Archive for December, 2011

Chet’s Corner: Patience Darlin’, Patience….

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Imagine you just sat down at your local poker game and were informed that the rules have changed.  Tonight you are not allowed to fold.  Each player must play out his hand, bluffing or playing coy to the very end.  Get a pair of aces off the draw, no problem.  Get a pair of tens…problem.  

Theo Epstein just sat down at this table and he is the guy with the tens.

With little to no farm system and so many holes in the roster it makes Swiss cheese jealous, Theo is limited in what he can truly do.  From the start of the Theo Epstein regime I wondered what direction this team would go in order to improve.  I wondered if they actually had the cojones to intentionally suck for a while, yet build for the future.  It is this writers preference, but many can’t stomach the thought of yet another lost season.  I say, what’s another year?

The previous regime concentrated on putting the best possible product money could buy on the field for the coming year.  Notice, I did not say the best possible product, I said the best possible product money could buy at the that time for the coming year.  Hence, we never got the best product, we as Cubs fans got whatever the free agent market provided the off season before. 

With the recent trade of Sean Marshall I see brilliance at work.  We all loved Sean and his remarkable reliability.  Plus we sort of grew with him, he became a staple out of the pen.  We also loved him because he was relatively cheap.  Let’s be honest, if we paid a lot for Marshall year in and year out we would have wanted more.  However, this is exactly where Sean is headed. 

Marshall is approaching thirty, which in baseball years is the beginning of the end.  My friends and I used to say thirty is the new twenty, but in baseball it is slowly becoming the new forty.   He has a year left on his contract and then he will most likely do what many lefty relievers do, get a free agent deal that makes him titanically over paid. 

*a side note…..I always said if I had boys I would tie their right hand behind their back at birth and make them operate solely with their left.  If you can hump a baseball up to the plate at 77 miles an hour and throw lefty, you will always have a job in the majors and get paid very well.

Theo traded Marshall for a young starter with upside and two minor leaguers.  Bingo, slowly but surely we are a rebuilding team.  Yup, I said rebuilding.   

My expectations would leave me to believe that we will see Soto, Marmol, and maybe even Byrd (if anybody needs him)leave the building.  I wouldn’t draw the line there either.  The remainder of the roster is expendable at this point.  The talk about Garza staying on board is just that….talk.  I think they would trade him in a second if we were getting anything back that was major league ready with prospects sprinkled in. 

Now, I know what you are thinking, Theo said he wants to build around a player like Garza.  He did NOT say build around Garza, he said a player LIKE Garza. 

All that being said, if Garza doesn’t move by the start of spring (and I will be shocked if he doesn’t) then even better.  His trade value to a contender needing a starter will be higher at the all-star break!  That may be the same for Marlon Byrd.  We may actually see more action at the break then before spring if you can imagine that.  One thing is sure, we will be selling until we have a good base below us.   A base that gives us a future. 

Why, might you ask, do I know this will all work out?  

I have no factual basis for my answer other then to say he has done it before, as has Jed Hoyer.  They have done nothing but improve teams.  They leave them in better shape for the future.  This, and of course the fact that the bar has not been set very high.  Would it really be difficult to improve on previous northside regimes?  

Yes, it is funny, but I am typically not one to go the route of blind faith.  For some odd reason, I have this faith in Epstein and company.   The immediate future may hurt a little.  We may lose 100 games in 2012.  We may have to wait for Theo’s magic to set in.  I have this feeling that someday, when his time is done on the northside, we will be in better shape than when he arrived.   It’s the waiting that will be the tough part.

In the immortal words of Wooderson (from the movie Dazed and Confused), “Patience darlin’, patience.”



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Morning News: Contracts, Injuries, and Footwear-Induced Violence

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Strike One: Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey has been asked by the team to cancel his charity climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  The team sent Dickey a letter informing him the last year of his contract can be voided if he injures himself in the climb.  GM Sandy Alderson appears to have preemptively adopted the “mom” stance, saying the team doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but they can’t stop him.  From the Mets’ perspective, this is basically an insurance policy guarding them against the slim possibility Dickey could injure himself while they’re on the hook for $4.5M.  On the other hand, if you’re Dickey, wouldn’t an ugly tumble down the mountain be worth it to escape another season with the Mets?

Strike Two: The Vikings announced on Monday that Adrian Peterson suffered ACL and MCL tears in his left knee, and it could be between 8-10 months before he returns to the field.  His is just the latest in a rash of season-ending injuries to franchise players this season in the NFL.  My beloved Bears’ season ended when Jay Cutler broke his thumb (unleashing the blitzkrieg of Caleb Hanie interceptions).  Peyton Manning’s neck injury ended the Colts season before it began (although some would say it only made a bad team worse).  What was the most costly injury in the NFL this season?  And what was the worst one your team suffered?

Strike Three: Last Friday, Nike released a new pair of Air Jordan throwbacks.  The shoes cost $180 a pair, and were the reason for lengthy lines at shoe stores across the country.  Although each store carrying the shoe only had 150 pairs, crowds numbering in the high hundreds–even exceeding a thousand at some stores–swarmed to purchase the limited edition shoes.  In many cases across the country, those crowds turned violent when the stock ran out.  Do you know anyone who braved the angry, Black Friday-esque crowds and picked up a pair of retro Jordans?

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Going Selling – Part Two

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

For Sale

While I doubt I gave Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer the idea to trade Sean Marshall sooner rather than later, I do have to start this post by noting that the rumors of  Sean Marshall’s trade to the Reds for left handed starter Travis Wood, outfielder Dave Sappelt and infield prospect Ronald Torreyes started in earnest just after part one of this little two part series, I have to at least say it is nice to know that great minds think alike.

This week, though, I am going to examine players I think the Cubs are unlikely to receive peak value for this offseason.  I am not saying that the Cubs should not trade these players if they are able to get good value in return, but instead that I do not think they are likely to get that value at this time.  These are also players who I think are unlikely to lose significant value this season, barring injury.  As a preliminary note, I will not be discussing Carlos Zambrano, largely because I already discussed this issue as it pertains to him in early November.

Geovany Soto- A couple of weeks ago, FanGraphs’ Dave Campbell tweeted that Rafael Furcal may be the most inconsistent player in player.  He has a point.  Since signing with the Dodgers prior to the 2006 season, Furcal has posted the following wOBAs each season in chronological order: .357, .311, .440 (albeit in very limited duty), .316, .366 and .288.  If Geovany Soto has a good year next year, he could compete with Furcal for that title.  In his 2008 rookie of the year campaign, he posted a .371 wOBA, followed by a .310 in 2009.  In 2010, he surpassed his rookie season with a .385 wOBA, and then sank back to a .316 in 2011.

With Soto’s inconsistency, you might think other teams would look on a hot 2012 from the Cubs’ catcher with some skepticism.  But you should also remember how bad most MLB catchers are at the plate.  In 2011, only five catchers with at least 300 plate appearances posted a wOBA higher than .350, three of whom posted unsustainable BABIPs of .344 or higher.

Catchers who can hit are a rare, valuable commodity, and Soto does have a history, at more than one point in his career, of being one of the better hitting catchers in baseball.  If Soto has a strong first half of 2012, some teams would be willing to part with significant prospects to pick him up for the last year and a half of arbitration for a potentially dynamic hitter who is also at worst a serviceable defensive backstop.

Marlon Byrd- My philosophy for putting Marlon Byrd on this list is different than my philosophy for Soto because Marlon Byrd is not a mystery.  Rather, Byrd has been quite consistent over the past three seasons.  He does not walk, but he also does not strike out a lot while hitting for above average power for a slightly above average defense center fielder.  Also, while a cursory glance at Byrd’s 2011 may make it look like he declined, that was largely caused by an awful September largely caused by a miserably unlucky .185 BABIP that pulled his season numbers down significantly in part because he missed nearly two months of the season after getting hit in the face by a fastball.  He is also signed to a reasonable contract, as he will make $6.5 million in the final year of the three year deal he signed before the 2010 season.

I just do not believe teams give up equivalent value during the offseason for 33 year old center fielders who do not have histories as elite players.  I can, however, all but guarantee you there will be a team with playoff hopes in spring training who will lose their center fielder for several months due to injury by the end of April, and there will be a team contending in July who has a below replacement value player somewhere in their outfield.  In that situation, Marlon Byrd could be worth a fair deal more to a team contender as the season progresses.

I would like to note that I do not think Byrd will ever have elite trade value the way Soto could if he comes close to replicating his 2010 numbers.  However, right now I do not think the Cubs would get much more for Byrd than they got for Kosuke Fukudome last July, which were a couple of organization guys with upside they are very unlikely to meet.  Considering Byrd’s ability to play center field defensively and hit fairly well for the position, I think a desperate team might be willing to give up someone who is a real prospect for Byrd as the season rolls along.

You may notice that I did not mention Alfonso Soriano in either list.  The reason for that is simple: he has essentially no trade value now, and I think the odds of him gaining any real trade value with his contract are somewhere between slim and none.

Are there any players you think I missed on either list?  Is there anyone on either of my lists you think I am dead wrong on?

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Morning News: Pitchers, Coaching Staff, NFL Playoffs

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011


The Cubs signed two pitchers MondayManny Corpas and Andy Sonnanstine. Corpas has been a reliever for five seasons with the Colorado Rockies. He missed all of 2011 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Sonnanstine has played five seasons all with Tampa Bay. Since the middle of 2009 he’s been a reliever. Both signed non-guaranteed split contracts so they might not be part of the team that leaves Mesa bound for Chicago at the end of Spring Training.

New coaching staffthis item is a bit old, I’ve been intending to include it as part of the news for almost two weeks now; and I’m pretty sure we’ve neglected to mention it. Dale Sveum named his new coaching staff, the most notable changes being bench coach, pitching coach, and first base coach. Jamie Quirk takes over for Pat Listach as bench coach. Listach returns to a familiar position for him, the third base coach’s box. The Cubs tabbed former Cardinal first base coach Dave McKay to replace Bob Dernier. And Chris Bosio is successor to Mark Riggins as pitching coach – no word on if he’ll attempt to out-stache his predecessor. Bosio and Quirk are longtime friends of Sveum from his playing days; McKay is a baseball lifer well-known by all, and a former coach of Sveum’s. The Cubs retained Rudy Jaramillo as hitting coach and Lester Strode in the bullpen. Minor league staffs were announced too, lots of changes there.

NFL Playoffs – There’s one week to go, the Colts have put some intrigue back into the Andrew Luck sweepstakes; but for the NFL’s best there is still a lot on the line this upcoming weekend. In the NFC the Packers have secured the No. 1 spot; the 49ers, Saints, Lions, and Falcons are all in; and either the Giants or Cowboys will join them. It’s a winner-take-all affair on Sunday night at the Meadowlands. The AFC is a big mess. There are several oddities; the Titans, for instance, need Cincinnati to lose and the Jets to win plus either Oakland or Denver to lose – unless they get the Jets to lose which would mean they’d need both Oakland and Denver to win. Denver, division leaders, can only win their division, no wild card possibility. But the Raiders, in second place, can win the division OR a wild card spot. Pittsburgh could be the No. 1 seed, or the No. 5 seed; same for the Ravens (and either team could also be the No. 2). It’s sure to be an eventful final regular season weekend in the NFL on New Year’s Day no less. Perhaps Bill Maher will resolve to find something nice to say about Tim Tebow regardless of his playoff fate. Stay tuned.

What is in the works? Theo has been strongly hinting that he has quite a bit left to do this off-season. I’m guessing that two of the changes he’s alluding to are 1) resolution to Matt Garza’s future, either an extension or a trade and 2) trading Carlos Marmol. Once Kerry Wood is officially back in the fold, we’d have 3 guys not named Marmol (Wood, Cashner, Samardzija) who could easily close for a bad team (i.e., the Cubs). Judging by the return on Marshall, I think Marmol is definitely gone no later than the July 31 deadline and quite possibly before Spring Training. What do you think/hope Theo and Jed are exploring as the calendar turns to 2012?

Christmas gone crazy.

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Who Am I?

Monday, December 26th, 2011

Who Am I? is a feature here at VFTB designed to give some of the focus back to those who make the site a success: YOU! We’ll tell you a bit about one of our regular commenters and you guess who it is. We’ll be back later in the day with the answer.

(Would you like to be included? Let me know at … the more the merrier!)

Who Am I?

  • I’ve been around VFTB for about a year (Lizzie thinks it’s a little bit longer!)
  • I’ve been a Cubs fan since age 21, thanks to my wife. Previously I was a Braves fan.
  • I’ve been to Wrigley about 75 times.
  • I’m pro-Carlos Pena, I was pro-Jim Hendry, and when asked whether I cared that Aramis Ramirez signed elsewhere, I responded “Eh”.
  • If I was dining with Seymour I’d order a nice dry-aged ribeye, a 10-year old Syrah, and Creme Brulee. Unless we’re in New Orleans when I prefer Gumbo, Drumfish and Bread Pudding.
  • I favor stats over gut, and when Jedi and Norm go to town I side with Norm.
  • I’m married with four young children. I’m a die-hard liberal, very tall, and have been accused of being Buddy.

Who Am I?

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