Archive for October, 2010

Offseason Outlook: Catcher

Monday, October 18th, 2010

The goal of this series is to take a look at what we have in the system for each position as well as what might be available this off-season. We’ll start with the catcher position. Enjoy.

What We Have

Geovany Soto: (1st year arbitration eligible) – You’d have to imagine that Geo is locked in for the future with this organization. He had a nice rebound year after a bit of a sophomore slump and is among one of the best offensive catchers in the game at this time. He’s low priced and entering the first year of arbitration. The Cubs have a history of not taking things to that level, with the exception of Ryan Theriot last year, so you’d have guess that Geo will either get a one year deal to avoid arbitration or a deal that would buy out the three arbitration years. (Ranked: 6th in MLB in VORP among catchers with at least 200 plate appearances)

Koyie Hill: (2nd year arbitration eligible) – It’s tough to say what we’ll see happen with Hill this off-season. On one hand, I could see the Cubs bringing him back to serve as the backup catcher, but in 2010 he made $700k. A way to shed a small amount of payroll would be to decline to offer arbitration on Hill, essentially making him a free agent, then either discuss a lower salary or even a minor league deal. If he doesn’t want to do that, which I can certainly understand if he feels he can get a Major League job somewhere else, then you move on. At this point, for what he brings offensively, I think we’d be better off conserving money at the backup catcher position and going with youth from the system.

What is on the Horizon

Wellington Castillo – The top catching prospect in the system got a look at the Major League level late in the year when Geo went down, but didn’t see as much action as I’d have liked to see. He’s got power, but needs to work on hitting for average at a better rate. In under 300 plate appearances over the course AAA and ML, in 2010, he hit 14 HR and drove in 64. The drawback to those numbers is the low average and on base % (.259 / .318) and a 3 to 1 strike out to walk ratio.

Robinson Chirinos – Spent his 4th year in AA this year, hitting .318 / .412 / .580 before a promotion to AAA where he hit even better, .364 / .465 / .600. He’s not a top prospect in the system but probably deserves a look at this point.

Steve Clevenger – Versatile catcher that can also play 1B and 2B. Doesn’t hit the ball out of the park with any regularity, but has a decent arm and can hit the ball in the gap.

Notable Names Available via Free Agency

Brad Ausmus – Older than dirt, but still in the league.

Rod Barajas – Spent time with the Mets and the Dodgers in 2010. Nearing the tail end of his career, but may not be worth the money it would take to get him to serve as a backup.

Victor Martinez – One of the better offensive catchers in the game. He’ll probably be re-signed by Boston.

A.J. Pierzynski – I’m a big A.J. fan for the simple reason that he plays the game balls to the wall every minute he’s out there.

Jason Varitek – It’s hard to believe it, but this guy has been in the league for 14 years and has gotten old in a hurry.

Joe’s Best Course of Action

Overall, I’m satisfied with what we have in house at this position. I’d like to see Jim Hendry work out a deal with Geo to buy out his three arbitration years and go from there. He’s going to be the starting catcher for the next few years, at least until Castillo has a chance to fully develop his craft down on the farm. At that point you can evaluate what you have with Geo and either commit to him long term or go in a different direction with Castillo and look to move Soto before his contract his up. As far as the backup spot is concerned, I look to Chirinos to fill that spot for next year, not because I think he’s better than Castillo, but because he’s less valuable long term to the organization. This would allow Castillo to continue to get his at bats while giving a guy like Chirinos a chance to show he can hit at the Major League level. It would also allow us to at least have a shot at having some offensive ability behind the plate when Geo is off. For the last few years, when Soto has taken a day or two off, we’ve basically had to hope we got something from Koyie and that rarely happened. He handles the pitching staff well, but I’m going to save the money at this spot and go with youth to fill that backup role.

Three Questions

1. Do you believe in Geo as the future of this organization at the catcher position?

2. Would you like to see the Cubs bring back Koyie Hill as the backup? If not, who?

3. How good to you feel about the catcher position going into 2011?
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GirlieView (10/18/2010)

Monday, October 18th, 2010

“….. and she’s on the move again!!!!” Yes indeedy, here I am occupying GirlieView’s new and exciting Monday morning time slot! I’ve always been a morning person so this feels like it’s right where I belong. Not to mention it’s a pretty cushy slot for a blogger. Gracias, Joe!!!

We wrapped up the Annual VFTB Reader Survey thrilled with our 65 responses. (Well, 64. One person answered twice.) Today I’ll review some of the more objective results, then next week we’ll talk about some of the other responses including the great commentary and suggestions we received and how we’ll be using them.

These are pretty straightforward and we’ll use the results to make decisions about scheduling etc. And we’ll do a BTS game next year. :-) We’ll talk about the less-straightforward survey questions next week.

On to the week in review!


  • I’m the spawn of a maple tree.
  • If I hear one more announcer tell me that James Russell is the son of former big leaguer Jeff Russell, I may chop off my ears.
  • To say that Grabow was awful would be an insult to all things awful.
  • Bullschlit.
  • Giant Pile of Schlitt.
  • What a motley collection of stiffs.
  • The fact that Arizona parted with Scott Maine to get the great Aaron Heilman scares me.
  • I found it odd that Ricketts did the interviews.
  • Any day is a good day that starts with cold pizza!
  • Mexican, pizza, and Asian all take back seat to cold chicken.
  • How do I loath you? Let me count the ways.
  • I’m all for Lilly coming back, on a one- or two-year deal of course.
  • If the Cubs happened to land any of these guys for next year I would have an orgasm, stroke and heart attack simultaneously.
  • Lee is by far the best guy on the market and he would be a fool not to take the semi full of Benjamins the Yanks will gladly back right into his Arkansas estate.
  • Notta lotta good on that list…
  • Are you guys taking your morning cups of joe with kahlua?
  • Reason number 278 why the Cubs weren’t very good.


  • Nothing more satisfying in the morning than a bran muffin. Of course that would be the bran muffin that you eat the day before.

Monday Morning Discussion Question

(Well, maybe more a prediction than a discussion!) With both league championship series’ tied at a game apiece, who will play in the World Series?

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Management updates

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Earlier in the week Joe reported on an interesting interview that Cubs owner Tom Ricketts had. In this interview Ricketts seemed to indicate a course change insofar as the direction of the team. Rather than continue the trend of higher and higher spending on team salaries, it appears that the Cubs will attempt to grow more of their own talent and augment their needs (less) in free agency.

I’m in favor of this new approach – recently we’ve seen the Cubs throw money at players and what to we have to show for it? The best ballplayers we got were good deals – Ted Lilly and Myron Byrd to name two. And look at the guys we shelled out big bucks for – Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome and Carlos Silva (translate Milton Bradley.) Have they contributed anything near what their salaries seemed to command? No way.

There comes a time when management has to wright the ship – the Cubs must get better bang for their buck when it comes to their development system. Every year the Twins field a competitive team and they don’t do it through free agency. Here in Nashville we have a hockey team that has made it to the playoffs every year since 2003 with one exception – they do it by watching their wallets and developing players. Why can’t the Cubs do that? They won’t have to trade eleven players to stay under the salary cap like the Blackhawks did, they just have to develop the talent. So I’m in favor of Tom Ricketts’ approach – if what you’re doing doesn’t work then try a different approach. So let’s give the new ownership a few years to straighten this team out.

In other news it appears that Eric Wedge is going to accept the Seattle Mariners’ job and Bobby Valentine is on the outs. Phil Rogers has speculated that the Cubs are holding out to see what Girardi will do, but Will Carroll predicted that Mike Quade would be named next week as the Cubs manager and that Ryne Sandberg will be promoted to bench coach (Sun-Times writer Gordon Wittenmeyer disputes this prediction.) It’s very likely that Sandberg is holding out for a managerial job, as well he should. But would it be in his best interests to take the Pittsburgh or Toronto job if offered in instead of an internal promotion inside the Cubs organization? Methinks not – managing the Pirates is as close to career suicide as one can get and I don’t like the Blue Jays’ chances in the same division as the the Yanks, Rays and Bosox. Ryno should heed the advice of Kenny Rogers (the singer, not the ballplayer:) You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. I like Ryno but it’s not his turn to manage the Cubs; hopefully he’ll play his cards right and sit next to Quade next year in Wrigley Field.

Update (Saturday 10/16:) It is being reported that Ryne Sandberg is being considered for the Toronto job.

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Book Review: Got Fight?

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

The complete title of this book is “Got Fight? – The 50 Zen Principles of Hand-to-Face Combat”. The author is Forrest Griffin (with Erich Krauss). It was published in 2009.

This is a book about fighting and Mixed Martial Arts, but it’s fun and interesting. Because Forrest Griffin is fun and interesting.

Just so you know, Forrest Griffin is one of the top-ranked light-heavyweight mixed martial artists in the world.

There are a few testimonials on the back cover. The last one is the best one:
– “Forrest Griffin has written a masterpiece. Not since Hemingway has an author stimulated and tantalized the readers’ senses through such delicate and colorful prose. This book is destined to become one of the greats, an international bestseller for centuries to come. We should all remove our hats and bow to the genius of this thought-provoking work. Bravo, Griffin. Bravo.”

That testimonial was written by Forrest Griffin.

The book is dedicated to 13 entities, first of which is “To my stepfather, Clifford Abramson, for teaching me how to be a man.” It was his stepfather who told Forrest: “Beer is an acquired taste, so you might as well acquire a taste for cheap beer.”

As I said, the title of this book is “Got Fight?”, but Forrest came up with a few alternate titles on his own:
– Who Moved My Nose?
– Fist Meets Face
– Death Is a Journey and My Bags Are Packed – The Forrest Griffin Story
– Punch Drunk
– Face Full of Scars
– A Few Scars More (for the sequel)

Mr. Griffin discussed the importance, to a fighter, of getting the right manager: “By nature, managers tend to be sleazy people. A good manager is still sleazy, he just isn’t sleazy to you.”

Mr. Griffin went to college, and I believe he actually graduated. He was also a police officer at one time.

Forrest has a theory about the difference between those who call themselves “Martial Artists” and those who call themselves “fighters”. His theory is right on the money, although, as he himself points out, it is not universally applicable.

On the subject of cheating, Forrest opines: “I would rather be known as a cheater than a loser.”

Forrest discusses his relationship with fear: “…street fighting isn’t that big of a deal, so there is no reason to let your fear hinder you going out to the bars with your old lady. If you get whomped on, so what. A black eye will disappear and a broken nose can be mended. Fear is a good thing because it keeps you alive, but if it becomes so great that it hinders you from doing what you want, you need to confront it head-on.”

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
– “Right then I realized that I had been a nice guy, and nice guys have no business being in the ring.”

– “Most intelligent stockbrokers will tell us that the past is not a good indicator of the future, but it’s the best indicator we’ve got.”

– “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”

– “Everywhere you go, you have to tell them that they have the prettiest women on the planet.”

– “If you decide to fight, do so hard and fast and without mercy.”

As I said at the beginning, this book was fun and interesting, and I enjoyed reading it. Forrest Griffin has a great sense of humor (or maybe he’s just taken too many head shots), and this is an entertaining book. I recommend it to anyone, not just fighters and wannabe fighters.

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2010 Final Report Card

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Five of us have submitted our grades anonymously. The results have been compiled and yield the following result.

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