Archive for January, 2010

GirlieView (01/10/2010)

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Well well well here we are, a little late tonight, had to shovel a pee place for the dog since the snow is now well over his wiener here in beautiful NW Indiana. Don’t let this get out, but I really love the snow. People tend to growl at me when I say that out loud though, so we’ll keep it under our collective baseball caps. :-)

NW Indiana Snow Pug

Really pleased to see the conversations picking up again around here! Most of the regulars are coming back to life now that we’re but a mere 5 weeks from Spring Training, and there are some new faces with some great commentary. Gives me lots to choose from when I’m picking my favorite weekly quotes. And here we go!

Lizzies

  • After all, we all know blogs are a better source for legit commentary because we’re not being paid to be a cheerleader.
  • Zambrano is not and never will be a “Ace”.
  • Is it all sunshine and kitties? No way, but it’s not a terrible as you make it sound.
  • For what it is worth, we already have Silva, who is well on his way to a Prior-esque career (minus the talent.)
  • On the off chance you are reading this, Mr. Sheets, let me reiterate that you’ve already greatly outplayed Mark Prior and if you’re feeling healthy and wish to come to Chicago, we’d love to have you.
  • Can you imagine how many throwing errors Aramis would have if D-Lee wasn’t there?
  • A snowblower is the reason Frosty the Snowman spends so much time on the sidewalk.

Lizard

  • I think Chris Chelios just retired last year at age 87.

Have a great week!!!

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Friday Fun: Wicked Stuff and Great Control

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Here’s a little trivia question for you on this fun Friday as we wait for the Lizzie awards to come out. Here’s hoping you won an award this week.

Q: Since 1990, five pitchers have amassed a season that included at least 250 K’s and no more than 50 BB’s. It’s the combination of great stuff and pinpoint control. Can you name them?

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In the News: The Hawk to the Hall!

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Happy Snow Day, Cubs fans! (Any of you in warm-weather climates must still recognize this as a Snow Day, because I insist you share in our misery – at least in spirit.) I’m tempted to say that the news is slow today but, obviously, there’s one huge story that we’re all celebrating (or most of us, at least.) Yes, I’m referring to the fact that the Yankees have re-signed former Cubs pitcher Sergio Mitre. Oh, and there was something else…

Andre Dawson is a Hall of Famer! Yes, in case you’ve been huddled in your underground snow shelter for the past 24 hours, be advised that No. 8, the Hawk, who played for the Cubs for six years (1987-1992), will soon be enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Dawson’s victory was based on a 77.9% voting percentage, and he was the only candidate voted in. Here’s Phil Rogers’ take on the blessed event. (Please note: The bold phrases leading off each paragraph are LINKS to news stories.)

The battle of the cap. Now that Andre is in, the biggest question (besides whether he’ll go all Sandberg in his acceptance speech) is which cap the Hawk will wear in Cooperstown: Expos or Cubs? This MLB.com article explores the issue.

The Spring Training schmoozefest is headed to a stunning conclusion. Someone place has got to win, someone place has got to lose. It still looks like either Mesa re-ups or Naples, Fla. scores a huge economic win. Bruce Levine sums up the current situation rather nicely in this article.

Can we just pretend Marlon Byrd is a left-handed hitter? That’s what this USA Today  fantasy baseball writer suggests. And it’s not as crazy as it sounds. Look, I’d love to have, say, Adrian Gonzalez breaking up the middle of the Cubs order. But Byrd’s splits against RHP make him appear a fairly effective hitter against the scores of righties in the Big Leagues. Sometimes it’s better to stock your lineup with the best hitters you possibly can rather than take a long shot on a guy who happens to hit from the left side (cough, cough – Rick Ankiel – cough, cough).

The Cardinals will be paying Matt Holliday until 2029. Seriously. Well, maybe. That’s what SI.com is reporting anyway. This isn’t cast in stone as the team hasn’t officially disclosed the financial details of the detail. But this whopper of a contract could give St. Louis monetary indigestion in coming years. Baseball biz analyst Maury Brown tweeted today, “So Cardinals get Holliday wrapped up. Next, Pujols. After that? Zero payroll flexibility. Not expecting competitive team in few years.” So we may have that to look forward to, Cubs fans. Sadly, in the meantime, St. Louis will likely have a pretty good ballclub for the next couple seasons or so. As I mentioned last time, don’t be surprised to see the Cards picked as the ’10 NL Central frontrunner.

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Andre Dawson: some sobering statistics

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

My brother’s favorite player growing up was the Hawk. As I was first really being able to watch and understand baseball, Andre Dawson had just become a Cub, and would end up (wrongly) winning the MVP. He was a joy to watch, and he was a very good baseball player. But is very good good enough to be in the Hall of Fame?

Here are some very sobering stats from Baseball Crank:

Dawson’s critical weakness is his poor on base percentage, uniquely among all comparable sluggers: his OBP rates 44th of 45 players w/400 HR (ahead of only Dave Kingman), 50th of 50 w/1500 RBI, and 75th of 76 w/4000 TB (ahead of only Brooks Robinson). Dawson was, simply, a uniquely easy out among sluggers.

Quite frankly, among sluggers, there was no one easier to get out than Andre Dawson.

Don’t get me wrong – Dawson was great defensively, and a good hitter. And I know this is probably sacrilegious as a Cubs fan to say this, but I am just not convinced that a guy who was so easy to get out should be in the Hall of Fame.

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What to do about Derrek Lee?

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

As we move forward into 2010 and beyond one of the issues at hand is the contract status of Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee. Lee is scheduled to make $13M in 2010, 250K less than his 2009 salary. Methinks a raise is in order just out of principle, Derrek had a second-best career year with 35 homeruns, (111 RBIs, his best) and a .972 OPS. This guy was solid!

That having been said, D Lee will turn 35 during this season so how far should the Cubs commit and how much should they spend? I’d like to see him get a 3 year contract for $13M annually with incentives that could earn him up to $5M yearly. The incentives should include games played and hitting stats – another year like the last year should net him 18 a bad year the minimum of 13. This contract would get Derrek to the age of 38 where he could finish out his career as a substitute at first or DH for an American League team.

Lee has not been a big rah-rah team leader but he’s always been a steadying influence on a team that’s had some ups and downs, he’s also played some superlative first base. I’d like to see him in Chicago through 2013.

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In the News: Sheets and Rumors

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Hello, Cubs fans. Let me begin today’s news blogcast with a big shout-out to our fearless leader Joe Aiello, who did a great job sprucing up the site for the new year. Let’s hope Cubs hitters will hit with pop as much as the VFTB home page pops. (OK, that was a really lame metaphor, but you get my drift.) This being January and all, I don’t have a ton to report – missed the Byrd signing by that much – but here’s a few interesting items of note:

Ken Robo-thal sets the Internet alight with his Sheets-to-Cubs prediction. Yes, the stiffest public speaker since Paul Harvey speculated in his Fox Sports column yesterday that Jim Hendry could wind up landing Ben “The Mark Prior of Milwaukee” Sheets for the Cubs rotation. (Actually, that Mark Prior thing isn’t really fair to Ben because he’s already drastically outproduced The Former Employee.) Hey, if Hendry could keep the price tag low and the deal chock full of incentives, this could be great news. Ben Sheets is a very good pitcher. Bruce Miles, however, urges patience.

Wondering what Tom Ricketts has been up to? Many Cubs fans are already laying into the ownership group for not adding a cool billion to the payroll. For what it’s worth, Ricketts is thinking about the Cubs finances and appears to be parlaying his considerable strengths in investment banking to try and preserve the team’s financial flexibility in the near and far future. Also check out the interesting sidebar on the Wrigley naming rights.

The Cubs in Korea. I don’t like to link to other blogs too too often, but Matt Swain of Wrigleybound has a great piece on some of the Korean prospects the Cubs are nurturing. If you watched the World Baseball Classic last spring, you know that these guys can play some ball. And I, for one, am very happy to see the Cubs expanding their reach in terms of talent acquisition.

The Hawk has butterflies. This year’s Hall of Fame inductees will be announced tomorrow, and Andre Dawson is ready to step to the podium. I’m still predicting a big win. Also note in that article a brief mention of the Cubs interested in Blue Jays RHP and hometown guy Jason Frasor. He could wind up a late-breaking addition to the bullpen.

Don’t be surprised if the dreaded Cardinals celebrate a Holliday. Rumors are gaining traction that the Cards are close to resigning slugger Matt Holliday. On New Year’s Day, manager Tony LaRussa tweeted, “Giants were smart to sign 1st class winner Mark DeRosa. Soon the Cards will be smart too.”  (Oh, TLR, you’re so coy.) If the deal goes through, it will probably be keep the Cards at the top of most pundits’ lists to repeat as NL Central champs. Let’s hope the Cubs can prove them wrong.

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Wait…I thought Neal Cotts was going to be a Cub?

Monday, January 4th, 2010

It’s important to give Mark a pat on the back for the grief he took on his post regarding Neal Cotts. Mark mentioned that it was time to say sayonara to Neal when the Cubs non-tendered him. In that post he was greeted with the following comments:

~ Word around town and in ALL the Chicago papers, is that the Cubs will re-sign Cotts.

~ Listening to the guys on the radio and CSN here, pretty much say it’s a done deal. Saying he’s non-tendered isn’t synonymous for sayonara.

and the kicker:

~ It’s well known that the Cubs will be offering Cotts a contract. Mark really needs to do some research.

Then comes this news of the the Pittsburgh Pirates website:

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington continued to amass pitchers Monday, adding righty Tyler Yates and left-handers Neal Cotts and Brian Burres to the organization via Minor League deals with invitations to Spring Training. But of the three, only Burres is an early season option.

A quick check of Baseball Reference shows that there is only one Neal Cotts ever to play, so it seems like Mark doesn’t need to check his facts. It was, in fact, time to say goodbye to Neal.

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Answering Carrie Muskat’s Questions – Part II of II

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

This weekend we took a look at the first five of Carrie Muskat’s 10 burning questions about the Cubs team. If you didn’t get to read part I, please do so. We talked about Carlos Marmol’s role as the closer, Carlos Zambrano’s role as the “Ace”, Lou’s fire, Geo’s performance and the acquisition of Marlon Byrd

Today we dive headfirst into the final five questions in an effort to quench that burning fire in the belly of the Muskat.

5. Can a kid get a job?

The question doesn’t really do the best job asking a question so I’ll clarify with a better question. Can a prospect find a role on this team? I think we saw and have seen over the past few seasons with Lou that the answer to that question is yes, provided that the prospect plays well. If you play….you play. For Randy Wells last year, he was given the opportunity to come up and make a major difference in the rotation and never lost his spot. Had he struggled early on, that spot probably wouldn’t have been available to him for as long as it was. This year we’ve got a few names coming in that are knocking at the door, if you will, in Tyler Colvin, Starlin Castro, Andres Blanco, Jay Jackson, Esmailin Caridad, Mitch Atkins, Jeff Stevens, Justin Berg and Andrew Cashner. Whether or not these guys or others in the system get a chance on a veteran laden team rich in payroll seems to depend on performance and health of the ones ahead of them with health being an easier path to playing time. It’s tough to find a spot in the OF on a consistent basis with three guys in Byrd, Soriano and Fukudome (all three fairly recent investments) manning those spots, so guys like Colvin and Fuld will probably have to luck into playing time in the OF. The IF is where things could be a little different. Ramirez saw his shoulder dislocate for the second time in his career last year and a third time is definitely not out of the question for 2010 (not that I’m wishing). Someone like Blanco could see some time if something like that happens. Likewise with Derrek Lee’s neck issues, a player like Micah Hoffpauir could factor into the mix. Other than those spots, a prospect better be able to pitch out of the pen to be able to earn a spot with any significant time on this roster. Then again, if Randy Wells is any proof, anything can happen in a baseball season.

4. Can they improve in the field?

Considering that the entire starting lineup is back with the only sub being Bryd for Bradley in the field, the defense has to be better, right? Unfortunately, aside from Lee in the field, this is not an above-average or even good team in the field. Apart from Soriano, there really aren’t any complete iron hands type guys in the field, but I also don’t see us producing a gold baseball glove. As long as we don’t beat ourselves in the field, it’s a capable defense that should be good enough.

3. Will Ted Lilly bounce back from surgery?

I have him penciled into my opening day roster, not because I necessarily believe he’ll be there, but rather because I don’t have any idea what we can expect. One thing I am banking on, and hopefully the Cubs are doing the same in their planning, is that Lilly probably won’t be as effective as he was before the surgery. On many occasions over the past few years he has been considered our ace. That may be something we don’t see anymore (I guess unless everyone else wets the bed and he gets it by default). After issues with guys like Mark Prior and Kerry Wood in the past as well as the recent issues with Rich Harden, I’m cautiously hoping for the best, but not holding my breath. For this team to be a legit contender, Dempster and Zambrano need to anchor the staff with Wells and Marshall (or whoever wins the spot) being above average middle of the rotation guys. That allows Lilly to ease in without as much pressure.

2. Can Carlos Silva bounce back?

Do I have to answer this one? Seriously, I don’t even want Carlos Silva on my baseball team, let alone having to endure watching him try to “bounce back”. Silva was a throw in to make salaries a little more manageable in the Bradley deal. If we look at him as any more we’re fooling ourselves. If he wows in spring training then put him in the pen. If not, I really feel like it would be better to simply cut bait and place him on waivers in an effort to either have him claimed or approach him about pitching in AAA to earn his spot. I don’t want him to have a spot on this staff simply because of his salary. That’s not how you win championships.

1. Will the new owners make a difference?

Not immediately, or at least not on the field. When you take over a team, it’s important to stand back and actually evaluate what it is you have before rushing in and cleaning house. Couple that with the fact that this team is strapped with big contracts that will need to ease themselves off the book before you truly get an accurate picture of what type of owners this new regime will be. I see them as a collective group that will closely monitor the performance and not simply focus on ticket sales and revenue. If everything we’ve seen and heard about Tom Ricketts is accurate, then his fandom should play a role in how he runs this team. He’ll want to see a championship just like we will, but I don’t see him spending like congress to get there. I see him spending smart, not wild.

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Chet Coppock’s New Book Is Here

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

I was browsing the new books shelf at a Chicago Public Library branch when this cover jumped out at me.

We got a chin resting on a hand, an Elvis sneer, shades, beaver fur collar, and the words: “Chet Coppock” staring us in the face.

All I know about Chet Coppock is that he was once one of the models for a character named “Chet Chit-Chat”, and even that memory is pretty vague.

The full title of this book is “Fat Guys Shouldn’t Be Dancin’ At Halftime – An Irreverent Romp Through Chicago Sports”, with Foreword by Mark Giangreco.

There are chapters about football, baseball, basketball and hockey, with an additional three mop ‘em up chapters full of miscellaneous peripheral topics.

Included in the baseball chapter are articles about the following subjects:
- Bartman,
- The Cell vs. Wrigley Field,
- The Marquee at Wrigley,
- Sammy Sosa,
- Bruce Levine,
- Andre Dawson/HOF,
- Cubs vs. Brewers at Miller Park (one of my personal favorites),
- Ron Santo the Broadcaster,
- The Five Inning Quality Start,
- The Cubs Convention,
- Skybox On Sheffield, and
- Talk Show Baseball, among others.

One of my favorite quotes in the book comes from former Bears linebacker Doug Buffone:
- “I had an offer to play for San Diego in the old AFL, and it paid more money than the Bears were offering. But I told the Chargers, ‘I was raised in cold weather, I need snow. I’m not gonna play in some town with fu**in’ palm trees.’”

After reading the book, methinks maybe Mr. Coppock spends too much time following professional sports for his own good.

On the other hand, I did enjoy reading some of the short pieces and I recommend the book to fans of Chicago professional sports.

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