Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Herman's Dead

Herman Franks (1914-2009)

We should all be able to enjoy cigars, card games, make wise investments, and live to 95.

More Blago Fun

With the rumors climbing the Rod Blagojevitch will be indicted, the articles focusing on his corruption will be regular features this week. Today's Tribune dredges up the story of how Rod tried to mess with Sam Zell over Wrigley Field and possible taxpayer finance of a buyout from the Trib:

According to the records, contact between Tribune Co. and the governor's office accelerated after an earlier state effort to buy Wrigley Field fell through in June. That failed deal involved the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, the city-state agency that owns and operates the White Sox ballpark, U.S. Cellular Field.

The following month, on July 2, Blagojevich met with Zell, according to the governor's calendar.

But Blagojevich told MSNBC in an interview earlier this year that he had a meeting with Zell in which the Tribune CEO told him the ballpark should be torn down and a new one built. He said Zell wanted a park similar to Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies.

Blagojevich said he was horrified. He said he quickly had his administration work with the Illinois Finance Authority, one of the nation's largest government financing bodies, to work out a deal to buy Wrigley Field.

Brandt, the authority's chairman, said he did not know who came up with the Project Elwood code name but said Tribune Co. representatives used the name in e-mails and had prepared materials containing the name, along with the authority's and Cubs' logos.

Brandt said he set conditions for the proposed deal—no taxpayer money would be involved, ticket prices could not be artificially raised to repay bonds, Tribune Co. had to guarantee the bonds and the Cubs had to stay at Wrigley for at least the next 30 years.

Nice planned use of public funds there, Rod. And yet you rail on poor Pat Quinn for proposing to raise taxes to cover the financial mess you made? One also notes this paragraph:

Blagojevich's telephone log shows several calls to members of the team, including manager Lou Piniella, coach Larry Rothschild and John McDonough, the team's former president who is now with the Chicago Blackhawks.

What could you possibly have to talk to them about that's official state business?

I think one can safely say that everyone looks forward to your incarceration and the only communication you have with the outside world is FanPosts.

Don't worry. We know where you'll post them.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Yeah, It's Strange

Cubs Chairman "Denny" Crane Kenney had a meet-and-greet with the professional media yesterday. Most of what he said was reasonable and business like. The Cubs want a new 7,000 seat restaurant on the south patio/sidewalk of Wrigley Field. They could move spring training to Florida in 2013 for the right offer. And the Hawks-Red Wings game at Wrigley gave the team the chance to see how Jumbotrons might be feasible.

But the head-scratcher from Kenney was in relation to talking about concerts hosted at Wrigley:
"It's strange, because you see these people who are opposed to the concerts and they're Cub fans," Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney said Wednesday in a wide-ranging interview.

"This is going to sound odd, but Elton John's going to help us win some ballgames," Kenney said. "The CBOE [seat] auction last year paid for Rich Harden. The 'Road to Wrigley' game sponsored our Asian scouting operation.

"That's the way, from the business end, we look at these things. All these elements really help our business move forward. My view is if you're a Cub fan, you should enjoy the concerts whether you're an Elton John fan or not."

This is what you get from a guy who "gets it." What is "it"? "It" is not being able to see the difference between Cubs Fans and Cubs GAME Fans. And many Cubs GAME Fans are really "Wrigley Field Experience" fans.

Why would real Cub fans not want concerts in Wrigley? Why, simply scan down to the bottom of the article!
The sod at Wrigley Field is being replaced in the aftermath the Hawks game, courtesy of the NHL.

Cub fans, the ones who want a World Series title for the Cubs even if it was played at Alexian Field in Schaumburg, don't want concert goers ripping up the field. They don't want to see Alfonso Soriano hop to catch a ball and come down on a seam between new strips of sod and shred his hamstring. They want perfect BASEBALL conditions.

Don't Stand So Close To Me... because you'll break your leg if you step in one of these divots.Remember the last time the Cubs had a mid-season concert?

Courtesy of the Police.

Yo, Crane. This is why we don't want concerts. We understand you want to make money. Hell, who doesn't? But don't interfere with the primary reason the field is there: Baseball.

If you want to officially make Wrigley into a beer garden, please do so and move the Cubs to Hoffman Estates. Otherwise, baseball first.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

There's Nothing To See Here

We love to say, "We told you so":

The Cubs are likely to remain under the ownership of Tribune Co. through the early part of the season.

Cubs chairman Crane Kenney said Wednesday it "will be a challenge" to complete the sale of the team by opening day on April 6 and that talks between the Ricketts family and the Tribune are ongoing.

"There's a negotiation that's occurring, and like every negotiation, there's an issue or two that probably wasn't spotted early that needed to be resolved," he said. "None of them are in any way fatal to the transaction. It's standard stuff, I would say. And the credit markets are challenging, and this is a transaction that will have some amount of debt on it."

"And the credit markets are challenging."

Ya' think?

There's got to be a real possibility that this deal never gets done. Is that possibility greater than 50%? Don't know. But it's far greater than zero.

The Earn It Business

It's not exactly a secret that Derrek Lee did not have a good year last year. Even he knew it:

"I got out of whack in the second half," he said. "It was a poor second half, as simple as that. It seems like that first series in Houston after the [All-Star] break was bad and it just snowballed from there. I've got to find a way to be more consistent throughout the year instead of just half the season."

That's not exactly correct. Derrek reminded us all of 2005 with a 2008 April that looked like .364/.437/.682 with 8 homers, 23 RBIs and a 1:1 K/BB ratio. But it wasn't after the All Star Break when he cooled off. Derrek cooled off in May. And kept cool the rest of the year. Over his final 572 plate appearances, Lee slumped to .275/.344/.415 with 12 homers, 67 RBI and a 1.86 K/BB ratio.

His post All Star Break numbers aren't much different (.266/.343/.390, 5 homers, 34 RBI and a 1.86 K/BB ratio). Lee was a shadow of what he was in May.

As the linked article points out, Lee's spring hasn't been much to talk about (.179 average with no homers, one double). This raises the question of where to bat Derrek in the lineup.

It's hard to justify batting him third from the start of the season. He's really only been a great #3 hitter for one of his Chicago seasons. And rumor has it that he actually won a World Series where he spent most of the season batting in the 6th and 5th spots.

It's even harder to justify Lee in the 3 spot with the other options available. One would think that Aramis Ramirez and Milton Bradley would be more effective than Lee batting third. And, maybe even Alfonso Soriano could go slumming and force himself to live with the dishonor of batting in the spot where conventional wisdom says the best hitter bats.

Hopefully, Lou Piniella sees all this and will adjust on the fly. Derrek Lee needs to re-earn the #3 slot in the batting order. His performance from last year does not merit an automatic return to that slot.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Real Cubs Discussion

This page has its problems with Jim Hendry. One of the primary areas where Hendry has left his teams thin has always been at bullpen. Going back to 2003, there's always been problems. Oh, he's tried to fill the pen with talent. But he always seems to overspend on mediocre players. Just think of all the money spent and pretty much wasted on Antonio Alfonseca, LaTroy Hawkins, Kent Mercker, Bobby Howry, and Scott Eyre.

Last year, Hendry didn't sign a closer per se. He just finally realized that Kerry Wood's arm had about 80 innings in it so Hendry put Wood in a role where he could contribute all year long.

For 2009, the options are Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg. Gregg blew a lot of saves last year, including a memorable one to the Cubs. Marmol has the arm, but one is uncertain if he's ready. Lou Piniella has an idea of how to tell if Marmol is ready:
"The biggest prerequisite of that job is you have to be able to bounce back from failure," Piniella said. "You're going to have to do it because nobody is immune. You have to be able to clear your mind and come back the next day to do your job.

"You don't like to see him give up a run like that, but look, it happens to any great pitcher. It's what you learn from it and how you respond to it [that matters]."

Many in the professional media are bothered that Marmol blew a save in the World Baseball Crapfest.

So what.

Marmol's not new to the majors. He's seen how closers operate. He's made big pitches. Don't baby him. Give him the job and let him have it for a long while. Like a month or two. See how he handles it. If he fails, you can move him back to primary setup and try Gregg. But seeing Gregg in the ninth is not a picture that I want to see.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


The last few days, my partners at work and I have been discussing Jon Stewart versus CNBC/Jim Cramer feud that's been going on. My point to my partners has simply been these two points:

1) Jon Stewart is way smarter than most of us realize; and
2) Because he's so smart, don't mess with him.

Tonight, not only was Jon smart, but he talked to Jim Cramer as one of us. Us people with 401(k)s that have nearly vanished. Us people who look to people like Jim Cramer as an expert.

Stewart undressed him. And we owe him a debt of thanks.

Video as soon as it available.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Rich For A Moment

Watch Prank War 7: The Half Million Dollar Shot on CollegeHumor

Friday, March 06, 2009


Tom Ricketts and the Ricketts family may be the owner of the Cubs one day. They may not be the owner one day. The only thing certain is that "one day" isn't terribly close:

The sale of the Cubs to the Ricketts family may drag on past Opening Day, according to Commissioner Bud Selig.

"It's moving forward. There are ongoing discussions with the Ricketts family and Tribune Co. people and that's where it is right now," Selig said Friday while touring the White Sox's new spring facility at Camelback Ranch. "It hasn't moved from there. It still hasn't come close to us [for approval]."

This is still about the financing. As noted here the day the Ricketts bid was "accepted," it was very strange that, after 2 years, financing was still not complete.

What this appears to mean is that the financing is STILL not complete. And, given what's going on right now in the credit markets, there has to be a high level of doubt that it ever will be complete.

This effects the team on the field by locking in the roster and payroll. Sam Zell may have royally screwed this team and its fans by waiting so long to sell in an effort to avoid taxes. The saving grace to all this is that he may have screwed himself as well.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Big Sleep

This place has been dark for a week because the Cubs are absolutely uninteresting right now. This is partially because, having blown two consecutive playoff appearances, the real fans are no longer satisfied with regular season success. And if the 162 game regular season schedule is just the appetizer, then spring training is waiting for your table.

It's also partially due to the fact that most positions are set and locked in. Sure, there’s some curiosity to how the three headed monster that is Kosuke Fukudome-Reed Johnson-Joey Gathright will perform in center. Yes, there’s some interest in Corey Koskie and Micah Hoffpauir backing up Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee. One supposes fifth starter and closer talk is always worth a column in the professional media. But other than that, 7 of the 8 position players are set.

But the unspoken reason that this spring training is unworthy of attention is, once again, tied to the sale of the team.

With the ownership in flux and the Cubs already sporting a high payroll, no moves can be made. Usually, a good portion of spring training talk is about potential acquisitions to improve the team. The last two spring trainings had nearly daily Brian Roberts rumors. Regardless of how probable the trade was, it did cause interest in following the players involved. If Felix Pie had a good day at the plate, was that the final straw to get Andy MacPhail to pull the trigger? If Mark DeRosa made another error, was that enough to get Jim Hendry to up his offer?

This year, with the payroll frozen at the current level, no trade rumors are possible. And the payroll will remain frozen until Tom Ricketts and his family close on the sale of the team. And even that is still a question mark (side note: TD Ameritrade stock has fallen by 35.8% from $17.97 per share a year ago to under $11.53 today putting a severe crimp on the Ricketts Family values).

Thank goodness we have the World Baseball Classic to "entertain" us until April. Good times!

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