Friday, April 30, 2010

Can We Just Leave Starlin Castro Alone?

Over at the Chicago Sun-Times, Gordon Wittenmyer jumps on everyone's favorite meme right now. Starlin Castro can save the Cubs:

"There's no doubt he'll be here sometime this year," Hendry says, "but it won't be anytime in the next couple of days."

Whether that means he's leaving the door open for next week's series in Pittsburgh, maybe he should.


With so much trouble hitting anybody who doesn't pitch for Milwaukee, and the team sputtering three games under .500 at the end of the first month as a result, why not take a look at Castro in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati next week -- against the two worst pitching staffs in the National League and away from the media fishbowl of Wrigley Field?

It doesn't have to be considered long-term at this point. Just enough to give him a taste, just enough to give the Cubs a look, just enough to shake things up a little.

Do it for two weeks or so and give Xavier Nady (.194) some DL time to focus solely on a surgically repaired elbow he can't use at game strength for another month anyway. Or make room for him by sending out a pitcher and keeping Castro until Esmailin Caridad's ready to return from the DL.
Yeah, this sounds like a decent idea. It's a reasonable way to break a guy into the majors (against two weaker opponents), but is it a way to improve a team playing under .500 ball this year?

Wittenmyer answers his own question with a big, fat, "No":

Not that a Castro move would reflect a particular need at shortstop. Fourth-year starter Ryan Theriot is hitting .340 (.392 on-base percentage) and had two of the Cubs' six hits even on Thursday. He's also done the job in the field.
Good job, Gordon, You want to help the Cubs offense by fixing a non-need. Sure, Theriot isn't going to be benched, he would move to second and Mike Fontenot would have a seat. Fontenot who is hitting .309 (.350 on-base percentage).

The Cubs don't need Starlin Castro right now as he doesn't solve any problems. Why start the arbitration / free agency clock on him? Why rush him up to the majors?

Here's an idea, Gordon: Let him play in the minors for a while longer and focus your writing on how the Cubs can fix the things that need fixing.

Like Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Everything is Fine and Dandy

Last night, nearly everyone was happy.

The Black Hawks 5-3 win over Nashville advanced the to the second round where the Vancouver Cannucks await.

The Chicago Wolves won Game 7 of their playoff series to advance another round in their quest for another Calder Cup (or whatever they play for these days).

Bloggers are raising money for Ryan Dempster's charity at $1.50 per donation while pocketing $1.00 in fees for themselves as they go. (But you get a keen t-shirt that advertises the guy making the profit!)

The Chicago Cubs won their fourth in a row to get back to a .500 record.

And Carlos Zambrano is happy about his role as a long setup man in the bullpen.

Well, kinda:

"I'm not 'happy’'happy about this decision, but I feel good," he said. "I feel good to help my team and to do everything to help us solve whatever the problem is."
We can be glad Carlos is not "happy happy." That could be bad if he was.

Can you imagine what would happen if Carlos was, "more than happy"? How can you be "more than happy?" This sounds like a dangerous medical condition! "We had to put Carlos away in the home today....he was...well....MORE THAN HAPPY!"

If Carlos ever gets more than happy, Carlos will need to be locked up and then we'll have to throw away the key, the Cubs will go down the tubes, fans will be read the riot act, and Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella will be handed their walking papers in the greatest thing since sliced bread!

Monday, April 26, 2010

All Kinds of Dumb

If you haven't heard yet, you soon will heard about the new Cubs-Sox City Series Trophy:

Multiple sources tell the Tribune that during a Monday morning news conference, the Cubs and White Sox will announce a new tradition -- a trophy (and the public bragging rights) to the club which wins the annual city series between them. We're told a tiebreaker is in place should the teams split the six games 3-3.

Yes, that's what will spice up this series: A trophy that no fan will ever see save for when it sits on the winner's dugout steps for 20 minutes at the end of each year's series ends.

The whole Cubs-Sox thing has certainly lost some luster over the years and the creation of this faux award certainly is an acknowledgment of such. See, now you will watch not just to see who wins, but who can raise the trophy over their heads.

The Trib already has its suggestions for what the trophy should look like (see below). These suggestions are the funniest things to come out of Tribune Tower since Sam Zell told his staff to do things that are anatomically impossible.

If the Cubs and Sox really want to spice this series up, the way to do it is to play fewer games, not more. MLB should get rid of the annual "Geographic Rivalries" in favor of a true inter-league rotation that has every team play every other team on a three year cycle, not one team every year and all the rest kind of haphazardly.

A Cubs-Sox series every three years would be an event, not just an excuse for the Ligue's to get drunk with the Trixies.

But owners need to sell tickets every year, not every three years. Alas, we're going to be stuck with this stupidity.
Second City has nothing on Trib comedy writers

Sunday, April 25, 2010

When Chuck Talked To Kaplan

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why Z

There's only one way that yesterday’s panic decision to move Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen makes any sense. With Ted Lilly set to return from the disabled list this weekend, one of the current starters must exit the rotation. The person to move to the bullpen is the player who will have the lowest Wins Above Replacement value to the team.

If the Cubs project that Carlos Zambrano will have a lower WAR in 2010 than everyone in the group of Ted Lilly, Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelany, Randy Wells and Ryan Dempster, then the move makes sense.

If not, Lou Piniella and Jim Hendry have allowed themselves to stop being professionals and are now simply raving nut bags.

Now, for the second question: Does anyone honestly believe that Zambrano will indeed have a lower WAR in 2010 compared to everyone else in that list?

If anyone believes that, then they also are raving nut bags. There is nothing in the career histories of Carlos Silva and Tom Gorzelany that could make a rational person conclude that they will generate more wins for the team as starters than Carlos Zambrano would.

Given that, outside of Cubs' management, only irrational people seem to be supporting this move, that further supports the case.

On the other side, some people are using Zambrano's salary to be against this move. That argument doesn't hold water. Once a player is on the roster, the salary is irrelevant. The only issue is how to engage that human capital to generate the highest return. Dollars are a sunk cost.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Everyone is Panicking -- Why?

A team loses three in a row to two of the worst teams in the National League and people start freaking out. And some of the people actually matter.

Bruce Levine suggests trading a 20 year old #1 pick in the name of Josh Vitters for 32-year old Padre reliever Heath Bell.

Al Yellon, a guy known as much for rational baseball thought as Kuma's Corner is known for low cholesterol food also suggests trading (actually, "cutting bait") Vitters. But Yellon wants to acquire Bell, or a pitcher who is already injured and hasn't even pitched in the majors this year. Yes, let's bring back Kerry Wood! Al goes further and says he doesn't want to replace Carlos Marmol as closer (exact quote: "If you're looking to replace Marmol as closer (I'm not)"), but only 200 words later says that Carlos Zambrano should replace Marmol as closer.

I guess Al doesn’t read what he writes. Note taken to do the same.

Lou Piniella looks at his team and sees them scoring more than 4 runs only 5 times so far this year and starts messing with his lineup.

Fans you talk to are wondering if Tom Ricketts is going to be willing to pony up more dollars to fix this team.

This all makes you want to ask these dopes the following question: This performance actually surprises you? What did you think was going to happen to the team the way it was constructed?

Coming into the year, the book said: Good starting pitching, good closer, weak bullpen, questionable offense with its best players aging.

Isn't that exactly what we've seen?

The people freaking out over the performance of the Cubs must be the same people who, every year, fail to see winter coming.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Working on Sitting

Bruce Miles blogs on Alfonso Soriano's travails in the outfield:

Lou was asked by an Internet columnist if the Cubs are teaching Soriano the subtleties of the game and whether Sori is "resistant" to learning. Lou handled it well.

"Sori's working very hard," Lou said “He works every day with Mike Quade. Mike Quade is an excellent outfield instructor. He works with him every day. He'll get better. He's working hard, like I said, and that's all you can expect from a player.

"I've got to feel that way as a manager. Look, he wants to do better. That's No. 1. He's working at it. That's No. 2. And I've got confidence that he will. And I'm the one that makes out the lineup."

Lou is so confident that Soriano will do better that the lineup Lou made out today doesn't have Soriano in it.

That's the real #1: Soriano isn't good enough right now to be in there every day.

One wonders if the lollygagging approach Soriano made yesterday on the ball Rickie Weeks hit had anything to do with it.

It's bad enough that Soriano can't do anything in baseball other than hit, which he only does sporadically, but would it be that much of an inconvenience for himto show some effort in the field?

All the time?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chill Out

Coming into the home opener on Monday, Cubs fans were showing a lot of angst. The team hadn't been hitting. Carlos Zambrano hadn't exactly induced a lot of confidence in his first start. The Cubs bullpen had already imploded a few times. More men had been left on base in Cincinnati than there were fans in the seats. Geovanny Soto looked lost at the plate. Ryan Theriot was still screwing up on the base paths. And Alfonso Soriano, this page's least favorite player since Corey Patterson, was doing everything possible to show how the $90 million dollars remaining to be paid to him might as well be dropped down a well with Desmond Hume.

On the plus side, Derrek Lee was off to a hot start. The starting pitching outside of Big Z's first start was very good. And it was only 6 games. A 2-4 record can easily be chalked up to small sample size.

So, why all the angst?

Probably for one big reason: Regardless if you are the kind of fan that treats the Cubs with blind optimism or open skepticism, we all know that this is a flawed team. Not only is it flawed, but it did little to improve its chances of winning more games in the off-season.

Now, the start of the baseball season is "Hope Springs Eternal," right? We all want to have some fun before reality sets in.

To see the team looking so sloppy right out of the gate threatens to have our hopes cast asunder even before the end of the spring allergy season.

We want to cling to the fantasy that 2010 will be a good year.

A strong dose of reality would be good for everyone.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Year One, Not Won

Here we go again, friends. Another season launches today. But this one is different. For the first time since Ronald Reagan was still learning his way around the West Wing, the Cubs have a new owner. And that is, most likely, the biggest story that Cubs fans will have to focus on this year.

The 2010 season will likely be the last season in Chicago for several long time Cubs who were heavy contributors to the Cubs modicum of success since 2003. While it is unlikely that all of Derrick Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Ted Lilly, Carlos Zambrano and Lou Piniella will be in different locations next year, it is almost a certainty that at least one of the above names will be elsewhere come 2011.

And how the Ricketts family allows this transition to occur will tell us volumes about how much trust we fans should have in new ownership. There are some out there who are tickled Grizzly Pink to have a local owner (by way of Omaha) who is a fan like the rest of us (albeit without a parent who made a billion dollars).

There are others, the smarter ones, who don't take non-relevant resume and assume things are wunderbar.

This page has significant doubts about the team's prospects on the field for 2010. Age and middling talent at too many positions does not create a huge amount of optimism for crossing the 90 win threshold.

But there is a huge amount of optimism tied to the exit of the Tribune's bottom line focused ownership. The 2010 season will tell us a lot about whether that optimism will turn into actual trust.

Let the 162 game marathon begin.

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