Archive for July, 2010

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…


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.


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?


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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In the News: Carlos, Carlos, Carlos …

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Hello, Cubs fans. The time has come and the time is now – for some delightful Cubs news items. But before I get to that, let me just recount for you the general vibe at Wrigley during Sunday night’s game against the Cardinals (which I attended … thus the recap … did you see my Twitpics?).

It was a dark and stormy night. Ha, quite the opposite, the weather was absolutely perfect. Warm during the day and pleasantly cool once the sun went down. And, if you follow me on Twitter, you know that, once the sun did go down, a full moon rose spectacularly over the Miller Lite sign in right field and made its way up and down (?!) the right field line as the game progressed.

As for the game itself, well, you know how it turned out. (Or do you? I can’t seem to find a VFTB recap here.) Badly. But, believe it or not, I still feel like I saw a great ballgame. There was a little bit of everything – decent-though-not-dominant pitching (Carp v. Demp),  good defense (Byrd and Castro), a home run by the future HoFer King Albert (the sound off his bat was … well … ’nuff said) and just some really, good, tense back-and-forth between the two ancient rivals.

I’d particularly like to note that seeing Tyler Colvin live has upped my respect for the young lad. He’s just a good-looking (and I mean that in a manly way) athlete with a bit of the rock star in him. He really played up tossing the ball into the bleachers after between-innings warmups. Bottom line: He seems comfortable playing at the major league level and at Wrigley Field. Now if he can just lay off that inside breaking junk they keep throwing him and get his OBP up a bit (while maintaining his power, of course), he’ll be well on his way. That’s not too much to ask is it? Well, is it?

As for the crowd, it was quite peaceful in the left field bleachers. There was a quite visible Cards fan presence, which surprised me somewhat on a Sunday night. I figured most of them would’ve headed back to St. Loo for work the next day. (Yeah, I know there are Cards fans who live in the Chicago area. We will find you!) There was a fight somewhere around the centerfield section, but I don’t consort with those ruffians anyway.

All right, all right. Enough of my nonsensical recollecting. On with the news!

Carlos Zambrano apologizes to the nation and the world.  Big Z sat down with an intrepid ESPN reporter yesterday and let us all know that: 1) he was just trying to fire up his team, 2) he’s REALLY sorry, and 3) he’s working on his anger management techniques. Now I have no problem with what Z said – it’s pretty much what I expected and he seemed fairly contrite and subdued in his remarks. My problem with Carlos is that he really should’ve held off on this public display of contrition until after he met with his teammates in Denver later this week.

Why? Because it really doesn’t matter what we, the fans, think of Carlos Zambrano. What really matters is that his teammates know that he really is done with these embarrassing freakouts and that he’s going to do whatever it takes to help the team for the rest of the season. (Not that I have much hope for this season, but there are still games to be played and, given Big Z’s contract, he may very well be around next season with many of those same guys.) Lou Piniella seems to agree with me as his reaction to Z’s interview, quoted in this Carrie Muskat article, is as follows:

I saw a little bit of [the ESPN interview]. I’m sure he’s contrite, and I’m sure he’s looking forward to coming back, but the important thing remains that he talk to his teammates.

To me, the fact that Lou saw fit to bring up the teammate issue says a lot. That same article notes:

Zambrano spoke to ESPN because he was frustrated that he could not speak to the players.

Oh, I see – so he couldn’t control his emotions enough to wait a few more days and a plane ride to Denver. Great. That really bodes well for the future.

One last bit of ammo: I asked Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald about the timing of Z’s response. You can read his response in the comments of this blogpost.

That’s really all I have to say about Carlos Zambrano for the moment. There are no innocent parties here. The Cubs have treated him like crap, he’s treated his teammates like crap, and the band plays on.

Geo rules, but Geo is hurt.  In case you missed it during last night’s game, Geovany Soto fouled a ball off of his foot and spent the next inning or so trying to shake it off. He was eventually replaced by Koyie Hill and the news soon followed that Geo has a bad bruise and will likely miss tonight’s (Tuesday’s) game against the Astros. Get well soon, Geo – your OBP still makes me very, very happy.

Aramis plans to stick around.  Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez has a player option on his contract that gives him the right to stick with the Cubs in 2011 or dive into the free agent market. Aramis is “guessing” that he’ll stay in Chicago but still leaving open the possibility that he and his agent could decide otherwise. His devastating April-June slump may have sealed his fate – and ours.

Y’know, I’m OK with that. It’s not like the Cubs have a hot third base prospect waiting in the wings. And his 1.147 OPS over the last 28 days does much to restore my faith that he may have at least one more decent year in him. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in 2012 at the hot corner, as I don’t think the now-injured Josh Vitters would’ve been ready by then anyway.

Aaaaaaaand now, back by popular demand (that’s a lie!)…

Cubs Next Manager Power Rankings

1. Ryne Sandberg. Holding steady at the top spot, Ryno is still the man to beat. Andre Dawson’s Hall of Fame induction (you heard about that, right?) has only stirred up the stirring memories of No. 23’s own induction not too long ago. Oh, and the Iowa Cubs are playing quite well this season thank  you very much.

:-( 2. Bobby Valentine. AUGHHHH!!! My worst nightmare come true. He was in the booth for Sunday night’s Cubs – Cards ESPN game, and his ingratiating comments have rocketed him up the chart. Let’s hope he’s a one-hit-wonder a la Toni Basil.

3. Joe Girardi. Climbing to No. 3, the former Wildcat is on everyone’s respective minds, lips and keyboards as the savviest choice. Sadly, most of us agree that the Bronx Bombers will likely spirit him away to a Manhattan hotspot for a contract extension.

*4. Pat Listach. Wait, who? He’s currently the Nationals (man, have they dropped like a rock or what?Strasburg starts tonight!) third base coach and managed for several years in the Cubs minor league system. He confirms his interest in the position in this Washington Post article. Personally, I like him because his last name rhymes with the word “moustache.”

5. Bob Brenley. Hey, he’s right there in the booth – he’d be an easy interview. But he seems to have wisely gone mum after his Score interview last week.

*Hotshot debut!


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