Archive for August, 2010

In the News: Cubs Next Manager Power Rankings

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

 LWDYWMTD?

Hey, Cubs fans. I’m a little pressed for time today – doing the Dad thing as my daughter’s summer vacation winds down. Obviously, the earth-shaking news since my last post is Lou’s abrupt left turn into retirement. So let’s jump right into the action with an, uh, action-packed edition of …

Cubs Next Manager Power Rankings

1. Ryne Sandberg.His name is echoing throughout the complex set of tubes that makes up this thing we call “the Internet.” Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith has endorsed him. The New York Times has profiled him. And he’s still taking interviews.

When Jim Hendry named Mike Quade the interim manager, he may have been putting someone in place to hold down the fort so Ryno can take over come spring training. He still seems like the guy to beat, though I’d guess Jimbo is going to explore every avenue to ensure he’s not missing out on a better candidate.

2.  Joe Girardi. I know, I know … I saw the quote this morningin which Girardi established that he’s focused on the Yankees. But what else is he supposed to say? Interestingly, the Yankees won’t be discussingJoe’s contract until after the season, meaning anything can still happen. And, for what it’s worth, WGN/Comcast’s Dave Kaplan continues to beat the drum for Girardi. And, for what it’s even further worth, MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds agrees that Joe could shock the world and come to the Cubs.

* 3. Mike Quade. He had a nice debut yesterday and has said himself that he considers the next few weeks an audition. So this odd-looking gentleman, who’s from the Chicago area, has skyrocketed onto the chart. I mean, laugh if you want, but if the Cubs somehow play .500+ or even .500 ball here on out, Quade may do a little shocking of his own – assuming things go south with Sandberg (Seattle?) and Girardi stays out East.

:-| 4. Bob Brenly. BB’s acerbic comments from the booth are getting attention. He called out Aramis the other day. And many fans want an enforcer in the dugout — especially given the teams ungodly error and unearned run totals this season. And Brenly himself has confirmed that he’s interested managing again … somewhere. So maybe he would give up his cushy seat in the sky. But will the Cubs have him?

5. Don Wakamatsu.  Hey, he’s available. I didn’t see many bloggers or pundits linking him to the Cubs. In fact, if anything, Wakamatsu’s ouster earlier this month could mean Ryne Sandberg could wind up in Seattle (where he’s from originally) rather than Chicago. But if Hendry is doing an exhaustive search, I’d have to think Waka-Waka will get at least a courtesy interview.

* 6. Eric Wedge. I’ve seen the former Indians manager’s name making its way into discussions lately. His seven years in Cleveland were up and down – only three of the seven were winning seasons. But he’s another under-the-radar guy to keep an eye on.

7. Alan Trammell. ELIMINATED. But he’s cool with it. I was a little baffled by Hendry’s decision to be so explicit about rejecting current bench coach Alan Trammell for the Cubs manager job. But Tram doesn’t seem to have taken it personally and who knows what’s going on behind the scenes. I still suspect that Trammell is simply too valuable as a hands-on coach to Starlin Castro (among others) to tie up amongst managerial responsibilities.

________________________

* Debut!

:-| Back again!

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Game 126: Welcoming in the Mike Quade Era

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Every single player brought his bat in this one in support of their new skipper. It was one of the games where you almost want them to let up and save some for the next day, if that’s even possible.

  • What impressed me the most was the patience and willingness to work the count deep, which in turn saw Livan Hernandez exit the game before getting through even five innings. Last time Livan worked less than five innings against us? NEVER
  • Alfonso Soriano made me laugh in his approach to the plate late in the game and as much as I’d like to assume it was because the Cubs were winning big and he was facing his old team, I know better. He’d already hit a double and a bloop triple that went by the right fielder. Late in the game, when contact would have been the thing to shoot for with two strikes, he was swinging away with a big leg kick trying to hit the ball out of the ball park. Even the Nats broadcasters were making fun of it with the slo mo cam.
  • Starlin Castro looked flat out fooled in his first at bat against Livan Hernandez when he was expecting a heater and got one of those slow spinners that Hernandez throws. At the same time, he rebounded nicely the rest of the game.
  • What are your thoughts on Blake DeWitt? I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him so far and I found it interesting that Quade hit him at the top of the order. We hadn’t seen Lou do that as far as I could remember, but I’m too lazy to verify that. If there was a time….my bad. =)
  • Casey Coleman had me a little nervous with the way he started the game, throwing just under 30 pitches in the first inning. He got out of the jam that was due in part to DeWitt’s error, and really threw a nice game. He wasn’t fancy with the strikeouts and didn’t really try to overpower the hitters. He reminded me a lot of Mike Leake when he faced us in his debut. I’d like to see what he does next time out.
  • Really good to see Andrew Cashner put up the kind of outing he did. He’s not been as good as I know he’ll be in the future, but he’s learning. 1.2 IP with a minimal amount of pitches is an ideal outing. Very nice to see.

Finally, a look at the managers over the years for the Cubs who have been successful here.

Rk Mgr Yrs From To G W L W-L% G>.500 BestFin WrstFin AvRk
1 Cap Anson HOF 19 1879 1897 2258 1283 932 .579 351 1 9 3.9
2 Charlie Grimm 14 1932 1960 1737 946 782 .547 164 1 8 3.4
3 Frank Chance HOF 8 1905 1912 1178 768 389 .664 379 1 3 1.7
4 Leo Durocher HOF 7 1966 1972 1065 535 526 .504 9 2 10 3.8
5 Joe McCarthy HOF 5 1926 1930 770 442 321 .579 121 1 4 2.8
6 Jim Riggleman 5 1995 1999 794 374 419 .472 -45 2 6 4.0
7 Dusty Baker 4 2003 2006 648 322 326 .497 -4 1 6 3.5
8 Lou Piniella 4 2007 2010 609 316 293 .519 23 1 5 2.1
9 Fred Mitchell 4 1917 1920 582 308 269 .534 39 1 6 3.9
10 Bill Killefer 5 1921 1925 596 300 293 .506 7 4 8 5.3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/24/2010.
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Game 125: I’ll Miss Ya, Lou

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

As Joe reported earlier today, this was Lou Pinella’s final game as manager of our beloved Cubs. I’m sure many will put him down because of this pitiful final year, but I loved Lou as the coach of the Cubs and I hope after the dust settles he will be remembered as the one who led the team from last place to first and brought us playoff action (albeit brief) two years in a row. He gave us what we wanted and raised our expectations going forward. Unfortunately, that made his job even harder. His post-game interview broke my heart. I’m sure you’ll see it replayed over and over again. Be well, Lou, you’ll always be a winner in my book.

Today will also mark the end of our BTS game for the season. Not only are the Cubs not winning, they’re not hitting much either and the game has turned into a bunch of 1s and 0s. Let’s quit while we’re ahead and pick it up again next season! A big round of applause for everyone who’s played, and we’ll recap the entire season (with a prize!) sometime within the next few weeks. Final results after today’s game:
Doug S. = 3
Rich Beckman = 1

Oh, speaking of the game, Mike Minor pitched himself a beauty in only his third Major League start, striking out 12 in his six innings. I wanted the Cubs to win this one for their skipper, but Mike Minor had other ideas. Come to think of it, so did the Cubs themselves, playing another really sloppy game defensively with meager offense (though not quite as bad as usual … just inconsequential). The Cubs stayed close until the seventh inning, when four different pitchers (and an error) allowed the the Braves to break it wide open and put the game out of reach. The misery continued as the remaining innings d-r-a-g-g-e-d on ad nauseam. That’s about it in a nutshell. Might as well not suffer through all the gory details. Final Score of Lou’s Final Game: Atlanta 16, Cubs 5. Exactly the same as the score on Opening Day 2010, vs. the Braves. Doesn’t that tell the story of the season?

Mike Quade takes the reins tomorrow in Washington. (He’ll probably be freezing, not having to spend half of every inning in the blazing sun. Where’s that hoodie?) He’ll manage the team for the rest of the season and will be a candidate for the full time coaching position next spring. Alan Trammel will not be a candidate, per Jim Hendry.

I would imagine Lou finished up today’s game, breathed a huge sigh of relief, and turned his attention squarely toward his family. I believe I’ll do the same. Enjoy what’s left of the weekend without thinking anything Cubs-related. :-)

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Lou Piniella Stepping Down

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

From the Cubs Media Dept:

CHICAGO Lou Piniella today announced he has elected to step down as manager of the Chicago Cubs following this afternoon’s game against the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field for family reasons.

“When I previously announced my intentions to retire at the end of the season, a primary reason for my decision was that it would allow me to spend more valuable time with my family,” said Piniella.  “That time has unfortunately gotten here sooner than I could have ever expected.  As many know, the several weeks since that announcement was made have been very difficult on a family level, requiring two leaves of absence from the club.  While I fully intended to manage this club the rest of the season, a family situation at home now requires my full attention.

“As I said last month, I couldn’t be more appreciative of the Cubs organization for providing me the opportunity to be their manager.  I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world and I consider this the ultimate way to end my managerial career.

“I am thankful to the Ricketts family for their support – Cubs fans are fortunate to have an owner like the Ricketts family to lead this organization for the long-term.  I also couldn’t be more thankful to Jim Hendry for bringing me to Chicago.  We enjoyed a great deal of success together and I’ll always value the relationship we had during our time together.  Thank you to Crane Kenney and the Cubs front office for your support throughout the years.

“I couldn’t be more appreciative of my coaches and training staff.  They have been professional and supportive.  And thank you to my players for the successes we shared and their efforts.

“Finally, to the Cubs fans, thank you for four wonderful seasons.  You are the best, most deserving fans in all of baseball and it has been an honor to manage your ballclub.”

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts and General Manager Jim Hendry released the following statements:

“The Chicago Cubs are honored to have had Lou Piniella as our manager for the last four years,” said Ricketts.  “My family and I respect Lou’s decision to retire from the game he loves and thank him for his years of dedicated service.  He is an icon in the world of baseball and we are grateful for his time with this organization.”

“Lou helped raise the bar here for this entire organization and for that we’ll be forever thankful,” said Hendry.  “We understand he needs to be with his family and respect his decision to retire at this time.  We salute his tremendous career and wish him and his family long-term health and happiness.”

One of only five skippers to win at least three Manager of the Year Awards, including 2008 with the Cubs, Piniella retires the 14th winningest manager in major league history.  He enters this afternoon’s game with 1,835 wins in his near 23 big league seasons as a manager.  Piniella is the first Cubs manager in more than 70 years to post a record of .500 or better in each of his first three seasons leading the club.

Piniella enters his final game with the Cubs with a 316-292 record in his three-plus seasons in Chicago.  Only seven managers have won more games than Piniella in club history, while his .520 winning percentage is the best since Charlie Grimm’s .547 combined mark from 1932-38, 1944-49 and 1960 (minimum 500 games).  Piniella is the first Cubs manager in 100 years to lead the club to consecutive post-season appearances in 2007 and 2008.

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Game 123: Questioning Decisions

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Strike One – Watching the 9th inning yesterday gave me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. When Carlos Marmol walked the first hitter, it’s always a red flag that maybe bad things are on the horizon. Ryan Dempster did it in the 4th and the 6th innings and one of those runners came around to score. Instead, Marmol pumped three straight fastballs to Derrek Lee and simply over-matched him. Things looked good at that point until two more walks to McCann and Gonzalez. At that point, I pull Marmol. I don’t care if his strike out rate is a shade over 16 per 9 IP. When you’re wild like that it’s not going to end well more often than not and in my mind it’s better to scrap the closer at that point and go with anyone who can throw strikes and induce a ground ball. That guy was Sean Marshall, who is the only one on the staff (starters included) that have a GB/FB ratio over 1.00. He was available, has shown he can be reliable in tight situations and would have come in to face two favorable matchups. He would have turned Cabrera around to hit righty, which is not his strength, and faced a left handed Ankiel.

Strike Two – I can’t seem to understand the logic in recalling Wellington Castillo to replace Geovany Soto on the roster when he doesn’t get a lick of playing time. Since being recalled, he’s seen one start and just six plate appearances in favor of non-hitting, Koyie Hill. I love Hill. I like that he’s on the team….AS A BACKUP. If you’re going to elect to give him the starts in Soto’s absence, then why recall a kid that could use more at bats in the minors to get the experience? Let him ride it out till the end of the minor league season and then recall him to get a big league look. Instead, they should have made room on the 40-man roster for Robinson Chirinos to come up by putting John Grabow on the 60-day DL.

Strike Three – Along the same lines, now that Lee is gone, you’ve got to see what you have with Tyler Colvin at first base. At this point, it doesn’t matter if he gets killed over there because the losses that pile up just mean we draft a little closer to the top in June. Let him give it a shot to see if he can be the answer over there next year or if that is a postion we need to look outside the organization (via trade or free agent) to fill.

That’s Strike Three and I’m Out….

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GirlieView (08/20/2010)

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Hello and Happy Friday. Heard about (but didn’t see) DLee’s standing ovation and helmet-tip to the fans in his first at bat against the Cubs this afternoon. He’s a class act, I miss him, and I’m very happy the fans treated him as he deserved.

I’ve decided to conduct a little poll. Maybe I’ll do it every week, maybe not. We’ll see how it goes. For this week, we’ll gauge your continued interest in what has become (or always was?) a very disappointing 2010 Cubs season. Where in here do you stand?

a.) I still watch and enjoy every game.
b.) I still watch every game and enjoy very few.
c.) I watch when I can but this team is low on my list of August priorities.
d.) I can’t even watch anymore, too painful.

Or, heck, make up your own choice! I’m about a solid C myself. Maybe a C+. For some reason I still look forward to seeing the games when I can. It’s just that the “when I can” part seems to take on a notably different definition with each passing week. Things that I’d never let interfere at the beginning of the season easily displace the Cubs now. Like, enjoying a riveting Brady Bunch rerun. Doing laundry. Watching grass grow. It no longer takes much. How about you?

Ok, on with the week in review. Good quotes this week!!!

Lizzies

  • An even 20 games under .500 with the .300s looming in the future. What fun!!!
  • SWEET WHISTLIN GERONIMO that guy is slow.
  • I miss you Sherm
  • be fair. Lou hasn’t really blown that many games in the late innings. We are usually out of it far before that point.
  • I have to tell you that watching this game was better than putting a sharp stick in my eye, but not much better.
  • Wait a minute, I know I’ve been paying only loose attention lately, but we have a purple dinosaur playing in the infield?
  • once again this offense is making another decent pitcher look like a Cy Young candidate!
  • Matt Stairs is still alive? I had him in a dead pool 2 years ago.
  • With Lou Piniella’s upcoming retirement, your proud franchise will need a steady hand behind the wheel in 2011. I am officially offering my services.
  • When you are hired can I be named “Special Assistant to the Manager”? No duties, just a paycheck? Sort of like Crane Kenney.
  • Anyone who wears wristbands is welcome.
  • For the 7th inning stretch, just let Ron do it. He’s got more passion than anyone in the stadium, players included.
  • Kind of like when you seen an ex-girlfriend who you’re not really sorry you broke up with but you still kind of miss her and you want to be nice because you still want to be friends but you’re also bitter and disappointed and can’t believe things turned out this horribly after having such high hopes and yet she’s still cute and sometimes funny and you share all these memories and you know you’re never going to be able to completely cut off contact with her so you better not say what you really want to, which is…
  • Pretty sure Skip Caray is still dead, and thus his whining will be fairly soft.
  • I predicted a Latos shutout. If you look at it from that angle, the Cubs overachieved

Lizard

  • The Cubs started off pretty good, but eventually they reverted to their default setting which resembles a slow spiral descent into hell.

Wanna play Beat the Streak with us? You can find out all about it here. And, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (VFTB and/or GirlieView and/or Dave) and Facebook (VFTB and/or GirlieView).

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Game 122: Operation Shutdown

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Four home games, four straight losses. Such is life in Wrigleyville these days.

To be fair, I predicted a Latos shutout. If you look at it from that angle, the Cubs overachieved, right? OK, maybe not.

It was business as usual today as the extremely wild Carlos Zambrano gave up a Padres run in the top of the second. Despite six walks in six innings, Big Z was somehow able to keep the game within reach.

The Cubs battled back in the bottom of the sixth on RBI doubles by Byrd and Ramirez. The lead was short lived however, as the fading Sean Marshall surrendered four runs in 1/3 of an inning. The “offense” managed a meaningless run off closer Heath Bell in the ninth. Final score: 5-3.

A few bright spots from today’s game:

1)      Mataeo and Cashner threw two nice innings of relief

2)     Blake DeWitt was on base twice

3)     The weather was pleasant

4)     Nobody died

5)     Nobody was arrested

6)     Mike Ditka didn’t sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame”

I’m afraid my glass is less than “half full” these days.

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In the News: DLee, The Day After

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

 
chicago-cubs-photo-day

Greetings, Cubs fans. I’m in a marginally better mood today. Well, sorta. I still find myself looking ahead to each new Cubs game with a cornucopia of mixed emotions. Kind of like when you seen an ex-girlfriend who you’re not really sorry you broke up with but you still kind of miss her and you want to be nice because you still want to be friends but you’re also bitter and disappointed and can’t believe things turned out this horribly after having such high hopes and yet she’s still cute and sometimes funny and you share all these memories and you know you’re never going to be able to completely cut off contact with her so you better not say what you really want to, which is…aw, geez, this metaphor has gotten completely out of control. Let’s get on with the news:

Derrek Lee was traded! (← Click on that link for a really cool narrative of the deal by Fox Sports’ Ken “Robothal” Rosenthal.) Once again, Mark was in the right place at the right time with his game recap yesterday. He got to break the story that, indeed, the Chicago Cubs have traded first baseman Derrek Leon Lee to the Atlanta Braves for pitchers Robinson Lopez (the good one!), Jeffrey Lorick (the LOOGY) and Tyrelle Harris (the other guy). One minor point of clarification: The Cubs did not get to dump all of DLee’s $3.4 million salary — they agreed to pick up $1.7 of it.

That could turn out to be a wise choice as I’ve read generally positive reviews of the trade from all of the pundits I’ve managed to engage on the topic. Our own benevolent benefactor Rob Neyer says:

I can’t really fault the Braves for doing this deal. But unless Lee helps get them into the playoffs, the trade might look really, really silly in a few years.

And, when I posed the simple question of “How excited should Cubs fans be about Robinson Lopez?” to prospect expert Kevin Goldstein on Twitter. He replied back with:

“[I'm] shocked [the] Braves gave him up for [a] late rental.”

Basically, the deal here is that Lopez is a 19-year-old kid with great stuff and a ton of upside – we’re talking starting rotation upside. As intimated above, the other two dudes are more than likely bullpen candidates – Lorick probably winding up a lefty specialist and Harris due to become a middle reliever (at best), if not part of a future trade package. But Lopez could turn out to be a real steal from a Braves system known for its pitching, and he’s definitely worth keeping an eye on going forward.

All in all, it appears Trader Jim has done a good job getting prospects back for DLee as well as Ted Lilly and the Cajun Connection (great garage band from the 60s). I don’t think any of these trades are spectacular, but teams 21 games under .500 (sweet merciful pete) rarely make spectacular trades. Nonetheless, any of them could turn out to be quite fruitful if the Cubs get a solid, cheap, cost-controlled starting pitcher or if the Joey Gathright guy we got from the Giants turns out to be the second coming of Lou Brock. He’s on Twitter, y’know.

And should we mourn the loss of Derrek Lee? Well, yeah, of course. He was, overall, a great player for the Cubs – and one of the best first baseman in their long history. Derrek also appears to be a fine human being and one of the “nicer guys to ever play the game” as the cliche goes.

But, as I’ve probably written here before, it was time. His contract was just about up and the Cubs need to start plugging new and preferably young pieces into this team where spots are available. I thank Derrek for all the times I’ve screamed/typed/tweeted “DEEEEEEEEEEEEELEEEEEEEEEEEEE” after he jacked one into the bleachers or dug out one of Ryan Theriot’s dying goose throws. And I wish him all the best in the future — yeah, even with the Braves.

So what else is going on? Well …

Tyler Colvin is taking ground balls at first base.  So I guess we should have this debate. Good idea? Bad idea? I’m still not crazy about it for a couple reasons: 1) We still don’t know whether Colvin’s remarkable slugging this season is for real or whether it would hold up for a full season, and 2) It’s still a big detraction from Tyler’s value to turn a guy who can play all three outfield spots with pretty solid defense (at the corners at least) into a first baseman.

Then again, I think much depends on whether the Cubs can deal away Fukudome during (presumably) the off-season. If Kosuke must finish out his contract, maybe you give him back his starting job in right field and put Colvin at first base next season. They could presumably still move Tyler back to the outfield once Dome’s deal is up. Crazy? Kinda. But it would maximize payroll flexibility. Remember, when it comes to first basemen, The Big Three (Pujols-Gonzalez-Fielder) head to free agency in 2012.

Here comes Slammin’ Sammy.  No, not Sosa, though he does give a lengthy interview in the September issue of Chicago Magazine. (Details here.) I’m talkin’ about the Sammy who slams into walls. Fuld, that is. Short guy. Really smart. He’s been called up instead of Hoffpauir, because, as you might recall, Micah can’t be recalled until Monday due to an MLB rule calling for a restriction on recalling a player recently called up. Call me about it. We’ll talk.

They’re playing musical statues at Wrigley. The Cubs have announced they’ll be unveiling a Sweet Swingin’ Billy Williams statue at the corner of Addison and Sheffield. Sweet. Problem is, that means they’ll have to move the Harry Caray statue to the bleacher entrance, which has upset the Caray family.

Much like the Toyota sign brouhaha, this statue snafu does not inspire much passion in me. What’s the big deal? Didn’t Harry pretty much pass himself off as a “drink a Bud in the bleachers” kinda guy anyway? Wouldn’t he want to be heading up to bleachers to knock back a few cold ones and get a little crazy? And, y’know, let’s not forget Billy Williams actually played the game — and played it rather well, I might add. Check his stats: Billy freakin’ raked. He’s in the Hall of Fame. Move it or lose it, I say.

OK, that’s the news for today. D’oh — I guess I should turn on the game. It’s just starting as I finish this. Oh, and by the way, I’ll be at the game vs. the Braves on Saturday, so keep an eye on my Twitter page for some Twitpics and such. It’ll be awfully weird seeing DLee on the other side.

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Why Not Me: An Open Letter to Jim Hendry

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Dear Mr. Hendry (or whoever has his job in a few weeks),

With Lou Piniella’s upcoming retirement, your proud franchise will need a steady hand behind the wheel in 2011. I am officially offering my services.

True, I’ve never managed in the major leagues, or the minor leagues, or college, or high school. But hey, that didn’t stop Arizona from hiring A.J. Hinch (OK, bad example). Since I don’t have a won/loss record to impress you with, let’s take a closer look at what I bring to the table.

First, I promise to perfect my clichés. I have no problem telling curious reporters that “we’re going to turn this ship around,” or that “we have to take ‘em one game at a time,” or my personal favorite, “we need to learn how to win.” I’ll be a headline-writing machine for your ballclub.

Second, I vow to immediately bench any player who bunts in the first inning. Can your current color commentator and future managerial candidate make such a claim? Mr. Brenly gives away outs like my neighbor gives away tomatoes from his backyard garden. (NOTE: If you like tomatoes, I’d be happy to put in a good word for you.)

Third, my radical plan for the bullpen will take the league by storm. I have no problem using my best reliever in the 7th or 8th inning. It makes no sense to bring in your third best righty to face Albert Pujols with the bases loaded and hope that you still have the lead later. The garage is no place for a sports car (I’ll come up with a better analogy for my first press conference).

Last but certainly not least, Jeff Baker and John Grabow will never see the field on my watch. I’m sure Jeff and John are nice guys who love animals and volunteer time at the local youth center, but they are really bad at baseball. Let’s paint Koyie Hill with that brush as well.

You may take some heat for hiring a 40-year-old fan with no managerial experience, but as my good friend Pete Rose likes to say, “You have to bet big to win big.” Worst case scenario, you’ll knock Ozzie Guillen out of the Chicago news. I’ll even brush up on my Twitter skills for you.

Sincerely,

Buddy

(P.S. My Diamond Mind Baseball team is currently in first place. I have no Cubs on my 25-man roster.)

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