Thursday, May 29, 2008

He Went To That Voodoo That He Did So Well!!!

My Lord, you look just like the piss-boy!  Wait for the shake!

Harvey Korman 1927-2008

Did you think he was as funny as I did? Do you think he deserved a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for Blazing Saddles?

Why am I asking you?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

So, This Is Goodbye

Breaking news from Cincinnati:

CINCINNATI (TICKER) —Corey Patterson, the Cincinnati Reds’ $3 million mistake, has landed in the minor leagues.

The Reds on Wednesday optioned the struggling Patterson to Class AAA Louisville of the International League.

A favorite of manager Dusty Baker, Patterson signed with the Reds in the offseason to start in center field. It was a curious move by former general manager Wayne Krivsky, who has since been fired.

Patterson has offered the Reds little return on their investment and is batting .200 with four homers, 13 RBI and eight stolen bases in 45 games.

One thinks that this marks Korey's final appearence in the major leagues. This brings on mixed emotions.

Of the harping that is this blog, Korey was one of Ivy Chat's harpiest topics. It's always a pleasure to see that a player with no business in the major leagues get dismissed from said league. Then again, that Korey will never be a source of amusement (or disgust) again, does bring a twinge of sadness.

The real problem here is that Cinci and Jay Bruce may actually field a better team now. That's not a good thing given that the Cubs still have nine games left against them. I'd rather see the Cubs have Korey's 36 at bats pending than Bruce's.


Serpentine, Albie!  Serpentine!Andy Dolan, as he so often does, took the time to lay out the case against Alfonso Soriano. He correctly notes that Soriano has become a DH far sooner than anyone expected:

Sensible Cubs fans knew that when he signed that contract before last season that the last few years of the deal were going to be bad. He was going to be a DH playing on a National League team and getting paid way too much money. We just didn’t know that it was going to happen with seven years left. We thought two, maybe three in the worst case.

The question is, “What do you do about it?”

Well, the answer seems to me Mike Hampton. You remember him. He was the pitcher that, in 2000, the Colorado Rockies signed to an 8-year, $121 million contract. This remains one of the largest contracts in the history of baseball. Colorado had seen enough of Hampton to dump him less than two years later. Via a complicated series of trades, Hampton ended up with the Atlanta Braves. Of the remaining $103 million Hampton was due, Colorado was obligated for $30 million. Florida, a middle man in the transaction, was obligated for $38 million, and Atlanta was obligated for the balance of $35 million.

The reason the deals made sense for everyone. Colorado took some large contracts back from Florida and ended up saving money. Florida also ended up saving money by passing Hampton on to the Braves. And the Braves believed Leo Mazzoni could remediate Hampton’s career.

Jim Hendry needs to start laying the groundwork now to get Soriano into the American League. Now, this trade cannot happen during the 2008 season. Despite how lousy Soriano has been, the Cubs are woefully unprepared to fill the gap that Soriano’s leaving would create. Because the Cubs had him locked in for 6 years, they only have Matt Murton ready to play left and Murton is no better in left. Unless the Cubs, primed to win this year, could obtain a quality left fielder in return for Soriano (unlikely given the amount of salary needed to be dumped), they have to stick with him through the end of the year.

But the Cubs cannot go into 2009 with a guy in left who approaches the warning track like he’s headed into surgery, who is not mentally strong enough to bat where he’d be most useful in a lineup, who no longer has the confidence in his legs to be a leadoff hitter, and who cannot go from first to third on a single.

Hendry needs to start analyzing teams with bad, long contracts now and get a few trade scenarios setup to pitch to other teams in November. It has to get done as the Cubs cannot afford the albatross of Alfonso Soriano after this season has concluded.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

ESPN Brings the Mini-Splooge

What was really nice about last night's game was not that Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez showed up with some offense (that was A Ram's first homer in four weeks). It was not that the team didn't wait for Alfonso Soriano to continue his hot streak and carry them. It was not the continued good pitching from Ted Lilly and Carlos Marmol. It wasn't even that Joe West was shown by both ESPN and Comcast to be a two-ton idiot.

No, what was really nice was the focus that ESPN placed on Geovany Soto. This page was i=one of the first to state that Soto deserved to be the starter for the National League in the All Star Game. Last night's homer that West turned into an inside-the-parker (with an assist from the insane ground rules of Ken Lay Memorial Field) gave ESPN just the type of story line they love to focus on a player.

Now, some of the ESPN love was drowned out by a guy throwing a no-hitter on a team that ESPN never pays attention to. But clearly ESPN found a story line they like. They way they focused on him coming off the field and later on in the highlights cemented this view.

Expect to see more of Soto's continued excellent play highlight by The World Wide Marketing Leader as the season continues.

The Physical and the Mental

Chad Fox has elbow problems and Rich Hill has head problems.

This is a recording.

Fox is on the DL after hurting his arm playing catch with Scott Eyre. One supposes that either Fox's elbow gave out for the 47th time or Eyre simply mistook Fox's arm as a turkey drumstick and took a bite.

Rich Hill was also placed on the Iowa 7 day DL. Was this the back injury that cropped up last weekend? Not according to Lou Piniella:

"Probably more of a mental break than anything else, I would assume. It's just my assumption, which might not be bad. That might be the best tonic of all."

Lou was pretty clear that Sean Marshall is the next lefty to be recalled from Iowa. Hill, who has been lousy since August 2007 ended, seems to be on the Donnie Moore path.

In any case, don't expect to see either of these guys in Wrigley Field anytime soon.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

It Starts

A small group headed out of Wrigley Field last night looking for a place to have a beer and to find out if Jim Edmonds was really a Cub. They wandered into Guthrie's Tavern, pulled out a game of Trouble, and discussed the possibility of a washed-up showboat joining the lineup of the team with the second best record in the major leagues.

"There's really no negative in (signing him)," said Cub General Manager Jim Hendry. Carlos Zambrano, a guy with a well known negative disposition toward Edmonds did not agree lobbing a thinly veiled "No Comment," to reporters.

Most intelligent people, a group discounted by Hendry, think that Edmonds is not only running on empty, but should spend a few games at Iowa and prove that he can still play.

Lou Piniella, in a move that is designed to either showcase Hendry's stupidity or comes from the Dusty "Where would we be without him?" Baker book of managing, has inserted Edmonds into the #6 hole today.


The only questions remaining are how many Cub fans will boo when his name is announced and are they booing Edmonds or are they really booing Hendry for bringing the guy here?

Put this writer in the booing Hendry camp.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Meet the New Owner, Same as the Current Owner?

Now, the sale may be delayed a while longer. Typical for the Trib business section, they buried the lede:

Sources involved in the bidding process said word is filtering back to those potential buyers that Tribune Co. will hold onto the team rather than sell at distressed prices if would-be buyers drop their prices too steeply in anticipation of having to pay for Wrigley Field renovations themselves.

It seems Wrigley only has 10 to 15 years of life left to it. Fewer years if a chunk of concrete falls and kills someone.

Speculation was that liability shields were a big reason why the Tribune Company wanted to sell Wrigley Field to ISFA. That seems to be more and more true.

Also, how hilarious would it be if the holdup to a sale were Wrigley Field itself? Could it be Eight Belles for the goose that laid the Trib's golden egg?

For the first time, I'm starting to think that the idea of the Cubs playing in a brand spanking new ballpark is a genuine possibility.

Oh, the Cub Game Fans will be gnashing their tooth...

Stage 5

The Kübler-Ross model describes, in five discrete stages, the process by which people deal with grief and tragedy. The stages are:

1. Denial:
2. Anger:
3. Bargaining:
4. Depression:
5. Acceptance:

For Cub fans, we can re-write these terms in a way much more understandable to the masses:

1. "Jim Edmonds can't be coming here."
2. "Why does he have to sign with the Cubs? It's not fair."
3. "Just let Felix Pie have another week to 10 days."
4. "He and his worse-than-Pie OPS are going to be awful, awful. I can't watch"
5. "Maybe we'll catch lightning in a bottle. It's going to be OK."

The real problem here is that Jim Hendry never goes through stages 1 to 4 or he'd realize how stupid of a move this is. Jim only lives in Stage 5. From Jon Lieber to Wade Miller to Ryan Dempster to Shawn Estes (ok, bad example today) to Neal Cotts to infinity, Hendry always spends time on guys who might get hot.

I wonder how this team would have performed if Hendry had taken all that money blown on a dozen reclamation projects and spent it on one good player? He'd probably have put together a 90-win season by now.

Edmonds is through. His splits are worse than Pie's and he's no longer as good of a defensive outfielder as Felix is right now.

If they insist on signing Edmonds, send EDMONDS to Iowa for a week to see if he can regain his swing, not Pie. If Jim can hit .300 down there for 7 games, bring him up. But don't let him replace a better player on the roster. That's dumb any way you slice it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Making Hay

In recent years, the Chicago Cubs were much like the Palestinians - they never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Under Lou Piniella, that doesn't seem to be the case.

Despite a rough two weeks, the Cubs have returned to Wrigley with a vengance. Taking three from the Diamondbacks, while really 7 months later than would have been ideal, went a long way towards undoing the recent sluggishness. Reasonably, two wins were all that you could expect from this team against Arizona. The third win was a very nice bonus. Now, with 6 more left to play on this homestand against the dreck that is Pittsburgh and San Diego, the goal for this team should be to win 5 of those games.

If they take five, they could start to run away with this division. Under any previous team (read: manager), expecting them to exceed expectations would be a stupid thing to do.

Not so anymore.

Public Wins, Cloutholders Lose

From Crain's Chicago Business:

The Tribune Co. has reportedly spurned plans by the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority to buy Wrigley Field and instead intends to sell the Chicago Cubs ball club and the historic field together, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Tuesday.

Sources said Tribune CEO Sam Zell rejected ISFA’s overtures because they relied on a financing plan that would have sold seats at Wrigley under long-term contracts, called equity seats rights, to help fund the $400 million needed to buy and renovate the park.

Thank god this is over. There was never a proper case made why state assistance interference was needed. This close that door.

This was also the last obsticle to a sale proceeding. Zell has said int eh past that he wants this done as soon as August. That's about 11 weeks.

Get it going.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lineup Manipulations

While the sweep of the Diamondbacks was achieved seven months later than what would have been ideal, it is a welcome sight given how this team has been playing of late. What really makes the win yesterday even better was the ability to get it and save Carlos Zambrano for the Padres series. The Padres looks ready for burial.

A couple of interesting notes from yesterday. First, Lou Piniella was pretty clear that Sean Gallagher would get a second straight start this coming weekend. That means that someone is exiting the rotation. The obvious guess would have to be that Jon Lieber will go conduct further experiments on baseballs defying the law of gravity.

But the most interesting move was in the 8th inning. Needing a pinch hitter for Carlos Marmol, Lou was all set to send Daryle Ward to the plate. But NL Starting All-Star Catcher Geovany Soto grounded out mving Kosuke Fukudome up to second. With first base open, Ward would have been intentionally walked. This meant either leaving in Felix Pie to hit with the bases loaded or to pinch hit Alfonso Soriano.

Lou pulled Ward back and pinch hit A Sor for Marmol. A Sor somehow managed to lay off four balls two feet off the plate. Ward then hit for Pie and victory was in hand.

What's so interesting about the move is that Lou would rather have Ward up at the plate with the game ont he line over Soriano.

Smart. Very smart.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Down on the Mount

At Iowa:

Player   W  L  ERA  G GS CG SHO SV  IP  H  R  ER HR  BB  SO
Hill, R. 0 1 3.60 1 1 0 0 0 5.0 7 2 2 1 1 5

Nothing to indicate he'll be back anytime soon.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Fall Classic Set

Barack Obama and John McCain are set to face off for the presidency this fall. The question for each of them at this time is, "Who will be your running mate?" I have a guess whose name we will start hearing soon for McCain.

Hillary Clinton.

The way Hillary has run her campaign recently, she's come off more like a Republican than a Democrat. Her disgusting pandering on the gas tax, her 3 AM fear ad, her defense of religion and guns, it's all rather right wing in playbook style. The Weekly Standard noticed this a while back.

So, if she's acting like a Republican, and she clearly despises Obama for beating her at her own game, why not take the final step?

Become John McCain's veep.

It makes perfect sense, especially given the rumors four years ago that McCain could become John Kerry's running mate.

Now, I don't think McCain is stupid enough to defacto re-empower Bill Clinton by giving him access to the West Wing again. Bill would soak up any spotlight focused at McCain and a new president can't play second fiddle to an ex-president. But McCain is going to have a very hard fight on his hands this fall. The economy, war, his age, and even the open senate seats weigh very heavily against his chances to win.

Might he take a chance on a true unity ticket? Probably not.

But that doesn't mean we won't be hearing the rumors soon.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Over at Bleed Cubbie Blue, Al Yellon scored a meet-and-greet with Cubs' Transitional Interim President Crane Kenny.

Most of the interview is fluff. Then again, given that Kenny will be out of a job as soon as the sale of the team closes, asking him strategic questions about the Cubs future is not terribly relevant.

But there is some telling stuff relating to the sale of the ballpark. And it's stuff on which every taxpayer should be informed as it's a clear tax grab.

The scheme, and the word "scheme" is compeltely accurate, the Cubs want to use to rehab Wrigley is a play on tax increment financing (TIF). This one is called sales tax increment financing, or STIF. How appropriate. Let's go to Crane's words:

So what we would do is we would take what we call the transactional taxes that are paid here, sales taxes that are paid in the building on food, drink, merchandise, amusement taxes that are paid on ticket sales, use taxes, etc. Those taxes that are right now being paid inside the building for money being spent here, we would use a baseline year of 2007 and then all the incremental taxes that otherwise would have been paid into the general coffers above that baseline year would now go to support a bond issue which would renovate the stadium over 30 years.

(Sales taxes are the source of repayment. L)et’s just say today all of those taxes in total are $10 million that go to the City in ’07. The city, the county, the state. So it’s $10 million today. In ’08, let’s say because of ticket prices going up, concession prices going up, that percentage that you pay of amusement tax, etc., makes that number $11 million or $12 million. The $1 or $2 million difference between the base number and the increment, that's what would go to repay the bonds. So, it’s a way for the city, the state and the county to participate by saying pay us what you did last year for the next 30 years but all the incremental taxes that otherwise would come to us that are generated in the building stay in the building.

Do you see the scheme? It's the last sentance: "all the incremental taxes that otherwise would come to us that are generated in the building stay in the building." Were there no STIF, the taxes would be available for services to EVERYONE, not just bonds used to rehab Wrigley.

While no CURRENT taxes would go to the bonds, plenty of FUTURE taxes would go to the bonds. That's a tax grab, plain and simple.

So, a myth is busted by Crane's own words. Our taxes will be diverted to a private enterprise.

So, why should the taxes be diverted? Sometimes a case can be made for government subsidization of a private entity. What case does Crane make? A lousy one:

...almost all stadiums do have public support. As the White Sox, it’s 15 years old now, have had three major facelifts. We need a facelift. We think that one, the public can finance things at a cheaper level than the private sector.

So, Crane's case is that the White Sox got state cash and that the state does things cheaper thant the private sector.

His first reason gets a big, "So what?" The White Sox have nothing to do with the Cubs.

His second reason is one of cost. Yes, the government can finance things cheaper than the private sector. Again, so what? Doesn't Crane's case mean that every private enterprise should be eligible for public financing? For example, the next time Channel 7 needs new Sony HD cameras, should the state do it instead of having Disney issue their own bonds or commercial paper? The next time the Aon Building needs to have it's granite slabs replaced, should the state issue bonds and not Aon?

See where this is going?

Kenny's case was irrelevant. Of course the government can do it cheaper. The question really is WHY should it do it for the Cubs? What is the business case for government involvement? And, more importantly, what is the PUBLIC NTEREST in government involvement?

The answer to the second question is actually obvious. There is no public interest.

The Cubs do not deserve public financing and they do not deserve our tax dollars any more than any other middle market business does for rehab of their physical plant. This bad scheme really needs to go away.

Monday, May 05, 2008

At Deadline

Crain's Chicago Business has an update on the tiemline for the sale of the Cubs. It seems Sam Zell, knowing he has a huge debt payment to make before the year is out, wants to close on a sale in August:

Sam Zell has set a fresh deadline of late August to sell the Chicago Cubs — a time frame that could strengthen his hand if the North Siders emerge as late-season playoff contenders.

The debt payment is only part of the reason to speed up the sale. Another reason comes from a potential buyer whose reasoning echos a thought espoused here a ways back:

One prospective bidder, who declines to be named because of Major League Baseball's sensitivity on the bidding process, says he would rather buy a team on the verge of a championship than a newly minted World Series victor, which he likens to buying at the peak. "If they've won the World Series," he says, "whoever comes in has got nowhere to go but down."

Get it over with already, Sam. Mark Cuban is clearly ready to buy. The William Wrigley Jr. is now both liquid and has plenty of free time to run a ball club. John Canning, despite some of the problems over at Madison Dearborn, could still be a player.

Get it over with already.

Rolling With Cuban

There was a lot of buzz last week when Mark Cuban showed up at Wrigley Field. He was asked the usual questions like, "Have you seen the financials yet?" and "What would it be like to own the Cubs?" and "What can you dothelp Major League Baseball as an owner?"

These are all questions with interesting answers.

But the best question to ask was not asked, probably it would not have been directed to the media darling that is Mark Cuban. The real lede of the story was the SECOND lien of the article, not the first:

Mark Cuban sat in Tribune Co.'s front-row seats next to the Cubs' dugout.

Now, why would the Tribune (read: Sam Zell) give Mark Cuban access to their front row seats at Wrigley and send Tribune Broadcasting head Ed Wilson to accompany him?


The Trib is sending a message to Bud Selig. There will be no sweetheart deal in selling this team.

Zell needs every last penny to pay down the debt he incurred in taking the Tribune private. By giving Cuban high profile seats, the message to Bud and the 29 other owners from Sam was, "I'm selling this team to the person I want to sell it to, not who you tell me to sell it to."

That's heartening because, as fans, you want the next owner to be a person who wants it as their own personally yacht, not as the next investment in their portfolio.

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