Archive for November, 2012

Morning News: Football, Black Friday Carnage & More

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Obligatory Cubs ‘News’
Reports have the Cubs, along with virtually every other deep-pocketed MLB franchise, chasing down Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton of the Miami Marlins. Stanton took to Twitter with his frustrations immediately after news broke that the Marlins had off-loaded the valuable parts of their roster to the Blue Jays – the valuable parts not formerly known as Mike Stanton. Rampant speculation that he desires a new employer, immediately. Facing the proposition of historic losing, mediocre (at best) teammates, and zero fan interest it’s understandable why Stanton might want out. In 2013 he’s a cheap at roughly $500k; in 2014, that figure likely balloons to several million, but still incredibly affordable considering the talent. He is under team control for two more seasons beyond that, through 2016. I’d expect the Marlins to off-load Stanton, though not perhaps in the immediate future. Several of his former teammates seem to think that Stanton would prefer to head back to California, where he grew up. In any case, good to know the Cubs have thrown their proverbial hat into the ring. Maybe nothing will come of it, but it’s a nice thought at least…

NFL
The Bears destroyed the Vikings 28-10 in a game that wasn’t really that close. Jay Cutler returned from his concussion and turned in a steady performance. But the win came at a high cost – Devin Hester (concussion), Charles Tillman (ankle), Matt Forte (ankle), Chris Spencer (knee), and Lance Louis (knee) all suffered injuries of varying severity. Louis’ injury came at the hands of what Mike Pereira believed to be a dirty hit. None have been ruled out for next week currently, but any of those five starters sidelined with injuries isn’t exactly what the Bears need when they host the Seahawks next Sunday. The first link in this section above includes this bit about Brandon Marshall cresting 1000 yards for the season, “In the third quarter, I leaned over to Jay and said, `That catch puts me at 1,000 yards for six seasons in a row.’ And he looked at me and said, `You’re disgusting,” Marshall said, laughing.

The win also put the Bears back in charge of the NFC North for the time being; the Packers were yet again embarrassed by that inferior team masquerading as the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Remember Clay Matthews says the Giants didn’t beat the Packers last year in the playoffs (even though the scoreboard disagreed). Jarrett Bush parroted a similar line after another loss. On Sunday night, the Packers got revenge, ‘not losing’ to the Giants by an even wider margin. The 38-10 Giants win put the Packers behind the playoff eight-ball. They desperately need a win over the Bears in Week 15, or a total Bears collapse. Winning the division is still a good possibility, but they probably won’t avoid playing on Wild Card Weekend if they make it that far. The Giants (also at 7-4) and the 49ers (8-2-1) both hold head-to-head tie-breakers for the #2 seed; the Falcons seem destined for the NFC’s top slot (10-1).

NCAA
Notre Dame v. SEC Champion for the BCS Championship. 42 days away. Brian Kelly wins that game, he can write his NFL contract. Nick Saban wins that game, a lot of Bama boosters will be wondering how long before Saban bolts back to Sundays. Mark Richt wins that game, he won’t have to listen to questions about the hot seat for another 18 months (maybe). Oh, and millionaires are being routinely added to the unemployment rolls. Auburn. NC State. Purdue. Colorado. Boston College. Arkansas. More to come I’m sure.

I Want To See This Made Into A Movie ASAP
‘Target, we’re not sure if it’s robbery or a business transaction.’

When Grown Men Fight Over Shoes
I’m anti-Black Friday (I’m making that a thing now)…so this story makes me laugh. People are so stupid. At least fight over something important, like if Aaron Rodgers is one of the top 4 QBs in the NFL (I couldn’t resist).

But This Speaks Well For Humanity
YouTube’s most watched video of all-time had been Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’…until the South Korean sensation PSY eclipsed that mark with the ubiquitous ‘Gangnam Style’ (I’ll link to that). PSY’s hit video is up over 823 million views at this point. So not only has his horse-riding dance helped us to forget the Macarena, but he’s eviscerated Bieber’s records as well. Not that PSY is necessarily the height of culture, but he’s a clear step up from the Macarena or Bieber- surely even Kim Jong-un can agree with us about that!

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Morning News: Tryptophan Hangover Edition

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

I’m writing this from the tent city of a waiting line that wraps around our local Best Buy. In less than a hour, I’ll start strapping on my catcher’s gear and psych myself up for the inevitable stampede once the doors open. If I can avoid any of the compound fractures that plagued me last Black Friday, I ought to be able to make it to Target before sunrise and Walmart before 10am.

None of that is true. I’m not a proponent of Black Friday, or the shopping feeding frenzies it encourages. Don’t get me wrong–I’m all for saving money whenever possible. I just don’t think it should come at the cost of human safety and dignity. I don’t care if K-Mart is selling microwaves for $30 between midnight and 1am–it’s not worth stomping another shopper’s throat to secure you get yours. And the joy of giving my nephew the train set he wants would be severely diminished if I had to punch a few moms and dads in the face to snag it. But since none of you came here for my thoughts on the runaway materialism of Black Friday, I digress…

Bad news, Ham Fighters fans: the Cubs sold Bryan LaHair to the Softbank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League. Chicago received a whopping $950,000 in the deal, and they still have Anthony Rizzo. LaHair signed a two-year, $4.5M deal. Everybody wins.

If the NFL is your thing in the fall, then Thursday was a good day for you. The “early” game went down to the wire in overtime, with Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz making a key error that opened the door for Houston’s game-winning field goal. Schwartz threw his review flag on Lions’ scoring play–a big no-no in the No Fun League. I didn’t turn this one on until just before the winning field goal, so feel free to include other worthwhile game notes in the comments below. I do know Andre Johnson continued his miraculous return from the grave, which gave my fantasy (or as my brother Jermajesty calls it, “fairytale football”) team an unexpected boost.

Well, there was one other notable thing from the Lions’ game. Ndamukong Suh caused some more trouble with what is at best a very unfortunate accident. As he was falling down at the end of a play, he kicked Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the nether regions. Now, an accidental groin shot here and there is to be expected. But given Suh’s track record, you can understand why many people suspect this was more than accidental contact. Watch the replay (linked in the article above) and decide for yourself. My take: I think if he really was aiming for the store, then that’s some Matrix-level mobility at work. That said, the flick of his ankle is undeniable and unnatural. So while he might not having been aiming, he was definitely taking a shot.

Thursday’s other two NFL games had some weird similarities to one another. Both started out pretty lopsided, thanks to frequent turnovers and rampant ineptitude. But while the Cowboys managed to claw back and make a game out of it against the Redskins, the Jets never really posed a threat to the Patriots. Love ’em or hate ’em, New England’s 35-point second quarter was one of the more impressive displays of the season.

I think I’ll cut it short there. Enjoy your Black Friday, ICU Saturday, Leftover Sunday, and we’ll see you again on Oh Crap, It’s Monday.

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Northside Archives: Thankful We’re Not Them

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

No, it’s not the most important thing I’m thankful for…probably not even in the Top Ten. But I’m thankful for my Cubs; especially for what they’re not.

Thankful they don’t play home games in a war zone like Chavez Ravine. Thankful the franchise hasn’t become synonymous with the local laboratory co-operative owned and operated by a convicted felon. Thankful they’re not merely a cash poor feeder team with an emphasis on community pandering to stay occasionally competitive. Thankful their traditionally porous pitching staff doesn’t have to deal with Coors Field 81 times a year. Thankful Wrigley doesn’t need a roof to provide fans relief from 100 degree summer days of the Arizona desert…

…or the summer monsoons of Seattle. Thankful they’re not a Billy Beane experiment. Thankful they aren’t the Schaumburg Cubs of Chicago. Thankful their lineup cards aren’t casually dusted with cocaine. Thankful they aren’t so insignificant as to be shuffled between leagues while no one notices.

Thankful they aren’t the hated, free-spending whores in the Bronx. Thankful they aren’t owned by Peter Angelos. Thankful they didn’t trade half their roster to the Dodgers; or take on half the roster of the Marlins. Thankful Cub fans don’t need to be coerced to show up at the park…

…or that when they do, it’s not to a publicly financed stadium occupied by a team with zero financing. Thankful we didn’t just reduce our best player to a spectator, only to join him after defeat, left wondering ‘what if?’ Thankful we weren’t crippled by Bernie Madoff. Thankful the predominant cheer isn’t a ridiculous gesture that some have interpreted as racially insensitive. Thankful not to be affiliated with Philly in any way.

Thankful our fountains in the outfield aren’t more famous than the team. Thankful our heyday didn’t involve a womanizing CF who routinely jumped into outfield trashbags. Thankful not to be identified geographically as ‘the mistake by the lake.’ Thankful we didn’t nickname our stadium after a prison so the nightly attendance would feel more welcome. Thankful we don’t have a flamboyant and almost universally hated closer like Jose Valverde…

…or a former owner as incompetent, unlikable, and needlessly foul-mouthed as Allan Huber Selig. Thankful we’re not still employing Dusty Baker. Thankful Sister Sledge didn’t write our victory anthem. Thankful we didn’t have this conversation in jorts while cursing our beloved superstar of last year.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

by John Dewan

Life is short and we should always be thankful for all that we have. Those of us who work on Stat of the Week are thankful for all of you, our loyal readers. Here are some numbers in the baseball world that we are also thankful for.

42,990 – That is the number of games played in Major League Baseball since the last labor dispute ended in 1995. MLB is enjoying its longest stretch without a work stoppage since the MLBPA formed in 1953.

6,200,000 – That is what perennial backup catcher David Ross will earn with his new two-year contract with the Boston Red Sox. In four seasons with Atlanta, Ross accumulated close to a full season of at-bats and produced well offensively. His .816 OPS is comparable to some of the better hitting catchers including Carlos Santana and Miguel Montero, albeit in a third of the plate appearances. However, it is defensively where Ross stands out. Ross has saved the Braves 11 runs with his defense, buoyed by throwing out 47 of 127 potential basestealers. His 37.0 caught stealing percentage barely trails five-time Fielding Bible Award winner Yadier Molina, who threw out 37.6 percent of runners over the same time period. Hopefully, his new contract is an indication of an increase in playing time. Ross definitely deserves it.

45 – That is the number of years it had been since a batter had won a Triple Crown before Miguel Cabrera managed the feat in 2012. From 1922 to 1967, also 45 years, there were 11 Triple Crown seasons turned in by nine different players: Rogers Hornsby (twice), Chuck Klein, Jimmy Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Joe Medwick, Ted Williams (twice), Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson, and Carl Yastrzemski. Cabrera is between a couple of his Triple Crown predecessors, Mickey Mantle and Frank Robinson, with 3,177 total bases before age 30, which is eighth-best all-time. With continued health and production, Cabrera is on track to be one of the best hitters in baseball history.

1 – That is where I rank the team that helps bring you Stat of the Week. These articles may have my name on them, but they would not be possible without all of their hard work. Thank you Charles Fiore, Ben Jedlovec, Amanda Modelski and Scott Spratt. You guys are fantastic!

“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.”

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Cubs Wave Goodbye to an All Star…Our Reaction

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, I wanted to give everyone a quick heads up on schedule for the site. Tomorrow there will be no morning news. Instead, we’ll have a Thanksgiving Stat of the Week courtesy of John Dewan and the good people at Acta Sports.

Headlines

Out with the Old, In with the New – The Cubs made a series of roster moves yesterday, one of the more notable ones being the move involving Bryan LaHair. The Cubs parted ways with the 2012 All-Star (how did that happen again?), designating him for assignment. The understanding between the two is that the Cubs will assist in finding him employment not with another team, but in Japan. What bothers me about this move is not the fact that LaHair is moving on, though I thought he could have a role on this team, but the fact that he’s moving on when his value is at it’s lowest instead of his peak. For the most part, I’ve not been critical of the Theo / Jed regime so far. We did what we could with the situations that were Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza. We decided to back out on the Carlos Marmol for Dan Haren deal at the last minute for medical reasons. On the whole, they’ve made good decisions moving guys not part of the future and getting good returns for them. When it comes to LaHair, I think they pulled a Brant Brown.

We knew going into the 2012 team that LaHair’s role on this team one that involved looking over his shoulder at Anthony Rizzo, and that he would be at first base as long as Rizzo would be in the minors. Instead of crying in his milk, LaHair came out and hit the ball well and earned him an All Star nod. As of June 1, he had a split line of .313 / .400 / .592 with 10 HR and 22 RBI. Also as of June 1, the Cubs were 18-33, in last place in the division by 11 games. Essentially that was the time to make the move, trade LaHair, and promote Rizzo. Obviously, as Doc Raker can attest, hindsight is always 20/20, but it’s hard not to be upset that no move was made at anytime. We can’t see or hear the conversations that took place, so there is no way to know if someone was interested in LaHair at that point, but I find it hard to believe that no one in the Majors would take a chance and give us a warm body for LaHair at this point.

As far as the in with the new aspect of the moves, the Cubs made a trade and added a few names to the 40 man roster. With the Rule 5 draft coming up, the deadline to protect players eligible was last night. As a result, Trey McNutt, Christian Villanueva, Logan Watkins, and Robert Whitenack were all added to the 40 man roster to protect them from being selected in the rule 5 draft. A name not protected was Nick Struck, who had a nice year last year for the Cubs and earned pitcher of the year honors. The 40 man roster now sits at 40, so the Cubs will not be selecting in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 draft unless something changes.

Finally, in a probable re-negotiation of the Geovany Soto trade, the Cubs got a jump on the after Christmas return lines and shipped their broken toy, Jake Brigham, back to Texas in exchange for Barret Loux and a PTBNL. From the Cubs press release, we learn this about Loux:

Loux, 23, was named the 2012 Double-A Texas League Pitcher of the Year after going 14-1 with a 3.47 ERA (49 ER/127.0 IP) in 25 regular season starts with Frisco, helping his club advance to the Texas League Championship Series.  The righthander led the league in wins and finished sixth in ERA while striking out 100 batters and walking only 41 in 127.0 innings.  Loux began the season with 10 wins in his first 10 starts through the end of May and was the starting pitcher for the North squad in the Texas League All-Star Game.

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Loux was originally selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the sixth overall pick of the 2010 Draft.  Loux was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball and signed with the Rangers on November 18, 2010.  In his first pro season in 2011, Loux went 8-5 with a 3.80 ERA (46 ER/109.0 IP) in 21 starts for Single-A Myrtle Beach.  He struck out 127 batters in 109.0 innings.  In two minor league seasons, Loux is 22-6 with a 3.62 ERA (95 ER/236.0 IP) in 46 professional starts.

Loux was selected by the Diamondbacks out of Texas A&M, where as a junior he earned First Team All-American honors by Baseball America and was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award given annually to the nation’s top amateur player.

Joe’s iPod

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