Archive for July, 2010

Cubs Legends: Frank Chance

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

As Derrek Lee’s contract comes to a close, the Cubs may very well see the end of an era at first base by the end of the year, if not sooner. Lee has occupied the corner since being acquired for Hee-Seop Choi from the Marlins in 2003 (stifle those giggles- the Marlins would seek revenge 6 years later by sending Kevin “Walk-Walk-Homer” Gregg to the Cubs and actually receiving a player in return). Having both fascinated and frustrated the Wrigley faithful over the years, Lee is finally at a point where it may be time for him to move on, which will leave a noticeable vacancy at first base. When he does depart, Lee will join the pantheon of memorable Cubs first basemen alongside names such as Grace, Cavarretta, and one of the greatest Cubs’ legends of all time: Frank Chance.

Let me first acknowledge that Chance was not the first Cub to play first base, but the second- he was preceded by the immortal Cap Anson. Anson turned over his duties around 1898 to Chance, but not before compiling a mountain of team records that most Cubs- at any position- will have a tough time surpassing. But since the theme here is who will fill Lee’s shoes, let’s take a look at a moment when the Cubs lost a legend, and replaced him with another.

Frank Chance, 1st Basemen
Nicknamed “Husk” because of his stocky 6-foot, 190 lb. build, Chance played 15 seasons with the Cubs from 1898 to 1912. During that time, the California-born right hander clocked over 1200 hits, 200 doubles, and 400 stolen bases, with a lifetime .296 BA and .394 OBP. A constant threat on the base paths, Chance led the league in SB’s in 1903 and 1906, with 67 and 57 thefts respectively. He also batted .421 in the fall of 1908 to help secure a second straight World Series victory for the Cubs.

Tinkers to Evers to Chance
Although the actual trio existed about one hundred years ago, this shortstop-second base-first base combination is still heralded as one of the best infields of all time (to complete the thought, Harry Steinfeldt manned third for the majority of this era- he was acquired by Chance’s request the year after he became manager). With Tinker’s sure hands and Evers’ swift turns from second to first, the trio worked their way into regular baseball vernacular. Chance actually came into the bigs as a catcher, but was moved from behind the plate to the outfield and then to first base in 1902. He was a solid fielder, posting a career .987 fielding percentage, and also led the league in fielding percentage in two separate years (1909- .994; 1910- .996).

Frank Chance, Manager
In today’s game, most managers keep relatively quiet about their teams, doing everything they can to avoid drama in an age where the media jumps to exploit the tiniest headlines. A century ago, things were a little different. Managers were fiery and profane, fearlessly jumping on their players for all sorts on personality conflicts. It wasn’t a major headline if a manager had to sock a player in the jaw to keep him in line, and many old timers would readily admit to their ruthless methods for motivation.

Frank Chance was no different. Elected as the manager in 1905, and on the brink of his prime, the 27 year-old Chance led the Cubs to a .635 winning percentage in his first year as both player and manager, and captured two titles out of three World Series appearances from 1906-1908. He won games using the ideal national league elements- smart fundamentals, great defense, and good pitching. But Chance also added a little pepper to the game for more motivation. He was known to handpick his players, which may seem normal enough. Yet it wasn’t always with good intentions. For example, according to Doug Myers in Essential Cubs:

“When a pitcher named Jack Harper beaned him once too often for his liking, he traded for him, cut his salary by two-thirds, refused to pitch him, and drove him into retirement at the age of 28.”

A product of his time, Chance was known to participate in riots and brawls just as frequently as he instigated them, with both fans and players. He received retribution just as often; Chance actually lost hearing in one ear and suffered from blood clots in his brain from frequent bean balls. Chance managed until 1912 and never had a team winning percentage under .597. He is cemented in history (and the brickwork around Wrigley Field) as one of the best Cubs first basemen and managers of all time.

Frank Chance died in 1947, but enjoyed the glory of a Hall of Fame induction the year before due to election by the Old Timers Committee.

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Morning Wake Up: Friday Roundup (Bacon Toothpaste Edition)

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

It’s my goal to have Friday morning be a c0llection of interesting things I’ve found over the course of the week that just didn’t make it into a post. This week starts that mess:

MLB Trade Rumors notes a little information on Xavier Nady’s contract bonus situation:

Plate Appearances

  • 300: $125K
  • 350: $250K
  • 400: $250K
  • 450: $275K
  • 500: $300K
  • 525: $175K

Games Started

  • 70: $100K
  • 85: $125K
  • 100: $200K
  • 110: $250K

My guess is that as we near those bonuses, you’ll see Nady playing less and less (if that’s actually possible). Nady is a guy that, if we can’t trade him before the deadline, I’d actually consider bringing back to play 1B next year. He’s not as good as his 2008 numbers (.305 / .357 / .510 with 25 HR & 97 RBI), but he’s better than what we’d get from someone else in the system and would give you flexibility in his ability to play the OF. He’d also be a full year removed from Tommy John surgery, which should allow a little more confidence in his ability to make the hard throw from the OF. I can’t imagine he’d command much of a raise, if any at all. It would also free you up to make a move for a bigger name like Adam Dunn or Carlos Pena if you wanted to go that route.

Carrie Muskat noted that Micah Hoffpauir gave Big Z some advice down in Iowa. “I just told him to have fun,” Hoffpauir told the Des Moines Register. “That’s what my dad told me when I was little. He said, ‘If you’re not enjoying it, don’t do it.”.

Can we emphasize and stress to Z the concept that if you’re not enjoying it, DON’T DO IT. Maybe we can just convince him to retire so we don’t have to pay his sorry self anymore.

Minor Leaague Drug Testing is Going Major League – And by Major League we mean in terms of stiffness of testing. In case you haven’t heard, minor leaguers better watch out.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced Thursday that, effective immediately, Minor League players will be subject to “random blood testing for the detection of human growth hormone” under Major League Baseball’s current Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

“The implementation of blood testing in the Minor Leagues represents a significant step in the detection of the illegal use of human growth hormone,” Selig said in a statement. “The Minor League Program employs state-of-the-art testing procedures and the addition of HGH testing provides an example for all of our drug policies in the future.” ~

The Lake County Captains (Source) are having a Christmas in July promo as part of a toy drive for kids. The greatest thing about the promo is a bobblehead they’re giving away. It’s modeled after the Christmas Story leg lamp. Outstanding!!!

And finally, would you use any kind of strange toothpaste? I’m not talking about the baking soda stuff or the funny aquafresh multicolored crap. I’m talking weird. Check this out:

What’s On Tap at VFTB Today

AM – Morning Wake Up

Lunch – A Look Back at Frank Chance

PM – GirlieView

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In the News: Off-day quickies

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Greetings from the Thunderdome, Cubs fans. I’m feeling a little woozy today. Not sure why. I don’t think I’m getting sick, but I was flat-out exhausted last night and am a little discombobulated at the moment. So I’m going to treat you to some off-day quickies. No, not that kind of quickie. Just some short and sweet news briefs to keep you in tune and on track for this weekend’s barn-burning series against the always hated St. Louis Cardinals – which I’ll be attending. Yup, looks like I’ll be going to Sunday night’s series closer. Anyway, on with the quickies:

Tigers in on Lilly. Theriot? Not so much. Jon Morosi of Fox Sports reports (scroll down to “Tigers have eyes on Cubs’ Lilly”) that trade talks between the Cubs and Detroit for our beloved left-hander Theodore Roosevelt Lilly continue and could soon heat up. The Tigers rotation currently lacks a southpaw and His Holy Tedness fits the bill. Go down a little further in Morosi’s post and you’ll see that he’s reporting the Detroit team does not have any interest in Ryan Theriot, who has really killed his own trade value this season with a (as of this writing) .283 wOBA (WAY below league average) and negative WAR (-0.2).

Big Z pulls another disappearing act. Exiled (starting?) pitcher Carlos Zambrano was supposed to pitch for the Iowa Cubs yesterday, but manager Ryne Sandberg (haven’t read his name enough lately!) says Z had to “take care of some business” (♪♫ every day! every way! ♪♫) and would return to the team today (Thursday) to pitch out of the pen. I’ve learned from sources that Iowa TV news reported that Big Z actually flew back to Chicago, so maybe he had some sort of family issue. I believe the plan is to get Carlos in pitching shape to join the team on its upcoming road trip, which begins in Houston on Monday night.

In other Carlos news, Silva has been pushed back. Len Kasper emphasized on Tuesday that Carlos is not injured but merely working on some tweaks with Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild. This change to the rotation order means I’ll be seeing a Ryan Dempster start on Sunday – which is really weird because I’ve attended precisely one game in each of the two previous seasons and both were Demp starts. The good news is the Cubs won both games.

A couple other bullpen updates noted in that story:

  • John Grabow isn’t close to returning to action.
  • Brian “Shoulda Learned a Splitter” Schlitter threw one-third of an inning for Iowa yesterday (Wednesday), giving up a hit and a walk and striking out one.

Ryan Dempster holds star-studded charity event.Here’s an ABC News video with Demp before the event, which took place last night and benefited The Ryan and Jenny Dempster Family Foundation. Al Yellon over at Bleed Cubbie Blue posted some amusing pics of Cubs players in attendance.

Cubs Next Manager: Power Rankings

And now in a new and occasional feature on “In the News,” here’s how I’d rank the gentleman jockeying for a position to be the next manager of YOUR Chicago Cubs:

1. Ryne Sandberg. He’s in Cooperstown (literally) and the first name out of everyone’s mouth. In this on-field interview, Ryno even admits it would be his dream job.

2. Bob Brenly. His Score interview rocketed  him up the chart. I wouldn’t mind seeing him manage the club for a season or two for the ass-kickings alone.

3. Alan Trammell. Classy as always, he ain’t talkin’. But it’s nice to see his name mentioned.

4. Fredi Gonzalez, Joe Torre (tie). Hey, ESPN has mentioned both Gonzalez and Torre, so anything’s possible. The former will probably fade from the chart quickly when it’s clear he’s going back to the Braves. And the latter would really just be a retread of the Lou Piniella approach, and it’s hard to believe the Cubs would go down that road again. On the other hand, Ryne Sandberg as bench coach to Joe Torre for a couple seasons is interesting.

5. Joe Girardi. The fans are certainly talking about him, but I can’t see Jim Hendry getting anywhere near the former Cubs backstop until after the season. And the way the Yankees are winning, their season won’t be over until late October/early November.

Shameless self-promotion: I wrote this commentary yesterday (Wednesday) on what might bring Girardi to Chicago. My insane theory might surprise you.

For the time being, I’m leaving Bobby Valentine off because I haven’t seen any news reports of him even being asked about the job – and I’d like it to say that way.

OK, in retrospect, these news items really aren’t any shorter than I usually write them, so perhaps they’re not quickies. But I already wrote the lede and came up with the title and I’ve got to get back to work, so I’m just going to leave it as is.

Daver out.


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Game 96: So Long Ted…We’ll Miss You

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

First Star – Jason Michaels (.411 WPA)
Second Star – Brandon Lyon (.281 WPA)
Third Star – Pedro Feliz (.244 WPA)

Ted Lilly has been traded to….That’s the way I’m going to be starting a post real soon. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if that post came today, on an off day. I don’t like that I’m going to have to type those words, but that’s what happens when your team under performs, with the shining example being yesterday. It started to make me think about how crappy it would be to get traded. All of a sudden yiu’re forced to pack up everything and move to somewhere you’re probably not familiar with at all. I know when I moved from Chicago to North Carolina, it took getting used to. There are subtle differences. For example, in Chicago the groceries stores are Jewel and Dominicks. Here, we have Food Lion (which my parents call the Lion King) and Harris Teeter (Something wrong sounding with that name). It doesn’t seem fair when you get traded. I wish Ted all the best, because I have a feeling this was the last time we’ll see him pitch in our uniform.

STRIKE ONE – If ever there was an example of why Jim Hendry needs to start selling it was yesterday in the 9th, 10th and 11th innings. All three featured prime scoring opportunities. You can tell by looking at the graph and seeing all the red marks that show how critical / game changing various situations were. The game was a sleeper until the late innings and the Cubs failed miserably to capitalize.

In the 9th, Fukudome started it with a leadoff single, but Koyie Hill couldn’t get him to 2nd after striking out and broke his bat over his knee. Side note: I’ve been waiting for Koyie Hill to do that for a long time. If anyone on this teams like the tough guy type, it’s Hill. After all, dude sawed his fingers off and still plays. Theriot came up next and singled to put the Cubs in business with just one out. When you’ve got a guy at third with less than two outs, you’ve got to bring him home. Instead, Soriano flied out and Colvin struck out and we ended the 9th.

STRIKE TWO – In the 10th, Castro led off with a double and you got the feeling this was the inning it was going to happen. The heart of the order was coming up and we only needed a single to use Castro’s speed for the winning run. Lee’s fly ball got Castro to third and once again we had two outs to make it happen. A-Ram gets walked, which is the obvious choice based on how hot he’s been, but Marlon Byrd can’t come through with a single and instead, walks. That loads the bases and brings Fukudome and Hill up. A cork screw swinging stikeout, pinch hitter and fly out later and we’ve screwed up the 10th.

STRIKE THREE – The 11th inning was more of the same with Theriot reaching base to start the inning and getting to second on a sac bunt by Fontenot. Colvin gets intentionally walked, which makes me laugh. Normally that would get you even closer to the heart of the order, but apparently our heart doesn’t scare many people. We need a heart transplant. Castro and Lee fly out and we’re done in the 11th.

The Astros, sick of waiting for us to finish them off, take care of business in the 12th and the red phone in Jim’s office with the glass box housing it labled “Emergency” starts ringing. It’s time, Jimmy Boy, it’s time. Make the calls and let’s start moving.

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Morning Wake Up: The Hitless Man

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

In case you missed it, Ted Lilly got a hit yesterday. He’s been mired in a pretty embarrassing streak of ugliness that was starting to boarderline on funny. It got me thinking about who holds the record for most at bats in a season without getting a hit, which led me even further. I found some disturbing results.

Most At Bats in a Season w/o a Hit

Rk Player AB H Year Age
1 Bob Buhl 70 0 1962 33
2 Bill Wight 61 0 1950 28
3 Ron Herbel 47 0 1964 26
4 Karl Drews 46 0 1949 29
5 Randy Tate 41 0 1975 22
6 Ernie Koob 41 0 1916 23
7 Jason Bergmann 40 0 2008 26
8 Joey Hamilton 40 0 1994 23
9 Ed Rakow 39 0 1964 29
10 Darryl Kile 38 0 1991 22
11 Harry Parker 36 0 1974 26
12 Hal Finney 35 0 1936 30
13 Steve Stone 34 0 1971 23
14 Vicente Palacios 33 0 1994 30
15 Ed Lynch 33 0 1982 26
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/22/2010.

Most At Bats in a Season w/o Reaching Base (via H, BB, IBB)

Rk Player AB H HBP BB IBB Year Age
1 Jason Bergmann 40 0 0 0 0 2008 26
2 Hal Finney 35 0 0 0 0 1936 30
3 Vicente Palacios 33 0 0 0 0 1994 30
4 Miguel Batista 32 0 0 0 0 1998 27
5 Ellis Kinder 32 0 0 0 0 1952 37
6 Don Carman 31 0 0 0 0 1986 26
7 Rick Wise 30 0 0 0 0 1966 20
8 Karl Adams 30 0 0 0 0 1915 23
9 Bill Stafford 29 0 0 0 0 1965 25
10 John Fulgham 27 0 0 0 0 1980 24
11 Dan Warthen 27 0 0 0 0 1976 23
12 Sandy Koufax 26 0 0 0 0 1957 21
13 Von McDaniel 26 0 0 0 0 1957 18
14 Jason Smith 25 0 0 0 0 2009 31
15 Chris Short 25 0 0 0 0 1960 22
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/22/2010.

Chin up Teddy. it could have been a lot worse.

What’s On Tap

No game today (Thank God) so it’s a day to dwell on the loss and look forward to playing the spoiler role for the rest of the year, starting with a weekend series against the Cards. Today on VFTB you’ll be getting:

AM – Comments on Yesterday’s Loss

PM – In the News with dat_cubfan_daver

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