I find it hilarious that continually mock me because I use stats. Its getting old.

  • Dave, this here’s America and I can say anything I please.

    Oh my… seriously? Would it have been better to say, “It doesn’t make sense to say…”

    I wasn’t really trying to argue with you. I just thought that this comment seemed to imply that the Cubs only cared about revenue and not winning:

    o put it another way, “As Long As The Revenue Keeps Streaming In, What’s The Problem?”

    Maybe I read too much into that comment.

  • MJ

    It hasn’t just been two years though. It has been the past several years.

    This team/organization is and has been willing to spend money to put forward a winning team.

    You’re right……2003, 2007 and 2008. Before that 1998, 1989, and 1984.

    Spending money does not equate to a winning team. See NY Yankees.

  • Spending money does not equate to a winning team. See NY Yankees.

    I agree… but my point was that the Cubs don’t just care about revenue. If they did, they would have a 70-80M payroll and continue to sellout Wrigley and make plenty of money.

    As for the Yankees, I am not really sure that you want to use them as an example. I am pretty sure that they have done a lot winning in recent years. Since 2000, they have a .590 winning %. They made the playoffs 13 years in a row. So yea, I would say that they have done their share of winning.

    In recent years that Cubs have actually appeared to make a commitment to doing what it takes to put together a consistent winning team. The Cubs have been in the playoffs in three of the last six seasons. That is pretty damn good.

  • MJ

    As for the Yankees, I am not really sure that you want to use them as an example.

    No. Not the best example, but I think we can all agree that spending money on your roster does not eqaute to winning. See A’s, Rockies, Twins, Diamondbacks, etc.

    The Cubs have been in the playoffs in three of the last six seasons. That is pretty damn good.

    Too small of a sample size.

  • Doc Raker

    How can we make trades with so many no trade contracts? HMMMM…..
    how…..how…..how…….jeez I wish someone had brought this up sooner…….how……..how…….how OH, I think I remember someone saying you sit a player on the bench in order for him to ask for a trade. Or am I misremebering, no no that was Roger Clemens. Once a player wants a trade the player and their agent actually help out in the process. So who would I sit.

    Bradley- play Hoffa
    Fukudome- play RJ
    Soriano- at least for a rest and to shake him up. He may get hot with a little rest and let’s face it there is probably little hope someelse wants that contract.
    Dlee- yes Dlee has been productive these past weeks but I don’t have faith he will produce value in regards to his contract in the long run because he hasn’t since his big career year. If he has gotten hot see what he is worth when his stock is up.

    How many men did we LOB last night? 138? We got a lot of guys who can take a walk but at some point someone has to hit a line drive in a gap or over the fence. Wasn’t much help that Bradley walked 3 times but couldn’t get a hit to actually drive in a run.

    Again, listening to the opposing broadcasters the commentary was about how the Cubs can’t get the big hit. “The Cubs have started an inning with 1 and 2nd and no outs 4 times so far (this was in the 7th inning) and only have 2 runs to show for it, including 2 innings with the bases loaded and no body out.” The honesty from the opposition is refreshing, maybe I should have Dave email their both so he can set them straight about how it isn’t bad hitting just bad luck.

    I disagree with the bad luck theory, this is a poor hitting baseball team. Aram can’t make that much of a difference.

    Many of us realized in the off season that Bradley was a big risk because of his injury issues and the fact that he can’t DH for 100 games like he did with Texas last year. Many of us believed that his production would go down because playing in the OF everyday would wear him down, cause more injuries and make it more difficult for him to produce at the plate. I never liked Bradley the man and never wanted him as a Cub for his past behavior and the injury/production reasons.

    So Joe, if you are coming around to this side of the debate, welcome aboard but please know we ain’t happy about being correct.

  • sherm

    Here’s an interesting twist on Milkit’s career:

    Plays for the Expos is 2000 and 2001 — they are 67 – 95 and 68 – 94 respectively. Gets traded to the Indians at the end of 2001 and that Tribe team (which won the division with a 91 – 71 record) turns it around with Milton on the roster and deteriorates to 74 – 88 and a third place in AL Central in ’02 and a 68 – 94 fourth place finish in ’03. So LA gets him and has a nice year in 2004. Wins the NL West and goes 93 – 69. Then? They plummet to 71 – 91 and drop to 4th in the division. Get rid of Milky who goes to the first place A’s and they are 93 – 69 in 2006 and win the division. Next year? 76 – 86 and third place in the AL West. Bye, bye Milkman. Rangers take him and have a 79 – 83 year. See ya, Badly. So the Cubs, on the heals of back to back division championships take him…and what do you know? We’re a .500 team.

    Of course, I don’t read anything into that. It’s just facts. Construe them any way you want. That’s what stats are for.

  • Of course, I don’t read anything into that. It’s just facts. Construe them any way you want. That’s what stats are for.

    Correlation doesn’t equate with causation.

    Last I heard, a baseball team had 25 guys on their active roster. One player cannot and does not make that kind of impact that you are attempting to imply.

    I mean, sure, it is Bradley’s fault that Soriano all of a sudden can’t hit, and that Lee couldn’t hit in April, and that ARam got hurt, and that the bullpen continues to be incredibly frustrating, and that Soto couldn’t hit a ball hard for the first two months of the season, and that Fontenot sucks, and that the entire team has a BABIP of .259, etc.

    Yup. It is all Milton Bradley’s fault.

    You have to be kidding me.

  • sherm

    I was simply pointing out that everywhere the Milkster goes, the team has a negative turnaround within a year. It may mean something. It may mean nothing. I’m merely pointing it out. Just spewing facts and letting you decide what they mean. Aren’t statistics really just that? Ways of allowing for greater interpretation? Interpret away.

  • MJ

    The only problem with that arguement Sherm, is that there are way too many factors to consider. Didn’t Manny leave via free agency from the Tribe? Lofton? Same with the Dodgers, didn’t Beltre leave? He was a huge part of that offense.

    Not arguing that he may have had a part in it, but he obviously showed he was part of the winning too.

  • Seymour Butts

    Guys come on… just pull out your measuring tapes and be done with it.

    What we can (I think) agree on is that the Cubs are a team of underperforming players who are not likely to be traded. At least the position players. If they come around, we will be fine, if not, we are Gregged.
    I don’t know the answer to this, but did we get the PTBNL from the Orioles for Rich Hill yet? he has more wins this month than most of the Cub starters. I hear rumors that they are shopping George Sherrill. Couldn’t be worse than our current situation.

  • There’s no way Milton Bradley gets moved if you just sit him on the bench although I would agree that it is time to move with Hoff full time.

    Did you have any idea that the Cubs were 27th in the league in runs scored?

  • rob

    I have a question for Dave. I agree that clutch is very subjective. However, if you are expecting what the Cubs were expecting from milton Bradley does it ever become a problem that he is taking walks in situations with runners in scoring position instead of getting hits and driving in runs. When the Cubs were playing the Sox Gordon Beckham was batting eighth in front of the pitcher. There were runners on and two outs. Beckham gets grazed by the ball and gets on by letting the ump know he got hit. But the pitcher was coming up. You would want Beckham to pretend like he hadn’t gotten hit and stay up because he is the better hitter. I know the situation is different, but with what the Cubs are expecting Bradley to do, in this case I think batting average is much more important than on base percentage. I mean 16 rbi is a real problem. This multiplies out to under 50 rbi this year.

  • did we get the PTBNL from the Orioles for Rich Hill yet? he has more wins this month than most of the Cub starters.

    No… not yet. And I believe that the PTBNL was related to Hill’s success, so we should be cheering for Hill every time he does well.

  • does it ever become a problem that he is taking walks in situations with runners in scoring position instead of getting hits and driving in runs.

    I don’t think that it ever is a problem that he is taking walks. Especially considering that he has spend most of his time this year hitting in front of Lee or Ramirez.

    I mean 16 rbi is a real problem. This multiplies out to under 50 rbi this year.

    Agreed… but he has also had very few opportunities with RISP. A few days back I compared Manny Ramirez and Bradley after someone compared their RBI totals. Manny Ramirez, even with his 50 day suspension, had seen the same amount of plate appearances with RISP as Bradley had (at the time).

    RBI are a team dependent stat – they tell you very little about an individual player.

  • MJ

    4. He has walked 27 times, but whiffed 37

    This is actually really tremendous. I’d take that ratio any day, from anyone.

  • This is actually really tremendous. I’d take that ratio any day, from anyone.

    Completely agree.

    Bradley is 2nd on the team in BB/K ratio, behind only Fukudome (and Blanco, but he doesn’t really have enough plate appearances to qualify).

  • sherm

    The only stats that really matter to me are runs batted in and runs scored. Even batting average, a stat I still happen to like, comes after those. Runs batted in = clutch. There’s your measuring stick for clutch.

    but he has also had very few opportunities with RISP

    He’s had 35 at bats with RISP and has knocked in 12. Fontenot has 42/15 and Fukudome has 43/18 just to give an idea. Bradley’s is not the worst on the team. Soto’s 55/14 is bad and so is Johnson’s 40/11.
    FYI — Aram? 19/10

  • The only stats that really matter to me are runs batted in and runs scored.

    Interesting… so the only two stats that matter to you are the two most team dependent stats, both of which tell you little about an individual’s performance.

  • Fukudome has 43/18 just to give an idea.

    Interestingly, Fukudome has also been very good with RISP, and doesn’t have the RBI to show for it. .302/.448/.512 OPS: .960

    And sherm… you should be using plate appearances rather than at-bats for a better analysis.

  • sherm

    nah…that’s enough stats for me for one day. Reminds me of the song lyric:

    “my brain felt like a warehouse
    it had no room to spare
    I had to cram so many things
    to store everything in there.”

    Today’s trivia — name the song and the artist.

  • 5 years, David Bowie.

  • sherm

    Nicely done…now swear you didn’t google it.

  • I Gregging swear I didn’t google it.

  • MJ

    I’m curious what Dave thinks of this line:

    AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB OBP SLG AVG
    206 44 45 3 1 0 26 50 29 68 14 0.329 0.243 0.218

  • Ummm… it sucks?

    But it tells us little without more context.

  • MJ

    What kind of context do you need? That’s a season total.

  • The context would be such things as past performance, age, etc.

    All we know from that stat line is that some random player had a bad 206 at-bats, showing a decent amount of patience, striking out a ton, and hitting for zero power.

    So who is it?

  • Seymour Butts

    Looks like a decent line for a pitcher.

  • sherm

    I was thinking pitcher, too, but the runs scored is fairly high as are the stolen bases…

  • Lizzie

    I will close this comment with a quote from Tommy Lasorda: “No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are, you are going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.”

    cubbiedude, I’m so glad you posted this, I think of this quote all the time (slightly different variation … every team will win 50 games and lose 50 games and it’s the other 62 that will make the difference) but I never wanted to mention it because I didn’t know who to credit. I actually thought it was either Bob Brenly or Matt Jacobs. LOL

  • I was thinking pitcher, too

    I don’t know of any pitcher that gets 235 plate appearances in a season.

  • MJ

    I actually thought it was either Bob Brenly or Matt Jacobs.

    I say lots of meaningful things. Too bad that wasn’t one of them.

    As for the stat line…..that’s me. I was just curious what an outsider(s) would say without any context. I was always a singles hitter with speed to steal. And I take after Pedro Cerano, the duece gets me all the time. 😆

  • Lizzie

    Fantastic experiment Matt!

  • Doc Raker

    MJ
    Who you hitting off of on that line? Is that when you were with the Barons inbetween your stints with the Bulls?

  • MJ

    Doc,

    Depends on the team. Occasionally, guys that played in the Minors, most of them played collegiately. I stopped playing by high school, so I’m a bit behind the 8 ball.

  • I was always a singles hitter with speed to steal.

    You didn’t hit many singles either. 🙂

  • MJ

    😆

    See, isn’t this better than lamenting on the Cubs? 😛

  • sherm

    Sad to say, but with that line? You might be able to start for the Cubs. Can you field?

  • MJ

    ^ Defense is my specialty, which is why I always have a soft spot for the defensive replacement player.

  • Seymour Butts

    How about joining us in Phoenix in January for Randy’s fantasy camp?
    You can usually about tripple your numbers off of the machine. It’s a blast.

  • MJ

    I would love too. Not in the financial cards right now. But the wife knows that I want to go before some of the 84 guys start dying off. 😆

    I’d actually love to see Sherm do a post (or posts) on all of your experiences, as the website for the camp is rather blah.

  • cubbiedude

    Lizzie,

    I’m glad you enjoyed that Lasorda quote. I’ll identify exactly where I came across it in the not too distant future. You may be surprised. I was.

    Matt claims he never said it, but Bob Brenley probably has and now you have, too.

    Next time, you can follow Sherm’s lead: post the quote and challenge everyone to identify “who said it”.