Archive for January, 2013

Morning News: In Lieu Of Other Things…

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

This late morning news will signal that I’ve postponed the Northside Archives for today…you’re welcome.

Sugar Bowl
It must’ve left a nasty taste in Gator mouths, but the Sugar Bowl was sweet revenge for Charlie Strong and all Louisville fans…plus anyone else on the periphery sick and tired of hearing about how dominant the SEC is over other conferences. Perhaps the most undeserving BCS participant (though I could make a decent case Wisconsin was more undeserving), Louisville manhandled the more athletic Florida squad. Out of sync all night, and making boneheaded mistakes at the most inopportune times, Will Muschamp’s crew looked as though they thought their win was inevitable no matter what they did. The game started with Florida throwing a pick-six; the second half started with the Gators failed attempt at a surprise on-side kick, two personal fouls and a player ejected all on before the first play from scrimmage, which resulted in another Louisville touchdown. Brutal. The final score was 33-23 but it wasn’t really ever that close.

MLB Units
Buster Olney has been ranking the best MLB pitching staffs, lineups, infields, outfields. It’s insider content; spolier alert – the Cubs don’t appear on any of his lists.

HOF Voting
Next Wednesday will answer some questions that many have pondered regarding the MLB Hall of Fame nominees. With looming questions over so many steroid-era players, Craig Biggio is commonly thought to be the only guy who’ll definitely receive a HOF call on the 9th. Will holdovers benefit? Will anyone vote for Jeff Conine just so the HOF can get a Marlin bust on display? What color will Sammy Sosa’s skin be if he appears for an interview? These are just some of the questions that we might get answered.

Peeing At LAX
I can assure you that LAX has many bathrooms, some cleaner than others. But one alleged movie star (I’ve never see two seconds of a Twilight movie, so I have no idea who THIS guy is) decided that he couldn’t wait to be dealt with for being drunk and disorderly, he needed to relieve himself immediately. In proper LA style, everyone pointed and laughed, grabbed their cell phones, and waited for cops to arrive.

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Morning News: Back To Work Edition

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Greetings and welcome to 2013, which, in true Ron Santo-fashion, I’m proclaiming “Our Year”–at least until it becomes unavoidably evident that it’s not (the early over/under on that opened at mid- to late-March, and it’s expected to move up).

Most of you probably spent Tuesday in a bit of a fog, either stuck to your couch watching Bowl games or scrambling to wrap up a vacation to-do list before you headed back to work today. Hopefully I can help make the transition from sweatpants and naps to shoes and productivity a little easier this morning.

As part of their annual Black Monday festivities (?), NFL teams passed out a staggering amount of walking papers earlier this week. Seven head coaches (headlined by Lovie Smith, Andy Reid, and the heretofore unfireable Norv Turner), at least four GMs, and several assistant coaches (including Buffalo’s entire staff) were fired after unsuccessful seasons. You can find ESPN’s coverage here.

Lovie Smith’s firing didn’t come as much of a surprise to Bears fans. A defensive wiz, he never was able to field an offensive scheme that complimented the team’s strengths on defense and special teams, and early Tuesday, Bear’s GM Phil Emery admitted it was that perpetual weakness and a spotty playoff record that cost Smith his job. But don’t cry for Lovie, Argentina–of the coaches fired Monday, he’s perhaps the most widely-respected and well-thought-of, and should have no trouble finding a new gig. Same goes for Andy Reid, who may be the leading candidate for the Cardinals job in the wake of Ken Wisenhunt’s firing. Also on the coaching carousel as potential replacements are Mike Holmgren (perhaps hoping to wash the Browns stink off his legacy) and Oregon’s Chip Kelly.

Of course, there is still NFL action to look forward to–specifically a Vikings vs. Packers rematch, a faceoff of rookie wunderkind QBs from Seattle and D.C., and whatever the AFC has to offer (sorry, but Bengals vs. Texans and Colts vs. Ravens don’t really have me gripped with anticipation–wake me for the AFC’s divisional series). You can see the whole playoff schedule here. Most of the predictions I’ve seen have the Broncos beating the Niners to win the Super Bowl, and I think I can buy that. Convince me otherwise with your picks below.

In college football action, Stanford was able to grind out a 20-14 win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Northern Illinois proved to be no match for Florida State, losing the Orange Bowl 31-10. Georgia overwhelmed Nebraska 45-31 in the Capitol One Bowl. And my beloved Oklahoma State Cowboys smoked Purdue 58-14 in a laughable and poorly-attended Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Finally, there was a noteworthy controversy in South Carolina’s 33-28 win over Michigan in the Outback Bowl. Michigan was awarded a first down they clearly didn’t earn, but South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney righted the wrong on the next play from scrimmage with a bone-rattling sack and fumble recovery. As a result of the victory, Outback is giving away free Bloomin’ Onions today, so maybe you can postpone your New Year’s diet at least one more day.

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2012 in Transactions

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

It’s January 1. Happy 2013 to everyone. It’s a new year on the calendar, which means we’re now one year closer to our World Series title. You have one less year to wait. Isn’t that exciting? Before we get so worked on over that thought and have to change our underwear, let’s take a look back at 2012 as told through the contracts signed, and moves that were made.

January

Usually this is not a big month for moves and 2012 was not really an exception, but we did see a couple that would affect the Major League roster in 2012, the first of which was a deal to bring Reed Johnson back on a one year deal worth $1.15 million. Johnson would eventually be moved at the deadline, but we’ll get to that later. In his time with the Cubs, Johnson played better than with any other club he’s been with in his career. Using OPS+, we see there is just something magical about Chicago for Johnson as evidenced by the stats summarized to the right.

Another name signed was Paul Maholm, who would fit the Theo and Jed mold and plan of signing a player who is undervalued on the free agent market to a one year deal in hopes that they can catch lightning in a bottle and maximize returns on them in the form of a trade or cheap labor. Essentially buying lots of lottery tickets and hoping to hit on one. Maholm would fit that mold perfectly and had a great season in 2012 before being dealt to the Braves with Johnson for prospects.

Also signed in January were Trevor Miller and Rodrigo Lopez, both of whom were old and bad.

February

This was not much of a month when it came to signings, but a couple of nice minor moves were made that help the future, the first of which is a waiver claim that was put in and awarded to the Cubs on Adrian Cardenas from the A’s. A former first round pick by the Phillies, Cardenas shows a lot of promise and got his ML feet wet in 2012. He figures to be in the mix for a roster spot should he have a good spring. The key is that he provides good versatility with the ability to play 2B, SS, and 3B.

The Cubs also completed the Theo trade, sending Chris Carpenter to the Red Sox as compensation. The Red Sox would eventually call the Cubs back requesting cheese to go with their whine as it was revealed that Carpenter was damaged goods with elbow issues. Also included in the deal were players to be named later, Aaron Kurcz (to Boston) and Jair Bogaerts (to Chicago)

Carpenter would have surgery on his elbow and would eventually make his Red Sox debut late in the season.

March

Theo and Jed exploited the rule change market on international signings in March with the signing of young, Cuban defector, Gerardo Concepcion to a five year, six million dollar deal that was agreed to in February but made official on March 11. Our friends over the Cubs Den scouted Concepcion:

“Some scouts see him as a 5th starter because he simply doesn’t miss many bats, but others see some projection left in the 18 year old’s 6’2 wiry frame.  He peaks in the low 90s right now, has a curveball which gets mixed reviews,and a change-up in progress.  His mechanics also divide scouts.  He throws across the body which some say give him deception, while others think it prevents him from being more consistent with his breaking stuff.  In short, it seems like there’s a wide range of opinion.  A team who sees some projection left will sign him and I understand the Cubs are among these teams.” ~ Cubs Den (1/30/2012)

April

The start to the season brought an acquisition that makes my blood boil. The Cubs claimed Luis Valbuena off waivers from the Blue Jays. Valbuena would go on to produce a whole lot of yuck that resulted in multiple rants by me on Twitter in my campaign to see Josh Vitters get his shot to suck.

Marlon Byrd discovered that he was not in the plans for the future shortly after the Red Sox lost CF, Jacoby Elsbury, prompting a need for an outfielder. Byrd was dealt for Michael Bowden. By the end of the season, both players had been released by their respective clubs. Talk about a win win for both parties.

Kerry Wood does once last waltz with the DL just to say goodbye, before retiring in May after being informed by the DL that he either needed to fully commit to the relationship or leave. These 15 day stints and then leaving without so much as a call were getting old.

A further sign of the apocalypse is the Cubs trading, yes you read that right, trading for Koyie Hill in what amounted to nothing more than a catcher booty call. The Cubs were desperate and wanted just one more roll in the hay with Koyie. As was the case in the past, this time around went no better than the first few and Hill was later released.

May

Blake DeWitt is designated for assignment for what seems to be the 50th time and is eventually assigned to Iowa.

Diory Hernandez is signed…..who?

June

It started as a very slow month and ended with a bang as the Cubs recalled long awaited savior, Anthony Rizzo to play first base on a regular basis and signed Jorge Soler to play in the outfield of the future. Soler is described as a potential 5-tool player (then again, who isn’t these days?) and should be a big asset for the team in the rebuilding process. As for Rizzo, he didn’t fail to live up to the hype and has Cubs fans very excited to watch his adjustments over  full season in 2013.

July

This the month the site gets the most traffic and this was no exception. Unfortunately, in my opinion, July turned into very much of a tease. It shaped up to be a very exciting and key month in the rebuilding process, with so many potential names to be dealt. At one point, I was bold enough to even predict nine members of the 25 man roster would be dealt before the deadline. In the end, a number of things caused the wheels to fall off and we were almost left with bupkis. In case you have forgotten, here is a little refresher to help you relive it.

Matt Garza, our most valuable trade chip, the player expected to bring a king’s ransom in return, blew a tire right as teams were kicking it and would be unavailable for the rest of the season. There has been talk that he could be dealt sometime in spring training if teams see that he is healthy, but a more conservative estimate would be sometime in June or July.

Ryan Dempster was dealt and then undealt to the Atlanta Braves for Jair Jurrjens after the deal had already been leaked as done on social media outlets. There’s no telling if we’ll ever really know what caused that deal to fall through or why it was leaked early, but lately that seems to be the new normal. In the end, Dempster would soften a little on his demand to only be dealt to the Dodgers and would move to the Rangers in a deal for Christian Villanueva and Kyle Hendricks. Dempster was designed to help put the Rangers in the playoffs and instead his numbers came back to earth with a dose of AL inflation and the Rangers missed out. The most discouraging aspect of the whole deal was that a lot of fans soured on Dempster despite all the great things he did while he was part of this team. That’s not a good way to go out.

Maholm and Johnson, both mentioned earlier as being signed within a short period of time of each other were dealt to the Braves and Geovany Soto was moved late to the Rangers in a separate move than Dempster, which opened playing time for Wellington Castillo and broke poor Lizzie’s heart.

August

A new month meant a debut for my third base crush Josh Vitters (aka – anyone but Valbuena). Why do I have a crush on Vitters? To be honest, I don’t. I just hate Valbuena that much that I’d even be fine with CAPS at third. Anyone but Valbuena. Along with Vitters, we were pleased to meet Brett Jackson, who also made his long awaited debut at Wrigley and would be with the club for the rest of the season. He made sure he didn’t forget to bring his big bag of strikeouts and it translated just as well as the pink Dora backpack the newest reliever has to cart around. Neither are very attractive. To make room for the two youngsters, another VFTB lass had her heart broken as Katie’s fiancee’, Tony Campana was optioned to AAA and Jeff Baker was sent packing to Detroit.

Looking for left handed relief help, which is still an issue if you know anyone, Alex Hinshaw was brought in off waivers from Padres, pitched 0.1 innings and promptly received the boot, leaving with an ERA of 135.00 (yes, you read that right).

September

Fast Tony returns and brings the man that makes Jedi’s heart pitter pat, Dave Sappelt, with him. Together they would form the outfield duo that would do wonderfully average things in September. For Sappelt, he may have done enough in his audition to earn some consideration for the future. Campana would hit much better in September as well, posting a final line in the month of .313 / .389 / .375. Gotta love it when the slugging % is lower than the OBP. If that doesn’t tell you that you have no power, I don’t know what does.

October

This was a very quiet month. So quiet that I almost skipped it altogether, but in the end there were just a few transactions worth noting.

The Tigers and Cubs completed their deal for Baker, with PTBNL, Marcelo Carreno being sent to the Cubs. Carreno was listed as the Tiger’s 11th ranked prospect, so not a bad deal for Baker.

The Royals, in their quest for arms to make a run at the AL Central also claimed Chris Volstad. Shhhh, no one tell them he’s not good.

November

A few signings this month that have been discussed recently on the blog so I won’t go into commentary on them. To summarize, Scott Baker, Dioner Navarro, Shawn Camp, and Scott Feldman were all brought in as free agents.

Bryan LaHair also elected to take his talent’s to Japan and signed a deal to play there. I couldn’t find any notes on if the Cubs received any sort of compensation as a result. If they did, it would have been nominal.

December

More signings that have been talked about very recently, including the corpse of Ian Stewart, 86 year old reliever, Kyuji Fujikawa, and Nate Schierholtz to compete for an outfield spot.

It’s been a long year and I realized that I really should write this post a month at a time as the year progresses instead of waiting till New Year’s eve. I’m excited about 2013, not because I think we’ll compete for the playoffs, but because I like the direction and philosophy this team is operating on. I think we’re heading in the right direction despite the crotchety tone of my post. Happy 2013 everyone. Remember, we’re one year closer to a title.

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