Author Archive

No Time To Waste For New Year’s Resolutions

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Every sports website on planet Earth has a New Year’s Resolution column, so why not VFTB? Here’s my annual list of promises that I have no intention of keeping.

This year I will…

  • Go to Wrigley Field more often (on my list every year)
  • Be patient with talented but frustrating players like Starlin Castro and Carlos Marmol
  • Ignore knucklehead fans who call radio shows and say the Cubs are losing because they don’t play “small ball”
  • Work out more and eat/drink less (dare to dream)
  • Turn down the volume on the TV when Len and Bob are broadcasting
  • Take the time to fully appreciate the positive contributions of Marlon Byrd and Darwin Barney (OK, this one is complete bullsh*t.  I could barely keep a straight face while typing.)
  • Truly enjoy every single loss by the Cincinnati Reds
  • Not get frustrated by awful All Star Game selections and the entire “now it counts” structure
  • Draft a better Diamond Mind Baseball team (again, on my list every year)
  • Read for enjoyment more often
  • Eat/drink more and work out less (I’ve changed my mind!)
  • Not injure myself when fans or broadcasters use wins to evaluate pitcher performances
  • Pay closer attention to Cubs prospects (even the crappy ones who are completely overvalued)
  • Use the words moxie, grit, hustle, chemistry, and clutch every single day, even when I’m not talking about sports (“Good morning, Mr. Smith. I really hustled to finish that report you wanted. With a little grit and moxie, I think my clutch recommendations will improve our office chemistry!”)
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Crystal Ball II – The Wrath Of Buddy

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

The New Year is right around the corner, which means Spring Training can’t be far behind. With that in mind, it’s time to do a bit of forecasting for 2012. I promise to get it right this year!

  • Ian Stewart will be a useful hitter vs. RHP, but will struggle against southpaws. Fortunately, new Cubs manager Dale Sveum will limit his at bats against LHP, which is something Mike Quade wouldn’t have figured out.
  • David DeJesus will become a fan favorite and lead the team in on-base percentage.
  • Matt Garza will continue to pitch well, but this year he’ll actually receive some run support. As a result, his win total will increase, but uninformed fans will think he’s a much better pitcher, even when his other numbers stay basically the same as 2011.
  • Starlin Castro will hit the 20-homer mark for the first time in his career.
  • Geo Soto will bounce back from a disappointing 2011.
  • Darwin Barney and Marlon Byrd will continue to make outs at an alarming rate.
  • Alfonso Soriano…Nevermind. I just can’t talk about this guy anymore.
  • Carlos Zambrano will be traded to Miami for 10,000 copies of Don Johnson’s 1986 album “Heartbeat.”
  • Carlos Marmol will torment me for yet another season.
  • The Cubs will draw 3 million+ again, but for some reason many fans will still talk about “attendance problems” at Wrigley.
  • Bob Brenly will say lots of annoying things.
  • Len Kasper will say lots of annoying things.
  • Buddy’s head will start hurting during Len & Bob’s first 2012 broadcast, and it will continue to hurt through their last 2012 broadcast.
  • Prince Fielder will sign with the Rangers.
  • Prince the artist will continue to make crappy music.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers will survive the loss of Fielder and win the N.L. Central.
  • The Cubs will finish with 80 wins and trim some serious dead weight from the roster along the way.
  • Justin Upton will win the N.L. MVP award. Miguel Cabrera will bring home A.L. honors.
  • The Angels will win the A.L. Wild Card and go on to become World Series champs. The sports media universe will give the credit to Tim Tebow.
  • VFTB users will finally stop posting political comments. Forget that one. It doesn’t have a shot in hell of coming true!
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Lights, Camera, Action!

Monday, December 12th, 2011

If a revisionist-history tale of Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s can pull people to their local movie theaters, “Cubbieball” is bound to be a massive hit.

I’m currently working with Aaron Sorkin to finalize the script, but basically it takes viewers through the topsy-turvy 2011 season. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll kiss two hours of your life goodbye.

With a target release date of Christmas 2012, there’s still much work to be done. In the meantime, I thought you’d enjoy a quick peek behind the curtain. The following is a list of Hollywood heavy-hitters, and a few unknowns, who have already signed on for this once-in-a-lifetime project. Can you say “Oscar?”

  • Christopher Nolan, Director—His original vision was to tell the story backwards, but I think we’ve convinced him to go a more traditional route. No truth to the rumor that he plans to incorporate unused Heath Ledger-Joker footage.
  • Bruce Willis to play Cubs Manager Mike Quade—Bruce is a superstar’s superstar, but he actually wanted to read for this part. Classy guy. After five minutes of warming up the wrong reliever and filling out the worst possible line-up, we knew we had our man. Plus, they share the same hairstyle.
  • Kevin James to play GM Jim Hendry—Kevin has way too much personality for this role, but the mid-section resemblance is uncanny!
  • Benicio Del Toro to play Carlos Zambrano—We were extremely fortunate to get Mr. Del Toro for this important character. He put on 25 pounds to play Big Z. You won’t believe your eyes when you see him throw a tantrum in the Cubs movie dugout. If Benicio isn’t nominated for an Academy Award, I’ll eat my printed copy of the script.
  • Adam Sandler to play Ryan Dempster—Adam worked out with former big league pitcher David Cone for six months to get ready for this role. And, he does a great Harry Caray impression. The downside is that Dan Patrick’s “Danettes” are now trying to weasel their way onto the set.
  • Tristan Wilds to play Starlin Castro—I’d never heard of this guy, but apparently he was on “The Wire,” so that’s good enough for me. Do you think that’s his real name?
  • Billy Anderson, my neighbor’s 12-year-old son, to play Darwin Barney—They’re the exact same size, and they have similar power at the plate. Perfect casting!
  • William H. Macy to play Bob Brenly—They both have ridiculous moustaches, they both love crappy music, and they both annoy the hell out of millions of Americans. What more could you ask for?
  • A tree stump from my backyard to play Alfonso Soriano—OK, this suggestion hasn’t been approved yet, but they cover the same amount of ground in LF.

Filming begins in January, so stay tuned for more details. I have so many people to thank, I don’t know where to begin!

Thank you to my greedy agent for trying to milk one more dollar out of this project. Thank you to my limo driver who always swings by Steak N Shake at 3 a.m. Thank you to Casey Kasem who taught me to reach for the stars…

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Giving Thanks

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

Before a small army descends upon our happy home for food and football, I wanted to share a few random thoughts of Cub-fan appreciation. I’m sure my list will warm your heart like a Hallmark Channel made-for-TV movie starring some actress you’ve never heard of. Enjoy!

  • I’m thankful that the Cubs turned to intelligent, creative leaders in the front office. Of course Theo and the Theo-ettes won’t be perfect with their personnel decisions, but I look for them to seriously upgrade the Cubs dismal roster in the very near future. I’m not Jimmy the Greek, but I will predict that there will be many more hits than misses with this group calling the shots.
  • I’m thankful for the Cubs managerial change. I never like watching somebody lose his job, but Mike Quade was not cut out to manage a big-league ballclub. The Quade hire was yet another case of square peg, round hole. I’m not sure what to make of Dale Sveum at this point, but I trust the new Cubs brain trust to push the right buttons.
  • I’m thankful for Starlin Castro. Say what you want about his defense and lack of plate discipline, but this kid is going to be a star (barring injury of course). Middle infielders with his collection of skills don’t come along every day.
  • I’m thankful for Matt Garza. Some fans are still yearning for Hak-Ju Lee and Chris Archer, but I’d much rather have a young, durable, talented, productive starting pitcher than prospects.
  • I’m thankful for Sean Marshall. Where would the Cubs bullpen have been without this over-achieving lefty? Now the big question is, “should he start?”
  • I’m thankful for last year’s draft. The Cubs racked up a nice haul of talent in 2011. Nice work, for a change!
  • I’m thankful for MLB Network. I never miss an episode of “Hot Stove” or “Clubhouse Confidential.”  If they would just cut down on the Harold Reynolds segments.
  • I’m thankful for Tony LaRussa’s retirement. The Cardinals have to take a step back without him, right?
  • I’m thankful for Wrigley Field. Yes it has problems, but it’s still the best place on Earth to watch a ballgame.
  • I’m thankful that Buck Martinez doesn’t announce Cubs games. As you know, I’m not a fan of Len Kasper and Bob Brenly, but they’re Harry and Steve compared to Mr. Martinez. He makes my ears bleed!
  • I’m thankful for VFTB. Good, and good for you! Maybe Jedi and Norm will sign a truce to celebrate the season? OK, maybe not.

Now if that doesn’t make your soul sing, nothing will. In all seriousness, I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving, even Mike Quade, Bob Brenly, Koyie Hill, Marlon Byrd, and Lil’ Darwin Barney! Who says miracles don’t happen during the holidays?

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Could He Be A Cub: Jeff Francis

Monday, October 24th, 2011

It will be interesting to see how Theo Epstein approaches the Cubs 2012 roster. Will he tear it down and completely rebuild, or will he try to piece together a possible contender in a winnable NL Central?

Whatever Epstein decides, he has to address the starting rotation. We all have painful memories of the Cubs 2011 pitching carousel. Could free agent starter Jeff Francis provide some stability?

When evaluating the career of 30-year-old Jeff Francis, it’s important to remember that he spent six seasons in Colorado. To call Coors Field a hitters’ park would be a massive understatement.

Coming back from 2009 and 2010 arm troubles, the left-handed starter was up and down for the Kansas City Royals last season. The good news? Francis was durable, making 31 starts. The bad news? A 4.82 ERA, 11 hits per 9 innings pitched, and a troublesome strike-out rate.

Francis has never blown anyone away with his stuff. He’s a control pitcher who relies on deception and changing speeds. In seven Major League seasons, Francis has walked 2.8 batters per 9 innings pitched. From that standpoint, I’m optimistic about what he could contribute in 2012. Of course, that assumes he’s healthy.

Another mark in his favor is money. Francis made $2 million last season, so the free-agent price tag should be reasonable. Would he take a one-year deal in the hopes of re-establishing himself? I think that scenario is very likely.

Garza, Dempster, and Wells would be a respectable start to a 2012 rotation. Perhaps Jeff Francis could be that “lightning-in-a-bottle” starter the Cubs will need if they have any hopes of competing next year. Even in a rebuilding year, somebody has to take the ball. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen more than enough of Casey Coleman and Rodrigo Lopez.

Jeff Francis Career Stats

Year   Age  Tm  W  L  ERA  GS     IP  HR ERA+  WHIP  H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2004    23 COL  3  2 5.15   7   36.2   8   96 1.500 10.3  2.0  3.2  7.9  2.46
2005    24 COL 14 12 5.68  33  183.2  26   84 1.623 11.2  1.3  3.4  6.3  1.83
2006    25 COL 13 11 4.16  32  199.0  18  118 1.286  8.5  0.8  3.1  5.3  1.70
2007    26 COL 17  9 4.22  34  215.1  25  114 1.379  9.8  1.0  2.6  6.9  2.62
2008    27 COL  4 10 5.01  24  143.2  21   94 1.483 10.3  1.3  3.1  5.9  1.92
2010    29 COL  4  6 5.00  19  104.1  11   93 1.361 10.3  0.9  2.0  5.8  2.91
2011    30 KCR  6 16 4.82  31  183.0  19   85 1.437 11.0  0.9  1.9  4.5  2.33
7 Seasons      61 66 4.78 180 1065.2 128   98 1.430 10.1  1.1  2.8  5.9  2.13
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