Sunday, October 28, 2007

Copycats for MLB Welcome


What symmetry. Both the NFL season and the major league baseball season ended today. While the remaining 2007 Bear games are worth no further discussion (any notable plays by The Devistator will be available on YouTube), the Red Sox certainly are.

In the NFL, every time a team wins the Super Bowl, the media always anoints a new genius and wonders how quickly the rest of the NFL will emulate the most recent winner.

Why doesn't the same mentality apply to MLB?

Perhaps it will now that Theo Epstein's Moneyball approach has won two World Series where none had been won for over 80 years. Perhaps the Cubs can learn a thing or two. So, what can be learned beyond "OBP is king"? Several things.

1) Spending on extraordinary talent is worth it.

A lot has been made of how inexpensive the payrolls of the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Indians were. Well, they all lost. And when they lost, they lost badly. That the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, and Cubs all made the playoffs. They rank first, second, fourth, and eighth in payroll. The Red Sox not only spent, but they spent with a strategy. They got guys with high OBPs, low strike out totals, and relatively young. They pitchers they got were nearly all proven commodities. Free agents on this team included Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Manny Ramirez, J.D. Drew and David Ortiz. Free agents can buy you titles. It's been said that you don't need a $100 million payroll to get to the World Series. That's true in the putrid National League. But it sure looks like you need a $100 million payroll to win the World Series. And having one sure improves your chance at getting in the post season tournament.

2) A farm system doesn't need to generate players for your team to be a successful farm system.

Of the Red Sox starting eight, only Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia broke into the majors with Boston (Curt Schilling was drafted by the Sox but was traded to Baltimore as a minor leaguer). What the Boston farm system has produced is talent to trade for Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, and Coco Crisp. For this to work for a team, what is required is a general manager who can draft enough talent to make high value player trades. For a while, it looked like the Cubs had stockpiled some talent. But much of it died on the vine and was never utilized. Remember Jae-kuk Ryu? Ben Christensen? How about David Kelton, Jason DuBois, Andy Sisco, Chad Blassko, Ricky Nolasco, Sergio Mitre, Bobby Brownlie? All these guys had trade value at one point. The Cubs got very little for them. Who to blame for that? One guy, and one guy only.

The Red Sox have won 2 of the last 4 World Series titles. Time for the Cubs to start copying them. It would help to start by adopting their philosophy.

A Rod Gives Rangers $21 Million


Alex Rodriguez is a free agent. Will the Cubs step up? They could use a short stop just a wee bit.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Deadly, But Silent


Bruce Miles, a favorite read of this author for numerous reasons including his long standing tradition of making sense and answering unsolicited e-mails, made a great deal more sense with his article last Friday. Miles' thesis:

• You don't need a $100 million payroll to get to the World Series. Nor do you need to commit more than $300 million during one winter, only to come up wanting.

• Player development is a must.

• A shrewd trade here and there can make all the difference.

• A sound offensive philosophy matters.

You can quibble with point one as high payroll can cover for a unproductive farm system. What you cannot do, is have high payroll without a real strategy for placing the pieces together. Look at the Red Sox. Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, and JD Drew are not exactly Red Sox lifers. But they all follow a similar style of hitting. Good OBP, low strike out. Of those four players, only Ortiz has multiple 100 strikeout seasons.

Jim Hendry does none of this. He just goes after the best available in a quixotic attempt to piece together a team. Don't believe it? Read this tripe from the Ministress of Information at Cubs-MLB.com-Minitruth.

You also have to love the unwritten in this portion:

(T)he Cubs get tired of hearing it, but they've got to start developing an offensive philosophy based on high on-base percentage. Manager Lou Piniella knows this.

In 2006, the Cubs were last in the NL in OBP and 15th in runs scored. This year, they improved to ninth in OBP and eighth in runs scored.

See the correlation?

Yes, Piniella knows this. Any guesses who doesn't know it?

Miles closes with this question:

The lessons are there. Will the Cubs heed them so they can get back to the playoffs and advance next year?

Not if Jim Hendry is managing the club in a general way. The sale cannot happen soon enough.

Friday, October 19, 2007

I'm Three Today



And she already throws curve balls.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Make It So, Joe


The New York Yankees are in need of a new manager as Joe Torre is out. This could radically change the desires of several Yankee free agents including Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez.

If only Dusty had held out a few more days...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

For Comic Book Guy...


If I'm here, the ratings are in the Phantom ZoneAs Vida Guerra has already made an appearance, let's present Ms. Laura Vandervoort.

Laura has recently been appearing in what can only be the last season of Smallville if the writers believe it takes a 22 year old blonde Supergirl in a belly shirt to grab eyeballs.

Personally, I'd have gone with Helen Slater (if for no other reason than Helen is closer to my age while Laura is closer to the Two Year Old), but she's been missing since Jerry Seinfeld told her she was "So.... good looking!"
Call me Becky Gelke.
Hey! This isn't exactly the Algonquin Round Table that's being hosted here! Stop bitchin'!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Thank You, Colorado


Denver has always been a fun city to visit. And what John Elway did to the Packers a few years back has certainly earned Denver a warm place in the heart of many a Chicagoan. But what they did last night was tremendous.

Winning 21 of 22 games is not to what I was referring. Rather that the Rockies sweep prevented as many as three more nights of suffering through the prattling of Chip Caray is a debt all of America owes to the Rockies.

And The Downside


Courtesy of TJ Brown. The following Major League Baseball teams have all played in the World Series during my lifetime:

Atlanta
Arizona
Baltimore
Boston
Chicago White Sox
Cincinnati
Cleveland
Colorado
Detroit
Florida
Houston
Kansas City
Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Dodgers
Milwaukee
Minnesota
New York Mets
New York Yankees
Oakland
Pittsburgh
Philadelphia
St. Louis
San Diego
San Francisco
Toronto

It's only Seattle, Tampa Bay, Texas, Washington/Montreal and the Cubs that are pennantless since 1967. And Toronto, Arizona, and Colorado didn't exist in 1967.

Anyone want to give the Cubs the "Cleveland Browns" deal? Move the Cubs away, rename them, and let a new owner restart the Cubs as an expansion franchise.

It won't be any worse.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

School Daze


Over the coming weeks, we'll break down the four main candidates to own the Cubs, should the Trib ever settle their issues and proceed to sell the team.

But today, the discussion turns to the State of Illinois and your local public school.

As you may be aware, Governor Rod Blagojevitch and the state legislature have not been able to pass a budget. While Governor Virility has plenty of time to go to Cubs playoff games, he doesn't seem to have the desire or inclination to create a budget that funds the state's needs that doesn't include some populist measure that would bolster Rod's bonafides to run for President in 2012. The legislature refuses to comply so we have deadlock.

"Big deal," most of us think. All this means is that property tax bills will not be due until December. Or later. That's good! We get to keep our money and the state will simply get it later.

On the surface, that's true. The reality is that schools, and other state programs, are losing money. Lots.

The school district in this area receives 50% of its tax receipts in the fall, and another 50% in the spring. The monies come in in two large payments and are paid out slowly over the intervening months. This allows the district to invest the dollars and earn interest on the funds. These funds supplement budgets and provide additional funding beyond your taxes.

Guess what? No funds have been received so far this fall. Instead of having money to invest, districts are tapping funds held in reserve. Now, in a district where I live, the lost investment income comes to $15,000 to $20,000 PER MONTH. Now, take a district with minimal ready reserves. They not only lose interest income, but may have to borrow from a bank and pay out additional dollars in interest to keep operating!

You'd think the government would be focused on this issue, only.

Nope.

State lawmakers thrust Illinois into the center of the national debate on school prayer today as the House approved legislation to require public schools to provide students with a moment of silence at the start of classes.

Students from kindergarten through high school will be allowed to silently pray in whatever faith they practice or simply sit and reflect quietly. Illinois teachers and students have had the option of doing so since 2002, but it wasn't mandated.

The Illinois House voted to override Gov. Rod Blagojevich's late August veto of the silent-moment measure. The governor cited concerns about the separation of church and state.

The problem with this law isn't the moment of silence. It's two things: 1) the lack of direction on how to implement it:

In school hallways and at closed-door administrative meetings throughout the Chicago area Friday, those most affected had anything but silent moments as they debated the new law's merits and what it means. Among the questions: How long would a "moment" last? How would officials enforce or monitor the silence?

"I think it's ridiculous," said Mark Merklin, a sophomore at South Elgin High. "What's the punishment if you talk all through the moment of silence? Is there a fine or what?"

Many students and educators were caught off guard after the legislature on Thursday overrode Gov. Rod Blagojevich's veto of a measure that calls for silence but offered few guidelines on how to implement it. Each district will define the length of a "moment," as it thinks best, said a spokesman with the Illinois State Board of Education.

In short, it's a stupid law designed to do nothing more than create spurious law suits and draw attention for doing, ultimately, nothing.

But the gall of these "civic leaders" to dump this on the schools when they can't even provide the funds that keep them open is disgusting.

May the next election have mercy upon their souls. And, if you want to know how your reps voted, the Senate tally is here and the House list can be found here.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Clueless


When Jim Hendry speaks, mouths fall open:

Jim Hendry sidestepped questions of whether the Cubs would look for somebody else to bat first in the order next year.

Alfonso Soriano was the Cubs' leadoff man this year, and although he put up only a .337 on-base percentage, he did hit 33 home runs.

Soriano suffered leg injuries early in the season and in August.

"If Soriano hadn't had those two injuries, he might have stolen 40-45 bases, and people would be looking at it differently," Hendry said.

Yes, because stolen bases are the difinitive statistic in determining what you want in a leadoff hitter.

I mean, Soriano embodies every other quality you want in a leadoff hitter, right?

Monday, October 08, 2007

It's About Time


As we sat at the Cubs final game of 2007, our backs were up against the chain link fence that overlooks Addison. We peered out at the stores on the south side of the street. There's Sports World, a ticket broker, a garage/mechanic shop, and the 7-11.

All pretty crappy buildings considering what's been built on Clark Street the last 15 years.

"When are the going to redevelop this?" the banker wondered.

Sooner than we thought. (Warning: Link opens a large PDF)

It's about time this stretch of land was redeveloped. That has got to be killing the Cubs that this project is moving ahead while the Cubs plan for a garage/restaurant/museum remains stalled.

Sounds like a decent development plan. The structure does seem a little high in some of the views. If the garage is built along Clark and this goes up on Addison, it could result in intersecting canyons and a tight feeling.

Back to Business


With the Cubs players playing golf and no activity on the free agent market due for close to a month, it's time to go back to looking at the cash flow side of the club. There's a lot of speculation about when and even if, Sam Zell will complete the purchase of Tribune Corporation and follow on with the planned sale of the team. The educated guess here is that the sale of the team is being delayed by the potential collapse of Zell's deal.

But that's not where we are going to focus today.

As noted, Cub fans should be proud of themselves for not only failing to cheer the team for a "successful" season as they left the field on Saturday, but actually booing the pathetic play of the star performers: Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.

This brought to mind the old topic of who gets more attention from the brass at 1060 West Addison: The fans who continue to buy tickets and complain or the fans who fail to buy due to apathy.

Well, we have a definitive answer:

"It jolted me -- especially in September, when you started seeing maybe 17,000 or 20,000 people in here and we're used to playing in front of 35,000 or 36,000," (Cubs president John) McDonough said this week at his Wrigley Field office. "It was a real wake-up call that there could be a crack in this foundation."
...
But the White Sox's 2005 title, their first since 1918, reminded everyone that these things actually could happen in Chicago, and all those empty seats resonated louder than any boos at Wrigley, warning that Cubs fans who had weathered their team's failures for decades might not tolerate it much longer.

That's why McDonough felt he needed to send an immediate message to the no-shows, his players and his staff.
...
"You often hear that the difference between Cubs fans and Sox fans is if you put a bad product on the field, Sox fans won't go and Cubs fans are getting what they deserve because they keep showing up, that they're being played for suckers," (creative development director at ad agency DraftFCB Ron) Lazzeretti said. "But you did sense there was a certain unrest, an impatience that wasn't there before. It's bad enough when people boo, but when they don't even show up to claim the seats that they've already paid for, that really is people saying they don't approve of the way you're doing business."

If the cook repeatedly spits in the soup of customers, the cook only listens when the customers stop showing up. The customer who complains and shows up tomorrow for the same meal is ignored.

Bravo, Cubs fans. You made them spend money last winter and improve the team. Let’s hope John McDonough, who looks to be here for at least a few more months, heard your boos and silence last Saturday.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

0-ctober


For the first time in 11 years, four friends dating back to high school went out without kids or spouses. They had face value tickets to a baseball game in Wrigley in October that were just to the first base side of the pressbox. They laughed, told a few jokes, reminded each other of some long nearly-forgotten events, and enjoyed a hot October evening.

They were completely bored by the sporting event on display.

As soon as the Mark DeRosa GIDP in the 5th, they headed to the rooftop cafe behind the pressbox, had a few beers, and essentially ignored the rest of the game.

It was an appropriate response for a team that basically ignored the game was well. This site talked about the four key players and if they would be Tops or Flops? Well, Carlos Zambrano can have his opera hat. For Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, and Aramis "As many hits as team wins" Ramirez, to use the term flops to describe them would be insulting to shower shoes.

Despite the debacle, there are some positives to come from the sweep:

1) Cubs fans should be applauded for not only not cheering the team as the game ended, but actually booing Lee, Ramirez and especially Soriano off the field after their final at bats. How refreshing.

2) The douchbag near-felon who had the signs all over the place in the Red Sox Font is now back to the category of the ignored.

3) Jim Hendry, completely undeserving of praise for overspending on bad players and winning a weak division, will come under much closer scrutiny than he would have in a close series. This is especially so given how bad his money players performed while being outplayed by players Hendry didn't even envision on the roster on Opening Day (Geovany Soto and Ryan Theriot come to mind).

4) Lou Piniella will insist on further roster changes before 2008 begins. He's already rid this team of the Michael Barrett's and Ceasar Izturis's. The Scott Eyre's and Jacque Jones' are next.

5) The Cubs will have a new owner in the next 180 days. While this is not a result of the playoff loss, it is a tremendous potential positive.

This was a stepping stone season, Cub fans. Believe it or not, some good may rise from the Phoenix-created ash pile of the 2007 Cubs.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Now, About That Hitting...


What a bunch of whiners. Rick Morrissey, Mike Downey, Phil Rogers, Jay Mariotti and Barry Rozner ALL get it wrong. They blame the Game 1 loss to the Diamondbacks on pulling Carlos Zambrano after 6 innings and 85 pitches in a tie game.

So, pulling a pitcher with a history of histrionics and cramping due to dehydration from a game in a warm weather city to bring in a pitcher who had been lights out for months is a mistake?

Give me a break.

If there's blame on Lou it's minimal. You could fault him for not taking out Z half an inning earlier when the Cubs had the bases loaded and two outs. But that would also be wrong because Z had the best at bats of anyone on the team last night.

You could also give some blame to Lou for batting Jacque Jones second. I understand you want a lefty in the slot. So bat Floyd there. Bat Felix Pie there. But not Jacque. The fewer at bats for him the better.

No, the game was lost last night by the top five guys in the batting order. Alfonso Soriano, Jones, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Cliff Floyd combined to go 1 for 20 with a walk, one run scored and 8 strikeouts.

1 for 20? They could have started Alfonso Curran, Janet Jones, Peggy Lee, Hector Ramirez and Heywood Floyd and not done much worse. Brandon Webb is good, but not that good. He was in trouble more often than could be expected and the Cubs did nothing with what they were given.

This remained a game that the Diamondbacks needed more than the Cubs. The worrisome part is that the offense looked more like May than September. They better get back to September tonight or October is going to be very short. That's the issue, not Lou's decision to pull Zambrano.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Two Ifs


With the Cubs facing the Diamondbacks starting around the time third shifters take their lunch, now would seem to be the last chance to chime in with predictions on the outcome of the series.

It's actually pretty simple. If the Diamondbacks are to win, they cannot lose any start Brandon Webb makes. If the Cubs are to win, they cannot lose any start Brandon Webb DOESN'T make.

Extrapolating from there, the Diamondbacks must win tonight and the Cubs must win tomorrow night.

Now, can the Cubs win tonight? Sure. And, as it was all year, it's up to the Big Four. Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano were the Four Tops all last month. They need to continue that tonight.

Prediction: Cubs in 4.

Just Cliff Clavining


The Eight Year Old saw the video from 1989 as it was transferred from tape to digital video. He then saw Frank Chance’s picture flash across the screen. “Is that the guy from that Merkle thing?” he asked.

How the hell did he know that?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

This Is How You Do It


Some people will recall the CBS video from the 1986 NFC Championship game posted here last January. Some may be surprised to discover that NBC used to do the same kind of thing when it came to intros.

As ably recounted yesterday over at Desipio
, no one did more with less than Vin Scully. Using only a few words of prose, some pan shots of Wrigley Field, and a few still photos and small video clips, Scully creates a mood that still reverberates today.

The words and the image of Jody Davis evokes even stronger emotions today than those of 23 years ago.

Let's hope Vin's final words are correct.
video

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Scheudle Is Out



Date Time CDT TV
Gm 1 CHC @ ARI Wed Oct. 3 9 pm TBS
Gm 2 CHC @ ARI Thu Oct. 4 9 pm TBS
Gm 3 ARI @ CHC Sat Oct. 6 5 pm TBS
Gm 4 ARI @ CHC Sun Oct. 7 12 pm TNT
Gm 5 CHC @ ARI Tue Oct. 9 9 pm TBS

9 PM starts? Boy, The Eight Year Old is going to be pissed.

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