Archive for August, 2009

Stick a fork in ’em, they’re done

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

That’s about all you can say about the 2009 Cubs.  Eight games out with less than six weeks to go, this team is in a freefall and it’s going to be an accomplishment if they finish the season ten games out in the Central.  No sense in belaboring the point – so where do we go from here with the rest of the season?

I am going to be a casual observer from this point on – the NFL season is starting up and so is college football so from my standpoint there’s bigger fish to fry.  Hopefully the Cubs’ brass will recognize the futility of this season and when September 1st comes around they will call up the maximum.  We need to bench non-performers like Soriano and Soto and play Bradley every other game.  Let’s see what the future looks like in terms of our minor leaguers, there’s nothing at stake now so why not?  I’d like to see Trammel given the chance to reverse roles with Piniella so that we can give him some experience at the helm – he managed Detroit back when they were hopeless so I’d like to see Alan get another chance.  Piniella says he’ll be back in 2010 but why should I look forward to that?  Many Cubs have not performed and the Cubs manager is one of them.  If Ramirez is still hurting and requiring surgery it might make sense to DL him now and get the surgery done so that he’s ready to go in April.

I’m not too bummed out about this year – we had two decent years and one very mediocre season.  That having been said it’s time to focus on what will be done to wright this ship.  Hendry is going to have to be creative in the offseason and he’s going to have to dump some salary to get the job done.

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Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

The book is titled: “Fergie – My Life From The Cubs To Cooperstown”. It’s a new book, published in 2009, and it features a photo of Ferguson Jenkins in a Cubs uniform on the front cover.

I showed the book to my dad (The World’s Greatest Living Cubs Fan) and asked him what he thought of Ferguson Jenkins. He didn’t hesitate a bit, saying “He was the best pitcher they ever had!”

Although I knew of Fergie Jenkins’ pitching with the Cubs in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, I had never heard him speak until earlier this year. The Cubs were retiring jersey #31, which had been worn by Fergie and by Greg Maddux, and Fergie joined Len and Bob in the booth. He struck me as being a very good speaker, intelligent, humble and level headed.

Now let me tell you about the book.

I am a little unclear about who is the author of this book. The front cover proclaims “Fergie Jenkins with Lew Freedman”. The title page says “Ferguson Jenkins with Lew Freedman”. The Library Of Congress cataloguing page lists “Ferguson Jenkins” as the copyright holder, and the inside front jacket cover calls this a “new autobiography”. But on page 199 under the heading “About the Author” only Lew Freedman is mentioned.

In a similar vein, the press release says “By Fergie Jenkins with Lew Freedman” but near the bottom of the same page below the underlined “About the Author” heading, only Lew Freedman is mentioned.

So, like I said, I don’t know who wrote the book. But I liked it.

Fergie describes himself as “not a Rhodes Scholar….I loved dogs….Later in life I raised hunting dogs.”

Although the subtitle of this book is “From The Cubs To Cooperstown”, it could just as easily read: “From Chatham, Canada to Cooperstown”. Fergie was born in Chatham, Ontario (near Detroit) and repeatedly points out that he is a Canadian citizen and will remain so.

Fergie mentions that when his mother died, he ”did not lose a mother, I lost a friend, a counselor, a teacher, a person who was there whenever I needed her”.

We learn that as a boy collecting baseball cards, his “favorite card was of Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs. I never dreamed one day I would be Ernie Banks’s roommate on the road.”

– “Every time I did something well in sports and every time I moved up in baseball to another classification and began playing well in the majors, my dad told me he was proud of me. Not every kid is lucky enough to have parents who tell them that even once, never mind all of the time.”

Fergie was 18 years old when he signed with the Phillies in 1962, but, as a Canadian citizen, the war and the draft in the ‘60s did not affect him directly. His dad told him: “Ferguson, if this is the life you want to live, go ahead and do it. Prove to yourself you are worth your salt.”

Fergie talks about how pitching has become more specialized with “a closer to end the game, a setup man in the eighth inning, a middle reliever, a long reliever.”
– “They call pitching six innings and giving up three runs or less a ‘quality start’. Well, that’s a 4.50 earned-run average. If a starting pitcher had a record like that when I was pitching, he would have been either benched or sent back to the minors.”

Fergie tells of the racial tensions on the Cubs during the 1968 season, specifically recalling an incident between Lou Johnson and Randy Hundley.

We learn about the “bubble gum incident”, which was a big deal on a team owned by P.K. Wrigley.

During the same 1968 season, when the Cubs’ bats were not supporting Fergie in the manner to which he wished to be supported, he staged a “sacrifice to the gods” – the ceremonial burning of the bats.

Among other stories, Fergie talks about his experiences touring and playing with the Harlem Globetrotters, he gives us a sober analysis of the 1969 season, and elaborates upon the differences between a brushback (“purpose pitch”) and a beanball.

The book contains analyses of numerous Cubs teammates with inside stories.

Fergie discusses the working relationship of pitchers and catchers, with inside stories.

He talks about his time in Texas and in Boston. He speaks with reverence about Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. And he’s impressed with the depth of baseball knowledge of the fans in both of these parks.

Fergie talks about being busted for drugs by Canadian customs: “They found some articles in my suitcase in 1980”. “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time….”

We learn of his personal tragedies, losing a number of people close to him in a very short period of time.

With regard to working his way up from the minors, Fergie observes: “I didn’t get promoted because I struck guys out. I got promoted because I didn’t walk guys.”

Ferguson Jenkins is a Hall of Famer (the 1st and so far the only Canadian member of the HOF), and a Cy Young Award winner who struck out more that 3,000 hitters during his career.

This book chronicles Fergie’s life in his own words and is a very good read. It is a must read for all Cubs fans. My dad and I recommend it very highly.

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There’s a new sheriff in town

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Today the Chicago Cubs’ sale to the Ricketts family was made official. The Ricketts family will own a 95% interest in the team, Wrigley Field and the Tribune’s share of Comcast Sports Net Chicago. Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan raised some pertinent questions about where Tom Ricketts will want things to go now that he’s the new sheriff. I would like to add a few more of my own and somewhat restate a couple of Paul’s questions:

  • It is estimated that the Ricketts family spent upwards of $800 million on this sale, how will their outlay impact their spending on baseball salaries? Most entrepreneurs want to know what kind of return on investment they are earning; I can only imagine that the ROI the Trib had was ungodly compared to what similar numbers will be with the new regime.
  • Another question of a financial nature, how much did the Ricketts have to leverage their purchase? We all saw the kind of trouble Zell got into playing that game – he had to sell off the Cubs (a profitable investment) to raise cold hard cash to fulfill his debt obligations for the Trib (a very unprofitable investment.)  This is a cash flow consideration and I wonder how much that will play into the ownership equation.
  • How important will winning be to the Ricketts family? There are many rich owners around baseball and other pro sports, some are very focused on winning (e.g. the Steinbrenners) where others are more concerned on the bottom line (witness former Twins owner Carl Pohlad.)  I personally hated it when the Wrigleys owned the Cubs and was horrified when it was reported that they were possibly interested in re-purchasing the team.
  • What will Tom Ricketts decide to do about Piniella? Lou looks tired to me, I think it’s time for him to retire.  I really like the guy but he’s looking an awful lot like Dusty now.  Gone is the edge, playing the hot hand in terms of player substitutions and generally good instincts in terms of tactical situations.  I’d like to see the Cubs give Trammel the job on a one year contract with a nice salary and have the Cubs bring up Sandberg as bench coach.  Will Ricketts want to give Piniella another year?  Will Lou even want to stay?
  • Regardless of what decisions are made about Piniella, what should be done about the some of the big contracts the Cubs currently own? Hendry appears to have belly-flopped on several choices but I would also hold some of those guys equally accountable for turning in bad performances, most notably Zambrano, Soriano and Milton Bradley.  All of those guys are capable of better play – Z could do a better job of personal conditioning and situational pitching, he might even learn to think a little more thoroughly before opening his pie-hole.  Soriano needs to get a baseball bat and quit buying trees, he looks comical like Todd Hundley swinging that big piece of lumber.  To paraphrase former VP candidate Lloyd Bentsen:  ‘Mr. Soriano, I saw Henry Aaron and you are no Hank Aaron.’  Get a lighter, shorter bat, get closer to the plate, quit swinging at outside and high pitches and focus on more singles and doubles Alfonso.  Hit line drives and the homeruns will happen some too.  As for Bradley, he’s shown some improvement in recent games.  Keep this trend going and remember who your worst enemy is Milton – you see him every morning when you shave.  And what do you do with Rich Harden?  I’d like to see the Cubs make a bonafide offer to keep him but I’d let him go places if the asking price is too high.  He’s bound to earn a decent draft pick in the compensatory portion of the amateur draft.
  • What will Tom Ricketts do about the Cubs management infrastructure? The biggest question in many fans’ minds is what to do about Cubs GM Jim Hendry, my advice would be to have some serious heart-to-hearts between Ricketts and Hendry and make sure they are on the same page.  Assuming they are, I think you have to give Hendry a chance to work his way out of the jam he’s put himself in.  I’d give him a season and a half or so to turn the ship around before demoting him to a corner office in the headquarters to read the daily newspapers.  I definitely think that it’s time for Larry Rothschild to go, we need somebody that can work with young pitchers like Marmol and Samardzija.  Both of these guys are better than their performances indicate and there might be some technical issues that can be resolved with both of these players.  I don’t think that that kind of coaching is in Larry’s skillset, he’d be better off in another organization as a bench coach.  Onieri Fleita is a keeper and I like Mike Quade at third base.
  • Finally what will happen with WGN and their Cubs broadcasts? Correct me if I’m wrong but the Cubs and WGN will no longer share the same owner – I can recall when all Cubs games were on WGN but each year it seems that fewer Cubs games appear on the former Cubs flagship station.  Will WGN follow TBS’ lead when it comes to showing only a third or so of their local franchise’s games?  If they do how will this impact the popularity (and branding) of the Cubs for future generations?

Feel free to add your comments and concerns now that the sale has been consummated.

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GirlieView (08/21/2009)

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Quick Weekly Wrapup

  • Friday, 08/14: vs. Pittsburgh, W (17-2)
  • Saturday 08/15: vs. Pittsburgh, W (3-1)
  • Sunday 08/16: vs. Pittsburgh, ppd (rescheduled for 9/30)
  • Monday 08/17: @ San Diego, L (4-1)
  • Tuesday 08/18: @ San Diego, L (6-3)
  • Wednesday 08/19: @ San Diego, W (7-1)
  • Thursday 08/20: @ Los Angeles Dodgers, L (7-2)

Question of the Week

How do you feel? I feel like crap. I think it’s over and worse than me thinking it’s over, I think the Cubs know it’s over. On a good note, though, great discussion on Much Ado About Nothing. Disagreement without turning nasty, informative without being preachy. Great job guys (and gal!)

Other Stuff

Had a tornado here in Chesterton, Indiana this week … about a mile away from me as the crow flies. Really sad to see all the damage especially to the old stately trees (video, another video).  NO injuries whatsoever, which is amazing and wonderful. And it sure puts a whole lot into perspective. Made my “it’s over, Cubbies” week a little less heartbreaking with so much else going on.

Weekly Lizzies

I bet you already know know there can be only one Lizzie this week. This one stands alone. Many people said many interesting things but this one was too special to ignore. Enjoy this replay in full, and have a nice weekend. :-)

Sing Along with Sherm (here)

To the tune of “Little Pink Houses”

There’s a black man with a brown glove

Standin’ out in right field

He’s got an interest rate

Running through his head

You know he thinks he’s got it so good…

And there’s a goggleman in the bullpen

Servin’ up all kinds of slop

And they look at each other and say

It’s payday, baby, who gives a f***

Oh, but ain’t the Chicago Cubs

Playing pitifully

Ain’t this year’s Cubs, you know statisticallllllllllllly

Ain’t they just unlucky,

Yessirree, BABIP, yeah,

Little Grey Boxes For you and me

Oooh, yeah,

Well, there’s a young man in a new shirt

Wishes he could get in the game

He’s got a splinter in his ass

He says, Lord this must be my destination

Cause they told me when I younger

Said, boy, your earn it and you can play

But just like everything else

Those crazy dreams came and went cuz

They got other player’s contracts to pay…

Oh, but ain’t the Chicago Cubs

Playing pitifully

Ain’t this year’s Cubs, you know statisticallllllllllllly

Ain’t they just unlucky,

Oh, Yessirree, BABIP, yeah,

Little Grey Boxes For you and me

Oooh, yeah,

(pause for instrumental interlude and/or a snack)

Well, there’s more and more people

What do they know?

This team cannot score

But to Wrigley they gooooo…

Ooh, yeah,

And there’s winners and there’s losers

But they ain’t no big deal

Cause the simple man, baby,

He’s paying the bills,

While the athletes, yeah, they just take pills….

Oh, but ain’t the Chicago Cubs

Playing pitifully

Ain’t this year’s Cubs, you know statisticallllllllllllly

Ain’t they just unlucky,

Yessirree, BABIP, yeah,

Little Grey Boxes For you and me

Oooh, yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Little Grey Boxes for you and me…

you and me

you and me…

(Guitar solo)

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and another thing about how stupid this organization is

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Last night prior to his minor league rehab start Carlos Zambrano took batting practice in Peoria. He hit multiple home runs, swinging as hard as he could…even though he is trying to rehab pulled muscles (and even though the team asked him not to).

The idiocy seems to never end. They should fine Carlos $25,000 for this. They will probably do nothing.

and by the way in Peoria they use a designated hitter.

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