Archive for October, 2009

Who should own sports franchises?

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

First of all let me state that the purpose of this thread is not to pontificate and hurl fireballs back and forth about Rush Limbaugh, Al Sharpton, Keith Olbermann, Glenn Beck et al. I am not going to convince people of the opposite political persuasion to my point of view and they certainly aren’t going to transform me. Rather I want to engage some of you in a colloquy about whether or not a person’s character or past statements should prohibit them from being an owner in a pro sports franchise.

In the current case the issue has been somewhat simplified because the ownership group is the one who dropped the controversial figure. My sense is that the decision was made largely because the prospective owners knew that this individual would make it awful hard to sign free agents and perhaps even high draft picks. In other words, the chemistry wasn’t right. But let us suppose that they had not made this decision – would the NFL owners have the right to vote down this ownership group on the basis of a controversial owner? This situation is a bit more murky than the situation that occurred in baseball with DiBartolo and the White Sox; Major League Baseball has a bonafide anti-trust exemption and is overseen by the US Congress.

The NFL on the other hand has an anti-trust exemption with respect to broadcasting – the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 allows the league an exemption that specifically applies to the right to negotiate multimedia contracts and does not cover the other aspects of how the league operates. This has been proven in the courts in cases such as USFL v. NFL in which the jury found that that the NFL was a “duly adjudicated illegal monopoly,” and further found that the NFL had willfully acquired and maintained monopoly status through predatory tactics. There is also speculation that the owners will challenge McNeil v. National Football League, a move that could cause the players association to challenge the league on anti-trust grounds.

My sense is that the owners of major sports leagues should be allowed to set rules as to whom they will allow and who they will not allow to become owners so long as those decisions don’t violate other laws with respect to discrimination on the basis of race, gender, creed or (increasingly) personal lifestyle preferences. With respect to the baseball instance, nothing was proven about Mr. DiBartolo to make him an “unsavory” character although most everybody knows how the DiBartolos made their money prior to the 49ers. Baseball, however has a specific anti-trust exemption and they are more or less free to use it as they choose.

And again, no soapbox speeches about Mr. Limbaugh and other political commentators, puh-leeze!  The question is about whether or not what individuals say or have said can preclude them from ownership, as well as other considerations.  And if no one else wishes to comment that is fine too.

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Welcome To My World

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Greetings! Let me take this opportunity to introduce myself. There are many Major League Baseball Team owners, but today, I’m yours.

I’m the guy who just paid 845 million dollars for a bankrupt franchise. Some might characterize this as “not the shrewdest move”, financially speaking. But to me, it’s a bargain.

I thank every member of The Cubs Worldwide Family for your support. My heartfelt thanks go out to the fans, the players, and all the behind the scenes people who make it happen every day.

I intend to lead this team into the future by selecting the right people. Then I intend to stand aside and let them do their jobs. I do not intend to micromanage my people as some owners have done. I have the utmost confidence in the people I choose.

There is, however, one situation which demands my immediate, hands-on intervention, so here we go: Milton Bradley has worn the uniform of the Chicago Cubs for the last time. Let me say that again. Milton Bradley will never again wear the uniform of the Chicago Cubs.

I have instructed our General Manager to determine what we can receive, on the open market, in return for the remainder of Mr. Bradley’s contract. If we can get something we want, be it dollars or players or both, we will move forward. But, however, if we can not get exactly what we want in return, Mr. Bradley will remain on paid suspension for the next two years. Do I make myself clear?

In general, my operating philosophy is: “Hire Slow, Fire Fast.” So, with the exception of the situation I just addressed, there is no present member of the Cubs organization who will automatically not be invited back next year. I value our people. They are our greatest asset.

However, there is only one member of the Chicago Cubs organization who is guaranteed to still be here one year from today (God willing), and that is yours truly.

The Chicago Cubs meet their commitments, and I expect our people to meet theirs. Nonperformance will not be rewarded. Some of our most valued people underperformed during the 2009 season. They will be given every opportunity to return to expectations next season. They will not, however, enjoy a 162 game grace period.

Changing the subject, I have no doubt that ticket prices will, eventually, be rising. However, as of today, 10% of all Wrigley Field tickets (10% of Bleachers, 10% of Grandstands, and 10% of Box Seats) will be reduced in price by 50% for all 2010 home games. Those reduced price tickets will be made available on game day only, and will be honored for the individual purchasers only (ie, no scalpers).

The food and beverage menus will be expanded to reflect my epicurean tastes, as prices remain unchanged.

I intend to improve every aspect of the Wrigley Field experience, with input and timely feedback from our valued Chicago Cubs fans.

Once again I want to thank our Cubs fans. It all starts with you. I ask for your support, and I guarantee you this: your support will not go unrewarded.

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Cubs declare bankruptcy

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

As has been reported, this move is not because of the Cubs’ profitability – rather it is to protect the new ownership teams from claims against the former owners, i.e. the Tribune. But usually when businesses go into receivership they are allowed to restructure contracts, including labor contracts. I’m by no means a bankruptcy lawyer but perhaps the Cubs could use this procedure to “restructure” their agreement with Milton Bradley. Some of us have been watching the situation involving Balsalie and the Phoenix Coyotes, bankruptcies present different circumstances once the courts get involved…

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Morning Cup O’Joe – 10/13

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Good news, after our hot water heater went out on Saturday morning, we now have that issue fixed and back to normal. It’s amazing what offering cash will do to the price. Now we get on with showering as well as taking a look at news and notes I found.

A Look At Arbitration Predictions – (MLB Trade Rumors)

MLB Trade Rumors asked the question “Which Free Agents Will Be Offered Arbitration?”. They don’t mention Rich Harden on the list, probably because they don’t assume that he will check in as a type A or B free agent. I tend to think he’ll probably be a Type A talent that will get filed in as a type B because of the injury history and risk going forward. If that’s the case, then any team that signed him would not be responsible for forfeiting a draft pick. The Cubs would simply get a sandwich pick between the first round and the start of the second. Keep in mind that offering arbitration, which is needed in order to qualify for the free agent arbitration, also means the Cubs could potentially be stuck with Harden if no one wants to take a chance on him this off-season.

On an unrelated note, and don’t ask me how this is the case, but according to Elias Kevin Gregg and John Grabow are listed as Type A free agents. While I’d love the 1st round pick we’d get for Gregg, offering him arbitration scares the crap out of me.

Arizona Fall League Set To Begin – (Cubs.com)

Carrie Muskat offered up some information on the upcoming Arizona Fall League. The Cubs will be sending a few of my favorites out west for the fine tuning. Set to play for Mesa are:

Josh Vitters – 3B
Wellington Castillo – C
Starlin Castro – SS
Andrew Cashner – SP (though I think RP)
John Gaub – P
James Russell – P
Blake Parker – P

I’d really like to see Gaub make a huge showing and get a shot at making the big league team out of spring training. For some reason, he never got a shot this year to show what he could do, despite a 2.25 ERA this year split between AA & AAA. Playing for Iowa (AAA), he had a ridiculous 1.72 ERA in 31.1 IP with 11.5 K/9 ratio.

Minor League Transactions – (Baseball America)

Recalled: RHP Mitch Atkins, RHP Marcos Mateo, LHP Neal Cotts
Voluntarily retired: C Matt Williams

An 18th-round pick from Duke in June, Williams spent 31 games with short-season Boise, batting .167/.237/.194 with three doubles. He went 9-for-25 (.360) in six games in the Rookie-level Arizona League. He was a four-year starter for the Blue Devils and batted .345 with five home runs as a senior.

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A Tale of Two Theriots

Monday, October 12th, 2009

It’s often been discussed on this site, and probably many others, whether or not Ryan Theriot is an effective answer for this team. It’s amazing how different people’s opinions on the matter are. Some love Theriot and have pledged their eternal allegiance to him, while others can’t stand the sight of him on the field. There is no question that the 2009 season for Theriot was much different in terms of production than the 2008 campaign. This year we saw an increased focus on generating power off the bat from Theriot, and as a result, a 700% increase in home run production came about.

I thought it might be fun to compare the two seasons to see which was more effective and then see where they fit in terms of the rest of the ML shortstops.

Year

G

PA

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

2008

149

661

85

178

19

4

1

38

22

73

58

0.307

0.387

0.359

0.745

93

2009

154

677

81

171

20

5

7

54

21

51

93

0.284

0.343

0.369

0.712

84

Taking a look at the stats, I’ve highlighted the drastic changes from one year to the next. It’s clear that Theriot’s focus on increasing his power with swing adjustments and increased weight training worked. We saw more home runs and significantly more RBI’s as a result. Unfortunately, we also saw a pretty big reduction in his patience at the plate as evidenced by the decrease in walks and significant increase in strikeouts. The decrease in batting average doesn’t bother me as much as the 40+ point drop in on base %. If that reduction yielded a drastic increase in his slugging, then I think I’d be ok with it. Unfortunately, while he did increase his slugging, it didn’t increase enough to account for the lower OBP. As a result, we see a lower OPS and OPS+. In case you’re un familiar with OPS+, here is a basic explaination:

OPS+, Adjusted OPS, is a closely related statistic. OPS+ is OPS adjusted for the park and the league in which the player played, but not for fielding position. An OPS+ of 100 is defined to be the league average. An OPS+ of 150 or more is excellent and 125 very good, while an OPS+ of 75 or below is poor.

Because it doesn’t take position into account, it’s important to note that typical non-power hitting shortstops are probably going to be lower than the “average” number of 100. What we can see though is that Theriot’s OPS+ did decrease. That’s important.

Now that it seems pretty clear that Theriot’s new approach didn’t yield as good of results this year, it’s time to see where he stands in terms of the rest of the league to evaluate whether or not it’s time for a change. That change, if needed, doesn’t necessarily mean moving Theriot to a different team or a part time role. It could also involve a new position as well. To evaluate where he stood in respect to the rest of the league, we’ll use the stat VORP, which stands for Value Over Replacement Player, and look at all ML shortstops.

Using a minimum of 450 plate appearances for the ML at the shortstop position, we get the following results:

Of the 19 shortstops that meet that requirement in 2009, Theriot comes in ranked 14th with a VORP of 17.8

Of the 21 shortstops that met the requirement in 2008, Theriot ranked 10th, with a VORP of 27.3

It seems to me that Theriot came into 2009 as in the upper half of the shortstops in the game in terms of offensive production, before the change in approach. After that approach, we see a player in the bottom third of all of baseball.

The question now arises. Is Theriot the answer for 2010 at the shortstop position? If so, does he need to try to revert to the 2008 approach or would another year of refining the 2009 approach yield better results? If Theriot isn’t the answer at SS, who is? What would happen to Theriot?

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Sunday Evening Trivia

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

Found a Cubs daily calendar on the desk where I’m currently sitting and it has some fun facts and trivia questions so I’ll share while I wait for the Colts game tonight. I don’t care if you Google the answers but if you do please don’t spoil it for others who may want to guess.

  1. Who was the Hall of Fame pitcher who said, upon being acquired by the Cubs, “I aint what I used to be, but who the hell is?” (Hint: NOT recent. In fact only a few of you would have been born when this happened. Maybe none of you.)
  2. In what year and against what team did Greg Maddux throw his first major league shutout? (Hint: We were all born by then. :-) )
  3. Who is the only player to ever be named MVP of the All-Star game while wearing a Cubs uniform? (Some of you were born and some of you weren’t. I was.)
  4. Three Cubs pitchers share the franchise record for games appeared in a season (84). Who are they?
  5. The Cubs franchise record for consecutive strikeouts by a pitcher is eight. Which two pitchers have done this in the 21st century? (We were all born for this one!)

Good luck!

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Dusty firing imminent?

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

Today’s Chicago Tribune has an article in it that seems to indicate that Dusty is on the chopping block in Cincinnati. Should this surprise us? Do bears go poop in the woods?

Dusty’s career has been spiraling downwards since 2002. Most of us who follow the Cubs have witnessed his lack of management ability firsthand, he seems like a nice guy, the kind of guy you’d invite into your home for a party. Granted, he has some unusual opinions, he seems to feel that guys of Swiss ancestry such as myself are not as naturally predisposed to southern climates as are those of African or Latino ancestry. While this may explain the color of one’s skin it doesn’t naturally explain the differences in athletic performance. But Dusty seemed to think it did and the rest is history.

It comes as no surprise to me that Jocketty might be slightly disappointed in Dusty. Walt is used to very good management with Larussa and Duncan and that is not what he has in Cincy; since he took over the Reds I’ve felt that Dusty would be on a very short leash. Now it appears as though management changes might happen – some think that Larussa and Duncan might end up migrating to Cincinnati. Should I be surprised?

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Cubs Nation

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

Here’s a great book! Titled “Cubs Nation”. By Gene Wojciechowski. Published in 2005. Written about (and during) the 2004 season.

The front cover proudly proclaims: “162 Games – 162 Stories”, and that’s exactly what it is. Every game is a chapter. Date, score, location, stats and stuff. Followed by a story peripheral to the Cubs on the field. 162 stories or so.

My goodness, there’s Greg Maddux, Las Vegas oddsmakers, collectors, Mark Grace, George Will, Wrigley beer vendors, a guy who was shot dead, a wedding party, Ron Shelton, Ernie in L.A., Cubs’ director of stadium operations, a Wrigleyville real estate agent, The Sport Of Kings, e-Bay, umpire’s room attendant, The Lansing Lugnuts, an NBC broadcaster, The “Lemons”, S.I. photographer, Cubs media guys, and a 3B coach.

Then there’s a Korean Cubs fan, a singer, an architectural design director, a scorekeeper, scouting director, a Pittsburgh Pirate, The Cubs’ Trainer, director of ticket operations, an MLB DVD producer, a non-roster invitee, backup pinch hitter, Corey Patterson, Eric Karros, Michael Barrett, LaTroy Hawkins, a St. Louis columnist, Rick Sutcliffe, Ray Ordonez, Ozzie Guillen, a marketing director, and Jerome Holtzman.

Also All-Star ballots, red shirted ushers, a media guy, a minor-league callup, an umpire, a ticket sales guy, Carlos Zambrano, a reliever, a fantasy baseball guru, a first-aid nurse, Ron Santo’s dog, parking lot attendant, Cardinals fan, Cincinnati writer, uniform factory, Ryne Sandberg, the Hall of Fame, Studs Terkel, Bartman, baseball bats, Sammy Sosa, falling concrete, a 4-way trade, Nomar, Matt Clement, and a scout.

Don’t forget the store owner, another scout, Andy Pafko, Gary Pressy, 2 bleacher bums, faxes to Ron and Pat, Joe Borowski, Jim Riggleman, Dr. Tom House, New Era sales rep (Cubs caps), Cubs team historian, Kerry Wood, Steve Stone, Corey Patterson’s dad, Bill James, Wrigley head groundskeeper, Cubs traveling secretary, a wheelchair guy, Sam Sianis, Marlins president, Wrigley home clubhouse manager, and Chip Caray.

Plus a Cubs hater at Comiskey, Chicago Firemen, John McDonough, Cubs coordinator of special events and entertainment, Billy Williams, Cubs scouting reports, Todd Walker, Mark Prior, Hidemi Kittaka, Ed Lynch, a djembe player, Rick Fuhs, Jim Hendry, Dusty Baker, and more. Followed by a great epilogue.

Some of my favorite quotes:

- “These guys were pretty good before I got here.”

- “Mazzone and Maddux were together longer than a Kia warranty.”

- “The eighth inning, Dusty Baker says, ‘can be a lot more important than the ninth’.”

- “Grace suffers from the collectibles triple play: retired, didn’t retire as a Cub, didn’t get a postretirement job with the Cubs.”

- “Little Known Fact: Cubs pitchers pick the jersey tops worn for the game.”

- “There is a kind of Cubs fan who seems to relish the fact that there’s been so much losing and futility. They need to get out of the house more and get a life.”

- “Mr. Wrigley used to say that the moon and stars are for love, that baseball was meant to be played in the daytime.”

- “I’ve had it great here. Everybody’s been so nice. If God should take me tomorrow, I don’t think I’ve missed anything. I’ve seen it all.”

- “Hitters only remember what they hit, not what they didn’t hit.”

- “Blacks were associated with the South Side of Chicago. The North meant, like, Minnesota – The Great White North Side. Anybody my age who grew up here would understand that.”

- “He is of the Cubs world, but he isn’t entirely in it.”

- “You don’t find any Yuppie Red Sox fans.”

- “Organs aren’t my favorite musical instrument. I hear an organ and I immediately look around for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.”

- “I could buy a beach house in Wisconsin on the tinted window concession alone.”

- “Zambrano’s schtick is getting old to opponents and, if you had to bet a nickel, to teammates alike.”

- Caray and Stone are paid to call and analyze the game, not wave red and blue pom-poms.”

- “They’re really wearing tailored suits.”

- “I tried to talk Yosh into giving me #14. He says, ‘No, that’s retired. That’s Ernie Banks’s number.’ I said, ‘Who’s Ernie Banks?’.”

- “Hire good people and let them do the job.”

- “The whole financial thing of the game has changed. It’s a runaway train.”

- “Movement is more important than velocity.”

- “It’s not a game anymore. It’s money. Money talks.”

- “…a lot of these people seem to be very close friends with the Bud and Old Style vendors.”

- “…they can hit our pitching, we can’t hit theirs.”

- “Baseball is a game of failure coached by negative people in a misinformation environment,”

- “There’s no crying in baseball.”

- “This was a game so devoid of Cubs highlights that you wanted to chug a frosted mug of Clorox and send it down with a Lysol chaser.”

- “Live it up, the meter’s running.”

- “The reality of it – and nobody wants to hear this – is that it comes down to luck.”

- “The bullpen is as vulnerable as a comb-over in a wind tunnel.”

- “…I didn’t get dumb overnight. It doesn’t happen like that.”

The author does it real well. As you can see, this is quality writing on interesting subjects. I wasn’t around for the 2004 season, but with Gene Wojciechowski fleshing it out, I feel like I was. And, in a way, I was. If you don’t know the “Cubs Nation” after reading this book, there’s no hope for you.

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GirlieView (10/09/2009)

Friday, October 9th, 2009

I’m so far removed from this Cubs season already I almost forgot to write a GirlieView this week! Say it isn’t so!!!

Some exciting things happened this week!

  1. MLB approved the Ricketts purchase.
  2. St. Louis is one game away from being in the same post season situation as the Cubs were last year.
  3. I received an offline suggestion for the name of the “best of the week” Lizzie … the Lizard! And as soon as I heard it, I knew that was it! Honorable mention to Seymour’s Spam suggestion … “a solid American product with a decent sized smirk factor” but sadly with a bad rap ever since it came to mean junk mail.

Weekly Lizzies

  • Ted Lilly is so much more the pitcher than Z will ever be
  • Jennie Finch will be our new closer. She’s likely to have more strikeouts than Gregg and Marmol combined.
  • I just heard that Mr. Drummond bought the team from the Ricketts family.
  • I hope Mrs. Garrett gets put in charge of consessions.
  • Alfonso is going to have to be on a very short leash in 2010.

This Week’s Lizard: It’s over

Have a nice weekend everyone! :-)

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