Archive for December, 2012

VFTB Roundtable: How’s My GM’ing?

Friday, December 21st, 2012

If you’ve driven anywhere, no doubt you’ve seen one of those “how’s my driving” signs on the back of a vehicle. I don’t know if anyone actually takes the time to call, but I decided to slap one on the rear end of Jed and Theo and see what kind of replies we got. Here was the question posed to several of the VFTB crew.

26 months into the Theo Epstein regime, where is your confidence and satisfaction level with the direction of the team?

Do you ever watch those TV shows about flipping houses? The investors will buy into even the most decrepit shanty if they think they can turn a profit. And no matter how simple or severe the job is, the first step is always the same: stripping the house down to its bare bones and getting rid of absolutely everything they don’t need or can’t use. Sometimes this process reveals some fatal flaw–dry rot, a cracked foundation, desecrated Indian burial grounds, etc.–that requires the house flippers to bulldoze the whole thing and start fresh from the ground up.

Theo and Jed didn’t need to completely bulldoze the Cubs, but it was close. And for the most part, I think they’ve done a good job of cleaning house and identifying what’s worth holding onto. I’m not sure anyone could or would have done much different from what they’ve done in their time at the helm, and I appreciate their decisive and conservative approach–appropriate when you’re trying to dig an organization out of a century-deep hole. I’m satisfied with what they’ve done so far, but that satisfaction won’t fully transition to confidence until their work starts to bear fruit on the field. I expect it’s headed in that direction. I hope I’m right. ~ Jeremiah Johnson

It’s an incomplete for me. Here’s what we know: the Cubs under Theo and Jed are making their biggest priority building up the farm system. But I don’t know if we honestly can judge their progress until we reach the point where either prospects are turning into Major Leaguers, either by being promoted or by being traded, and if when that occurs the Cubs are a competitive team. The clear best thing about the current regime is that they have a plan, whereas prior management never seemed to think beyond “we have a hole here, we have X dollars to spend, how can we fill it” without considerations of how it would impact the team long term. Under Hendry, though, it always seemed like if things broke right one year out of every few, the Cubs could go on a run and win it all. To steal a popular phrase from the political sphere, I’m cautiously optimistic that the Cubs under Theo and Jed could be a team that is extremely competitive over long periods of time. ~ Noah Eisner


Well, first, we’re only about 14 months in, it only seems like 26!

There are only a couple moves that could have been done differently to make me feel better than I do now; do-over on the Colvin/Lemahieu trade and a trade of Matt Garza before he got injured.
But no one is perfect and the organization is much better off today than it was just 14 months ago. I’m excited to see the improvements to the organization in year 2 and I think year 3 is when we’ll start to see improvements to the top level of the organization.

I’m OK with that. ~ Norm Bothwell

I’m still cautiously optimistic with Epstein & Co. – they’ve done nothing that has me planning a World Series party, but they’re also not Jim Hendry and his band of drinking buddies. It’s still way too early to tell if they’ll be successful, a year from now there might be more definitive proof. They’ve put all their eggs in one basket, so the young players they’ve drafted and signed MUST start progressing through the system rapidly. If some of the higher ceiling prospects are not forcing their promotions, there will be problems. Theo has a long-term plan, but it can’t be a rolling long-term plan. If the 2012 draft class is full of busts, I’m not tacking an extra year onto the expectation. In short, we’ve passed the ‘blame your predecessor’ phase, and moved onto the ‘we’re getting stocked with YOUR guys, they need to produce’ phase. If we have to wait more than a couple of years for the ‘dang, we’re actually winning again’ phase there will be problems. ~ Jedi Johnson

I couldn’t be happier with Theo Epstein’s direction. I figure the typical drunk-in-the-bleachers Cubs fan hates the entire management team by now, because of last year’s poor performance and the recent near-misses in the free agent market . They’re probably also miffed because even Epstein doesn’t intend to be particularly competitive in 2013. But I’m ok with that. Slow and steady wins the race. I’m happy to let the home grown and/or inexpensive talent sink or swim, even if they sink like rocks, in favor of the rebuilding process.
We do have a few folks around here who want a mammoth spending spree to “buy” some wins. I’m tired of that approach. I didn’t hate Hendry. But insanity = trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I’m a fan of ANY change and I’m happy to give it a chance to work.
So, bring on the Darwin Barneys and Luis Valbuenas and yes, even the Josh Vitters of the organization and let them play. They may not surprise us with a spectacular season, but they can entertain us while we grow. I expect great things in the not-so-distant future. Go Cubs! ~ Lizzie

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Morning News: New Horses in the Stable

Friday, December 21st, 2012

After repeatedly winding up as the bridesmaid on several rumored deals for starting pitchers this offseason, the Cubs finally locked down some new starters for the rotation Thursday. Yes, you read that correctly–starterS. Plural.

Rumors swirled most of the morning that the Cubs were lining up to sign Edwin Jackson to a 4-year deal, with varying reports on the value of the contract. But just as I was emotionally preparing myself for the Nationals (his previous employer) or some other team to swoop in and claim him at the last minute, news broke that the team had upped their all-important Guys Named Carlos Quotient with the addition of Carlos Villanueva. And then–surprise, surprise–they went ahead and locked up Jackson, too!

If you’re keeping score at home–and let’s face it, you’re reading a Cubs blog in the dead of the offseason on what’s likely your last day in the office before Christmas, so you probably are–that gives the Cubs plenty of options with which to craft their starting rotation. Good options. Some combination of Jackson, Villanueva, Matt Garza, Travis Wood, the Scotts (Baker and Feldman), and The Dread Pirate Samardzija. It looks to me like Theo and Jed weren’t satisfied with the pitching “talent” they were forced to bring up at the end of the season, and are determined not to find themselves in a similar situation next season.


So I just deleted a couple long paragraphs about what these signings might mean for the Cubs moving forward, and how Theo and Jed’s rebuilding plan is apparently shorter than some of us projected. But the truth is, there’s no way to know what they mean right now, except that Theo and Jed aren’t waiting around to grow their pitching talent from within. Obviously the pitching cupboards are bare in the minors–we’ll all saw just how bare last season. Bringing in free agent arms was always the plan, but I thought they would be the more low-rent guys like the Scotts or even Villanueva–cheap at $10M for 2 years. Jackson’s not a placeholder deal, and no matter how hot he might start off, I’d be shocked to see him get Maholmed away any time soon.

My takeaway–if you can take away anything solid from one free agent signing–is that Theo and Jed haven’t changed their commitment to growing from within, but that they also aren’t content to be handcuffed to that growth and live and die by the productivity of the farm system alone. I think it’s a good sign, even if only a small one, and I’m encouraged. I wish pitchers and catchers were reporting next week.

One other note before we quickly mop up the rest of the news: Matt Garza has been a faithful if not occasionally ill-informed cheerleader throughout the offseason, and Thursday was no different, as he welcomed his new teammates with a congratulatory tweet from Disneyland (and yes, I did consider bolting from work and heading down there to stalk Garza and his family around the Happiest Place on Earth–I have a problem). I’m not sure the new additions to the pitching staff help secure Garza’s future with the Cubs. If anything, they probably make it a whole lot easier to trade him. My guess is the Cubs quietly shop him and wait to see how he shows up to camp before making a final decision. If the Rangers keep whiffing on pitchers (they wanted Jackson, too), they might be willing to overspend to get him. I really like Garza and would love to keep him, but I think many people are convinced he has more value to the Cubs as trade bait than as the anchor of their rotation. We’ll see.

Elsewhere, former White Sox catcher and generally unlikable person A.J. Pierzynski agreed to a 1-year deal with the Rangers, meaning former Cub Geovany Soto will have some competition for the starting job.

Former Cub and and concussion victim Adam Greenberg signed a minor league deal with the Orioles. After a long medical lay-off, Greenberg successfully petitioned teams to let him take one at-bat. His wish was granted by the Marlins, and he struck out on three pitches from R.A. Dickey. The new deal with the Orioles potentially allows him to write a more satisfying ending to his story.

I don’t like Derek Jeter, but I dislike him a little less after this.

Thankfully, the NFL spared us another in a long line of unfulfilling Thursday night games this week. But I couldn’t resist linking to this story–as a way to say thank you for helping him rush for more than a 1,000 yards this season, Arian Foster gave his linemen Segways.

And for your sake, I hope this is the worst story you read today.

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Morning News: Pitchers, Teb-NO-w and A Dancing Policeman

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

First of all, good to be back here with all of you. I wish all of you comfort and joy during this holiday season, regardless of how or what you celebrate during this time of year.

Quick bits of news since I’m a little bit late on this.


Bundles of Starters

Remembers last year when we started Brooks Raley and Chris Rusin for a combined 12 games over the last few months of the season?

Yeah I do too and I’d love to forget about it.

The Cubs front office said that it wasn’t going to be a splashy offseason, but that they would make necessary moves to make the team better. I’d say that they’ve already done extremely well on the starter front by adding the Scott’s –Baker and Feldman–and signing Carlos Villanueva officially last night/this morning. None of those signings are going to knock your socks off, but it gives the Cubs flexibility to use a variety of starters over the course of the year. It also gives them depth if the injuries start to pile up as they did last year.

Now Jim Bowden and Buster Olney are reporting that the Cubs and Edwin Jackson have a 4 year/$52 million deal that could get done very soon. Jackson is an inning-eater that would make a good No. 2 or 3 starter on the current staff.

However that creates an eight player log jam at starter, a good problem to have in my opinion. So what say you, who will be the starting rotation come April 1?

The New Traveling Salesman Tim Tebow

By now you’ve all probably seen the story about Rex Ryan passing over Tebow to be starter and instead starting third-stringer Greg McElroy this coming weekend. Well Tebow isn’t happy with that decision and his displeasure was on full display yesterday during an interview.

According to reports, the Jets are looking to move on from both Mark Sanchez and Tebow in this next offseason. This isn’t surprising to see by any stretch, but the move to acquire the former Gator quarterback  in the first place is still a head scratcher.

I currently work in radio down in Mississippi and I heard through the grapevine that the reason Tebow won’t start is the fear that he may play better than Sanchez. Rex Ryan doesn’t want the backlash associated with that should he succeed

A Song and a Dance

While parts of New England are still picking up the pieces of the tragedy we are now almost a week removed from, Tony Lepore is bringing smiles to the faces of Rhode Island residents.

Lepore is a retired police officer that comes back out into the limelight during the holidays to bring a little joy to people. Instead of directing traffic with the usual dryness and bore that is usually associated with it, Lepore dances in the intersection as drivers pass.

He is now 65 years of age and still going strong. Good for him.

This reminds me of a “The League” episode with the traffic cop that has a lot of flair. Great episode.

You can watch Lepore do his thing here.

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Morning News: Who Are the Locks?

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Before we get into the news, and believe me there is virtually none to talk about, I wanted to share my feelings on the shootings from Friday. It sucks. That’s is the most blatant and honest thing I can muster to describe it, but it left me coming away with a few thoughts.

Warning: The following rant contains religious feelings. If that is offensive to you, please skip to Cubs talk below.

To be honest, I could care less how any of you feel about the issue of gun control. It’s not the issue here and to make it about anything other than the victims is irresponsible and tacky. It’s the equivalent of me, as an insurance salesman, crashing funerals to push my agenda to sell life insurance. It’s just not the time or place to do it (thought don’t think I haven’t given it some thought). When these things happen, because they will continue to happen, enough of the political BS. Just focus on the victims and their families and do what you can to comfort them. Case closed.

The other thing it reminded me of, and I don’t usually use a Cubs blog as my soapbox, is that we live in a fallen world. I don’t know where you stand on “religion”, but if you have read the site for awhile, you may know where I stand on it. What the events remind me of is that our world is broken and irreparable. There just isn’t anything that can be done to wipe out sinful acts in this world and to think we can is nothing more than a futile and pointless notion. I don’t know why the events that unfolded on Friday happened. I don’t know what would possess someone to do that. It doesn’t make sense in my mind. It makes me sad and scared and hateful all rolled up into one, and that’s OK. Looking on CNN today and seeing the faces of the people who were killed and reading a brief bio on who they were, I felt myself tearing up and thinking about my kids. It doesn’t make sense. People don’t believe what I do regarding Jesus and what he did for me on the cross will ask the question “Why would a loving God allow this to happen?” I don’t know the reason why he allowed this to happen. What I do know, is that because of my sin, I deserve to be punished with eternal separation from God but that he loved me so much that he sent Jesus to die in my place. Stop and think about that for a second. He sent him to die for everyone, including people who will ultimately reject him completely. He died even for the man that killed those people. Would you send your child to be killed to save that guy? I know for a fact that I would not. Let’s face it, I’m not even sending him to die for any of you fools, and I like you guys. What God did for us is so beyond comprehension that all I can do is trust that God has such a bigger perspective than I on these things. At any rate, I’m sorry if I’ve offended you. It wasn’t my intention. Feel free to send the hate mail my way at  I’m a big boy, I can take it. Now, on to the “news”

Insert Cricket Sounds here

Who Are the Locks?

So there is basically no news whatsoever today so instead I decided to look at who the “locks” for this roster are at this point. I’m defining a lock as someone who, barring injury, has a spot on the 25 man roster cemented in stone regardless of spring training performance. These are guys that can feel safe to work on things during the spring and not worry if their ERA goes to hell or their batting average sucks (not that batting average is a good metric anyway).

Anthony Rizzo – He served his time in AAA last year. No way he doesn’t make this team.

Starlin Castro – I really think this is a big step forward year for Starlin, especially in the power department

Darwin Barney – Dude won a gold glove…can you really send him to AAA?

Alfonso Soriano – I don’t think he gets dealt before the start of the season, so pencil him in.

David DeJesus – Not sure if he’ll be on this team all year, but he’ll be here to start it.

Wellington Castillo – Probable starting catcher, but may split time with whoever wins the job between Clevenger and Navarro

Matt Garza – He should be good to go since coming off injury

Jeff Samardzija – It’s crossroads time for Shark

Scott Baker – I like his potential

Kyuji Fujikawa – Just signed so he’s got to be there.

Carlos Marmol – I hate having to include him

James Russell – Don’t have any other legit lefties for the pen

Travis Wood – Good back of the rotation starter.

That’s all I see as locks. Who am I missing? Before you name someone, see if you can find a reason to talk yourself out of it. If you can, can we really consider them a lock? All I know is that I have 13 guys on that list, which means 12 open spots still to be claimed.

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Morning News: Skull Safety Edition

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

The Cubs officially announced the signings of Ian Stewart and Chang-Yong Lim Monday. Lim has a minor league deal and a good shot to make the bullpen is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Stewart is perhaps the worst of the Cubs’ bad options for the opening at third base.

Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey agreed to a 2-year, $25M extension with the Blue Jays, allowing them to complete their trade with the Mets. After picking up most of the Marlins notable players and now Dickey, Toronto might once again pose a threat in the AL East, especially as the Yankees get older and more broken-down and the Red Sox seem unable or unwilling to get better. Are you ready for a Blue Jays-Orioles-Rays pennant race? Also, the similarities in their deals forces me to ask, would you rather have Ryan Dempster or Dickey for the next two years?

Former Cub Carlos Pena signed a 1-year deal with the Astros. Pena seems like an obvious choice to be the Astros’ DH in their first AL season, but the article indicates he may see time in the field, too.

Testing is underway on a new, padded cap–not a helmet, but a cap–for pitchers. Certainly a more fashionable option that this.

Apparently the Tigers are really jazzed about re-signing Anibal Sanchez. After his little negotiation tango with the Cubs, I hope he’s plagued by hamstring issues and dwindling velocity for the duration of his new deal.

Former Atlanta slugger Andruw Jones has singed on for a guest starring role on Matt Murton and Bryan LaHair’s Japanese sitcom to play baseball in Japan.

On Monday night, the Jets were eliminated from the playoffs in a 14-10 loss to the Titans. You can see the highlights here–it’s worth clicking at least to see Chris Johnson’s 94-yard TD run.

The next time someone tells you the United States needs to mimic the tolerance of European society, go ahead and laugh in his face.

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