Archive for January, 2012

Northside Archives: Trade Compensation

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

The Cubs are still sorting out the trade compensation they’ll be sending the Red Sox for “acquiring” Theo Epstein. You may recall that this little matter was either to be settled by November 1st or at that time it would become a matter for the commissioner’s office. The organizations have mutually agreed to let it drag on this long for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the cozy relationship between Epstein (and Jed Hoyer) and Red Sox GM Ben Cherington.

The most obvious precedent for such a transaction is actually in the Cubs’ past. Andy MacPhail was hired by the Cubs in 1994 and in return the Twins received the forgettable Hector Trinidad. A hard throwing righty who had performed well at the A and AA levels for the Cubs, Trinidad wasn’t able to duplicate that success in the Twins organization.

Bud Selig, fresh off his most recent “I’m going to retire” contract extension saga, will be in charge of sorting out the requisite compensation. It’s reasonable to expect he’ll require the Cubs to send more than the 2012 version of Hector Trinidad.

Just this past off-season, the Marlins sent two players (Ozzie Martinez and Jhan Marinez) to the White Sox in return for Ozzie Guillen. Ten years ago Lou Piniella was “dealt” from Seattle to Tampa bay in return for Randy Winn and Antonio Perez. The Pirates traded for Chuck Tanner in 1976, sending Manny Sanguillen to Oakland in the process. And two years before they were the “Amazins” the Mets “acquired” their future World Series manager Gil Hodges by sending Bill Denehy to the Washington Senators (Texas Rangers). It was 1960 when the first manager was traded – for another manager. That year the Tigers and Indians swapped managers.

Trading a coach has happened in other sports, Jon Gruden and Bill Belichick (NFL) have been traded. Pat Riley (NBA) has been traded, in a manner of speaking; after the Heat tampered while attempting to lure him, the league ordered compensation to the Knicks. Yet trading an executive is still a relative novelty in most sports.

There isn’t a lot of precedence for this type of deal which makes Selig’s job even more difficult. If the Cubs can get away with something similar to the Marlins package for Guillen it’ll be a relative bargain. First though, Selig needs to identify assets within the Cubs system that Boston might possibly want – perhaps the toughest task of all.

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Darvish Domino Falls…Whither Goes the Prince? Oh, and Rob Lowe…

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

 

Darvish Lands in Arlington:  Yu Darvish, the latest “next big thing” from Japan agreed to terms on a six year, $60 million deal to bring his talented right arm to the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are on the hook for $116 million in total for Darvish after paying a $56 million posting fee to the Nippon-Ham Fighters for the right to negotiate with their ace. The Rangers’ window to negotiate with Darvish was set to close at 5 p.m., and the team completed the deal just before their window expired. A few questions remain following the Darvish signing:

1) Darvish’s numbers in Japan were certainly impressive…but we’ve seen that before, haven’t we Mr. Matsuzaka? Will Darvish live up to the hype and help the Rangers fill the void at the top of their rotation caused by the departure of C.J. Wilson, or will he follow in a long line of disappointing Japanese star pitchers in America?

2) What happens to Prince Fielder now? Darvish was believed to be the last domino that needed to fall before the Prince Fielder sweepstakes could conclude. If Darvish and the Rangers didn’t come to terms, it seemed likely that Prince would be playing deep in the heart of Texas next year. Now? It’s less clear…Washington? Seattle? One thing seems likely, it probably won’t be Texas.

3) Is there a better team name in all of sports than the Nippon-Ham Fighters? I’ll answer for you. No.

The Tainted MVP to Speak: Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, who was handed a 50-game suspension for violating MLB’s substance abuse policy (read: got busted for PEDs), will accept his 2011 National League MVP award in person and will speak at the upcoming Baseball Writer’s Association of America on Saturday. I’ve got to say, “It’s B.S.” doesn’t make for a very compelling acceptance speech.

Big NFL News Leaked By the Bartlett White House: Well, Rob Lowe hasn’t created an internet stir like this since…wait, the internet wasn’t around in 1989, was it? Any way, Lowe jumped into the spotlight this afternoon with a tweet announcing that his sources told him that Peyton Manning would be retiring from the NFL. Manning’s father denied the “report” later in the day, but one has to wonder where Lowe (a known Colts fan) was getting his information. According the the ESPN.com story, the actor was the very first person that Colts owner Jim Irsay followed after joining Twitter. Hmmm…

This is a Cubs site, after all: Today, the Cubs signed Jason Jaramillo to a minor league contract. Yes, Jason Jaramillo. Rejoice, Cubs fans…The Theo may have just found us a replacement for Koyie Hill!

 


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Chet’s Corner: 2012…This Team Will Suck With Purpose!

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

I imagine Theo and his gang of stat crunchers sitting around a table and working their way through the Cubs entire system.  They are probably using some advanced software, developed of course by NASA and Bill James, searching for talent to build off.  They have guys like Garza (asking for 10 million in arbitration by the way) and what could be the next great shortstop in Castro to look forward too, but the rest of the team is middling at best.  What are the options to build for the future?

One of the more disturbing trends of the off-season is reading the random fans quotes and concerns regarding the 2012 Cubs season.  People are worried about the quality of the product being put on the field this year.  They see Cashner traded and Zambrano gone too.  They also see a few signings along the way, however they are viewed as being about as sexy as a Rosanne Barr spread in Playboy.  It actually goes to show the idiocy and outright lack of vision by some fans. 

Here is my take, and hopefully this will help ease your pain…. if we finish above .500 it will be a gift from the baseball gods.  Yes, the 2012 Cubs might just suck worse then 2011′s version, however, they will suck with purpose!

People will actually have to be baseball fans to truly appreciate this season.  They will actually have to see what is going on beneath the top layer to enjoy 2012. 

Picture this, the Cubs are like an old run down house in the middle of a great neighborhood.  The previous owners put a new coat of paint on each year, usually doing minimal research to see what paint they were buying, and with the rain and the weather the paint slowly chipped away, once again showing the scarred and flawed framework by years end. 

Finally, a new owner comes along and buys the house.  He doesn’t know much about houses but he is a smart guy and knows that something is fundamentally wrong.  After living in the house for a year or so he realizes the need for a set of educated eyes to really take a look at the problems facing this old haunt.  An architect if you will, and not just any architect, he gets the best one available, or sort of available.

The architect shows up and does his initial assessment and immediately realizes what most of the neighborhood already knows.  It’s not the houses’ exterior that keeps it from being the home it could be, even though the outside is nothing to revel at, it’s the foundation that is at fault.  The problem? You can’t build the pride of the neighborhood on a rotten foundation.  The same problems will keep popping up down the road.

The architect hires a team of builders, designers, surveyors, brick layers and anybody else that can help build the house of the owners dreams.  The first thing they do is try to sell off (or throw away) anything with value.  Those floors made with Bolivian Wormwood? Sold at pennies on the dollar to the gentlemen down the street, who thinks he has the tools to buff them to a fine shine again.   The return?  Some regular old maple slats, slightly used but with some gentle touch could return to form.  You get the idea.

It will take the better part of the year to tear down the old home and rebuild a solid foundation.   The owners (and the neighborhood) will just have to enjoy the Red Roof Inn for a while as they wait for their dream home of the future.

 

 

 

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Arbitration Signings and A Garth Brooks Donation

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Cubs News: The Cubs have avoided arbitration with 6 of their 7 arbitration eligible players. Lizzie will be happy to know that Geo will be back, signing for 4.3 million dollars. Everyone else will be sad to know that Blake DeWitt signed for $1.1 million and Jeff Baker for $1.375 million. Randy Wells was also signed, along with Chris Volstad and Ian Stewart. Soto’s contract was the most valuable of the 6, even though his numbers dropped significantly during 2011.

Matt Garza is the only player that has not come to a deal with the Cubs. Garza has submitted a $10.225 million salary and the Cubs submitted $7.95 million. Don’t panic yet; they have until February 1st to come to terms. Theo is probably sitting behind his new desk at Wrigley, crunching numbers as we speak. I have confidence that this front office can get what they want. Theo never went to an arbitration hearing while he was with Boston, and the Cubs have been taken to a hearing once since 2003. It does help that Garza is the best pitcher on our roster at the moment. Theo wouldn’t let him go over something as silly as arbitration, when pitching is our biggest need, right? Right. We’ll have a deal here in the next couple weeks, maybe even the next few days.

Other Arbitration News: My favorite AL team, the Tampa Bay Rays, have come to agreements with some of their players, with the most notable one being David Price. Price and Tampa agreed to a mere $4.35 million deal. Price said, “I actually didn’t know anything that was going on. I just kind of stayed out of it,” Price said. “I have all the faith in the world in my agent. … He took care of me and got me what I felt I deserved.” He may have felt he got what he deserved, but maybe he really deserves more of what Garza is asking. Let’s get him up here to Chicago.

Other News: In 2005, Garth Brooks donated $500,000 to a hospital in Oklahoma, with the understanding that one of the hospital buildings would be named after his late mother. Apparently, none of the hospital’s buildings carry Garth’s mother’s name, leaving Mr. Brooks to ask for his money back. Maybe they should just make a sign.

Katie’s Song of the Day:

For some reason, these old 80′s bands make me miss baseball season.

More Than a Feeling

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A Few To Forget

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

It’s OK if you’re feeling optimistic about the Chicago Cubs. I know I am. The fact that current leadership actually understands the value of on-base percentage is like a gift from the gods.

But what’s the fun of living in Cubblieland if you can’t share some misery? Recently I was knocking back a beverage or two with some fellow fans, and we stumbled upon the subject of our least favorite squads.

The master list of crappy Cubs teams is long and legendary, but here are a few of our stomach-turning favorites:

  • 1994 Cubs, 49-64, 5th place: The only good thing about the 1994 baseball strike was that we didn’t have to watch this team for 162 games. Led by Tom “Cubs Tree” Trebelhorn, the ’94 Cubs were especially unlikeable. Catcher Rick Wilkins followed up a 30-home-run campaign with a stat line of .227/.317/.387. Automatic outs like Derrick May and Tuffy Rhodes got way too many at bats. Mike Morgan turned in an ERA of 6.69. Willie Banks and Anthony Young made 42 starts. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Ryne Sandberg announced his retirement (for the first time).
  • 1997 Cubs, 68-94, 5th place: Nothing wrecks an offense like tons of playing time for Scott Servais, Rey Sanchez, and Brian McRae. Throw in Shawon Dunston’s usual out-making antics and a .300 OBP season from Sammy Sosa, and you’ve got a team that can’t score runs. The starting rotation committed its fair share of sabotage as well. Kevin Foster, Steve Trachsel, and Frank Castillo were especially awful in ’97. And who can forget the “contributions” of Mel Rojas? If you did, you’re lucky!
  • 2000 Cubs, 65-97, 6th place: This season was so painful that it actually makes me laugh. I swear, this part isn’t made up…Damon Buford in CF, Willie Greene at 3B, Joe Girardi at C, Ruben Freakin’ Quevedo  in the rotation (to the tune of a 7.47 ERA), and Rick Aguilera closing. The final kick in the nuts? Don Baylor at the helm. No wonder I drank so much back then.
  • 2006 Cubs, 66-96, 6th place: In Dusty we trusty? No thanks. Hard Bake ran the Cubs ship into the ground, and he did it with authority. His final year in Chicago saw lots of injuries, craploads of at bats for rotten baseball players, and the usual array of excuses (the heat, the park, the fans, the media, killer locusts, etc). The Cubs were 15th in runs scored and 14th in ERA that year. I’ve never been so happy to see a season end.

This little trip down catastrophe lane isn’t mean to take the air out of our current balloon. Rather, it’s a nice lesson in perspective. 2012 likely won’t be a great year for the Cubs, but no matter how bad it gets, it can always be worse!

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Morning News: Paying Off Hit-and-Run Victims and Other News

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Strike One:  Cubs Convention Roundup  The annual Cubs Convention was held over the weekend–did anyone go?  It was an eventful year for the convention, kicking off with the surprise appearance of a newly re-signed Kerry Wood.  There was also news from Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, who made it clear he’s open to eating salary if his new front office thinks it’s best for the team.  (In that same article, team albatross Alfonso Soriano told reporters he’d be willing to waive his no-trade rights, but only if he’s able to go to a contender.  You know, because most contenders are looking to add an overpaid DH.)  Speaking of low-effort players, new Cubs manager Dale Sveum talked about his distaste for “lollygagging” (scroll down) and the necessity of playing with an edge.  Most of all, Cubs fans swarmed to the convention this year to greet the new front office brain trust.

Strike Two:  Playoff Atmosphere   Baltimore handled Houston.  Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and (surprisingly!) the Patriots’ defense assassinated the Super Bowl hopes of Broncos Tebow fans everywhere. And the large contingent of Green Bay fans in VFTB family means I need to choose my words carefully when discussing the Packers’ no-show on Sunday.  By far the best game of the weekend was the down-to-the-wire shootout between the Saints and the 49ers.  Regardless of who you were cheering for, one of the lasting images of this NFL season has to a sobbing Vernon Davis bear hugging his head coach after catching the game-winning touchdown.  I think I’m a 49ers for the next couple weeks.

Foul Tip:  Moving Violation  If you intentionally hit someone with your car, it’s going to take more than $150 to keep them from going to the police.

Strike Three:  Shipwreck  Almost thirty people are still unaccounted for in that Italian cruise ship that ran aground and partially capsized off the Tuscan coast last Friday night.  If you haven’t seen the shocking photos and videos from this real-life Poseidon Adventure, be sure to scroll through the article I linked above.  Because of the way the ship rolled, most of the lifeboats were useless.  The vast majority of the survivors were forced to swim the short distance the the coast.  Making the situation much worse, the several crew members reportedly abandoned the emergency procedure, leaving most of the guests to fend for themselves.  The ship’s captain has been arrested, as it appears the accident was the direct result of negligence on his part.

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Scott Bakula and the Quest for the Modern Mr. Cub

Monday, January 16th, 2012

A friend of mine once claimed that Scott Bakula was his default image for all quarterbacks. Until he actually saw a picture of, let’s say, Peyton Manning, the “Necessary Roughness” quarterback would serve as a mental placeholder, a reference point for what “quarterback” looks like. As twisted as that is, it popped into my head last week when it was announced that Kerry Wood had signed on for another year or two in Chicago and I started thinking about who the default image of  “Chicago Cub” is to today’s Cubs fan.

The obvious, and wrong, answer is Ernie Banks. Banks is Mr. Cub. He is almost universally ranked as the greatest player ever to don the red “C” cap and his “Let’s play two!” catchphrase has become an idealistic illustration of days gone by when players took the field with the joie de vivre befitting of a children’s game. The man coined the term “friendly confines of Wrigley Field”, for Pete’s sake. Here’s the problem: Mr. Cub is all he’s ever been to me, and I suspect that is true for most visitors to this website. I never had a chance to see Banks play; he retired eight years before I was born and when I picture Banks, I see an old man in a suit jacket and ball cap waving to an adoring crowd. He is the most legendary Cub player of all time, but based on the fact that he hasn’t played for over 40 years, he can’t possibly be the personification of the franchise. Not for anyone younger than 60 anyhow.

Using a healthy dose of subjectivity and loose criteria constructed purely for this exercise, I set out to determine who the personification of “Cub” is today. First, the player has to have played in the last two decades and he had to have spent a large part of his career with the Cubs. Second, he needs to have been good…if we’re creating a logo out of a modern Cubs player, Augie Ojeda can’t be our Jerry West. With those measures in mind, I have narrowed it down to five finalists for the Modern Day Mr. Cub:

Mark Grace:  Some how, Grace has managed to become simultaneously overrated and underrated as a player. However, no matter where you rank Grace in the pantheon of Cubs greats on the field, there is no doubt that he is one of the most legendary “fan favorites” of all time, due mostly to his image as a “normal guy” off the field. He smoked, he drank, he chased women and then he showed up at the ballyard, did his job and did it pretty well.

Greg Maddux: Maddux is not only the best Cubs pitcher of all-time; he is, in my mind, the best pitcher of my lifetime. Unfortunately, though he spent nine seasons with the Cubs and is one of only six players to have his number retired by the organization, he spent the majority of his career and played his best baseball for another franchise.

Ryne Sandberg: Sandberg is my favorite baseball player of all-time and almost a no-brainer to me, and it’s difficult for me not to automatically think of him as Mr. Cub v.2. Had things gone as planned, his ascension to manager of the Cubs would have cemented him in this role. However, that didn’t happen and his best playing years were now more than 20 years ago. Anyone younger than 25 never really got to see him play at all, which puts him right on the fringe of relevancy to a large portion of current fans.

Sammy Sosa: There was once a time, not so long ago really, when we couldn’t have even had this debate. Sosa’s star burned so brightly in the late 90’s and early 00’s that it would have been ridiculous to even consider calling someone else the face of the franchise. He was one of two people credited with saving the entire sport of baseball; he was bigger than the Cubs. Of course, being bigger ended up being part of the problem and Sosa is now more known as a poster child of the steroid era.

While I hold a special place in my heart for each of the players listed above (yes, even you, Sammy), none of them quite fit the role I’m looking to fill.  All were great players, but came up lacking in one area or another. At the end of the day, there is only one recent player that I can label the “quintessential Cub”, and that player is Kid-K himself.

Kerry Wood: Wood immediately captured the imagination of Cubs fans with his 20-strikeout game in 1998, and almost as quickly, he looked like he might become the next big bust when he blew out his elbow. Then 2003 came: 266 strikeouts, the NLDS, the game 7 home run…the legend was finally being realized! Ah, but then more injuries. After that there was the curious case of a baseball bat and Sammy Sosa’s boombox, then in 2008 he was a dominant closer, then the next year he was gone only to return to his rightful place in Wrigley Field two years later.

You couldn’t make up a story about a player that better personifies the roller coaster ride of being a Cubs fan through the 90’s and 00’s than Wood. He may not be Mr. Cub, but he is, without a doubt our Scott Bakula.

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Cubs Arbitration Eligible Player List

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Not much on the news front this morning other than names of the players eligible for salary arbitration. The Cubs have seven names eligible. In the past, the Cubs would rarely go to arbitration, choosing to sign a player to a deal agreed upon by both parties before the deadline. It will be interesting to see how Theo and Jed run things. The list for the Cubs includes:

  • Jeff Baker
  • Blake DeWitt
  • Matt Garza
  • Geovany Soto
  • Ian Stewart
  • Chris Volstad
  • Randy Wells

Discuss

If you missed a couple of really good posts over the weekend you need to go back and take a look. Jeremiah talked about the Cubs announcement for stadium renovations / additions to the RF bleachers and Norm did a nice recap from the Tweets about the Cubs convention.

PHOTO OF THE DAY

WHAT’S ON JOE’S IPOD

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Cubs Announce Changes To Wrigley Field

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

During the Cubs Convention Saturday, the team announced a plan to bring to rooftop experience inside Wrigley Field.  The area above the right field corner (formerly the Bleacher Box Seats) will be renovated in the coming months to create the Budweiser Patio.  With a look reminiscent of the seats on top of the Green Monster in Fenway Park, the section will hold roughly 150 fans, with limited rows of elevated seating.  Perhaps the most dramatic part of the renovation is the installation of a giant LED board directly above the right field basket that will display player photographs, expanded stats, and other in-game information.

Here’s ESPN Chicago’s story.  The Cubs expect the new section to be finished in time for Opening Day.

And here’s an official sketch of what the new section will look like.

My take:  Because of the perspective of the drawing, it’s hard to tell what the renovated section will look like on Opening Day.  What is clear is that it will mean the loss of several front row/basket seats, which seems like a waste.  Those are some of the greatest seats in all of baseball, and the Cubs are throwing them away.  It better be a really nice screen.

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