Archive for June, 2014

Cubs 2, Red Sox 0 – Game Notes

Monday, June 30th, 2014

MVP – Jake Arrieta (.491 WPA)

I think I’ve shared this with you all in the past, but if not, I’ll do it now. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never seen a no-hitter from start to finish on TV or in person live. I can remember a Carlos Zambrano start against the Diamondbacks that I thought he’d do it. I watched Kerry Wood‘s 20K game in which he should have been credited with a no hitter, but I’ve never actually seen a no no. Jake Arrieta got me very close again, but unfortunately the streak remains. I set tonight as appointment television and sat in front of the iPad watching a gem of a game by Arrieta.

In case you were wondering, the totals for the month of June for Arrieta finishes at 31.2 IP, 4 ER, 38 K’s, 4 BB, 1.14 ERA. Throw in Pedro Strop and the deal last year for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger to Baltimore looks awfully good right now for Theo and Jed’s resume.

Watching the rest of the game, there really wasn’t much to make it stand out. For example, I watched the whole game and not till I looked at the box score did I really realize that Chris Coghlan got four at bats and played left field. I never really heard his name. Nate Schierholtz, who people said was breaking out of his funk a few weeks ago, managed to hit a two run home run and that was all she wrote for offense overall. Outside of that, about the most exciting thing was watching two really nice plays by the Red Sox ball girl down the third base line and a one handed grab by Jim Deshaies in the TV booth on a Darwin Barney foul ball. Sometimes it’s the quiet wins that I love the most.

  • Brett Taylor at Bleacher nation notes that Jason Hammel may be the most sought after pitcher on the trade market this season given his price tag and performance. The Blue Jays may be a suitor for him as well as Darwin Barney and Carlos Villanueva. Don’t ask me why on those last two, but if they’re willing to give up something for them, we need to listen.
  • John Sickels had a write up on recent Cubs call up, Dallas Beeler on his site.
  • Theo Epstein addresses rumors that he’d opt out of Chicago after his contract expires in 2016.
  • Jason McLeod has pulled his name from the running for the Padres GM job. We all need to pop a cork and celebrate as he’s a vital cog in this front office wheel.

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Lincecum Blanks Padres Again, $9 Billion Lawsuit Coming & More!

Monday, June 30th, 2014

After a couple of the weeks out of this month featured some big names passing on, we get to open up this week’s article with some great news regarding a retired pitching legend.

Schilling Receives Good News

Let the 5-year clock for Curt Schilling begin, as he announced on Twitter this week that he is now in remission from the cancer that he was diagnosed with earlier this year.

He has not indicated what form of cancer that he was diagnosed with, but the fact that he has made this step is huge news for him, his family and the world of baseball. This has been another obstacle that has been thrown Schilling’s way since his retirement from baseball, but he’s been able to overcome each and every one of them.

First, it was a heart attack that he suffered in 2011 while his wife Shonda (also a cancer survivor) was running the New York City Marathon. Then, it was a failed investment in a video game studio that cost him a reported $50 million.

If there’s one thing that can be said about Curt Schilling that applies to both his on-field and off-field career, it’s that he’s a fighter. From the “Bloody Sock Game” to beating cancer, Schilling is one tough human being. What’s your favorite Schilling highlight from his career?

Lincecum Displays Dominant Ways

It’s been a rough couple of seasons for Tim Lincecum, who was once referred to among the best arms in all of baseball. He’s fallen off the table quite a bit due to a drop in velocity, but every once in awhile he reminds us of the pitcher that he once was.

Such was the case for him against the San Diego Padres last week, as he no-hit them for the second time in less than a year. While this performance didn’t quite have the flash of his 13-strikeout performance in the first one, he accomplished it in much fewer pitches.

It took Lincecum just 113 to complete this one, as opposed to an astounding 148 in the first. Some may try to discredit this feat just because they both occurred against the weak-hitting Padres, but a no-hitter is impressive no matter which way you cut it.

It’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever see sustained dominance from Lincecum ever again, but it’s clear that he can be lights out every once in awhile. With his impending free agency, would you offer him a contract if you were running a team? If so, what type of contract would you offer him?

Cleveland Indians Face Large Lawsuit

With all of the legal action that has been surrounding the NFL’s Washington Redskins, it was only a matter of time before this drama trickled its way into Major League Baseball.

Unsurprisingly, the first target has been the Cleveland Indians and their mascot, Chief Wahoo. While you won’t find many that will say their mascot is inoffensive, the $9 billion lawsuit that is going to be heaved their way is a bit excessive, to say the least.

In recent years, the Indians have been proactive in phasing that part of their identity out and have moved almost primarily to the Block-C logo is present on their hats. They’ve done this somewhat quietly, however, so it’s almost gone unnoticed by the general public.

I can definitely understand being offended by the Chief Wahoo logo, but trying to sue the team for $9 billion is absolutely egregious in my mind. I know that that figure isn’t even realistic to them (it’s just there to draw attention to the issue), but I feel like there’s plenty of other ways to go about this. What are your thoughts on the mascot/name changing issue?

This Week’s MVP: Ian Kinsler (.519/567/.852, 2 HR, 8 RBI)

This Week’s Cy Young: Tim Lincecum (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 6 K, No-Hitter)

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Rebuilding the Cubs: Journey to a Championship – April 2014 Report

Friday, June 27th, 2014

If you missed the first edition of the series in which we discussed what exactly this series of posts is, you can find it here.

The month of April 2014 is now complete and things are not looking good so far. The Cubs currently sit 7.5 games out of first place in the NL Central with a 9-18 record, which featured a horrid 8 game losing streak. It’s hard to come out of a month positively when you put up a streak like that, but I’m not losing hope this early. I’m in this thing for the long haul.

The biggest issue with the team right now is the lack of offense. We currently rank 12th in the NL in runs scored and a lot of it has to do with the overall lack of power at the plate. Currently we rank last in all of baseball with just 17 home runs as a team, with Luis Valbuena leading the team with 4. Anthony Rizzo, who I’m counting on to provide offense for this team, is hitting just .204 / .269 / .276. That .276 number is not a lie. He’s just not providing offense. The other name that was being counted on in the middle of the order, Billy Butler, has been somewhat lackluster as well, hitting just .240 / .330 / .340. At least he’s getting on base, but it doesn’t matter when there is no one to drive him in.

At this point, I’m not really sure what to do offensively other than to ride it out. Josh Vitters was playing well in AAA, so I promoted him and demoted Ryan Kalish, but Rick Renteria and I are having somewhat of a disagreement as to how much playing time Vitters deserves. There isn’t really a way you can have a disagreement in the game with your manager, but I like to think that him and I are at odds right now and that the situation is somewhat similar to that of the confrontations between Billy Beane and Art Howe in Moneyball. I want Vitters in the lineup, at least on a platoon basis, but Ricky doesn’t seem to agree. He tends to favor veterans and that may not work out as we see a wave of young talent come up in the future. For now, I’m on the fence about my manager. Hal McRae is a guy I’ve got my eye on as a potential replacement.

On the pitching side, our bullpen has been stellar despite the loss of Pedro strop. Everyone else has been healthy and the pen ranks 3rd in the NL with a stellar 2.15 ERA. My fear is that they are getting overworked, as I’ve gone with the six man staff pen and the fact that the starters have been so bad so far to start the season. Given the fact that the DH is in play, I’m giving serious thought to recalling a 7th arm to help even out the workload a little and keep the arms healthy. Two names that stand out as potential call ups are Marcus Hatley (9.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, and 7.7 K/9) or Alberto Cabrera (8.1 IP, 1.08 ERA). Cabrera’s WHIP of 1.56 scares me, so it will probably be Hatley that gets the call.

As I mentioned, the starting pitching has been bad. Jeff Samardzija has been the worst of the bunch and it has been largely due to walks (6.1 BB/9). That, coupled with seven home runs allowed in his six starts are a big reason why he ends the month with a 0-6 record and an ERA at 9.11. His contract demand is 3 years x $46 million and I’m not biting. Edwin Jackson, the other poor performer, pitched himself out of town. The New York Yankees called me and said they were looking for starting pitching to make sure they had the ability to compete in the AL East and were surprisingly willing to look at Jackson. We went back and forth on an offer and in the end, I really like what we came away with. The final deal involved the Cubs sending Jackson, Rob Zastryzny (SP), and Harrinson Bermudez in exchange for one of the top catcher prospects in the game, Gary Sanchez. Since the trade, Jackson has gone 2-1 with a 3.24 ERA for the Yankees. My thinking is that I move Jackson’s contract and add a bat at a very weak position for us in the system. If Sanchez can develop at catcher and be ready for 2016, we’re in good shape there.

This system is loaded right now with talent, particularly when it comes to hitters. The minor league system ranking report has the Cubs system head and shoulders above the 2nd place Minnesota Twins, with seven players in the top 50 in all of baseball and eight in the top 100. This month we focus on the hitters in the system and update what they’ve done this season.

Javier Baez started out slow, but has been playing better of late and is beginning to pull those numbers up to respectability. Outside of the top 20 list, Brett Jackson has had a nice April, but sprained his finger late in the month and had to go to the DL. Prior to the injury, Jackson was hitting .295 / .375 / .667 with 9 HR and 20 RBI in 22 starts. He’s due back Mid-May so hopefully we’ll see those numbers continue. That would add a much needed offensive bat in CF on the Major League team.

Since the series is mostly about our quest for a championship, I’ll mainly just give some interesting news and nuggets around the league in bullet form for the rest of the Majors.

  • Andrew Cashner was placed on the DL for 4 months with a torn back muscle and Bryce Harper broke a bone in his elbow while running the bases. Most likely he was sliding head first. The injury is a costly one as he’s going to be out for 7-8 months.
  • Raul Ibanez and Miguel Cabrera each reached the 2000 career hit mark.
  • Alex Wood pitched a no hitter against the Mets
  • Washington Nationals owner, Ted Lerner and San Diego Padres owner John Moores both passed away on the same day. Moores had been battling a terminal illness.
  • After dealing Butler to us before the season, the Royals made their move to get the player they felt will man their first base position into the future, getting Brandon Belt from the Giants in exchange for Justin Maxwell and Humberto Arteaga.

That will do it for this edition. Check back next week when we take a look at the month of May.

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GirlieView (06/26/2014)

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

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 2014 Season = 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

  • If you call a baseball trip to Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Chicago, 7 games in 10 days exciting, I’m doing it.
  • My vacation this summer will be my two whole weeks without youth baseball. During that span I plan on building a bridge for the backyard and organize the garage including finding a happy home for all my tools.
  • Has anyone else noticed that West Toronto in Wisconsin is tied for 9th?
  • I get Raker’s Lizzie strategy: flood the blog with Lizzie prospects and by sheer volume of prospects you’re guaranteed some of them will succeed in MLL (Major League Lizzie). It’s just like Theo and Jed’s game.
  • That’s been Jswan’s M O for about……ever……..like………..for sure.
  • I have renewed optimism for the Cubs – it appears the system works. Forget about Theo and Jed – you and Jswan should be in the front office.
  • I just got back from a camping trip with my son and have to add honey to my condiment list. For those keeping track at home.
  • We’re already over a third of the way into the season (shocking, I know)
  • I was watching that game where Machado intentionally threw his bat. I thought he deserved more than 5 games, more like 10+. I mean what if that would have hit a player or worse yet, in his attempt to hit a player, he hit a fan?
  • It took 2.5 months but we got our first road series win of the year!
  • I am a small-Hall guy.
  • I’ll buy the sandwiches if you can convince Schwarber to dine with you.
  • Rookie ball diners is right up Seymour’s ally. Seymour can upgrade Schwarber to double meat at the Stop Light Sub Stop.
  • Chips and a drink, too…I’m good for it.
  • Combo is what they call it.
  • Wood got wood. Cubs win.
  • Seems the bullpen usage tracker fell apart while I was gone.
  • and Joe added a link to cheap prom dresses in the Resources area on the right.
  • I didn’t realize June was prom season.
  • Part of me wants to believe [Samardzija] is the real thing, but part of me feels a foreboding of an imminent breakdown that will leave us with inconsolable forlornness.
  • “Do fish trot?” After Jim DeSahaie’s introduced the Marlin’s starting pitcher, Nathan Eovaldi, “The Marlins trot out hard throwing Nathan Eovaldi today. The Marlins have the hardest throwing pitching staff we have seen with Eovaldi throwing in the mid 90’s.” Kaspers response is “Do fish trot?” No scouting report on Eovaldi, no comments on how he has been throwing of late, no comment on his arsenal of pitches, just “Do fish trot?”
  • Jeff of Indiana is of non-virgin birth.
  • I would call that el Diablo hair. I think we could look at Jesus and not get that icky feeling and want to go wash our eyes out with soap.
  • “How about a Freaky Friday where we change places with another commenter.
  • I will start by becoming Raker:
  • The reason the Cubs have not won in a century is Obama. He forced the northsider’s into accepting food stamps and government cheese. Started when he was a young Kenyan in 1909.”
  • I am flatter you want to be like me. I hope one day you can evolve into a fun loving well rounded bloke but judging from your post you misunderstand the true essence of being a Raker.
  • You forgot to name drop a wine of which we’ve never heard.
  • I also neglected global warming or the threat of sailing off the edge of the earth. There is only so much room and way too much material.
  • I’d appreciate a youth baseball stat update and some stuff about hockey.
  • Now I think you are mocking me. Seymours ‘be like Raker’ post was the highest form of flattery but now I sense some mocking going on here.
  • I don’t get it, it is all fake so why is it interesting? Do you pretend to be married to Angelina Jolie and recount fake romantic dinners? What is the sense? Am I missing something?
  • I don’t find Angelina Jolie all that attractive. Something about kissing your brother is a turn off for me.
  • If your brother is built like her, I would not rule it out.
  • Dreamer
  • I’ll have you know Samardzija played football in college.
  • Well, you’ve got me there for sure!
  • The cubs have a way of making the pirates look good.
  • I would think Len Kasper’s call of Rizzo’s home run went something like this, “John Legend Bobble Head night is tomorrow so come on out and get your bobble head. I love Legend’s silky smooth voice. Hey Rizzo just hit one into the bleachers, tie game 1-1.” DeShaies, “He took a high outside hanging curve and just crushed it the other way, I don’t even know how his bat reached that ball.” Len, “Do you think Rizzo is a John Legend fan? I met Legend backstage at a percussions conference. We almost went to Subway together but he said he regrettably had to get going.” DeShaie’s, “Your not going to see many guys hit that pitch out of the ballpark.” Len, “I should of stalked Legend when he left the conference, he is so cool.”
  • Wood is my anchor. It’s been said he pitches hard.
  • Has anybody here seen my old friends Johnson? Can you tell me where they’ve gone?
  • I don’t know, but it wasn’t that long ago when a guy couldn’t turn around here without bumping into a Johnson or two.

Lizard

  • He might be the Cubs “Ace,” but he is not an Ace.

Shout Outs

  • We’ve got no new commenters getting Lizzie’s for the first time this week so let’s have a big round of applause for all of our loyal friends who keep us laughing every day at VFTB! Thank you all for being here!

MVL

  • Congratulations to jswanson our Most Valuable Lizzie-er this time! Way to go jswan!

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

1. jswanson
2. Doc Raker
3. Seymour Butts
4. Eddie Von White
5. Joe Aiello
6. Chuck
6. Dork
6. Doug S.
9. Jerry in Wisconsin
10. Chet West
10. Mark From Toronto

Chit Chat

How are you following the Cubs this year?

a. I watch or listen whenever I can
b. I watch or listen when I’ve got nothing better to do
c. I rarely catch a game but follow the progress in other ways
d. Has the season started?

Feel free to improvise if you don’t care for my options!

_________________________________________________________________________

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3 Passes the White Sox Get that the Cubs Would Not

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

My first experience with White Sox fans were Jamie McCauley and his dad Ed who lived down the street from me.  Jamie was a borderline friend/bully, and his dad was just kind of a bully.  He would actually call me “Chrissy” instead of Chris…an in genius method of questioning my 6 year old manhood I suppose…and this was a grown man talking to a very young boy.  He used the same method when disparaging my Cubs…calling them the Cubbies and using a woman’s voice to do it.  When this is your first impression of a fandom…and you are only 6…it leaves a lasting impression on your little brain.

The next neighborhood was not much different…Sox fans were bullies and blowhards…and once again I was outnumbered and always defending my Cubs.  Now, almost 40 years later, I really have evolved and grown up as a baseball fan.  I don’t automatically hate everything about the White Sox.  As a baseball fan, I watch them occasionally, and I respect some of their players and I love listening to new GM Rick Hahn (an especially bright fellow).  I no longer have to deal with any White Sox bullies…and I know longer live and die with the results of the crosstown classic. Therefore my position on the White Sox has softened in my old(er) age.

However, even with this new evolved stance on the South Siders; I still have some problems with the White Sox and how they are compared and contrasted with the Cubs.  The first being the air of supremacy that Sox fans display; they assume they are “smarter baseball fans” and they quickly shout “2005!” in response to any current criticism. My psychology background tells me they have a huge inferiority complex and are overcompensating for it. Sox fans also seem to feel/think that they have been a much better organization historically.

The second is that since the Cubs have the image as the lovable losers/cursed team/bumbling organization of Chicago, the Sox have benefitted by having some historic blunders of their own get swept under the rug.  While Cubs’ mistakes have been magnified and rehashed over and over again, little is ever said about Sox mistakes that are equally as substantial or behavior or performance that is equally as bad.  Let’s take a look at examples that fall under these two categories:

1.     The History of the Teams.

When comparing the Cubs and White Sox, Sox fans assume their team has been so much more successful than the “loser” Cubs. When the White Sox won the World Series in 2005 it was their first title since 1917.  So assuming neither team wins a title this year (about as safe a bet as the sun coming up tomorrow) it will mean the Sox have 1 title in the last 97 years.  Obviously, I credit them greatly for winning recently in 2005…but 1 for 97 is just marginally better than 0 for the last 106. (But it’s still 1!!!! 2005! 2005!) Aside from World Series titles, let’s compare the teams from the date of the Cubs last title in 1908:

W.S. TITLES  W.S. APP.    POSTSEASON PLAY-OFFS SINCE ‘69(DIVISION PLAY BEGINS)

SOX                2                      4                      8                      5                                 

CUBS              0                      10                   16                   6

Once again, the 2005 World Series title trumps much of this…but I really expected to see a closer picture here…or even White Sox dominance. (Yes…I know…2005!)

While the Cubs’ have been historically inept at winning a World Series title, the White Sox have been equally incompetent in making the post-season. If the Cubs are “106 year losers”…the White Sox haven’t exactly had a century of glory.  Not even mentioning the fact (…yet) that the White Sox threw the 1919 World Series, which almost was almost the death knell for Major League Baseball.

It may at times appear the Cubs are trying to lose on purpose…but at least they have never been put on trial for it.

2.     Historical Blunders

As I wrote in my book, the Cubs have been mercifully crucified for the trade of Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio for over 50 years.  It was a bad trade, and the Cubs have made many others (…see my book). Yet the South Side Squad as just as many historical blunders that are not mentioned near as frequently.

–         the aforementioned 1917 Black Sox scandal…most baseball fans have seen the film Eight Men Out…and it’s still debatable which players were in on it, and who’s to blame…cheapskate owner Charles Commisky or the mobsters behind the scenes? It really doesn’t matter…the Sox were involved in one of the biggest sports scandals ever, and had Babe Ruth not come around…baseball may have died.

–         letting Harry Caray leave to the Cubs…You young bucks probably only think of Harry with the Cubs, but I was more accustomed to him as a White Sox announcer as a youngster.  Let’s play Back to the Future for a minute and assume this never happened…Cubs’ history would be altered for the worse. A Cubs’ history without Harry Caray would be quite dim. Other than the 1984 season, Harry Caray is the single biggest reason for the Cubs(and the neighborhoods) 20 year boom.  The Sox let a valuable asset go to their crosstown competitors, who helped them assert economic dominance over them for the next 2 decades.

–         firing Tony LaRussa…Hey…young managers get fired all of the time, and on many occasions their second stints are much more successful.  Therefore I am not criticizing the Sox for firing LaRussa…but can you imagine if the Cubs had down this? It would be Brock for Broglio all over again. If Ryno wins a World Series as a manager in the next few years…how do you think that will go over?

–         Trading Sosa for Bell…As an old fella’, with perspective, I can honestly say that I was stunned when I heard about this deal.  George Bell had been an absolute dog for the Cubs, and I can remember trying to convince giddy Sox fans about how poor of a trade this would turn out to be.  Sosa may or may not have been cheating…but he hit a ton of home runs and made the Cubs a sh#t-load of money.  What Harry Caray did for the Cubs in the ‘80s, Sosa did for the team in the ‘90s.  Thank you White Sox.

If the Cubs had been guilty of any of the above infractions, they would still be constantly referenced among the teams many failures…for some reason, the Sox have gotten a pass.

3.     Hawk Harrelson and his “chip on their shoulders” brethren

I can do a very good Hawk Harrelson impersonation, although it won’t translate as well in print. Here goes:

Start with about 47 seconds of silence, then say in Hawks’ voice with no emotion; “…and that’s a record setting 6th triple play turned by the Royals today” or “and that’s an 8-8 double cycle for Joe Mauer”

Hawk amazes me…I’m sorry…but he is a 72 year old baby.  While professional announcers endure the challenge of keeping the game interesting for the fan…no matter how the home team is doing…Hawk blames umps, talks about his own greatness, or just sits quietly and pouts.  While Len Kasper espouses how lucky he is to have a job millions of people would want, Hawk acts like we are the privileged ones to listen to his pathetic stories of Yaz.

Over the last few years, I have noticed that others in the Sox organization share this certain bit of curmudgeon-dry with Hawk.   Radio announcer Ed Farmer can be just as grumpy, self-serving and condescending as Harrelson.  Studio-analyst Bill Melton will be short and rage-filled after a Sox loss. The finest pitching coach in the universe (at least that’s the way he is perceived for some reason) Don Cooper treats every question like a personal affront during his morning radio appearances. No one knows pitching like Cooper…and he is not afraid to tell that to anyone who will listen. Every one of these White Sox contributors comes off as joy-less, humor-free, and a downright a##-hole.

Back to my Psychology background, I attribute this to the fact that the Sox have been the 2nd team in the city for quite some time, and since most of these men are White sox-lifers…I guess those “shoulder chips” are deeply implanted.

I really didn’t want this piece to come off as a guy who just hates the White Sox. I just wanted to point out that as Chicago losers go, the Cubs are only a rung or two below the Sox.  I could never root for them as I do the Cubs, but I could at least be indifferent towards them if it weren’t for Hawk and the things mentioned above.

It is often forgotten now, but the White Sox were oh so close to moving back in the late 80’s. Jerry Reinsdorf was able to get public assistance in building the perfect 1980’s ballpark as the Orioles were making history with the cutting edge Camden Yards.  It may have been an outdated “new” stadium…but Reinsdorf got it, and the Sox stayed.

Can you imagine the outcry if the Cubs ever asked for public assistance for their park?

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