Archive for September, 2013

Monday Talking Points: Sveum, Baez & Moving Forward

Monday, September 30th, 2013

I apologize for the lack of action here on the site for the last couple weeks. I recently switched employers and have been pouring myself into learning the new job. With that said, I wanted to touch on three talking points for today.

1. Dale Sveum learns his fate – When they say it like that, we basically already know his fate. In fact, if the Cubs were planning on retaining his services, we would not hear anything about his return due to the fact that he still has time left on his contract. The fact is that the Cubs looked at Sveum as a placeholder until they felt they were closer to contend. While that may not seem like the case at this point, it has simply come to where a change is needed to simply get a new voice in there to see if that helps guys like Rizzo and Castro, who have both regressed under Sveum’s watch. Now the question is who replaces him. If Joe Girardi is really a candidate, like has been rumored, you have to make a serious run at him.

2. Javier Baez is priming the pump to get paid – Arguably the Cubs top prospect, Baez switched agents recently KPS Sports. While that is not a huge, well known, agency either, he is upgrading in anticipation for a big payday down the road as he looks to make his debut as early as next season.

3. Moving Forward – It’s always tough watching losing baseball. We’re knee deep in the rebuild. How do you feel from a big picture standpoint? It’s a little scary relying on prospects, but if it works, it sets up the pipeline to keep this team competitive for a long time. I’m ready for that.

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Cubs Win, Blog Update, Cubs Win

Thursday, September 26th, 2013


The season is winding to a close (or it did last week, if VFTB is the center of the Cubs’ universe). And the Cubs got a rather unfortunate win on Wednesday. Unfortunate is probably the wrong word; but I especially hate when Cub wins are roundly celebrated by Cardinal fans. In fact, based on where the NL Central now stands I wish the Cards had clinched against the Nationals. Now the Cubs will very likely be in the visitors dugout when STL celebrates avoiding the dreaded play-in Wild Card game. 40,000 in jorts, baseball’s so-called smartest fans, dusting off the rally squirrel t-shirts, feathering their mullets, fiddling with their lone remaining front tooth, sister/wife at their side ready to celebrate with some Skoal and Bud Light…I hate September games at Busch. When all is said and done, the Cubs will finish with fewer than 70 wins, only a handful of games to show for improvement on last season. And dutifully the vast majority of the Cubs faithful give Theo & Co. a second mulligan…

  • On Monday the Cubs state their intentions for the man with the forearm tattoos. In hindsight, it’s a great thing Theo & Jed didn’t make the mistake of hiring Ryne Sandberg two years ago. It takes a special manager to work through the July Fire Sale Festival. Unquestionably, Sveum was uniquely suited for the job – a delicate blend of spineless, non-descript, and devoid of imagination. Seriously though, how anyone can pretend to judge Dale on anything that’s happened over the last two seasons is laughable. The only thing I know for sure is that he’s better than Mike Quade – but then again, even my four-year-old wouldn’t be hitting Jeff Baker cleanup and playing him in LF.
  • If you missed the Brewers-Braves game last night, you need to watch this video. Total respect for what Brian McCann did; I’m not sure I’d even have had the foresight to consider the move. Carlos Gomez is a clown; I don’t care what you have against a guy – that kind of thing is bush league.
  • So much for an extra wild card adding more suspense. Before the season’s final series begin, the NL playoff teams are set, and two divisions only have one team. In the AL you have 3 teams for 2 spots (where before last season you would’ve had 3 teams for 1 spot…that’s less suspense Bud). Plus, 2 of these teams will be in the “playoffs” for exactly one day.
  • If you were born roughly 2,274 days (or more) after the first scheduled night game at Wrigley, this is only the second postseason in your lifetime that will not include the New York Yankees.
  • After 159 games, I consider this season to be even more lost than last year. At least when 2012 ended there was reason to think some of the franchise’s young stars were ready to cement their status as an everyday fixture for the next decade at Wrigley. Then Rizzo didn’t hit as well, Samardzija pitched much worse, and a bunch of coaches decided Castro should stop doing everything that made him so valuable. Along the way, only Junior Lake added his name to the ‘Cubs of Tomorrow’ plan – and even he has been a weird combination of electric and ineffective. At this point, I could be convinced that any of those players is traded before 2014 ends; and I could also be convinced that any of them would be a 2014 All-Star.
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GirlieView (09/19/2013)

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

GirlieView Definitions

  • Lizzie = A funny, timely quote made on the VFTB site by our writers or commenters.
  • Lizard = The best Lizzie.
  • MVL = Most Valuable Lizzie’er: The person with the most Lizzies in the period under review (usually the past two weeks.)
  • Top 10 of 2013 = The folks with the most aggregate Lizzie points YTD (1 point for every Lizzie, 3 points for every Lizard.)

As you already know, this is all completely subjective and according to my whims.

Lizzies

  • Pat and Keith have Randy Hundley in the booth plugging his fantasy camp…he has yet to mention last season’s top-slugging optometrist.
  • He couldn’t possibly mention all the optometrists at that thing.
  • But he did mention a memorable dinner with Seymour at the Quizno’s in the Mesa View shopping center right next to the Big Lot’s.
  • This just in: The post season will start in October and the Cubs won’t be a part of it.
  • I really think you’re underrating Sappelt. He’s at least a fourth outfielder who can hurl insults at the ladyfolk between pitches.
  • Your football team is the Jets; of course you hang around for baseball’s final pitch.
  • Too true. They’re a tough team to watch or even like right now.
  • As a Bills fan, football doesn’t seem like it will provide me with a more winning product than the Cubs, so I’m still tuning in for the rest of the season.
  • there are positives to watch for each game (please don’t ask me to name any).
  • I passed the NC Bar, first try.
  • I miss your triangle-hole.
  • Raker’s home for soon to be wayward girls.
  • Yea! A game summary!
  • What happened? somebody have a stroke?
  • I’m happy to blame her for a considerable amount of my recent silence here on VFTB.
  • I have a small number of patients who are socially awkward fellows beyond their prime who find at least moderately attractive mates much younger than themselves.
  • Opposed to socially awkward doctors who vacation annually with other socially awkward fellows pretending to be big league baseball players in where they just use their master card or dollar bills to have attractive naked girls rub their bosoms and buttocks onto them.
  • Maybe a common interest in shows about buying dresses will help a relationship, but there are definitely more important things that make people compatible with one another than something like that.
  • I don’t want to burn those ideas now and then be struggling for writing material when there won’t be bad baseball to discuss.
  • Seymour would have gone with the taller blonde Charity at Cheetah’s in Reno.
  • Charity’s mom needs an operation and she is studying for her masters, Seymour is only trying to help her out 1 dollar bill at a time. Very magnanimous of Seymour if you ask the Cheetah ‘students’.
  • A girl’s gotta eat.

Lizard

  • even Job had a limit

Shout Outs

We had no new Lizzie contributors this time around but we’re so grateful for our regular commenters who keep this site flowing with good conversation and hearty laughter. Shout outs all around.

MVL

Congratulations to Seymour Butts our Most Valuable Lizzie’er this time around!

Final In-Season 2013 Standings (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard) – Standings will reset for the off-season.

1. jswanson
2. Seymour Butts
3. Jedi Johnson
4. Eddie von White
5. Doc Raker
6. Joe Aiello
7. Chuck
8. Jerry in Wisconsin
9. Doug S.
10. Jeremiah Johnson
11. Buddy
11. cap’n obvious
13. Noah Eisner
14. Katie
15. Sean Powell
16. Bryan
16. Gymjok
16. Josh Cornwall
19. Chet
19. LVCubFan
19. Mark_from_Toronto
22. Norm
22. Verncrowe5
24. Darlin_Starlin
24. Sherm
24. Tom C
27. CAPS
27. Dusty Baylor
27. Holden Clark
27. Michael Jimenez
31. Bones
32. wisconsinjpc
33. Aaron
33. Allan
33. Ann Landers
33. Chris
33. Dave
33. Dous Entendre
33. Drew Peterson
33. Hugh Hefner
33. Jim Hickman
33. Josephine
33. Josh H
33. Just Curious
33. mrbaseball2usa
33. Rick Beato
33. Rocco Kavana
33. Scott E. Entsminger
33. Sean_in_Blue
33. Still Curious
33. The Whole Damn Show
33. Troy Maskell

Chit Chat

This is the last GirlieView of the 2013 season. I can’t say that I will miss this season but to me every baseball season is good so I will be looking forward to the next one just as always, whether we have any hope or not. In the meantime we’ve got some administrative details to cover. There will be no GirlieView columns in the month of October. This will give you a chance to enjoy the post season without pressure to be funny or witty. Heh. (Not really the reason, but it sounded good didn’t it?) I will begin tracking posts again on November 1, and will return to my regular every-other-week schedule beginning on November 14. See you then. Meantime, enjoy the post- season! Tell me who you expect in the World Series, and your choice for a winner. By the time I return I’ll know, so I’ll report on how well you all guessed!

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Cubs Lose 6-1, Two Possible Gold Gloves on the Cubs?

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Anthony Rizzo nominated for Clemente Award – Pretty cool for Rizzo as it’s one of the greatest honors in baseball to win the Clemente Award. Rizzo is the Cubs nominee for said award and has put together a nice season on the field and off the field. The average isn’t there at .229 but a line of .229/.325/.420 isn’t to shabby nonetheless. Rizzo has been a big hit with the Cubs fan base as he hosted a cook-off for cancer on August 14th. CSN Chicago provides us with a great synopsis of the event.

Edwin Jackson Argument – The 16 million dollar man was unhappy that Dale Sveum pulled him after 76 pitches only pitching four innings. Jackson was pulled for a pinch hitter as Sveum wanted to tie the game at two by hoping to score the runner from third. It’s been a disappointing season to say the least for Jackson as he was the backup plan to Anibal Sanchez after his agent got greedy. I was happy to see him go since the rosters expanded I wanted to see extended looks of our recent call-ups Rosscup, Cabrera and Raley. With the season lost it doesn’t hurt to pull Jackson as he has been struggling mightily all year. Many regard his stuff as top 15 potential in the National League. He has never lived up to that potential or sustained success for a full-season.

Darwin Barney’s Fielding Percentage – Barney still is leading national league second baseman in fielding percentage at .993. The reigning National League Gold Glove winner at second base has provided stellar defense once again for the Cubs. Brian Dozier of the Minnesota Twins lead the MLB at .994 which surprised me at first. Anthony Rizzo is second in the National League at .996 behind Paul Goldschmidt and should get consideration for the award. The Cubs have shored up their infield defense with Rizzo and Barney and at some points Starlin Castro the mental errors still exist but the defense has improved overall.

Former Cub Andrew Cashner pitches a Maddux - After being traded for Anthony Rizzo both players will be closely watched by Cubs’ fans to see what each player turns into. For the Cubs they saw the opportunity to land a premier 1st Base prospect and felt that even giving up Cashner was worth it. As mentioned above Rizzo has turned in some nice seasons for the Cubs and finally played a full-season this year at 147 games to date. Cashner last night pitched one of the gems of the season as he pitched nine innings of one hit ball against the playoff bound Pirates. What’s more amazing is the efficiency in which he pitched walking no one and only throwing 97 pitches retiring the minimum after Jose Tabata singled in the seventh. If you want more information on all Maddux type of games I would highly recommend this link.

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What Do We Do With Scott Baker?

Monday, September 16th, 2013

When the Cubs signed both Scott Baker and Scott Feldman this past off season to team friendly, low risk contracts, the goal was to have both pitch well enough to either flip or sign long term. Feldman did just that and was move early in the year for prospects. Baker, on the other hand, has not followed the blueprint. An early spring setback has forced his return all the way back to late this season. On Friday he’s slated to make his third and final start of the season before being shut down. In his first two outings, Baker has pitched very well. If Friday goes the same, Theo and Jed will have a difficult decision on their hands. Do you bring back Baker on another team friend deal and further cloud up the starting rotation competition or do you chalk that experiment up as a loss?

If you bring Baker back, then what does your rotation look like next year, with a number of guys at least making a case for consideration.

Let’s discuss.

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The Last Three Weeks Still Matter…Kinda

Friday, September 13th, 2013

I am finding it increasingly more difficult to watch this team and it’s making it near impossible to write about them. I have a few things in the works for the off-season already that are Cubs related but not necessarily this team related, however, I don’t want to burn those ideas now and then be struggling for writing material when there won’t be bad baseball to discuss. I am sure everyone here is feeling the same lack of inspiration that I am. It’s hard to follow a bad baseball team and recycle the same thoughts day after day after day. With the minor league season coming to an end, there’s even less to talk about.  Yet there’s still meaningful baseball to played for some of the Cubs players and I want to tackle the little things I’ll be watching as the season winds down.

1) Has Starlin turned it around?  Sveum has said recently the past few weeks were the best Starlin has swung the bat all year, but Castro followed that comment up with 3 straight 0-fers. He’s seeing more pitches than ever (usually a good thing) and his defense has went from abysmal to pretty good since the end of June but he’s still hitting in the low .240s (even after a very solid July hitting near .300 for the month).

2) WTF Jeff Samardzija…  You got many people to label you the ace of the staff (myself included) after a dominant start to the season where you ranked top 15 in nearly every major pitching statistic and then you put up a terrible 2nd half which has seen your numbers skyrocket beyond mediocrity? Also what’s with the home/away splits? You’re overall numbers on the road are nothing short of dominant yet you’ve become completely incompetent at home?

3) The roller coaster that is Junior Lake. Up, down, up, down, up… down? Depending on where you set your arbitrary end points you can make any argument you want about Lake this season. Take away those first 7 games, and he’s been below par. Look at only August and he was “meh,” but look at his numbers since Aug 1st and he’s been very good after a very hot start to September. His batting average on balls in play is still not maintainable, but since those first 7 games, it’s at .337 and with his speed that is a reasonable number; yet he’s only hitting .254/.298/.352 in those 34 games.

4) How does Scott Baker perform over these last few starts? We just paid him 5M to rehab this year, so we should have the inside track in resigning him if we want to. We have a vacant rotation spot so Baker’s last couple weeks are very important for evaluating him. Keep an eye on his pitch repertoire and velocity because he was only a 3-pitch pitcher in his first start relying heavily on sinkers and sliders with an average velocity sitting at only 88mph.  When Baker was good, he had a healthy 5 pitch arsenal including a changeup and curveball to go with a low 90s velocity.

Links for your viewing pleasure

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Love and Other Stuff

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

For the first time in, well… ever, I have a serious girlfriend. We’ve been dating for a while now, and I’m happy to blame her for a considerable amount of my recent silence here on VFTB.

Being in a serious relationship has forced me to ask all kinds of questions I’ve never had to consider before; it’s also revealed just how few good answers I really have. One of those questions–and perhaps the only one pertinent to this blog–is “How do I talk this woman into caring about the Cubs?” And frankly, I didn’t have a clue where to start.

Some of us were born Cubs fans, while the rest chose to jump aboard one of the many doomed bandwagons along the way. But when it comes time to sell someone else–especially someone you care deeply for–on a team as historically snake-bitten as the Cubs, where do you begin? How do you look your significant other in the eye and knowingly invite her into our world of dashed hopes, frustrated plans, and annual depression? Wouldn’t it actually be more loving to encourage them to cheer for another team?

Obviously we don’t have a rich championship history to draw on. But even the history we do have is a fairly mixed bag–really, who’s attracted to endless stories about near-misses and late-season collapses? We’re also a little short on colorful characters these days. Apart from Ernie Banks, are any former Cubs legends all that endearing or engaging? We love them because they’re our guys, but would a stranger to the team really want to hear Billy Williams or Fergie Jenkins wax eloquent about the good old days? And the current roster isn’t much better when it comes to catching and holding the interest of the casual fan.

In the end, Wrigley Field might be the team’s only selling point. However, it is an extraordinarily strong one. How many Cubs fans point back to their first visit to Wrigley–that first plunge into the intimate sea of green ivy and grass–as the moment they fell in love with the Cubs? How many die-hard fans started out as casual bleacher bums during their college days? How many lifelong fans fell in love with the team on endless summer afternoons spent in the stands? I’m convinced if you could take someone to Wrigley Field, you could get them to love the Cubs. Or at the very least, tolerate them.

As it turns out, my girl is a pretty good sport, so she didn’t take that much convincing. So far I’ve dragged her to three Cubs games during their recent West Coast trip, and they managed to win two of them. I told her she’s good for the team, and that I need to take her to as many more games as possible. We’ll see if she buys it.

Elsewhere, the Cubs broke out the bats Tuesday night behind Edwin Jackson, pounding the Reds for nine runs on four home runs, including two from Welington Castillo and one from Jackson himself. You can see all the highlights of the drubbing here.

Jesse Rogers thinks we might be on the other side of Starlin Castro’s extended slump. Hooray!

Pete Ricketts is running for Governor of Nebraska. The article also serves as a good primer for any fans not up on all the Ricketts’ political leanings.

And finally, the Cubs have released their schedule for the 2014 season. Am I the only one who, despite this dumpster fire of a season, looks at this and starts making plans for next summer?

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Wood finally beats his former team. Cubs shutout the Reds 2-0

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

by Rob Willer

The Travis Wood trade has been an interesting one for both ball clubs over the past two seasons. Sean Marshall was a workhorse for many years in the Cubs pen and was due for a hefty raise as a reliever. The Cubs maximized his value and traded him to the Reds for Wood, Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes. Torreyes was traded to the Astros this year for international slot money which has proven to be quite valuable as it helped the Cubs sign some very impressive international talent. Sappelt has bounced around from the majors and minors this year and seems to be a fourth outfielder at best for his career recently designated for assignment. The real get in the trade for the Cubs was Travis Wood.  The 26-year-old Wood has enjoyed a breakout campaign with the Cubs thus far in 2013, pitching to a 2.79 ERA with 6.3 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 33.7 percent ground-ball rate. He was 0-4 in his career against the Reds which of course included three losses this season against the pesky Reds. The Reds now are 13-4 against the Cubs this season. Wood went seven innings allowing six hits and fanned seven. Wood got his 22nd quality start and it was a beauty.

Kevin Gregg gave up a double in the ninth while earning his 31st save in 35 chances. Just think about that for a second Kevin Gregg has 31 saves after the Cubs got him for literally nothing probably one of the best in season moves this year. Pedro Strop continues his stellar performance out of the pen pitching a scoreless eight. His 2.93 earned average with the Cubs is very encouraging. Overall with the Cubs Strop has appeared in 29 games and turned in 26 scoreless relief outings.

Ryan Sweeney and Luis Valbuena homered off Bronson Arroyo (13-11), who had won his last four starts against the Cubs. These would be the only runs of the game for each team as the Cubs would muster enough offense to get their all-star a win. The Reds squandered a perfect chance to be with in a game of first with 17 games to go in the regular season. After last night’s loss the Reds sit at 2 games back of the National League Central Leading Cardinals. If you look at the top three teams in the National League Central their playoff efficiency percentages range from 99.0 to 99.8 tough year to compete folks. Side Note: The Pittsburgh Pirates have clinched an above .500 season for the first time since 1992. Another astonishing stat that 21 years have passed since they finished above .500. We are only in our second year of the Epstein rebuild folks if we can above .500 in 2015 I’ll take it.

It was the Cubs’ sixth shutout this season which kinda surprised me that they had that many as team. The Cubs go with Edwin Jackson (7-15), who leads the NL in losses. Yippee 19 million dollars for 15 losses. Can’t wait for his second year under contract.

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September Call Ups – A “Thank You”

Monday, September 9th, 2013

I finally have another chance to write.  To share some of my thoughts.  It has been one crazy Summer.  In the midst of it all I got an opportunity to join this community and I can’t say thank you enough for welcoming me to it.  I used my writing as a way to draw my attention away from studying for the bar when I needed an absolute break.  Well, thank you.  It was helpful, I passed the NC Bar, first try.  Thanks for reading my stress relief and helping me stay sane by discussing something I love with others who are just as, if not more, passionate. I promise I will tie this in.

With all the yucky lovey-dovey thank yous out of the way let’s get to the Chicago Cubs.

So here is what has been the burning thought on my mind recently.  September call-ups- are they a thank you or are they a try out?

The Thank You-

During September you see a lot of guys get the call who have worked their butts off in the Minors all season; most who have toiled their for quiet a while. At times you will see the prospect for the proverbial “cup of coffee” but mostly it some of the older minor leaguers in a kind of see-what-you-got-left deal.  I wouldn’t say this is really the try-out, this is more of a thank you.  A reaching out to some of the folks who hung around and took a little stress off.  The guys that were always there just-in-case.  Well, for the most part that scenario didn’t pop up and their was no reward during the season.  So here comes September.  Let’s call it Christmas in September for the career minor leaguer.

I believe in and understand the role of September expanded rosters.  It gives some of the veterans a chance for a breathier and allows for teams in contention to really try to make a one last ditch effort for a push to the playoffs.  Cool. I get it and like it.  I even like the idea of the thank you; most years.  Not this year.  Show me prospects.  Show me something juicy.  I have waited impatiently all season whilst a minor league team was passed off for major market professional baseball team.  So no thank you to the thank you.  Give me the other alternative.

Current “Thank You” Callups- JC Boscan, Donnie Murphy (although he did come earlier), Darnell McDonald, Brian Bogusevic

The Try Out-

This is what September is about when your team has looked like a pile of dog excrement in one way or another for the majority of the season.  Don’t get me around there is a lot of promise on the horizon.  Unfortunately, my MLB.TV subscription that I paid for this year doesn’t offer rain-checks for when the team takes off.  So here is to the future.  Cheers.  Now put some of them on the field. I like the influx of young arms brought up.  I like acquisition of Daniel Bard although we won’t see him this year.  I can even understand the Scott Baker call-up (although worse case scenario I see us paying him 5 million to rehab all season and he signs with someone else in the off season).  Alberto Cabrera should be pitching. Justin Grimm should be pitching. The same for Rosscup and Chang-Yom Lim.  So why am I complaining?  Mostly because as my wife will tell you, that is what I do.  I am a pie in the sky type of guy.  I just wished everyone else was.

Here’s my pie in the sky.  Mike Olt seeing a little time.  Josh Vitters playing a little outfield (if he was healthy).  Heck, show me some Szczur.  I know that last one is a stretch.  Bring them up and let them travel; see what the life is like.  Let them watch the top tier guys as they go through the hardest of the grind day in and day out.  Give them a big league at bat against a really scary pitcher.  Why not?  Who is going to lose playing time that it is significantly going to affect their development? No one (that was an easy answer).

The way I see it “Try  Outs” are better than “Thank Yous”.  Give me more prospect, less last hoorahs.

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