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How can you not like this guy?

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Great interview with Len Kasper by the illustrious


  • Just how awful would Neifi have been playing without his beloved greenies?

    LEN: I just feel bad for all his fans.

  • I’ve been offered a book deal to write one akin to Sports Guy’s “Now I Can Die In Peace” after the Cubs finish their 100th championshipless season in 2008. Mine would be called, “Please Shoot Me In the Head.” Do I risk being all Dan Shaughnessy and profiting on my favorite team’s misery if I accept? Also, to save you the time of reading it, I’ve already written your dust jacket review. How does this sound? “The greatest book ever written. Makes ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ look like a steaming pile of dung.” Nice, huh?

    LEN: I think this would work better: “It’s the best thing I’ve read since last Thursday’s WGN blog post by Len Kasper.”

    Score one for Lenny.

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  • reason for hope (question mark? nay, exclamation point!) !

    Sunday, April 1st, 2007

    There are a great many reasons to believe that this Cubs team will be an also-ran.
    98 reasons come to mind right away, and some more pop into my head the more I think:
    –a CF who ain’t.
    –Wood and Prior.
    –Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis.
    –Ronny Cedeno and Cesar Izturis.
    –Ryan Dempster.
    –Jim Hendry.

    But wait. There are some things that can also make you hopeful.
    –The NL Central, filled with 78 to 85 win teams.
    –Very good to excellent players at 1B, 3B, CF (offensively), and C. That is more than many teams can boast.
    –a pretty decent bullpen.

    If you accept the fact that this is a .500 team without Prior and Wood, which seems like a reasonable expectation, take hope in this statement:
    Managers in their earliest season with a new club exceed expectations.
    Bill James wrote in “The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers” that managers in their first year, and commonly their first few years, at the helm of a new club, that they lead their team to a record that is better that that which could be expected. The reasons involve the pendulum shift from laid-back, “just have fun” managers (Dusty) to discipline first, right-way-to-play guys (Piniella), and vice-versa. Simply the change in style invigorates the team. The effectiveness of a manager erodes as time passes, but there is a marked improvement especially in a guy’s first year.
    This is Piniella’s first year. He’s a good baseball man, so we can assume he won’t hurt anything. The shift in approach will help the Cubs. Let’s say that it’s worth 5 games. That puts the team at 86-76. In this division that could be enough. The addition of trade deadline help, surprise contributions from Wood/Prior, and repeats of career years from DeRosa, Theriot, and Barrett could push the Cubs into the WORLD F*&@IN’ SERIES. Just a few breaks. That’s all we need.
    Don’t you dare think…”that’s what Cubs fans have said since 1908.”
    Just focus on the positive.

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    Sunday, March 4th, 2007

    Lou’s a clever guy, putting Wood & Prior on the hill for the first time on the same day. That happens on Monday. What is the advantage? If all goes according to plan, the attention on everyone is diverted. Prior fields half-to-75% the usual questions, Wood does too, Piniella gets to answer in general statements about his injury-prone pitchers, and the reporters get their quotes.

    The only thing that could go wrong is that BOTH of them have their arms fall off in mid-outing, in which case the manure hits the fan so hard that the motor blows up, sending pooh all over every fan who’s paying attention. But what are the odds of that, right?

    The Cubs WILL make the playoffs if Prior makes 30 starts and Wood gives us 60 innings out of the pen.

    The Cubs WILL NOT make the playoffs if Prior makes less than 20 starts and Wood gives us 50 or less innings.

    The middle ground can only be decided by the ineptitude or eptitude of our NL Central foes.

    Monday is not the beginning of the road to one of those destinations — it is way too early in the preseason — but if either of these guys pulls up lame now it’ll be like when you’ve got to get out of the house but you can’t find your glasses and/or your wallet. You could certainly get through the day without them, but you’re taking your chances in doing so and the whole time you’re crapping your pants hoping you can get away with it instead of being in the moment.

    So let’s hope Monday goes well! It means nothing and it means a lot at the same time. I’ll be paying attention to this meaningless game.

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    Looking at the new Cubs as if they were in KISS

    Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

    What can we expect from the new players? I’ll tell you what I think and what his nickname would be if he were a member of Kiss. Keep Paul (Starchild), Gene (the Demon), Ace (isn’t that a nickname already?) and Peter (the Effeminate Cat) in your thoughts. Is it up to you to imagine what each player’s face makeup would look like.

    Ted Lilly
    I’d guess a 14-11 type, 4.40 ERA season in which he keeps us in games, pitches into the 7th, and provides a left-handed arm for strategic games which could matter once or twice per season. Underwhelming for 10 million a year, but we’ve all been saying that the Cubs have lots of money to spend.
    KISS nickname: “Flower Child.” You know, because of the “Lilly” part. Not because of Ted. Ted has nothing to do with flowers, or children. Unless your child is named Ted, in which case that’s what I meant.

    <img src=”” align=”left” title=”” border=”0″ height = “60”Jason MarquisRothschild thinks he can fix the mechanical flaw that caused Marquis’ awful 2006 line. Seems to me that if you’ve got a guy who had a flaw that needs correcting, you can sign him for less and dump him if it doesn’t work out. Now the team will likely feel obligated to trot him out every 5th day. I see 10-14, 5.00, lots of HR allowed and some really, really ugly innings. Every fourth start will be a 7 IP-2 ER outing, which will keep him from the chopping block all year. Not like that hippopotamic contract would allow any chopping. (Note: After the Marquis Grissom Experience last spring, perhaps we’ll get lucky and this Marquis will get cut…)
    KISS nickname: “The Whip” (as in “my career WHIP is 1.43”)

    <img src=”” align=”left” title=”” border=”0″ height = “75”Alfonso SorianoThis year and next year will be the golden years of the Alfonso contract. I actually don’t have any worries that he’ll be able to play defense in CF TOO poorly; he’ll cost us 1 or 2 wins all year, but more than make up for it with his bat. He’ll put up great counting stats, poor rate stats, and contribute slightly less than his 45 HR/40 SB season would have you believe. All in all, though, he’ll be a strength.
    KISS Nickname: “Lightning Bolt”

    Cesar Izturis (still pretty new)
    345 at bats of Neifi.
    KISS nickname: “Neifi!

    Mark DeRosa
    We’ll get 2 decent years and one crummy year out of him. He’ll be anything from Mickey Morandini to Jeff Blauser. No matter what he ends up doing, an average Theriot season would have saved us money. He’s not the smelliest turd in the porta-potty, but he’s adding to the overall stench.
    KISS nickname “Roadblock”

    Daryle Ward
    This is the signing that, apart from Soriano, I think will help us the most. The beefiest player since Randall “Beef” Simon could give us a truly fearful bat off the bench. 250 at bats spelling Lee, Murton, and Jones and being a bat in the 9th inning will give us the advantage we thought we were getting last year with John “Maybe Not” Mabry.
    “KISS Nickname: “Lipid

    Cliff Floyd
    The theory, as I understand it, is to sign guys that are ridiculously injury-prone. That way our key guys will stay healthy as guys like Floyd absorb all of the injuries. Right? I mean, it couldn’t be to take away AB from the only guy on the team not named Derrek Lee who can take a pitch and put up an OBP over .340, right?
    KISS nickname: “Mr. Glass

    What are your KISS nicknames for the rest of the Cubs?

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    Lilly a Cub; will Hendry smell like a rose?

    Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

    According to the Trib, Ted Lilly is a Cub.
    Lilly’s ERAs the past 5 years have been 4.31, 5.56, 4.06, and 4.34. He has had exactly 1 year of a sub-4.00, back in ’02 when he started just 11 games.
    So that’s what 40 mil buys you.
    The last time he posted a 2:1 K:BB ratio was 2003.
    The last time he pitched 200 innings was never ever ever.
    Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA casts a slightly more favorable light on him.

    This offseason is a weird one. Our Cubs have been mentioned in many of the big free agent deals. The team seems bent on building a team through free agency. What the hell, I say. Let’s see what happens. They’ve spent waaaaay too much money on these players, but if we end up with a team that looks like this:

    CF Lofton
    LF Murton
    RF Soriano
    1B Lee
    3B Ramirez
    C Barrett
    2B DeRosa
    SS anyone but Izturis

    bench: Blanco C, Izturis ss/2b, Moore 1b/3b, 2b Theriot, OF Pagan, OF Ryan Church, if rumors are to be believed.

    That’s a team that should score a bit above league average, given normal health. I’ll take Soriano/Lee/Ramirez/Barrett as all righties in the meat of the lineup rather than any available lefty.

    WIth a pitching staff of:
    Wade Miller

    Novoa (?)

    Then that’s a pitching staff that goes 4 deep and some days, 5 deep, and it’ll keep the offense in the game.
    So you could expect a team like that to win 85-90 games. That could be enough in the NL Central, and as the Cards showed, regular season record don’t mean diddly.

    So maybe this haphazard check-writin’ spree will end up making us all happy.

    Who can we get to fill the gaps? What’s your suggestion at SS? Theriot’s not going to hit like he did last year. The spending spree has at least stuffed many of the gaps in the team with large sacks of money. The offseason dealing ain’t over yet. I don’t know what kind of contraption we’ll end up with, but at least it’s new!

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    Ron Santo finally has an heir

    Sunday, November 12th, 2006

    Hendry scored a point today by signing Aramis Ramirez. I feel vindicated in my approach to the Musketeer’s contract negotiations — we weren’t going to hear the truth from either side, so I decided not to listen until he was signed.

    But now he’s a Cub for the rest of his prime years. Yes!

    In lesser news, the Cubs extended Kerry Wood’s subsidized Disabled List tour. The important part of the article above is this line:

    Wood will return as a reliever, hoping to regain his arm strength after rehabbing a rotator cuff injury since August. He said in September he felt an “obligation” to return, and lived up to his word.

    Two things to say:
    1) A reliever. Great. They didn’t mention how much he’ll make to not pitch on consecutive days for an inning or two here and there.
    2) Kerry Wood is a living embodiment of the Cubs.

    • The old Chicago White Stockings were dominant. So was Kerry Wood when he first came up.
    • The Cubs were a dominant team at the turn of the century. Wood was a dominant pitcher at the turn of the 21st century.
    • The Cubs made the playoffs and were close to the World Series many times from ’08 to ’45. Wood was in the playoffs in ’98 and ’03 and was close to the World Series in ’03.
    • The Cubs have done jack squat ever since 1945. Kerry Wood hasn’t contributed significantly since 2003.
    • The Cubs’ seasons have been cut short by injuries more than a few times. Same with Kerry Wood.
    • Through it all I have still rooted for the Cubs. I’m still rooting for Wood.

    P.S. Do an image search for “disabled list” on Google. Our own Mark Prior is the top result! He’s the best!

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    What I learned about today.

    Saturday, October 28th, 2006

    The Chicago Cubs opened the season with high hopes. In a division they knew was weak, they added a leadoff hitter and a left-handed bat. They strengthened their bench. They had a mix of young and old, with Murton and Cedeno offsetting Jones and Maddux. They had players in their prime who were offensive powerhouses in Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. They had an emerging ace in Carlos Zambrano, a solid closer in Dempster, and other pitchers like Prior, Wood, and Rusch who had good seasons for the team in the past. They had a manager who had been successful and a big payroll. 90 games, it appeared in the preseason, would have won it. They didn’t have to build the ’27 Yanks. The ’87 Twins would have been enough.

    And then the season happened. Injury and bad management were the antagonists, and this movie would end up having the kind of happy ending only Bergman could devise. When the curtain closed, the hated St. Louis Cardinals took advantage of a weak division that, had the Cubs played slightly above .500 ball, they would have owned. The rival Cards back-doored into the playoffs and emerged on top of the major leagues, hoisting high the World Series trophy.

    It is in this way that I discovered a new sort of religion. It is this:
    Hell is being a Cubs fan.
    We’re being punished for something we did a long time ago. For me, it was the pain I inflicted upon my brother James, who bore the brunt of all the misguided agression from my childhood.
    My personal hell is also inflicted due to the bludgeoning-based bullying I committed as an unhappy youth upon the Loser (pronounced LOW-ZER) family, Chris and Brandy. I regularly beat them up as a child.

    I apologize to the aforementioned. I have to believe something which cannot be explained by the natural laws of the universe is afoot. After seeing the Green Bay Packers beat the crap out of the Bears throughout the nineties and now watching the St. Louis Cardinals, 83 game winners and my personal baseball bane, win the series, there’s some personal crap going on ‘tween me and the universe.

    I’d like to believe that it’s a management team that’s just one step behind the competition. Again. For the 98th straight year.

    I’d like to believe that, in a 7 game series, the hot team, not the best team or the best matchup, wins.

    But for Buddha‘s sake, I’m 35 and in the third generation of inept management! My dad was FOUR years old the last time this team was in the World Series! And I’m looking down the barrel of another gun packed with a “Win Now” manager and a short-term GM willing to sacrifice his farm system to save his job.

    On this night when the team that even Cardinals fans must admit has been their crummiest in years emerges as the World Champs, that these years I’ve been enduring as a Cubs fan are penance for all the things I did wrong while I was learning what I now know.

    Congrats to the Cards. I hope Chris and Brandy Loser are Cards fans.

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    Dave declares for Girardi

    Saturday, October 7th, 2006

    Ever since light-hittin’ Joe started picking his nose on the bench for Joe Torre people have been speaking about him as a future Cubs manager. The failure of the Magic Dust, and Girardi’s problems with Marlins ownership, has accelerated the timeline for consideration of Girardi as skipper.

    I think it’s time.

    Many of the reasons people speak of don’t mean crap to me.
    For example, I don’t care if he’s a former Cub. Apart from 2 year Cub Don Zimmer, no former Cub has enjoyed success as manager since, um, Charlie Grimm?
    I don’t care if he’s a former catcher. More ex-catchers have become managers than any other position, but Bill James showed in “The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers” that catchers are no more adept at running a team than any other team. Dave Pinto of Baseball Musings found that they were last in winning percentage (Left Fielders-turned-managers are tops, believe it or not). The reasons and samples are varied, but you get the point.
    His drill sargeant/old school tactics aren’t what sold me either.

    Here’s what I like about him:
    He expects to be able to be in charge on the field. When his crybaby paycheck writer boo-hoos from the stands about an umpire’s call, he tells him to shut up.
    That’s it.

    I expect that Girardi will not tolerate the front office telling him what to do. I suspect he will work toward his own agenda. That agenda will have nothing to do with having the most expensive players on the field; just the most effective.

    Girardi won’t stand for his players whining about the broadcasters. He’d put them in their place, and if he thought the announcers were wrong, he’d address them personally instead of to the press.

    With a weak general manager who let his previous manager be the focal point of the club, and with an ownership that creates no urgency to win, our manager has to be a guy willing to tell the whole world to go to hell. Dusty did his own thing, which I appreciated, but he turned out to be clueless when it came to what the “thing” should be and spineless when it came to handling distractions. Girardi’s owner spat proved to be a distraction, but not because of Joe. He did the right thing by telling his owner to swallow his tongue.

    On the field, the manager is king. Dusty took the scepter of rulership and used it to point blame at others. He let his players do whatever the hell they wanted and, in so doing, failed to install a direction for the team. Joe might be a little draconian for vets who want to take it easy (Aramis?), but for Theriot, Murton, Pie, Z, Pawelek, Marshall, Hill, and Moore, he’d be a guiding force behind the helm.

    Disparaging the other guys doesn’t do them any service. Our perfect match with a corporate ownership, a marketing “whiz” for a team president instead of a baseball mind, Jimmy Donuts, and a team in need of turning the corner, is Joe Girardi.

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    Who will it be?

    Monday, October 2nd, 2006

    Do we get a money-first, Tribune Insider toadie or a team-first outsider willing to shake things up to install an organization-wide philosophy?


    Marketing genius John McDonough, who knows a lot about making money but not a lot about steering a baseball team, is the new Prez.
    His vague, but repeated, mentions of winning a World Series and mention of talking over some kind of plan, put me ill at ease. He mentioned nothing about HOW he’s going to steer the organization to success. I’m sure the Trib’s in for record profits, but I hope we’re not in for more disjointed team building.

    I guess I can’t dismiss the guy before he starts his job. He deserves a chance. But this is no “hooray” moment for me. I was hoping for a Papa Smurf, but marketing guys make me think about people who wear all black and carry around cats named Azrael.

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