Sunday, April 30, 2006
Your Baby Bears
The draft is complete. Here are your new 2006 Chicago Bears:
Rd Sel# Player Pos. Ht. Wt. School
2 42 Manning, Danieal SS 5-11 201 Abilene Christian
2 57 Hester, Devin WR 5-11 189 Miami (Fla.)
3 73 Dvoracek, Dusty DT 6-3 305 Oklahoma
4 120 Williams, Jamar ILB 6-0 250 Arizona State
5 159 Anderson, Mark DE 6-4 258 Alabama
6 195 Runnels, J.D. FB 5-11 237 Oklahoma
6 200 Reed, Tyler G 6-3 307 Penn State
I've gotta say I can't think of a single guy on the list I've heard of. Doesn't seem like anything to get excited about.
They are rookies, right?
Thus Endeth April
A few weeks back, this site said:
An idealist looked at April and saw 14-9 and a solid start. Looking at it now, the realist says 12-11 would be a lucky outcome.
Well, they concluded April at 13-10. Right smack in the middle of good and lucky. So, optimism reigns?
Sadly, no. The starting rotation looks to be even more in shambles than thought. It certainly seems if the once "best pitcher on the Cubs" Carlos Zambrano has his head unscrewed. It doesn't seem to be arm or mechanics. It's gotta be da' head. Glendon Rusch has provided the picture for Miriam Webster's entry on "Reversion to the Mean."
Amazingly, some of Cubs faithful are hopeful for a rotation that includes Rich Hill and Angel Guzman right now, but pooh pooh the wishes of last winter to add a Kevin Millwood or Jerrod Washburn with some of the extra bleacher ticket and sponsorship money.
Never fear, faithful! Jim Hendry has two more years to turn this around!
Thursday, April 27, 2006
A Lot To Learn
You have to love the Internet. No sooner than I say I don't know how to clip Flash pictures, from across the sea come these pictures of Stana Katic. She looked even better in "24".
Checking In On Jacks' Women
So, we went positive on the Cubs and they pull a clunker worthy of Jack Benny's jalopy. Time to change the subject.
24 is chugging towards the end of a solid season. Hard to believe that Fox TV will allow a plot line that involves the President of the United States in a conspiracy with terrorists. Ah, well. Anything for a buck.
In his travels, many fine looking ladies have crossed Jack's path.
There's always Ivy Chat favorite Elisha Cuthert in every season as Kim Bauer. And she still looks fine, doesn't she?
Kim Raver is always worth a second look as Audrey Raines. Then, you notice that she's very pointy and you kind of move on.
Another one that looks like a looker is Kate Mara. She plays a whacko named Shari Rothenberg. Bonus points because she's related to the Maras of the New York Giants and the Rooney's of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But the best looking lady of the year has got to be Stana Katic who had a brief part as terrorist Collette Stenger. Unfortunately, I've been unable to locate a decent picture of her and my net pilfering skills are insufficent to grap images from Flash presentations. A link to her site will have to do.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
With the neologism "Chuckspectations" being coined yesterday, the Cubs are, indeed, on the verge of exceeding them for April 2006. How is this possible? Three unlikely, nearly unpredicatble reasons.
First, Greg Maddux has stepped through Mr. Peabody's Way-Back Machine set to 1994. As noted here, if Maddux can do this for a full season, change what was expected to be #5 quality pitching ino Cy Young calibur, the Cubs have a huge boost to their prospects.
Second, Dusty Baker (barring one game is St. Louis) is managing like he needs to win games, not win his players' addoration. That is also unexpected and a tremendous boost.
But last, is the contribuitions of one Sean Marshall. Sure, he beat a AA team with the wind howling in last night (and AA is still probably where Marshall should be). But if Maddux stays at ace level, all Marshall needs to do is pitch at #5 starter level. He's done far more than that to date.
It's a little early to declare "Baseball Magic" on the north side, but stars seem to be aligning for more than a sale of Tribune assets.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Coming Soon to a Theater Near You: Education
I'm sure many of you are aware of the upcoming movie, "United 93." The movie is about the passengers and events that took place on that flight on September 11, 2001. It's created a lot of conversation. One of my favorite writers, Andrew Sullivan, discussed it today on his blog:
I will not see this movie, whatever its merits. The trauma is still too close. That day is still etched in me, as in all of us. It was a specific, unique trauma for those heroes on the plane; but it was also an emotional devastation for anyone who loves this country. Do we want to revisit their and our own traumas as entertainment?
I took issue with his characterization of the film as "entertainment."
You write: "Do we want to revisit their and our own traumas as entertainment?" Clearly, no. But I suspect this movie is not about entertainment. It's about education. I suppose some could say that Schindler's List is entertainment, but it's not. Schindler's List is a story of heroism and that one man can make a difference in the lives of thousands of others. That is a story that needs to be told again and again, not because it is entertaining, but because it is important that people know that true heroes are still out there. That heroic acts are still possible.
I suspect United 93 is that kind of story.
I doubt I will see the movie. But I would venture that, if done correctly, it could be one of the most important films in years. It could stand as a testament to heroism and the futility of terrorism so long as heroes are among us.
I'm not sure I can bring myself to see this movie. Like Sullivan says, the events are still to close. Also, I'm afraid I'll go see the film and end up liking the people I see on the screen. Knowing that they all die is not something I think I can bring myself to want to see.
I saw Schindler's List because I didn't know the story and I wanted to learn it. I saw it once in the theater and once when it was broadcast on network TV. I can't see ever watching it again as it's simply too emotional of a story for me to choose to want to see.
United 93 is the same.
What I do know is that I am glad the movie is being made and I hope it will not only be a fine testament to the people who sacrificed that day to save innocent live, but I hope it will be wildly successful.
Perhaps I will find the courage to go see it.
One More Thought
I knew some people out there would look at last night's game and think that it reminded them of Game 6 in 2003. But I couldn't believe anyone would be silly enough to suggest that winning this game, in April, against a team that is a shadow of the 2003 version, would feel good.
Never underestimate Cubs fans, I guess.
We Know Why We Boo
"I try not to pay attention, but it's so loud, so angry. I'm not going to hit .300 in one day or two days. They have the right to voice whatever opinion they want. I'm just getting used to it. I'm blocking it out as much as I can." - Jacque Jones on the booing he's been hearing from fans at Wrigley Field.
Listen, Jacque. We're willing to embrace you. Remember your first homer against the Cardinals? We gave you a standing O after that one.
Why are we booing? Because of your posing. Because you stand there and admire your moon shot last night... that landed in the 2nd row of the bleachers. And because you really aren't very good.
We'll give you a chance, but don't blame us for having high expectations. We want you to succeed. But don't rip on us if you are the one that fails and we call you on it.
When It Was Won
If you don't love Matt Murton yet, it's time to start. He had the key hit last night to set the stage for the win. You just know that if Dusty had the order reversed, with Jones ahead of Big Red, Jones GIDPs and it's game over.
Instead, Matt takes a pitch the other way to tie the game. That takes the pressure off Jones so he can launch and admire his 369 foot game winner.
I told the 6 Year Old last night that this is how you win baseball games. It's not the homer, it's the key hits.
Matt Murton may be the second most fun thing to watch on this team, just behind a Greg Maddux cutter.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
While Cub Nation swoons over the arrival of Angel Guzman and his 6.61 Iowa ERA, some people will ignore this blurb from Paul Sullivan's piece in today's Tribune:
The Cubs offense has regressed thus far in 2006, even with Lee playing 14 of their 16 games. Going into Saturday's game, they had dropped from second in National League home runs in 2005 to 13th in 2006, from second in slugging percentage to 13th, from 11th in on-base percentage to 15th, and from ninth to 12th in runs. They still rank dead last in walks, just as in '05.
The only improvement has been in stolen bases, from 13th to fifth, primarily because of the addition of Juan Pierre.
Will someone please explain to this writer why Jim Hendry deserved a contract extension?
At least there are some in Cub Nation that understand that Jim Hendry is a failure. Over at 1060 West:
the cubs have long suffered for a lack of quality in construction which makes injury a ready excuse for collapse. Good teams can and do work through this kind of thing -- does anyone remember the cardinals losing scott rolen, reggie sanders and larry walker all for more than half of last year? and winning 100 games anyway? does it seem so much to ask the cubs to be a team that could win 85 in spite of lee's loss?
And over at Desipio:
What the Cubs have cornered the market on though is their inability to cope with a serious injury. The last time I checked, the season is six months long. If you lose your best player for a third of that, you need to go find another player. The Cubs do not seem intent on doing that. This is why they lose. Not because somebody gets hurt, but because they patch the hole with a collection of mediocrities and wonder why it doesn't work.
Several other places are just simply sad about the state of affairs. That doesn't cut it. Unless we fans hold the teams we love to a higher standard, we get what we deserve.
And the bulk of Cub Nation is getting it alright.
Friday, April 21, 2006
More From Forbes
This year, Forbes has a
sortable list of each MLB team's revenue, value and debt load. If you want to save some time and just know the Cubs stats, the Cubs are fifth in value at $448 million, 21st in operating income at $7.9 million (if Forbes is right, then the Cubs are not exactly a cash cow), and first in debt load with no debt.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Here We Doubt Again
Once again the Cubs have a major injury to a star player. And once again fans expect Jim Hendry to make a trade now, before the season slips away, to rectify the situation.
Why should we hope for this? Hendry's let us down each of the last two years, why expect something different this year?
May 5, 2004. Alex Gonzalez breaks his wrist. Jim Hendry, despite the obvious availability of then Montreal Expo Orlando Cabrerra, passes on making a trade. Instead, a combo of Rey Ordonez and Ramon Martinez is allowed to sub for A Gonz. The Cubs play 34-30 ball until Gonzalez returns. Nomar Garciaparra is acquired 12 days later. How many extra games could the Cubs have won if Cabrerra was acquired in May?
April 20, 2005. Nomar Garciaparra shreds his groin. Jim Hendry does nothing.
Spring, 2006. Mark Prior and Kerry "we plan on him being ready" Wood go on the DL. Jim Hendry passes on adding a Kevin Millwood to the rotation and goes with Jerome Williams, Sean Marshall and the potential to waste a $100 million payroll.
Now, Derrek Lee is out. And people are discussing who the Cubs should acquire.
Answer: A more aggressive GM.
Oh, yeah. He protected himself and got a contract extension through 2008. Until he makes an aggressive move, Jim Hendry (and Andy MacPhail) are the Cubs biggest impediments to a championship.
What's ironic is that the only reason Hendry received the contract extension was due to a trade he made to fill in for an injury. If not for Korey Patterson's injury, the Cubs win nothing in 2003. Add that to what happened in 2004 and 2005 and there would be no new contract.
Maybe. Just maybe, Hendry will make a deal early this year and not wait until the trading deadline. It's possible. But it doesn't hjold with hendry's track record. As such, speculation on who to acquire is simply a waste of time.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Forbes Magazine has a mildly interesting article about the history and current problems of MLB.
The modern player doesn't play for his team as much as he plays for the union, a further source of fan disconnect.
And to think, it all could have been avoided if the owners had just given the players their fair cut of the profits in the first place. With the power roles now reversed, it's the owners who would now gladly go for a straight 50-50 revenue split.
The solution is to centralize the operation, and share all sources of revenue equally among all the clubs. Socialist? Sure. But baseball already operates outside of the free market. Its monopoly position is protected by a Congress that mostly shields it from the Sherman Antitrust Act. We are really talking about one business with 30 locations, not 30 different businesses. Team owners aren't competitors as much as they are partners who need each other; keeping the business thriving means keeping all of its parts healthy. Ask the wealthy players and owners of the National League Football League, whose economic structure includes a salary cap and heavy revenue sharing, if they feel like socialists.
I've suggested for a number of years that each team should keep 60% of their revenue and put the other 40 into a pool divvied up by the other 29 teams. After all, how many people are going to tune in to Yankee radio and TV broadcasts if the Royals don't show up to play. Aren't they worth 40% of the revenue the Yanks generate?
Is It Hot In Here?
Usually Greg Maddux just makes batters squirm. "How did I let that fat pitch get by? It was coming in to my hands and it broke back softly over the plate. I guess I'll slump back to the bench..."
Today, it's Dusty Baker who is squirming. "Why did I suggest in the media last year that maybe Maddux should retire?" he's thinking.
If you don’t think he’s squirming, then you haven't seen all these articles in the Trib, Sun Times and Daily Herald (including Rozner) that make the case for a contract extension for Greg.
Now, some may say Dusty's goading actually motivated Maddux into getting rid of his beer belly in the offseason and is the reason why Maddux is 3-0 right now. Don't buy that. ore likely is that Baker just wanted the $9 million in salary to spend on a guy like Kevin Millwood.
Regardless, now that the Cubs sure seem to have the 2000 Maddux on hand and not the 2003-2005 "good-but-not-great" Maddux, a radical change in the team’s projected fortunes is in order. On Opening Day, you looked at the pitching staff and saw one #1 starter (Zamboni), two #5s (Rusch and Maddux) and a cast of questions. Two and a half weeks later, you have a different #1 (Maddux), a #2 (Zambrano), and three #5s (Rusch, Williams and Marshall) with reinforcements on the way.
If Maddux has indeed found what Ponce De Leon never did, then seeing this team as an upper echelon team in the mediocre NL Central becomes a reality and not just wishful thinking. It would also be hard to not give Maddux two or three more years to get up into the top 5 win totals of all time.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
A few hundred years from now, people will ask who were the great pitchers of the end of the Twentieth Century and the start of the Twenty-First. They will mention Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez. Those who respond to those names will all say the same thing:
"Yeah, but they were no Greg Maddux."
With Roger thinking about retiring (he comes back as soon as Maddux gets close to Roger's win total), the media focus on the Elder Statesman of Pitching has no choice but to look to Greg Maddux. It's about time. Maddux deserves the credit he is now receiving. He keeps pitching like this and he could retire with north of 360 wins.
My only question is this: Hey, Greg? Since you hired a personal trainer this offseason and you are pitching lights out now, why didn't you do this the last two years?
With 5 games left on the road trip, the Cubs really only need two wins to call it a successful trip. Get three or more and there can really be some talk about this team going places as the pitching staff will be ready for upgrades in the names of Wood, Prior and Miller. There presence not only makes the staff stronger, but gives Jim Hendry more opportunity to improve the team by trading pitching.
Last Thought: A team with a history of Bruce Sutter, Willie Hernandez, Randy Myers, Lee Smith and it's Ryan Dempster who holds the record for consecutive saves. Demps is starting to make a believer out of me. Those walks that he gave up last year haven't followed him into this year.
Monday, April 17, 2006
By only winning 3 of their last 6 against supposedly inferior competitors, the Cubs have their work cut out for them the next 6 games. The goal here is to go 3-3 against the Dodgers and Cardinals with a preference for at least two of the wins to come in Busch Stadium III. The Dodgers are ripe for picking having just lost two of three to their coastal rival Giants scoring a total of four runs in the series.
With Greg Maddux, Carlos Zambrano and Sean Marshall slated to pitch, taking two seems a minimum expectation.
Now that the Felix Pie talk has come from Dusty Baker himself, one can only see this as a slight nudge at Jacque Jones. No one really believes that Jones could be benched, but Pie's hot start makes anything possible. With any luck, Jones will take the message like a man and not start trying to overdo it like he says he did last year.
If he tries to overswing at everything, one can only hope that he pulls his "butt muscle" (as Ron Santo so elegantly call it) and let's Pie "Pipp" him.
Pie Charting 2006 - #1
AB R H BI AVG
Pie, Felix CF 4 0 2 2 .350 - 2 2B
He's tracking for about 98 strikouts and 60 walks in a 600 AB season. Very nice for a small sample, and an improvement over his history.
Elsewhere in the Cubs system:
IP H R ER BB SO ERA
Aardsma, David 2.0 0 0 0 0 3 0.00 - S (2)
Hill, Rich 7.0 4 1 1 1 10 1.38 - W (1-0)
What Happens After The Sale?
The Tribune, which seems more and more likely each day to sell the Cubs, would clearly want an exit strategy for their key people, Andy MacPhail specifically. MacPhail's tenure with the Cubs has been a tremendous success in the eyes of the Trib management. The ballpark is full. The ballpark has expanded its seating capacity, advertising, and multi-year ticket base (skyboxes). The number of night games has increased. More revenue is coming from the museum/restaurant/garage that will be built. The Comcast netowrk is up and running. All home games are broadcast in high definition.
From a corporate perspective, the Trib should lionize Andy MacPhail. He's clearly maximized their investment.
So, what happens to Andy if the team is sold? The Trib would want to take care of him. These guys throw their managers more lifelines than Regis Philbin. Remember Don Grenesko when he was "fired" from the Cubs? The Trib promoted him to the Tribune executive suite.
Well, the Trib post-sale will still have a lot of influence with Baseball, Inc. There seems to be a clear place for Andy to go, one that his work with a media conglomerate would seem to make him a natural. It sure seems like the Trib could work out a plan for Andy to get this job.
Once the team is sold, Andy MacPhail will replace Bud Selig as the Commissioner of Baseball.
He's perfect for the job. He's got pedigree. He’s got experience in both leagues. He's worked small and large market. He's worked with TV and radio. Hell, he's such a natural fit that he may get the job even if the Cubs are not sold.
Andy for Commish in 2009. Mark it down.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Not Heaven Today
If you haven't seen the tornado damage in Iowa City, take a look at this picture of the downtown Pedestrian Mall. Then, check the photoblog of Cullen Garvey, "Nothing to see here, carry on."
I lived in this city for four years when I was a undergraduate college student at the University of Iowa. The track of the tornado seems to have passed several places I lived and destroyed several places I frequented. One place that seems to have been spared is the house pictured below:
Fans of the old comic strip "Bloom County" may recognize this house as the Bloom County Boarding house where Opus, Bill the Cat, Portnoy, Steve Dallas, and Milo Bloom all lived. I lived right across the street from this house.
My thoughts and best wishes go out to all affected.
Friday, April 14, 2006
Reversal of Fortune
Five days ago, just before the Tribune released earnings, Tribune Co. Chairman, President and CEO Dennis FitzSimons said:
"The Cubs are not for sale," FitzSimons said during an interview with WGN-AM. "People will say the Cubs are a non-strategic asset, and that's just not the case. A) the Cubs . . . while not great on-the-field . . . recently, are a tremendous asset. And the original reason the Cubs were bought was because they fit so well with WGN-TV, [WGN] radio and also the superstation, so it makes a lot of sense."
Earnings were released today. They weren't good:
The Chicago-based company said it earned $103 million, or 33 cents per share, compared with $143 million, or 44 cents per share, in the year-ago period.
Analysts polled by Reuters Estimates had on average forecast 36 cents per share, excluding special items.
At least not meeting expectations is not limited to certain segments of the corporation!
What was more interesting was this information. Some of the quote comes from the Trib itself, but some from Crains:
As Tribune pokes around for Internet acquisitions, some analysts want to know whether it will shed other assets to aid its stock price, which is down about 27% from a year ago. Mr. FitzSimons didn't rule anything out.
"Our biggest priority is to get our top line growing," he said. "In the mean time we're going to be very tough on expenses. But if there is a divestiture that really makes sense, that we feel will provide value to shareholders, we'll do it."
A perceived lack of information has some observers anxious. Merrill Lynch analyst Lauren Rich Fine said in a research report Thursday she fears "a seeming reticence on the part of management to try to surface value through either asset sales or more material dividend or share repurchase proclamations."
So, in a span of less than a week we go from "not for sale" to "we'll do it" if it makes sense.
This is gonna happen, Cubs fans. And there's nothing to fear but fear itself. For the first time in a long, long time there will be legitimate hope.
In fact, if you read the statement closely, there's more to fear now from the LACK of a sale. What do you think being "very tough on expenses" means if the Cubs don't win and see ratings and attendance fall off later this year? I can sum that up in two words:
We're now at the point where the NEED for a sale is passing the DESIRE for a sale. Keep the faith and hope it comes quickly.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
The 4 And 2 Thud
If it is possible to be severely disappointed by a team that reasonable people had few expectations of excellence, the Cubs have are that team. With the wind blowing out, coming off a sweep of the Cardinals, against a sad-sack team like the Reds, with Carlos Zambrano and Greg Maddux aligned to make two of the starts, even the most pessimistic fans would think that two wins would be realized.
Well, the Dusty Baker Cubs sure find new ways to fail to meet expectations. The angle now is to exceed them with a flourish only to fall below them with a similar flourish. Then again, having a losing record to the Reds is nothing new for this team.
If the ship is to be righted, they need to do it quickly. Blowing a series at home to the Reds requires picking up those games somewhere else. The next nine games look to hold 3 or 4 wins for the Cubs if you figure 2 wins in Pittsburgh and only 1 win in each of Busch and Dodger stadiums. If you think this is less than optimistic, look at the rotation for the next 9 games:
Not much reason for optimism there.
An idealist looked at April and saw 14-9 and a solid start. Looking at it now, the realist says 12-11 would be a lucky outcome.
Well, at least the GM who put together the outstanding rotation has his money locked up. Ironically, so is the money of the smart fan.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
As The Cubbies Turn
Comcast's On Demand feature has the first four episodes of this old show available to watch for free. It's amazing how funny that show was back in 1977. And how boring it is now.
But the end of the show each week had a Cub feel about it.
Will Derrek Lee's new contract bother Dusty Baker?
Will Jacque Jones hamstring cause him to go on the DL?
Will that lead to the debut of Felix Pie?
If that happens, will Jacque Jones keep Wally Pipp company?
Will Glendon Rusch have to buy insurance for the windows on Waveland?
Will Mark Prior's arm be Just Ducky?
Confused? You still will be after this episode of "Cubs."
Tune in at 1:20 PM today!
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Belated D Lee Extension Thoughts
This was a good deal all around for the Cubs and not-so-good for Derrek Lee. I am confused why he signed it.
First of all, the deal was not a $65 million deal. It's closer to a $55 million deal. See, Lee got 5 years at $13 million per year. But the deal starts this year. Because he was already getting $9.4 million this year, he really got a $5.6 million raise this year and $13 million per year over the next *four* years. Lee gave up a guaranteed year of salary in 2011 that he would have gotten had he signed at the end of the year.
It's a good deal and I'm glad the talk is over about staying or going. Then again, if I'm D Lee, I get a new agent.
Monday, April 10, 2006
One Date In History: August 15, 1979
Thanks to all who helped identify the pictures posted last week (and an apology to Teej for regaling him with the "ketchup and eggs" story). The game does appear to be the Cubs 6-5 win over the Giants on August 15, 1979. Several people helped identify the pics, but e-mailer Chuck in Ohio summed it up the best. Here are the pics again with Chuck's nearly complete and mostly correct analysis.
Anyone care to identify the umps?
Comment: Can't recognize any of the players. All we know is that yes, it was picture day. I lived in Chicagoland, Cincinnati and San Diego during the 1970s and I think just about all the M.L. teams followed similar picture day guidelines like you describe in your blog. It was cool to stand on the field anyway. I attended several picture days in Cincinnati and somewhere have close up pictures of stars from the Big Red Machine (Rose, Foster, Bench) standing with bats or gloves taken with a Kodak Instamatic 110 on the Astroturf of Riverfront Stadium. Also some lesser-knowns like Rowland Office and Larvell Blanks of the Atlanta Braves.
Comment: Big right handed white guy with no apparent facial hair. Appears to be wearing #48. That would be Rick "The Whale" Reuschel. He didn't become "Big Daddy" until the mid-1980s.
Comment: This was helpful. That is Hall of Famer Willie McCovey stretching at first. Willie, of course, was left/left handed. He has just caught what appears to have been a throw from the left side of the infield to retire #25 Scot Thompson.
Ivy Chat Edit: This seems to be the first inning when Thompson GIDPed. Thompson made four ground outs that day: 6-4-3 in the first, 4-3 in the 5th, 6-3 in the 6th, and 4-3 in the 8th. By the sequence the pictures were taken, this was earlier in the game than the 6th inning. That leaves the first or 5th inning ABs. Also, McCovey's foot is pointing towards second as if he's expecting a direct throw from the bag. Then, look how close the play is. Thompson was no speed merchant. Lastly, the next pic locks it. If that is Montefusco next, that means this pic, taken earlier, was in the first or second inning as Montefusco was gone in the 5th. Thompson doubled in the second. Conclusion: GIDP in the first.
Comment: This appears to be John "The Count" Montefusco #26 pitching to Bill Buckner (based on his batting stance that I recall quite vividly).
Comment: This is Terry Whitfield taking ball four in the sixth inning with Darrell Evans and Mike Sadek on second and first, respectively, advancing, having run on a ball three count.
Comment: Ex-Cub Bill North is stealing his 50th base of the season late in the game. Steve Dillard is the Cubs' second baseman awaiting the late throw. No mistaking Steve's mustache.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Always nice to have a quasi-FYC moment...
But it's even nicer to send the Deadbirds back to Laclede's Landing and the corn fed heifers on the hind end of some Micahel Barrett smack.
Sean Marshall did everything you could hope for in a rookie and gave you no reason to be disappointed. With the day off tomorrow, Dusty Baker did the right thing pulling the kid. Nice work all around.
Go home happy.
Put Up To Shut Up
While having the Cubs start 4-1 would be sweet, and punishing the Cardinals would be even sweeter, seeing the Cubs actually exceed expectations for the first time in three seasons would be the sweetest.
It's also a way to get the naysayers, like this writer, to shut up.
What have you got Sean Marshall? Cub Nation turns its hopeful eyes to you...
Thank god that Jim Hendry has given us Jacque Jones to rip on even if this team goes 172-1.
Jacque Jones has been demoted 1 spot in the batting order to 6th in the lineup. Only 20 more demotions are necessary.
"FINALLY!!!! YES!!!!" - Murton's Eldest, with Daddy on deck
Saturday, April 08, 2006
In a Box
A brilliant piece of gamesmanship by Derrek Lee and his agent. By setting a deadline for today to get a contract extension done, Lee has put an inordinate amount of pressure on Jim Hendry and Andy MacPhail. Why is the pressure there? Well, it's Hendry and MacPhail's fault.
See, Hendry got a two year contract extension today. Now, if Lee isn't resigned today, the questions tomorrow will be: "Jim, why did you get an extension and Derrek lee did not?"
I think Lee just got himself 5 years at $13mm per year, easy, possibly more. MacPhail just played right into Derrek Lee's hands. Good. Lee deserves it.
Friday, April 07, 2006
Must Win Series
Has there ever been a more important second series of the season? With St. Loser off to a 3-0 start and with the Cubs pitching still awaiting a scheduled May deshamblization, it's hard to believe, but if the Cubs get swept this weekend, they could already be eliminated from contention for the NL Central.
What the Cubs are going to need to do is something they've only done for 6 weeks out of the last four seasons: Exceed expectations.
Given the pitching matchups of Greg Maddux vs. Jeff Suppan today, Carlos Zambrano vs. Cris Carpenter on Saturday, and Sean Marshall vs. Sidney Ponson Sunday night, expecations would be to win one or two games. They better win two. A sweep would be a nice statement, and be a big boost for young Mr. Marshall.
If the downside happens, the Cubs would be 1-4 and be trailing a 6-0 Cardinal team by 4 1/2 games after playing only 5.
They are probably going to announce Jim Hendry's contract extension on Saturday. He better pray for two wins this weekend.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Off Day Question
Recently, I purchased a slide scanner. Back in the late 70's/early 80's all my father shot were slides on his old Cannon AE-1 SLR. Viewing them now is nearly impossible. So, in order to catalog what we have, we got the scanner.
In going through 1979, I discovered these pics I took with my father at a game that summer. I'm trying to identify the game and the players in the pictures. Here's what I know about that day.
The game was some time after school ended for the year and before my mid-August birthday. I believe the opponent is the Giants. The last thing I recall is that this was "Picture Day." Back then, that meant you could go on the field and stand behind a rope and take snapshots of the players. No getting in the picture with them or autographs, just shots of Mike Krukow standing there. Gee... what fun ideas that marketing department had.
If it is the Giants, via Retrosheet, I've narrowed the game down to six dates: June 1st, June 2nd, June 3rd, August 14th, August 15th, or August 16th. I have no idea what players are in which pictures. Any help would be appreciated.
Anyway, here are the pics. Click on the pics to see them full size. Thanks in advance.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
He Missed the Non-Moves
Paul Sullivan nicely summed up the best and worst moves of the Jim Hendry era, and he correctly categorizes them:
1. Acquiring Ramirez and Lofton, July 2003
2. Acquiring Derrek Lee, Nov. 2003
3. Dumping Sosa, Feb. 2005
4. Signing Dempster, Jan. 2004
5. Dumping Hundley, Dec. 2002
1. Hollandsworth/Dubois platoon, April 2005
2. Signing Remlinger, Nov. 2002
3. Signing Estes, Dec. 2002
4. Revealing Sosa video, Oct. 2004
5. Signing Hawkins
Now, two of the worst moves weren't all Hendry's fault. The Holly/Dubois platoon is on Dusty Baker and the Sosa video is more on Andy MacPhail and Tribune management.
But this page would suggest that Hendry's worst moves have not been the bad moves he's made, rather his worst moves are the ones he failed to make at all. Those would be (in no particular order):
1) Failing to add a bullpen arm in 2003. That cost dearly.
2) Failing to find a replacement for Kenny Lofton for two years.
3) Failing to add a bullpen arm at the trading deadline in 2004. That also cost dearly.
4) Failing to add starting pitching depth for 2006.
5) Failing to trade some of his young pitchers when their value was highest. Guys like Bobby Brownlie, Angel Guzman, Andy Sisco. When you look at where the talent level in the Cubs minor league system was perceived and the actual value obtained from the system, that has to be a failure.
6) Failure to sign big name free agents. Not getting Miguel Tejada was a mistake the team is still trying to recover from. That they considered trading Mark Prior for Tejada this year is a clear acknowledgement of that. Not getting Jim Thome for 2003 was a massive mistake. Yes, you would not have had Derrek Lee in 2004 or 2005, but Hee Seop Choi could have been moved for bullpen help. And you wouldn't have had Eric Karros in 2003. Instead you would have had Thome at a home town discount and 47 HR, 131 RBI, .266/.385/.573 in 2003 and 42 HR, 105 RBI, .274/.396/.581 in 2004. You could have lived without Derrek Lee.
When you include these non-moves, it's clear Jim Hendry has been a sub-par GM for one of the top 10 revenue teams in baseball.
Where They Need To Be
While it looks like the Jim Hendry extension will be pushed back to Saturday (presumably so no nasty questions like, "Why did you deserve this extension now given your teams have fewer wins each of the last three years?" are asked on Home Opening Day), it seems fair to set expectations for a team that thinks it is capable of winning a division in 2006.
Looking at the April schedule, the Cubs have it pretty easy. With 12 home games this month, only three of them are against a team projected to have a winning record (Cardinals). The road schedule is a little tougher with three games against the Dodgers and three against St. Louis. The Cubs have 11 games against teams that won't likely sniff .500 (or even .400 for Florida).
A reasonable expectation would be for a contending team to take 14 of these 23 games. Last year, this team rarely played to expectations, much less exceeded them. Winning today would be a nice way to start exceeding expectations, especially with Sean Marshall having to face the Cardinals on Saturday.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Rough Start For Two
Things that will drive you batty this season include Jacque Jones and Michael Barrett batting back to back. Their first at bats this season came with the bases loaded against a struggling pitcher and nobody out. So what do these two goofs do?
Jones swings at the first and second pitch he sees, Barrett swings at the first and only pitche he sees.
Result: Jones flies out to left but is saved by Adam DH-unn's impression of a major league outfielder. Barrett follows up with a double play.
When are these guys going to learn to take a pitch or two? And is Dusty going to say something to them considering they were supposed to learn this in the minors? They both owe their asses to Matt Murton who had a great at bat that resulted in a 3 run dinger.
While No One Is Paying Attention
Opening Day / NCAA Tourney Championship day is a great day to bury unpopular news. That's what the Cubs did yesterday in announcing that Jim Hendry could have a new contract before the home opener.
After that, an extension for Dusty Baker would be on tap. Nothing like handing out extensions before they are earned.
Too bad managers can't be term limited.
And, along the lines of President Bush's visit to Cinci yesterday. Anyone catch these nuggets?
(Matt) Murton said the meeting compared favorably to a clubhouse visit from Vince Vaughn, one of his favorite movie stars.
Getting a visit from the President is so money
Manager Dusty Baker and relief pitcher Bob Howry had knives taken from their bags at Great American Ball Park as security tightened for the visit from the president.
"It's the first time they took it at the ballpark," Baker said. "They've taken it at the airport when I forget [it was in the bag]."
Asked why he had a knife, Baker said: "It's a pocketknife that you use for stuff— cutting apples, doing whatever, tighten a screw or cut some tape off a box, cutting string, anything."
That Dusty. Always prepared for that wild apple, loose screw or tapped box you find on a major league ballfield.
Monday, April 03, 2006
This flick looks excellent!
Opening Day Brings Hope
Oh, please, please, please, please!
Here We Go Again
Ivy Chat endeavors to take a forward look at our favorite baseball team. If you want to know about yesterday's game, well, there are still newspapers for that. With the start of 2006, here are a few of the things to watch that will tell you how the season will progress.
The playing time given to Ronny Cedeno: You just know Dusty Baker wants Neifi Perez to play shortstop. How much leash will Dusty give to Cedeno?
The playing time given to Todd Walker: You also know that Dusty just hates Jerry Hairston, and for decent reason. Jerry may be one of the dumbest players in the game short of Michael Barrett. That said, a team trying to win with defense isn’t going to do that with Todd Walker. Hairston was better last year and was better this spring. Will Dusty and Hendry allow Todd and his shot put throws to start double plays over Hairston?
The pitching of Sean Marshall: If this guy can pitch well, he opens up a world of possibilities for the team in terms of starters, bullpen composition, and trades.
Contract negotiations: With Derrek Lee likely to get between $55 million and $70 million over four or five years, when do the Aramis Ramirez negotiations start? What about Juan Pierre? And how does Felix Pie’s performance in Des Moines affect Pierre?
The bat of Matt Murton: I still think he’s most likely traded sooner rather than later, especially if Pie does well in Iowa. The better Big Red does, the more the Cubs can get in trade.
The utility of Freddy Bynum: Wow. A utility player who actually has utility. A guy with speed who can play shortstop, second base, third base and all three outfield spots. Where’s a guy like this been the last four years?
The rehab or Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Wade Miller: Remember, it’s about 3 weeks from the time these guys first get on a mound to pitching in the majors. That means we can hope to see Wood and Miller in early May and Prior in 2011.
The demise of an ex-Cub: There is exciting news that Corey Patterson has been benched in Baltimore in favor of Luis Matos.
Yeah, I had to get one last dig in at Korey. Good riddance.
In closing, may Steve Goodman's line from "A Dying Cub’s Fans Last Request" be made incorrect in 2006:
"You know the law of averages says:
Anything will happen that can"
That's what it says
"But the last time the Cubs won a National League pennant
Was the year we dropped the bomb on Japan."
Sunday, April 02, 2006
So many thoughts, so little time to write:
The story is that the Tribune was able to scam Anheuser-Busch into purchasing naming rights for the Wrigley Field bleachers. Now, A-B won’t have their name above the bleacher entrance as the “Bud Light Bleachers,” only additional signage inside the park and possibly something written on the tickets.
Some fans are upset.
This fan is upset, but not for the reasons other fans are. Clearly this deal was in the works for quite a while. Let’s guess that the Cubs will get an extra $1 million per year from A-B. Think about the cash from the new bleacher seats, the contract dollars freed from Sosa and Burnitz, and now this which means even more money coming in. All that and no Furcal and Millwood?
That’s what to be angry about. Andy Dolan got this exactly right when he wrote:
If I owned the Cubs, the first thing I’d do is call up Wrigley and tell them that the cost of keeping their half-assed chewing gum’s name on the park is $20 Milhouse Van Houtens for ten years. If they as much as blink you’ll all be lined up for tickets in ivy-covered Bob Rohrman Auto Mallpark. Tradition, my ass.
I’ve said that for years. Why should Wrigley get the name for free after 25 years?
ESPN’s Mike & Mike debated steroids this week. Greenberg seems to think that fans really care about getting steroids out of the game. He’s right. They want the game clean. And as soon as the game is clean, the same fans will whine that the games are boring.
There’s a reason the owners didn’t care about steroid abuse: Juiced players put butts in the seats. Fans want the steroids gone like they want airbrushing eliminated from Playboy. We say we want it all natural until we see the unblemished goods. Then, we stop buying the product.
Dusty trotted out nearly the perfect lineup today:
Juan Pierre – CF
Todd Walker – 2B
Derrek Lee – 1B
Aramis Ramirez – 3B
Jacque Jones – RF
Michael Barrett – C
Matt Murton – LF
Ronny Cedeno – SS
Greg Maddux – P
Well, that’s nearly perfect with this lot of players. Murton should be 5th, but probably hasn’t earned that yet. Jones batting in that slot has disaster written all over it. But, at least there’s no Neifi and no Cedeno batting second. That’ll have to do for this team. Too bad the rotation is in shambles and won’t be deshamblized until at least May first.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
Over at the Cub Reporter, it's roundtable time again. Here are my responses to their queries:
1. Rate the Cubs off-season acquisitions and maneuvers. Did Jim Hendry sufficiently address the team’s needs or was he left in the cold holding a bag of donuts? Mmmm, donuts...
The offseason can only be described as disappointing. With a ton of dollars clearing from the end of Sammy Sosa’s contract and Jeromy Burnitz’s contract, with close to $3 million in new revenue from expanded bleachers, with Dusty Baker and Jim Hendry’s contract coming to an end, and with success on the other side of town, you figured the stars were aligned for a big splash. Instead, a small “kerplunk” was heard. When your best offseason acquisition is a pending-free agent centerfielder coming off his worst season in 4 years, you haven’t had a good offseason.
Hendry seems to have tried the strategy that Larry Himes tried after Greg Maddux left: Spread the dollars around between several players. The problem with that strategy is that the team gets a few decent players but no difference makers. Jacque Jones and Juan Pierre instead of a Bobby Abreu. Scott Eyre and Bobby Howry instead of Billy Wagner.
And no Rafael Furcal or Kevin Millwood, players who were clearly need players.
Very, very frustrating.
2. What is the one off-season move you wish the Cubs made? (Be specific)
Clearly, the offseason move I wanted the Cubs to make was to get Juan Pierre. Unfortunately, I wanted that move to be made in the winter of 2004. While getting Pierre is still an excellent move, sadly, the Cubs needed more moves that weren’t made to push them over the top. Those moves would have included getting Billy Wagner (and making Ryan Dempster the primary setup man) and adding Kevin Millwood. At the time, it appeared that Millwood was going to be a luxury. Now, it seems pretty clear that the Cubs knew they were going to be two men short in the rotation (Wood and Prior). Not getting Millwood, or a similar starter, sure seems dumb now knowing the injury status of the rotation. Howry and Eyre seem to be decent acquisitions, but I’d have rather seen the Cubs pass on those two decent pitchers and get the excellence of a Wagner.
3. What is the one off-season move you’re glad the Cubs didn’t make?
Alphonso Soriano for second base. The only guy who lets more get past him is Jocelyn Thibault.
4. Hendry and Baker, brothers in arms, men with expiring contracts. Do they get automatic extensions or will their futures be tied into this team’s successes or failures?
It’s clear that Andy MacPhail wants to give Hendry an extension and Hendry wants to extend Baker. There’s two issues here: 1) Do they deserve the extensions right now or later in the year; and 2) Why haven’t they gotten extensions already?
On the deserve mark, the answer is clearly no to right now. Baker should have been fired after the 2004 season when he allowed Steve Stone to distractions the team from actually focusing on the game. Baring a playoff appearance this year, Dusty needs to go.
Hendry’s been a decent GM, but has serious flaws. He allowed the team to go leadoff-less for three straight years and only got Kenny Lofton (and the associated playoff spot) by the shear good luck of Corey Patterson’s shredded knee. He failed to add to a weak bullpen for three straight years. He failed to add to the rotation this year.
Why should a man who leaves obvious, gapping holes in a team be allowed to keep his job without having to prove himself during the final year of his contract?
Both men should have to earn their contract extension through their 2006 performance.
Now, the “why haven’t they both already been extended” is a much more interesting question. As mentioned, clearly MacPhail wants to keep both Hendry and Baker as letting either go would signal that MacPhail is directionless. Therefore, there’s only one possible explanation. MacPhail is getting pressure from above not to extend the contracts.
Now, why would he be getting pressure? There are a few logical answers. One would be the decline in attendance and TV ratings last September, an indication of a fan base ready to end the party of unquestioning support (and ticket buying). The Tribune doesn’t need falling profits at another division.
Another, more hopeful reason, could be this: The Trib is preparing to sell the team. In such a case, they would not want any long-term management contracts in place as a new owner will want his own GM and that GM will want his own manager.
Watching how this plays out may be the most exciting part of the 2006 season.
5. Derrek Lee put up MVP-type numbers last season in what will either be his career year or career turn-around. Does he repeat those lofty totals or was last year the peak of an otherwise ordinary career?
The answer is likely in the middle. I do not think Derrek Lee will conclude his days in baseball known as an average player. But to expect him to put up MVP like numbers going forward is not reasonable. I expect he’ll revert to about .290 / 38 / 110. And, if Pierre gets on base at his historical .355 rate and Neifi doesn’t bat second, that 110 could go to 125.
6. Second base; what do you do? Or better yet, what should have been done?
Todd Walker should start at second given the options available. What SHOULD have been done is a free agent short stop should have been signed allowing Ronny Cedeno to play second. That short stop could have batted lead-off or in the two hole and probably lowered the cost of acquiring Juan Pierre.
Anyone know a short stop that fits that bill?
7. Who will be this year’s surprises, who will be this year’s disappointments?
Beyond seeing a rookie like Felix Pie come up to replace an injured Pierre or Jacque Jones, or replace an injured or traded Matt Murton, I can’t see a position player being a surprise. Perhaps expectations from Jones are so low that a .260 season out of him could be considered a surprise.
Jacque Jones leads the likely disappointment list followed closely by Bobby Howry who had every bit the career year last year that Derrek Lee had.
8. The Cubs come into the season relying on some young Cubs. How do you envision Murton and Cedeno’s seasons will go? Beyond those two, which lil’ Cubs do you expect to make the biggest impact on the team this year?
Ronny Cedeno gives you hope for a breakout. There’s no reason he can’t and plenty of reasons to think he can. He looked good in spurts last year and his minor league track record suggests he’s getting better as he ages. This is a marked difference in minor league performance from our dearly departed center fielder who gave you every indication on the way up that he had Fosbery written all over him.
Murton, I expect, will have a fine season with the bat. In the field, eh… He’s a prime candidate for a trade this year. Given the long contract gifted to Jacque Jones, the presence of Juan Pierre, and the coming of Felix Pie, there’s not room for all of them. Jones is untradeable. That means that, unless Pierre goes away via free agency, either Pie or Murton is trade bait. Murton’s older and the weaker fielder. He’s most likely to go.
9. You probably don’t need reminding, but the Cubs last won a World Series in 1908. What’s the biggest reason Cubs fans should be hopeful that this, at long last, is the year?
The curses are unwinding in reverse order: Red Sox, White Sox, now it’s the Cubs turn.
As to a real reason why fans should be hopeful? I can’t think of one. The only reason to have hope is illogical.
10. And the biggest reason they should think that once again, come October, it’ll be “wait ‘til next year”?
Lack of quality starting pitching. With Mark Prior long tossing a distance shorter than the mound-to-plate distance, Kerry Wood on the DL for the 10th time, and Wade Miller a reclamation project, counting on Glendon Rusch, Greg Maddux, Sean Marshall, Angel Guzman and Jerome Williams is a level of faith that would make Jimmy Swaggart blush.
11. So, how many will the Cubs win this year? And how will it all end?
I’ve got them between 78 and 83 wins. How will it end? Badly.
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