Archive for March, 2011

The 2011 VFTB Prediction Competion

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

The time has come for the big announcement of the game to be played this year on VFTB. You might remember that last year we played Beat the Streak each day. That was a fairly successful game, but got tedious down the stretch to manually calculate on a daily basis. This year, I wanted to make the game we played both easier to calculate the winner, but also more fun and beneficial to play. Enter this year’s game sponsored by Wrigleyville Sports.

The VFTB Weekly Prediction Contest
Official Rules

  • Each week, on Friday morning, we will open the ballot for predictions on five questions for the games running that Mon – Fri. Questions will, for the most part, be Cubs related but may vary based on what is going on in the season. Each entry must be completed in full with guesses for each of the five questions. Ballot locks Monday morning at 7am Eastern time.
  • Stats will be compiled based on the total number someone is off on each of the five questions. The entrant deemed to be the closest cumulatively among the five questions will be awarded the weekly prize from the VFTB prize pool and be entered to compete in the playoff edition come October for the grand prize, a $100 gift certificate to the Wrigleyville Sports online store.
  • You may win more than once over the course of the season, so continue to play. Each time you win it gives you that many more chances to play come playoff time for the grand prize.
  • Winners and questions will be announced in the Funtastic Friday post each week, with winners being notified via e-mail to confirm and claim their prize.
  • You can always check the status of the contest winners as well as enter your ballot on the official contest page, here.

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Chet’s Corner: They did what?

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

It is the eve of the 2011 MLB season and I find myself with rogue thoughts running through the open void known as my head.  The surprising characteristic most of these thoughts share is positivity.

I’ve been down on the Cubs for so long you can practically see it dripping from each word I write.  Bad signing after bad signing….macaroni noodle after Toyota sign….long before Milton Bradley etched his name on a Cubs contract my demeanor was ugly. Yes, for the record I hated the deal from the moment its concept was uttered.  However, like a scorned lover I came back for more….time and time again.


This past week Cub fans have experienced a cleansing of sorts.  The release of Carlos Silva was something unexpected to most of us.  It snuck up on me like a shart.  In typical Cubs fashion it ended like one too and if you have not heard about the messy fallout then read here.

Regardless of how it came to an end it signifies one important thing; a change in philosophy and the end of the Milton Bradley era.   While I don’t think the Cubs are moving mountains with his dismissal, I do feel like the organization is trying to turn a corner.  They decided to serve the youth of the organization at the expense of a bloated contract.  Granted, that corner could take another season or so to negotiate, at least the wheel is turning.

So I ask you VFTB nation, does this move give you hope? maybe a shred?

Or do you feel were better suited with Silva in the rotation?

A summer of baseball…….

I have decided to attempt something ridiculous.  I recently purchased the MLB TV package from  I did this in an effort to catch more Tigers games (yes, I am a Detroit native and Tiger fan.)  I chose this instead of Directv’s package.  No reason other then cost.  My new goal, however,  is to follow one team from each division for the entire season.  Insane, yes! Doable, yes! Will it happen for the whole season…..we’ll see!

My hope is to gain more knowledge about the league as a whole.  Plus, I need baseball to watch when the Cubs have a day game and such.  It’s always good to have on in the background too.

My question to the readers…….what team should I follow from each division?

Currently, I follow the Tigers, so they are my AL Central team.  The Cubs are obviously my NL Central team.  I have no other real allegiances so the East and West divisions in both leagues are up for grabs.

I do however have a few teams that I refuse to follow:




I fall into a dreary slumber watching these guys play….no thanks.



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Braves over Red Sox in 7 to cap off wild MLB season

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Over the weekend, I finished up work on my time machine – it’s built out of an early-80s Delorean, hover-converted, but runs off of Milwaukee’s Best rather than Mr. Fusion – and the first thing I did was travel back to 1908 so that I could see the Cubs win a World Series in my lifetime. After that, though, I decided to travel forward a bit – to October 2011, in fact – to get a copy of the season summary post that I’m going to write after the final out of the World Series is made. Here, in its entirety, is that post. I can not be held accountable to any destruction of the space-time continuum that results from your reading of the contents within.

Braves New World

“We just treated this series like we treated the regular season. One win at a time,” said Tommy Hanson. “Today, well, today proved that all of that work paid off.” Hanson went 8 shutout innings for the Braves, as they closed out their first World Series title since 1995, defeating the Boston Red Sox in a stunning climax to a memorable 2011 season.

Of course, for anyone who watched this Braves team during the season, it was clear that it was one that could never be counted out. From their wire-to-wire NL East championship in which they had to hold off the Wild Card-winning Philadelphia Phillies and the late-surging Florida Marlins, sweeping the Colorado Rockies in the NLDS after coming in as heavy underdogs, and their comeback from 3-to-1 down in the NLCS against those same Phillies, the Braves showed the kind of resiliency one would expect out of a champion.

That’s not to say there wasn’t some luck involved, though. The Braves capitalized on the early-season malaise of the Phillies’ offense – an offense that didn’t really get going until the acquisition of Matt Kemp from the Dodgers at the trading deadline and the return of Chase Utley in mid-August. The 10 1/2 game lead the Braves built was able to stand, though by the end of the season it had evaporated to just 1. Also lucky for Atlanta was the injury that Red Sox starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano – another midseason acquisition – suffered in the ALCS against the A’s. Zambrano – who went 9-1 down the stretch for Boston – had won his first 2 playoff games for the Red Sox and helped stabilize a rotation decimated by the injuries and ineffectiveness of Josh Beckett, John Lackey, and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Dan Uggla – whose 42 home runs led the Braves during the regular season – was named World Series MVP after hitting .429 with 11 runs knocked in, while Hanson’s 2 wins showed why many believe he could be a serious challenger to Roy Halladay for the NL Cy Young Award this year.

Red Sox Nation Comes Up Just Short

Early in the season, the Red Sox had established that they were the team to beat in the American League East with a fast start punctuated by likely MVP Adrian Gonzalez hitting home runs in 7 straight games. Pitching inconsistency, however, caused the Sox to come back to the back, and it was a 5-team race for much of the summer thanks to the improvement of both the Blue Jays and the Orioles. The parity amongst all 5 clubs was the primary reason that the Wild Card didn’t come from the East this year, as the unbalanced schedule forced the teams to pound on each other all summer long. Boston put the division away with a 12-game win streak in September that included sweeps of the Blue Jays, Rays, Orioles and Yankees, with the aforementioned Zambrano picking up wins in 3 of those games. The biggest of those was likely his 1-0 duel with presumptive AL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson on September 15th that knocked the Rays – then in 2nd place – to 4 games out, a deficit they would never make up.

Philly Phizzle

Though Philadelphia would recover from its early-season swoon to win the Wild Card, it wasn’t without its share of questions about the team. Roy Halladay was his typical dominant self, and Cole Hamels vaulted himself into the next echelon of starting pitchers, but the 12 starts that Cliff Lee missed mid-season with an oblique injury and Roy Oswalt’s 5.00-plus ERA were too much for a Phillies team struggling to score runs to overcome. It took a miracle late season surge led by Lee’s and Utley’s return for the Phils to claim the Wild Card on the season’s last day, just edging Milwaukee for the berth.

No More Cellar-Dwelling

Neither the Kansas City Royals nor the Pittsburgh Pirates finished in last place this year, which was a remarkable achievement for both moribund franchises. And though they both fell short of .500 records – 73 wins each, ironically – both clubs got some glimmers of hope for the future. Mike Moustakas came up in mid-July and hit 15 home runs over the season’s final 2 1/2 months, while Andrew McCutcheon won the All-Star Game for the National League with his bases-clearing triple off of Mariano Rivera.

Still the Goat

Carlos Pena may have clubbed 47 home runs, but he alone wasn’t able to carry the anemic Cubs offense through the season. By mid-July the Cubbies were in full sell-now mode, dealing Zambrano to the Red Sox as previously noted, while also sending Aramis Ramirez to the A’s. Both deals restocked the Cubs’ farm system, but the prevailing theory is that the team was preparing to retool around a push to sign Albert Pujols in the coming off-season, though, there is also rumor that the Cubs have serious interest in lefty C.C. Sabathia, who is expected to opt-out of his contract with the Yankees first thing tomorrow morning.

Rocky Mountain High

They may have lost the NLDS to the Braves in controversial fashion when a Carlos Gonzalez game-winning double off of Johnny Venters in Game 5 was ruled foul, but the Rockies still had a fantastic season. CarGo and Tulo combined for 93 home runs and 217 runs batted in, and the Colorado pitching staff posted it’s lowest staff ERA in franchise history at 4.01. They won the NL West going away, taking the crown by 9 games over the late-fading Dodgers and by 12 games over the defending champion Giants, whose mediocre offense from 2010 took a step back in 2011. The acquisition of Michael Young at the trading deadline to solidify the infield was a real turning point for the Rockies, who led the NL with 98 wins.

Final 2011 Results

National League

East – Braves

Central – Reds

West – Rockies

Wild Card – Phillies

Projected MVP – Troy Tulowitzki

Projected Cy Young – Roy Halladay

Projected Rookie of the Year – Freddy Freeman

American League

East – Red Sox

Central – Tigers

West – A’s

Wild Card – White Sox

Projected MVP – Adrian Gonzalez

Projected Cy Young – Justin Verlander

Projected Rookie of the Year – Jeremy Hellickson

Scott Caruso is the former Editor-in-Chief of Rays of Light. He blackmailed Joe into letting him come in every now and again to muse about baseball. Joe folded like a stack of cards and agreed. He loves statistics, Evan Longoria, a perfectly-cooked ribeye, and a good Charlie Sheen joke.

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GirlieView (03/28/2011)

Monday, March 28th, 2011

We’ve got plenty to discuss today. Not only do we have TWO weeks in review (since I was off last week) but effective with Brandon’s column from this morning, the season-long Lizzie contest officially starts. We’re wiping the stats slate clean and starting a new count with any Lizzies and Lizards awarded from columns between today and the week in which the final game of the World Series is played. You’ll receive one point for each Lizzie you are awarded, and three points for each Lizard.

For those new to the site (and I’m hoping there will be plenty now that the season is right around the corner!), each Monday in this GirlieView column I compile a “week in review” type collection of comments. The list is made up of quotes I find particularly funny, timely, etc. from our readers and writers (myself excluded. I’d win. Heh.) The best comments of the week are called “Lizzies” and the very best of those is called the “Lizard”. If you need some hints on how to raise your LLP (Likely Lizzie Percentage) please see my helpful hints here.

Each week I’ll post the running top ten. Be sure to use a consistent email address throughout the season, so I know who you are (email addresses will not be published). Should you need to change your email address mid-season, let me know or shout it out loud in the comments so I notice. You don’t have to shout out the actual address, just that you changed it. I’ll replace the old with the new from the behind-the-scenes info.

Game on! Here are the weeks (2) in review. These don’t count toward the contest. Great stuff though! Hearty thanks to everyone who stuck with us during the off season and entertained us while we counted down to live baseball!


  • While it’s fun to have a lot of runs (and something we haven’t had in a while), the lack of a good defense can lose championships.
  • I have a coworker who is a Mariners fan. Poor delusional fella honestly believes that their defense is brag-worthy. I’m not sure, but have a feeling that Ronnie Cedeno was one of their better hitters…
  • I’ll take offense to get me to the playoffs then watch some poor shmuck let a slow roller go between his legs to cost us a game 7.
  • I take defense first in any sport, especially if you’re going to promise me middle of the pack offense.
  • I’m holding out. I want it all.
  • Phil Donohew wears a Rockford Peach uniform from the Women’s Baseball League including the skirt and follows Gina Davis around like he has a chance to reach second base.
  • I wore 23 for years (for obvious Cubs reasoning), until I got married, then I swtiched to a number that represented our anniversary date. My wife told me I should never forget it now.
  • Note to self: Rockford Peaches #69 available for next year’s Randy Hundley fantasy camp
  • “Hello, this is little Billy Bibens-Dirkx- Johnson-Rodriquez.”
  • The list of Cubs potential breakout players who never quite made it keeps going longer than the Energizer Bunny.
  • Seymour O’Butts
  • I thought we weren’t supposed to put love, size and muscle in the same sentence.
  • If you use love, size, muscle, and Geo in the same sentence, you might be on the fast track to a Lizzie.
  • We got holes, big gaping holes.
  • We know Carlos Silva is not quite right.  This was the nicest way I could phrase it. I am biting my tongue and trying my best not to violate the VFTB swearing policy for us writers.
  • Strippers and horses should have the name Star, not your stud shortstop.
  • [Pena] is kind of like that girl you keep around, but you never commit too.
  • The real hole here appears to be Soriano.
  • If we are middle of the pack, i just hope we aren’t victim to Hendry trying to save his job by selling the farm for a rent-a-slugger in a meager, short-sighted attempt to contend.
  • I don’t disagree with this strategy if management truly commits to that type of long-term commitment. But you can’t do it half-assed.
  • You just don’t know until you know.
  • My frustration is this….with an open door to the Central how are we not shoe in? How is a major market team like the Cubs in a position of this nature? How do we not have a valid contingency plan at most of our positions?
  • Byrd hit right-handers last year like my Aunt Nancy
  • If the Cubs are ever gonna be serious contenders, year in and year out, they’re gonna have to stop playing nice.
  • I used to be in a band called Home Grown.
  • I have dinner plans with the Eastern European minor leaguers so any questions for them please forward.
  • Maybe you could collect and publish some of their favorite traditional lamb dish recipies, Doc.
  • If you want to actually have dinner with some ball players, feel free to tell them you know me.
  • Does somebody in the front office have a crush on [Ojeda]?
  • I was scheduled to have dinner with Woody and then I dropped Seymour’s name and I was led over to the Kosovo prospects table.
  • I don’t care how the Cubs get players, as long as they are useful players.
  • Along with some variations of hummus and babba ganoosh, jswanson.
  • I feel your pain. I wrote a post about toner last month…
  • I have a Cubs #22 jersey as well. I pretend it’s for Bill Buckner, and that Mark Prior never existed. It eases my pain.
  • Now, instead of wearing our Prior shirts together, we wear cubbie logoed arm slings…
  • I have a Prior bobble-head in it’s box. I stuffed a ball he signed in the same box. One day the ball fell out of the box to the floor. It was a better pitch than the real Prior throws
  • Despite Castillo’s outstanding spring, I would be surprised if the Cubs parted ways with Hill.
  • My respect for Quade/Hendry would skyrocket if they released Silva, Hill, and Ojeda, and gave the rotation spot to Cashner, the backup C spot to Castillo, and the SS bu to Barney.
  • [Silva]’d look good in a Cards uniform.
  • With our luck, Silva will go to the Cards and dominate the NL.
  • I’m not a cunning linguist, but believe the conventional way is what Keith is using. That said, the correct way is entirely up to the guy who owns it.
  • Jeff Fassero is the pitching coach for low A, Peoria- I invited him to dinner but he already had plans with Seymour.
  • We invited them to dinner but they had plans with Seymour.
  • We invited him to dinner but he had plans with Seymour.
  • We wished him luck for the season and invited him to dinner. He couldn’t come to dinner since he had plans with Seymour.
  • Some security guy chased us off the field, he is a retired military officer and works part time at the Angels complex, very pleasant fellow when not reprimanding you. We invited him to dinner but he had plans with Seymour.
  • Long comment, Doc. I’ll have to read it later…some cardiologist wants to buy me lunch.
  • Turns out “lunch” was a masked pitch for timeshares in Yuma.
  • I think the wild card is out, though; I think the Rockies or Braves will take it. It’s division or bust for the Cubbies.
  • What Raker realizes and mocks, is that I do know these guys (albeit not closely). Jeff Fassero was the pitching coach last year for the Boise low A team, and I spent 2 entire games sitting 2 feet from him, occasionally speaking with him and eating dinner (ballpark fare). Raker on the other hand has spent the last 3 months as a life coach for Charlie Sheen.
  • Doc Raker is a genius…look where he has taken my career. From rich sitcom star to hugely famous booze-addled whore monger who is now the biggest star in America.
  • I need to meet up with my main man Seymour for dinner soon.
  • I am sure this is a delicate balance, but to me it seems Jim has a tighter grasp on this team then he did when Piniella was manager.
  • So fast that if I were saying, “I’m releasing you, Carlos,” he would be released by the time I got to the apostrophe.
  • This team is not great, but they don’t suck either.
  • Hi-Ho Silva….Away !!!!!!!
  • We’ll know for certain if Hendry comes out and throws a base
  • Cubs win 120 games in 2011, hey, it’s still spring training baby!
  • I think his ways are antiquated and his ego is massive.
  • maybe my low expectations will translate to surprising success
  • who?
  • When we go to spring training we always go and watch the minor leaguers, you see a mass of ball playing humanity


  • Season hasn’t started yet and I’m already sick of Ryan Braun.

Monday Discussion Question

By now I’m sure you’ve heard the weekend Silva saga (he lost the last remaining rotation spot to Cashner, lost the final bullpen spot to Mateo, didn’t want an Iowa assignment, whined to the press, was released Sunday.) My question to you is, does this increase your confidence in the Cubs’ management team? I must say I was completely floored by the decision. Not because I didn’t think it was the absolutely correct choice, but because they had the dangly bits to make it. What say you?


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2011 X-Factor: Aramis Ramirez

Monday, March 28th, 2011

This could be the year that the Cubs third baseman, Aramis Ramirez, finally returns to form.  The difference in 2011 is that Ramirez has the motivation he needs – a contract season.  This is the final year of a five year, $70 million contract that he inked before the 2007 season.  He is going to have to pick up the pace if he wants the Cubs to even think about picking up the $16 million club option on him for 2012, or if he wants another large payday on the free agent market.

If the Chicago Cubs are going to compete in the NL Central, they need Ramirez to produce offensively.  Mike Quade has penciled him in as the cleanup hitter, and the Cubs’ mediocre offense needs the big bats in the middle of the order to drive in runs if they want to be successful.  The rotation is solid, and the bullpen is much improved, but run scoring remains a question mark for the Northsiders.

At 32 years old, Ramirez should still have plenty of baseball left in him.  He has been held back by a shoulder injury the past few seasons, but should be 100 percent in 2011.  Last season Aramis hit just .241 with 25 homers and 83 RBI’s.  Those numbers will not cut it for an overpaid cleanup man.

His power numbers have been way down since signing the lucrative contract.  In the first four years of the deal, he has not reached 30 home runs.  Before he was signed long term, Aramis hit 30 or more bombs three straight seasons.  The last time he drove in over 100 runs was 2008.  Whether the monetary incentive is all it takes to allow Ramirez to duplicate his 2006 stats (38 homers, 119 RBIs) remains to be seen.

According to several media reports, Ramirez is working in the cages more this spring.  He has finally accepted the help of hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, who is respected around the game as one of the best in the business.  Aramis made his first trip to the Cubs Convention in January, after missing the previous seven.  He said that he wants to make the most of 2011 because it could be his final year in Chicago and he wants the fans to know that he appreciates them.

This spring, in 17 games, He is hitting .311 and has knocked in seven runs.  Defensively, he got off to a rocky start, as did most of the Cubs in an error-filled opening week.  Since then, he has calmed down and he has only made four errors, all of which were in the beginning of Cactus League games.

Ramirez’s glove at the hot corner is also important for the team.  After the 2007 campaign, his fielding percentage has entered a state of decline, paralleling his batting average.  In ’07 his fielding percentage was .972, and it has not been above .950 since.  If Aramis can make the routine plays, he will be doing his job defensively.

Since the Cubs do not have a lot of depth at third base or in the middle of the order, it is necessary for Ramirez to be in the lineup on a daily basis.  He must avoid stints on the disabled list, which have plagued him the last few seasons.

Baseball expert Bill James was not very generous to the former All-Star.  James’ 2011 projections were clearly influenced by the last two seasons, which Ramirez suffered due to injuries.  Aramis is projected at a .275 batting average, 24 homers and 89 RBIs.  Although that would be an improvement from 2010, the Cubs need more production than that. He is the X Factor for the 2011 Cubs.

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