Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Over at Goatriders.org, there's been some debate about the Cubs, the Trib and the role of the fans. Today, they mentioned some talkback directed there from here. Nornally, it's only the yoots over there that don't make sense. Today, the insanity is starting to spread.
They make some arguments. They go like this:
1) The Cubs will make more money if they win due to October attendance, TV ratings, etc.
2) The Cubs need to spend money on some good players to give the appearence of winning because that will keep fans coming.
3) Because of 1 and 2, lower attendance will only cause payroll to be cut -- which will likely happen anyway in 2007, the year after the team sets an attendance record.
The reality is: Cubs are likely going to cut payroll in 2007. The REASON payroll is going to be cut is BECAUSE an attendance record is going to be set for a 95 loss team! The Trib will conclude, correctly, that fans don't care about winning so long as they can see a few familiar, lovable faces. Laces like Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Carlos Zambrano. Why do you think they keep killing Carlos and risking his arm? Because he needs a Cy Young or because fans might ignore the team if they don't see him?
Next year, the Cubs will spend enough to keep these guys and maybe one or two others, and that's it. Why spend more? Why should any business spend more on a product when it's selling to the maximum of production?
We fans want them to improve the product. That can happen by spending more on new players and by eating salaries of players who are bad ball players. Then again, if people spend more as the product gets WORSE, any smart business will reduce spending to maximize profits.
The 2007 team needs a reason to spend more, not less, right? They need a reason. The answer is simple. We need to make them fight for our dollars. How does any business get people to start buying a product they are buying less and less of? Advertise and improve the product.
That will happen as soon as people start buying less of the Cubs.
Oh, and the Trib reads the blogs.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Egg White Omelets, 9-Grain Toast, And Coffee
Had the opportunity to breakfast this AM with a Cub insider. We'll leave his name out of this, but, suffice to day, you'd all know this person and be familiar with his work. Some nuggets from the visit.
Kerry Wood has, through his Kerry Wood Strike Zone Celebrity Bowling Tournament, raised over a million dollars for Children's Memorial Hospital in the two years he has hosted the event. One of the reasons he's done so is that professional athletes spend on the auction items like "drunken sailors." Good to remember next time you are having a fundraiser and are looking for people to invite.
To show you what Wood's teammates think of him, every one of his teammates showed up at the event except for Caesar Izturis who had just arrived on the team and had a previous commitment.
Dusty's a gonner at the end of the year.
Joe Girardi as 2007 Cubs manager is, indeed, a guy the Cubs would go after if he is available in the offseason. As to the actual possibility of Girardi actually being here next year? No better than 50/50.
A recent Cub player was legendary in MLB circles for his ability to pick up women. We were told, "If you were eating here with your wife, and (this guy) wanted her, he'd find a way to get his phone number to her before the two of you left the table." It is speculated that this proclivity, combined with day baseball, was responsible for his poor performance his first season in Chicago.
The Breakfast Guest has no current knowledge if Matt Murton is aware he has three kids living in Glenview.
The racist mail that Dusty has received should never have been aired publicly. The Guest was uncertain if the mail received in Chicago would be equally received were Dusty the manager in another US city. It should be noted that such is the opinion of this writer.
The Denver omelet with cheddar cheese is strongly recommended on your next visit to Max and Benny's in Northbrook.
Two weeks from today, I'll have another chance to talk to the Breakfast Guest. Let's see if there are other interesting things to ask him at that point.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Not Much Love For Lovie
Some much chatter about Cedric Benson leaving the sidelines of a meaningless exhibtion game and so little talk about what's really going on.
The story goes that Benson decided he would rather watch the end of the game in the training room instead of on the sidelines. Some of Benson's teammates were pissed and blabbed the story to the media. Now, Benson is publicly humiliated, coach Lovie Smith has a PR disaster on his hands, and the team's players seem more concered with scoring publicity points than trying to reach a Super Bowl.
There's a much better question: Why did two of Benson's teammates (one of whom is supposedly Olin Kreutz according to a well placed source) go to the media with the story?
There's only one logical answer. The players felt Benson needed to be disciplined and they did not trust Lovie Smith to do it effectively.
That means, a team with Super Bowl aspirations is rebelling against their coach.
Super Bowl aspirations may die in the preseason. So appropriate for a team that has always found ways to play worse than their capability in every season since 1985.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
That Voodoo You Do
And you wonder why free agents never sign here. Perhaps it's because of the gross negligence of the team physicians:
Cubs team physician Stephen Gryzlo told Rowand late Monday the injury appeared no more serious than a sprained ankle. The fracture was discovered Tuesday
Come to the Cubs, make some money for a few years, and have mis-diagnosed injuries cost you $70 million.
Clean this house.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Early Storm Warnings
If anyone bothered to read all the way to the end of Paul Sullivan's game story today, you'd have read a paragraph that scares anyone that wants the Cubs to win and thinks that they can do so by signing a few key free agents this coming winter.
Of the players who remain Cubs property in 2007, the team is committed to only $55 million: Lee ($13 million), Ramirez ($11.5 million), Ryan Dempster ($5.3 million), Jacque Jones ($5 million), Bob Howry ($4.5 million), Michael Barrett ($4.3 million), Cesar Izturis ($4.15 million), Scott Eyre ($4 million) and Glendon Rusch ($3.25 million).
Ramirez has an opt-out clause that allows him to renegotiate or file for free agency.
The other non-free agents are either arbitration-eligible, including Carlos Zambrano and Mark Prior, or have less than three years of major-league experience.
That should give general manager Jim Hendry plenty of flexibility in pursuing free agents, unless the Cubs decide that developing their own young pitchers can bring them back to respectability.
Let's translate that last sentence into English from TribCubese.
"Expect no big name free agent pitcher signings."
Boil that down to just four words: Barry Zito? Dream on.
You want to know WHY they don't plan on signing free agents this offseason? I'll give you 40,485 reasons why.
There were 40,485 people at yesterday's game. The message to the suits upstairs? We like sunny weather. Winning is irrelevant.
Ticket buyers are getting what they deserve. If today's article is a tipoff, and it likely is, they'll get even more of what they deserve next year.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Don't Let The Door Hit You In The Butt On The Way Out
Neifi Perez is now a Detroit Tiger. It sure seems that the injury to Placido Polanco has improved the Cubs for 2007 by getting the Cubs to unload an overused and underqualified player.
Ironically, Neifi is actually a valuable player if used properly. That use being as a defensive replacement and spot starter. It's too bad that Dusty Baker was incompetent in his use of Neifi and cost his team runs (and wins). A proper manager would have made proper use of Neifi. I guess that means watching Jim Leyland over the next six weeks to compare a good manager to a bad one.
On the plus side, Jim Hendry was able to correct one of his big offseason screwups by unloading a bad contract for what seems to be a serviceable minor leaguer.
If only he can now do the same with Glendon Rusch.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Question of the Weekend
No, it's not, "Does Dusty get fired" or "Does Matt Murton get traded" or "Does the Tribune sell the Cubs."
No, the real question is...
Does "Snakes on a Plane" make a star out of Samantha McLeod?
Friday, August 18, 2006
Behind the Scenes
Had the opportunity to visit an ex-client of mine yesterday. Well, ex as of last week. This company is in the business of mobile television production. In fact, if you watch CBS broadcasts of NFL games, especially high definition broadcasts, you've likely seen their work.
This week, they are responsible for coverage of holes 1 through 9 at the PGA Championship at Medinah. I had the opportunity to go see how this all works. While my pass gave me full access to the grounds, most of my time was spent here:
To cover an event like baseball or football, you only need 1 truck. Sometimes they actually use two trucks because the cameras are part of the truck and the extra weight would exceed allowable semi-trailer weights for highway travel.
To cover golf, they use about 8 trucks. That's because there are too many cameras for one truck to handle all the feeds. It was fascinating to see that only about 25% of what's broadcast actually goes out live. They queue up several shots on what are essentially TIVOs on steroids and then broadcast them to the public. At home, it all appears seamless, and live.
The other amazing thing at the PGA was the tent setup to sell memorabilia. It was enormous. And the prices? You need a top 5 finish to afford a shirt. My host and I walked over to the Nike area to look at their shirts. There were four hung behind their counter. The Nike lady pointed out to us that this was Tiger Woods' wardrobe for each day of the tournament (Sunday's shirt was already sold out). I said to her, "If they pay you $30 million a year, I guess they can tell you what to wear for a weekend."
"Weekend?" she replied. "I can tell you what he's wearing for the Masters next year."
In terms of the actual golf, I saw John Daly and Vijay Singh hole out at 2 and tee off on three. That about covered my interest. I think I'm done with golf for a while. I've always thought that, if the point of golf is to hit the ball as few times as possible, why even play?
But I'd love to spend a day in that truck during an NFL game.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Dennis Leary, Mel Gibson and The Kosher God of Walks
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
That Was Strange
So, let's see if I've got this straight. Rich Hill got the win in a game played on August 16th, but failed to play in the game he was scheduled to start that day. The guy who got that start is a 26-year old tomato can named Ryan O'Malley who went 8 scoreless innings in his first major league game after posting a 7-7 record with a bland 4.08 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP at Iowa.
Baseball's been around like this since 1876. This has got to be another first.
Now, for an update. Yes, there hasn't been a lot of activity on this site for the past few weeks. This is partly because the topic of primary focus, the Chicago Cubs, is pretty boring.
It's also because this writer is on the move again, careerwise. I shall have a new home of employment beginning Monday. My home will initially be in Mt. Prospect (a stone's throw from "The Loft", Slothy). Eventually, likely next spring, it will be a new bank about 2 1/2 miles from the homestead. It was a Godfather offer -- I couldn't refuse.
The time off has been spent cleaning some files, contacting a few clients, spending time with the little Murton's, and ignoring the bulk of current events. The time has also been spent watching some ficks and catching up on old TV shows.
This first flick will be discussed next...
After The Rental - Munich
This film created a lot of controversy when it came out. Steven Spielberg (aside: this is a man who loved restoring "Lawrence of Arabia" while sitting next to David Lean because it was like having a DVD commentary track, but never gives HIS OWN commentary tracks to the fans) tries to head off the controversy on the DVD with a special introduction.
Too bad it doesn't work.
The first two acts of the movie are pretty standard thriller stuff. The Mossad hit team tracks down and exacts revenge against the Black September/Palestinian planners of the slaughter of 11 Israeli Olympians at the 1972 Munich Games. Then, the final act deals with issues of guilt and moral equivalence between the killers of athletes who gathered in peaceful athletic competition and the killers of the killers.
The final shot of the film is of the leader of the Mossad team (a bland Eric Bana) walking away from his Mossad "boss" (Geoffrey Rush) with the camera centered on the then still standing World Trade Center.
The message of the scene was, to me, clear: The cycle of violence started after Munich resulted in the fall of the Towers.
I don't see how Spielberg can claim this movie was "angle free" and close with such a shot. Given that, the movie was an utter failure as anything other than a conventional thriller.
On the other hand, I am very looking forward to seeing Daniel Craig as the new James Bond. Also giving a great performance was Ciaran Hinds as one of the Mossad team members.
Mentioning Craig does bring up a subtle point that I'm not sure was intentional. The assassination team had five members, four of whom had a degree of conscience about what they were doing. Daniel Craig's "Steve" was single minded in his desire to kill all the terrorists.
Steve was also the only one of the five to finish the operation unscathed.
Ivychat rating: Reaches first due to catcher interference.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Warming Back Up
While hopes for a proxy fight between the Trib and the Chandlers seemed to fall a few weeks ago, things just took a turn for the better:
Nelson Peltz, the billionaire activist investor who is embroiled in a proxy battle with the board of H.J. Heinz Co., disclosed Monday that he and partners had purchased 2.83 million shares, or 1.2 percent, of Tribune Co.
The Peltz group bought all of the shares during the quarter ended June 30 and disclosed the purchases in a quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
A spokeswoman said Peltz wouldn't comment on the investment or whether his group still owns the shares. She also declined to say what, if anything, he planned to do next.
But investors said that he's not known for passive investing.
"They're not shrinking violets," said investor Eric McKissack of Chicago's Channing Capital Management, which owns about 600,000 Tribune shares. "That's the one thing you can say for sure."
Peltz and (partner Peter) May consider themselves change agents. They tend to cut jobs, shake up management and streamline bureaucracy when they take control of a company.
In a season where it's become nearly impossible to think about, much less write about, the Cubs, this can only be good news.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Down on the Farm
Some results from names familiar and some not so...
ORG LVL PITCHERS IP H R ER BB SO ERA
CHC SS Jimenez, Fabian ........... 6.0 3 0 0 1 0 1.56 - W (1-0)
CHC SS Papelbon, Jeremy .......... 3.0 2 0 0 0 2 1.17 - S (3)
CHC R Huseby, Chris ............. 3.0 3 0 0 1 4 0.00
Jimenez was acquired from SD for Scott Williamson. Huseby is an 11th-round draft pick who has accumulated 8 Ks and no BBs in 5 IP.
Small sample size, for sooth, but worth watching.
That Would Have Been An Unhappy 39th
It seems the next 9/11 was scheduled for 8/16.
I thought it was Kim Jong-Il that had the Elvis infatuation?
Greg Couch goes off, albeit in a subtle way, on Mark Prior:
I ... that Mark Prior. There was a thrill in watching him, so methodically intimidating while not showing one bit of emotion or reaction. Strike three, sit down. Next.
You knew exactly what you had in Prior, and exactly what you were going to have for years.
Now, you can barely remember that guy.
I'm sure this is frustrating for him, too. In 2002, the Cubs shut him down before the end of the season, even though nothing was wrong. They were babying him, and rumor was that wasn't the team's choice. In 2003, the babying was done. He threw all the way to the National League Championship Series, and everything seemed fine until ...
The Bartman game. That's the first time Prior showed the emotion on the mound, calling for fan interference. Then he threw a wild pitch.
It was the beginning of the unraveling. After arriving as the guy with a supposedly perfect motion, critics now question his mechanics.
The only reference not made in the column is to Donnie Moore.
I am with Paul Sullivan in one respect.
Whether Prior will make his next start is up in the air, and the possibility of Prior being shut down for the rest of the season if he goes on the disabled list for a third time is something the Cubs may consider.
Turn him off. Don't pitch him again.
And don't bring him back in Cubbie Blue if Dusty Baker and Larry Rothschild are going to be the coaches. A different approach with this guy is needed. Baker et al have had 4 seasons with diminsihing returns. This is one case where you really need to fire the coaches more than the players.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Coming For The Holidays...
I just love who is locked in the pantry.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
How Does This Play in Peoria?
Barry Rozner digs a little on the "Joe Girardi is on his way out of Florida" story. It's interesting to note that both the Tribune and Suntimes have blurbs on this, too.
But, if you really want to have hope as to why Girardi stands more than a decent shot of being the Cubs' manager next year, just check the blog that was certain Greg Maddux was not going to be traded. It says Girardi's not coming here.
That's as reliable as Hub Arkush saying that Dave Wannstedt is a good coach.
The federal courts have back fantasy sports players. Major League Baseball had attempted to limit the number of companies that could use game statistics for running fantasy games. Yesterday, a federal judge ruled that sports statistics are public domain and not subject to copywrite laws.
Good thing the judge ruled this way. Why would any sports league want to chill the abilities for its fans to make a tighter association with the game? For a few extra bucks in fees?
Don't they realize that the league probably stands to make more money from having MORE fantasy players? That those players will watch more games? Buy more tickets?
Nah. In Bud Selig's world, hold out for 9% of the gross fees charged by fantasy web sites and not worry about the bigger picture and the bad publicity that would follow.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Looks like the Daily Herald opened up their snapper purse and hired a new writer for their sports page. Maybe he's not new, but this is the first time the byline of John Lemon has been noticed by this site. He gives us a list of the few reasons remaining to watch the 2006 version of the Chicago Cubs. Although the Tribune did this a few days ago, Lemon comes up with an interesting angle:
the Cubs' winning ways (8-3 over their last 11) indicate they haven't quit on Baker.
Did I say interesting or did I say dumb? The Cubs' recent play is no reflection on Baker, it's a reflection on capitalism.
See, when the team is so far under .500, the players know that some of their jobs are at stake. You can't have a lousy team and bring everyone back (although Jim Hendry is sure going to try). That means, they better play hard to get the general manager's notice. Or, if not the current GM, the GM of one of the other 29 teams.
What's motivating these guys right now is future paychecks, not Dusty Baker.
Lemon then correctly notes that, "there might not be much of a gap between the Cubs and the rest of the division."
As mentioned here a few posts back, that's exactly what Jim Hendry is counting on. The Jim Dowdle "Give the fans a sniff" theory continues at Clark and Addison. If Hendry can keep the team close without having to go all Florida Marlin on the roster (which clearly works better than the Dowdle style), Jim can justify his job to his bosses at the Trib and to the fans that soak up Wrigley sunshine and sporadic wins.
That would be a big mistake.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Reading Between The Chalk Lines
Just what is Barry Rozner trying to say?
Greg Maddux isn’t going to throw 6 innings of no-hit ball every time out, because he's not always going to have the kind of movement on the ball he had Thursday night at Cincinnati in his first start for Los Angeles.
That was vintage 1995 breaking stuff with 11 groundball outs and only two balls hit decent in a hitter's ballpark.
But the difference is there were three plays made on the left side of the infield that the Cubs don't make, and each play saves pitches, makes for quicker innings, gets him off the field where he can rest, and keeps him in rhythm.
Maddux also got excellent relief after the rain delay ended his night, and his new manager is smart enough to know when to pull him.
The old-timer also made two excellent plays on defense, put down a perfect bunt, and was instantly in sync with a catcher he’d probably never met before, which should also give you some insight into the Cubs.
It was only one game, but you could tell Maddux was having fun playing in a professional atmosphere again.
I hope Rozner doesn't go to the Cubs' pressbox soon. I think a phone might ring with one Dusty Baker and one Michael Barrett on the other end.
This Can't be Good
What was shaping up as a proxy fight now seems to be cooling into a more relaxed state:
... there are indications the (Chandlers and the Tribune Board) are attempting to find middle ground. First there is the unanimity of the board, which had split over Tribune's plan to repurchase shares, with the Chandlers' three representatives urging a breakup or sale of the company. Then there is the apparent softening of Tribune's previous insistence the (LA) Times would not be sold.
The best hope for Cubs' fans was, indeed, a proxy fight and the breakup of the company. While that was always a long shot, the shot just got longer. That said, there is a ray of hope:
the failure of the buyback to give the company's stock a lasting boost means Tribune has to be open to at least consider other potential strategies, even if they stop short of the breakup or company sale the Chandlers so loudly advocated in June.
What this seems to say is that "all options are being researched." That could include a sale of the team, but it would have to be a huge sale price:
A problem for the historically tax-averse family, as well as Tribune, would be capital gains taxes (selling the LA Times) could produce, however. And this has been one of the arguments made for not divesting such long-held and lucrative properties.
One of those properties is the Cubs.
When you consider that the ML teams passed on taking MLB.com public, and the billion dollars associated with such an IPO, one has to believe that the Trib will hold on to the Cubs for dear life.
Or, at least until the CW Network tanks.
The Real Story
By now, many of you have read today's article that says the White Sox are catching the Cubs in terms of popularity. It seems that 53% of Chicagoans watched a Sox game last year, up from just 39% in 2004.
The Cubs have seen their base erode slightly at worst. Their penetration rate is 56%, down from 59% a year ago (and within the survey's margin of error).
That's the real story: Why haven't the Cubs fallen farther? Why are Cub fans simply satisfied watching a pathetic product? Why don't they turn it off?
It's too bad that they haven't fallen. See, if there was a fall, then there would be some impetus to change the branding at 1060 West Addison. Alas...
Before Thursday's home doubleheader, the Cubs averaged 39,873 fans per game. That ranks sixth in the majors, compared with the Sox's 36,014, which is 10th.
No need to change.
If you want to know why Dusty Baker stands a good shot of returning next year is that he hasn't damaged the brand. Sure, he and Jim Hendry have not improved quality, but that stats say that hasn't hurt business.
Who says Jim Hendry ignores important stats?
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
I don't think I've ever read one Pete becker before, but after reading this good stuff, I may become a follower of his.
In a story about What to Watch in 2007, he focuses a section on the Cubs. Now, the smart fans have been doing so since early May. It's nice to have Pete catch up with the rest of the world. Kidding aside, he's very sharp with his criticism:
...allow me to state that the fortunes of the Cubs, fantasy and reality, hinge on ridding themselves of the Dusty influence. Having already pitched Kerry Wood's career into an early grave and sent Mark Prior to the disabled list three times in the last two seasons, Baker seems hell-bent on reuniting Carlos Zambrano with his wounded brethren. To nobody's surprise, Zambrano is tops in the National League in the pitches thrown, trailing only Barry Zito for the major league lead. What's worst, Zambrano is actually less efficient than he's been in four years, closing in on 17 pitches per inning, up three-quarters of a pitch from his three-year average. Apparently, though, nobody's worried in Cubs land because, despite their being out of the playoff picture and not having an excuse to squeeze their lone remaining ace for all he's worth, that's exactly what they're doing.
Nobody's immune. Carlos Marmol has topped 110 pitches in two of his last three outings. Know how often Francisco Liriano has topped 110 pitches this season? Once. By one pitch. He usually gets pulled around 100, no matter how many innings or how well he's doing, because the Twins have a well-established organizational policy of protecting their young arms. (127-pitch appearance by Matt Garza notwithstanding. That was an aberration and not indicative of how the Twins have protected their arms). But not the Cubs. No, the Cubs, enablers that they are, have given Dusty Baker a vote of confidence through the rest of the season, though they haven't gone so far as to re-sign him for next year. But why? Why leave the butcher in another two months so he can audition for his next job by showing just how much he can squeeze out of a depleted lineup? And squeeze he will. For all Carlos Zambrano's worth.
If there is a reason to wish Dusty Baker and his enabler Jim Hendry both get to keep their jobs, I'm afraid no logical person can find it.
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