Archive for February, 2011

Chet’s Corner: The Bull and The Clown

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Mike Quade is slowly making his mark with the Chicago Cubs.  While it didn’t seem huge, and in the grand scheme of things might just be a small ripple in the 2011 season,  the Cubs new head coach planted his first stake in the ground bouncing Carlos Zambrano from the opening day starter roll in favor of Ryan Dempster.  Zambrano held the spot for the past six seasons. 

It is said the prideful Zambrano took it in stride.  One can be sure behind closed doors it lit a small fire under his ass.  However, who knows what the result of that fire will be.  Will we see the controlled fireballer who tossed a no-hitter late in 2008, or the mess that took place on opening day last year in Atlanta and spilled out into the rest of the seasons first half?  Will it be the 8-0 Zambrano of 2010’s second half or the one that makes us wonder about his sanity?

There are many players on this 2011 Cubs team that are teetering on the precipice.  Will this be their last big contract or is there some spark left in the tank?  Zambrano is one of those players. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that if he has another disaster ridden season that he will command top of the rotation attention in the future.  Many of you are saying, “take it easy on the guy, he went 8-0 to end the season last year” , I say so what……do it when it matters.  Do it when the pressure is on and the games mean something, not when we are at the bottom of the table.  Why would I say that?  Because this is when Big Z has imploded in the past.  When the stakes are high his emotions rise as does his pitch count.   I am not saying he is without success in these situations too,  he has had some, but it seems like it has been a while.  This season may provide some answers as to what Carlos’ future may hold.

I love the fact that Quade gave Dempster the official “staff ace” tag.  I like how he did the deed right out of the gate.  No messing around, just get to it.  I actually like the way he did it, and the fact that it took a nanosecond of spring training to do it, more then the decision itself.  I have to believe the choice was based on character and leadership more then anything else.   Not too mention a good bit of consistency.  Dempster has been the rock in the rotation for the past few years.  He does things the right way and he makes for a good ambassador.  Without being a stuffy jerk or a jackass gallivanting around town at all hours, he still manages to have his fun and take care of business.  He is known as the locker room prankster or clown but also leads the team on runs through the foothills of Mesa .  Nice balance if you ask me…..sounds a lot like a leader.

Understand this,  I am a fan of both of these pitchers.  Dempster is that shot of tequila when you need to even things out and Zambrano is a can of Red Bull that pumps energy into the game.  They can both shine in their own ways.  Dempster  to start the season is no saving grace but the concept does perk my ears.  Quade is trying some new things, some will work and some will not.  Let’s hope this little experiment gets the team off on the right foot.

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Tuesday Trivia: Name That Pitcher

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Leave all your guesses in the comment section. I’ll try to update periodically throughout the day. Good luck. Here are your clues:

  1. I was not born in the continental United States
  2. I pitched in three different decades, but only appeared for four different teams
  3. I was an All Star one time during my career and gave up all my team’s runs in my appearance.
  4. I never received a Cy Young vote, despite winning more than 150 games in my career.
  5. I led the league in batters faced twice and innings pitched once.
  6. My career winning percentage was .500 with an ERA of 3.75

Help me remember my name.

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GirlieView (02/21/2011)

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Good morning! Happy Presidents’ Day! I like writing a column on Monday, many good holidays to celebrate! We can also celebrate the fact that by the time I post next Monday’s column, the Cubs will have played their first Spring Training game! It’s vs. Oakland on Sunday at 2:05pm CT and will be broadcast on WGN Radio. Don’t miss the Presidents’ Day discussion question following the week in review.

Because we’ve got three new commenters qualifying for Lizzies this week, I thought it might be a good time to define them for people who aren’t familiar. “Lizzies” are awarded to the best quotes of the past week, found in the comments section or in other writers’ columns. I pick them myself, hence they are  highly subjective and I’m ok with admitting that. :-) I give Lizzies to comments I think are funny, poignant, timely, or those which make a point I’d have liked to make had I thought of it first!! I don’t award Lizzies to myself. The Lizard is the best of the Lizzies … the big winner of the week! There are no prizes. It’s just for fun. Enjoy!

Lizzies

  • The only benefit from trading Z is that he makes more money and that would free up cash for other things.
  • If we get Bob Newhart in the deal I send off Silva.
  • Both?
  • Tanner, Earl Weaver, Sparky Anderson and Tommy LaSorda were all in the same class in my book. True leaders that had longevity and respect from everyone, players, management and fans alike.
  • “I got ‘em boxed in like a turtle’s pecker.”
  • Who is Justin Bieber?
  • I think he’s one of the Muppets.
  • Isn’t Bieber the quarterback of the Patriots?
  • The Cubs are going to win 105 games in 2011. It’s spring training baby, shoot high, reality will hit soon enough.
  • It’s because when I wear [Fukudome’s] jersey people always try to read the name using English phonetics with hilarious results.
  • I’m really having trouble imagining this season without Ron Santo.
    there doesn’t seem to be any drama like in years past .
  • Got one massive pile of pitchers to pick from now, Quade does.
  • I have nothing to say about this trade except to say that I have nothing to say about it.
  • Pitchers and Catchers report………say it again with feeling……. PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT!!!!……..oh, that felt good.
  • like a starving animal trolling a Chicago alley for some kibble, we accept spring training with open arms.
  • Now if we could only get the offense to come around.
  • [Moreland is] knowledgeable, affable, and humble. And he hates Joe Morgan, but then, who doesn’t.
  • Keith has a -1.0 WAR (Wigs Above Ronnie)
  • More relevant is WAS, or “Wins Above Jeff Samardzija.”
  • It’s called the Cremaster index.
  • If there’s a position where you can hide a potent bat, LF is a fine choice. Having said that, the “hop” is simply intolerable.
  • If Quade is smart, and I think he is, he’ll rotate his outfielders in a way that maximizes their strengths and limits their weaknesses.
  • Let’s hope that they both stay healthy and perform well. Let’s hope that Quade knows how to read them and what to do with them. Let’s hope that the Cubs can pull off a great season in the midst of so many uncertainties.
  • My biggest beef with Soriano is his bad pitch recognition and the fact that most pitchers know not to throw him a fastball on the first pitch.
  • Would a new pair of glasses help him?
  • I know a guy.

Lizard

  • Hope is what ST is all about.

Presidents’ Day Discussion Question

While we honor our early leaders, let’s talk about leadership on the Cubs this season. Who do you feel will emerge as the team’s leaders? I don’t mean the coaching staff, I mean among the players. And, do you feel having good leaders on the roster is essential for a successful season?


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GO: Live and In Person

Friday, February 18th, 2011

The Cubs’ 2011 schedule is posted on cubs.com. If you could pick any three games to see this season (home or away) which would you choose and why?

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The Soriano Experiment

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

November 20, 2006, is a day I remember well.  The Cubs announced the signing of free agent Alfonso Soriano, who had just completed a 46-homer season with the Washington Nationals. Soriano was already 30-years-old, so I was very curious how many years were on his deal. Four? Five? Not even close.

The Cubs stunned the baseball universe by inking Soriano to an eight-year, $136-million deal. The contract included a no-trade clause. I was in my car when I heard the terms, and I almost drove off the road. I clearly recall my first thoughts that day: “He’ll be 38 when this contract expires. This could be the worst signing in the history of Major League Baseball.”

To be fair, the Cubs were desperate for offense, and LF was certainly a weak spot. To be objective, Soriano hasn’t been the massive bust that so many fans believe. In fact, he’s been pretty productive at the plate when healthy. Let’s quickly review his first four seasons in Chicago:

  • 2007—135 games, .299/.377/.560, 33 home runs in 579 at bats
  • 2008—109 games, .280/.344/.532, 29 home runs in 453 at bats
  • 2009—117 games, .241/.303/.423, 20 home runs in 477 at bats
  • 2010—147 games, .258/.322/.496, 24 home runs in 496 at bats

He hasn’t been Albert Pujols, but you could do much worse in LF than Soriano (just ask the Chicago White Sox). Now, here are a few common rebuttals to that approach:

  • “He’s not being paid to be good or respectable. The Cubs signed Soriano to a super-star contract.” Clearly, he hasn’t delivered on that promise.
  • “Soriano’s poor defense negates his offensive contributions.” Without starting a debate over measuring defense, I don’t agree with this statement. Yes, Soriano can be a liability in LF, but how many plays in a game does he actually affect? In 2010, Soriano had 217 chances in 147 games, which is roughly 1.5 per game. If there’s a position where you can hide a potent bat, LF is a fine choice. Having said that, the “hop” is simply intolerable.
  • “Soriano doesn’t get on base enough.” Even the world’s biggest Soriano fan can’t argue with this one. Unfortunately, the Cubs were well aware of this deficiency when they signed him. Thinking his approach would somehow magically change doesn’t make any sense.
  • “Soriano can’t run the bases anymore.” Yes, his stolen-base attempts are down, but I don’t see any issues with him scoring from second on a single or taking the extra base. That of course assumes his legs are healthy, which has been a problem. A quick side note…Personally, I don’t mind an often-injured player cutting down on his steal attempts.
  • “Soriano doesn’t hustle.” Comments about a player’s willingness to “hustle” are always intriguing. When I hear someone make a comment like this, my reaction tends to be along these lines: “How do you really know? Do you watch every game? If so, do you always focus on how this player runs the bases or plays his defensive position? How do you know he isn’t playing through an injury?” Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen Soriano dog it on more than one occasion. But does that make him so different from almost every single player in baseball? The season is six months plus. Is it so vital that a hitter sprints to first on an easy groundout to 2B? Food for thought anyway.

Enough about the past. What does 2011 hold for Soriano? “The Bill James Handbook” made the following prediction:

  • 2011—134 games, .257/.317/.474, 24 home runs in 483 at bats

That’s certainly a realistic expectation, but I’m putting my money on a slightly better campaign. While I’m sure Soriano will miss 30+ games, I see a bounce back in batting average, something in the neighborhood of .275-.280. I also think he’s still capable of better power than a home run every 20 at bats.

The good news for Cubs fans is Mike Quade has OF depth this season. If Soriano is nursing a sore hamstring, he sits. If the Cubs are facing a tough righty, maybe he gets the day off in favor of Colvin or Fukudome. If Quade is smart, and I think he is, he’ll rotate his outfielders in a way that maximizes their strengths and limits their weaknesses.

Will Cubs fans look back one day and celebrate the signing of Alfonso Soriano? I seriously doubt it. I know that I won’t. However, he has shown flashes of greatness and may still have a big season left in him. After all, he’s not 38 just yet.

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