Archive for October, 2009

Baseball for Everyone!

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Here’s a book written by Joe DiMaggio, titled “”Baseball for Everyone”. It was first published in 1948, but reissued in 2002.

Let me start with the Bio from the inside back jacket cover:
- “Joe DiMaggio (1914-1999) played for the Yankees from 1936 to 1951, with time out for military service in World War II. In a poll taken in the 1940s he topped George Washington as ‘the greatest American of all time’.”

One remarkable aspect of Joe’s career, as noted in Peter Golenbock’s Foreword:
- “…(Joe DiMaggio) was a lifetime .325 hitter with such remarkable bat control that over his brilliant thirteen-year career he had only eight fewer home runs (361) than strikeouts (369), a feat, when you really think about it, that was even more amazing than his consecutive-game hitting streak.”

Here’s another accurate quote from the Foreword:
- “The book is also a time capsule in a way, because the advice and anecdotes come from long-gone baseball legends… ‘Baseball for Everyone’ is filled with pure baseball. DiMaggio’s knowledge of the game and his reverence for it come through on every page.”

“Baseball for Everyone” is organized as follows: first a general overview of the game, then a discussion about sand lot and semipro baseball. Joe looks at the minors and the majors, then goes over, position by position, how the game is supposed to be played. After that he dives into the subjects of hitting, pitching, base running, coaching and slumps. In so doing, Joe DiMaggio goes into great detail about topics and situations I never even thought about. And that’s what makes this book so instructive.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Joe DiMaggio himself:
- “I believe that the major reason for the greatness of baseball is the blood kinship of its players and its fans in their devotion to the game. One of their chief bonds is their fascination for intimate information about every aspect of baseball. And the more they find out, the keener they become as performers or as fans.”

- “Little can be done to increase a boy’s speed, but there is one very simple means of preventing its reduction. Provide a youngster with comfortable, well-fitting shoes…. See that they fit him.” (CubbieDude note: I got stuck in high school with a pair of baseball cleats which hurt to wear. All season long the coach told me to “play with pain”, etc. My football playing ended prematurely because the danged shoes weren’t right. Joe DiMaggio is spot on here.)

- “Whether a player is a boy in his teens or an adult who has made the majors, he has room for improvement, and his three chief ways of learning better baseball are through good instruction, personal observation, and intelligent questions.” (CubbieDude note: Joe is providing good instruction here by answering his own intelligent questions. It remains for the individual to exercise personal observation.)

- “Once I asked Red Ruffing, a top-flight competitor, why he frequently bore down so hard on the tail end of the batting order.
‘Those are the guys,’ he said, ‘who break your heart when they get a hit off of you, because you figure they’re not entitled to it. So I made up my mind long ago that if any of the weak ones were going to get a hit off of me they were going to have to hit my Sunday stuff…’”

- “The general prescription for a first baseman would be that he is ‘long, lean, and left-handed,’ but the prescription is only occasionally followed.”

- “…in baseball, as an old umpire once put it, ‘There are no ties – either you’re safe or you ain’t’.”

- “He cannot take time to get set – while the second baseman gets set the runner gets safe.”

- “An outfielder who can’t hit around .300 should be a Tris Speaker or a Terry Moore defensively if he isn’t to be a drag on the club. And the days of the outfielder who’s a good hitter but a poor fielder are gone, probably forever.”

- “…crowded stands, with thousands of fans smoking, make game conditions far different from those in the practice period. Before the game the crowd is small, and haze from tobacco smoke is at a minimum. As the game goes on the haze deepens, especially if the day is humid and there is no breeze to carry the smoke from the park.”

- “Perhaps the best cure is a day or two on the bench, but I’ve met few ballplayers who would volunteer to be taken out of the line-up during a slump. Depressed as he is by his slump, there’s always the fear in his mind that he may never get back in again.”

The book closes with a chapter on scoring (“How to Score”) by Red Barber. Red’s system is so redundant, convoluted and confusing to me that, if I didn’t already have a system in place, I think I’d just give up after reading this chapter and never try to keep score again. But that’s just me.

Nowadays, if I had the interest, I suppose I’d keep a video library of games I saw &/or attended, rather than maintaining scorecards. But, once again, that’s just me.

Finally, I noticed that, having been published originally in 1948, some of the names and dollar amounts are not particularly current. The names I will have to familiarize myself with, but the dollar amounts are easily updated. Just add 2 little zeros to each figure and you’re up to date. For instance, Joe talks about the $5,000 major league minimum salary. Adding two little zeros, that number becomes $500,000, a more current minimum salary figure.

I enjoyed reading this book very much. I recommend it in concurrence with the wording from the inside back jacket cover: “Baseball for Everyone is for all who love the game and savor the legends surrounding it.”

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GirlieView (10/30/2009)

Friday, October 30th, 2009

By now you’ve either seen, heard, or at least heard about this morning’s press conference featuring the Ricketts family. What are your thoughts? Are you enthused? Do you feel confident in the new ownership? Are you excited about things to come? Or are you more “wait-and-see”? Maybe you are feeling like all is lost? Let us know what you think!

For what it’s worth, I liked the Ricketts’. I have confidence in them and I actually can’t wait to see the changes they are planning, even if they feel the best action in certain situations is no action. If nothing else I feel that at least someone cares. That in itself makes my outlook positive. How do you feel about it?

In other news, I bought a new car this week. Got rid of my Jeep Commander and got a Toyota Venza. I’m in love with it, which is saying a lot because I never love my car. Just a transport mechanism. But I’m loving this one. I doubt anyone cares about any of this but it’s been awhile since I chit chatted and as we’ve all admitted, there’s not a whole lot of exciting baseball talk lately. At least for the next month or two.

Anybody dressing up for Halloween? Not here, but we do have about five bags of assorted sugary goodies to hand out to the hundreds of little visiting ghosts and goblins. In our town they have Halloween hours … trick or treating is from 5 – 7 pm and that’s it. I like that a LOT. Hope you’re equally blessed in your town. :-)

Lizzies

  • Maybe pith just ain’t your bag
  • Then we could of had a Alyssa Milano vs. Kate Hudson, what acting have you done lately?, cage match.
  • Wait, the baseball season isn’t over?
  • Ken Rosenthal mentioned recently that “Multiple teams are in contact the Cubs about outfielder Milton Bradley, with one source saying, “You would be shocked at the level of interest.”. I’m calling B.S.
  • players tend to have a big psychological component to their hitting, so if they think a hitting coach can help them, it might
  • I’ve already cooked and eaten my batch of crow on Lee. He carried this team and I’d hate to think of how bad it could have gotten without him.

Lizard

  • SWAG (Statistical Wild-Assed Guess)

I’m betting that acronym sticks around here! Have a great weekend and don’t forget to turn your clocks back and change the batteries in your smoke detectors. xxoo

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Who Earned Their Money in 2009? – Part I

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Fan Graphs has a nifty little tool that shows what the player’s approximate value if he was a free agent based on 2009 stats. We can compare that to what the player’s 2009 salaries were to see which players played up or down to their contract this past year. Today we take a look at five guys that I found intriguing. We’ll work through all of the players on the roster over the next week or so.

Derrek Lee
2009 Salary: $13 mil
2009 Value: $23.8 mil
Comment: I’ve already cooked and eaten my batch of crow on Lee. He carried this team and I’d hate to think of how bad it could have gotten without him.

Ryan Theriot
2009 Salary: $0.5 mil
2009 Value: $11.9 mil
Comment: He takes a lot of grief for his play at SS. You either love him or hate him. Regardless of where you stand on his ability, you can’t argue that he outplays his near-league minimum contract.

Aramis Ramirez
2009 Salary: $15.65 mil
2009 Value: $11.5 mil
Comment: We didn’t get as much as we paid for with Rammy, but I understand. I can deal with it if he comes back next year with a completely healthy shoulder.

Kosuke Fukudome
2009 Salary: $11.5 mil
2009 Value: $10.8 mil
Comment: Fukudome just missed playing up to his contract, though I feel like we paid for what we expected to be more run production from a power standpoint. We were told that he wasn’t going to be a 40 HR guy, but I’ve been disappointed with the power we’ve seen. Overall, I think he’s gotten more of a bad rap than he really deserves.

Jeff Baker
2009 Salary: $0.415 mil
2009 Value: $6.1 mil
Comment: In my opinion, Baker is the guy I want at 2B come opening day. The only way I consider otherwise would be if we saw someone like Chone Figgins or Brian Roberts brought in or if the great and mighty Starlin Castro comes up to play SS, which would move Theriot to 2B.

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Holy Cow!!

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

The World Series starts tonight. The games will be telecast on FOX. While I have nothing personal against the announcing team of Tim McCarver and Joe Buck, it was Harry Carry who observed that some announcers are more interesting than others. Here’s a shout out to Harry.

Harry Caray’s autobiography titled “Holy Cow”, published in 1989, and written with Bob Verdi, is the subject of this review.

In opening we are treated to a first person account of Harry’s stroke (“cerebrovascular accident”) which occurred at a Palm Springs, CA, Country Club.

He discusses getting fired by Anheuser-Busch after broadcasting Cardinals games for 25 years.

The details of his life and career in St. Louis, Oakland, and Chicago are presented, with names and dates.

Here are a couple of my favorite excerpts:

- “Anyway, every time I went to the ballpark – whether the Cardinals won or lost, whether the game was well played or not – I felt that excitement, I experienced that thrill. But when I stayed home and listened to the radio broadcasts, what I heard was as dull and boring as the morning crop reports.”

- “That’s why I say there’s not a bad announcer in baseball. Some are just more interesting than others. To me, you can tell an uninteresting announcer – when he throws a million statistics at you. Who cares whether a player’s got 120 singles or 140 singles? Or who cares if he’s had two hits in his last twenty times at bat? I’d rather know that he’s never had a hit off a particular pitcher – something that is actually relevant to what’s happening on the field.”

This is a very easy reading book. Although it was published 20 years ago, it feels current because the writing is good. I have heard the rough outlines of some of the stories included here before, but now I have all the details.

I recommend this book highly to anyone with an interest in Major League baseball from the 1940s through the 1980s, or with an interest in Harry Caray: the man, the myth, the legend. Or, I might add, with any interest in major league baseball announcers.

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Speak Out: Rudy Jaramillo

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

We tried this the other day with the world series, but it’s a topic that we’re probably not as passionate about this year after the debacle that was 2009. Since this is the first major transaction of the year, what better place to begin getting everyone’s opinions than here?

In case you forgot, the concept is simple. We always argue back and forth throughout the season about guys. We have people (me included) that at the time of a signing back peddle on how they felt. I think that’s OK as you begin to become more familiar with a player, but it’s nice to go back and have a point of reference for your feelings on a guy when he first started with the team.

For me, the Rudy Jamarillo signing seems to be one that has been hyped up just a little too much. I find it amusing that good hitters tend not to be good teachers and good teachers tend not be have been very good hitters. No coach can make that big a difference that it’s worth the hype Jaramillo has brought with his signing. When I saw the signing, I had a few thoughts:

  1. If Jaramillo is such a good hitting coach, head and shoulders above everyone else is what I’ve heard, then how could Texas possibly let him go after having him on staff for 15 years?
  2. If a hitting coach makes such a big difference, why didn’t the addition of Von Joshua make much of a difference mid-season? After all, he had a lot of experience with guys on the roster as they had come through the system.
  3. Does the Jaramillo signing for  multiple years force the new manager in 2011, whoever it may be, to not have complete control over who is on his coaching staff? It seems like it would.

I’d like to hear from you on the following.

  1. FOR / AGAINST / INDIFFERENT – rate your approval or lack thereof for the signing of Rudy Jaramillo
  2. What do you expect to see from the team as a result of his signing? Perhaps specific predictions on individual players. (i.e. – Does this mean someone like Soriano, who has worked with Jaramillo in Texas, will have the return to breakout status we need?)
  3. How much stock do you put in hitting coaches?

In addition, we really could use a better, more catchy name for this series as well as perhaps a logo to use for it if we have any designers in the mix. Just saying. Alright, let’s here it. The only way this works is if everyone posts their thoughts. Don’t be afraid.

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Tuesday Cup O’Joe:

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

I’m working on a post that takes a look at who earned their money in 2009, but it’s not ready yet. Until then, you’re stuck with some random findings to discuss.

  • Apparently the world (or at least Cubs.com) thinks that 19 year old Starlin Castro is Major League ready. Need her evidence?

    He played rookie ball in 2008, then jumped to high Class A this season, then Double-A, and now is competing in the Arizona Fall League. He’s the youngest player in the AFL, but after one week of play, he’s keeping pace with the big boys, and through Sunday, was hitting .500 (7-for-14). He went 3-for-5 in the AFL opener. – (Source)

    Heck, who knew that was all it took. If that’s the case, then maybe we have a lot more guys down there that are ready. I’m not trying to be a hater. I’d love to see Castro up here in 2010, but rushing a 19 year old kid is just not the way to go. Would it be an ideal situation to see him at SS, with someone like Ryan Theriot at 2B? Sure, but right now barring any changes, I’d like to see Theriot at SS with Jeff Baker given a shot to show his stuff in a full time 2B role. In case you’re curious, here are Castro’s AFL stats as of 10/25/09

  • MLB Trade Rumors posted an off-season outlook for the Cubs. I suppose it’s an important thing to look at as we head down the stretch here before players are eligible to file for free agency. Some of the highlights:
  • The Cubs have about $124.2MM committed before arbitration raises to Hill, Baker, Theriot, Heilman, Marmol, Marshall, Guzman, and Gorzelanny.  Fontenot, at two years and 139 days of service time, is on the bubble for Super Two status (which could influence his 2010 status with the team).  Heilman, Cotts, and Fontenot are candidates to be non-tendered.  With at least seven arb cases, there is payroll uncertainty, but I’ll put the Cubs around $135MM committed. – (Source)

    Just to update that note on Fontenot, he just missed the cut to be considered a Super Two. That means his contract auto-renews for next year and he’s not awarded arbitration a year early.

  • Carrie Muskat had a chance to sit down with Geo Soto the other day. The article was ho hum so I thought I’d answer the questions for Geo to make it a little more interesting and worth reading. If you’d rather read the real answers, that’s fine too (Source)Cubs.com – What’s the first thing you want to do this offseason?Geo – Definitely light up a fatty and relax….oh wait, I mean eat Dorito’s and Twinkies…no wait, I mean lift weights and watch film. Yeah, that’s what I meant to say.

    Cubs.com – When you were growing up, was there a player you idolized?

    Geo – Oh definitely, I’d have to say Rick Wilkins. I loved and aspired to being just like him….a one hit wonder that had a great year and faded into mediocrity.

    Cubs.com – If you could trade places with someone on the team, who would it be?

    Geo – That’s easy….Sam Fuld. He dives around in the OF and runs into walls. He tells me that he sees stars when that happens. How cool would that be? I could see stars and not even need to get high to do it. I’ve gotta try it.

    Cubs.com – This offseason, when do you start your workouts?

    Geo – Um, we’re supposed to work out in the off-season?

    Cubs.com – Is there a comfort food you crave?

    Geo – A better question would have been “is there a comfort food I don’t crave?

  • Project Prospect has a nice little piece on the Top 100 prospects in baseball. They’ve compiled it from a host of various sources. Interesting read. – (Source)
  • Ken Rosenthal mentioned recently that “Multiple teams are in contact the Cubs about outfielder Milton Bradley, with one source saying, “You would be shocked at the level of interest.”. I’m calling B.S. – (Source)
  • Are you ready for the Wrigley Field high rise district? It may be coming. (Source)
  • Curious to see what Derrek Lee’s path to the pros was? Take a look. If nothing else, check out this vintage Derrek Lee photo.
  • The Cubs took a look at some sites in Naples, FL for a potential spring training move to Florida. (Source)
  • Kyler Burke picked up the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year Award. He’s a favorite of mine, so I was happy to see him have the year he had this year. (Source)
  • Finally, it looks like another ESPN employee is out due to sexual issues. According to ESPN’s PR guy “Steve Phillips is no longer working for ESPN. His ability to be an effective rep of ESPN has been significantly & irreparably damaged.” - (Source)
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Step Up To The Mic: World Series

Monday, October 26th, 2009

I think I mentioned that I plan on doing this from time to time when important transactions or things like that take place. The concept here is to have people step up and post their thoughts on things so we can have them in writing for future reference. I can’t think of how many times I’ve probably regressed on opinions or things of that nature, but can’t find them to reference. I’m going to set this up for us to reference when looking back, which should be fun.

Let’s begin today with getting your thoughts and predictions on the 2009 World Series. With the Yankees advancing last night, the stage is set. I ask you to predict the following:

1. Will A-Rod win the series MVP?

2. Who will win this series and in how many games?

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The Hit List

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

I thought that in light of the Cubs hiring of a new hitting coach this past week, it would be appropriate to post something about hitting, in this case a book by Ted Williams.

I saw the name of the primary author (Ted Williams) and knew I was gonna have to look at this one. It’s titled “Ted Williams’ Hit List – The Ultimate Ranking of Baseball’s Greatest Hitters”. The authors are Ted Williams and Jim Prime. It was published in 1996.

I could describe this as an “un-sabermetric” work. Although metrics such as OBP, Slugging Percentage, et al. are included, this is really about Ted Williams’ eyes and his gut reactions, coupled with his love for the art of hitting.

Hank Aaron is quoted at the top of the inside front jacket cover: “Ted loves talking about hitting and he knows what he’s talking about.”

Ted Williams himself opens the book with these words: “The prime interest of my life is baseball, and to me the heart of baseball is hitting….Mays and Aaron and DiMaggio rank high as all-round players. They could do it all on the basepath and in the field – but don’t forget one thing: All those guys were great hitters, and if they couldn’t have hit nobody would have ever heard of them.”

Mr. Williams continues: “I truly feel that the technique of hitting has – in my eyes – deteriorated over the last 35 or 40 years. I see that gradual decline and it concerns me. I see hitters not taking advantage of the pitch; hitters not hitting according to the type of pitcher they’re hitting against; hitters not compensating for different styles of pitching, different kinds of deliveries. I see hitters not hitting according to the count; hitters not hitting according to the wind and other conditions; hitters not hitting according to the dimensions of the ballpark. Hitters apparently not even realizing what they did the last time at bat! And on and on.”

Ted Williams ranks the top 25 hitters (in his opinion) with 3 or 4 page write ups on each. He follows that with an “Honorable Mention” of a few who almost make the list.

Rogers Hornsby ranks #4 on Ted’s all-time best hitters list. “…he averaged an incredible .402 over a five-year span, and in 1924 he achieved the highest average in the modern history of the game, hitting .424. His .358 lifetime mark is second only to Ty Cobb’s .367, but unlike Cobb over in the American League, Hornsby also featured power in his offensive arsenal. In fact, he led the National League in homers on two separate occasions and hit over 300 round-trippers throughout his career.”

- “And Hornsby was a smart hitter too. He gave me the most positive advice when I asked him, “What do I have to do to become a great hitter?” He couldn’t have been nicer, and I’ll always have a warm spot in my heart for him. Hornsby’s advice was this: “Get a good ball to hit.”

- “I’ve read that Hornsby was so completely dedicated to hitting that he avoided movies and reading for fear that they would detract from his sharp eye at the plate.”

“In the late ‘50s, a baseball old-timer was asked by a young sportswriter how the immortal Georgia Peach, Ty Cobb, might fare in today’s “new and improved” game. “Oh, he’d probably hit about .320 or so,” allowed the old man. “Is that all?” shrugged the reporter. “That’s not so great.” “Maybe not, came the reply, “but you’ve got to remember he’s 73 years old.”

Speaking of Shoeless Joe Jackson, whom he admired immensely, Ted says: “He still led everybody in batting in the 1919 World Series. He hit .375 and had a good Series and all the rest of it. If he was trying to throw the Series, he did a damn poor job of it.”

Speaking about Henry Aaron and Willie Mays, Ted says: “While Aaron seemed content with being the consummate ballplayer, Mays was also the consummate performer, always drawing the spotlight. They were like two sides of the same coin. You could say that Aaron had a flair for consistency while Mays had a consistent flair.”

About Tris Speaker (#13 on the list): “He struck out a total of 220 times in his 22-year career. Hell, that’s ten times a season. Some players do that in a week.”

On the subject of Hack Wilson: “His record 190 RBIs in ‘30 stands with DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak and Maris’ 61 home run season as marks that stand beyond the reach of mere mortals. In that same year, Wilson batted .356 and powered 56 home runs, a National League record. If he had been able to sustain, or even approach that pace for a few more years, he would have eclipsed Babe Ruth as the nation’s #1 sporting icon. Unfortunately, after attaining this hitters’ Everest, it was all downhill for Hack Wilson.”

- “His downfall was alcohol, which he is said to have consumed in prodigious quantities. Some wags of his day say that he was a lowball hitter and a highball drinker.”

While speaking about Albert Belle we are reminded: “One of the guidelines for MVP selection is “General character, disposition, loyalty and effort,” and apparently he was found wanting in this regard.”

Our coauthor, Jim Prime, proclaims in the introduction to this book “There was never anything phony about Ted. He was always brutally honest with the press and with fans.” That description applies to this entire book as well. Brutally honest. Too little of that going around these days.

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GirlieView (10/23/2009)

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

I think today I’ll just wish you a happy weekend and get to the Lizzies.

Lizzies

  • So far, the best played postseason game was the last game of the regular season.
  • [Marquis] is a 4 or 5 starter and thinks he is an ace.
  • My screen name celebrates my youth, my early blind belief in and enthusiasm for both a player (Pepitone) and a team (the Cubs) that seemed truly awesome.
  • Pepitone still has that long pretty hair although he can take it off any time he wants.
  • It is pretty difficult to make a judgment about Cutler when he is working behind an awful offensive line.
  • It’s better to be a Nit-picking bunghole than a Bung-picking Nithole.
  • You could rebuild Wrigley! Essentially building a duplicate with nice amenities in a spot that was a little more fan friendly.
  • I love the idea of MB being moved to the Yankees.

Lizard

  • What’s that saying about: ”Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool,…”?
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