Archive for January, 2012

Where Do We Go From Here?

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Chet is on vacation this week so you’re stuck with me. As I sit and think about the fact that pitchers and catchers report in less than a month, it got me wondering what is left for this team before the season starts. The roster as I see it right now looks like this:

On paper, we’re probably not going to compete for the division with that roster, despite the fact that the NL Central lost Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. That leads to my two fold question. What should be done before opening day and what will be done with this roster?

It’s hard to predict what will be done, so instead I’d offer just a few things as suggestions for the front office moving forward.

Trade Alfonso Soriano – This was looking somewhat promising, with the Tigers being rumored to be in the market for a slugger, until they broke the bank for Prince Fielder. Now you have just a handful of teams with any chance of acquiring him if we assume that a move to an NL team is out as a given. That limits the market to just 16 teams, at least half of which can’t afford the financial risk despite the Cubs picking up a good chunk of salary in return. At this point, I call Baltimore, the place where aging and unproductive Cubs go to die and offer whatever it takes in terms of salary eating in hopes that we can get something of small value. Perhaps a deal similar to the one that netted Mike Fontenot a few years back.

Sign Derrek Lee – This one is assuming that he’s willing to play in a limited role and take on the role of leader and mentor to guys like Anthony Rizzo on a one year deal on our terms. With Soriano gone, Bryan LaHair can switch to LF to make his mark, which is where I’d like to see him play for the simple fact that it increases the value in a trade. An outfielder is always more valuable than a first baseman from the skill it takes to play the position. First base is where outfielders and infielders go at the end of the road.

With LaHair shifting to LF, it allows the Cubs to promote Rizzo to play first on a majority of the time basis with Lee in the mentor and part time role. Both Lee and Rizzo have good gloves so it should be a nice fit if Lee is willing to take him under his wing. With Lee being a righty and Rizzo being a lefty, it lends itself perfectly to a L / R split of time with Rizzo facing the righties.

Those are two things I’d like to see. They’re not rocket science, but moves that would make me grade this new regime an A for the off-season. What realistic things would you like to see, and what will we see?

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Morning News: A Prince, A “Real Man”, and Avoiding Arbitration

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Big News: The Prince has left the Central. He has reportedly agreed to a 9-year deal worth $214 million with Detroit. Because they need to make room for Prince, Miguel Cabrera is being moved somewhere else. Maybe Miguel should be moved to the opposite side of the field to balance the scales; together, Cabrera and Fielder weigh over 500 pounds. The clubhouse may have a larger buffet on game days to accommodate both appetites.

Prince will be playing in his father’s shadow at Comerica Park. Cecil Fielder played for 7 years in Detroit.

The Central has rid itself of the King and the Prince. This will be an interesting season.

Avoiding Arbitration: Tim Lincecum has managed to avoid arbitration with Giants. The two-time Cy Young winner and the club have verbally reached an agreement for a 2-year, 40.5 million dollar contract. That is a freakishly large sum of money for the little man. He’ll be a free agent again in 2013.

All-Star Game: Tony LaRussa (everybody’s favorite manager, right) is ending his baseball career where he began it – in Kansas City. He is the official manage the National League All Stars on July 10th. He’ll be only the second retired manager to manage an All Star Game, following the lead of John McGraw. Despite people’s general dislike for the man, he managed some pretty good ball teams in his 33 years as big league manager, winning 6 World Series titles. I wonder what he’ll do if the NL loses…

Brian Urlacher is a “Real Man”: Brian Urlacher is such a tough guy that he lies to the training staff about having concussion-like symptoms on the field. “… If I have a concussion these days, I’m going to say something happened to my toe or knee just to get my bearings for a few plays.” He just can’t bear to stay off the field and lose an opportunity to pummel a quarterback or smother a running back with his stellar defense. “We want to be on the field as much as we can be. If we can be out there, it may be stupid, it may be dumb, call me dumb and stupid then, because I want to be on the football field.” In order to stay on the field, he also gets pain relieving shots when he’s feeling old and rickety. At least he’s earning pay and playing like he means it. Maybe some other players should take notes from him (hint hint, Cutler).

Classic Rock Song of The Day:

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Morning News: Afternoon Edition, Part Deux

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Strike One:  The Dodgers are a step closer to being sold–or at least a half step.  Monday was the deadline for submitting bids on the team, but as this article points out, they’re still accepting bids.  So far, prospective owners include Joe Torre, Magic Johnson, Mark Cuban, the family of Roy Disney, and former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley, and bunch of other businessmen and hedge fund managers with less name-recognition.  Now begins the slow process of vetting those bidders for MLB approval.  Selection of the winning bid is scheduled for April 1st, and the sale is to be completed by April 30th.

Strike Two:  Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas sat out the team’s visit to the White House Monday, and his absence has caused some controversy, at least with ESPN Boston’s Joe McDonald.  Yahoo Sports’ Greg Wyshynski was much less worked up about Thomas’ decision, which he points out is in keeping with Thomas’ conservative political beliefs.  Thomas explained his decision in a statement on his Facebook page.  And just for fun, here’s my favorite moment from last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Foul Tip:  New Jersey governor Chris Christie said Monday that the friendly wagers politicians make over playoff games between their home teams are “really stupid.”  Indeed.

Strike Three:  It appears Peyton Manning knows he’s on his way out of Indianapolis.  At least he doesn’t sound optimistic that he’s going to stay through all the coaching and front office upheaval.  If he’s right, the story of the offseason will be the competition for his services.

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Useless Trivia: Cubs Hitting Streaks

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Today’s useless trivia revolves around hitting streaks. Since 1989, the first year I really followed the Cubs as an 11 year old, there have been 10 Cubs to amass a hitting streak of more than 15 games. Can you name them?

HIGHLIGHT BELOW FOR THE ANSWER:

Jerome Walton

Derrek Lee

Alfonso Soriano

Mark Grace

Aramis Ramirez

Sammy Sosa

Rondell White

Ryne Sandberg

Marlon Byrd

Jose Vizcaino

View the streaks

No need to post your guesses in the comments since the answer is in the post, but I would like to know how many you guessed before looking at the answer.

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Morning News: Afternoon Edition

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Strike One:  Joe Paterno passed away over the weekend.  The final year of his coaching career saw him achieve the highest highs, becoming the winningest Division 1 coach in history, and sink to the lowest lows, as the Jerry Sandusky scandal engulfed the entire football program and led to Paterno’s eventual ouster–all in the space of a few short weeks.  While his on-the-field legacy is secure in most eyes, it remains to be seen if or how the forthcoming Sandusky trial further tarnishes the longtime coach’s personal legacy.  For some people his death may come as a relief, as he won’t face further humiliation and shame over his relationship with Sandusky.  For others–and especially Sandusky’s victims–his passing means they’ll never get answers to their questions concerning Paterno’s role in the apparent coverup.  His funeral is set for Wednesday.

Foul Tip Ball One:  The day before Paterno died, a Penn State student-run new organization called Onward State erroneously tweeted news of Paterno’s death.  The story was picked up by several national news outlets before it was recanted, and the editor of Onward State resigned over the mistake.  Less than a day later, Paterno was dead–for real this time.  I wonder if the editor regrets his knee-jerk resignation now?

Strike Two:  Are you ready for a rematch?  By now you know that the Patriots and Giants both won yesterday, and are now on a two-week, hype-loaded collision course for Super Bowl XLVI (46–I had to look it up).  Do you expect a dominant performance from Brady, Gronkowski, and Hernandez, or some more late-game heroics from Eli and the Giants defense?  Here’s John Clayton’s early breakdown of the game.  And in case you missed them, here are the highlights from yesterday’s Ravens-Patriots and Giants-49ers games.

Foul Tip:  Steven Tyler was asked to sing the National Anthem before the Ravens-Patriots game yesterday, apparently by someone who had never heard Steven Tyler sing before.  Here’s the video, along with some links to other famous train wreck versions.  Tyler’s version was not what you’d call good, but it could have been a lot worse.  Or funnier.

Strike Three:  Don’t shed any missed-it-by-that-much tears for longtime Ravens linebacker and human wrecking ball Ray Lewis–he’s not retiring yet.  However, another fixture of an East Coast powerhouse has decided to hang it up.  Jorge Posada plans to retire tomorrow as a Yankee, rather than continue his career somewhere else.

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Who Am I?

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

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 lizzie@viewfromthebleachers.com … the more the merrier!)

Who Am I?

  • Though I was born in Ohio, I was raised in the Southwest suburbs of Chicago. I now reside in Iowa. I’ve been to Wrigley Field many times and if the Cubs move out I am a fan no more.
  • I believe my love of the Cubs is a genetic disorder I inherited from my father. I’ve never played organized ball but I’m heavily involved with local Little League and USSSA teams. My favorite teams are whichever my kids are on!
  • I thought Hendry was a mediocre GM and don’t have an opinion about Theo yet.
  • I found VFTB through the ESPN link. I return because of the members and articles. I lurked a little bit but it’s not in my nature to bite my tongue for long.
  • When Norm and Jedi go to town I sit back and enjoy the show!
  • If I was to dine with Seymour I’d order seafood because my wife doesn’t like it and hence won’t cook it!
  • Last year I won the Dunn vs. Pena bet I offered to everyone! Muhahahahahaha!

Who Am I?

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GO: Opening Day Starter

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Who is your choice for the Cubs’ Opening Day 2012 starter?
a. Ryan Dempster
b. Matt Garza
c. Paul Maholm
d. Someone Else (Who?)

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Tradition (Huh! Yeah!) What Is It Good For?

Friday, January 20th, 2012

When your team is on the wrong side of 100 years of futility, you have to choose carefully which traditions to hold onto and which to let go.  Protecting too much of your tradition means you run the risk of celebrating incompetence.  Dump it all and you might as well load up the Mayflower trucks and move the whole operation to a new city.

Tradition means a lot to Cubs fans.  For some–in place of championships and past glory–it means everything.

But sometimes that tradition can hold you back.  For nearly half a century, the Cubs organization chose not to install lights at Wrigley Field and play only day games because that’s the way they’d always done it.  Don’t get me wrong–day games aren’t necessarily a disadvantage.  In fact, if anything, they ought to be an advantage.  But instead of making the most of the scheduling peculiarity, the Cubs let it become an excuse for failure–and more than a few players used it as license to become fixtures of the Chicago nightlife, squandering considerable potential in the process.  Did the abundance of day games automatically make the Cubs losers?  No, but it paved the way for a variety of failures.

Most Cubs fans can’t agree on which traditions they’d like to preserve, even if they’re far less consequential than the decades of day games.  Some fans love the bricks and ivy, the old manual scoreboard, and the schizophrenic ways that Wrigley Field plays depending on the weather.  Others want to tear the whole thing down and build a domed stadium on the same land–still others want to move out to the northwest suburbs where parking is more plentiful and the commute shorter.

I can’t agree with that kind of thinking.  I want Wrigley Field to stay the way it is, and with some thorough, careful renovations, I think it can.

But that doesn’t mean I’m a fan of all the Wrigley Field traditions.  Along with the bricks, ivy, and the manual scoreboard, I’d keep:

  • The “W” and “L” flags  As a former frequent passenger on the Red Line, I know how fun it is to ride past Wrigley and see the result of the day’s game flapping in the wind.  And the abundance of “W” flags unfurled after road wins has helped cement it as celebratory tradition.  (I still can’t figure out why some division rival hasn’t started selling the blue “L” flags for their fans to display after Cubs losses.)
  • Wayne Messmer singing the National Anthem  His trademark glory note on the word “brave” is my Pavlovian indicator that a Cubs game is about to begin.
  • No mascots or cheerleaders  Ronnie Woo-Woo and the Dixieland band don’t count.
  • The 7th inning stretch  “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is simply more appropriate than “God Bless America.”  (More on this below.)
  • The rooftop bleachers  You’ll remember that a few years back, the Cubs installed screens to block out the view from the rooftops until they came to a financial agreement with their Wrigleyville neighbors.  In the years before and since then, the Cubs have had opportunities to buy those buildings.  I hope they eventually do, because I like the idea of watching a game from a nearby rooftop, and I think the only way to keep them open long term would be for the Cubs to take full control.

Most other Wrigley traditions I could take or leave, although there are a few that need to die, preferably sooner than later.  I would gleefully get rid of:

  • The guest conductor for the 7th inning stretch  C-list celebrities garbling the words to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” does not honor the memory of Harry Caray.  It’s time to dump the guest conductor gig–and the usually nauseating interview that follows–and just use a recording of Harry or Ron Santo (I’d use Harry for day games, and Ron for night games).  And if you want to have the occasional guest conductor with some true connection to the Cubs, I’ll give in.  But the list needs to be short.  Real short.  Like “let’s limit it to Cubs Hall of Famers and Bill Murray” short.
  • “Go Cubs Go” needs to go  This one is relatively new, and I’ll admit I’m a little torn.  On the one hand, I only hear it after Cubs wins, so I’m predisposed to want to hear it.  But the song is so mind-numbingly, teeth-gratingly hokey.  Really, if we want to honor Steve Goodman, wouldn’t it be better to play “A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request”–a far superior song–after every Cubs loss?  I don’t know if a lyrical update or a rerecording of “Go Cubs Go” could improve the song, but something needs to be done.  Soon.
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Morning News: None of these things is quite like the other

Friday, January 20th, 2012

 

Conference Championships – this is the most intriguing weekend of the football season. Two weeks of buildup and one game, or one week of buildup and two games? I prefer the latter. By the time the Super Bowl rolls around there’s a distinct “just play the game already” attitude due to the overwhelming two weeks of analysis. But this week, we get two great games that could easily go either way. The first game finds the Ravens in New England looking to pick up a road win to advance. You’ll get to see a great defense (Ravens) against a fantastic offense (Patriots) AND a crap defense (Patriots) against a pedestrian offense (Ravens) all in the same game. Once the AFC has been decided, there’s a rematch in San Francisco where the 49ers host the Giants – Eli’s Giants not Lincecum’s. Jeremiah has more than once remarked that the Jimmy Neutron helmet Eli wears gives him an inordinate amount of confidence when he takes a hit – he’s going to need that advantage against the 49ers’ defense. Either of these games could be ugly, great, memorable, or all of the above. In the end though, we’ll get one of four games 1) a Harbaugh Bowl II (Ravens v. 49ers), 2) a rematch from the 2008 Super Bowl (Giants v. Patriots), 3) two franchises with a bunch of Super Bowl wins between them (49ers v. Patriots), or 4) a quirky matchup which would guarantee either Eli surpasses big brother’s ring total or the NFL franchise from Baltimore makes a name for itself yet again in Indy (Giants v. Ravens). Any of those would be interesting matchups, but the one that would get the most hype would no doubt be the 2008 rematch.

Tim Tebow’s Take: He needs the Patriots to win so that Brady winds up missing out on the Pro Bowl next week in Hawaii (though admittedly, Brady might skip it anyway). Andy Dalton is the AFC’s first alternate QB, Tebow is next in line. It’s conceivable that one of the other two Pro Bowlers (Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers) could bow out of the game for any number of reasons. So you may not be done with Tebow just yet!

Side NFL Noteour Vice President is a buffoon, although I bet most of you never heard about this yesterday. Somewhere Dan Quayle is trying to spell envious.

Captain Stubini – if you haven’t been tracking the sinking of the Costa Concordia, I’ll sum it up: if the captain had been French instead of Italian, we could’ve confirmed nearly every French stereotype in a single story. I always knew Gavin McLeod didn’t get enough credit.

Baseball? – that’s what I’m supposed to be covering? Not too much that’s terribly interesting, Jamie Moyer took a minor league deal in Colorado. At the age of 49 there’s no truth to the rumor that Seymour is recruiting him for next year’s fantasy camp. The Cubs re-signed Rodrigo Lopez – don’t worry, it’s just a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training and a decent pay raise if he stays on an MLB roster. Yu Darvish got $60 million (salary only, the posting fee was another $50 million) from the cash strapped Texas Rangers; no word on CJ Wilson’s analysis of the deal. And Fausto Carmona was caught using a fake ID; which is apparently redundant as his given name is Roberto Hernandez Heredia – not surprisingly he’s been lying about his age too!

And now for something completely different – the Carmona story reminds me of this famous Monty Python bit.

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