Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Down Market

Paul Sullivan takes some time off from reading blogs and goes over the free agent / trade market. He mentions as candidates Brian Roberts, Adam Dunn, Jeremy Hermida, Mike Jacobs, Rafael Furcal, Jake Peavy and Brian Fuentes.

But the first paragraph of the article puts the kybosh on most of the speculation:

The Cubs' off-season may be quieter than in recent years, especially if Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood re-sign quickly, eating up a big chunk of general manager Jim Hendry's budget.

He's right in this respect. The Cubs look to remain part of the Trib for the forseable future given the credit markets and the Trib's need to sell the Cubs in a debt heavy transaction in order to avoid massive taxation.

That means the Cubs are unlikely to expand their budget much farther simply because they don't have the cash to do so.

It also means that means major scrutiny needs to be given to any long term contracts given out as that will further limit team moves in the event the sale is further deferred.

So, how much sense does it make to resign Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster if doing so prevents you from getting Jake Peavy and Brian Roberts?

Not much.

Ryan Dempster is going to be looking for probably four or five years at $12 million per year. Pass. This is a guy coming off a year so far above his career norms that the likelihood for him to under perform this in future years is very high. If Dempster wants what the market normally bears, you let him go.

Same with Kerry Wood. While he had a good season, he really should not be a cornerstone of a bullpen. To invest multiple years and eight figures in a guy who has a rebuilt arm and spent time on the DL this past season is silly. When you have a guy like Carlos Marmol, you offer Wood another one year deal. If he gets more, you let him go.

This team is going to be somewhat financially constrained compared to recent years. The dollars spent must be spent wisely. And while Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood are good players, better ones are available. Spend the money on better.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Samurai Considers Hari Kari

The whole thing is fun, but it gets really good at about 40 seconds in.

We have no idea Mike will be a good coach yet, but his press conferences sure look to be entertaining.

Saturday, October 25, 2008



And now...

Thursday, October 23, 2008


So, let me see if I get this right:

The DCCC, run by Chicago Democrat Rahm Emanuel, is running an attack ad against Marty Ozinga, a Republican, by tying him to Rod Blagojevitch, Emanuel's own Democratic Governor and predicessor holder of Emanuel's congressional seat?

Tigers eating their parents!

Straw Man Alert

As people start to think about 2009 for the Cubs, and how they'll get past the soon-to-be-Champion Philadelphia Phillies, thoughts turn to Derrek Lee.

Derrek had a lousy year with the bat once the calendar turned to May. After an April that recalled 2005, Lee went into the tank posting a .760 OPS the rest of the way.

Now, that production is survivable, but not from your #3 hitter. When you add in Lee's age next year (33), his contract requirements for the next TWO years ($26 million), and his declining power numbers, people are discussing getting rid of him. Rightfully so.

But these same people are assuming that the replacement is going to be Micah Hoffpauir. Kurt over at Goatriders plays on this theme:

There remain a loud minority of fans, on this website and others, who are advocating that the Cubs cut the cord with Lee. Jim Hendry apparently needs to convince him to waive his no-trade clause so the team can deal him in order to make room for what would essentially be a 29-year-old rookie first baseman next season, because apparently we should be impressed that a guy who's been in Triple A for parts of 5 seasons finally managed to figure out the pitching there.

Now, maybe Goatrider commentators are in love with the idea of Hoff over Lee. If they are, they're idiots for the reasons Kurt lays out.

But, Kurt. There are options other than only Micah. If the Cubs unload Lee and his salary, then that salary can be used elsewhere. Like for another first baseman. Like for Mark Teixeira. Teixeira will probably get in the $15 million range over 5 years. That's only $2 million per year over Lee. Mark is also 5 years younger, has only had one sub-.900 OPS season since his rookie year, and has won 2 gold gloves in his time with the Texas Rangers.

The straw man here is defending Lee from being replaced by Micah Hoffpaiur. Smart fans don't want that. But they do want Lee replaced by someone better. And someone better is available.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cubs Sold! With Video!

Channel 2 with the exclusive:

Did I forget to say this was from 1981?


Monday, October 20, 2008

Dancing With The Devil You Know

Two years ago, the Tribune Company was headed for collapse. Eighteen months ago, Sam Zell rode in to save the day with a debt laden bailout of the Trib (a strategy our government seems to love). In order to pay for such a strategy, Zell placed the Trib’s prized asset, the Chicago Cubs, up for sale.

Now, two full baseball seasons later, the Cubs are probably no closer to completing the sale than they were on day 1 of the 2007 season. And, given Zell’s desire to minimize the taxation of the sale, the need for debt to make such a structure workable, and banks skittishness to lend these days, it’s gonna be a while before the sale closes.

But, they remain for sale. And that means that many of the team’s functions have to continue under the existing leadership. One part of the operations were locked in today:

Jim Hendry, architect of the Cubs' back-to-back Central Division champions, isn't going anywhere, at least not soon. Club Chairman Crane Kenney worked around the stalled sale of the franchise to give Hendry a contract extension that runs through 2012, the team announced Monday.

Hendry, who was looking at being a lame-duck general manager if he exercised his one-year option for 2009, is expected to get a significant raise as a reward for helping the Cubs become a consistent contender. He is certain to continue his tireless, and thus far frustrating, efforts to win the franchise's first championship since 1908.

Hendry's situation had seemed uncertain with Tribune Co. seeking new ownership, but Kenney committed the organization to retaining its general manager last week by declining the Seattle Mariners' request to interview Hendry for their GM vacancy.

This page holds no brief for Jim Hendry and continues to believe the Cubs would be better served with a different general manager. But, the Cubs had no choice but to keep him. With all the uncertainty over the team’s future, if Hendry left, the probability of getting a decent candidate for the GM job was nil. They had no choice but to bring him back.

At least he’s now stuck with problems of his own creation to work out. How he puts together a team given Derrek Lee, Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome’s 8-figure salaries and insufficient contributions will be very interesting. How he handles Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood will also be interesting. And if-and-how he goes after prime free agents given all the backloaded contracts Hendry has handed out, contract's that were going to be the responsibility of a new owner, will be most interesting of all.

You almost wonder why Hendry took the extension.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I'm Four Today

And she dances, regularly.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What’s The Budget?

One of the biggest questions for 2009 is, “How much can the Cubs spend? What’s their budget?”

At this point, we don’t know.

As Mark Cuban notes in the papers today, the Cubs sale is likely to be held up even longer. In order to avoid paying taxes on the sale, Sam Zell was envisioning a structure that required massive amounts of bank debt. In case people haven’t noticed, banks are not lending very aggressively right now. That makes the probability that the Cubs will still be in Tribune hands come spring quite high.

That’s a problem. In previous years, the Cubs could have had a nearly unlimited budget. That is likely not so anymore given the Tribune’s mounting losses and cash flow needs for debt service in 2009.

So, looking at the contracts and upcoming demands, it’s more likely the Cubs will shed payroll instead of adding. If payroll even just stays flat with last year, some players have to go. And it appears that everyone with a seven figure salary is a candidate to go. There’s not a single player on that list that is a “must keep” player, including even Carlos Zambrano.

The extension of Rich Harden is still not a guaranty that he won’t be traded. It’s hard to see both Wood and Dempster being retained, especially with Dempster likely demanding multiple years at eight figures per year.

All this handwringing over finances could all be rendered moot by a quick sale of the team. Hard to see that happening.

Monday, October 06, 2008

2009 Starts

So, why did a 97 win team lose to a 84 win team in three straight games? Occam's Razor suggests the obvious answer: The 2008 Playoff Dodgers were a better team than the 2008 Playoff Chicago Cubs.

The professional media has made a great deal of the case for the detail behind this. Alfonso Soriano beats up on lousy pitching but gets blown away by the good pitching found in the playoffs. Derrek Lee is not the player we witnessed in 2005 and is becoming a shadow of what he was in 2004 and previous years. Kosuke Fukudome is better off auditioning for Daniel Dae Kim's role. Lou Piniella had a mediocre series at best. Not mentioned so far was that the one guy that GM Jim Hendry acquired to help this team in the playoffs, Rich Harden, couldn't last 5 innings in a start.

In short, a lot of blame to go around. And a lot of questions for next year.

Where to begin?

Well, it all starts with money. Here are the Cubs major commitments for 2009 and beyond ($ millions):

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Zambrano $15.000 $17.750 $17.875 $17.875 $18.000 $19.250
Ramirez $14.000 $15.650 $15.750 $14.600 $2.000
Soriano $13.000 $16.000 $18.000 $18.000 $18.000 $18.000 $18.000
Lee $13.000 $13.000 $13.000
Lilly $7.000 $12.000 $12.000
Fukudome $6.000 $11.500 $13.000 $13.500
Dempster $5.500
Marquis $6.375 $9.875
DeRosa $4.750 $5.500
Harden $4.500 $7.000
Wood $4.500
Howry $4.000
Lieber $3.500
Blanco $2.800 $3.000
$103.925 $111.275 $89.625 $63.975 $38.000 $37.250 $18.000

The key is going to be getting rid of as much money as possible from players no longer wanted by the team. This has to be balanced against the reasonable ability to divest some unattractive players and the cash that may be held back due to the ongoing delays in the sale of the team.

That's what will be discussed here in the coming days.

The World Series will be over in about 3 weeks. Jim Hendry, still a lame duck, has plenty of prep work to do.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Telling It Like It Is

Bruce Miles lays it out straight:

The Cubs can make the Alou comparisons all they want, but it's just as likely Fukudome will turn out to be Todd Hundley or Jacque Jones (who outperformed Fukudome at the plate) or Mike Remlinger or LaTroy Hawkins, to name some free-agent disappointments of the last few years.

This one may require a meeting of the minds this winter, among Hendry, Piniella and Fukudome. Perhaps the Cubs will even allow Fukudome to bring a hitting coach with him over from Japan next spring if it makes him more comfortable.

The flash point has been reached with a manager who is signed through 2010. The organization's job is to act and get Fukudome turned in the right direction now.

Bruce has hinted in the past that Fukudome has a short fuse when it comes to dealing with the media. That suggests that he's not exactly in love with Chicago and/or the United States.

Extrapolating further: If he's that unhappy, what would it take for Fukudome to tell the Cubs that he's had enough and is going home?

I'd venture about $15 million. Given that they owe him $42 million (he was only paid $6 million of his $48 million in 2008), they might be smart to just offer such a thing.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Almost Over

Can we put these signs away forever?
In 1984, the Cubs exited the playoffs losing three in a row to the San Diego Padres.

In 1989, the Cubs exited the playoffs losing three in a row to the San Francisco Giants.

In 1998, the Cubs exited the playoffs losing three in a row to the Atlanta Braves.

In 2003, the Cubs exited the playoffs losing three in a row to the Florida Marlins.

In 2007, the Cubs exited the playoffs losing three in a row to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The bad news is the Cubs are only one game away from continuing this streak with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The good news is that there are only nine more teams that can do this to them.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

U.S. Congress for Three.... Billion!

One Shining Bailout

Well, That Was Fun

Sitting in section 411, row 9 last night, one couldn't help but notice one thing: Wrigley Field was quieter than a library for most of the night.

And why shouldn't it be? This is supposed to be the best team in the National League. When you lay a turd on the field, people are supposed to cheer? This team had the rest. They had Ryan Dempster and his 14 wins in Wrigley this year. They had the best offensive team in the National League. They didn't need to wait for us. In fact, when a guy like Ryan Dempster walks guys in every inning, people lose their confidence very quickly. Then you remember that Dempster doesn't have the history of being this good and is more likely to be having a Mike Bielecki season, the confidence is gone.

These guys have about 12 hours to figure out that they need to play much, much smarter or they can start making tee times for Monday.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Let's Go

As the NLDS returns to Wrigley Field for the fourth time in 11 seasons, some things are the same as previous years and some things are different. As in previous years, the Cubs are probably as good a bet to advance as they are to lose.

The difference from previous years is the expectations. No Cubs team since 1969 has faced the kind of expectations that this team has. So far, they've lived up to it. Can they keep it up for no fewer than 7 more wins? Well, if the May version of Soriano and April versions of Derrek Lee show up, then it'll be a cake walk.

If not, this team will need contributions from others who are not expected to step up. Kosuke Fukudome? Reed Johnson?

What's nearly certain is this: Anything less than a World Series appearance is a failure, pure and simple.

This is what the players have worked all year to have - the opportunity to make up for last year's turd of a playoff run.

Don't muck it up, guys.

Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends...

If only Scully were in Wrigley instead of Stockton.

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