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MLB Draft – How To Make It Interesting

Monday, April 29th, 2013

The three-day NFL draft ended with pomp and circumstances on Saturday night with one of its most successful runs yet. Ian Rappaport of NFL Network reported during the second round on Friday night that over 20 million households tuned into an exciting first round in primetime on Thursday. Considering there was a lot less star power in this draft in comparison to past years, the NFL’s premeire event drew eye-popping numbers.

Amateur drafts have become more and more popular with each passing offseason. The NFL got things kicked off in the 1980′s and the growth of the NFL as the most popular sport in the the United States has helped build their draft’s brand.

The NBA lottery is a heavily watched event besides being one of the most boring half hours of television in sports during the year. Their draft follows suit with impressive numbers, mainly due to college basketball’s deep following. It also helps that they have a two-round, one-night affair that is easy to keep track of.

Without doing any research, the NHL draft is held around the same time as the NBA draft, but I know maybe one person that has ever tuned in to that event.

Bud Selig–or the minions under Selig–have tried to make the MLB event a more popular one since the inception of the MLB network, but with mixed results. It doesn’t help that World Series ratings have lowered significantly in the past decade, especially in championship series that have mid-market pulls.

While the focus is placed on football and basketball as the premiere sports in college athletics in terms of television contracts, baseball is a bit of the forgotten love. Unless you enjoy watching the Big 12 or SEC network, you probably aren’t sitting down to watch any of the top college teams play.

An even bigger up-hill climb for Major League Baseball is that half of their big-name prospects come from the high school ranks. ESPN started showing the occasional high school basketball when King James was still ballin’ in Ohio as an 18-year-old, but high school baseball hasn’t caught on as a luxury, late-night watch.

There is simply not enough known star power for the MLB to build upon their tv rating numbers for the draft anytime soon.

I always enjoy the live chat that happens during the MLB draft with guys like Keith Law and a few of the Baseball America guys, but even watching the first round on MLB Network is a snoozefest. Most of the analysts don’t study baseball prospects the way that NFL “draftniks” nerdily scout players all the way down to the small-school level.

So I ask you, the VFTB peanut gallery, what would you do to change the MLB Draft and make it more watchable?

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Game 17: Live and Die by the Feldman

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Ryan Braun (.289 WPA)


I have been recapping Sunday games for the better part of the last year or so, and it never ceases to amaze me the ways that this team can lose a game on the first day of the week. Then I remembered that no day is safe from the bad baseball that is the Chicago Cubs.

Errors once again ruled the day with Scott Feldman throwing an errant ball to first that would have ended the fifth inning without any damage. The next at-bat Ryan Braun hit a three-run jack to make it 4-2 and the rest is history.

How many games has this team lost this year that they should have won? I know “should have” is a subjective term depending on who you ask, but take away a few errors and a bad relief appearance and this team is hovering or above the .500 mark. Baseball is a cruel and unusual game.

Now I know taking away plays to prove reversed fortunes of the Cubs is not the most logical of defenses, but in a round-a-bout way I am getting to the point that the Cubs have been in more games than I thought they would be, this early in the season. Without looking at the schedule, I cannot remember a single game where the Cubs were getting the snot beaten out of them.

Starting pitching has been good if not great. Relief has had good days and bad days, but they could be a lot worse in terms of production. Timely hitting has not been there, but that was to be expected.

Overall, while the ever-growing loss total is frustrating from an interest stand-point, I am not so sure that there is not some part deep inside of me that is somewhat pleased with the way things are headed.

Pinch me now if I am being a hopeless optimist.

Still, it does not help the frustration that the Cubs once again lost a lead that they should not have. The Brewers only posted three hits and one earned run, on a ground-out by Alex Gonzalez in the fourth. No team should ever lose a game 4-2 while only surrendering three hits.

Until the Cubs eliminate their egregious mistakes in the field, these are the unfortunate results that we are stuck with.

One Huzzah

Feldman pitched effectively enough for victory.

Two Huzzahs

I could only watch the game on the MLB condensed feature.

Three Huzzahs

Anthony Rizzo remains hot. He makes me smile every time I look down on my phone and see A. Rizzo HR/S. Castro scores from ESPN. I drafted both players in fantasy knowing the Cubs have to score SOME runs. So far the strategy has worked.

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Game 12: Extra, Extra Cubs Blow a Save and Lose

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

 

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Nick Noonan (.246 WPA)


 

So, I’m not even sure how to start today’s recap. We’ll just get right into the meat of things.

The Wild, Wild Pitch

Once again another impressive pitching performance ruined by the lack of control in the middle innings. I noted on Twitter in the fourth inning that Edwin Jackson, albeit having a good day, had a high pitch count early in the game like Jeff Samardzija did last Sunday. By the time Jackson reached the top of the sixth, he had zero control of his slider, which led to three walks and two wild pitches. Jackson left the game with a 4-3 lead and two runners on base attributed to him. Michael Bowden kindly replicated Jackson’s fun inning with three wild pitches of his own, which improved the total to five in the inning. For the sake of comparison, the Cubs had eight wild pitches in 11 contests coming into the game. They nearly matched that total in sixth.

7th Inning Stench

What happened today? Was Julia Sweeney on something during her interview and whatever she was doing during Take Me Out to the Ballgame? There have been plenty of bad guests for the stretch, but that might be a Bottom 10 of recent memory. Yikes.

Navarr-oh Boy

While Jackson and Bowden were a major part of the issue in the sixth, Navarro had a day behind the plate that he will want to forget. His bat has been zoned in during a couple of recent pinch-hit attempts, but his err…zone was lacking on defense today. Five wild pitches and three passed balls contributed to five of the six runs scored by the Giants in the early innings. Sveum might be hard pressed to trot Navarro back out in the field too much this season. Hopefully nothing happens to Wellington Castillo.

Marmol, Fujikawa, Camp…..Next?

Shawn Camp was the latest Cubs’ pitcher to be victimized by the ninth-inning plague. Camp rolled through the first two batters and then with a 1-2 to Hunter Pence, he left a slider over the corner of the plate. The rest is history. Inferiority in the bullpen is a hard thing to overcome for a team that struggles to score many runs consistently.

Tweet of the Day

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Game 6 – The Rise of Shark…….Tank

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

 

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Tim Hudson (.258 WPA)


Shark on the Loose

For five innings Jeff Samardzija allowed Cubs fans to forget whatever transpired in the final two innings last night. He put together a scintillating 13-strikeout performance through five and two-thirds innings on a breezy day in Hotlanta. Shark struck out 11 of the first 16 batters in the game, including two one-two-three innings done with K’s.  The only baserunner to reach base against Samardzija in the first four innings was B.J. Upton, who led the game with a single before walking in the third. As the strikeout count rose, so did the stir on social media sites about the prospects of Samardzija challenging Kerry Wood’s single-game record.

Despite Shark’s ability to make Braves’ hitters look silly in the first five innings, he was far from being economical in the process. Entering the sixth inning, Samardzija had thrown 87 pitches to record 15 outs and by the time he was knocked from the game, there were 105 pitches credited to his right arm.

The 13 strikeouts were fun to watch and made me feel like I was about to be a part of something special, but Shark got cute in the later innings. I’m not sure if he felt that maybe the Braves’ hitters were starting to catch up to his fastball, but he was still missing bats with 97-MPH pitches in the sixth. The hits by Upton and Ramiro Pena were both on change ups on the outside of the plate. His off-speed pitches also accounted for the two wild pitches in the fifth that led to Atlanta’s first run.

There is no questioning that Samardzija is on the cusp of becoming a top of the line starter, but he needs to A) control his frustration on the mound when things do not go his way and B) go with what is working more.

What’s a Hit?

Even with the hit parade in last night’s loss, the Cubs still only have two players batting above the Mendoza line –Starlin Castro and Nate Schierholtz. We knew that the Cubs were going to struggle from the plate, but the early returns are a bit harsher than the perceived reality. Maybe I was naive to think the bats would be a little bit better this year.

The Cubs have only outscored two teams this year, the Pirates (8 runs) and Giants (12 runs). San Francisco has played one less game, which will be evened out by tonight and the Pirates are 1-5. My bet is for the Cubs and Bucks to be bottom of the barrel by evening end.

Tweet of the Day


This series could be just what the Cubs need. The Brewers are struggling worse than the us. After winning on opening day, the Brewers have lost five straight, including a sweep at the hands of the Diamondbacks that ended with an 11 inning loss that saw five members of the bullpen used. This is a series, if we play well, we can win.

Monday – 2:20pm EDT (WGN) – Edwin Jackson (0-1, 3.60 ERA) vs. Marco Estrada (0-0, 7.20 ERA)

Jackson will get the assignment in the Cubs’ home opener. The righty took the loss in his Cubs debut, giving up two runs on three hits and striking out five over five innings vs. the Bucs. He has a career 1-2 record in three starts at Wrigley. Estrada will seek to control his adrenaline and his breaking pitches in the Cubs’ home opener. The latter escaped him in his season debut, though Estrada did manage to strike out eight Rockies hitters in five innings.

Tuesday – 8:05pm EDT (WGN) – Travis Wood (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Wily Peralta (0-1, 6.75 ERA)

Wood had an impressive first start, holding the Pirates to one hit over six scoreless innings. He was able to locate his pitches, and didn’t get in any trouble. He can only hope for a better season at Wrigley, where he’s 3-6 with a 4.36 ERA. Peralta set the tone for a long season debut when he threw a first-pitch ball to six of the first seven Rockies batters he faced. With his 95-96-mph sinker, Peralta knows he would be better served challenging hitters with Strike 1.

Wednesday – 8:05pm EDT (CSN+) – Scott Feldman (0-1, 7.71 ERA) vs. Kyle Lohse (0-0, 1.50 ERA)

This will be Feldman’s Wrigley Field debut. He threw 102 pitches over 4 2/3 innings in his first Cubs start, and only topped 100 pitches seven times last season. Feldman struggled with his command in his first outing against the Braves. Lohse barely had a Spring Training, yet he was the only Brewer to deliver a quality start in the first turn through the team’s five-man rotation. After an 87-pitch debut, he should be cleared to top 100 pitches in this game.

All scouting notes taken from MLB.com

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Morning News: Pitchers, Teb-NO-w and A Dancing Policeman

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

First of all, good to be back here with all of you. I wish all of you comfort and joy during this holiday season, regardless of how or what you celebrate during this time of year.

Quick bits of news since I’m a little bit late on this.

 

Bundles of Starters

Remembers last year when we started Brooks Raley and Chris Rusin for a combined 12 games over the last few months of the season?

Yeah I do too and I’d love to forget about it.

The Cubs front office said that it wasn’t going to be a splashy offseason, but that they would make necessary moves to make the team better. I’d say that they’ve already done extremely well on the starter front by adding the Scott’s –Baker and Feldman–and signing Carlos Villanueva officially last night/this morning. None of those signings are going to knock your socks off, but it gives the Cubs flexibility to use a variety of starters over the course of the year. It also gives them depth if the injuries start to pile up as they did last year.

Now Jim Bowden and Buster Olney are reporting that the Cubs and Edwin Jackson have a 4 year/$52 million deal that could get done very soon. Jackson is an inning-eater that would make a good No. 2 or 3 starter on the current staff.

However that creates an eight player log jam at starter, a good problem to have in my opinion. So what say you, who will be the starting rotation come April 1?

The New Traveling Salesman Tim Tebow

By now you’ve all probably seen the story about Rex Ryan passing over Tebow to be starter and instead starting third-stringer Greg McElroy this coming weekend. Well Tebow isn’t happy with that decision and his displeasure was on full display yesterday during an interview.

According to reports, the Jets are looking to move on from both Mark Sanchez and Tebow in this next offseason. This isn’t surprising to see by any stretch, but the move to acquire the former Gator quarterback  in the first place is still a head scratcher.

I currently work in radio down in Mississippi and I heard through the grapevine that the reason Tebow won’t start is the fear that he may play better than Sanchez. Rex Ryan doesn’t want the backlash associated with that should he succeed

A Song and a Dance

While parts of New England are still picking up the pieces of the tragedy we are now almost a week removed from, Tony Lepore is bringing smiles to the faces of Rhode Island residents.

Lepore is a retired police officer that comes back out into the limelight during the holidays to bring a little joy to people. Instead of directing traffic with the usual dryness and bore that is usually associated with it, Lepore dances in the intersection as drivers pass.

He is now 65 years of age and still going strong. Good for him.

This reminds me of a “The League” episode with the traffic cop that has a lot of flair. Great episode.

You can watch Lepore do his thing here.

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Morning News: Undecided Americans, The Amazing O’s and Death by Cockroach?

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Yay Politics!

We’ll start off the day with the token political jargon. I’m not much of a political guy, mostly because I haven’t found a presidential I support since I was old enough to vote. I am a registered independent for this reason and my political talk is usually reserved for “harassing” my friends who are too one way or another. Anyway, I found this series of articles on CNN.com about the undecided voters for the 2012 election to be interesting. Agree or disagree, the points and subjects in the article are intriguing to say the least.

Playoffs in Camden Yards

The Orioles logic-defying 2012 run into the playoffs has been one of the more fun stories this year. I remember back in June that MLB Trade Rumors posted a poll asking which surprise team would likely make the playoffs. Without really thinking about it I clicked on the Orioles, for no reason other then they were having a run that I wish the young Cubs could have. Buck Showalter has managed a hodgepodge roster incredibly and although I know they won’t likely be in the playoffs much longer, they have my playoff allegiance.

After dismantling the Rangers in the new “Angry Jedi” one game series, the O’s have split with the Yankees in Baltimore. I stayed up to watch Sunday’s game before Jim Johnson threw away the game. On Monday night Johnson redeemed himself with a solid ninth inning to preserve the 3-2 win. With the victory the Orioles improve to 30-9 in one-run games and 76-0 (craziness) in games where they lead after the 7th inning, according to the Baltimore Orioles twitter page.

Don’t Eat Cockroaches

I’m not sure why anyone would do this, but it happened over the weekend in Florida (shocking I know). A man entered a cockroach eating contest to win a prize everyone dreams about, a playful python. After winning the contest and in turn the python, he posted pictures of his winnings on his Facebook page to show off his newest addition to the family. Unfortunately for him the victory was short lived. Shortly after winning, he started vomiting and later died from what is assumed to be consumption of the roaches. Don’t believe me? Read here.

Tebow Time?

Sorry J-swan. I’m not sure either Jets quarterback can throw a football. This story already had legs, but the circus is about to make baseball playoff coverage almost irrelevant on the Worldwide Leader. Get ready for Tebow-mania to come back into focus.

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Game 152: You’ve Been Marmol’d

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

I won’t lie to you, I haven’t watched a Cubs game in over three weeks. I’m not sure if that makes me a bad fan or a smart fan. Either way it is nice to see the team still have some fight in them.

The Cardinals are in the middle of another late playoff push and the Cubs have done their best to play spoiler this weekend. Unfortunately they came up short on Saturday afternoon, but only because of the mystical abilities Carlos Marmol possesses to lose games.

Yes it has been weeks since I turned on my PS3 and flipped to the MLB.TV screen, but it’s nice to see that Marmol and Shawn Camp are doing their “thing.” Whatever that “thing” is. I comically find some comfort that the Cubbies are still the Cubbies.

Anyways enough about my rambling nonsense, let’s get to the game.

 

6th Inning Web Gems

Not sure what was going on in the sixth, but what a fun collection of defensive plays. Darwin Barney got the party started with an impressive over-his-shoulder grab while running out into right-center field. There was a runner on third base, but he wasn’t able to tag up because Barney made an awkward, body-contorting throw back into the infield quickly.

The run was saved once again only a batter later when John Jay lined a screamer up the middle of the diamond, only to have Starlin Castro get a great jump on the play and make the snag. These are the kinds of plays that draw me back to baseball; even during football season.

Following David DeJesus’ homer to right, Barney was robbed by David Descalso on a line drive towards center. Descalso made one of the more impressive plays I’ve seen this year, although take that observation with a grain of salt.

 

Wood is Good

It’s nice to see how far he’s come along this season. I know it still isn’t perfect, but the returns on Travis Wood have been positive this season. Wood started off behind the hard-luck Volstad in AAA due to a bad spring. The record doesn’t spell it all out if you just looked at that, but Wood would be a lot closer to a .500 record if he was on a contending team. Again not an awe-inspiring conclusion, but just something I’ve found as a positive heading into 2013.

For the most part the guy can get limit damage to a minimum. Case in point was the second inning as it could have been MUCH, MUCH worse. I can live with Wood as a three or four guy on a bad Cubs team with him being a possible fifth man once the team starts to compete again. Whenever that is.

 

Marmol’d and Camp’d

We’ve talked about this ad nausea in 2012. There is nothing left to talk about regarding the pathetic nature of our bullpen. Then why would you make an entire bullet point about it Josh?

Great question. The fake reason was to try to get the use of Marmol and Camp’s names as adjectives to catch on. Not sure it is working. The real reason is that as we wind down this forgettable “rebuilding” year, we need to archive truly how terrible the bullpen really was. Just trying to do my part in that.

Sidenote: This was the first I got to see Jaye Chapman since he was called up. Obviously he didn’t pitch well today, but just taking a gander at his innings since he came up he looks pitch-able. I’d say that’s a step up for the bullpen; not all of those guys are pitch-able. (No pitch-able isn’t a word)

 

Fall

This segment is aptly named. The first thing I noticed when going back and watching the game was how many people were wearing sweatshirts. As I mentioned previously I moved to Mississippi from Connecticut in July and haven’t seen any resemblance of a fall season here at the end of September. I actually forgot that people still wearing coats and beanies.

I work for a small NAIA school’s athletic department and was able to do football play-by-play for the first time in my life. As difficult awesome as that was, it was 90 degrees in the booth. I envy you sweatshirt-toting Cubs fans. I envy you and your seasons.

 

 

 

 

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Game 129: A Record is Broken

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

I debated naming this, “I’m your Daddy” due to the nature of the Cubs embarrassing 3-13 record against their closest divisional opponent, but it is more enjoyable to focus on the positive.

I’ll try and get this punched out rather quickly with the impending threat of losing power at any time down here in Mississippi. The storm has slowed down a bit since it has reached me here in Jackson, but continue to pray or think of those who again have been devastated by storm damage seven years to the day of Katrina.

The Good

Darwin Barney is now your all-time leader in the National League for consecutive games without an error at 114. Barney was erroneously charged with an error on the Segura debacle scoring-play, but it was correctly reversed an inning later by the official scorer. The throw was low by Barney but Luis Valbuena should have snagged it and tagged out Segura easily. In a season that has had a lot more doom and gloom than good, it is nice that Barney can be having a banner year. Sometimes it is the little things that makes everything better.

I thought Samardzija pitched extremely well in the losing effort. He had two mistakes where he left the fastball over the heart of the plate that almost any big league hitter will take advantage of. It’s always something with this team that flounders. Shark has pitched well enough to deserve better than the 8-12 record that he sports. At this point, our starting pitchers just need to keep the team in the game and pray that the offense will come through. Unfortunately, both them and us know better than to hope for anything more.

The Bad

N. Aoki (yes I don’t feel like looking up the spelling of his first name, remember time is of the essence) continues to be a quiet Cub killer in 2012. The Japanese import has brought a stability to the top of the Brewers lineup that they really haven’t had in recent years. Here’s hoping they don’t realize it and trade him out of the division with Marcum (who was placed on waivers this week).

The fourth through sixth inning were just disgustingly awful. Thankfully they were also quick. Shark made quick work of the Brewers lineup for three straight innings, returning ten guys in a row until the error he had in the top of the seventh. Unfortunately, the Cubs offense struggled to gain any steam against a sharp Mike Fiers (not fears, but fires). The Cubs looked clueless at the plate all night, but I suppose you all know that already.

The Ugly

Social Media sites. Twitter was unbearable tonight with the Republican Convention going on tonight.  I can’t stand talking or listening to politics. I create my own opinion based on reading a variety of different things in hopes that I don’t let myself too far one way or the other. I digress; last time I looked we lived in the United States of America. It is unfortunate that it is anything but united.

Cubbies try and avoid the sweep tomorrow with the always impressive Brooks Raley on the mound. Go get ‘em big fella.

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Game 124: Jackson Goes Deep

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

    

Box Score  / Highlights / Condensed

Sorry no “punny” headlines tonight folks. After watching, covering, writing about cross-country and women’s soccer events all day, I’m trying to transition myself back to blog Josh. He does exist, don’t make fun.

The scores rolled across the iPhone screen as I was keeping stats for the afternoon soccer kickoff, so I missed the game live. When I saw the 3-0 deficit early, I jotted down a few general notes to check on once I got to sit down to watch the game tonight. The plan was to do some variation of a normal (Good, Bad, Ugly) post, with few more negative descriptions obviously because I am a resident pessimist here at VFTB.

However I was pleasantly surprised that at halftime when I flipped my phone over, a furious 8th inning rally was displayed on my screen. Quickly, I jotted a few more notes of things to remember to look for when watching the game and alas I am bringing them to you here.

The Great

Brett Jackson has had his well-documented struggles at the plate since arriving on the scene a few short weeks ago. His sub .200 batting average is a clear indication of that. His patience at the plate is at times his undoing, as his looking at strike ratio combined with his missed bat ratio is a large reason for his struggles. In a big spot down one run, Jackson hit his first bomb at Wrigley to right center field to tie the game and get the rally going that would ultimately win the game. I doubt a hit like this gives Jackson a turn for the best to finish out the season. I also doubt he finishes above the .200 average mark, but the flashes once every few games are enough to get a little excited for the coming seasons.

It was nice to see Soriano hit another ball out too. The guy is overpaid, if you haven’t read that enough around here, but he’s playing at a respectable level this season. His huge contract likely isn’t going anywhere this season, especially with the Dodgers/Red Sox rumors floating about, so let’s enjoy the play while it lasts I guess.

The Good

Samardzija, a week late to his own dedicated seven day extravaganza in August (yes I’m sorry CAPS and I have worn out the Shark Week jokes, consider this my last one), was solid but unspectacular. He gave up a few more home runs, something that has become a troubling trend in recent weeks, which has be a struggle of his over the last two seasons as a relief pitcher. Even still he pitched well enough to win giving up only two earned runs on the two solo shots, striking out seven guys along the way. The only player he seemingly couldn’t get out was former Cub D.J. LeMahieu, who “punished” his former club with three hits in four attempts.

Marmol got another save, but not without his mandatory free pass to second to make things interesting. I feel bad for putting him on my most hated Cubs list earlier this morning. That was a lie.

The Bad

Anthony Rizzo continues his recent downward trend. A once promising .330 start  has dipped 17 points below the .300 mark, tanking miserably over the past two weeks. Rizzo was probably over-producing when he first came up, but I expect him to snap out of his funk sooner rather than later. I’m not going to bore you with my career projections for Rizzo, but I expect him to hover .300 for a career average. He is one of the few players I enjoy watching right now and when he isn’t producing, the game can get a little boring.

Two of the three worst teams in the league get to duke it out again tomorrow in a doozie between rookies Alex White and Brooks Raley. All I know is I’m glad others get the final two games in the series because there might be some un-watchable baseball mixed in.

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