Archive for July, 2013

Joey Chestnut and the Pride of a Nation

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

About Last Night

Warm center of the trade-talk universe Matt Garza out-dueled a hippo Bartolo Colon in the Cubs’ 3-1 victory over the A’s. Colon threw his first wild pitch in more than four years, which is particularly remarkable when you factor in all the sloshing around involved in his windup. Luis Valbuena hit his 7th home run of the season, Alfonso Soriano drove in his 37th RBI in the last 50 games, and Kevin Gregg recorded his 14th save in 15 attempts. Click through for the box score and highlights from the game. Earlier in the day, the Cubs made room for some of their new acquisitions by demoting Chris Rusin and DFA’ing Shawn Camp. Camp has played for Cubs’ manager Dale a couple times in his career, and Dale was not pleased to give him the news.

Elsewhere

Detroit’s Matt Max Scherzer is the first pitcher to start the season 13-0 in 27 years.

The Rangers took a gamble and signed Manny Ramirez to a minor league deal.

Rapper, media mogul, and burgeoning sports agent Jay-Z takes a swipe at Scott Boras in a new song. Mr. Z recently stole Robinson Cano away from Boras.

More evidence has come to light in the Aaron Hernandez case. Whether it’s the smashed phone and security system, trying to get a quickie, post-incarceration marriage to his girlfriend, or keeping a secret “flop house” apartment, it’s like he was working his way through a checklist of incredibly suspicious behavior. Even with only the limited information that’s come out so far, it’s virtually impossible to imagine a scenario in which he’s totally innocent.

Competitive eating living legend Joey Chestnut is going for his 7th consecutive win in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. With no Kobayashi again this year, it would appear Chestnut should have an easy time of it. As stomach-churningly gross as it is, I’ll be watching.

Finally

It’s the Fourth of July today, so it seems like a good time to revisit the finest snag of Rick Monday’s career. Happy Independence Day, everyone.

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Recapping the Random – 5 Burning Questions

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Yep, let’s do this!  Five burning questions in honor of Hot Stove season.

It’s that time of year where Team Epstein gets out its construction gear and rips apart the current house to build a better foundation for the future…and I am all for it.  I am long on this team, meaning I don’t expect any returns until 2015 at best.  I could care less if they lose 100 games per season for the next two years.  2015 or bust baby!!!!

Which leads to my first question and as always feel free to explain your answers :

1) It was recently reported that Jorge Soler will be out 4-6 weeks with a stress fracture in his left tibia.  This all but ends his 2013 campaign.  In considering this,  who will be the first player acquired, either through the draft, a trade or signed through international free agency, by the Epstein regime to make their Major League debut?

 

2) If Matt Garza is traded what do you think he will fetch…

a) A top 100 prospect

b) A top 50 Prospect

c) A top 20 prospect

d) Nobody in the top 100

3) In your opinion, are there any “untouchable” players on the Cubs current big league roster? If so, who?

4) Rank the following in order of impact/importance to the city of Chicago:

a) A Cubs World Series Birth

b) A Bears Super Bowl Victory

c) The White Sox moving out of state

d) The Hawks winning a Stanley Cup

e) The Bulls winning a championship

5) With Carlos Marmol officially off the roster, who will be the new favorite Cub to hate going forward?

That will do it for this weeks edition.  Please feel free to share your answers with us!

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Cubs Buying All the International Talent

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

SO, ABOUT LAST NIGHT

Chris Rusin, called up from AAA after being named a PCL All Star, made his season debut. He allowed a pair of home runs and left after just over three innings of work. He was pitching on short notice and short rest, so not much can be read into that. He will probably fit into the rotation for the rest of the season going forward as guys begin to move, but for now, I look for Carlos Villanueva to get stretched out and take that spot. Another interesting player of note is / was Josh Donaldson. You probably would not have remembered him before Len and JD talked about him in the game, but he was the third of three players who were sent to the A’s in the Rich Harden deal, with Sean Gallagher and Eric Patterson being the other two. Donaldson, a former catcher, wasn’t really considered much of a prospect at that point. He had some potential, but I looked at him a lot like the way I look at Steve Clevenger now, a guy who can probably fill a role in the Majors adequately, but nothing special. Basically a replacement level guy. This year he’s exploded and will probably be the All Star representative for the A’s. He took Rusin deep to left in his first at bat and it was a no doubter. Sometimes you win some in the deals and sometimes you don’t. I’d have to go back and look, but I’d still venture a guess that the Cubs have more win shares out of that deal so far. Down the road may be a different story.

Tonight’s game will see Matt Garza look to continue to increase his trade value as he takes on big, fat, Bartolo Colon, who is hot as fire right now.

TRADE DEADLINE COMES EARLY?

It felt very much like the trade deadline was here well before the July 31st date. My phone buzzed with an e-mail that the Cubs had traded Carlos Marmol to the Dodgers and I didn’t really bat an eye because I knew it was coming. Just seconds later the phone buzzed again and I was quite surprised to see the Scott Feldman deal. Just as I had put up a post talking about both, the phone buzzed one last time letting me know that a third move had been made. When all was said and done, where do we stand.

Gone are Marmol, Feldman, Steve Clevenger, and Ronald Torreyes. In exchange, let’s take a look at what comes back.

Matt Guerrier – Like Marmol, he was designated for assignment a few days ago. The move is basically a swap of pitchers that neither team wants. The Cubs save a slight amount of salary and the Dodgers get a guy they can try to fix and if not, get rid of. I don’t expect Guirrier to be around for long.

Jake Arrieta – Basically a starter with some command issues that, according to Keith Law, may be better suited for a late inning role. We’ll see what the plan is for him.

Pedro Strop - What scares me here with Strop is the quote from Law. “Strop is just a hard-throwing reliever from the Carlos Marmol school of relief pitching — let it go and don’t worry about where it ends up” Let’s hope we have better success with him.

Also coming along were international signing bonus money. When the day ended, the Cubs increased their bonus pool allotment by $963,000 to a total of $5,520,300. With that, they signed:

# 2 Prospect – Gleyber Torres (SS) – $1,700,000

# 16 Prospect – Erlin Moreno (RHP) – $800,000

NR – Jefferson Mejia – (RHP) – $850,000

There are also rumors that the Cubs will sign the # 1 prospect, Eloy Jimenez (OF) out of the Dominican Republic. We’ll have to wait and see.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

In case you missed it, here is what stories are in the headlines around Major League Baseball.

  • Homer Bailey tossed a no-hitter last night against the Giants. The interesting note is that he tossed the last no-hitter of the season last year and the first of the season this year. The last player to throw one and then throw another before anyone else in the Majors was Bailey’s idol, Nolan Ryan
  • Johnathan Papelbon thinks that Yasiel Puig being considered for the All Star game is a joke. “The guy’s got a month, I don’t even think he’s got a month in the big leagues. Just comparing him to this and that, and saying he’s going to make the All-Star team, that’s a joke to me”. I have always maintained that the All Star Game is a showcase game and should be treated as such. Last year guys like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, even if they were just onto the scene, deserved to be there, and this year it’s the same for Puig
  • In case you didn’t figure it out from the section above, yesterday begin the international signing period. You can track the top 30 players and where they sign here.
  • Milton Bradley has been sentenced to more than three years in jail. Good for him. Have fun in there. You’ll fit right in since most people in jail blame others for their problems.

 

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Breaking News – Cubs Deal Marmol & Feldman in Separate Deals

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

I mentioned in the morning news post that the Cubs were close on a deal to ship Carlos Marmol to the Dodgers. What I didn’t realize was that they were also close to another deal involving Scott Feldman. Here are the details on each from the Cubs media relations department.

The Chicago Cubs today acquired right-handed pitcher Matt Guerrier from the Los Angeles Dodgers for right-handed pitcher Carlos Marmol.  The Dodgers also acquired international signing bonus slot number four from the Cubs as part of the deal.  Guerrier is expected to report to the Cubs later this week.   

Guerrier, 34, has gone 25-33 with 112 holds, six saves and a 3.54 ERA (229 ER/582.1 IP) in 513 major league appearances, all but three in relief, in all or part of 10 seasons with the Minnesota Twins (2004-10) and Dodgers (2011-13).  He went 2-3 with three holds and a 4.80 ERA (16 ER/30.0 IP) in 34 relief outings with Los Angeles this season before being designated for assignment on Sunday.

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Guerrier broke into the majors with the Twins in 2004 and had a breakout campaign in 2007 when he went 2-4 with 14 holds and a 2.35 ERA (23 ER/88.0 IP) in 73 appearances.  In 2009, he set career bests with 79 appearances and 33 holds, tied for most in the majors, while going 5-1 with a 2.36 ERA (20 ER/76.1 IP).  Guerrier signed a three-year contract with the Dodgers prior to the 2011 season.  He posted a 3.86 ERA (6 ER/14.0 IP) last season while limited to 16 outings due to right elbow tendinitis.

Marmol, 30, went 2-4 with two saves and a 5.86 ERA (18 ER/27.2 IP) in 31 relief appearances this season before being designated for assignment on June 25.  He struck out 32 and walked 21 batters in 27.2 innings pitched, an average of 10.4 strikeouts and 6.8 walks per nine innings.

The righthander originally signed with the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent on July 3, 1999.  Signed as a catcher, Marmol converted to a pitcher prior to the 2003 season and made his big league debut in 2006.  A National League All-Star in 2008 as a set-up man, Marmol holds the franchise mark with 82 career holds.  Marmol became the closer in late 2009 and compiled 117 saves, third most in team history.  Overall, he went 23-32 with a 3.50 ERA (211 ER/542.1 IP) in 483 appearances with the Cubs, 470 in relief.

And deal # 2 involving Feldman and Steve Clevenger is as follows:

The Chicago Cubs today acquired right-handed pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop as well as two international signing bonus slots (slot numbers three and four) from the Baltimore Orioles for right-handed pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger.

Arrieta will be assigned to Triple-A Iowa while Strop is expected to report to the Cubs later this week.

Arrieta, 27, is 20-25 with a 5.46 ERA (217 ER/358.0 IP) in 69 major league appearances, all but six as a starting pitcher, in all or part of the last four seasons with Baltimore (2010-13). He was originally selected by the Orioles in the fifth round of the 2007 Draft and made his major league debut in 2010 at the age of 24. He was a 10-game winner for the Orioles in 2011, going 10-8 with a 5.05 ERA (67 ER/119.1 IP) in 22 starts. Arrieta has split the last two seasons (2012-13) between Baltimore and Triple-A Norfolk.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Arrieta was a member of Baltimore’s 2013 Opening Day roster and has had three stints with the big league club this season, going 1-2 with a 7.23 ERA (19 ER/23.2 IP) in five starts. With Norfolk, Arrieta went 5-3 with a 4.41 ERA (24 ER/49.0 IP) in nine appearances (eight starts) this year.

Arrieta was drafted by the Orioles out of Texas Christian University and made his professional debut in 2008. A year later, he advanced as high as Triple-A, combining to go 11-11 with a 3.40 ERA (57 ER/150.2 IP) in 28 starts between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk. He began the 2010 campaign by going 6-2 with a 1.85 ERA (15 ER/73.0 IP) in 12 appearances (11 starts) with Norfolk to earn his first promotion to the big leagues.

Strop, 28, last season served as one of Baltimore’s primary set-up men, going 5-2 with three saves, 24 holds and a 2.44 ERA (18 ER/66.1 IP) in 70 relief appearances, all single-season career bests. He tied for seventh in the American League in holds and limited opponents to a .283 slugging percentage, the sixth-lowest mark in the majors among pitchers who made at least 70 appearances.

The 6-foot, 175-pound Strop is 7-6 with three saves and a 4.14 ERA (59 ER/128.1 IP) in 144 major league relief appearances with Texas (2009-11) and Baltimore (2011-13). He missed time on the disabled list this year due to a lower back strain and has gone 0-3 with a 7.25 ERA (18 ER/22.1 IP) in 29 relief outings with Baltimore.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Strop made his major league debut with the Rangers in 2009 and split three seasons between the majors and minors before being traded to Baltimore near the end of the 2011 campaign. He combined to go 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA (5 ER/22.0 IP) in 23 relief appearances that season between Texas and Baltimore before his breakout campaign in 2012.

Feldman, 30, signed a one-year contract with the Cubs prior to the 2013 campaign and went 7-6 with a 3.46 ERA (35 ER/91.0 IP) in 15 starts this season. Overall, Feldman is 46-50 with a 4.66 ERA (424 ER/818.2 IP) in 219 major league games (116 starts) with Texas (2005-12) and the Cubs (2013).

Clevenger, 27, batted .125 (1-for-8) in eight games with the Cubs this season before straining his left oblique on April 13. He batted .327 (17-for-52) in 15 games with Iowa this year.

I’ll have more on my reactions to the trade in tomorrows edition of Yesterday’s News. In the meantime, discuss amongst yourselves and remember to click through to Jeremiah’s post, which now gets bumped from the top spot on the site due to the breaking news.

******UPDATE******

This minor deal came across the wire shortly after I posted this:

The Chicago Cubs today acquired two international signing bonus slots (slot numbers two and three) from the Houston Astros for minor league infielder Ronald Torreyes.

Torreyes was originally acquired by the Cubs with left-handed pitcher Travis Wood and outfielder Dave Sappelt from Cincinnati for left-handed pitcher Sean Marshall on December 23, 2011.  Torreyes batted .260 (58-for-223) with two home runs and 25 RBI in 64 games with Double-A Tennessee this season.

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The Unfamiliar Taste of Victory

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Last week my favorite hockey team hoisted the Stanley Cup. It was their second championship in four years, but the elation of their success was still slightly foreign to me. I’m not yet used to the taste of victory.

It’s not that I’ve gone out of my way to cheer for losers. I don’t have a fixation on underdogs, and I’m not particularly fond of suffering, even when it comes to something as relatively inconsequential as sports.

But at the same time, I’ve never been one to leap aboard bandwagons. At least in the sports I care about, I’ve got my teams and I’m content to win and (usually) lose with them. In most cases, I’m not adopting one of the remaining championship contenders as much as rooting vigorously against teams I already can’t stand. Often it comes down to a simple process of elimination—“Which team can I most tolerate winning?”

But even in sports I’m relatively new to, I can’t bring myself to latch onto the front-runner. That’s how it was with the NHL. My friend Mike—the biggest Detroit sports fan I’ve ever known—first introduced me to hockey about six or seven years ago. Of course I was aware of hockey before that, but I’d never really paid attention to it. The poor quality of standard definition television made the sport more of a chore to watch than a pleasure. It took someone with the boundless enthusiasm of Mike to teach me the nuances of the game and to appreciate its uniqueness, both subtle and overt.

As I said, Mike was a massive Detroit fan, which meant the first several games I attended in person were Red Wings games. And with their unbelievable streak of consecutive playoff appearances (twenty-two and counting) and their frequent trips to the Stanley Cup finals, the Wings would have been an easy team to cheer for*.

*And in Mike’s memory, I often do.

But my inherent aversion to bandwagoning wouldn’t let me hop on board with Detroit. Not that I’m particularly overflowing with any of them, but shouldn’t class, dignity, and good taste keep someone from deciding they like a sport and that sport’s best team at the same time? Perhaps there’s something broken in me that makes me think fandom ought to include struggle, but I’m not sure you can ever truly appreciate winning with a team until you’ve lost with them.

Instead I decided to root for the Blackhawks. It was an easy choice really. I already had ties to other Chicago sports teams, they were young squad with lots of raw talent (Toews and Kane were drafted right around the time I started following hockey), and they were an Original Six team with lots of history—that last one was particularly important to Mike. And most important of all, they had no bandwagon to speak of.

As it turns out, I was catching the team at just the right time. Within a couple seasons, they were facing off against the Red Wings in the conference finals. That next year they won their first Stanley Cup since the early 60’s.

That was the first time one of my teams had ever been the champions, and even amidst the celebration it felt a little uncomfortable, like perhaps I hadn’t yet earned the right to celebrate. I hadn’t passed through the crucible of repeated disappointment on my way to the promised land of victory**.

**Yeah, something in me is definitely broken.

This most recent celebration felt a little more earned. I’d watched as that first championship team was gutted, and as the Hawks were bounced early from the playoffs two years in a row—not exactly lean years, mind you, but the kind of performances that make you wonder which direction the team is headed.

The reality is I didn’t earn anything. My suffering or not suffering along with my teams has no bearing on their performance or the outcomes of their seasons. I am inconsequential to their victories as well as their defeats. It’s mostly a one-way investment, but the amount time you suffer with them in defeat is directly proportional to your ecstasy in victory.

Which is why I can’t wait for the day when the Cubs win it all.

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Marmol Moving West?

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

ABOUT LAST NIGHTThere was no game last night so instead you get to hear about my personal life. I’ve been doing Insanity. I started week four last night, after taking a couple days off. Two quick words of advice. First, don’t do Insanity. It’s crazy hard. Second, if you’re going to do Insanity, don’t take days off to let your body recover. It was so hard to get back into it last night. Everything in me wanted to quit. I’m curious to know if anyone else has tried it and if so, how did it go?

THE RUMOR MILL IS CHURNING - I posted in the ESPN Power Rankings this week “Theo Epstein has gone on record as saying that there are even money odds that a trade will happen before the All Star break. July should be a fun month for Cubs fans and it probably won’t have to do with the play on the field.” We’re less than a month away from the non-waiver deadline and the rumors are hot and heavy so let’s take a look at what’s happening.

  • Carlos Marmol, who was designated for assignment recently, is rumored to be headed to the Dodgers. The sticking points as of this writing appear to be getting Marmol to accept the trade, given that the Dodgers are on his no-trade list, and a decision on how much of the remaining money owed will be absorbed by the Dodgers. At this point, there is no word on if the Cubs would receive a player in return, but if they did, it won’t be anything other than a filler.
  • Ken Rosenthal wrote yesterday that the Cubs were “all but certain” to trade Matt Garza, Scott Feldman, and Kevin Gregg before the deadline, which would mean that the Cubs would once again be in the market for a closer. I’d hope that Jed and Theo would either elect to fill that role with a player from within or with another flyer like Gregg who can be had on the cheap. I don’t believe in spending big bucks on bullpen arms. Build the pen from within.

MLB NEWS & NOTES

  • The Pittsburgh Pirates have the best record in all of baseball and vaulted up to the # 1 spot in the weekly power rankings. What in the world in going on here? I’m not a believer in the Buccos and I’m willing to lay even money on the fact that they will fail to make the playoffs, once again.
  • Bryce Harper, who had been on the DL, came back last night and homered in his first at bat back. My question is this. If you had to wager on either Harper or Mike Trout, who will have the better career when all is done?
  • The Yankees have cleared the very outspoken Alex Rodriguez to play in a rehab assignment. The situation amuses me a lot because the Yankees are very much suffering the effects of a dumb extension that was signed. I love the fact that the CBA in baseball makes teams pay the contracts they sign. There is not an ability to just cut someone like in the NFL and there is no amnesty clause, like in the NBA. You sign the deal, you pay the deal.

TRIVIA TIME

Q – There are currently seven active players in Major League Baseball who have played all of their career (minimum 10+ years) with the same team. How many can you name?

A – Click Here

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