Archive for July, 2010

Game 103: A joke that’s not funny

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Tonight the Cubs showed why they are not qualified to compete in this year’s postseason race, losing the game 17-2 to the Rockies. The offense was noticeably absent once again and Dempster clearly didn’t have his best stuff. The Rocks did their damage in the third, fifth, sixth and eighth innings and the Cubs have now lost four out of their last five games. Here are the game’s highlights, if you can call them that:

  • Bottom 3rd: Francis singles with one out. Then Fowler hits a ground rule double men on second and third one out. Seth Smith doubles to right center scoring two. 2-0 Rocks. Dempster walks Tulowitzki, men on first and second two out. The third consecutive walk in the inning plates a run 3-0 Rockies.
  • Bottom 5th: Carlos Gonzalez hits one about 430 ft. 4-0 Rockies. Tulowitzki singles to center. Hawpe walks Larry Rothschild comes out for a visit men on first and second no one out. Base hit by Stewart – 5-0 Colorado.
  • Top 6th: Base hit to lead off the inning by Baker. Triple by Tyler Colvin Baker scores 5-1 Rockies. Lee with his 45th RBI as he grounds to short to score Colvin – 5-2 Colorado.
  • Bottom 8th: Barmes doubles to left center, Melvin Mora pinch hits and singles Barmes to third with no one out. Gonzalez singles to right scoring Barmes, 6-2 Rockies. Tulowitzki then doubles home Mora making it 7-2 Colorado. Then Hawpe doubled making it 9-2 Rockies.  Further abuse followed, Cashner looked pitiful and should proceed directly to Des Moines.  He’s looked bad this week and needs to learn what happens when you pitch poorly at the major league level.  Send him down now.   Marshall didn’t have it tonight, he gave up four runs and the Colorado team made it a laugher.

I was able to watch the Cubs win in Houston on Monday night – that game marked their third win in four games and gave many of us pause for relief and narrow hopes for postseason play. But the teams’ performance since then makes it virtually a cinch that the 2010 Cubs will not make the playoffs for the second year in a row.

In other news Houston has made some serious trades and the Cards have not. Roy Oswalt was shipped to the Phillies and he promptly gave up four earned runs in a loss to the Nats. On paper this was a good trade for Philadelphia, particularly given Happ’s injury this year and slow comeback. I’m wondering whether or not the Phils have the mojo it will take to get the job done against the Braves. Also in National League Central Division news the Astros traded Lance Berkman to the Yankees – I’d like to see Berkman finish out the year there and possibly land in Chicago next year – his team option has converted into a mutual option so this could very well happen. So who do you want, Lee or Berkman or somebody else? Both players are 34 years old coming off of bad years.

Also Teddy Ballgame has still not been moved, my conclusion is that Hendry won’t trade Lilly for chump change. I’d like to see the Cubs hold on to Lilly if they can’t get good value – let’s offer him arbitration and see what happens.

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GirlieView (07/30/2010)

Friday, July 30th, 2010

So I’ve been following the trade rumors all day long hoping to bring you some breaking news about all the wheeling and dealing Jim Hendry’s been doing. Are you excited to hear it? Hold your breath! Here it comes!!! Get ready!

: : : : : : : : : : insert crickets here : : : : : : : : :

Big bunch of nothing. Which is how I expect the deadline to pass. Hope I’m wrong!

Meanwhile, let’s recap the really great conversation around here this week (quantity AND quality!) We’ve got a great group of Lizzies thanks to plenty of our regulars plus a hearty dose of new faces (and returnees!).What’s a Lizzie, you ask? It’s recognition given to certain VFTB quotes throughout the week that particularly strike my fancy. Totally subjective, but I have a great time picking these out each week. It’s a good gig. Especially this week. The Lizard is the best of the Lizzies. Enjoy!

Lizzies

  • there are exactly two reasons to watch the Cubs these days: Tyler Colvin and Starlin Castro.
  • A very special congratulations to Andre Dawson
  • Three straight years above .500 = miracle.
  • [Hendry]’s great at making big moves with his less valuable chips, but he’s terrible at knowing when to cash in his more valuable ones.
  • You have to give Jim credit for the altered expectations.
  • I’ve never felt like the Cubs have been leaders in the market. They have always had a reactionary and old fashioned business model, and never had the ingenuity to be a leader
  • he did turn Milton Bradley into Carlos Silva.
  • How do you think Milton Bradley will not be Milton Bradley?
  • All this improved play of late is really throwing a kink in the trade plans.
  • Personally–I think the “apology” on ESPN was a typical attention-getting move from Zambrano. Have some class–shut up, do your job, and talk to your teammates quietly in the clubhouse.
  • I like Theriot in the 8-spot, but Hendry could ship him out and bring up Scales for all I care.
  • Unless Colvin and Castro change their names to Strasburg, they have no chance at ROY.
  • [Colvin]‘s just a good-looking (and I mean that in a manly way) athlete with a bit of the rock star in him.
  • Personally, I like him because his last name rhymes with the word “moustache.”
  • Tango and Cash have nothing on Ryno and ‘Stache.
  • Although it was VERY nice to watch a Sunday Night game and not have to endure Joe Morgan (also nice not to hear that Miller guy), Bobby V still should not even be on this list.
  • I still can’t believe Howry occupies a MLB roster spot.
  • As we got to the front of Wrigley under the Marquee he stopped in the midst of a solid cantor and squatted!
  • If you know pugs then you know they have personalities like people and he shot back a look that was like “if you gotta go?”
  • Nerd power.
  • I have a BS in Middle Grades Math Education
  • I have Eular’s identity tatted on my left arm…top that.
  • I’m beginning to see why that goofy chart is omnipresent on the daily recaps.
  • I just have a lot of BS
  • @jim: Please go on. Your keen insights are clearly what this blog is lacking.
  • Anybody wanna bet we get very little if anything decent for Ted Lilly?
  • I wish I could text Jim Hendry or send him a message on facebook or something…
  • Despite the painful ending, it was the best year of baseball I have ever experienced.
  • In 1984, I did not care about their salaries, their agents, their late-night antics, their dugout ravings. In 1984, the Cubs in this 13yr old eyes were titans, gods, pure magic…

Lizard

  • Unfortunately anything that draws a connection to this season and dog shit, is spot on.

Hope you have a great weekend!

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1984: My Favorite Year

Friday, July 30th, 2010

When my friends and I talk about the 1980s, it’s usually to remind ourselves what a lame decade it was. Bad music (except for maybe Pink Floyd’s “The Final Cut”). Bad television (yes folks, “Miami Vice” and “The A Team” were unwatchable). Bad movies (remember Paulie’s robot in “Rocky IV”).

The one bright spot from a truly forgettable decade was the 1984 Chicago Cubs. At age 14, I was at my baseball-watching peak. Cable television had finally come to town, which meant plenty of afternoon action on the 13-inch black and white in my bedroom. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t expecting much from Jim Frey’s Cubs. They were coming off a 71-91 campaign that featured a terrible pitching staff. But, it was a new year, and at least Harry and Steve were calling the games.

A few offseason acquisitions would be instant difference makers in 1984: Bob Dernier, Gary Matthews, and Scott Sanderson. That threesome helped the Cubs get off to a fast start, going 12-8 in April. The next two months energized Cubs fans even more as Ryne Sandberg emerged as an elite talent. By June, Ryno was mashing at a .345/.392/.582 clip and playing Gold Glove 2B. His two-homer performance against the St. Louis Cardinals gained national attention (after the game, Whitey Herzog called him “the best player I have ever seen”). Batting second behind Dernier, Sandberg formed half of what Harry Caray called “the Daily Double.”

May and June also meant the arrival of pitching reinforcements. GM Dallas Green worked some magic to bring in AL starters Dennis Eckersley (traded for Bill Buckner, who had been reduced to a reserve role) and Rick Sutcliffe (acquired with Ron Hassey and George Frazier for Joe Carter, Mel Hall, Don Schulze, and Darryl Banks). What happened next would amaze even the most optimistic Cubs supporter.

Chicago rolled through the month of July, bringing their record to 60-44. Right-hander Rick Sutcliffe was dominating the National League like no Cubs pitcher I had ever seen. Cy Young talk began to circulate. Sandberg continued to lead the senior circuit’s best offense, which included breakout seasons by 1B Leon Durham and RF Keith Moreland, and a rebirth for veteran LF Gary Matthews. The Northsiders were leading the league in runs scored and racking up quality starts in the process. My friends and I began tempting fate with playoff talk. After all, Harry told us “the Good Lord wants the Cubs to win!”

Win they did, and on September 24th it was official. After shutting down the Pirates and running his record to 16-1, Sutcliff and the Cubs were NL East champions (there were only two divisions back then). They finished “my favorite year” at 96-65, 6.5 games ahead of Dwight Gooden and the New York Mets. For the first time in my life the Chicago Cubs were in the playoffs. Next would be the San Diego Padres in a best-of-five NLCS.

The 1984 Padres were an odd team in an odd division. Their 92 wins were enough for an easy title, as second-place Atlanta and Houston (80-82) finished 12 games back. On paper, the Cubs were easy favorites. San Diego’s top home run hitters were former Cub Carmelo Martinez (traded in the Sanderson deal) and rookie Kevin McReynolds, each with 20. No other Padre hit more than 14. Steve Garvey only mustered eight long balls in 617 at bats.

San Diego’s pitching was certainly respectable, but a rotation with Eric Show, Tim Lollar, Ed Whitson, and Mark Thurmond didn’t match up very well with Sutcliffe, Eckersley, Trout, and Sanderson. Experts were predicting a Cubs-Tigers World Series (the Tigers were far and away the best team in the American League with 104 wins). My friends and I couldn’t have been more confident. But a funny thing happened on the way to Detroit…

Opening the NLCS at Wrigley Field, the Cubs came out swinging. Rick Sutcliffe pitched and slugged the Cubs to a 13-0 blowout win. Lefty Steve Trout threw 8.1 solid innings in a 4-2 victory in game two. Frey’s squad only needed to win one of three road games to advance to the Fall Classic. For the first time in my life, I was talking smack about the Cubs. Bad move.

The Padres knocked around a stunned Dennis Eckersley in game three. The Eck gave up nine hits and five runs without striking out one batter. Ed Whitson shut down Sandberg and company in a 7-1 lopsided loss. Game four saw Jim Frey roll the dice. Instead of bringing Sutcliffe back on short rest, he elected to start Scott Sanderson against Tim Lollar. Sanderson was shelled, but the offense responded with two runs off Padre closer Goose Gossage. It was 5-5 in the 9th when Lee Smith faced Steve Garvey with one man on. “Mr. Clean” had already driven in three runs. Smith delivered a 1-0 fastball that Garvey crushed the other way for a game-winning homer. To this day I can’t accurately describe how I felt after Garvey’s blast. It never even crossed my mind that he might take Smith out of the park. Even though the series was tied 2-2, I felt completely defeated. Maybe the Cubs did too.

Game five was an afternoon affair, and ace Rick Sutcliffe was on the hill. Sutcliffe hadn’t lost a game since June 29th. The Padres were throwing Eric Show, who was drilled for three homers in game one. I was feeling much better that day, and apparently so were the Cubs hitters. Two early home runs sent Show to the showers. Through five innings, the Cubs were cruising at 3-0.  As I look back at the last four innings of that unforgettable game, a few things stand out. First, the Padres bullpen slammed the door on the Cubs offense. Andy Hawkins, Dave Dravecky, Craig Lefferts, and Goose Gossage combined for 7.2 shut-out innings, allowing only two hits and one walk. Next, Ron Cey went 0-4 in game five, which was consistent with his entire playoff performance (.158 for the series). Third, the Cubs defense really let them down that afternoon (I still have nightmares about the Leon Durham grounder).

There’s really no point in reliving the classic meltdown that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. We remember all too well the Padres postgame celebration (fortunately the Tigers beat them like a drum in the 1984 World Series). Even now the thought of Steve Garvey rounding the bases with his fist in the air after game four makes me want to break something. Yes, it’s 26 years later, and the memories are still fresh. Despite the painful ending, it was the best year of baseball I have ever experienced. Cubs playoff appearances in 1989, 1998, 2003, and so on haven’t even come close. I just hope that every young fan gets to experience at least one similar season. So what if Harry was wrong? Like my Dad said that summer, “the man upstairs has more important things to worry about than your favorite baseball team.”

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More Cubs Trade Possibilities

Friday, July 30th, 2010

I got this e-mail earlier in the week. It was well thought out so I asked him if I could post it. I don’t agree with a lot of it, mainly because teams are pretty reluctant to trade top prospect type guys like Dominic Brown, but it’s a fun piece to read regardless of what you think. I’d particularly like your feedback on the shape of the roster he includes at the end. Thanks to Ben for taking the time to write. (Note: The e-mail came in before the Phillies made a deal with Houston to bring in Roy Oswalt)

Here are some ideas I have been tossing around:

1. Big Z, Lee, Baker to the Mets, Oliver Perez, Castillo, and Ike Davis to the Cubs.

The Cubs would love to dump Big Z.  They aren’t going to offer Lee arbitration, so sending him away now makes sense.  I think the Mets would love to get rid of those 2 contracts, and get actual talent in return.  Davis is a decent young 1B, and a left handed hitter at that.  Getting him, plus getting out of Big Z 2012 salary, makes the deal worth it for the Cubs.  We aren’t going to be good in 2011 anyway, so holding some dead money doesn’t hurt us.

2.  Kouske and Marshall to the Red Sox for Lowell.

Getting out of Kouske’s contract for next year should be a priority.  This is one option.  I have seen the rumors for Scott Downs, and the asking price.  Given that Marshall is younger and cheaper, and possibly better, I think the Sox would be willing to take on 13 million next year.  I hate to give away players, but by the time the Cubs are good, Marshall will be arb eligible, and making way more money.  Lowell could play against tough lefties at 1B for this year, and back up Aram.

3.  Byrd to the Braves for Kris Medlen and Jordan Schafer.

Braves need a good CF, and Byrd fits the bill.  Schafer is not usable for the Braves, and still might be a good 4th OF.  Medlen would slot right into the 2011 rotation for the Cubs.

4.  Lilly, Marmol, and Fontenont to the Phillies for Dominic Brown and a low level prospect.

Not sure if the Phillies give him up, but this would at least make them think about it.  This gives them a good 3rd starter behind Hamels and Halladay, and an 8th inning guy or closer to fill in for Lidge.  Font can play 3rd with Polanco and 2nd till Utley comes back, and is better than what the Phils have on the bench.

5. Silva and Theriot to the Tigers for Casey Crosby.

If the Tigers view themselves as out of it, then they won’t deal.  However, for both teams, this deal makes sense.  Cubs get out of 2011 salary for both Theriot and Silva, and get a decent pitching prospect.

So for 2011, Cubs lineup:

C    Soto
1B  Davis
2B  Castillo
SS  Castro
3B  Aram
LF  Soriano
CF  Brown
RF  Colvin

Not a bad lineup.  Clearly some holes, but some decent speed, good power, and L/R balance.

Starting Rotation

Dempster
Gorzelanny
Wells
Medlen
Cashner

No ace, but good young talent, and no real terrible starter.  Lots of upside.

Given the Cubs farm system, plus players coming back in trades, and the expiring contracts of Castillo, Perez, and Aram after 2011, the Cubs could be a top team in 2012.

Thanks for reading,

Ben

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In the News: DLee’s Decision Divides Cubs Fans

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Hey, everybody. It’s that time again. Well, sorta. To be honest, with the trade deadline looming, there’s not a ton going on with the Cubs right now. It’s sort of like there may or may not be a storm gathering that will bring thunder, lightning and torrents of rain comments when ____________ is traded. In fact, probably the biggest story over the last 24 hours or so is about who almost certainly will not be traded. I refer of course to:

Derrek Lee’s decision to reject Angels trade offer.  As widely reported yesterday, DLee decided to invoke his 10-and-5 rights and stay with the Cubs after, apparently, Jim Hendry spoke to him about a proposed deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. And it’s here that I’d like to point out that any hand-wringing over Jim Hendry giving Derrek a no-trade clause is a waste of time and energy because, under a collective bargaining agreement with the players, any guy who has been in the league for 10 years and spent at least five years with his current team has the right to reject a trade. Having said that, I would agree that Hendry deserves some criticism for giving NTCs to guys such as Kosuke Fukudome (who was never a sure bet to succeed spectacularly in America) and Jeff Samardzija (who’s … well … Jeff Samardzija).

DLee’s decision has provoked a wide array of, shall we say, interesting reactions from Cubs fans - including a few right here on VFTB in Daniel’s post yesterday. Although I’ll admit it would have been nice to add something to the farm system for Derrek, who may be gone after this season and will almost certainly be out of the picture within the next two or three, I don’t quite understand the violent reaction some people are having. It’s unlikely any of the prospects that the Cubs picked up for DLee would’ve been difference makers in the next couple of seasons -  if ever. The Angels are a good baseball organization, but their farm system is generally ranked in the middle of the pack. Now if the Rangers really had been interested (which they weren’t), that’s another story. But, in any case, Derrek will be 35 this year and is having a down season (as we all know). How much trade value do you really think he has?

And as for those of you who think his decision is somehow an indictment on his willingness to win, I’d say, “Win where?” With the Angels? They’re in third place right now – 8.5 games out. And, yeah, they make the playoffs a lot but haven’t made it to the World Series since they won it in 2002. Obviously if he went there he’d have a chance at playing in the postseason – a 4.1% chance, according to coolstandings.com. This isn’t the Yankees were talking about here.

Derrek told reporters yesterday that he “agonized” over this decision, and I believe him. He’s got his reasons and none of us fans know what they are. His decision probably does involve his family, which, as far as I can tell, does live here in the Chicago area most of the year. And we should all bear in mind the tragic situation with his daughter. Or perhaps he simply wants to finish the contract with the Cubs that he agreed to. I’m OK with that, too. He’s been one of the greatest Cubs first basemen in the team’s history. And his bat wasn’t a problem in the ’07 and ’08 playoffs. So let’s say our goodbyes while we can  – and respect the man’s choice.

Ted Lilly update: Still here.  Wait, wait … let me check Twitter. OK, yeah, Ted Lilly is still here. But, as I type this, it appears the Oswalt-to-the-Phillies is mere minutes from going through. Once that happens, we could soon be deluged with renewed Lilly rumors.

According to Joel Sherman, the Mets are out. And, presumably, the Phillies would be, too. But other teams, including the Twins and Dodgers, could still be in play. I suggested a while back that LA could be a landing spot for Ted because, well, they need starting pitching depth desperately. But I’d also reiterate that Randy Wolf, a very similiar pitcher to Ted, threw well for the Dodgers last season. He’s been straight-up awful for the Brew Crew this season. Mwahahahaha. All in all, my gut still says Ted will be traded, but I wouldn’t mind watching him finish out his Cubs contract either. 

On Jim Hendry: Just sayin’.  I know it’s fashionable to bash Jimbo these days. And I know there’s a lengthy discussion on His Hendryness here. But just a passing thought that’s fluttered through my head in the last couple days: Jim made a couple non-moves in the last year that have turned out well:

Exhibit A: One Rich Harden, who’s currently on the DL (shocking!) and made on 13 starts for the division-leading Rangers this season. His numbers are also horrific: 5.68 ERA (6.31 FIP 5.72 xFIP). Oh, and his strikeouts are down.

Exhibit B: One Reed Johnson, who many fans clamored for Jimbo to bring back and perhaps platoon with Sam Fuld in center field. (Not a bad, low-cost idea on its face, but I think we can all agree Marlon Byrd has been fun to watch at least.) Well, he’s on the DL with back spasms (second time this season). RJ is also hitting .291/.316/.386 (.303 wOBA) in only 135 plate appearances. I know, I know … Xavier Nady hasn’t been much better. In fact, he’s been worse. But, hey, Tyler Colvin has been awesome!

Well, that’s really all I’ve got for today. I could mention that, as noted last time, Big Z is expected to join the team in Denver tomorrow and offer a full and heartfelt apology -  which still should’ve happened before the ESPN interview, Carlos! It’s not like they couldn’t have set up a camera in your hotel room over the weekend! Four freakin’ days to show your teammates some respect, my man! Four freakin’ days!

Ahem. Good luck and God bless.

####

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As the Clock Ticks Down…

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Make sure you follow us on Twitter for all notifications as we head to the deadline.

The deadline is finally upon us. All the speculation and rumors will swirl into one flurry of moves, or the black clouds may pass overhead with only a sprinkle. All through the MLB, the trade front has changed on a daily basis with injuries, volatile standings, and already completed transactions.

The Cubs have everyone- fans and Lilly suitors alike- wondering just how they will erupt. While everyone had them penciled in as sellers before the break, the Northsiders started playing much better ball and still have many meaningful games left against division rivals. It’s pretty tough to predict who will be donning new threads come August, but one thing I expect is for a lot of players to move, which certainly involves the Cubs. Even if they are serious about contending this year, they need to consider 2011 for their own good. They have expendable, MLB caliber players and a few expiring contracts.

If the Cubs decide to…

Hold

Trade Lilly, Nady, and either Baker or Fontenot.

A large priority is shoring up the bullpen, while also aggressively pursuing a first baseman that can be a 1-2 year stop gap, if not more. If Lilly moves, call up Jay Jackson and take chances between him, Marhsall, and Cashner as spot starters. Darwin Barney could also be granted a shot as a backup bench player if Baker or Fontenot departs.

Sell

Trade Lilly, Lee, Nady, Baker and Theriot.

Open up gaps for more young players to get a shot. A solid first baseman for the future should be the top priority, and guys like Lilly or Lee could bring one in. For example, Yonder Alonso is blocked at first base in Cincinnati, but would still demand a sophisticated package for the Cubs to acquire him. Other slightly more attainable upgrades include Scott Sizemore & Chris Davis, depending on how desperately the Tigers need pitching or the Rangers need a first baseman for the stretch. These may be the best possible aspirations, and they should be willing to take less, especially if they have an opportunity to shed any large contracts. That means Silva, Soriano, Fukudome, Zambrano, & Ramirez could see have new area codes as well.

Buy/Free Agents

Trade Lilly, Nady, and make young pitchers and catchers available.

Since the Cubs should definitely not be in buying mode this year, let’s also consider their free agent options at the end of this season. For one, I can’t stop thinking about who could replace Derrek at first base. They could also try to reel in a solid middle reliever. The Cubs have quite a few good young arms in Jeff Stevens, James Russell, Justin Berg, Mitch Atkins, & Esmalin Caridad. The middle relief market is unique, and most arms are highly unpredictable. If they can be included in a package deal to help facilitate a trade then pull the trigger. I would try to sell especially high on Jeff Samardzija.

Trade/Free Agent Targets:

-Jorge Cantu- A high strikeout rate could be worrisome, but he’s a consistent hitter with some pop. He would add a veteran presence in replacing Derrek Lee and can play some third base when A-Ram is ailing. Cantu could either be acquired this week (unlikely) or signed in the offseason; he would probably come cheaper via trade, though.

-Carlos Pena- Could be signed as a free agent, granted the deal isn’t ridiculous (in other words, he would inevitably have to lower his asking price). Pena is streaky, but provides excellent run production and respectable defense at first.

-Brandon Inge- I just want to see him play in the NL. A scrappy ballplayer, Inge plays multiple positions with stellar defense and is a good clutch hitter. The Cubs are still pretty locked down at third base and catcher, though, so this deal really has no urgency- he would jam up the infield. But he’s such a good role player that I would at least pursue him on the free agent market as a defensive upgrade and then try to find a way to get him in the lineup if he signs.

-Franklin Morales- I consider most relief pitchers practically impossible to predict on a season to season basis. But Morales represents the type of pitcher I wouldn’t mind taking a chance on- he’s pitched in the playoffs and has shown signs of success. Since the Cubs are almost all youngsters out of the pen, a little experience and another lefty arm to support Sean Marshall couldn’t hurt. That doesn’t mean that Hendry needs to give him a 7 million dollar deal, however.

A few lesser-impact options at first: Daric Barton, Adam LaRoche, Matt LaPorta…any others?

Trademania!

Let’s pretend Hendry allows the fans to call in for some proposals this year. What deals would you like to see, and what are some that you feel can (or will) legitimately take place? Here are a few ideas- some with fairness to both teams, and some with my bias left unattended:

Xavier Nady for a PTBNL. Salary dump for the Cubs with hopefully a decent draft pick in return. Likelihood=9.

Jeff Baker or Mike Fontenot to the Padres for a minor league pitcher. The Padres are looking for affordable infield depth last I heard, so the Cubs can personally phone them and tell them to take their pick. If the Padres have talent to deal, Ryan Theriot could yield an even better player for the Cubs. Likelihood=7.

Ted Lilly for Matt Joyce. More of a foundation for a deal- if the Rays are looking for a solid lefty with a good repertoire in the AL East, then the Cubs can try to capitalize on their needs by starting with a high asking price. They may not be able to get Desmond Jennings, but could probably wrench away one solid prospect from the Rays fertile farm. I like this as a potential sleeper deal. Likelihood=5.

Derrek Lee and Wellington Castillo for Mike Napoli or Jeff Mathis. The Angels are a tad overloaded with C/1B’s, and the Cubs should try to pounce on that. Napoli is a great option for an instant impact bat at first if he can handle the adjustment to a full-on position switch and a new league. The Cubs stay young, but also risk downgrading defensively. The Angels get a rental and another good young catcher to fill the void. Likelihood= 4.

The Double Play

Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot for Brandon Inge and Scott Sizemore. A whole mess of infielders changing leagues. Who could resist the Bayou Boys, packaged together like that? Realistically, though, I think the Cubs would have to spice up this deal a little more to make it genuinely appealing to the Tigers- perhaps Darwin Barney instead of Fontenot. Inge is still injured and the Tigers just acquired Jhonny Peralta, so this proposal is more a pipe dream, but it has a fun combination of risk and reward in the infield for both teams. (In case you haven’t noticed, I really want to see Inge in the NL.) Likelihood=3.

The “Apocalypse Now.”

Derrek Lee, Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot and Kosuke Fukudome for Ike Davis, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, and Jeff Francoeur. A combination of popular names all brought together as one dangerous recipe for both teams. The Cubs are in favor here because they get Davis, so let’s say they kick in most of the insane amounts of money owed in this deal. Lilly would prosper pitching in front of the gigantic basin that is Citi Field, and the Mets unload a lot of money at the end of the season. Time’s running out for this one! Likelihood=2.

The Blockbuster.

Starlin Castro and Randy Wells for Mike Leake and Yonder Alonso.  Somebody take Leake away from Dusty Baker! I still would not give up Castro, but I’d be salivating and very tempted to just cover my eyes and press the button on this one. I threw in Alonso for good measure and still couldn’t fully justify it. What makes this a blockbuster is that the Reds would probably be equally intrigued and apprehensive at the same time. Likelihood= -1.

The deadline will be filled with surprises as usual. All I can say is that I hope the Cubs are at least active, as I expect a lot of players in the MLB to be moving around. There’s a great opportunity for the Cubs to begin moving in a new direction as they prepare for the 2011 season- they have some money coming off the books at season’s end and a crop of promising prospects on the horizon. Since the trade market changes on a hourly basis, all we can do for the time being is look forward to any incoming talent and wave goodbye to those who have already put their time in.

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Are We Still In It?

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Math and superstition play a big part in the game of baseball.  Many players and managers are extremely superstitious (I am to an extent too) and math practically rules the sport.  If there is a way to generate a stat it will be done.  To describe a team as “mathematically in contention” or “mathematically, they are done” is common place in the coming months of the season.

Superstition’s I can handle but math is downright ugly.

It is July and I am starting to do the math.  This is never good.  When I was in college, and a final grade for a semester was teetering on the brink of pass/fail, I would start doing the math…..Hmmmmm, what do I need on the final exam to get a “C” in this class?

Then there is the first date out of college, when I make pennies for a salary, but I really want to make a six figure impression on a girl……Let’s see, if she orders the steak I have enough money to order…..a plate of peas!  Let’s hope nobody wants wine!  Yah, we didn’t go out again after that, and if memory serves me right, it wasn’t my decision.

Math is never good.

It has been said many times in the game of baseball, once you start doing the math you can chalk it up as a lost season.  I am starting to hear the whispers,”10 games out….61 games left……trade deadline……sell or buy?…….if we win every series we can do it……if we win on every odd day we can take over first……if the Reds fall in a black hole of losses……if we go on a winning streak of at least 10 games………. hamburger…….x=y+z……WE COULD DO IT! ……..there’s no quit in this team…….they are fighters……polish sausage!!!! polish sausage!!!!!”.

I feel like Russell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind” except I see baseball standings and win/loss records and cheesy “it’s not over ‘til it’s over” expressions floating through my head with the occasional ballpark menu item instead of equations.

Math is never good.

It actually drives people crazy.  I started talking with a friend the other day about the Cubs chances for the post season.  My immediate question was, “wait, what season are you talking about? 2012?”  He started doing the math!  It was as if all of the sudden the dynamic duo at the top of the order (Castro & Colvin) or Lou’s retirement announcement was a real catalyst that could propel these guys out of the basement.  Maybe Aram’s recent power surge gave him some hope or the fact that D-Lee is driving in runs instead of killing rallies? I am not sure.  One thing I know, after watching this team slide back into its old ways in game 2 of the Houston series, against a team asking to be swept, we aren’t quite mounting a comeback yet.

Is superstition better?

I am a little superstitious.  My newest superstition is sort of gross and I am hoping it gets disproved before the end of the season.  Here is how it goes…..

Before the first game of the season in 2009, about three days before, I was walking my pug, Banks, around Wrigley Field for our usual Saturday morning “routine”.   Banks does “his thing” somewhere on the way and then we do a few laps around the ballpark.  For the record, Banks poops on grass 99% of the time. He never drops it on cement.  The 1% of the time is the reason for this budding superstition.

Anyhow, on this very day Banks had let loose on our neighbors front lawn and seemed empty so we set out for the ballpark stroll.  As we got to the front of Wrigley under the Marquee he stopped in the midst of a solid cantor and squatted!  Needless to say he soiled some poor family’s brick that they paid good money for.  After I pulled a poop bag from my pocket and scraped up the excrement, and of course tried my best to clean off the cherished memory the brick documented, I gave Banks a look like “what the heck?” If you know pugs then you know they have personalities like people and he shot back a look that was like “if you gotta go?”

Fast forward to this year…..It was around the same time, a few days before the season started, and I wanted to see some of the banners and such hanging outside at the stadium in preparation for the new season.  So we strolled over and low and behold the same thing happened!  On the bricks in front of the marquee!!!!! Same spot!

The results for both seasons, at least up to this date, have certainly fallen in line with Banks handywork.  What I am wondering is this, is my dog sort of like Punxsutawney Phil?  Is he the groundhog for Cubs baseball?  If he dumps on the bricks outside Wrigley on his preseason walk does this mean we don’t have the post season to look forward too?  That we don’t need to bother doing the math? If he has a “clean walk” should we get excited?

Maybe math is better?

Since the All Star break the Cubs are leading the NL in Batting Average, Runs Scored , and Home Runs.  It is only July if not for a few more days.  They have a lineup that seems to be producing and staying consistent.  Maybe if the Reds and Cardinals start losing a few games……..oh heck with it.

Now that I think about it………. the math doesn’t look so ugly.

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Great Moments in Cubs Bust History: Todd Hundley

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

On the surface, it seemed like a slam dunk: signing a productive offensive catcher who was the son of a former Cub, and a popular Cub at that. Yes, we’re talking about Todd Hundley, a name that still sends shivers down our spines.

The Cubs signed Hundley to a $23-million deal on December 19, 2000. At age 31, Hundley was coming off a brief but solid season: 90 games, 24 home runs, .284/.375/.579. A three-time all star, Hundley was never known for his prowess behind the plate. However, the Cubs weren’t thinking defense when they inked the former Met and Dodger. The Northsiders needed to improve a lineup that produced only 764 runs the season before (good for 11th in the NL).

Hundley got off to a slow start in April of 2001, batting only .207 with three homers in 66 at bats. Little did we know, that was as good as things would get. His injury-plagued 2001 season ended with numbers that would make Rick Wrona sick to his stomach: .187/.268/.374. The flu-like fun continued in 2002: .211/.301/.421. A few months later, Hundley was sent packing in exchange for 1B Eric Karros (and his rockstar hair) and 2B Mark Grudzielanek, who hit .314 and helped the Cubs win the NL Central in 2003 (let’s not discuss that famous postseason).

A decade later, the Hundley years still haunt Cub fans. Once again, I was convinced that the front office had a game plan. Once again, I ended up feeling like the Fonz on roller skates.

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Game 101: Ted Lilly’s Still Here?

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

I mentioned the other day that I felt this team could trade Ted Lilly and still have a chance to compete. I firmly believe that and I keep telling myself that a loss is not as big of a deal as long as we win series. When you do the math it works out like this. We’ve got 61 games left. Winning each series means 40 more wins. That puts us at 86 for the year. It’s not a great number, but there is no dominant team in this division and 86 might just get the job done. Remember 2003? The team we felt missed it’s chance? They had 88 wins. That’s not out of the realm of possibility, but we’ve got to play good baseball each and every series from here on out.

I watched last night’s game just waiting for Ted Lilly to be suddenly pulled mid at bat to be informed that he had been traded to the Yankees. It never happened and I have to wonder if it really will. I kept asking myself whether it was possible for him to shift his stock value dramatically one way or the other based on the results of last start and this one. I wouldn’t think GM’s would be that silly to let such a small sample size influence their ultimate decision, but you never know. If they do, then Lilly has done his job to either keep his stock high or perhaps even increase it’s value with the way he’s pitched over the last two outings. Now all we can do is wait and watch the twitter wire over the next four days. If only my employer didn’t block Twitter, I could have my tweetdeck up and running in the background.

Other Random Notes of Observation

  • Poor Andrew Cashner had a pretty rough night. It didn’t look to start to well and he finished it with style on a grand slam that was a no doubter as soon as it left the bat. Last night brought his ERA up to 4.28 from a very nice 2.42. Ouch
  • Koyie Hill got the start to give Geo a rest. His 0-for-3 at the plate brought his average down under .200. At this point, I don’t see a reason not to try giving Robinson Chirinos at least a tryout come September if there is a spot on the 40 man roster made available for him. What can it hurt?
  • Aramis Ramirez had this to say in the Sun Times about returning or not: ”I want to stay here, but I’ve still got two months,” he said. ”I haven’t talked to my agent about it. But everybody knows I want to stay here. I guess I’m staying here [in 2011].” (Source)
  • Finally, an update from Lizzie with the Beat the Streak Standings after last night’s game. It looks like Tommy is creeping up on my record of 10 straight. I’ll either have to get the voodoo doll out or, at the very least, start playing again.

Tommy = 7
Dragon = 6
Lizzie = 4
John Santoro = 3
Big Bob = 2
Jack McClendon = 2
Mitchener = 2
mrbaseball2usa = 2
Jose can you see = 1

You can try your hand at it very easily. All you do is pick a player in the game you think will get a hit. If he does, you start / continue your streak. Use the form here and play.

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