Archive for August, 2009

Bottom Of The Ninth

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

I did a library search for books with the subject “baseball” and this one popped up. It’s titled “Bottom Of The Ninth – Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, And The Daring Scheme To Save Baseball From Itself”. It is written by Michael Shapiro, author of “The Last Good Season”, and it was published in 2009.

The action described herein takes place from Fall, 1958, through October, 1960, with occasional glimpses into the future and the past. Those activities occur both on the field and behind closed doors. I was surprised how familiar I was with the on field activities, and how in the dark I was about the more covert activities.

We are treated to a front row seat during the attempted creation of a third major league, the Continental League, along with an attempt to pool television revenues for the benefit of all.

The book opens with a look at the 1957 and 1958 World Series between the New York Yankees and Milwaukee Braves. What amazed me was how familiar all of the names are to me over fifty years later: Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Casey Stengel, Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette, Hank Aaron, Eddie Matthews, etc. It was like I had just watched the games yesterday.

Some other familiar names which play a role include: Ford Frick, Branch Rickey, Warren Giles, Leo Durocher, Connie Mack, Charles Comiskey, Joe Cronin and William A. Shea.

Early on in the book similarities are presented between the Continental League’s relationship to organized baseball in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and that of the American Association, founded in 1882 as a rival to the National League.

Casey Stengel discussed how injuries “had been especially useful in helping him see how best to use his men.” “Every time one of my front players got hurt I noticed the feller I stuck in his place would bust out with hits all over the place. Then just about the time he started to peter out he’d obligingly step in a hole or something and another guy, rarin’ to go, would take over. From then on I decided I never again would count on one player taking care of one position for an entire season.”

Years later Stengel said John McGraw, his manager with the New York Giants, “played him in center field, or in left or in right and sometimes not at all. ‘He put me in when and where he thought I could do him the most good’. No statement better captured Stengel’s approach to the game and his sense of himself in it.”

The ideal N.Y. Yankee is described as being “not unrestrained in his habits, dignified in his bearing, and private in his emotions.” Sounds to me like “Old Money”.

Major power guys in baseball at that time (behind the scenes) were Delbert E. (Del) Webb and Dan Topping of the Yankees in the American League, and Walter O’Malley of the Dodgers in the National League.

How teams were positioning themselves in the ‘50s to benefit from future pay TV revenues is described in some detail.

On August 2, 1960, at a meeting in Chicago, the National League agreed to expand by “four of your cities and later add the rest”. Branch Rickey was asked if this meant the Continental League “was dead. ‘Obviously’ he replied.”

The World Series of 1960 between the Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates is presented game by game, inning by inning, play by play, even pitch by pitch. I enjoyed every moment of the retelling. I remember watching the seventh game of that series on the black and white TV in my grandparent’s tavern. A forerunner of the sports bars of today. Like it was yesterday.

In retrospect, the Continental League was “ridiculed as a sham, but on the contrary it was an enormous success because it ran what became the biggest bluff in the history of professional sports.”

I enjoyed reading “Bottom Of The Ninth”. The author, Michael Shapiro, has an engaging writing style which makes the book eminently readable. Also the weaving together of on field action (nostalgic for me) with behind closed doors maneuvering held my interest throughout. I recommend it highly.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Minor League Roundup – 8/14

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

Minor League Notes

Top Prospect Tracker

Photo Op

download Shadowboxer

Korean native Su-Min Jung allowed one hit over four innings as Boise contained Everett, 8-2, on Friday. The 19-year-old righty struck out two and walked two, while Ken McNutt (2-0) fanned three and tossed two scoreless frames to record the win. Su-Min Jing has yielded two earned runs or fewer in six of his last seven starts. (Ronnie Allen/Four Seam Images)

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

GirlieView (08/14/2009)

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Quick Weekly Wrapup

  • Friday, 08/07: @ Colorado, L (6-2)
  • Saturday 08/08: @ Colorado, W (6-5)
  • Sunday 08/09: @ Colorado, L (11-5)
  • Monday 08/10: @ Colorado, L (11-5)
  • Tuesday 08/11: vs. Philadelphia, L (4-3)
  • Wednesday 08/12: vs. Philadelphia, L (12-5)
  • Thursday 08/13: vs. Philadelphia, L (6-1)

Question of the Week

What to do now? Give up and wait til next year? Pray to the baseball gods that someone drives in a run or two this weekend? Hope that the playoffs somehow get filled with teams that have losing records? Anything? Anyone? I’ve got nothing. And I consider myself to be a very optimistic person. But at this point I think my chances of winning the Powerball this weekend are better than this Cubs team turning itself around! Even as I’m writing this and it’s 11-0 with no outs in the 2nd inning against the Pirates, I find it difficult to get excited. The Cubs are not going to be playing the Pirates (or teams like them) in the playoffs! ‘Course I guess I feel way better than if it was 11-0 Pirates!

Weekly Lizzie’s
(Despite my disappointment in the Cubs this week, you guys NEVER disappoint!) :-)

  • it’s a rare bird that stops opposing offenses without striking many guys out. (here)
  • AAron Miles sees the highest % of fastballs (65.2%) and still can’t seem to produce. (here)
  • Tighten up Cubbies, this is MLB baseball! (here)
  • And after everything else, after all the left on base and thrown out on the bases and the terrible fielding, after all that, there can be NO optimism if you look up and see Carlos Marmol or Kevin Gregg warming up. (here)
  • Our catcher smokes weed and eats too much. Our “Ace” is a head case that doesn’t get medical treatment when needed for an injury that was probably caused not by pitching, but by taking batting practice. Our second base position can’t hit for their collective life. We have an OF that costs the amount of some countries GDP and will be like that for the forseeable future. Our corner IF, while productive, are injuries waiting to happen. Between their neck and back spasms, it gets very frustrating. That just leaves Theriot. Maybe he’s my reason for optimism. Tommy must be so proud. (here)
  • If the season ended today, and we were somehow to win the wildcard or the division through a miracle — does anyone really think that this team can advance in the playoffs? Really? (here)
  • The only optimism I have is that Soriano will be done after 2014. (here)
  • If Larry were a comic book character, his weapon of choice would be a towel. (here)
  • [Marmol's] problem is either mechanical or it’s between his considerable ears. (here)
  • Mostly I blame myself for caring. (here)
  • Dear Cubs,
    stop sucking
    thank you (here)
  • How many runners have we left on base just this week alone? (here)
  • The sign of a good team is that they don’t blame Murphy for ruining their season. (here)
  • the older I get, the more I care about character and the less I care about winning. (here)
  • I’m sick of the 2009 Cubs. (here)

That about does it from here. Hope the weekend/week brings better results!

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

10 Things I’m Sick of About The Cubs

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Let me preface this post by saying that I quit believing that this was a good team sometime in June. That being said, here are ten things I’m sick of hearing, seeing or reading about this team.

  1. Injuries have killed us – Bull!!! Everyone has injuries. I’m sick of hearing that BS about “if we can just get healthy, then we can make our run”. The sign of a good team is that they don’t blame Murphy for ruining their season. They plan for injuries and are ready when they hit. For example, the Red Sox stockpiled starting pitchers in an effort to assure they would have depth at the position. Did our GM do this? Heck no!!! A-Ram goes down and we have Mike Fontenot as one of the only options. Geo goes down and we have a catcher behind the plate for 77 straight games without a break for food, sleep or showers. It’s complete garbage.
  2. Carlos Marmol – I’m sick of seeing this guy pitch. He doesn’t have good mechanics, and hasn’t found a consistent release point all year. What bothers me most, though, is Lou’s use of him. In the past, guys like Scott Eyre had their names changed by Lou and found themselves banished to bullpen purgatory for a few rough outings, never to return. Marmol, in sharp contrast, continues to get the ball when the game is on the line. Inexcusable.
  3. A lack of production from 2B – We traded DeRosa in an attempt to get “more left-handed” and, though they won’t say it, get Jake Peavy. The result? No production at 2B, no Peavy, and a lefty bat that can’t hit well left handed. GRRRRR. To make it worse, DeRo goes to the Cards.
  4. Inappropriate usage of Angel Guzman – For some reason, Angel Guzman has gotten no respect in terms of his bullpen usage.
  5. Jeff Samardzija love – We need a starter. Sean Marshall is available, but instead we go with a guy that has questionable secondary pitches and seems destined for a bullpen role in the bigs. Why is Samardzija looked at so highly. Not only do I not consider him our top prospect, like the boys over at Goat Riders of the Apocolypse, I don’t even consider him in the top 5. I can name at least 5 that I would take over him.
  6. Inability to either put teams away or capitalize on good pitching – No explanation needed.
  7. Lou Piniella’s stuttering and stammering when asked questions – Part of me thinks it’s not a stuttering issue, but a lack of answers and idea what to do about it. Keep in mind that this is a guy that spent time in the booth, so it’s not that he doesn’t have experience talking.
  8. Alfonso Soriano putting on a Cub Jersey – I hate him. I think he’s a moron. I’m sick of his loafing and lack of fundamentals. If only we could get a refund and send him back to Washington.
  9. Carlos Zambrano’s lack of team player attitude – Refusing to get treatment for his back, focusing too much on his hitting, which hurts said back, not drinking enough water, etc. The list is endless. One of the biggest dissappointments in terms of production based on talent I’ve ever seen.
  10. Inability of this team to win a series against someone with a winning record – Twice. That’s how many times it’s happened. Garbage.

Minor League Notes

Top Prospect Tracker

Photo Op
First-round pick Brett Jackson recorded career highs with two homers and four RBIs on Wednesday, powering Cubs left-hander Ted Lilly and the Peoria Chiefs to an 11-1 rout of Burlington. Lilly, rehabbing knee and shoulder injuries, allowed two hits and struck out two over five sharp innings. Brett Jackson is hitting .328 with 10 RBIs in 13 games with Peoria. (Bill Mitchell/Four Seam Images)
Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

And I quote

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Quotes from the Cub website that caught my attention:

Lou, discussing the Cub pitching and propensity to walk hitters: “in this business… if you get runners on, they score.” Brilliant. As opposed to getting them out, of course, where it is infinitely more diffucult for them to do so. Let’s try that option for a while, pitching staff.

Soto: “I don’t think he (Marmol) has anything in his head.” Gee, no kidding. In this article, Soto said that he feels Marmol’s problem is with his arm slot. Got that? ARM SLOT. Therefore, crack pitching coach is working with Marmol. On his leg kick. LEG KICK.

“Rollins launched the first pitch from Sean Marshall into the left-field seats for his 15th homer and also served up Ibanez’s blast, his 27th, and an RBI single to Pedro Feliz.” What? Rollins hit a homer and also pitched to Ibanez and Feliz? Huh?

Koyie Hill” “Any time, if it’s a guy’s first start, it’s going to be new to him,” Hill said of Samardzija.” Um, Koyie, the first ANYTHING is usually NEW to the person. That’s kind of, well, what FIRST means, doesn’t it?

“I think he (Pedro) doesn’t have the stuff he had before, but now he pitches smart,” Soriano said. Soriano, it should be noted, still hits stupid and gets dominated by the aging Martinez.

Koyie Hill again: “Pedro, to me, was Pedro,” added Cubs catcher Koyie Hill, who went 1-for-2 off Martinez. “Maybe not six, seven years ago, but he’s going to give those guys a chance to win when he goes out there.” And you know Pedro from seven years ago how? Did you have a TV in the barn? He was pitching for the Red Sox in 2002 and did get a lot of face time on the tube.

Eric Lee, on vacation from his home in Lambertville, N.J., thought Martinez’s five innings were “pretty good,” for a guy his age. Who’s age? Martinez or the jackass from Lambertville? Who writes this tripe? Who cares where one guy in the stands comes from? For that matter, who cares what he thinks. He’s a Phillie fan.

It doesn’t get easier. Cliff Lee is on the mound today. He’s pretty good. He was acquired at the trading deadline. Some teams actually go get players to improve their chances of winning divisions and postseasons. The Cubs, however, just continue to say how “injuries are a part of the game.” Yes. Yes they are. So are trades. My opinion is that this team, with this personnel and this coaching staff won’t win the division. You’ll think it’s drastic and that I’m nuts, but I think this team needs to be blown up and rebuilt. Starting with the management. And you can quote me on that.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

What’s with Samardzija?

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

This guy had a lot of movement on his fastball last year – this year he’s throwing frozen ropes. Major League hitters love him – at present he’s got an ERA of nearly seven and guys are hitting over .300 against him from both sides of the plate. His pitches have autographs that say “hit me, hit me.” Can we trade this guy to the Bears? He was a much better wide receiver and the Bears need guys that can catch the ball.

I’m also disappointed in what I see from Marmol and Caridad – if these guys have quality arms why is it that the Cubs pitching coach cannot work with them? I know Larry Rothschild is supposedly one of the best pitching coaches in the game but the proof is in the pudding. And why is his pudding always cooked incorrectly? I’m not ready to give up on our young pitchers and send them places – guys like Marmol and Samardzija should be further developed. But I am ready to wish Larry Rothschild the best of luck in all of his future endeavors, let’s retire this guy now and get somebody more in touch to coach this pitching staff.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Who to blame?

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Sure baseball is a “win some, lose some” sport. Sure, close games can go either way. And when you get blown out — a la the final two in Colorado, you just say “oh well, it happens,” and you move on to the next series. Losing closer games is harder — you wonder what coulda, shoulda been done to win the game. You look for blame to place.

So, last night — who do you blame?

1. Lou for pulling Harden with only 87 pitches? Is there some sort of law in Lou’s world that pitchers have to come out after seven innings or 100 pitches, whichever comes first?

2. The offense? Ten hits and seven walks really ought to yield more than three runs in 12 innings. Again — does this team lack clutch?

3. Marmol — I mean one HBP and three walks and a hit in two thirds of an inning? Really? Really? Send him down. He needs help. His problem is either mechanical or it’s between his considerable ears.

4. Gregg — Oh, yeah, I feel good when he comes in. Tingly all over.

5. The 0 for 9 Soto/Soriano combo? Tough day for the 5/6 spot. Why is Soto hitting 5 again? Because he came off the DL swinging such a hot bat? No, can’t be that. Because he was on fire back when he got hurt? No. Can’t be that. Hmm. I wonder.

6. Injuries? It’s easy to say “all the injuries are at fault” but what team doesn’t have injuries during the season? And even with the injuries, the Cubs have fielded a fairly good team all year…or at least an expensive one…it just hasn’t produced.

7. Jim Hendry — for not improving the team enough in the areas that are the most needed at the trade deadline. Just wondering who you blame?

Me? I blame them all. Mostly I blame myself for caring.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Seriously…Optimism, where is it coming from?

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

I wrote yesterday that I needed encouragement. I got little. I’ve come to the conclusion that this team sucks. Go ahead and say it “it’s only a three game deficit”. I don’t want to hear it, though. The fact remains, this is NOT a good team. Think about it for a second. Our catcher smokes weed and eats too much. Our “Ace” is a head case that doesn’t get medical treatment when needed for an injury that was probably caused not by pitching, but by taking batting practice. Our second base position can’t hit for their collective life. We have an OF that costs the amount of some countries GDP and will be like that for the forseeable future. Our corner IF, while productive, are injuries waiting to happen. Between their neck and back spasms, it gets very frustrating. That just leaves Theriot. Maybe he’s my reason for optimism. Tommy must be so proud. I hate this team. Here were my thoughts, quickly, from last night…facebook status style

  • Carlos Marmol…can I be the closer? Seriously…I deserve to be the closer….if you don’t make me the closer, I’ll continue to suck until I get my way.
  • Milton Bradley….had another nice night tonight. Maybe soon the Cub fans will stop hating me. Off to bed.
  • Angel Guzman….had my super rec specs on tonight and was able to clearly see that ball was foul. That God for the pioneer, Chris Sabo.
  • Kevin Gregg….frustrated with my results again last night. Maybe my rec specs are broken. All they let me see is the ball going into the stands. Well, at least I can see.
  • John Grabow….why did I come here again?
  • Lou Piniella….maybe I should just get kicked out early in the game every night so I can grab a cocktail and hit the hay. Should have tried that tonight.
  • Jeff Baker….if I have four hits out of the 8th hole, do you think maybe someone will actually know I’m around and on the team? Maybe?

Scouting Tonight’s Starters

Pedro Martinez – signed to a prorated $2 million contract last month, will make his Phillies debut. Jamie Moyer, whose 40 wins since 2006 leads the Phillies, has been moved to the bullpen. Martinez, 37, has not pitched in the Majors since last season with the Mets. He went 1-1 with a 5.11 ERA (seven earned runs in 12 1/3 innings) and 16 strikeouts in three Minor League rehab appearances. (MLB.com)

Is incredibly deceptive with both his change of speeds and arm angle variance. Owns one of the best change-ups of all time. Also has a great curveball. Injuries have started to slow him down, and he’s not as durable as he used to be. Has lost some zip off his fastball. Struggles to keep base-runners honest. A future Hall-of-Fame starter. (TSN.ca)

Jeff Samardzija – Wednesday’s start against the defending World Series champion Phillies will be Samardzija’s first big league start. Samardzija has compiled a 1-1 record and a 6.29 ERA in 16 appearances for the Cubs spanning 24 1/3 innings. He faced the Phillies on the road on July 21, pitching 1 2/3 innings of extra-inning ball until losing the game on a three-run homer in the 13th. (MLB.com)


Minor League Notes

Top Prospect Tracker

Photo Op

Richard Jones, the Cubs’ ninth-round pick in this year’s Draft, cranked his first Short-Season homer and hit an RBI double as the Boise Hawks outslugged Everett, 13-7, on Tuesday. Jones went 4-for-5 and drove in four runs, while Derrick Fitzgerald contributed a two-run blast. Richard Jones has eight homers and 30 RBIs in 29 Minor League games. (Bill Mitchell/Four Seam Images)

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

If We Can’t Beat Colorado, How Can We Beat Philly?

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Give me a reason. Just one little reason for optimisim. Help me feel good about this team, because I’m not feeling it. I saw this on Big League Stew the other day “Did you know the Cubs have won two series all season against teams that currently have winning records? They beat the Cards and Fish in April.” TWO teams?!?!! APRIL?!?!?!?! Seriously, give me something to be excited about. Anyway, here are the scouting reports for tonight and a look at what happened last night on the farm. Here’s hoping for a series win…the first since April against a winning team. By the way, still 3 spots available for fantasy football if you’re interested, let me know.

Tonight’s Starters

J. A.  Happ’s last outing was his best as he struck out a career-high 10 while shutting out the Rockies, but he also threw 127 pitches. (MLB.com)

Has the ability to strike a lot of batters out, which gets him out of jams with regularity. Is tough on left-handed hitters. Walks a lot of batters, which he needs to curb in order to become a reliable major-league starter. Must avoid the big inning. A mid-rotation starter or situational lefty. (TSN.ca)

Rich Harden is healthy and has found a groove lately. Over his past five starts, the flamethrower is 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA. More impressively, over that span he has 41 strikeouts and nine walks in 30 innings. He fanned 20 over his past two outings, even though he won neither. Harden has dominated the Phillies over his career, striking out 22 and allowing just two earned runs over 20 innings (0.90 ERA). (MLB.com)

Minor League Notes

Top Prospect Tracker
Photo Op
Casey Coleman allowed four runs on seven hits over five innings Monday, but Tennessee used a 14-hit attack to help him to his Southern League-leading 12th win as the Smokies rolled past the Birmingham Barons, 11-4. The Cubs’ 15th-round pick in the 2008 Draft has won his last three starts. Casey Coleman is 12-5 with a 3.49 ERA in 22 starts this season. (Carl Kline/MiLB.com)
Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us: