Author Archive

2008 Cubs: Great team or overachievers?

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

I remember the last time I looked at the Cubs as a winning ball club.  It was 2008, what a summer! The Brewers were second in the NL Central with 90 wins.  The Cubs division title was no cheap feat as they won it by 7.5 games!  They had the most wins in the regular season of any National League team with 97.

I remember thinking Ryan Theriot and his .307 BA were the answer at shortstop.  Mike Fontenot was growing on me quickly along with a gutty Reed Johnson.  It was Geo’s first full season with the Cubs and in my opinion his best.  I didn’t think we would need a catcher for quite some time.

Then the playoffs happened…..

The Dodgers crushed any hopes Cub fans had of a post-season run to the series by a 20-6 margin over three straight games.  The headlines during the series and after the third game read like this….

“Curses (and Reverses) Distracting”

“Cubs thumped by Dodgers again, on cusp of heartbreak”

“For Cubs, it’s a tale of two seasons”

The first one is unique and I enjoyed reading it, which is why I gave the link.  It brought back all the Cubbiness of that 2003-2008 stretch.  I had almost forgotten about the amount of “Curse” talk and mystical hubbub that surrounds this club when they start winning.  I had no idea the team hired a Greek Orthodox Priest to perform an exorcism in order to vanquish the curse of the Billy Goat!!! Holy Hell, for real?   Apparently it was the chairman’s idea (whoever played that roll back then), the players and Piniella were unaware until they saw it on TV.

Anyhow, where was I? Oh yah, the last time I viewed the Cubs as a winner was six years ago.  The question I keep asking myself is, How good were they? Were they really that good, or did they overachieve?

As I type this the Cubs are finishing off a win against the Reds…their fourth in a row.  Something feels different about this team and the team we may see over the coming year.  I get excited to see Rizzo, Baez, and Mendy hit.  I caught myself running to the TV to watch Rizzo tonight…..rewarded with a homerun (his 30th).  I haven’t run to the TV to watch a Cub hitter since 2012 and it was Rizzo then too.  Prior to that it was 2008 and it may have been situational and not a specific player, I don’t remember it was so long ago.  My point is, this team is exciting again.  They may not be the refined version of what they are to be, but it’s a start.

Now we get Soler who, if healthy, will put on a show at some point.  That’s five hitters including Castro that make the Cubs worth watching again.  Some people think the tipping point for this team happened weeks ago with the call up of Baez.  That could be true but we may start tipping a little faster tonight against the Reds with new Cub Jacob turner on the mound and Soler in the lineup.  Now, Turner could get racked pretty badly and my whole thesis is blown, but we are getting real close to the future here.  We now have five very talented bats in this lineup and I have not even mentioned the rentals we signed to fill gaps that have played above and beyond this season.

We will probably win ourselves out of a draft pick in the top 5 over the next few weeks, but I could care less and I think the management is starting to feel the same way.  At some point it’s time to start winning.  It’s good for the soul.

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Five Burning Questions : Turning the Page

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

 

In Cubs lore we will look back at the years 2009-2013 as the lost years.  What is also known in baseball circles as the “rebuilding years”.  2014 peddled along at the same disastrous pace until some new faces, showing new promise, arrived at the ballpark.

I personally link the downfall of the Hendry regime to the signing of Milton Bradley, but many will say, and they are probably right, that the tire fire started long before that.  Whatever you want to call the last four years is your choice, but it’s apparent as Cub fans, we may actually have to get around to thinking as winners sooner than later.

With so much young talent in the pipeline there is no doubt that the Cubs will soon be dealing in the opposite direction than we have become accustom to at the trade deadline.  With that in mind it is time to pop on our thinking caps and ask some questions….

 

1) If the Cubs are to part with one of their heralded prospects at next years trade deadline, out of the following, who would you let go of:

A) Javier Baez

B) Addison Russell

C) Jorge Soler

D) Albert Almora

 

If I had to choose one it would probably be Almora.  He is still yet to prove he can hit a AA.  My regret would be that we are dealing from a mild weakness in that we have less outfielders in the immediate pipeline than we do infielders, but I would probably get over that if Almora turns in another season next year like this year.

 

2) If you could bring back one Cubs manager to manage the team going forward, maybe somebody who did not get a fair shake, who would it be?

A) Lou Pinella

B) Jim Riggleman

C) Dusty Baker

D) Lea Elia

E) Jim Frey

F) Your Choice, but tell us why

 

I think I go with Jim Frey, he may be the best bet to play the young guys.  Dusty Baker would just go find Lenny Harris and give him a zillion plate appearances again.  I think he is still waiting for Lenny to get hot.

 

3) If you had the choice between sitting on a rooftop or sitting in the standing room only at Wrigley, which would you choose?

No comment.

 

4) The Cubs current payroll this season is at $73,546,000, which ranks them third last in all the league.  What will the Cubs player payroll look like next season:

 

A) $60,000 – $80,000,000

B) $81,000,000-90,000,000

C) 90,000,000 – 100,000,000

D) 100,000,000-$120,000,000

E) Over $120,000,000

 

I gotta say it sits around $100 Mill. tops.  They would have to add quite a bit to get higher in one off-season.  Personally, I don’t think Ricketts heart can handle that, he doesn’t strike me as a spender.  $100 mill would put them at about midway point of the league in spending by the way.

 

5) How many games will the Cubs win this season?

 

A) 65

B) 70

C) 75

D) More….and you better explain yourself!

 

Thanks for playing guys.  Leave your answer in the comments and here’s to a promising end of an era!

 

 

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It’s Just Darwinism…..

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Darwinism -

1:   a theory of the origin and perpetuation of new species of animals and plants that offspring of a given organism vary, that natural selection favors the survival of some of these variations over others, that new species have arisen and may continue to arise by these processes, and that widely divergent groups of plants and animals have arisen from the same ancestors

2:  a theory that inherent dynamic forces allow only the fittest persons or organizations to prosper in a competitive environment or situation

For a minute, let Webster’s second meaning, listed above, soak in….now apply that to the Cubs current state.

Darwin Barney typifies the model and make of that old home grown Cub product to come and go over the past 15 years.  Overall, just above average when at his best and rarely above average for an extended period.  More Specifically, I should say, he represents Cub prospects drafted or traded for between 1998 and 2011, usually never drafted in the top 2 or 3 rounds, or sometimes the side effect of a bigger trade.  I will give you a few names that share these qualities…..

Ryan Theriot

Brendan Harris

Geovany Soto

Sam Fuld

Tyler Colvin

Eric Patterson

Corey Patterson

Brandon Guyer

Tony Campana

DJ Lemahieu

Brett Jackson

Josh Vitters

Micah Hoffpauir

Jason Dubois

 

The above list is made up of just about every position player I can think of,  drafted or traded for since 1998 up through 2011, that at least made it for a small sample size of Major League experience with the Cubs.  The rest of them never saw the field, or at least not for more than a game or two.   You’ll notice, a few of those players were first round picks, but the majority were further down the list.  You may wonder why I make mention of their draft position, well, one of the most astounding qualities of all these drafts was the 1st and 2nd rounders.  They were horrible in most cases.  Many never made it past A ball.

I left pitchers off the list, there was a bit more success there (think towel drills), but not much.  I also left international signings off the list, which were by far the most successful signings of the era in that they alone yielded Starlin Castro, Carlos Zambrano, and a brief but impressive year or so for Carlos Marmol.  Otherwise, as far as players at the prospect level (i.e., Aramis Ramirez and Derek Lee don’t count as they were not prospects at the time of the trade), the above list is what was developed in their system.

Arismendy Alcantara started the Darwinian process over the past week or two when he came up for what was supposed to be a quick stop and turned it into his own little version of Hunger Games.  The infield got crowded and somebody had to go…Darwin Barney proved to be the weakest link.  A .230 Average and a .265 OBP aren’t going to be enough when there is talent starting to ripen at the levels below, which is exactly what is happening.  Over the past few years a guy like Barney may have lasted the year, he still has some decent defense to give (only two years removed from a Gold Glove) but his bat was never that great.

Most of the guys on the list above created some sort of excitement for a bit but never really panned out.  Cue the guy who is going to tell me that Corey Patterson was better then average, okay fine he was,  for about one year at the most.

You never know how everything will pan out. Some of these guys coming won’t adjust to the bigs well, some will have injury troubles, but some will make it.

There isn’t much left from the previous regime.  Granted prospects such as Mendy and Baez are products of that regime, However a bulk of their handling since has been all Thed.  The only players with Major League time as Cubs, prior to Epstein and Co. taking the reigns, currently on the roster are James Russell, Wellington Castillo, and Starlin Castro.  I would not be surprised to see them go prior to this team being competitive again.

Darwin’s theory is very fitting for this organization.  We could also apply a portion of the first meaning, “…that natural selection favors the survival of some of these variations over others, that new species have arisen and may continue to arise by these processes…”, which is exactly what is happening in Wrigleyville.  The old specie of Cub is fading and a stronger specie is rising.

So readers, who will be the next player to fall? Who will be the next to rise?

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Hello April, You look Familiar…

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Rebuilding a baseball team is the pits.

The season is long and the off-season is long.  The typical baseball fan base was not meant to survive a rebuild.  The process itself is a test in sanity as much as it is a test in fanship.

The first rebuild I experienced as a fan was with the Detroit Tigers.  From 1992-2004 The Detroit Tigers were awful.  They were unwatchable for much of that decade plus.  Randy Smith was the “evil” GM who did, well, nothing right for the most part.  Much like the Cubs, the Tigers brought in a new regime so to speak with the likes of Dave Dombrowski as President.  Trader Dave immediately bounced Randy Smith after about a season and took over the GM Duties around 2002.  Four Years Later the Tigers were in the World Series.  It can be done.

The differences between the Cubs and the Tigers lie in the way the teams are rebuilding.  The Tigers were signing free agents at a furious clip in the 2002-2006 years.  They weren’t filling positions with stop-gaps and cast-offs.  They weren’t hoping to catch lightening in a bottle with an undervalued pitcher, only to trade him off for a few more prospects.  I am not saying it is wrong, at least until I can see the fruits of the current Cub regimes labor in full Major League swing, but I will say it is hard on the fan base.

The part I can’t grasp is the lack of spending by a major market team.  Every off-season I read up on the prospects and find ways to get in to the re-build so to speak.  I feel excited for the future and get all gassed up about guys like Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, and of course the latest first round pick Kris Bryant.   There’s a host of other talented players nestled in there likewise that don’t get the same publicity the big four get.  The biggest problem is eventually spring training ends and the major league version has to take the field.  It’s three seasons of straight futility.

Hello April, you look familiar…

The Cubs currently have one player with a BA over .300, and I am pretty sure it comes as a shock to almost everybody that Emilio Bonifacio is that guy.  At some point Boni will come back to earth and be the sub .250 hitter we all know and love.  Meanwhile, and two players who are probably the only draw on this team of misfits, Rizzo and Castro have started off with a much better outlook from there bottoming out last season.  Rizzo has been patient, which really seems to be his key to success.  His walks are up, strikeouts down and of course OBP sits at .385, which bodes well for Rizzo.  Castro on the other hand manages to put wood on the ball more then he doesn’t, it all just depends on where it goes.  At the moment, he is fielding, well, better I guess.  The trick with Castro is to accept him for him.  He will awe you one moment and frustrate you the next, he will swing at pitches he shouldn’t and ground out, and he will swing at pitches he shouldn’t and slap a ball down the line.  He is the closest thing to a “wild thing” this team has and you don’t tame a wild thing.

Hello April, you look familiar…

Platoons, platoons, and more platoons.  I have never seen a team platoon more then this one.  It makes it hard to follow them to be honest.  I like the idea of knowing who will play where on a daily basis.  I also can’t help but thinking that it hinders the likes of guys like Mike Olt, who are trying to get their swing back.  I know what I am getting with a few of these guys (ala Valbeuna) I don’t need to see it anymore.  What I would like to see is some consistency for the likes of third base and the outfield.  It’s like musical chairs and I guess if you like tuning in and having no clue as to who will be on the field in a given day it’s great, but I can’t help but think it hurts the team and some players.

Hello April, you look familiar…

Another year, another helping of Beef Wellington.  I can’t remember the last time I saw average to below average consistently for multiple seasons behind the plate.  It’s back and it is still below average on both sides of the ball.

Hello April, you look familiar…

Cakegate.  That’s all….

Hello April, you look familiar…

Already, half of our starting pitching staff is on the block.

Hello April, you look familiar…

The Cubs are in dead last and yet to win a series.  Should I keep going?

There’s always May.

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The Romance Is Gone….It’s A Whores Game Now

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

As a kid, I used to have a favorite player for every pro sports team in my hometown.  Being from the Detroit area, names like Dumars, Yzerman, Sanders, and Trammell were mainstays in my card collections and posters that adorned my walls.  Each one of those players stayed with their respective team from the beginning to the end.  Contract negotiations were rarely blabbered about and fans trusted that their star wanted to be playing for their city and no other.  It wasn’t just the star players either, it seemed that entire casts of characters made up teams back then.  It was like a good sitcom, the cast would just keep returning season after season, playing their role and occasionally a newcomer would be added or a bit player dropped, but the core was always there.

I don’t pretend to know the mindset of the modern ballplayer.  The money the average player makes will be unattainable in my lifetime, unless I hit the lottery.  The talent they possess, the talent which justifies these wages,  has also passed me by.  I have no clue how awesome it would feel to throw 100 miles per hour or hit a ball 440 feet.  I can’t imagine being able to do it, consistently at that, unless I was playing in a hurricane and the wind was at my back.

I also understand that it is the agents job, with cooperation from the player and to some extent GM’s around baseball,  to get the most money possible for the players efforts on the field.  In many cases, this requires leaving a team and their fan base for greener pastures.

I don’t pretend to know the why’s or the how’s of these negotiations between team and player/agent.  I do, however, have an opinion.  Somewhere between the stitches there is a certain amount of theater and a certain amount of honesty that gets played out for the public.  I also believe there are very few players (not all, just very few) that care where they play.  When it comes down to it, money will guide them.

The system they’ve been dealt has basically prevented them from free agency,” Boras said. “They want to make sure about their next step, whatever that will be. It means either signing a long-term contract now — and we’re still taking offers on those — or a number of other prospects that could occur after the season starts or in June, after the draft happens.

Like any players, they want to play baseball. But they’re also looking at the long-term aspect of their careers. This system has placed them not in free agency, but it’s placed them in a jail.

-Scott Boras regarding Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales

I would love to find this jail.  Pay me $14 million for next year and I will lock the jail cell and throw away the key.

When Boras makes this type of statement, I begin to wonder who he is actually speaking too?  Is he trying to plead to the fans of baseball for justice?  Is this a cry of outrage to the commissioner?  Is this a hint to the players union,  one that may suggest a stand needs taking the next time both sides are at the bargaining table?  Or is he just putting on a show?

I tend to believe it is the latter.

The bone Boras is picking has to do with the required forfeiture of an unprotected first round draft choice by the team that ends up signing the player.  Boston made a qualified offer to Drew ($14 million for one year) and Drews camp turned it down feeling he was worth a multi-year deal.  Draft picks are like gold in the modern game and Scott Boras feels this little wrinkle is hurting free agency, as nobody is too high on giving away draft picks these days, therein teams feel it is best to avoid these players and find other means to fill needs.

I , along with most sane baseball fans,  feel a certain amount of disdain for Scott Boras.  I constantly wonder what goes through the minds of his clients in these situations.  Is Stephen Drew at all worried he could become the next Jermaine Dye?  What about the oft injured Morales?  Do either of these guys really feel they are worth the Multi-year contract they (or their agent) is pining for?  If I could be a fly on the wall of their brain, I would love nothing more than to know what their desired income is….their “Ramen Noodle” minimum if you will.

As some of you know, I am a Tigers fan too.  The recent pre-season negotiations between Max Scherzer and the Detroit Tigers struck a chord with me.

Max Scherzer made a substantial long-term contract extension offer to the Detroit Tigers that would have placed him among the highest-paid pitchers in baseball, and the offer was rejected by Detroit,” Boras said. “Max is very happy with the city of Detroit, the fans and his teammates, and we will continue negotiating with the Tigers at season’s end.

-Scott Boras regarding Max Scherzer

See what he did there? Apparently players are the ones making all the offers now, teams just sit and wait to see what they need.  The teams are the bad guys, right?  Ultimately it is the teams that let the fan base down, never the player, right Mr. Boras?

Now from a fans standpoint I have always liked Scherzer.  However, I just downgraded him from likeable to “you better pitch your ass of this year” and  aside from the last two years, he has had a pretty middling career.  Last year he was exceptional, I mean, he won the Cy Young for crying out loud.  The year before he was good.  Prior to that he was not a household name and really did not warrant much consideration for anything higher than a middle rotation guy.  Oh, and by the way, the guy turns 30 this year.  His trend will be towards that of not living up to his contract, unless he manages to defy mother nature and get better with age.  The Tigers reportedly offered 6 years and something close to Verlander’s yearly wage…real close.  Boras and company reportedly asked for 8 years and probably more money.  That is dangerous territory in the post PED age of baseball.  30 might as well be 40 ten years ago.

I am sure many agents cause headaches for GM’s and teams when contract negotiations come along.  The problem with Boras is the grandstanding.  He loves to give the media a quote and I can’t help attaching the player he represents to his comments and demeanor.  It is probably terribly unfair but technically Scott Boras is “representing” the player.    I have to believe the player is in mutual agreement with all comments made.

So, I assume guys like Stephen Drew, ye of the .264 career BA (with help from his early years) and an average to above average glove, truly believe they are in jail with nothing but paltry one year $14 million offers to settle for.  I mean, I understand no team wants to give up a first round pick  and the millions he would most assuredly ask for, but it probably didn’t help that Drew only hit about .120 in the post-season last year, I am pretty sure that is a fact left out of The Boras Agency’s player novel , The Stephen Drew Volume, being passed around to prospective teams.

Look, I get that baseball has “matured” since the eighties and I also understand that contract negotiations are part of the game.  With the advent of increased media it comes as no shock we are privy to more details than a fan probably needs.  In my opinion the fan/player romance is all but gone.  In this day and age it’s best to cheer for the name on the front of the jersey, because you never know if the one on the back will stay for very long.

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Spring Training 2014: Five Burning Questions

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

I rarely watch Spring Training games.  I usually watch one to get my baseball fix and read the box scores from there.  However, this year has been a bit different as I have watched every game televised, which up tip now has been about three, but I digress…

I am attributing this new-found viewing interest to the prospects.   I actually don’t even look at the stats linked to the regular MLB level guys.   Some of these guys are keeping a seat warm and I find it difficult to get too involved.  Plus, it’s hard to get attached to guys like Luis Valbuena and Darnell McDonald.  Valbuena is a fine third baseman but not the spiciest option for the fan base.  McDonald is, well, not that fine.

My recent viewings have generated a few questions and I was wondering what the VFTB faithful think……

1)  Will Brett Jackson or Josh Vitters ever see extended time in the majors again?

- I am going with no on both counts, at least not in a Cubs uniform.  Unless something amazing happens for Vitters then Brett Jackson has the better chance, if any at all.  A rather sad story for two guys who were once the pride of the Cubs farm system for multiple seasons in a row.  These guys locked up the top spot from 2007 through 2011, or something like that.  Pretty sure both were top 50 prospects on somebody’s list somewhere.   Injuries have taken their toll but it is just another reminder that sometimes, even the highly touted ones don’t pan out.

2)  Who will get the majority of starts for the Cubs at Third Base in 2014?

-Kevin Orie. Whoops, speaking of highly touted prospects that didn’t pan out, wrong decade.  I am going with Mike Olt.  Something tells me he may just hit about .245 this season.  Actually, lets go further and say 13 HR’s , 43 RBI’s and a .241 average.  Here is the best part, if Valbuena gets his starts instead, the stat line won’t be much different.

3)  While everybody is wetting their collective pants over Javier Baez, I want to know when we will see Kris Byrant?

-Does Bryant make it to the big club in 2014?  Every bit of me wants to say yes, in September, but there is a part of me that thinks he spends the whole year in the minors at one level or another.  It’s the smart part of me, the part that is usually right, and it is a small part.  I feel as though Theo and Jed go out of their way to make sure these guys are not brought up to the big club one day before they are beyond ready.  I respect that, I am okay with that.  Drives me crazy as a fan because the product on the field is, in a wishful world, a .500 team.  Will these guys make the team better this year? maybe not.  Will it destroy them as ball players? It could.  Would it still make things more interesting? Yes.

4)  If you had to choose from one of the following prospects, which one is most likely to not make a Big League appearance in their career?

(A) Jorge Soler

(B) Albert Almora

(C) Arismendy Alcantara

(D) Kyle Hendricks

You don’t even have to have a reason, just let your gut speak.

5)  How many wins do the Cubs get this year?

I am going to sit right around 70.  If Shark is dealt then it could go lower.  Couple in the fact that we may assemble one of the worst outfields in the history of baseball and the 2014 high point could very well be spring training and the prospect talk.  That being said, on a more positive note, this could be the season we start to see the team turn a corner.  Some young pitching pans out and a few young position players start to pick it up and we could be in for .500 plus with a lot to look forward too down the road.

So, turning point or another lost season?

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It’s A Long 162 Games…..

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Did you know the Cubs are on the precipous of a monumental occasion?

Five straight losing seasons will be quite a feat, even for the Cubs.  Take a guess how long it has been…..your probably thinking, “Oh it just happened yesterday, right? Didn’t we lose for an entire decade once?”  Yah, we did, it was called the 50′s (it was actually the ten years between 1953 and 1963.)  The losing in the 50′s and early 60′s got so bad it brought about the idea of the “College of Coaches“, which ranks itself near the top as one of the worst ideas in the history of the sport.  Since then, no Cub team has registered a losing record for longer than four straight seasons*.

*Note- I left out the streak from 1979 -1983 as 1981 was strike shortened.

Since that glorious time, Cub fans got a repreave from the typical loveable losing ways, at least once every five years.  Now, here we sit.  I am pretty sure anybody with a baseball marble in their head will consider the upcoming 2014 Cubs season a wash.  Just like 2013, the prospects are not ready and the retreads will run the show until the golden geese are good and set to take the stage.  If the Cub conventions of the last two years are any indication, we as fans are supposed to hold our allegiance out for the future generation of players, and the remake of the landmark known as Wrigley Field.

That’s 810 games of losing.  No, they don’t lose them all, but when you don’t even sniff competing for five years, that’s what it feels like.  How many times over the last four seasons have you watched the Cubs win and felt a genuine sense that the team was good? Even when they win during this fine stretch of futility, I feel like they are losing.

Herein lies my biggest gripe with baseball.  It’s such a long damn commitment when your team is no good.  Each game, after a certain point of losing in a season, becomes meaningless.  Sometime in August I begin to wonder how professional broadcasters can stand sitting in the booth and calling the games.  Then I remember, that’s right, they get paid to do this.

If you can’t tell, I am having trouble getting excited for the 2014 season.  Rebuilding in baseball is a brutal task and I have never seen a front office do it with such malice towards fans.  It’s as if every day they’re looking at the fanbase and saying, “Just enjoy the beautiful history of Wrigley Field and the quasi-professional product we are rolling out there at a blue light special price tag, oh and don’t forget to sample a beer for $6″. I have also been wondering who I should back for the series with bwin.

What they are really saying is take your medicine, because this is the only way out.  I believe in what they are doing, but I don’t have to enjoy it.  Being a fan of a major market team should have its perks, and one of those is not having to eat a main course consisting of potatoes and bread when there is enough money in your wallet for a steak and then some.

The sad thing is, I don’t see us competing in 2015, like many at one time felt would be a realistic goal.  2016 anyone?

 

 

 

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Chet Chat, Vol. 2 – Let’s Discuss…..

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

I have three topics of discussion for this fine hump day.   I am sure there are varying degrees of opinion on each one and I am hoping we get to hear them all.  The first two are baseball related and the last one is not.  Here we go…..

Topic #1

I think we should trade Starlin Castro.  Now before you fry me for even mentioning this, take a few things into consideration.  First and foremost, I want to see Starlin do well.  The Cub fan in me wants Castro to beat all this negativity surrounding this season and come out a hall of fame player.   I am hoping he is just young….still, which in theory he is, but he is in his fourth season.  We are bordering on what might be called crafty veteran stage soon.

The realist side of me wants to break down Starlin as a player.  Lets start with defense, shall we?  The only two categories that have Starlin sitting atop the league are games played and errors.  His zone ratings are all in the negative.  His dWAR is negative, I know I am reaching here, but I wanted to try to find something positive about our supposed shortstop of the future.  It is almost impossible.  Some say he has improved….he has not.  Throw out all the wonderful stats and just watch the games.  The errors are still there.  The ball gets past him and sometimes he takes a rather pedestrian play and makes it, well, challenging.  It also seems to happen at all the wrong times.

Then he gets a bat in his hands.  This was a strength for Starlin but the strikeout totals and the walk totals are just two far apart.  Not too mention he swings at a lot of bad pitches.  Basically he is a free swinger who does not hit for power.

Yes, there is talent there but something is blocking it from shining through.  Is it his mental game? Is he not mature enough yet?  I don’t know.  Sometimes Starlin’s overall demeanor just strikes me as that of a student trying to get through a boring class.

I look at young shortstops like Jose Iglesias or Elvis Andrus and see an elite fielder with a decent bat.  Their fielding brings confidence and their bats are at the very least good enough.

The cupboard is not bare at Shortstop either.  The Cubs of yesterday did not have the depth that the Cubs of today have.  Sure this year is still a bit thin on Big league ready options but going into next year things could get interesting.  Theo and Jed have been stockpiling and Starlin may not be the only option in the next year or so.  If you need an example of trading depth look no further than Theo’s old team.  The Red Sox dealt the previously mentioned Iglesias to the Tigers for pitching.  Why would they deal such a bright young star?  Well, they have the number one prospect in baseball in Xander Bogaerts waiting in the wings!  This is what depth can do and the Cubs are going to start reaping the rewards.

The trick is, the Cubs must deal Starlin while he still has top value.  If he starts the season off hot next year…lets just say, if we are in the same position we are in now, then they should get what they can for him.  Don’t wait to sell at the bottom!!!  We have depth now!

Discuss…..

Topic #2

I found this while surfing the web today. Basically, it is a homegrown player roster for each team in the majors.  You probably guessed that the Cubs roster is pretty lean, thanks Jim Hendry/Tribune and crew.  It takes the best of every current player and puts him back with his original team.

Back to this depth concept, I kind of wonder what it will be like to be a Cubs fan and see more then one good option creeping up the minors at a given position, other then pitcher of course.  Will I be able to detach myself from ever seeing that player realize his potential in a Cubs uniform?  I mean, I really want to see Dan Vogelbach make the bigs and crush balls in a Cubs uniform, but I love Rizzo!  What will give in the end?  As I said above, Castro, for reasons of insanity apparently, had me at hello as our shortstop of the future.  Yet, what happens with Baez? How can you not want to see what Javier Baez can do?  Maybe Baez will be a third basemen but I have longed to see Mike Olt in a Cub uniform.  Also, don’t forget, Kris Bryant is looking like he is on the fast track to the bigs too?  There is only so much room in the boat. Some of these talents that we have been reading about and waiting on may never see Wrigley.  They may turn into a new starting pitcher or reliever.

It is better to have depth but it will take some getting used too.  Long gone are the days of sitting on Corey Patterson and waiting for him to blossom as our only outfield prospect.

Discuss….

Topic #3

I am a big Bill Simmons fan. I have been since he started his page 2 stuff for ESPN.  I am also a big Rockumentary fan.  Basically any Documentary on a rock band can suck me in for hours.  Talk about a time suck, sometimes I manage to stumble on a random “VH1 – Where Are They Now?” bit and can’t let go.  The bad part is that it usually doesn’t matter who they are featuring.

Bill wrote a rather long piece about the recent Eagles Documentary on Grantland. Here is the link.  Bill is leveraging his sports writing to breach other topics and music and entertainment are his big hot spots.  I read this whole thing.  I feel like I already saw the documentary it got so in depth.

I am looking for recommendations for Rockumentary’s …does anybody have a suggestion?

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Chet Chat, Vol. 1 – A Tale of Two Cubs

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

The non-waiver trade deadline is approaching within the next few hours and there are still a lot of playable cards left in the Cubs deck.  Actually, I am writing this on trade deadline eve, so maybe by the time I wake up guys like Jeff Russell, David DeJesus, Kevin Gregg, Shark (yes, lazy, don’t want to spell it all out),  Nate Schierholtz, Ronnie Woo-Woo, and the white haired lady with the visor they always show during the seventh inning stretch will have already been cashed in for the prospect of future wins.

Deep down I even feel guys like Junior Lake are being shopped in a weird sort of way.  Call me crazy, but he doesn’t really fit the Epstein mold.  I don’t see him sticking around if a team liked what they saw and offered up a nice package.

This brings me to a trade that happened last week.  The Soriano trade reminds me of death.  No, not the death of our beloved ball club, nothing that extreme.  It is similar to how we say nice things about somebody after they pass on, we chose to recognize Alfonso for all the great things he did after he was traded and then almost, maybe I am stretching here, but we acted as though we would miss him.  I can’t remember an outpouring of affection like this for Soriano in all his years in Cubbie blue.

I will admit, I was saddened a bit.

I think of my Cub fandom in two chapters; the Sosa years and then the Soriano years.  I liked Sosa for the first few years of his chapter.  He provided a certain amount of excitement that was above and beyond the norm at a sporting event.  He was doing things otherworldly there for a while.  I feel he may have been doing them with a little help (wink, wink) but that was when the league was the wild west.  I am shocked we didn’t see a cyborg jump out of the dugout and take a few cuts for crying out loud.

Sosa’s chapter ended with a teammate smashing his boom box while he drove off the Wrigley player lot before fan appreciation day made it to the latter innings.   Also, we must not forget the bewildering and sometimes downright idiotic defense in right field,  the at times stupid baserunning, the corked bat, and the late and ever so grand “This is my house!” entrances at spring training.  Most everyone on the north side of Chicago felt it was time for Sammy to leave, he had worn out his welcome.

Soriano’s chapter ends with glowing articles written by most of Chicago’s press and bloggers alike.  Everybody seemed to speak of his professionalism and love for the game.  Teammates couldn’t stop gushing over his leadership and value to the young players.

I begin to wonder, if Soriano had half the contract and gave the same effort and results, would he have been more loved by fans during his time with the team?  Could he have been one of the most loved Cubs of all time?  If Bob Brenly were not so quick to judge Soriano on his effort and heart during live broadcasts, would some fans see him in a different light?

The question for me will always be, was Soriano unfairly judged due to the size of his contract?

I know I enjoyed the Sosa chapter more, but most of the joy was not because of Sosa’s towering homeruns, but more because of what the team accomplished.

Soriano’s chapter will always be a question of what could have been and what should have been.  I begged on more then one occasion, usually while watching a game in frustration, for the team to trade him.  Yet, for some odd reason, along with many other fans and writers, I inexplicably miss him.

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