Archive for November, 2010

The Numbers Don’t Lie

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

It’s a curse really, but for some reason I can’t forget old jersey numbers. In all honesty there’s no real advantage to remembering that Tuffy Rhodes wore #25 or that Junior Kennedy sported #15.

In an effort to share my pain, here are a few current and former Cubs who quickly come to mind. Yes, it’s a waste of time and energy, but what else are we supposed to do in December? Watch the NBA?

#1—Larry Bowa and Dave Martinez…Both had good gloves, both couldn’t hit to save their lives. One is still on Ryno’s holiday card list. The other, not so much.

#2—Vance Law and Rick Wilkins…I remember being excited when the Cubs acquired Vance Law. I really didn’t know very much about baseball back then.  Maybe I still don’t.

#3—The only name I could remember was former manager Herman Franks. I’m sure I’m missing somebody obvious. I sure wish I could include Dale Murphy on the list.

#4—The great Jeff Blauser and “Fast” Freddie Bynum wore this number with pride!

#5—Nomar Garciaparra and Carlos Zambrano punching bag Michael Barrett are perhaps the most famous #5’s.

#6—Keith “Zonk” Moreland. Great nickname, decent bat, terrible glove. Speaking of terrible gloves, wasn’t Ron Coomer #6?

#7—Say it with me…“Jody, Jody, Jody!” In addition to Jody Davis, Tyler Houston wore lucky #7. It must be a catcher thing.

#8—After briefly sporting #11, Andre Dawson settled on #8 in 1987. I’m pretty sure Gary Gaetti took his signature number in 1998.

#9—Damon Berryhill, Juan Pierre, and Reed Johnson were the first names I could think of.  Too bad Roy Hobbs didn’t play for the Cubs.

#10—I still can’t lose the mental picture of Leon “the Bull” Durham misplaying that grounder during the 1984 playoffs. I guess that’s why the man upstairs invented therapy. Other #10’s include Dave Kingman and Hall of Famer Ron Santo (number retired).

#11—The first player who popped into my head was Luis Salazar. Why do I always remember the most forgettable Cubs? Speaking of which, Ivan DeJesus and Jacques Jones make the list.

#12—Long live the Shawon-O-Meter! And we can’t forget Dusty Baker, “dude.”

#13—Hopefully this number will be retired one day, as it belongs to future superstar Starlin Castro. However, if Cub luck has anything to say about it, Castro will be a major bust whose memory tortures fans for decades to come. You know, like Gary Scott (who was #25 by the way).

#14—Number retired for Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks. However, I looked it up, and here are some #14’s who blazed the trail for the Hall of Famer: Charlie Root, Larry French, and Vallie Eaves. Who says you can’t learn anything useful on the Internet?

#15—In addition to the aforementioned Junior Kennedy, this bunch includes Davy Lopes and the legendary Kevin Orie. It’s hard to believe, but Orie is only 38 years old. I wonder what he’s doing now. Selling insurance? Pumping gas? Tweeting? Chasing popsicle sticks down a gutter on a rainy day?

I know you’re on the edge of your seat, but I think I’ll stop right there (for now). Stay tuned to see how many crappy Cubs I can come up with between 16 and 30!

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GirlieView (11/29/2010)

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Happy Monday! Hope everyone enjoyed the long weekend as much as I did. Let’s get right to the VFTB week in review! Don’t miss our discussion question at the end!

Lizzies

  • Grabow, Diamond, and Coleman. Sounds like a crappy law firm.
  • 1 zambrano 2. zambrano and 3. maybe zambrano
  • Gotta love the grease fire that is the Vikings right now, though.
  • What the hell am I supposed to do while at work during the summer? Work?!
  • We don’t need to cheapen it by adding more teams. The teams should just get better.
  • I just pimp-slapped my own arguement with logic.
  • No to adding more teams. Just get rid of the moronic Wild Card rule of not letting division teams play each other.
  • I’m a purist on this one. Eight is almost too many in my book.
  • No to more teams in the playoffs. earn your spots with good seasons, not average ones.
  • For $12 million the Cubs got 112 saves and a one-sided fight with a drunken fan. That’s a victory in my book.
  • However, since we are a Cubs blog, I think it is high time we list a few things we are thankful for as Cubs fans.  We spend every other hour of our waking time listing the shortfalls of following the Cubs, why not give some thanks on Thanksgiving Day?
  • Exciting young players like Starlin Castro, Geovany Soto, and Tyler Colvin.
  • An amazing history (even if part of it has to do with losing for over a decade)
  • Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg, & Ron Santo (to name a few)
  • The fact that I am not a Cardinals fan.
  • I’m thankful that Dusty Baker is managing somewhere else.
  • I give thanks today for WGN
  • Also I am thankful that, in the absence of championships, the Chicago Cubs STILL have the greatest fans, ballpark, and uniforms in major league baseball.
  • Thankful that this year has made me a little more bitter, but hasn’t killed my love for the Cubs.
  • I am thankful that they haven’t replaced “Take me out to the ball game” with that awful “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley.

Lizard

  • Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Remember, with each passing holiday the baseball season inches closer.

Monday Morning Discussion Question

Last week Bobbi Wickham brought up an interesting point about seeing someone with a Cubs Milton Bradley jersey, and pondered the reasoning. That got me to thinking …. I’m sure we all have some player t-shirts/jerseys in our closet we may regret owning. Or maybe we’re proud of them. What player-named apparel do you own? I’ll start it off. My jersey is blank but I’ve got t-shirts of Geovany Soto (of course), Ryan Theriot, two DLees, and a Reed Johnson. Not ashamed of any of them. Who do you have? And, do you regret any?


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MVP and Rookie of the Year – Who Should Have Won?

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Now that the Rookies of the Year and Most Valuable Players have been announced, which players were most deserving?

Josh Hamilton won the American League MVP by a comfortable margin, but Total Runs (see below) and other analytical metrics depict a closer race. While Hamilton sat out much of September resting an injury, Robinson Cano and Jose Bautista kept producing and surpassed Hamilton in the Total Runs standings, with Bautista edging Cano by a single run in the end.

AL MVP Candidates
Player Total Runs fWAR bWAR
Jose Bautista 158 6.9 5.6
Robinson Cano 157 6.4 6.1
Josh Hamilton 145 8.0 6.0
Felix Hernandez 144 6.2 6.0
Evan Longoria 143 6.9 7.7

While Fangraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) still rates Hamilton as the best in the league, Baseball-Reference’s version (bWAR) prefers Evan Longoria and gives Cano the edge over Hamilton. MVP runner-up Miguel Cabrera’s weak defense at first base dragged him below the analytical leaders, making any of Bautista, Cano, or Hamilton an acceptable choice. Personally, I would have voted for Cano.

Over in the National League, the analytics say that NL MVP Joey Votto was the right choice. He led a competitive field with 148 Total Runs, and also led in the Fangraphs version of WAR. Matt Holliday finished twelfth in MVP voting but second in Total Runs with 146, while MVP runner-up Albert Pujols finished third with 144.

NL MVP Candidates
Player Total Runs fWAR bWAR
Joey Votto 148 7,4 6.2
Matt Holliday 146 6.9 5.5
Albert Pujols 144 7.3 7.2
Carlos Gonzalez 143 6.0 4.5
Jayson Werth 140 5.0 5.2
Ryan Zimmerman 140 7.2 5.3

The American League rookie crop was thin, but Total Runs loved Austin Jackson’s full season of production at the plate and in Detroit’s center field. The voters, however, selected Neftali Feliz, who had an excellent season as the closer for the AL’s eventual champion. Both versions of Wins Above Replacement suggest that Brian Matusz deserved better than three third place votes he received. I’m good with Feliz winning despite Jackson’s bigger Total Runs figure.

AL ROY Candidates
Player Total Runs fWAR bWAR
Austin Jackson 134 3.8 2.5
Brennan Boesch 75 0.6 1.3
Neftali Feliz 73 1.7 2.4
Brian Matusz 71 2.7 3.1
John Jaso 67 2.5 2.4

In any other year, several NL rookies would have had a chance at the award. The voters turned this into a two-man race between Total Runs leader Jason Heyward and late May call-up Buster Posey, with Posey winning in the end. Total Runs and both versions of WAR prefer Heyward’s full season of production, but the voters might be figuring that Posey would have surpassed Heyward’s number if he hadn’t spent two months in AAA. I would have voted for Heyward, but Posey’s choice is fine as well.

NL ROY Candidates
Player Total Runs fWAR bWAR
Jason Heyward 123 5.0 4.4
Ike Davis 102 3.4 2.5
Gaby Sanchez 94 2.4 0.7
Buster Posey 92 3.9 3.0
Starlin Castro 90 2.0 0.4

A few words about Total Runs and Runs Created. In The Fielding Bible—Volume II, we introduced “Total Runs”, a method to combine a player’s offensive and defensive contributions into one number. Total Runs incorporates a hitter’s Runs Created and Baserunning Runs on offense with his Runs Saved and a Positional Adjustment on defense to fairly compare players across different positions.

Since then, we’ve added Pitching Runs Created (PRC), an effort by David Gassko of The Hardball Times to translate a pitcher’s performance to the same scale as a hitter’s Runs Created.

Since relievers often pitch in more crucial situations, their performance is more valuable than their statistics would otherwise suggest. We can measure the significance of the situation each pitcher faces with Leverage Index. The average situation has a 1.0 Leverage Index, while a tie game at the start of the bottom of the ninth rates at 2.3.

We account for pitchers’ performance under pressure by multiplying their Pitching Runs Created by their average Leverage Index over the course of the season.

“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week™, www.statoftheweek.com.”

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Bigger Than The Game

Friday, November 26th, 2010

The complete title of this book is “Bigger Than The Game – Bo, Boz, The Punky QB, And How The ‘80s Created The Modern Athlete”. It was written by Michael Weinreb, and was published in August 2010.

I must say, the biggest reason I picked up this book, was because there’s a photo of the Punky QB on the cover, and, being a lifelong Bears fan, I was curious.

There is a testimonial for this book on the back cover. It is accurate. Here it is:
- “There was a time when sports were mostly legend; today, they’re mostly marketing opportunities. Michael Weinreb has figured out when that evolution happened and how that transformation worked. Deeply researched and kinetically narrative, “Bigger Than The Game” is technically about the year 1986, but it’s actually about the jarring recognition of a new reality we can’t escape.” Chuck Klosterman

Let me add that although most of the action takes place in the middle 1980s, the preambles began earlier, and the ramifications continue to this day.

The inside front jacket cover tells us: “A mesmerizing look at the era when athletes became superstars, mavericks replaced heroes, and sports moved to the forefront of American culture.”

The inside back jacket cover states: “…’Bigger Than The Game’ recounts how excess, media, and the lust for fame changed American sports forever.”

Author Michael Weinreb has been a regular contributor to “The New York Times”, “Newsday”, and ESPN.com. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

The title and the photos on the front cover of the book suggest that “Bigger Than The Game” is about Bo Jackson, Brian Bosworth & Jim McMahon. While those three constitute a large part of the narrative, Michael Jordan, Len Bias, Ronald Reagan, Barry Switzer, Mike Ditka, the 1985 Bears & The Super Bowl Shuffle, Chris Berman & ESPN, Jimmy Johnson and the Miami Hurricanes, Joe Paterno and the Penn State Nittany Lions, Nike, and others also are presented.

In a discussion about the use of drugs by athletes, the following observation is included:
- “’Early in use, all of the positive things about cocaine are true,’ one researcher told The New York Times. ‘As use continues, all the negative things become true’.”
Wow! That description applies to a lot of things.

I learned quite a bit about Jim McMahon’s background, including: where he came from; why he went to BYU; how he enjoyed life among the Mormons; the 1985 Super Bowl Bears; and the Super Bowl Shuffle. On the subject of McMahon’s recruitment to Brigham Young University, Jim’s father is quoted as telling a lead BYU recruiter: “My son’s going to school to play football. I don’t want him to take all those religion classes.”

In discussing the phenomenon of the Super Bowl itself, the author observes that “…the game was becoming less about the game and more about the show surrounding the game”.

Weinreb researched the origins of the Nike Company’s affiliations with athletes, and states that Nike was: “…on the verge of becoming a ‘brand’, of discovering that the real work, as author Naomi Klein wrote, ‘lay not in manufacturing but in marketing’.”

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

- “Let us tell those who fought that war that we will never again ask young men to fight and possibly die in a war that our government is afraid to let them win.”

- “The American ideal is not just winning; it’s going as far as you can go…”

- “This was a new breed of college football team, an NFL developmental squad disguised as amateurs.”

- “McMahon doesn’t watch much football anymore. He finds the precision and repetition and the careful and conservative marketing of the modern quarterback to be dull and robotic; even the controversies seem contrived, the celebrations lifelessly choreographed.”

- “…he merely responded by saying that he’d never had to use the word ‘job’ in his entire post-NFL career.”

I enjoyed reading “Bigger Than The Game”. It’s apparent that I knew very little about the perfect storm involving athletes, sports & marketing which exploded in the 1980s. There is enough background information here to hold the interest of any sports fan.

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Chet’s Corner: Why not, after all it is Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

There is no other holiday like Thanksgiving.  It’s a social holiday.  It’s the type of holiday you can end up spending with anybody.  It is also the type of holiday that brings out the best in conversation.

It is a great time to reflect or reminisce.  Above all, in the end, it is time to give thanks.

However, since we are a Cubs blog, I think it is high time we list a few things we are thankful for as Cubs fans.  We spend every other hour of our waking time listing the shortfalls of following the Cubs, why not give some thanks on Thanksgiving Day?

I will kick it off with five things I am thankful for as a Cubs fan……

1) Exciting young players like Starlin Castro, Geovany Soto, and Tyler Colvin.

2) An amazing history (even if part of it has to do with losing for over a decade)

3) Kind of a long one……As a kid in Detroit, I grew up rooting on the Tigers with my dad.  In the early nineties things got so bad, with not only the Tigers but baseball itself, that I fell out of love with the game as did my father.  In the mid to late nineties I moved to Chicago and found the Cubs.  While it took some time to cling on to them as a team, watching them did get me back into the game.  Fast forward to 2003…..my dad swore off baseball until he witnessed the playoffs in 2003, with my encouragement of course.  While following the Cubs through this emotional, yet exciting post season run, he realized what he was missing.  He immediately started following the Tigers again the following season in spring training.  For the next four years, up until his passing, we bantered on and on about baseball as if we never missed a beat from my childhood.  There is something very strange about the game and the way it can grab a father and son.  If it wasn’t for baseball and the Cubs turning my head back to the game, we would have talked plenty, but they helped spice things up a bit.

4) Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg, & Ron Santo (to name a few)

5) The fact that I am not a Cardinals fan.

Well, that’s my five in a nutshell, what about you guys?

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

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Good Call: Randy Myers

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

On December 9, 1992, the Cubs signed Randall Kirk Myers to be their new closer. Little did we know how nasty the former “Nasty Boy” could be.

Myers was coming off a shaky season, but the change of scenery served him well. In 75.1 innings, he saved a staggering 53 games, punching out 86 batters and compiling a 3.11 ERA. The strike-shortened 1994 season was another solid campaign for Myers. He was named to the National League All Star Team and finished the year with 21 saves in 40.1 innings.

In 1995, Myers turned in another strong effort, saving 38 games in 55.2 innings. Cub fans may remember a bizarre incident that took place that September. After giving up a two-run homer to James Mouton, the lefty closer found himself in a fight with an intoxicated fan who jumped the wall and charged the mound. The scuffle turned out badly for said fan, as the 230-pound Myers was also a black belt in karate.

Myers filed for free agency that off season and ended up signing with the Baltimore Orioles. By 1998, he was out of baseball at the age of 35. In 14 seasons he racked up an impressive 347 saves.

Considering the Cubs terrible history with relief pitchers, the Randy Myers experience has to be considered an overwhelming success. For $12 million the Cubs got 112 saves and a one-sided fight with a drunken fan. That’s a victory in my book.

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In the News: Time for a new Wrigley?

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Headlines

Is it time for a change of scenery?

We talk all the time about players needing a change of scenery to either resurect the talent that is within or bring it out to begin with. I’ve been a proponent of this with Carlos Zambrano for quite some time now. In addition to players, maybe it’s time to take a l0ok at this concept when it comes to the venue. Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune had a pience recently in which he discuss this concept when it comes to Wrigley Field.

It would allow the team to hire better players and pamper them in style. The architect could lovingly re-create the treasured features of the existing stadium, while omitting the shortcomings. So they should be thinking of how to make the best of their location. A new park would rid the Cubs of their maintenance headaches, while providing them better ways to relieve fans of cash — lots of luxury boxes, better dining, new shops and diversions. (Source)

I’ve never understood why people are so in love with the ballpark. Is it the ivy? Perhaps it’s the manual scoreboard? The troughs? Whatever it is, with the exception of the age and history (of losing) those things can be incorporated into the new park. I just don’t see what the problem is. If you’re into online sports betting, especially with an emphasis on baseball betting, I’d bet the fact that Wrigley will, unfortunately, always be a part of the Cubs. Whether that’s a good thing or not, I’m not sure.

Discussion Question: Would you be opposed to the Cubs moving to a new ballpark?

Slow your roll on more playoff teams

Phil Rogers of the Tribune recently reported that MLB discussed the idea of expanding the playoff format from 8 teams to 10 teams as early as 2012. According to Rogers, “Major League Baseball adjourned its quarterly ownership meeting Thursday without taking action on commissioner Bud Selig’s recommendation”

In my opinion, this is a good suggestion for a number of reasons as long as it’s done correctly. First, by allowing more teams into the mix, it allows the fans a larger chance that their team will be playing in meaningful games come September. There’s nothing worse than when your team is basically out of contention in late July / early August. It makes the off-season longer because you have no desire to watch your team during the remainder of the regular season, but you can’t see them get better until November at the earliest. Adding additional playoff teams means more teams in the hunt longer. That’s better for baseball. Second, it gives the Cubs an even greater chance of making the post-season, which increases the chance of winning the World Series. At this point, that’s all I want to see.

The only thing that would prevent this proposal from being a good one would be to see MLB screw it up by allowing the season to run into November as a result. The season is already too dang long so adding more teams has disasster written all over it. Either shrink the season to 154 games, eliminate / drastically reduce the off days in the playoffs, or go with some schedule double headers in the regular season, but don’t let baseball be played in November.

Discussion Question: Are you in favor of increasing the number of teams in the playoffs from 8 to 10? How would you address the length of serason issue to accomodate the change?

Bye Bye Larry

The Cubs sent out a statement the other day announcing the new that Larry Rosthchild has decided to take a three year deal with the Yankees. As a reult, he was released from the contract he had with the Cubs. It seems like there are two schools of people when it comes to Rothschild. Either you hate him and think he ruined some of the pitchers in the organization or you think he’s one of the better pitching coaches in the game. I tend to fall into the latter camp for a few reasons. First, He’s been the one constant through all the managerial hiring and firings. The new manager has always seen fit to keep him on staff. Second, whenever he’s mentioned by anyone considered to be a baseball expert of some sort, he’s always spoken of very highly. This, in my opinion, is a big loss for the Cubs moving forward. It will be interesting to see how the position is addressed. The Cubs have said they expect to have a hiring in place sometime soon after Thanksgiving. It will probably be someone from within the organization. Time will tell what effect that will have on the staff in 2011 and beyond.

Carrie Muskat listed some potential replacements from within the orgainization on her blog:

* Mark Riggins: The 2010 season was Riggins’ third as the Cubs’ Minor League pitching coordinator. He handled the same duties with the Cardinals for 12 seasons and spent 29 seasons in the St. Louis organization.

* Lester Strode: This past season was Strode’s 22nd with the Cubs and fourth at the Major League level. He has been the Cubs’ bullpen coach for the last four seasons. Prior to that, he was the Cubs’ Minor League pitching coordinator from 1996-2006. He pitched in the Minors from 1980-88 with the Royals, Orioles, Cardinals and Cubs.

* Dennis Lewallyn: The 2010 season was “Lew’s” fourth as Double-A Tennessee’s pitching coach. He spent 11 seasons in the Diamondbacks’ system before joining the Cubs, and was Arizona’s Minor League pitching coordinator from 2002-06. As a player, he made his Major League debut in 1975 with the Dodgers and played eight seasons, including stints with the Rangers and Indians.

* Mike Mason: Mason pitched for the Cubs in 1987. The 2010 season was his third as Triple-A Iowa’s pitching coach, and his 18th year in coaching. He was the Royals’ Minor League pitching coordinator in 2007 after handing the roving pitching coordinator duties from 2004-06. He’s also worked in the Phillies’ Minor League system.

Discussion Question: How do you feel about the loss of Larry Rothschild?

Transactions

Mark Johnson and Brad Snyder have become free agents.

Chris Archer, Brandon Guyer, Kyle Smit, and Alberto Cabrera have all been added to the 40 man roster.

Brian LaHair has re-signed with a minor league deal.

I’m a fan of Archer primarly because he went to H.S. roughly 800 feet from my office. I never saw him pitch, but he’s developed nicely since coming over as a part of the Mark DeRosa trade. As far as LaHair, I think he’s got a legit shot at competing for the first base job if the Cubs don’t go out and bring in a high priced free agent to fill that spot. At the very least he should be given a look as the backup now that Micah Hoffpauir is off in Japan slaying pigs as part of the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Trivia

What follows below are three clues to consider when guessing the mystery ballplayer. See how many clues it takes before you can correctly guess. Start with clue # 1 and work your way through. Good luck. If you’re interested in more of these, they can be found in the book, Name that Ballplayer by Wayne Stewart

Clue # 1 – In 1967 this man carried his club to the American League pennant by hitting .523 over the last 12 games with five homers and 16 RBI. His team required a sweep of a season-ending doubleheader in order to prevent a three-way tie with the Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins, and this man, a proverbial one-man wrecking crew, went 7-for-8 with five runs driven in.

Clue # 2 – He is better known by his three-letter nickname than by his difficult to spell alphabet soup of a last name.

Clue # 3 – He won the Most Valuable Player award and a Triple Crown in the 1967 season, known to Red Sox fans as “The Impossible Dream” year. In the meantime, his .301 average in 1968 represents the lowest average that was good enough to win a batting crown.

Click for the Answer

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GirlieView (11/22/2010)

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Good Monday morning and Happy Short Week! I truly love Thanksgiving week and I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday in whatever spirit you choose to celebrate. In the meantime, let’s talk Cubs! Last week our discussion question asked you to list your favorites on the current roster. Using my special Girlie-version of sabermetrics (cough) I tallied up the results and here’s how it ended up:

1. Ryan Dempster
2. Geovany Soto
3. Carlos Marmol
Honorable mentions to Marlon Byrd, Starlin Castro, Randy Wells!

Lizzies

  • It’s kind of sad that my list of favorite players is completely different than who I would have picked last year.
  • Occasionally a hot dog wrapper’s worth of news will blow by but outside of that it’s rather stale and vacant.
  • how about another 4 years, yah, something similar to the massive failure we just endured?
  • The first half he is worth 2.5 and the last half of the season he is worth 500K.
  • Each year it becomes more obvious that the people who vote for gold gloves basically have no idea what they’re doing.
  • It will not be Micah Hoffpauir.
  • teach the kid to love the Cubs…he’ll learn how to lose with dignity soon enough…
  • it’s a sad day when your 10 year old can stick handle around you like you are a tree

Lizard

  • I throw games for personal satisfaction…the happier my wife is, the happier I am.

Monday Morning Discussion Question

As promised, today’s your opportunity to list your three least favorite Cubbies on the current roster. I’m not a big fan of negativity so please be nice about it. :-) I’ll start. My three least favorite Cubs are (in no particular order): John Grabow (ok, maybe he was in order), Alfonso Soriano, and Carlos Zambrano. I’m sure they’re all lovely men and because it’s Thanksgiving week I’m thankful for them, I’m just not thankful they are Cubs. Your turn!


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GO: Ricketts

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Has the purchase of the team by the Ricketts family made the Cubs organization (overall) better, worse, or no change?

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