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Five Random Predictions for the 2015 Chicago Cubs

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

As you can see from the myriad of posts around the blogosphere it is prediction season where Major League Baseball is concerned. Writers are cobbling together their thoughts on the upcoming season and the topics span just about everything under the sun.

Admittedly, over the past 4 years or so I could have cared less as to who would be the team MVP, most improved player, comeback player, or for that matter LVP (Least Valuable Player). The season was usually assumed to be over by May and predictions for a potential losing team are voiced to pass the time.

However, we seem to have the potential to not only compete this year, but some outlets have us contending (I think the contending talk is still crazy, but I guess a guy can hope!) This makes predictions a little weightier and more fun to write.

Anyhow, for the new and improved 2015 Chicago Cubs, I give you my predictions…..

 

Rizzo will get the Cubs WAR title, once again……

There are a few people who could win this title.  I have a real good feeling about Jorge Soler this season.  I am probably higher on him than any other player on this team.  The table is set for Jorge to explode on to the scene.  That being said, I don’t think he will overtake Rizzo.  Rizzo got the title last year with a 5.6 WAR and I think he needs to get up to 6.0 in 2015, which he will do, to grab this title again.In 2014 the closest to Rizzo was Jake Arietta with a 4.9 WAR.  The next closest position player was Castro with 2.9 WAR and then it goes down hill.

Along these lines, if I had to make a sub-prediction, I would say we have at least three more guys with a WAR above 3 for the position players.  Counting pitchers it could be four or even five, considering Lester is pretty much automatic for anything above a 3.5 WAR.

2015′s lineup is sure to be even better and that should help Mr. Rizzo.  All things considered, and barring injury, we should expect big things from Anthony this year, as he will have a full season with the likes of Baez and Soler hitting on either side of him….or possibly Mr Bryant????

Which brings us to……

 

Kris Bryant probably won’t get NL Rookie of the Year………

Okay, before we start rioting on my front steps, understand something, this years rookie class could be incredible.  If all goes as planned with Kris Bryant, and if Jorge Soler stays healthy, the Cubs could have two rookies in the top 5 this year for the NL and that will be really good.   I still think Bryant strikes out too much and I highly doubt that area of his game will just improve moving up a level, usually it goes the other way and weaknesses get exploited.

Plus the fact, this is my breakout year for Jorge Soler.  As a matter of fact, I think Soler gets ROY in the end, as he strikes out a bit less than Kris Bryant, and has a few weeks in the majors under his belt already. Bryant finishes about third on the list.  Not shabby at all!!

I am looking at guys like Joc Pederson, Archie Bradley, and possibly Yasmany Tomas out west as major contenders if no Cubs grab it.  Then again, it could be a pitcher like Noah Syndergaard, Jonathan Gray, or Andrew Heaney.  Everybody I mentioned here could be there at seasons end.

 

Jon Lester will be worth every penny……… 

If I had to choose among the free agent pitchers this past off-season, Lester and his contract get my vote.  The real comparison comes between Lester and Scherzer in reality, and considering Wrigley field and it’s dimensions, I will take the ground ball pitcher every time.  Scherzer, with the past benefit of pitching in a cavernous Tiger Stadium, is a bit more of a fly ball guy (Scherzer’s ground ball percentage = 38.8% vs. 46.8% for Lester) The difference between a few more ground balls and a few in the air at Wrigley could be the difference between saying, “Worth every penny!” and “Maybe we paid too much?”

Can you imagine how tough Lester will be in the cold with the wind blowing in? He could start off 6-0! Okay maybe 5-1.  Plus, the transition from A.L. to N.L. is usually a good thing for a pitcher.  Worth every penny, I say!!!!

 

The Cubs/Ricketts family will eventually own every rooftop surrounding Wrigley (eventually, maybe not all of them this year)…..

…and the Cubbieville neighborhood the Ricketts are trying to build and develop will be complete.  I have this vision that Wrigley, and quite possibly a square block around Wrigley, will become something close to an amusement park and in all honesty, I could care less.  What was once a quaint little neighborhood with a ballpark nestled in the middle turned into a gong show when businesses started monetizing the rooftop viewing perches that you now see. I remember the good old days when you knew a guy, that knew a guy, that lived in one of the Wrigleyville brownstones surrounding the ballpark.  The acquaintance got you on the roof and $15 bought you into a few kegs. Some dude was cooking hot dogs on a Smokey Joe in the corner and the buns might have had mold on them, don’t know and don’t care.  It was pure in so many ways and has since been bastardized.  The romance is gone!

I liken the current rooftop situation to eating at hooters, you do it once to say you did it, after that you realize there are better options.  The last two times I experienced a rooftop (both corporate affairs) I actually watched maybe 20 minutes of the game. I then sat inside in a loungey, swanky atmosphere (nothing says baseball like teak, dirty martini’s, and white leather) and watched the game on a flat screen TV with the other hundred or so people crammed into the third floor bar. I think maybe five people sat on the actual rooftop.

They should keep one rooftop open as an attraction in the new Cubbieville theme park, but they should rip out all the splashy stuff, throw a dude in a tank top and a bad tan up there and tap a keg.  The experience allows one to sit on a tar roof with a cold hotdog and a red solo cup of Old Style. The view is over the edge of the parapet, and I hope you are in the front row if you want to see the game!

 

Joe Maddon will do something entertaining……

The Cubs have ruined many a manager.  Similar to my Detroit Lions, the Cubs are the kind of place where managers careers go to die.  The only guy I can think of in the last 30 or so years, that managed a team for an extended amount of time past his tenure with the Cubs, is Dusty Baker.  Find me an ex-Lions head coach who was a head coach after the Lions?  None! Nada! Cubs are the same running joke.

I sort of feel like Maddon is just crazy enough to do it.  Some will say a manager has little influence over the outcome of a game, those who believe this are also people who never followed a team that had a good manager.  It is quite possible that the manager can only effect a small bit of minutia within the game, but they can have a deep effect on the season as a whole.

Joey Madds has been known to do some wiley stuff, he will do something to give the writers something to write about, mark my words!  His season opening comments thus far have been warmup.  I can just see it now, Joe Maddon walking a goat into the stadium on opening day, or maybe he is caught stroking a black cat in the dugout?

 

Okay, so that’s it for ridiculous predictions from me, what do you have? Sound off in the comments and maybe we can keep a running total of crazy predictions throughout the season and see who wins.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Grandmother and Mr. Cub

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Looking back it seems somewhat ridiculous really.  A piece of paper with a quick message and a signature on it. For years my grandmother and her twin sister attended the Duke Children’s Golf Classic, which up until a few years back, was held in Durham,NC and raised money for Duke Children’s Hospital.  Picture the Pebble Beach Pro-Am without the Pro golfers and big name A-list celebs.  A large majority of the players were ex-athletes of various professional sports.  They definitely brought some decent names to the tourney and by no means was it a small ordeal.  My grandmother had a few favorites that she looked forward to seeing each year, but there were two that stood out for her….Sonny Shroyer (Enos from Dukes of Hazzard) and Ernie Banks. She told me Ernie always had time for his fans. He would hang around and take a picture or sign an autograph and acted like it was his pleasure to do so. Prior to her mention of Ernie Banks, I wouldn’t really say I was a Cub fan.  Growing up in southeast Detroit makes you a Tigers fan, and I loved the Tigers and still do.  However, to this day I blame Ernie Banks and my grandmother for making me a Cub fan too. It sounds crazy but on my birthday in 1987 my grandmother handed me the little piece of paper you see attached to this post, one that I have kept ever since.  It instantaneously made me a fan of a team I would come to learn were known as “The Lovable Losers”. I didn’t start out a huge fan as I was for my Tigers, but a good fan from afar if you will. It is nutty the little things that can happen to make a 12 year old child find interest in a sports team.  A hat from an uncle, a mitt with a facsimile autograph in the palm, or a piece of paper with a signature.  Moving to Chicago some 10 years later would seal the deal for me. Sometimes, all it takes is a kind gesture from an athlete passed on by a grandmother, and a team gets a new fan.

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Looking Forward, and Liking It?

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

It was New Years Eve, and to be honest, I don’t get up for it as much as I once did.  I rarely go out of the house on New Years Eve anymore.  Maybe it’s my age,  or maybe it’s being married with two kids under five and the desire to sleep and not stay out until 2 am and dump a mortgage payment on the babysitter+dinner+drinks+Uber? Another reason is it may very well be the single largest amateur drinking night of the year (your chances of being thrown up on go up by at least 40%) or maybe it’s the resolutions and the resolution-esque questions?

Are you going to eat better food?

Are you going to workout more?

Are you going to be more financially responsible?

Are you going to be nice to people?

And then of course they give you their super grand dazzling New Years resolution that nobody would ever think of on the face of the earth, because they are just such an overachiever and awesome and 2015 is going to be their year! Fast-forward 11 months and they will be the same miserable sod on Thanksgiving that they were exactly one day prior to the previous year ending.  If anybody actually remembered your terrible resolution this far into the year they could throw it back in your face for completely failing at life.  However, nobody ever remembers ’cause nobody cares!  But by all means post it all to Facebook so the world now knows how awesome your going to try to be.  I’ll be the first one to offer up a cheeseburger and fries at your weakest moment…promise!

So anyway, this year, I went out on New Years Eve. It wasn’t bad, Minneapolis tends to be more tame than Chicago and the spots we picked were full but not annoyingly so. The booze flowed freely and so did the questions but I got one that I actually answered with a little better than a canned answer…..What are you most excited for in 2015?

My Answer?

The Chicago Cubs.

I know, I know, it’s not like the promised land is, well, promised.  But at least the land we will live off of will be brighter and sunnier with a little lest decay.  I guess what I am trying to say is the season will mean more past April and maybe, just maybe into August?  To compete would be good, and I think we will to some degree.

I do however have just three wishes for 2015 in regards to the Cubs….

1) Please don’t let Kris Bryant be a bust.  He won’t be, but I would be sad if he is less than awesome.

2) God, help Javier Baez find plate discipline. It does not have to be military grade discipline, maybe we start with not setting a record for strikeouts?

3) Keep Jon Lester healthy and let him prosper in the NL.

 

There, see I don’t ask much.  Really these things should be expected, right?

And your wishes are?

 

 

 

 

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The Post-Season Concoction

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

If you were constructing a playoff team what would your recipe look like?  Would you litter the starting lineup with OBP and power?  Would you stock up on a stable full of studs for your rotation?  How about the bullpen, is good enough actually enough? What about fielding and baserunning, are these critical to the post-season equation?  Do managers matter…ever?

As October baseball once again washes over me, and as a fan of a developing Cubs team, I am left wondering what it takes to not only make it to October baseball, but what does a team need to advance through the bonus month?

After watching the Tigers, Dodgers, and Angels get eaten alive in the opening round I began to wonder, what did the Orioles, Royals and Giants have that those teams did not?

My hunch throughout the playoffs was that the Royals success lies somewhere in there fielding and pitching.  Sure enough, a quick look at Fangraphs and you will see that the Orioles and Royals both place in the top third in most defensive categories.  They are not far off that mark where pitching is concerned either.  Meanwhile, the Tigers for instance, have a dominant starting staff and massive offensive numbers, but a bullpen that probably would have trouble getting out of an inning with the Mudhens.  Let’s not even start with their defensive liabilities that litter the diamond.  There weaknesses showed up tenfold the second the competition heated up.

All this being said, what about the Royals, Orioles, Giants and Cardinals?  Surely their weaknesses will haunt them? One thing I found prominent in each teams success is that sixth tool…..luck.  Okay, call it timing, clutch, mojo, whatever floats your boat, it’s all the same.  The Royals are defying the regular season stats and have found some offense in the post-season.  All of the sudden Mike Moustakas. who was sent down for a spell at the start of the season, is Mr. October.  Couple that with the surging Eric Hosmer, who hit well in the regular season but not .400 well, and you have the makings of a magic run.

The playoffs have a way of sorting out those weaknesses and showing them in full light at the most inopportune times.  My bet is the Royals real offense shows up.  My bet is, if they grab this third game from the Orioles, those weaknesses will prevail in the World Series.  Those hitting stats from the regular season are bound turn their ugly head, or at least come down from their otherworldy perch and make winning a much more difficult task.

But I digress, I wanted to know what you thought was the right mix for a post-season birth and then a run.  What makes the Cardinals, the Cardinals? (I can’t wait to see these comments) What makes the Giants appear so beatable in the regular season and then turn them into a juggernaut in the post-season?  Where did the powerhouse Dodgers fall short? What’s your post-season concoction?

During this post-season, when I start to think the Cubs are getting close, I look at these teams and compare.  Depending on the team I compare them too, they can look real far away from the ultimate goal…or really close.

 

 

 

 

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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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