Archive for October, 2011

Tony La Russa Retires

Monday, October 31st, 2011

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa retired this morning in a press conference at Busch Stadium.  He said he’s been considering the move since the middle of the 2011 season, and wouldn’t specify any one reason for leaving, saying instead that it was a combination of several factors.  However, he was clear that he is not interested in managing another team, or in taking a job as a GM.

Here’s the ESPN story on La Russa’s retirement, with a portion of the press conference video.  If I can find the complete video, I’ll link it here as well.

A couple quick reactions:

  • First of all, despite what the ESPN talking heads like Buster Olney have said, La Russa’s departure almost certainly impacts Albert Pujols’ decision about returning to the Cardinals.  The relationship between La Russa and Pujols has been solid through their time together, and both have talked about their deep respect for one another.  Any uncertainty about who he might be playing for next season would obviously impact Pujols’ contract decisions, and instability in the front office or the clubhouse might make other suitors look much more attractive.  Also, with La Russa gone, Pujols’ decision to leave or stay in St. Louis becomes even less a question of loyalty–if anything, it frees him up from the idea that he’s abandoning a longtime friend and mentor.  Overall, I think La Russa’s retirement makes it much easier for Pujols to leave town.
  • I’ve never been a big La Russa fan, although I did cheer for his Oakland A’s Bash Brothers-era teams (I was in elementary school at the time, don’t hold it against me).  Even within the Cardinals fanbase, he might be one of the most divisive figures in baseball.  Even sportswriters can’t make up their minds about what he is–is he a strategic genius, or a meddling nuisance?  It seemed during the playoffs–and especially the World Series–that the general consensus could change overnight.  For my part, I always leaned heavily toward the meddling nuisance camp.  What say you?
  • While he was clear he’s not interested in managing again, or moving into a GM role with a new team, he was less specific about taking a job somewhere in the MLB.  La Russa and Bud Selig have a good relationship, so don’t be surprised when he takes a Joe Torre-esque position with the league.
  • No word yet if he’ll become the national spokesman for Transitions Lenses.
  • I couldn’t bring myself to watch much of the World Series this year.  I know it was supposedly a classic series–possibly one of the best ever.  But for an avowed Cardinals-hater like me, it was torture.  I couldn’t enjoy the ups and downs of the games–all the dramatic lead swings and the late-inning heroics.  It was just too agonizing to watch the Cards inch closer to another championship.  However, there was one moment from Game 5 that I will treasure for years to come:

 

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VFTB End of Year Survey

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Every year we run a survey that helps us evaluate how we did and make improvements. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey. We’d be very grateful.

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GirlieView

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Hope the weekend has been going well for everyone!

Over the last few months I have grown to use this blog as a safe haven. I certainly don’t have time to read or comment every day, but when I do need a break from all the craziness in my life, I find it comforting to read and contribute here. Even all of you with your families, friends, and full-time jobs fit this new family into your busy schedules. And when the Cardinals won the Series this week, I didn’t have to worry about having the news crammed down my throat from my fellow Cubs fans; in fact, it wasn’t even mentioned. We all approached it with the same demeanor, and that’s what I love. We share a special bond here through our love of the baseball in general.

So I guess I just wanted to use this post as a little thank you to all you for making that possible for me. And on that note, let’s get a glimpse of this week at VFTB.

The Wizzies

  • BLPCB…I just threw up in my mouth a little..can we please not mention Les Walrond, or Jae Kuk Ryu this early in the morning?
  • Cheeseburger and Cheesecake Sabathia is due to break down very soon.
  • Get out the mustard, there will be a lot of innings in 2012 to be eaten I fear…(to be shared by the staff)
  • If we want an innings eater, is Bartolo Colon available? If there is eating to be done, I want him on my side…
  • Also, Sabathia apparently is just an eater, in general…
  • Quade moonlighting in St. Louis now?
  • Good god…..if death is not an option….then Duke, Kazmir, or Willis….oof. Slim pickin’s eh?
  • It is sad to think that Carlos Silva could out-pitch anyone on that list. With no mitt…holding a Hebrew National dog.

Top Wizzie Contributors

Buddy-36

Doc Raker-35

Jswanson-32

BLPCB-24

Seymour Butts-21

Doug S.-20

Aaron-17

Jedi-13

Chet-11

Dusty Baylor-10

Eddie Von White-9

Chuck-9

Question of the Week

Yes, I know the World Series just ended, but how do you feel about the offseason moves so far and how much more activity do you expect?

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What Do You Want In the CBA?

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Happy Friday everyone. Here is the discussion question for the day:

With MLB working on negotiations for the new collective bargaining agreement, what changes, big or small, would you like to see be included in the finished product?

Here are just a few of mine:

1. Expanding the playoffs to 10 teams

2. Shortening the season to 154 games

3. Home field advantage for the World Series determined by the previous year’s World Series winner. If the NL won last year then they get the advantage this year.

4, Allowing the teams to trade draft picks.

5. Expanding rosters to 40 for the month of April and remaining at 25 through the end of the season beginning May 1.

What are yours?

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Northside Archives: His Own Man?

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

We all know the situation, Mike Quade sits with a single year left on his contract. The man who hired him, Jim Hendry, has been gone for more than two months and in his place are Theo Epstien and Jed Hoyer. How long before Quade’s fate is determined?

Historically, when the Cubs have hired a new GM it’s time for the manager to call his favorite moving company.

Cubs’ History
Dallas Green replaced Joe Amalfitano with Lee Elia when he got to town before the 1982 season. In my opinion, Green’s hiring was the first time the Cubs took the GM position seriously (in its modern form) which is why we start here.

Jim Frey was hired as GM after the 1987 season less than two years after being replaced as field manager. Not surprisingly, he immediately brought in long-time friend Don Zimmer as his manager. Gene Michael had already resigned in mid-1987 and Frank Lucchesi had been managing the Cubs on an interim basis.

Larry Himes following the 1991 season, was forced to choose between keeping Jim Essian or hiring his own man. One of Himes’ few correct decisions was then followed by hiring Jim Lefebvre as his manager – he guided the Cubs to back-to-back 4th place finishes.

Ed Lynch replaced Tom Trebelhorn with Jim Riggleman upon being hired as GM. Trebelhorn was hired as bench coach in 1992 and promoted to manager in 1994 (sound familiar?). He managed the team for a single season as Larry Himes delayed the firing squad (sound more familiar?). Riggleman would manage until Lynch was forced to fire him following the 1999 season.

Andy MacPhail assumed the GM duties when Ed Lynch resigned on July 19, 2000. This change was bit different from most in that Don Baylor had been hired as the manager prior to the 2000 season. Because of MacPhail’s unique position with the Cubs it’s easy to anticipate that in fact he was hiring his manager before he even assumed the GM duties – and in the process giving Lynch a last gasp at keeping his job.

Jim Hendry was promoted to GM on July 5, 2002. Don Baylor was fired that same day and replaced on an interim basis by Bruce Kimm. The move to fire Baylor is often attributed to MacPhail as his final act as GM – but regardless, of who officially gave Baylor the pink slip, the fact remains that a new GM brought in his own manager (Dusty Baker) once the season was over.

Similarities to 1994
As the Epstein regime takes shape, it’s hard to ignore the similarities with front office circa 1994. Following the 1994 season the Cubs fired their GM with the team was in shambles both at the MLB level and in the minor leagues. The Cubs went and hired a GM who had spent a decade building an AL franchise into a two-time World Series Champion. But the Cubs hiring required a promotion – at which time the Cubs’ new baseball executive hired his own GM, a longtime friend. MacPhail and Epstein were also “the youngest GM in MLB history” when they were each initially hired, by the Twins and Red Sox respectively.

What Ed Lynch walked into, seems to be very similar to what Jed Hoyer will find upon arrival in Chicago. A baseball lifer who was given a single year to manage a terrible team. Lynch didn’t hesitate to rid himself of Trebelhorn – it took merely 8 days.

Hoyer’s History
However, when Hoyer was hired as GM of the Padres following the 2009 season, Bud Black was the manager of a beleaguered team that was headed nowhere. In 2010, the Padres’ success led to an extension for Black through the 2013 season with options for 2014 and 2015. Hoyer tied his immediate future to Black less than a year into his tenure.

Epstein’s History
When Epstein was hired as GM of the Red Sox following the 2002 season, he also did NOT fire Grady Little. In fact, Little had been hired prior to the 2002 season and guided the Red Sox to 93 wins. Epstein’s arrival in Boston was unique in that the Red Sox fired their GM and hired a new manager prior to a very successful season in 2002 – using an interim GM during the entire 2002 season. But when Little famously bungled the pitching staff in the 2003 playoffs, Epstein moved quickly and replaced him with Terry Francona.

Cubs’ Past & Present
Of the last six GMs the Cubs have had, five of them have immediately hired a new manager. The lone exception, Andy MacPhail, was in a unique situation where he had presided as club President when the manager had been hired merely months before he took on the GM responsibilities.

Cubs’ history points emphatically to Quade’s near certain firing; but the limited history of Epstein and Hoyer don’t necessarily indicate such a change to be immediately forthcoming.

Postscript: This article hit ESPN yesterday. Epstein’s admiration says a lot.

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The Theo Watch

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Theo Watch: According to ESPN, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod will be leaving San Diego and joining Theo Epstein in Chicago. There will be compensation going to San Diego, but the player has yet to be named. There has also been a lot of speculation about who Theo will bring in as a new manager. As most of you know, Ryne Sandberg has been leading the speculation race as a potential manager. Theo previously looked into hiring Ryno as a base coach for Boston, and he likes the idea of Sandberg as a coach. However, Theo says that it is “so premature” to speculate about bringing in Ryno.  Quade still has a year left on his contract, but I think everybody in Chicago is hoping that Theo has the guts to fire everybody in the organization. Who should he hire? Francona? Ryno? Somebody else?

Players: Apparently, Aramis decided to change his mind about leaving Chicago when Theo was hired. Now he wants to stay in Chicago, because they might become a winning team sometime soon. Come on, man. Soriano is also rumored to possibly be staying with the club next season as well. Good grief. Aren’t we supposed to be rebuilding this team? Theo, show some guts. Say goodbye to Ramirez, at least.

Non-Baseball Related News: Terrell Owens held a tryout the other day for teams to come watch him. Guess who showed up? Nobody. It seems like many of the football coaches share the same sentiments: No thanks. Should anybody pick him up? The Bears need help in the receiver department. Should T.O. to be a Bear? I do not want him to be in the NFC North. Football has been so nice and (mostly) quiet this year. Drama has been kept to a minimum. Maybe it should stay that way.

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Who are YOUR teams?

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

I think it’s obvious, seeing that we’re reading a Cubs blog, that we all share a common bond of being a Cub fan. From there, it tends to branch out. My question to you is who are your teams? Here are mine.

NFL

Chicago Bears – I’m from Chicago so the Bears are my main team in the NFL. I watch them every opportunity I can despite being in NC.

NY Giants – This one goes back to the middle school days playing Techmo Super Bowl. I grew up loving Lawrence Taylor because of that game and even now pull hard for the Giants.

Baltimore Ravens – This is a newer one for me. I needed an AFC team to root for and because Baltimore is the closest one and they have my favorite NFL player in Ray Rice, they make the cut. Plus, I’ve always been a sucker for a good defense and the Ravens continually bring it.

NBA

Chicago Bulls – I went through about a 3 or 4 year stretch where I pulled for the teams playing the Bulls because I was mad at MJ for retiring and then just up and unretiring. When the dust settled, I went Brokeback Mountain on the Bulls and told them “I wish I knew how to quit you.”

NCAA

University of Illinois – I really want to cheer for them for football in addition to basketball but they’re just so bad on a consistent basis. As a result, it’s the basketball team that I live and die with. After the Cubs, they’re my # 2 favorite team, followed by the Bears.

Notre Dame – Here is where my NCAA football needs (as small as they are) get met. I look at my need for college football about the same way as most women look at a need for sex. They’re fine with it if they have too, and even enjoy it at times, but in the end if they never had to again, that’d probably be OK too. Until the NCAA gets a playoff system, my interest ends with the first Irish loss.

Other Sports

I’ll watch any sport. I love competition. Among the lessers, I cheer for the Blackhawks. I don’t get to see any of their games because I don’t have the NHL package and don’t have Versus, but I know who’s on the team.

How about you?

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Bargain Bin: Pitchers

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

As Norm ably discussed last Thursday, the Cubs only have three starters clearly lined up for 2012 in Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells.  Outside of those three players, the only players who are anywhere close to semi-legitimate starting pitching candidates for the Cubs all have major question marks.  Carlos Zambrano is likely to be traded in the offseason after his well documented behavioral issues.  Andrew Cashner should probably be put in the bullpen for 2012 to build up his arm strength.  Casey Coleman, for lack of a better way of putting it, is Casey Coleman.  And Jay Jackson struggled through most of last season in Iowa with decreased velocity before having a strong last month and a half of the AAA season.  On top of that, don’t forget the vital lesson from last season: you better come into the season with at least six competent pitchers who can start.

The Cubs likely need to bring at least one pitcher in via free agency or trade, but it’s unclear how much money the Cubs are going to spend on pitching this offseason.  Could the Cubs find some pitchers in the bargain bin to fill roles in the starting rotation?    As a reminder, to make my bargain bin list a player must: (1) have had at least one 2.0 fWAR season; (2) be age 30 or younger on opening day 2012; and (3) have fallen off due to poor performance or injury to the point he is likely to be looking for a one year contract.  A few pitchers with starting experience fit my list, although none of them are likely to be All Stars next season.  At best, these are players who could fill some innings competently.

Cub fans are quite familiar with two of these pitchers.  Rich Harden pitched for the Cubs from the midway point of 2008 through the 2009 season, and the general story of his career is pretty well known: when healthy, Harden was great.  The problem is that he has rarely been healthy.  In 212 innings as a Cub, Harden put up a solid 3.9 fWAR.  Since then, though, he’s only put up a total of 0.2 fWAR.  He struggled greatly in Texas in 2010, but Harden’s always been an extreme fly ball pitcher.  Fly ball pitchers generally do not do great in Arlington.  He was better in Oakland this past season, but only threw 82.2 innings in the majors.  Considering that the Cubs really need players they can count on innings from in 2012, though, Harden should be a quick pass.

Most Cub fans remember Dontrelle Willis as the pitching prospect traded to the Marlins for Antonio Alfonseca and Matt Clement in 2002 before becoming a star with the Marlins in 2003.  Willis put up 16.2 fWAR over the first five seasons of his career, including a 6.2 fWAR campaign in 2005.  He also threw at least 197 innings in 4 consecutive seasons from 2004 to 2007.  Since then, however, Willis has struggled with injuries and control problems, putting up a total of 0.0 fWAR over the last four seasons.  Willis had his first productive stint as a starter since the Bush administration last season, posting 0.8 fWAR in 75.1 innings.  Willis is still young enough to turn it around if he finds his health.  He’s probably never going to be what he was in Florida, but he could be a solid innings eater.  Since his injury issues are much more recent than any history of throwing considerable innings, he’s probably only worth a contract near the MLB minimum.  If he’s willing to sign for that, though, he is an intriguing possibility.

Scott Kazmir was one of the best young pitchers in baseball just a few years ago, leading the Rays to the World Series in 2008 and accumulating 17.7 fWAR before his 26th birthday.  2010 and 2011 have been complete disasters for Kazmir, though, as injuries sapped his velocity, which in turn made him a completely ineffective pitcher.  Kazmir would be worth, at most, a minor league contract that I like to call the Ryan Dempster special.  That is when the Cubs give an injured player a minor league or MLB minimum contract and pay for his rehab, in the hopes that he will eventually get healthy and be able to contribute.  But Kazmir should not, under any circumstances, be signed with the idea of contributing in 2012.

Remember how pretty much every year the Pirates have a rookie pitcher come up mid-season, have an impressive half season, be named their potential ace apparent, and then never live up to that billing again?  Back in 2005, Zack Duke took a turn in that role.  In his first stint in the majors, Duke put up an 8-2 record (and back in 2005 more people cared about win-loss record) and a 1.81 ERA in 14 starts.  Duke’s never been anywhere near that good again, but he had a respectable stint as a swingman in Arizona this past year.  In 21 games, 9 starts, Duke put up a 4.93 ERA, but was probably the victim of bad defense.  Duke had a 3.99 FIP and 4.27 xFIP, with the disparity in the ERA being due to a .339 BABIP.  Duke would probably be nothing more than a younger, left handed Rodrigo Lopez.  If the Cubs need a new, cheap long man in the pen, or a sixth or seventh starter to spend most of his time in Iowa but be ready for a call up, Duke could fill that role.

In other words, the bargain starters do not look particularly promising.  I would like the Cubs to also look at Jeff Francis, but: (1) Buddy already provided an excellent analysis regarding Francis; and (2) Francis will be 31 on opening day 2012, so he does not fit my admittedly arbitrary criteria for this post.

There is one interesting reliever who meets my criteria.  Prior to the 2010 season, no one would have thought that Dodgers’ closer Jonathan Broxton would be enter free agency with no arbitration status and probably looking for a one year contract to prove he’s healthy and can still be effective.  From 2006 to 2009, Broxton threw at least 69 innings without ever posting an ERA above 3.13.  2010 was not as strong for Broxton, posting a 4.04 ERA, but he still made 64 appearances with a FIP and xFIP right around 3.00.  As the Dodgers’ best reliever pretty much since coming up to the majors at 21 years old, there had always been rumors that the Dodgers might have used Broxton too much when he was too young.  His health really suffered in 2011, as Broxton suffered both elbow and shoulder problems that limited him to 12.2 ineffective innings.  If Broxton can get healthy, he could be an interesting addition to a bullpen.  Considering the extent of his injuries this season, though, it’s not clear how much Broxton would be able to contribute in 2012.

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There Is Nothing Worse Than a Cardinals Fan

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Thought #1: The Cardinals lost. They are now down 3 games to two. The worst part about it is that there are way too many Cardinals fans in the world. I bet most of them cannot even name 4 of the players on the team. The second worst thing about it is that A.J. Pierzynski is one of the announcers. Listening to his voice is like listening to nails scratch a chalk board. Could it be because he is the White Sox catcher? Possibly.

St. Louis did not play well. They didn’t capitalize on plays, left 12 men on base, and got caught stealing (by a mile). Nolan went home a happy man last night.

Thought #2:The Packers are still undefeated. Aaron Rodgers’ QB rating during the game was up to 158.3. I bet anybody who has him on their fantasy team is pretty happy. Does anybody else do fantasy football?

Thought #3: Today is Theo’s big day. What do you think he will say at the press conference? What do you hope he will say?

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