Archive for December, 2013

The Chicago Bears Are Precisely What the Cubs Shouldn’t Want to Be

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Most Septembers, Chicagoans end a summer of bickering about whether the Cubs or White Sox were more terrible in any given season and unite to root for the Bears at the start of football season. Since the conclusion of the 2007 Super Bowl, that involved rooting for what is arguably the most mediocre team in football. In the seven seasons since the Bears last played in the world’s biggest annual television spectacle, the Bears finished 7-9 twice (2007 and 2009), 8-8 twice (2011 and 2013), 9-7 once (2008), 10-6 once (2012) and 11-5 once (2010). In only one of those seasons, 2010, the Bears made the playoffs.

In that span, the Bears have never been a bad team, but instead have been consistently mediocre. Even had the Bears slipped into the playoffs this season, no one would have confused them for a Super Bowl contender. And the route to true, Super Bowl contention relevance is… well, it seems like the Bears are as far away from that now as they were a year ago. The Bears have the best offense I can ever remember them having, but now the defense is a mess, and old.

Now, the NFL is different from the MLB in a lot of ways. The NFLPA has nowhere near the power the MLBPA does, and there’s a salary cap, so the ability to build through free agency is greater. Also, success in the NFL is so heavily dependent on good quarterback play, and there’s just no comparable position in baseball, even the ace starting pitcher.

But the Bears’ mediocrity merely begets more mediocrity. It’s been nearly a decade of hole filling, and once one is filled, another opens up. Oh, they were able to fix the problems enough for one year to make a run in the playoffs one season when they drew a favorable matchup at home in the divisional round against a 7-9 Seattle Seahawks team, and they’ve been largely competivish for the past few seasons. But no one has mistaken the Bears for a real Super Bowl contender, and they’ve been constantly a step behind the Green Bay Packers.

But the Bears, particularly in the latter half of the Jerry Angelo years, were close enough to competitive that there was a constant excuse to not tear the parts that didn’t work down.

Now, tear downs can fail. They’re risky, and a failed teardown means everyone in the front office and on the coaching staff loses their jobs. If the Cubs’ farm system based rebuild doesn’t work out, Theo Epstein’s legacy will take a significant hit. But the Epstein/Hoyer/McLeod regime are not interested in being competivish.

As a fan, I’d rather have a tear down and rebuild for a shot at a Packers or St. Louis Cardinals like extended run of true competitiveness, even if the tear down might not work, then close to a decade of uninspired mediocrity. Trust me, the latter is far more annoying.

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WWTD? (What will Tanaka do?)

Friday, December 27th, 2013

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. 

Let’s try an exercise. Here’s the scenario: First, imagine you are not a Cubs fan (this is probably harder for some than others). Second, imagine you’re Japanese pitching phenom Masahiro Tanaka (stay with me here). Third, imagine you have the option of signing with any major league team. Which team would you choose? Would you automatically go with the highest bid? Do you want to play on a team with a rich tradition of championships like the Yankees? Do you want to go to a team loaded with win-now major league talent like the Dodgers? Do you want to play in a market where you can maximize endorsement deals and media exposure? …or, do you select a team who is a few years away from being competitive, plays in a historic ballpark, hasn’t won in 100+ years, and (might) offer you the biggest contract (i.e., the Cubs)? Would a chance to bring a championship to this team matter? Do you even know the history of the Cubs?

Multiple reports have indicated that the Cubs will be “all in” on Tanaka. Perhaps they’ve been saving and “shaving” payroll in preparation for this opportunity. Maybe they see this as the first step toward competitiveness over the next 2 to 3 years. It is a rare thing to be able to land a talent of this caliber and to lose nothing but money.

So, for now, let’s assume that the finances will be there (something we won’t be sure of until the deal is made public). What would it take to convince Tanaka to come to Chicago? Even though it’s my favorite city (and I’m not a Chicagoan), I have no idea how known Chicago is in Japan – or how popular the Cubs are there. If Tanaka knows something of Chicago, maybe they have a chance, but if he sees it just as a city in the middle of the country with a bad team (and poor player facilities), would it even be possible to land him at all? Fukodome did sign with the Cubs, but he’s not in the same league as Tanaka as far as demand. Will the Cubs have to overwhelm Tanaka with a contract offer that is significantly larger than other offers? Could – and should – the Cubs do that?

So, imagine you are in Tanaka’s shoes right now. What would you do? What factors would determine your course of action?

Have a safe and happy new year!

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GirlieView (12/26/2013)

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! I wrapped up the tallying a bit early this time around (Sunday afternoon) but all your comments after that will count for next time!

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 the 2013/2014 Offseason = 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.


  • I love being optimistic, but I’m getting worn out!
  • We all want it to happen now but just like Christmas morning we have to wait.
  • I think a part of it is that not all that many major moves really make sense for the Cubs.
  • I am bored, can we make fun of Seymour, CAPS or Jedi?
  • Just eat grass. It works for cows.
  • Not a physician, but I’d suggest adding reduced-fat-by-boiling-it-out-Ramen to that list.
  • Bogusevic for Justin Ruggiano. He is rumored to have more power than Bogusevic, and confirmed to have an easier name to spell.
  • I know that is unconventional out of the box thinking that will garner laughter and ridicule but some day a manager will do that and be successful and then every team will do it. Mark this post, you heard it here first kids.
  • Why are you not in the front office? Those guys could use some of your (fore)sight.
  • Waiting for an offer……………
  • Can I be your minion?
  • Sure, Seymour too so we have someone to entertain us.
  • I Wada preferred Mark Grace in the booth, at least Grace would never deny there is drinking in the game.
  • So we got Hottovy on the hot stovey but we were frozen out of the winter meetings?
  • Seymour was whining about the $22 he was forced to spend at a restaurant that had waitress service, he just didn’t understand why we couldn’t all go to Quizno’s for $8.95 including chips and a fountain drink.
  • BTW my and the missus Thanksgiving meal? Subway! Who knew they would be open.
  • The one problem for Hendricks has been the major leagues
  • That was my one problem too, which is why I ended up in church league softball.
  • Seems to be a recurring theme for most of the guys that the Cubs promote.
  • It’s that pesky ‘major league’ problem that plaques the Cubs, if we could just compete at the AA level we would having a winning season, at least sometimes.
  • Jim Hendry finally got Brian Roberts.
  • Although, in fairness, Hendry probably would have immediately given Roberts a 6 year extension upon signing him, so at least we dodged that bullet.
  • He likes sushi, summer drives to the beach in convertibles and romance movies, he always brings kleenex to the movie theatre.
  • Sorry, romance movies and kleenex are the deal breakers.
  • We do know that Raker is advocating being in, but just a little bit. Just the tip, as it were.
  • they could replace him with Matt Murton and Bryan LaHair type players. They will fill stadiums.
  • You mean they do that as well as star in sitcoms?


  • I think the extent to which Adam Dunn would have been a disaster in right field cannot be overstated.

Shout Outs

  • Congratulations to Bones, Katie, and Rob Willer for winning their first off-season Lizzies this time around.


  • Congratulations to Doc Raker our Most Valuable Lizzie’er this time!

Top 10 of the 2013/2014 Offseason (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard)

1. Doc Raker
2. jswanson
2. Sean Powell
4. Joe Aiello
5. Noah
6. Eddie von White
6. Seymour Butts
8. cap’n obvious
9. Jedi Johnson
10. Doug S.

Chit Chat

  • What was your favorite Christmas gift? (This year, or ever! You choose!)
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VFTB Interactive Christmas Challege

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

The other day I came across an entry on Baseball Reference for Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

What made me laugh was the similarity score where it compares him to other players. That brings us to our challenge. Here are the players listed as similar. Your challenge is to come up with as many more that have something to do with the holiday season in any way. Be creative. Have fun. Here are the suggestions to get you started.

  1. Rob Deer (940)
  2. J.T. Snow (924)
  3. Dasher Troy (920)
  4. Cupid Childs (919)
  5. Al Clauss (915)
  6. Steve Christmas (908)
  7. Matt Holliday (905)
  8. Holly Hollingshead (901)
  9. Frosty Thomas (898)
  10. Ozzie Guillen (895)

Make sure you post the name and the link to their player page in Baseball Reference in the comments.

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International Prospects: Is the Hype Worth the Money?

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

If you’ve been following Cubs news (closely or not) the name “Masahiro Tanaka” has appeared in various conversations from time to time. He’s 25, Japanese, and went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season. Say it with me: “Wow. He seems pretty great.”

A few things about Tanaka: he’s eligible for free agency in 2015, and his team may not want to let him go; Also, MLB and NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) have come to a new posting agreement – a $20 million cap for players (before contracts and endorsements). This means that Nippon will make approximately $30 million less than they received for the likes of Yu Darvish or Daisuke Matsuzaka, which also means that his team could decline to post him this season and hang on to him until his contract expires. (If I may play the Devil’s Advocate, I’d hang on to him until his contract expires.)

Now, Tanaka has stated his desire to play in the MLB next season. The Cubs have to fight with the Rangers and Dodgers for him. But this question keeps running through my mind: Are we sure he’s not going to be a big bust?

Don’t get me wrong, his numbers are impressive. But does that mean his success will transfer from the NPB to the MLB? It did for Darvish. It did for Ryu. But it didn’t for Dice-K. And let’s not forget about Kosuke Fukudome.

I’m not an expert in regional variations of baseball. But I have noticed that it seems international players from Latin America experience more success in the Major Leagues than those from other regions of the world (even moreso than American-born players). There have been a few players from the Asian region that have had success (Ichiro and Hideki Matsui, namely; there are several others you could argue are on the path to success). Many former-MLB’ers cross the Pacific in hopes to revive their careers, and usually are able to milk a few years of superstardom out of their waning careers, while the superstars of the NPB come here and don’t quite reach superstardom. Could it have something to do with the differences in pitching and hitting styles? The slap hit/drag bunt is very popular on the continent of Asia. Ichiro made it work for him, but many players who attempt that style of batting are average for a little while and fade into oblivion (see: Kosuke Fukudome).

Like I said earlier, don’t take me wrong. I want so much for Tanaka to be all he’s cracked up to be. I also don’t want to pay a $20 million fee on top of a contract that has to outdo an offer from LA and TEX and have him be a bust. His team might not even let him go yet, which may turn out to work in favor of all teams interested. If he does stay in Japan until 2015, the Cubs could pick him then and add him to a team that is (hopefully) contending for a playoff berth.

Sometimes I get crazy ideas in my head. Good thing I have you folks to share them with. Until next time!

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