Archive for October, 2012

Morning News: Offseason Prep

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Now that the 2012 season is officially over (remind me to send God a thank you note on that), it’s time to look at this team to see what is on the horizon.

Several players are eligible for salary arbitration this off-season. Salary values in parenthesis are predictions based on MLB Trade Rumors calculations.

  • First time: Luis Valbuena ($900K), Jeff Samardzija ($2.9MM), James Russell ($900K)
  • Second time: None
  • Third time: Ian Stewart ($2.3MM)
  • Fourth time: Matt Garza ($10MM)

If you’re unfamiliar with how the process works, teams and players have the option of trying to work out a deal before the hearings take place, but regardless of that, should the Cubs offer arbitration to these players (which means they aren’t outright released or traded), both the player and the team must submit a salary number for 2013 to an arbitrator. The arbitrator then hears both sides and chooses one of the submitted amounts. Generally, most players tend to work out a deal before the hearings, but it’s not a lock. We don’t have a great deal of history on the Epstein / Hoyer era, so we’ll see what happens there. I can see Stewart getting non-tendered. The others should be back.

There are also several players who have guaranteed deals for 2013 and beyond.

  • Starlin Castro, SS: $60MM through 2019
  • Alfonso Soriano, OF: $38MM through 2014
  • Jorge Soler, OF: $26MM through 2020
  • Carlos Marmol, RP: $9.8MM through 2013
  • David DeJesus, OF: $5.75MM through 2013
  • Gerardo Concepcion, SP: $4.8MM through 2016

There are rumors that Soriano wants to play for a contender and try to win a world series before he retires. Given the fact that his deal is slowing reaching the end and the fact that he proved he can be a productive member of a lineup, I can actually see a deal happening sometime this off-season.

In the coming week or so, you’ll probably see various plans on how to improve this team. In my opinion, if those plans include a big name free agent signing this year, it’s a mistake. We’ll see what happens.

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Sad news out of the Arizona Fall League as one of our top prospects, Javier Baez, injured his thumb and is probably done for the rest of the fall league season. According to the story on Cubs.com “The Cubs’ No. 1 Draft pick in 2011, Baez batted .333 in 57 games with Class A Peoria and .188 in 23 games with Class A Daytona this season, his first in pro ball. The injury will not keep Baez from being ready for Spring Training.”

Anytime you have a player playing in the off-season, you obviously risk injury. Based on how he was performing, some may say that it’s probably for the best that he can sit so it doesn’t go to his head. I’d disagree and argue that any plate appearances in the AFL help develop due to the level of competition. Despite the injury, I’m still very excited about what the future holds for Baez.

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In other news, the NBA started last night. Raise your hand if you care. OK, I’ll be honest, I don’t care if you care, case I don’t care. When Derek Rose broke himself in the playoffs, it broke my heart and caused me to not be excited about this season whatsoever. I’m going to watch should we make the playoffs, but it’s just hard to get excited about regular season basketball. Maybe I’m just a scrooge, but I’m not buying the NBA.

~~~~~

Joe’s iPod Song of the Day

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Morning News: Sandy, Smith, and Coping Mechanisms

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Hurricane: Sandy made landfall yesterday. Just before reaching land, she was downgraded to a Superstorm, but still, much damage was done. At least 5.7 million people were left without power, and 13 people lost their lives.

This is reportedly going to be one of the costliest storms in U.S. history, with the estimated damage being anywhere between 10 – 20 billion dollars. New York’s transit system has been shut down, and rain and snow are barraging the East Coast. Times like this make my heart ache for those caught in the disaster. Times like this also make me appreciate the Midwest and its generally-consistent weather patterns. My favorite weather patterns are the ones consistent with Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois: Almost Winter, Winter, Almost Summer, and Road Construction. No unexpected tsunamis for us (fingers crossed)!

But in all seriousness, thoughts and prayers to those caught in the storm’s path. Be safe.

NFL: Anyone who owns Alex Smith on a fantasy team has some kind of love/hate relationship with him. He is inconsistent. Anyone who owns Alex Smith and Vernon Davis on the same fantasy team have a hate relationship with Smith. I speak on terms of personal experience.

Alex Smith threw a nearly perfect game last night, going 18-for-19 with three TDs. Great for him. Too bad Vernon Davis wasn’t on the receiving end for any of them!

All bitterness aside, it was a good game for Smith. It is good to see him coming to his own as a QB. Thankfully, he beat Rodgers for the first overall pick in ’05. That’s probably the only category he’ll ever beat Rodgers.

MLB: Baseball season is over. Is anyone else’s spirit crushed? Thankfully, there is approximately only 153 days until Opening Day. Yes, I am counting. No, I cannot wait. Coping strategies that may work for you: 1) Wearing Cubs attire on a regular basis. 2) joining twitter under a pseudonym and incessantly tweeting about baseball. 3) Perhaps find a website that streams Dominican Winter League games.

Hopefully those tips are helpful! Happy Tuesday!

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Morning News: The Littlest Giant Slays Tigers

Monday, October 29th, 2012

World Series Ends
So maybe Ryan Theriot isn’t technically the littlest Giant, but the former Cub got a second consecutive World Series ring last night by setting the table in the 10th inning and eventually scoring the winning run for the victorious Giants. How quickly these MLB playoffs ended, with decidedly less interest than the new playoff format was designed for. The Giants vanquished the 7th best (record-wise) team in the AL in a very quick sweep that will inevitably usher in analysts everywhere parroting some form of the axiom, good pitching always beats good hitting.

Cubs Shake Up The 40-Man
I’ll let Carrie Muskat explain it to you!

Rod Stewart Does With Weird Stuff With Cocaine
I don’t want to talk about it.

Hurricane
Why do we name hurricanes after people? More importantly, why are these names not good enough? Frankenstorm (perhaps to laziest nickname a journalist ever authored) is battering the East Coast the beginning part of this week. I’ll be ready to batter the greater Richmond, Virginia area on Thursday; maybe someone can write a news article about me riffing on my first name. I’m sure it’ll be just as lazy a tagline…

DIY Aviary – In Illinois!
This guy really, really loves his birds. Even the dead ones.

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Morning News: Giants, Tigers, and Badgers, Oh My!

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Might as well start with the World Series. Unlike Wednesday’s lop-sided Game 1, Game 2 was a pitchers’ duel, locked in a 0-0 tie into the seventh. The Giants came out on top in the 2-0 victory to take a moderately commanding 2-0 lead in the series. I know there was some controversy at one point when Prince Fielder was thrown out at the plate, and some drama when Tigers’ pitcher Doug Fister was hit in the head by a line drive (the ball wound up in center field, but Fister managed to stay on the mound). But I can’t offer you much specific detail about the game, since my nephews were visiting. Their viewing choice was less mainstream–a British stop-motion cartoon about the adventures of a group of bath toys called the Rubbadubbers. It was a weird evening.

In a happy footnote to a tragic story, Giants fan and beating victim Bryan Stow was in attendance for Game 2 last night. Stow’s recovery is progressing slowly, but it had to be nice for him and his family to take in a victory for their beloved Giants.

Elsewhere in the MLB, Mariano Rivera is contemplating retirement, and that Cardinals are ready to part ways with Kyle Lohse and Lance Berkman.

Sad news for former Cub Mark Grace–he was indicted Thursday on drunk driving charges, and could face as much as four years in prison. Since it was his second DUI arrest in less than fifteen months, it seems he’s facing at least some jail time. So you can go ahead and take his name off the list of potential replacements for Bob Brenly. On a personal note, Grace is one of my all-time favorite Cubs, so while I can’t abide his crime I do hope he’s able to avoid the harshest punishment. And that whatever his sentence, he’s able to get his life together.

Speaking of frustrating stupidity, Honey Badger don’t care about playing football for LSU ever again.

Longtime NBA Sith Lord commissioner David Stern announced he will retire on February 1st, 2014–the thirty-year anniversary of him first taking the job. Since I couldn’t care less about the NBA, this doesn’t matter much to me. What about you basketball fans out there–is this good news or bad?

A ninety year-old shooting victim is being sued by the man who broke into his house, tied him up, and shot him. By comparison, the guy who robbed a Church’s Chicken with a samurai sword looks like a criminal mastermind.

And to get your weekend started right, here are the top ten greatest car jumps in Hollywood history. (And be sure to click the link to the tractor fight video–it’s magical.)

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Northside Archives: Tiger Ace Fail

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

The Tigers had it taken to them from the start in Game 1. Their ace, and reigning MVP award winner, was battered and bruised early and often leaving little doubt of how this World Series would start. The 88-win Tigers have an uphill battle in Game 2 against their 98-win foes from the National League.

FACT-CHECK: But the Giants only won 94 games this year!

That’s right, this is not the first time that the Tigers have thrown up all over themselves with their ace on the mound in Game 1 of the World Series. Hal Newhouser had won the MVP award in 1944 and would win it again in 1945 (the first Cy Young Award was given in 1956). But in the Cubs’ last World Series appearance, they battered Newhouser for 4 runs in the first, and another 3 in the third knocking out the Hall of Famer after a scant 2.2 IP. The Cubs won Game 1 on the strength of a complete(ly unnecessary complete) game from Hank Borowy.

The Cubs left Detroit with a 2-1 series lead and the final four games at Wrigley Field. But it would be Game 5, a rematch between Newhouser and Borowy that would reshape the series.

After Dizzy Trout pitched a gem in Game 4 to tie the series at 2 games apiece, Newhouser and Borowy had dueled to a 1-1 tie after five innings of Game 5. That’s when Hank Borowy ran out of steam. The Tigers tagged Borowy for 4 runs in the sixth, taking a 5-1 lead on the way to an 8-4 victory that provided them a stranglehold on the series.

In must-win Game 6, the Cubs held a 5-1 lead after six innings. After starter Claude Passeau got into some trouble in the seventh, Cubs manager Charlie Grimm turned to two unlikely relievers, Hank Wyse and Ray Prim. Each had been tagged for big innings by the Tigers earlier in the World Series. Wyse got the Cubs out of the seventh with a 5-3 lead; the Cubs pushed the count to 7-3 before starting the eighth. Wyse and Prim would combine to cough up the lead in the eighth inning and game would go to extra innings tied at 7.

Enter Hank Borowy…you mean the Cubs Game 5 starter? Yes, the Cubs turned to Borowy in the ninth. Not until a two-out double in the bottom of the twelfth off the bat of Stan Hack were the Cubs able to guarantee a Game 7. Dizzy Trout suffered the loss in relief for the Tigers who were certain to start Newhouser in the series finale.

Enter Hank Borowy…you mean the Cubs winning pitcher from Game 6? Yes, the Cubs again turned to Borowy as Newhouser’s foil. Borowy opened the game by surrendering three straight singles, Grimm immediately pulled him and inserted Paul Derringer. Derringer was a long-time Cincinnati Red, then 38-years old and in what would be his final appearance in MLB. After getting two outs, having the bases loaded, and down only 1-0, Derringer needed a break – something needed to go his way to get out of the mess. But Derringer walked Jimmy Outlaw (this is starting to sound like a bad western) to give the Tigers a second run. And with Newhouser in the on-deck circle, Derringer coughed up a bases-clearing double to Paul Richards. The Cubs were in a 5-0 hole, had not yet come to the plate to hit, facing a dominant pitcher, and had no bullpen left to speak of. The Tigers cruised to a 9-3 victory, and Newhouser’s Game 1 meltdown was lost to history.

So while Verlander and the Tigers probably tossed and turned all night, it’s just one game. One very big game; but just one game. If Verlander and Zito meet twice more in this series, none of us will be surprised to see Verlander take a page from Newhouser’s book and rewrite his impact on the series by establishing his dominance on the mound. Then again…the Giants aren’t the Cubs, and I don’t expect we’ll see Zito on the mound in each of the final 3 games of the series.

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