Archive for February, 2013

Morning News: Pope Hunting

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

You’ve probably heard by now that Cubs’ closer Carlos Marmol has been accused of domestic abuse by a woman from his hometown in the Dominican Republic. Marmol gave his side of the story to the media at the Cubs’ training facility Monday. The short version is that he believes the woman and her representation are looking for a payoff, and that he’s actually the victim. It sounds like the Cubs are backing his side as well. I would have thought the players might have learned something from Starlin Castro’s legal entanglement last offseason, but clearly not everyone did. Here’s hoping Marmol is telling the truth, and that there’s not more to the story.

Matt Garza is eager to reestablish his value with the Cubs, and expects to earn a new contract with the team. With the abundance of arms Theo and Jed have brought in, it seems unlikely that Garza has a long future with the Cubs. I mean, realistically, how good would he have to be to make the front office ignore all offers and instead invest in him for the future? Whatever that level of performance might be, it seems hard to believe Garza will achieve it, especially on a team with so many other needs. Still, if he can pull it off, I’d be happy to keep him for the right price.

The Indians capped off a busy and expensive offseason by signing Michael Bourn to a 4-year, $48M contract. At various times, it seemed the Cubs had an interest in Bourn–along with most of the other teams in baseball–but with a surplus of outfielders already, there wasn’t much likelihood they would make a late push to sign him.

Remember the how everyone was calling for protective head gear for pitchers after Brandon McCarthy’s life-threatening injury last season? The new helmets/caps won’t be ready by the beginning of Spring Training, and might not be ready at all this season. Not a surprise when you figure it took them more than a century to add the fold-down ear flap for games in extremely cold weather.

Michael Vick signed a new, 1-year contract to stay with the Philadelphia Eagles. The deal–which could be worth as much as $10M–replaces the 6-year, $100M contract Vick signed in 2011. Ah, the NFL, where contracts don’t mean squat. No word yet if Vick will start in the new offensive scheme brought in by new head coach Chip Kelly, but he would seem like a slightly more apt fit than the Eagles’ other quarterback Nick Foles.

I don’t believe in karma, jinxes, or curses, but I’m a little hesitant to bring up just how well the Blackhawks have played to start the lockout-shortened season. With stellar performances from Patrick Kane and others, they still have not lost a game in regulation this season. Now watch–they’ll probably lose tonight and I’ll spend the rest of the week kicking myself for saying anything at all.

It seems the Pope has reached his expiration date.

Aspen stinks.

This one is super-weird: the fake beef in European supermarkets might not even be real horse. I suppose it’s a good reminder to only buy from legitimate horse meat vendors.

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Morning News: Campana gets the boot…at least for now.

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Cubs News
Dale Sveum is holding another bunt tournament this year; the intrigue for 2013 is that a member of the Cubs’ front office (potentially Theo or Jed) will be the 64th participant in the manager’s tourney.

Also, Campana was DFA’d to make room for Hairston. The deal with Scott Hairston is for two years, $5 million.

Much of the roster has already reported to camp in Mesa; even Carlos Marmol was scheduled to report on Sunday after dealing with his domestic abuse charges in the Dominican.

Canada Sucks
I’m not really a dog lover at all, but outlawing pit bulls is just ridiculous. However, more ridiculous is splitting your family up or driving multiple hours to work each day just so you can keep a dog. It’s a freakin’ dog. No word on whether Buerhle has asked for boarding references from Michael Vick.

Sorry CAPS…
Disneyland has become the most racist place on earth. Allegations of racism in the last few days have people wondering if the White Rabbit and Donald Duck intentionally spurn some of Disney’s guests. For clarity sake, I should note that the White Rabbit cast of the Black child, while Donald Duck turned down the White child…though both kids were black. Perhaps The Onion has gone mainstream?

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Go: First

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

Tell us about your first visit to a Major League baseball park. How old were you? What do you remember best?

This Go question was submitted by Allan (thanks Allan!)

Don’t forget to vote for our own Katie in the MLB Fan Cave contest!!!

Do you have a question you’d like us to feature in the Go! column? Send it to lizzie@viewfromthebleachers.com and she’ll see what she can do!

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The Impact the 2012 Postseason Had on a Cubs Fan

Friday, February 8th, 2013

 

October 22, 2012 was an ordinary autumn day in the suburbs of Chicago, with all the smells and colors and strange weather patterns that are typical in the Midwest during the fall. It also happened to be Game 7 of the NLCS between the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals. Being the self-respecting Cubs fan that I am, deciding which team to root for was easy. The San Francisco Giants were up against the ultimate evil and had one last chance to destroy them for good.

 

Leading up to this game, the sting of the Cardinals victory in Atlanta and the unbelievable comeback in the Division Series against the Nationals was all too real. Memories of the infamous Game 6 of the 2011 World Series flooded my memory. It was up to Matt Cain, Buster Posey, and the former Cubs Theriot and Pagan to avenge me and quell the suffering of us Cubs fans, at least for a few moments.

 

During this game, the state of my mental health altered with each movement made on the field. A deep fly ball to right center? Panic. Fastball down the gut? Better be a strike. Hard grounder to short? YOU BETTER MAKE THAT PLAY, CRAWFORD!

 

My roommates threatened to send me to the mental health center that is located just down the street. Eventually, though, they left the living room and attempted to do their homework in between my shouts of glee and groans of dismay. Little did they know what was about to happen.

 

It was the top of the ninth, two outs, Matt Holliday at the plate. Sure, the Giants were winning 9-0 and the Cardinals had committed two errors in the game, but this moment was the end-all be-all. Then, it happened.

 

The pitch. Holliday swings; a sky-high pop up to second. Scutaro scrambled around for position on the soggy, puddle-filled infield. Then, he squeezed the leather and the game was over.

 

Giants win.

 

The average fan would smile a smile of relief and satisfaction, turn off the TV, and carry on with their evening. The average fan might have had a conversation with the significant other over an average Monday night dinner. The average non-Giants fan might even be a bit apathetic about the outcome of the game.

 

To the dismay of my roommates, I am not an average fan. They knew I loved baseball, of course, but it was a bit of a joke among the group. What they experienced that night might have been comparable to the joy of the liberation of the Americans from British rule.

 

“All hell broke loose” might be a bit of an understatement. The whole apartment complex heard my shouts of celebration. I may as well have been at AT&T Park, considering all the dancing and shouting and near-crying that was taking place.

 

My roommates looked at each other in disbelief as I crumpled onto the couch, gasping for air. One of them even attempted to record the mayhem on her phone. Unfortunately, the initial celebration had subsided. The Giants had won and the Cardinals were eliminated from a postseason that they arguably should not have even been a part of anyway. The dark forces had been defeated.

 

I cannot even imagine what it would be like if the Cubs actually advanced that far in the postseason. We will cross that bridge when we get there. But for now, for a fan who bleeds Cubbie Blue, a Cardinals postseason elimination is the next-best thing.

 

Fast forward to the next week, Tuesday night. A few friends want to get together to go get a bite to eat. Naturally, before leaving, I check my email. Lo and behold, an email from MLB.com was sitting there, beckoning me to apply for the MLB FanCave.

 

As quickly as I could, I read the requirements for application and began working on the writing segment of it. Out of excitement, I called my dad and told him about it. Thus began the journey of applying to the FanCave.

 

Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor the gloom of the night can keep me away from the game, and I mean that most literally. Part two of the application process required filming a video. If you know anything about Wisconsin, it is cold, and it snows a lot. Naturally, it was incorporated into the video.

 

Once the writing submission and the video were both completed and turned in, the waiting game began. It took 30 days to hear anything about it. Those 30 days felt like a month to me, they took so long (Yes, 30 days does equal a month, I am aware.).

 

When I finally did hear something about the application, what I read was unbelievable: “Congratulations! You have been chosen as a Top 52 finalist for the MLB FanCave!” I was beside myself with excitement. I had to tell somebody. It was 9:30 on Thursday morning, right when Principles of Coaching was supposed to begin, but I ran outside the classroom and exclaimed to my professor, “I have really exciting news. I’m a Top 52 finalist for the FanCave!!!” and skipped around a little bit. Then who did I call? You guessed it. Dad.

 

I dialed with shaking hands. The phone rang and rang and rang. Finally he answered.

“Katie?” he said.

“Yeah.” I choked as tears welled up in my eyes.

“What’s up?”

“I made it.”

We both were cheering and crying and carrying on over the telephone. People walking by were giving me strange looks.

 

After the necessary phone calls were made to my mom and other close friends, the campaigning began. Receiving endorsements from current players and sports writers is a lot of fun. You know that feeling when your favorite player at the ballpark acknowledges you? That is kind of what it is like. Local newspapers posted stories and headlines and Cubs blogs posted stories about the only Cubs fan making it to the Top 52. Even the Iowa Cubs put up a post on Facebook about it.

 

Let me tell you, the amount of support from everyone has been incredible. For a small-town girl from Wisconsin to be recognized by Major League Baseball to represent the Chicago Cubs in this contest is something of which only a person could dream. I am eternally grateful to everyone for your votes and kind words.

 

The next phase of the contest is a segment at Spring Training. That’s right; if enough people can find it within themselves, somewhere in the cockles of their hearts to vote me into the top 30, I could be representing the Cubs for the Spring Training portion of this contest. How incredible would that be? (It would be very, very incredible.)

 

So, Cubs fans, I have a request for you. While you are voting for me, please tell your friends, your coworkers, and your family. Basically, tell anyone who has ears. There are only five and a half days left to vote, and every vote counts.

 

Plus, don’t cubs live in caves, anyway? So it would only make sense for a Cubs fan to be in the FanCave.

 

You guys are the best. I really mean that, too.

 

To vote, click here.

 

 

(Postseason logo borrowed from: http://www.eauclaireexpress.com/webfiles/fnitools/albums/news/large/mlb-postseason-2012.jpg)

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Best Defensive Teams of the Decade

Friday, February 8th, 2013

by John Dewan

It’s hard to believe, but with the close of the 2012 season, Baseball Info Solutions is celebrating 10 years of Defensive Runs Saved data. We plan to use that milestone to reflect on the previous decade of defensive play, starting with a look at the teams with the best defenses in that time.

As baseball exited the power era of the turn of the century, defense reemerged as a focal point in baseball in recent seasons. That narrative trend is reflected in our Defensive Runs Saved numbers since 2003. All the best team defenses were from the later years except for the 2005 Philadelphia Phillies. They were the only team on our leader board of best defensive teams in the last decade before 2007. They also happen to be the best defensive team of the decade:

Best Defensive Teams of the Decade

Team

Season

Runs Saved

Philadelphia

2005

95

Seattle

2009

85

Tampa Bay

2011

85

Toronto

2007

83

San Diego

2010

81

The 2005 Phillies had not yet reached the overall peak of their core players. They won 88 games that year, the fifth of six consecutive years with at least 80 wins without a playoff berth. That all changed in 2007, when the Phillies won 89 games and reached the playoffs for the first of five consecutive seasons. In terms of overall success, those teams peaked in 2008 when they won the World Series, and then again in 2011 when they won 102 regular-season games. Their 2008 team fell just short of the top-five with 77 Runs Saved, but their 2005 team was the best of the decade with 95 Runs Saved.

Chase Utley was the defensive star of the 2005 Phillies, but he was not alone. Utley was one of six of their players to save nine runs or more: Jimmy Rollins saved 18, David Bell saved 17, Jason Michaels saved 11, Ryan Howard saved 11, and Placido Polanco saved 9. Howard is the most amazing. That was his first season as a regular and his range quickly diminished as his career progressed. In fact, Howard has never again reached a positive Defensive Runs Saved total in the seven seasons since 2005.

The 2009 Seattle Mariners and 2011 Tampa Bay Rays tied for second place with 85 Runs Saved, which they achieved in a similar way. Both teams had a pair of defensive stars that accounted for more than half of the team total. For the Mariners, it was Franklin Gutierrez and Adrian Beltre. Beltre has a well-deserved defensive reputation. That season, he earned the first of his three Fielding Bible Awards. Gutierrez is less of a household name, which is a shame because he had a chance to become an all-time defensive great before a string of injuries derailed him. His 2009 season saved the Mariners 32 runs, more than any player from a top-five team and third-most of any player in a season since 2003.

The Rays will be remembered for their end-of-season heroics that led them into the playoffs in 2011. Two of the biggest reasons they even had that opportunity were Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria. Zobrist rarely gets the attention he deserves for his great play, even from us. He has failed to win a Fielding Bible Award in his career, mainly because the Rays move him around the field, which, in realty, makes him more valuable. In 2011, he saved 29 runs, mostly in right field and second base. Longoria is a star. 2011 was his third consecutive year with at least 19 Runs Saved.

Rounding out the list are the 2007 Toronto Blue Jays and the 2010 San Diego Padres. All of our top-five defensive teams had decisively winning records. Toronto was fifth-best of the group with a 83-79 record in 2007. John McDonald and Aaron Hill combined to save 43 runs up the middle, the second best of any double-play combination in the decade behind Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins in 2008. The Padres did not have a player reach 20 Runs Saved, but they had six players with at least 7, including starting-pitcher Jon Garland, a superlative defensive contribution for a pitcher.

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

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