Author Archive

International Prospects: Is the Hype Worth the Money?

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

If you’ve been following Cubs news (closely or not) the name “Masahiro Tanaka” has appeared in various conversations from time to time. He’s 25, Japanese, and went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season. Say it with me: “Wow. He seems pretty great.”

A few things about Tanaka: he’s eligible for free agency in 2015, and his team may not want to let him go; Also, MLB and NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) have come to a new posting agreement – a $20 million cap for players (before contracts and endorsements). This means that Nippon will make approximately $30 million less than they received for the likes of Yu Darvish or Daisuke Matsuzaka, which also means that his team could decline to post him this season and hang on to him until his contract expires. (If I may play the Devil’s Advocate, I’d hang on to him until his contract expires.)

Now, Tanaka has stated his desire to play in the MLB next season. The Cubs have to fight with the Rangers and Dodgers for him. But this question keeps running through my mind: Are we sure he’s not going to be a big bust?

Don’t get me wrong, his numbers are impressive. But does that mean his success will transfer from the NPB to the MLB? It did for Darvish. It did for Ryu. But it didn’t for Dice-K. And let’s not forget about Kosuke Fukudome.

I’m not an expert in regional variations of baseball. But I have noticed that it seems international players from Latin America experience more success in the Major Leagues than those from other regions of the world (even moreso than American-born players). There have been a few players from the Asian region that have had success (Ichiro and Hideki Matsui, namely; there are several others you could argue are on the path to success). Many former-MLB’ers cross the Pacific in hopes to revive their careers, and usually are able to milk a few years of superstardom out of their waning careers, while the superstars of the NPB come here and don’t quite reach superstardom. Could it have something to do with the differences in pitching and hitting styles? The slap hit/drag bunt is very popular on the continent of Asia. Ichiro made it work for him, but many players who attempt that style of batting are average for a little while and fade into oblivion (see: Kosuke Fukudome).

Like I said earlier, don’t take me wrong. I want so much for Tanaka to be all he’s cracked up to be. I also don’t want to pay a $20 million fee on top of a contract that has to outdo an offer from LA and TEX and have him be a bust. His team might not even let him go yet, which may turn out to work in favor of all teams interested. If he does stay in Japan until 2015, the Cubs could pick him then and add him to a team that is (hopefully) contending for a playoff berth.

Sometimes I get crazy ideas in my head. Good thing I have you folks to share them with. Until next time!

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

The Winter Meetings are Happening. Aren’t They?

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

The Winter Meetings are happening as we speak.

 

You know, where baseball guys get together and do baseball stuff. Only this time, Theo and Jed seem to have missed the memo. The Cubs have done nothing. Nada. Zilch. Other teams have been doing plenty.

 

For example: Did you know that Curtis Granderson signed with the Mets last week? I didn’t. Turns out the same day that Robbie Cano signed his ridiculous deal, Granderson slipped from The Bronx to Queens right under our noses! What a sneaky guy! He’s only locked up for four years, so maybe he’ll have a good year or two left and he’ll bring his talents to the North Side. He is a Chicago native, after all. He belongs here.

 

The other Chicago team has made a deal as well. The White Sox acquired Adam Eaton in a trade that sent Hector Santiago to the Angels, Tyler Skaggs (from AZ) to LAA, and Mark Trumbo and two prospects to Arizona. I never would have imagined Trumbo moving. But you can describe baseball in just three words: “You just never know.”

 

I will admit I was sad when Trumbo went to AZ. Now, you SABR-heads probably are not that sad, because something about his OBP  wasn’t that great. But he hits for power, and Lord knows we need power. And starting pitching, infield defense, outfield defense, plate patience, guys with high OBP, and bullpen help.

 

Am I the only one whose head is reeling, trying to figure out what Theo and Jed are doing? Why they are doing nothing? WHAT ARE THEY DOING? I’m assuming it’s huge. It probably won’t be, but I like to entertain that thought in my head, just to keep things interesting.

 

If it wasn’t evident by the writing leading up to this point, I am anxious to see what Theo and Jed do. I would have liked to snag someone like Curtis Granderson and/or Mark Trumbo, but there is still time to find players with similar abilities for a much more affordable price. I don’t know where they are, but I’m trusting that Theo and Jed do.

I’m going to be very transparent and honest here. Bear with me:

I’m glad we have a (seemingly) spectacular farm system. But it seems like if we want well-developed players (which we do!) we are going to have to wait a few years. I’m tired of waiting. I can’t even imagine how my 104-year-old Aunt Rubie feels about it, let alone my father who is a mere three months away from senior citizen status.

Be honest, no need to sugarcoat anything (or be ruthlessly brash, either), but tell me how you really feel about what’s going on. I love being optimistic, but I’m getting worn out! I have faith that Theo and Jed will make good decisions. I just want to see them happening very, very soon.

 

Maybe by this time next week I’ll have learned how to be a little more patient. I’ll see you on the flip side!

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

What In The Sam Heck Just Happened?

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

In case you missed it:

Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the Yankees for a 7-year/$153 million deal.

The Rockies traded Dexter Fowler to the Astros for OF Brandon Barnes and OF Jordan Lyles.

Ricky Nolasco signed a 4-year deal with the Twins.

Brian McCann and the Yankees agreed to a 5-year deal.

The Rangers are trying to kill their (female) fans and traded Craig Gentry yesterday.

Tampa Bay acquired Ryan Hanigan (C, Reds) and Heath Bell.

Miami acquired Saltalamacchia.

John Axford remains unsigned.

Oh, and the Cubs named Eric Hinske as the new first base coach.

 

The baseball hot stove has been on fire! Like it or not, the Cubs haven’t done anything drastic thus far. Personally, I like it. I am mostly glad that Schierholtz hasn’t been in any major trade rumors. Samardzija has, but nothing intriguing or good has been offered for him. If the price is right I’d be glad to see him go… But that price would include a Jose Fernandez-type arm that nobody realizes is that great until he starts pitching. Is that too much to ask?

 

All of this craziness has kept the baseball side of Twitter very interesting. News drops as soon as it happens and the rumor mills are constantly spinning. There is a lot of good information, reasonable and logical ideas for trades, and intelligent conversation.

On the other hand you have the people who say that AAA pitchers are old and washed up, and AA pitchers far superior. That being said, certain third basemen prospects who excelled in AA will do fine in the Majors because AAA performances mean nothing.

Ah, baseball. It brings out the best in us. It brings out the worst in us.

I miss it. I miss shaking my head and my fist at my TV when they do something dumb. I miss cheering over home runs that mean nothing.

But until then we can feast on ridiculous trades and speculations. And Christmas is coming soon! If you could give a (realistic) Christmas list to Theo and Jed, who would be on it? Do you have your Christmas shopping done? I do. I am so excited!

 

Until next Wednesday, I leave you with glad tidings of baseball news.

 

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Game 71 – Nothing To Write Home About

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Cardinals 6, Cubs 1

Box Score / Highlights

The Cubs and the Cardinals faced off in what would be a yawner of a finale, with the Cubs losing 6-1. Feldman looked a little rusty, earning 5 runs, one of them a Matt Holliday solo home run. His performance tonight makes me wonder if he was having flashbacks to the 2011 World Series. That Game 6 has scarred me for life, and I wasn’t even a part of it. I can’t image what it would have been like to be a part of that Texas Rangers team.

Other than Castillo’s second home run of the season (first since April 8!), the offense was quiet and left 6 men on base. I was really hoping for an offensive breakout late in the game, and was thrilled when Hairston came in to replace Schierholtz in the 8th (there was sarcasm in there somewhere). Unfortunately, Hairston struck out looking and my hopes of an offensive resurrection were dashed.

It seems like this Chicago/St. Louis rivalry is much less intense than I remember it being in the past. The past couple years have been anticlimactic, but I’m not upset about the lack of tension between the teams. With the number of brawls taking place around the league lately, I’m glad the Cubs aren’t involved in them for a couple reasons: 1) The whole team would get injured and land on the DL, and 2) Nobody would be available to trade due to injury, except for Marmol and Camp. Everybody knows that nobody wants those guys on their team.

On the downside, the television broadcast of the game was pretty unenthusiastic. I muted the TV and turned on Pat and Keith on the radio. It amazes me how Pat always has something to talk about and it’s somewhat interesting. He manages to call the game, keep Keith from rambling about obscure details, and incorporates Judd’s scoring reports all while discussing his top five favorite musicians. And people say that men can’t multitask.

The Cubs leave St. Louis tonight to turn around and face the Astros tomorrow afternoon at Wrigley at 1:20 PM. Maybe the short turn around will put some fire into their bats. Or maybe it will just make them tired and their woes at the plate will continue. We’ll find out this afternoon. Aren’t you excited?!

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Game 54: The Streak Dies

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Jason Kubel – .384 (WPA)


Jeff Samardzija pitched pretty well – 11 strikeouts and one ER through 6 innings. He was pulled in the seventh after his 115th pitch of the night. The pitch count was a tad high, but overall he pitched well.

The offense was pretty good, too. David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz had doubles, Starlin Castro took one for the team, Anthony Rizzo drew a walk, Soriano hit a sac fly – all in the first. Schierholtz later hit a solo shot to tie the game at 4 in the seventh. All in all, not a bad night offensively.

When the game moved into the later innings, Jamie Quirk (filling in because Dale was ejected in the 2nd) learned a hard lesson that should have been learned a long time ago: our bullpen is not good. Specifically: Carlos Marmol. He loaded the bases and then dished up a grand slam to Paul Goldschmidt.

Surprising? It shouldn’t be. Frustrating? No, it’s infuriating. The problems and potential solutions have been hashed and rehashed so many times that talking about them is like beating a dead horse. We’re stuck with what we’ve got.

Unfortunately, that means we have to suffer with Marmol. I wish we didn’t. He could be cut, or he could be sent to the DL with a stubbed toe or jammed thumb. I would be happy if he did not have to pitch again.

I would be happy because I feel bad for him. Everybody, including Marmol himself, knows that Marmol stinks. But people like to reinforce that fact with boos, curses, and degrading slurs directed at players who stink. If you’re a fan of a team, doing those things to your own players is classless. That kind of behavior is for Cardinals fans. Unfortunately, many Cubs fans were acting like Cardinals fans after Marmol’s outing. Like I said before, everyone knows he is bad. It was embarrassing to see Cubs fans act like that.

But, on a lighter note, we have the advantage in grand slams for the week, leading our opponents 2-1. Five game winning streaks end. In the case of the Cubs, they end  very, very badly. Thankfully the season is still youngish and the Cubs have showed us this past week that they are totally capable of being a decent team. Five game winning streaks end. In the case of the Cubs, they end  very, very badly.

June got off to a rough start, but there are 29 days left in the best month of the year and summer is finally getting into full swing. The best memories are made in the summer; hopefully Rizzo and Company will make some good ones for us this month.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Game 46: Reverse Psychology

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game –Andrew McCutchen – .162 (WPA)


What do a hangover, baking cookies, and watching the Cubs all have in common? They all start out fun, but you start to question all of your life choices after the event is over. I bet you’re thinking I’m talking about a hangover induced by a night of too much alcohol, but the hangover I’m talking about is much different. Sometimes when people read books, they become so engrossed with the story that once the book is over, the reader experiences a withdrawal. I just read the book Calico Joe by John Grisham, and am experiencing a book hangover. If you haven’t read it, I recommend that you do. It’s a great baseball narrative and it reminded me of why I fell in love with the game.

And then I watched today’s game. So much for that 15 minutes of elation.

The funny thing about today’s game is that it was a little backward. Instead of the usual great starting pitching and bad bullpen, the starting pitching was bad and the bullpen was great, giving up one walk, three hits, and striking out five. Dolis relieved Jackson of his duties after the 1 hour, 47 minute rain delay, Carlos Villanueva handled himself quite nicely on the bump for two innings, and Marmol and Fujikawa allowed zero runs. It’s almost like the guys schemed this up earlier in the year:

Marmol, to the others: “OK, so Jackson is the highest paid starter on the team. On the days he pitches, we’ll be awesome. But on the days he doesn’t, we’ll be mediocre at best.”

Others: “OK, sounds good.”

Clearly, that’s exactly how the conversation went and exactly why the bullpen is so bipolar. Clearly.

So, since today was their scheduled good day, naturally, the offense was pretty quiet. Rizzo has been slumping majorly, as has Soriano. Together, they are 3-for-25 with one RBI that came on a groundout today. Both of our pinch hitters had hits, though, so that’s worth something, right? Right?!

It is increasingly challenging to find exciting things about this club. Even Nate Schierholtz, who has home runs in each of the Cubs games I’ve been to this year (one on my birthday!), is beginning to disappoint me a little bit. He and Castillo were the unlikely 1-2 punch in the lineup, but now they’re coming back down to earth and the rest of the team is doing what they do. I’m sure that Castro, Rizzo, and Soriano will heat up again, it’s just a matter of when.

My only wish at this point is that the  team syncs up. When the starting pitching is hot, the bullpen stinks. When the bullpen stinks, the hitting is hot. When the hitting stinks, the bullpen is hot. We’re just a day late and a dollar short every time. If only it was as easy as having a meeting and discussing what needs to change.

Maybe Dale just needs to take a vacation.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Game 33: Schier Joy

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Boxscore / Highlights

There is a lot to be said for a guy who pitches 7 straight quality starts and has a measly 3-2 record over that span. Travis Wood was astral last night, pitching 6 2/3 innings while striking out eight, with as 2.33 ERA. His only mistake was a second-inning home run to Allen Craig.

Bullpen

Carlos Marmol had another decent (and by decent I mean he didn’t surrender the 1-run lead) outing, pitching 1.1 innings and allowing two hits and a walk. One of the hits was surrendered to “The Smartest Baseball Player of All Time” (according to the Cardinals fan sitting next to me), Yadier Molina. After the hit that was almost caught by Schierholtz, Yadier stole second base and attempted to frazzle Marmol by taking an enormous lead toward third. I’m not joking, for being a slow guy, his lead looked like it was at least 30 feet off the bag. The best part was when he got “thrown out on the bases like a nincompoop” (or TOOTBLAN for short) to end the threat of the Cardinals scoring in the eighth.

Kevin Gregg gave up zero hits or walks and struck out one to earn his fifth save in five attempts. “What?” you ask. “Kevin Gregg has not blown a save? You’re joking.” Here’s what Dale has to say about him:

“That was our greatest pickup so far up to this point,” Sveum said. “His fastball location has been outstanding so far.”

What I’m gathering from this Gregg experiment is that our guys are commitment-phobes. When Marmol was labeled as the closer, he choked. Camp did the same thing. But now we have Gregg, who is perfect in save opportunities so far this year, and he hasn’t been hitched to the closer title. I say we keep that our little secret and don’t tell him. Isn’t that how common law marriages work?

Everyone Else:

Our offense was anemic once again, only collecting 5 hits and leaving 7 on base. Six of our guys went 0-for. Ryan Sweeney looked a wee bit overmatched up there against Lance Lynn. Anthony Rizzo did not have any hits, but he was thisclose (can’t you see the distance between my thumb and forefinger?) to his tenth homer of the year in the 8th.

Even David DeJesus was hitless. I expect at least one great at-bat from him in each game. It seems to me that he is our most consistent everyday player at this point in the season. It may be because of the ritual he does before and after each pitch. It goes like this:

Dave walks up to the edge of the batter’s box. He rests his bat against himself and adjusts his gloves. Then he picks ups his bat, wrings the handle a few times, and taps the toe of his left cleat with the end of it. Then he steps into the box and waits for the pitch. Then he takes the first pitch, and usually looks at the second one as well. He does this during every plate appearance. He’s very deliberate, and it seems like he takes even longer when the pitcher bats before him in the inning.

Player of the Game:

And the Player of the Game is………

NATE SCHIERHOLTZ

Nate’s 2-run home run in the fourth was the difference in the game. It is safe to say that he has become my favorite player. The home run to push to Cubs to victory on my birthday might have something to do with that, but he has been great all season. His .290 batting average is second only to Welington’s .305 average.

I love watching him play. He’s like a taller, more productive Tony C. He makes things happen.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Game 23 – They Come in Threes

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

 

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – David DeJesus – .271 (WPA)


Getting Out-Cub’d

It’s no secret that the Cubs have been a little less than stellar in most aspects of the game up to this point in the season, so it was nice that game started off with a couple blunders that worked in our favor. The ball started rolling when David DeJesus was able to reach third base on Stanton’s fifth (5th!) error of the young season. DeJesus then scored on a wild pitch to put the Cubs up 1-0 in the first.

Later in the game, Castillo reached base on a bloop that could have (should have) easily been caught, but it found some green and Wellington reached safely.

The Marlins defense was shoddy and the offense was limited. It was encouraging to see that the Cubs aren’t the only ones struggling right now. It’s easy to become so obsessed with our own team’s shortcomings that we miss the fact that others struggle as much as we do.

Nate Schierholtz

I’m not sure about you folks, but I absolutely adore Nate Schierholtz. Aside from getting caught stealing second, he played an exceptional game. He doubled to lead off the second inning and scored on a Valbuena single. He made a spectacular catch in right field and drew a walk.

It seems that he’s been our most consistent performer at the plate and in the field. I don’t think anyone would have predicted that he would be among the top 3 in all offensive categories. I know it’s early, but he’s been so great so far this season. So great, in fact, that he’s taken residence in the place that Fast Tony left in my heart (Thank you, Theo).

Pitching

Travis Wood continued the quality starts trend, going 6 innings, allowing three hits and one walk. Two of the hits he gave up were solo home runs, one to Stanton and one to Olivo. Stanton’s home run was… huge. It went over the scoreboard in left field.

Those two home runs were the only mistakes that Wood made, and the only runs the Cubs allowed.

The bullpen was able to hold the Marlins to two runs.  Kameron Loe pitched a scoreless frame, Russel had a decent 2/3, and Marmol owes Castro big time for having his back in the 8th.

Kevin Gregg owned the ninth. No runs. No hits. No walks. One strikeout. I was shocked. The game ended. Raise the W flag. Gregg with the save! I was stunned. Any time that Len says, “Gregg is up in the bullpen,” I die a little on the inside. But tonight’s performance was more than acceptable. If he keeps it up, maybe the Cubs can actually have a real closer. But until then, we’ll just keep using the closer rotation until we find something that works.

Closing Thoughts:

It’s nice to have a little win streak going for us. Hopefully this little boost will increase the team’s morale and guys will start hitting with runners on – we left 17 men on base and were 2-for-8 with RISP. 17 LOB is a lot. It’s good that guys are getting on base, but they have to come home soon, right? I’ve got my fingers crossed that Rizzo starts hitting something other than sporadic home runs and that Barney can get his average up to at least .230 by the All Star Break.

Overall, I’m happy with tonight’s game. It wasn’t perfect, but it looks like things are starting to kind of come together for the Cubs. An upward trend is looming and we caught tiny glimpses tonight. There is hope for us yet!

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore (But It Still Feels Like It)

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Good morning from Phoenix, Arizona. It is sunny and brisk outside, with a chance of delayed flights and uncertain traveling arrangements popping up throughout the day. Most of the Top 30 contestants have boarded shuttles to the airport and are checking in to their respective flights. A few of us are sitting in the hotel lobby due to delayed and/or cancelled flights, reflecting on the week and bonding a bit more before we head our separate directions.

If there is one thing that stuck with me this week, it is that every single person in this contest is amazing. Even the Cardinals fans were cool (They paid me to say that*). Peoples’ team alliances became an afterthought. Baseball was the glue that held us together, and their personalities drew us closer.

*They didn’t really pay me to say that.

**Please don’t tar and feather me for saying that.

The week was a whirlwind. So much happened in such a short amount of time that it is all still soaking in and swirling around in my mind. I will try to sort out the important pieces of the trip.

Let us begin. And what better place to start than at the beginning?

Monday:

  • Picked up by a professional driver in a Lincoln Towncar (I secretly was hoping it would be Ryan Gosling. You can’t always get what you want.) and taken to O’Hare.
  • Met up with a couple of knucklehead contestants* who were also from the Chicago area.
  • Flew to Phoenix.

*I mean that in the most loving way. Travis Miller (Mets) and Marcus Hall (White Sox) were those two knuckleheads.

Monday’s events then concluded with approximately twenty of us going to the local diner, having dinner, and generally causing a ruckus. And then we all took the ruckus to the hotel hot tub area. Generally, it was the beginning of a great love story few days.

On Tuesday, the real fun began:

  • Free, fantastic, made-to-order breakfast.
  • Shipped to Chase Field.
  • Group meeting with the Head Honchos.
  • Lunch (ballpark food – pulled bbq chicken. yum.).
  • Tour of the stadium.
  • Elevator pitches.

And, the very most, absolutely incredible, ama-za-zing part of Tuesday:

Ten of us were chosen at random to have a brief interview with Greg Amsinger. You know, that awesome guy on MLB Network that talks and stuff. I love him.

When it was my turn to chat with him, I had to put in an ear piece and stand just so in front of the camera with a bright light shining in my eyes and Chase Field stretching out behind me. And then, “Oh, we have a 45 minute break. You don’t get to talk to Greg right now.”

Day. Ruined. I was so bummed.

But 45 minutes later, after the elevator pitch, I got a second hack at Greg and it was life-changing. He asked me things such as: “Why are you a Cubs fan?”; “Todd Walker is your favorite Cub? Why?!”; “You’re a farmer? What’s that like?”; and we laughed and laughed. Did I mention that it was highlight of my week?

Later that night we had a team trivia challenge (hosted by Eric Byrnes) and karaoke. Then it was back to the hotel for the night for more hot tubbing and ruckus-causing. The hot tub closed at midnight, but the security guard let us stay a little longer than we were supposed to.

When Wednesday morning rolled around:

  • Individual interview with Head Honchos. It was a very nerve-racking experience, as I was positioned in the center of a U-shaped table set up, with between 10-20 people analyzing every word which came out of my mouth. The two most important words I said during the entire interview rolled off my tongue in the following order: Duck Dynasty.
  • Three groups of ten were sent to 3 different Spring Training facilities: Surprise, Goodyear, and Salt River. I was at Salt River, where the players and coaches were not. They were having a players vs. coaches paintball tournament. That should have been a qualifying challenge for the Top 30, but  I didn’t make the schedule or plan the challenges, so we didn’t do that.
  • Split into teams, made promo videos (Which, I assume, will be posted on the FanCave website at some point. During this challenge, I almost died*). My group consisted of me and 4 men. One of them was Hayden Moss, the winner of Big Brother 12. I forgot who the other 3 were. The other three were Nick, Calder, and Michael. They were a good bunch.
  • Filmed a parody of this commercial.
  • Went bowling.

The bowling event was held at Lucky Strike in downtown Phoenix. It was the cherry on top of the cake of an amazing week.

*A little piece of me got left behind in Arizona, but that’s because my buddy Calder tried to slide tackle me during one of our commercials.

Thursday:

  • Came back to Illinois (lame).

Unfortunately, we did not go to Mesa, I did not get to see any Cubbies, and it hailed/snowed one day. But hey, can’t let that get you down, Jack! This week had so many high points that not seeing the Cubs only made me cry for a few minutes.

If you would like to see some of the photos I took from the week, you can check out my instagram site.

If you would like to see some photos taken by the professional photographer, you can check out MLB FanCave’s Facebook page.

And, finally, if you would like to familiarize yourself with the Top 30, you can go here.

It was cool to actually meet these people in real life and see their personalities come to life. The people I met this week are the best group of people I have met in a long time. Whoever makes the FanCave deserves it. Everyone is worthy of a spot in the Cave (I just hope one has my name on it).

They will be announcing the Cave Dwellers next week some time. Of course, I will keep you posted on what the outcome is!

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us: