Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Another Cub Heads to the Hall....

It's taken only 13 years, but Bruce Sutter has finally made into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Sutter is credited with being the first pitcher to effectively use the 'splitter' (split-fingered fastball) which he had to learn after he lost bite on his fastball and other breaking pitches after having elbow surgery early in his career. Although his career was over by age 35 and he was 'done' by age 32, Sutter was truley dominant from the inception of his career (1976) through the 1984 season. Although his best years, including a Cy Young win in 1979, were with the Cubs he seems to be remembered most for playing with the Cardinals - where he won a World Series title in 1982.
Mr. Splitter
A long under-appreciation of old-time closers and a short period of play probably help keep Sutter out of the hall for so long, but his inclusion will probably open the door for other relievers including former Cubs Goose Gossage and Lee Smith.

With all respect to Mel Rojas, Bruce Sutter was the best closer in Cubs history and in line with the thought process of the franchise in the last half century they promptly traded him to the Cardinals for Leon Durham, Ken Rietz, and Ty Waller in the offseason of 1981. Although Sutter only went on to have 4 more good seasons, it was unaquivically another bust of a deal. Yes, Durham did put up decent to good numbers for 6 seasons playing at 1B before his drug habits caught up to him, but he also provided one of the worst memories for Cubs fans when the ball went through his legs in Game 5 of the '84 NLCS. Rietz and Waller were both third basemen but combined to play less than a full season in Cubbie Blue. Rietz was known as an excellent defender winning a Gold Glove in 1975 and was somehow an all-star in 1980, he even holds the National league record for single season and career fielding precentage. However he only played half a season for the Cubs at age 30, and was out of the game after spending a couple of weeks with the Pirates in the next season. Waller was a marginal prospect at the time who wound up playing only 63 games in his career over 4 seasons.

Sutter probably wasn't the most deserving of the players of the players left on the ballot but he did deserve to be in the hall. So congradulations to yet another Cub elected to the the Hall.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

BREAKING NEWS: PIERRE TO CUBS....

The Cubs have traded for Florida CF Juan Pierre early this morning of December 7th. They will be giving up minor league pitchers Renyel Pinto and Rickey Nolasco. The Cubs will also be getting a so-far unnamed Florida minor leaguer back in the deal. With this move the Cubs have now gotton rid of both of thier Baseball America minor league all-star pitchers (Nolasco and Jermaine Van Buren). It's too be seen whether or not this move will work out for the Cubs as Pierre had a serious decline last season. We know that we'll get sub-par defense out of him, but if he doesn't hit then the Cubs are in trouble. More on this pickup to come....

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Pierre, Mench, Soriano on Thier Way To The Windy City...

Hard to believe, most likely because we don't want to, but it appears that these three players may be making their way to the North Side of town sometime next week. In what was a hard-to-believe article posted on yahoo.com it was reported that not only were the Cubs imminantly signing Rafael Furcal to a 6 yr deal worth up to $100 million, but that they were going to deal for both 2B Alfonso Soriano and OF Kevin Mench from Texas. In this deal the Cubs would be sending 2B Todd Walker, SP Jerome Williams, RHP David Aardsma, SS Ronny Cedeno, and another minor league prospect to Texas for what is possibly the most overrated 2B in Major League Baseball and overall average outfielder. Soriano is a below-average defender - even worse than Todd Walker - and Mench is just average, meaning we would actually lower the quality of the fielding for next season. Instead of going into alot of stats I'll just look at winshares for these two: Soriano had 16 and Mench 13 last season. In comparasion, Todd Walker had 14 and Jer-O-my Burnitz had 17. Imagine my shock when I found out that there apparently are players less valuable than my buddy Jer-O-my.

I, in all honesty, cannot believe that Trader Jim would be dumb enough to push this trade through as the Rangers would be getting a hell of a deal here. The only thing Soriano is good for is hitting HR's and stealing bases - he doesn't walk, his BA has dropped every year since 2000 to .268 last year, he strikes out over 120 times a year, and he's gonna be making $10 million plus a year. Having only 16 win shares while hitting 36 HR's and stealing 39 bases seems impossible but it's true(tops in MLB was Kent with 30). The last comment is the worst of all. At around $5 million a year, Soriano is a good sign, but at nearly a $10 million a year multiyear deal when his batting skills have been on the decline, well....

On top of everything else in this deal, they are both righthanded bats meaning the Cubs would put out a lineup of all righties minus patterson/pierre, whoever is playing CF. Talk about being one-sided, although that type of lineup did not hurt us in 2003. However couple this trade rumour with the outrageous talk of giving Furcal $100 million, even if only in possible incentives, this leads me to believe that this article is bogus and that the author is just trying to float a rumour without legs - something which will make him look like he had the scoop.

Now a trade which appears to be near completion is the trade for Florida CF Juan Pierre. In this deal minor league pitcher Renyel Pinto, A major-league ready reliever (Novoa, Van Buren, etc.), and another minor leaguer not named Pie, Hill, Murton, Cedeno, or Guzman will be going to the Fighting Fish. This deal was reported on the Score during this last week as being near completed, however AM 1000 did the same thing earlier this month and nothing came of that.

Let me get this out right now, I do not like Pierre as a major league baseball player. He is subpar defensively with one of the worst outfield arms in the league, if not the worst. For a guy with his kind of speed he managed to maintain the worst CF zone factor in 2005. His OBP also dipped to .326 this year which is not very good - especially for a leadoff hitter. The major question is if his decline last year was a fluke or a trend. If we had to take one of the top of the order guys from the Marlins I would much rather have Luis Castillo, but he probably will not be available. The only way I like this trade is if Furcal is signed so Pierre would bat second coupled with the signing of Giles to play RF as someone will have to have an arm in the OF next year. I do like that Pierre has shown past ability to get on base, and can steal once he's on, but his atrocious defense makes me wary of adding him to an outfield that already has an average at best defender in LF.

Now if we miss on Furcal that changes everything as the need for a leadoff man will increase. Florida also seems to be waiting on pulling the trigger of this deal because they think once Johnny Damon signs the market will go up for Pierre. While probably true they won't be pulling any better prospects than they're already getting from the Cubs as they appear to already be overpaying for Pierre's services. Florida was also rumored to be ready to not offer aribtration to Pierre on the Dec. 7th deadline, but that will probably change with his new market value.

Toronto getting a BJ'

The Blue Jays just overinflated the closer market the other day as they signed B.J Ryan to a 5yr/$47 mil deal. Now I realize that Toronto usually has to overpay to get guys to cross the border and play in Skydome, but jeez, this is a huge deal. Maybe it has something to do with the $4 mil deals Hendry handed out last week as well, but this will most likely up Billy Wagners demands of his new deal. This contract is the largest ever handed out to a relief pitcher in overall terms breaking the record of Mariano Rivera's 4yr/$39.95 mil deal 5 years ago. Although Ryan had an outstanding last few seasons he only closed last year and hasn't proven over time to me to garner such a large dollar amount per year. Even with this contract Toronto is looking to add a lot more payroll, offering A.J. Burnett 5yr/$50 mil and seeming very interested in trading for OF Kevin Mench and Brewers 1B Lyle Overbay. Former Closer Miguel Bastita will now hit the trade market and was rumored in a deal to Texas for Mench (also making that above article seems like garbage).

Chuckling wildly....

I can't get enough of Scott Boras. Not because I think he's great, but because he always throws himself into the idea that his free agents are Gods among men. Check out this article where he compares CF Johnny Damon to FA OF Brian Giles and then to the immortal Cal Ripken - stating that Damon was the new Ironman even though hes only played in more than 155 games twice in his carrer and has never played a full season (although he does play a lot of games every year).

I just wonder how this guy sleeps at night, I mean besides on piles and piles of money and next to many beautiful ladies.

Roundup...

- Guillermo Mota was added to the Beckett deal while the Red Sox sent another minor leaguer Florida's way, giving Boston an even better deal than before.

- Japanese Catcher Kenji Jojima finally signed with the Mariners a while back and I forgot to mention it. He got 3 years and a bit over $16 million.

- David Kelton has apparently signed a minor league deal with Atlanta after he was granted free Agency

- The Bobby Howry signing I talked about came to fruition, to the same terms I had previously mentioned.

- Carlos Delgado and $7 million was traded to the New York Mets for NY's top pitching prospect Yusiermo Petit and 1B prospect Mike Jacobs. Great deal for the Mets unless Delgado sulks and demands a trade after one season ala Javier Vazquez. One reason Delgado didn't sign with NY last season was that he felt slighted and degraded at the way early negotiations went.

- The Palehosers picked up 1B/DH Jim Thome and $22 million from the Phillies for OF Aaron Rowand and two lefties minor league pitchers, Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Haidwood. This is an iffy trade and can go both ways. I'll have more on these last two deals in a different column.

Obligitory Brian Giles Request...

Speaking of win shares, guess who lead all MLB outfielders in that catergory this past season. That's right, you guessed it, Brian Giles(ironically only one better than the man San Diego traded for him, Jason Bay). Why we don't have a standing 3 yr/$30 million offer to this guy I do not know. I guess Trader Jim won't be happy till he signs Preston Wilson to play RF and I kill myself.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Free Agent Predictions....

With only a few free agents, and no big ones, signed so far this offseason, here's some predictions on where I think the major free agents at each position will be heading. I am also going to include some potential players to be traded this offseason and where they'll be headed as well. Analysis on some is offered below as well. Only position players who figure to be starters are listed.


First Basemen

Paul Konerko - Red Sox
Frank Thomas - White Sox
Erubiel Durazo - Blue Jays
Jeff Conine - Marlins or retirement

Second Basemen

Mark Grudzielanek - Cardinals

Shortstops

Rafeal Furcal - Cubs
Nomar Garciaparra - Dodgers
Rich Aurilia - Marlins (if Castillo goes)
Alex Gonzalez - Twins

Third Basemen

Bill Mueller - Phillies
Joe Randa - Twins
Abraham Nunez - Cardinals

Catcher

Mike Piazza - Twins
Brad Ausmus - Astros
Bengie Molina - Diamondbacks
Ramon Hernandez - Mets


Outfielders

Jeromy Burnitz - Rockies
Johnny Damon - Red Sox
Juan Encarnacion - Nationals
Carl Everett - Mariners
Brian Giles - Cardinals
Jacque Jones - Padres
Reggie Sanders - Royals
Preston Wilson - Rangers

Closers

Kyle Farnsworth - Yankees
Tom Gordon - Blue Jays
Trevor Hoffman - Braves
Bob Wickman - Indians
Todd Jones - Marlins
Brandon Looper - Reds
Jose Mesa - Pirates
B.J. Ryan - Mets
Ugeth Urbina - Jail
Billy Wagner - Phillies

Starting Pitchers

A.J. Burnett - Red Sox
Paul Byrd - Rangers
Kevin Millwood - Tigers
Matt Morris - Rangers
Jamie Moyer - Mariners or retirement
Kenny Rogers - Indians
Jarrod Washburn - Brewers
Jeff Weaver - Blue Jays


Possible Players to be Dealt (player, possible landing spots)

1) Manny Ramirez - Angels, Dodgers, D-backs, Mets
The BoSox will look to get both established players and prospects back in this deal. Depending on who else is included Boston will most likely have to eat some of the contract left (3yr/$57 mil). David Ortiz went on record the other day saying that he talked to Manny and Ramirez said he will not be back in Boston next year, but Ortiz also said that Pedro wasn't leaving town last offseason. Right now the Angels aren't ga-ga over him and he has said many times he'd rather not go to the Mets, but the Dodgers are in need of a big bat and tons of young pitching. Prediction: Stays with the Red Sox
Manny being Mannya few too many before practice?
2) David Wells - Padres, D-backs, Dodgers, Angels
He requested a trade to get out of town and go back to the southern California area and was told he'd be granted that request. Wells wants to go back to the Padres but the Sox will probably only oblige to that if they get CF Dave Roberts and relief pitcher Akinori Otsuka back. Prediction: Goes to San Diego
At least Sirotka is out of baseball
3) Carl Pavano - Mariners, Tigers, Mets, Indians, Brewers, Rangers
Pavano is reported to be very unhappy in New York and wouldn't be distraught if he were sent out of town. The Yankees are probably just as disappointed in him and with thier excess of starting pitching they can deal Pavano and load up some prospects or get a CF to fill thier hole there. The Tigers and Mariners wanted him very badly last offseason, and he'll probably end up at one of those to places. The Tigers have extra CF's. Prediction: Tigers
Why do you suck this year?
4) Carlos Delgado - Baltimore, Mets, Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Angels, Mariners, White Sox
Delgado was promised by Marlins owner Jeffery Loria that he would not be dealt during his contract length in Florida, unfortunately for Delgado Loria power was supplanted by his stepson and he has ordered the team dismantled. Baltimore, the Mets, and the Angels all need 1B and power lefty sticks, but who will give up the prospects first to get him. Prediction: Baltimore
I best not be going to New York
5) Juan Pierre - Cubs, White Sox, Yankees
Pierre seems to have regressed lately but is still a good man to stick at the top of the order. For some reason the White Sox have been rumored to be going after him, but the Cubs and Bombers need a CF who can hit leadoff even more. Hopefully the Cubs can get Patterson and an okay prospect done for him, but I believe they will overpay. Prediction: Cubs

6) Luis Castillo - Mets, Cubs, Cardinals, Twins, Yankees, Rangers
The Cubs will only get involved if the lose out on Pierre and Furcal and the Rangers only if they deal Soriano. With no 2B prospects in sight and still a need for a leadoff man Castillo may be the one guy Florida doesn't trade out of this group. Afterall - someone has to take up the payroll. In fact, thats what I'll predict. Prediction: Stays with the Marlins
Manny being Manny, with Luis Castillo
7) Paul LoDuca - Rockies, D-backs, Mets, Padres
How much demand will there be for a 34 year old catcher due $12.5 mil over then next two seasons? Not too much. In fact the only team I can see seriously going after him is the Rockies. So...Prediction: Going to Denver
Yes! Yes! We are going to be traded!
8) Jim Thome - White Sox, Twins, Mets, Dodgers, Red Sox, Angels, Mariners, Cardinals
Thome probably won't be dealt until closer to spring training, basically till teams have a chance to see if he has recovered from his elbow surgery this past season. And when they finally do deal him, they will have to eat a lot of his contract, or get minimal prospects in return. Thome would be best suited to going to the AL and DH'ing his career out. Prediction: Angels

9) Bobby Abreu - Mets, Cubs, Orioles, Angels, Dodgers, Red Sox, Cardinals, Tigers, Mariners
Abreu is a 5-tool player but has dealt with some chatter of him not being a 'team guy' in the clubhouse. Whether it's true or not, I don't know. But I do know that since new Phillies GM Pat Gillick took over trade rumors of Abreu have persisted. He has a huge deal ($30 mil over next two years) and the Phillies payroll is already at $73 million without adding arbitration for Vincente Padilla and a new contract for either Billy Wagner or B.J. Ryan. Only a few teams will be able to absorb his contract, and Manny doesn't want to go to Philly - and the Phillies won't just give Abreu away. Prediction: Stays with Philly

10) Austin Kearns, Ken Griffey Jr., Wily Mo Pena, Adam Dunn -
One of these four men will be dealth this offseason according to the Cincinatti Red officials. There best bet will be to either try and peddle Sean Casey this season, but he has two years and $17 million left on his contract, and with his power numbers they would have to take 15 cents on the dollar to trade him. Dunn is thier most valuable chip, but he's also thier best player. They would love to deal the oft-injured Griffey, but who would risk him for another three years on his monster deal. Kearns has inexplicable regressed the last couple seasons and his value is down. Pena is young and powerful but inconsistent. If I ran the Reds I would keep all these guys and move Dunn to first by just dumping Casey, and I mean for like two bags of baseballs and some ranch sunflower seeds. Prediction: Kearns will be dealt for two decent prospects

11) Todd Walker - Rangers, Mets, Royals, Cardinals
Hendry pretty much said he picked up Walker's option to deal him so the best thing they can hope for is that Grudzielanek signs with the Royals, then they'll have the Cardinals and either the Met or Rangers (whoever has Soriano) needing a 2B and nobody left on the market. The Cubs won't get much in a deal if they do trade him though. Prediction: Rangers
different teams, same results
12) Corey Patterson - Yankees, Phillies, Marlins, Orioles
A true tragedy so far, as this kid has a ton of ability. The Yankees need a CF who can cover ground and Patterson has been rumored to be part of a deal to Florida for Juan Pierre. If the Cubs cannot land Giles I feel thier best move is to trade other parts for Pierre and move Patterson to RF, but that probably will not happen. Prediction: Florida
Get the hell out of Chicago, and stay out
13) Aaron Rowand - Yankees, Phillies, Orioles, Marlins
Two CF's from the same city being looked at by the same teams? Tell me its not true. The Yankees appear to have really liked Rowand since a series in August against the White Sox. The Sox have about 50 OF prospects on the verge and have another CF playing in left currently. Rowand had a down year at the plate in 2005 so they might want to wait another season to deal him as he's under contract through 2007. Prediction: Stays with the White Sox
Why would you trade me?
14) Lyle Overbay - Mets, Dodgers, Orioles, Red Sox, Angels, White Sox
Prince is here to stay. No I'm not stuck in 1983 I'm talking about Prince Fielder, Cecil's son. He's ready to take over 1B in Milwaukee but Overbay is in the way. Since he cannot play the OF Lyle will be moved to someone in need of a 1B, namely the teams listed after his name. All of the teams listed have solid pitching prospects available, which the Brew Crew desperately needs, and a hole 1B. Milwaukee will do best to sit on him till Konerko and Delgado situations are resolved as the price will then go up. If Milwaukee can get an elite pitching prospect and another decent one they'll pee themselves. The best thing that can happen is if the Mets miss on everyone this offseason as they will then probably give away thier farm system. Prediction: Dodgers
Why not just finish the job?15) Barry Zito - Everyone except Florida
Who couldn't use a former lefthanded Cy Young winner who is 26 years old. Seriously, the A's will most likely deal him this offseason as he becomes a free agent after the next season. If Burnett is going to get $10+ mil this offseason imagine what Zito will command. And even though he has been down the last couple of seasons, he had a great bouceback 2nd half of 2005. Oakland will not be able to afford him after this year so he must go. Prediction: Mets

16) Alfonso Soriano - Mets, Yankees
Unless he decides to start playing the OF the teams interested in him will pretty much be limited to the New Yorks, and most likely only the Mets at that. Soriano is in his final year of arbitration and will get around $10 mil for the next season. I really can't see anyone other than the Mets going after him, so...Prediction: Going to Queens
Whoops, wrong MB
17) Milton Bradley - Tigers, Yankees, Mets, Mariners, Cardinals, Phillies
Bradley is a talent but has serious clubhouse, off-field, and on-field issues. In fact, lets just say he has 'issues' period. The Dodgers want to get rid of him and there are always teams ready to take on guys with problems who can produce. The Yankees sure seem to have gotton a bunch of these guys lately. Prediction: The Yanks

18) Ichiro Suzuki - Mets, Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Braves, Cubs, Cardinals, Tigers, Angels, D-backs, Dodgers
If this guy is really available...look out. Even though he bad-mouthed manager Mike Hargrove and GM Bill Bavasi in a Japanese newspaper saying he would like to be dealt this past week, the Mariners would really have to be bowled over by an offer to dump Ichiro. That said...Prediction: Staying with the Mariners
Yea, he looks like a guy who would have the most singles in one season
19) Javier Vazquez - Cardinals, Cubs, Tigers, Red Sox, Mets, Braves, Orioles
Vazquez has recrently enacted the clause in MLB where a player traded in the middle of a multiyear contract may ask to be dealt after the season in which he has been traded. So now the D-back have until March 15 to trade him or release him outright. My guess is he will be dealt. Vazquez is allowed up to six teams to say he cannot be traded to and those reported are Philadelphia, Colorado, Seattle, and Texas - with Seattle being the only team west of Arizona listed. This is significant since the reason he cited for the request was to be closer to Puerto Rico and shorten the trip for his family from his home and the place he plays at. With him only including Seattle on the west coast he is gambling that the D-backs will not trade him to a division rival or the Angels (since the A's cannot afford him). Smart move on his part if you ask me. Once this request came through, and before the Josh Beckett/Mike Lowell trade I would have guaranteed you that Vazquez and 3B Troy Glaus were going to Boston for LF Manny Ramirez, but now....Prediction: Orioles
hey, it could be worse, I could be in Arizona right now

Well that's it, that is the look at the major Free Agents and players most likely to be dealt this offseason. Will I get them all right? Will I get any of them right? Who knows, but we'll see. If you want to talk trash on me copy and paste the free agent section and make your own picks in the comments area.



Obligatory Brian Giles Plea....

With the Cardinals now backing off of Giles to pursue a Free Agent SP (A.J. Burnett and Kevin Millwood) I say we not only scoop up Giles while they're not paying attention, but then nab whatever pitcher they want more away at same time. Double Whammy.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Howry to the Cubs?.....

There are some strong rumors that the Cubs are about to ink thier second reliever of the offseason, signing right hander Bob Howry for around $12 million over three seasons. There is nothing confirmed for this right now but it seems as though the deal will be completed and announced sometime in the next few days.
Another up and down reliever getting to much money
If this thing does go through it will be the second former White Sox pitcher the Cubs will have signed this offseason, although this one may turn out to be better than the previous. Howry was a good reliever for the White Sox till he started having elbow problems in 2001. From then till he had his surgery in 2003 he had problems as his numbers went up across the board. However when he returned and pitched for the Indians he regained his previous form.

Throwing a slider, splitter, and fastball which can touch the mid-90's he yields a low BAA while walking very few people. The only troublesome stats were a career groundball to flyball ratio of .82 and a drop in his k/9inn ratio of around 1.6 from his career marks. All in all I think this will be a better signing that Scott Eyre as Howry can be the actual set-up man the Cubs need while Eyre can fall back to the role that best suits him as left-handed specialist (although he's still way overpaid for that).

When the Howry signing become official the Cubs bullpen will shape up as:
Dempster
Howry
Eyre
Williamson
Ohman
and two spots between Novoa, Wuertz, and any minor leaguer who steps up in spring training.

Not too bad, and much better than we appeared to be last season, with actual defined roles and everything!!!



Obligitory Brian Giles Plea....

If we get Brian Giles then maybe all of Cubdom can get the raunchy taste that was Jer-O-my Burnitz out of thier mouths, i heard Giles tastes minty fresh!

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Get 'em While They Last....

Whoo hoo. The Marlins are holding thier second fire sale in the last decade, and this time it's even better than the first. Deciding, in more of an indictment against the fans in South Florida (and thier horrible lease), that they cannot take another year of heavy losses the Marlins have given the go-ahead to completely dismanteling thier 2004 team. Unlike 1998, when they sold off everything immediately after thier World Series win, they actually waited an two extra seasons. Lets take a look at the starting lineup last season for the fighting fish and what their immediate futures are:
C Paul LaDuca - On the Trading Block
1B Carlos Delgado - On the Trading Block
2B Luis Castillo - On the Trading Block
SS Alex Gonzalez - Free agent not returning
3B Mike Lowell - On the Trading block
LF Miggy Cabrera - Moving to 3B
CF Juan Pierre - On the Trading Block
RF Juan Encarnacion - Free agent not returning

SP A.J. Burnett - Free Agent not returning
SP Josh Beckett - On the Trading Block
SP Dontrelle Willis - Chillin'
SP Al Lieter - Released During Season
SP Ishmael Valdez - Whereabouts unknown

Closer Guillermo Mota - Became setup man, then injured, now on Trading Block
Replacement Closer Todd Jones - Free agent, may return!!!


Of the 15 players listed here 7 are on the block, 3 are free agents (two definently not coming back), 2 players were released, and 2 are coming back for next season. Let me repeat, ONLY TWO ARE COMING BACK NEXT SEASON. I know that even when this team is winning that no one shows up to watch, but this will drive the fan base even further into the ground. Next season the fish will most likely start 4 players in thier rotation with less that one year expierience and another 4 in the field. Eight rookies in starting positions, give me a break.

Last time the Marlins did this it allowed them to re-tool and actually come back 6 seasons later and ruin my october by actually winning another World Series. This cannot be discounted as it was a major accomplishment to strip everything and come back in a few years to win it all again. And now they're destroyin it all again. Even in the slim likelyhood that they actually win a title between 2009-20012 is it worth it to go through this same process? Everytime players become good enough to make money they have to ship them out because the team cannot get enough money out of thier stadium lease(easily the worst in MLB) because they cannot build a new stadium and the fans won't approve a new stadium, but won't go to the current one because its a piece of junk and the team keeps losing its best players. Whether its a perpetual circle or a self-fulfilling prophecy I do not know, but I do know that things will not change until the marlins are hooked by another City in these United States. Vegas would be a good fit, and Portland wants a team bad, so we'll see what happens. Untill then look for alot of sub 10,000 crowds at Pro-Player next season. But before that happens, it's time for...

The Start of the Action....

After toying the Rangers around for a week and finally getting thier top pitching prospect out of them, the Marlins have gone ahead and traded Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell plus some cash to the Boston Red Sox for minor leaguers SS Hanley Ramirez, SP Annibal Sanchez, and another minor league pitcher yet to be named. The key to the deal is the extra minor league pitcher as the Marlins wanted the BoSox top pitching prospect Lefty Jon Lester but they refused, instead giving up Sanchez and another prospect. Sanchez, a right-handed starting pitcher, will most likely step into the rotation next season amid a wash of other rookies joining him there. Ramirez will be named the new starter at SS when spring training breaks out, it will be his job to lose.

The Rangers offer of top SP prospect John Danks and 3B Hank Blalock was denied by the Marlins as I guess they feel the Boston prospects are better than Danks plus anything they could have turned Blalock into. The Rangers also dilly-dallied for a while thinking about whether they should include Danks, but it turned out to be too little, too late.

If Florida really is intent on busting this party up like a high school kegger, then they could have done a lot worse than this deal, and probably not much better with the prohibitive contract of Lowell included. Lowell is coming off his worst offensive year as a pro, although he did win the Gold Glove, and will make $9 million in 2006 and '07. Boston also gets the top of the rotation guy they need to go with Curt Schilling next season, if he's healthy, in Beckett. Sanchez could develop into a solid middle of the roation guy and Ramirez is supposedly a 5-tool prospect, and Boston's best. However he was blocked by Edgar Renteria and with the BoSox going to Dustin Pedoria at 2B he had no where to go. These two players will be cheap and will develop well while filling spots that needing filling on the team for Florida, while Boston gets thier Ace and a solid glove man at 3B who could put up some good numbers in right-handed friendly Fenway, thus making this a pretty good deal for both teams involved.

Some quick predictions on where everyone else on Florida will end up:
Delgado - Baltimore
LaDuca - Colorado
Castillo - 50/50 Remain with team/Mets
Pierre - Cubs
Mota - Yankees


Obligitory Brian Giles Request....

It's better to sign Giles this offseason as this upcoming draft is supposed to be weak, but since the Cubs finished in the bottom half of the league we get to keep our first round pick if we sign a type 'A' free agent, which Giles is, meaning we only have to give up a 2nd rounder. But who cares about that because the draft is supposed to really suck next year. LET'S DO THIS THING.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Cubbies get some relief....

Although all the details havn't been mashed out yet, and all but ending the chances of a run at a top calibre reliever, the Cubs will announce tommorow that they have signed lefty reliever Scott Eyre to a 2 year deal, with a third year player option that could make the total package worth $11 million. Eyre was in high demand but his choice to come to the Cubs came down to a few things: 1) He wanted to stay in the National League, 2) A past relationship with Dusty Baker and Dick Pole, and 3) he wanted a three year deal. San Francisco offered Eyre two years with a club option, but he wanted three years and thats essentially what he got with a third year player option. Eyre will also have bonuses in his contract for each season of $100,000 at 70 games entered and $200,000 at 80 games entered.
Scotty Eyre
Eyre broke in with the White Sox in 1997 but was up and down for most of his career. Then in 2002 he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and that essentially changed his career. Heres an article on his condition. Essentially he couldn't concentrate at all times on the mound leading to a breakdown of his focus. During his diagnosis the Blue Jays released him but he was picked up by Baker during the stretch run of the Giants 2002 World Series season and apparently Eyre never forgot that.

Heres what GM Jim Hendry had to say about the signing, "Scott was the best guy on the market for us, he had a terrific year. He has proven he can pitch almost every day with 80 appearances. He's affective against righties and lefties. We felt it was important to add a quality lefty to the pen to go with Ohman.
I cannot lie, I am not a big fan of this signing. Eyre is essentially a glorified lefty specialist who had an outlier year in 2005 against righties. Don't get me wrong, ever since he found out about the ADHD he has been more than solid in getting lefties out, but in that period his BAA against right-handed hitters has been .254 - and that includes a .213 mark last season. On the flip side, his numbers on the road have been significantly better than his numbers at home, which doesn't make much sense playing at PacBell. That is the only chance he has of living up to the money the Cubs gave him a few hours ago. It is possible that he may have turned another corner in his career, but at age 33 the odds are very unlikely. I think in two years we will have paid almost four million a year to a lefty specialist who cannot be the main set-up that Trader Jim will want him to be - or at least he should be for this kind of money.


Around the division....

The Pirates are spending money again inking 2004 Rookie of the Year Jason Bay to a 4 yr/$18.5 million extension. Even though he wasn't arbitration eligible till the end of next season the Pirates apparently thought that they could get a better deal now by signing him to the long term deal. This new contract does not however take him through any free agency years as he will still be on track for free agency in 2009. If Bay keeps up the numbers he put up last season, or bests them, this is a great deal for the Pirates as his arbitration years would yield much more than he will get in this contract. Bay gets a signing bonus of $1 million and a base salary, in order, of $750,000 ; $3.25 mil ; $5.75 mil ; and $7.5 mil.


Lets get Brian Giles....

Just my one reminder per post that the Cubs should sign Brian Giles. Here's the on the road stat line he authored last season: .333/.463/.545 ; with significantly more runs, doubles, walks, and less strikeouts.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

It's About Time Someone Said Something....

It's only taken 3 years and a re-newed multiyear deal but finally a member of the Cubs coaching staff has held the team accountable for lacking in fundamentals, that man - Larry Rothschild. He wasn't as harsh as he should have been, and presented an out for the coaching staff to not be held liable, but at least hes finally commenting on something that has been lacking on the north side for many years. Rothschild said,
"I don't like to use excuses, it's time for us to look at it that whoever is healthy and on the field needs to play the game right and play the game well. I don't know that that happened all the time last year."


Wow. He should know better than anyone if these guys are playing smart and hustling, sounds like they weren't. Let's see if he keeps his word about excuses.

"When you keep having to shift guys because of injuries, you don't always get the performance you want. Whoever is on the field, we need to play the game well. If we do, we will win games. Dusty is a big believer in fundamentals and we need to get to the point where we execute on the field day in and day out. Any excuse that are out there...it doesn't even matter."


So he says he doesn't like excuses, then he makes what sure sounds like an excuse immediatley afterward. Then Rothschild claims that Dusty is a great fundamental guy - a man who has publicly stated that walks are overated and batters are up there to swing away - and then re-affirms that excuses will not be tolerated. If Baker is a big fundamentalist why doesn't he have the team work on fundamentals during spring training and throughout the season if he's coached 3 teams in a row that are flawed in that area.

You can't place the blame on any single area for the lack of fundamentals on this team as everyone is accountable from the minor league coaches up to the players themselves. I would have loved it if Rothschild came out and said, 'yea, we didn't teach them properly and they didn't push themseleves properly,' but at least its a start (or percieved start) of something better.

One thing from Rothschild which I very much enjoyed was this on the subject of Kerry Wood,
"I think, as an organization, we look at it that if Kerry comes back, when he comes back it's going to be a bonus. We have to plan that he is not going to be back at any certain level we can predict. The surgery indicates that everything if very positive. But if and say were going to depend on him going into spring training...it's just stupid on our part. I think we go in thinking we're going to build that staff as strong as we can. If Kerry is back then we're than much stronger. I believe he will be, but i'm not going to depend on it."


Right on Larry. I found these comments to be extremely interesting, especially coupled with this Ken Rosenthal report that the Cubs are one of the four major players in the A.J Burnett sweepstakes along with the Blue Jays, Cardinals and Red Sox. Although I do not think the Cubs will obtain Burnett and that they are in reality just token players in this hoopla, it is possible. Hendry and Burnett are said to have good relations and the Cubs have money to spend this offseason. There are hangups in the fact that Burnett wants at least 5 years on his deal, something that Hendry has shied away from in the past. But if he is willing to give it to Furcal, will he give it to Burnett? Burnett seems to be made to pitch at Wrigley as his career flyball to groundball ratio 1.44 and for last season was 2.42 - good for 6th in MLB. He also has a stellar career K/9 average of 7.94, and is actually better than that over the last four years.

Yes Burnett has major questions about his health due to his elbow blowing out in early 2003. However since he came back from that he had only a minor tingle in sept of 2004 which caused him to miss a start. The health portion of this equation doesn't seem so bad to me. Many people believe that he posses the best 'stuff' of anyone in the majors. Calling out his team and manager as giving up at the end of last season shows he has competitive fire inside, something many Cubs players appear to lack. His career record of 49-50 doesn't bother me because W/L record is more indicative of your run support than anything else. The only problem I can see is that he walks a few to many people, and even though its still low, his BAA has been rising the last four seasons.

If Hendry gets Burnetts signature on a contract even without Woodie the Cubs will have an arguement to the best rotation in the league. And if Wood comes back healthy there is no arguement. Trouble is, Toronto wants him really bad, so Hendry will actually have to work to sign him since he's a top end free agent, and thats something he has not done during his tenure here.

Another thing of note with the signing of Burnett is that probably puts the writing on the wall for Kerry Woods departure in 2007, unless he completely dominates when he returns. Whether Burnett's signs or not it will take either a healthy season long performance or a Cy Young calibre return from injury for the Cubs to pick up that $13.5 million option after next season as I don't think Kwood will get the 334 innings pitched needed for it to kick in automatically.


The offseasons first moves....

The first moves have come down this offseason and one of them affects Chicago...well the south side of Chicago. In the first trade of the hot stove season the Mets pulled Xavier Nady from the Padres for CF Mike Cameron. Cameron complained about moving from CF to RF ever since the Mets signed Carlos Beltran last season - after initally saying he wouldn't mind the move probably thinking they had no chance. So Mike gets his wish to play CF again and gets to do it in Sunny San Diego. Xavier Nady Will either play 1B for the Mets, play RF for the Mets, or be moved in a trade to Boston or Tampa Bay. Nady is a solid young player who never got a full chance in San Diego and the Mets would probably be better off keeping him around, but most likely aren't smart enough to do that. This move will utimately lead to other moves as San Diego now needs to see if Dave Roberts will move to LF and Ryan Klesko to 1B otherwise Roberts will need to be moved to another organization. Good move for San Diego as they have better prospects than Nady coming up and they recieve a Gold Glove CF to roam the vast wasteland that is the outfield in PetCo.

The next move also involved the Padres as White Sox World Series hero Geoff Blum was the first free agent to switch teams this year signing for $650,000 over 1 year. If you don't remember Blum hit the home run in the 14th inning of Game 3 which turned out to be the winning run.


Goodbye Jonny....

Do you know what your favorite moment of the Jon Leicester era was? Niether do I. Thats too bad, as we have no more chances of making those moments as the Cubs dealt Leicester to the Rangers for the infamous PTBNL. Up until his horrible last season in AAA Leicester might have been able to be a bargaining chip. Oh well.


Someone please tell me...

Why the Cubs cannot sign Rafeal Furcal, A.J. Burnett, B. J. Ryan, and Brian Giles to play at Wrigley next season. Last year thier payroll was a bit over the $100 million mark and they still made a substantial profit. Next year not only will they raise ticket prices again, but their also adding 1500 seats to the bleachers (a column coming on that later) to the tune of at least a $4,680,000 increase in ticket revenue. And on top of all that due to the sale of the Nationals this offseason and the increase in the TV contracts they will recieve around an additional $15 million. There is no excuse for the payroll to push towards $120 million.

Rumours abound....

There appears to be a rumour floating about the mill that the Cubs are about to announce the signing of left-handed set-up man Scott Eyre to a multi-year deal. Many teams were after Eyre this offseason as he had an outstanding 2005.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Is Jim Hendry on Crack?....

The Cubs resigned SS Nefi Perez to a 2yr/$5 million contract the other day. 2 years and $5 million? Why don't you just give him $10 million to go away? Seriously, this is a horrible deal and Hendry should have known better than to do this. These are the kind of moves that ruin a GM and gives him excuses to not add payroll later on in the season. Don't get me wrong here, this isn't a complete indightment against the out machine Nefi Perez, I mean, he did hit into 22 double plays last year - that counts for something right? Nefi is at best a late inning defensive replacement who fills in once every two weeks durin the season. At worst he's horrible hitting starting middle infielder. Guess which one we will be privelidged to see next season.

Hendry said that he resigned Nefi to be a backup and insurance as a middle infielder but here's what Mr. DP had to say about his resigning, "It depends on what Dusty Baker and the general manager want to do with me, I think I showed them I can play every day." Sounds like a man thats intending to start next season...or else there'll be trouble (I know 'there'll is not a word). We all know exactly what Dusty's plans for Nefi will be if he gets his way so by-God, Hendry better be forceful in making Ronny Cedeno the starter for next year. Baker may agree to to initially start Ronny, but if he falters in anyway that first month I can guarantee you that Nefi will be starting the rest of the year, and probably ruining the top of the lineup as well.

At worst next season, the starting middle infield will be Nefi and Todd Walker. At best, Furcal and Cedeno. I cannot get over how much this signing scares me though. Does Hendry not think Furcal will sign with them? If Nefi was signed to be a backup, they seriously overpaid. It's a scenario thats just begging to give Dusty and excuse to start Perez, and I dont like it one bit.


It's like money in the Bank....

Free Agency will be upon us in about 3 hours and the market this season appears to be weaker overall than others, but that really doesn't matter to the Cubs as thier needs can be more than amply filled. Need a SS? How about Rafeal Furcal. Need a Leadoff Hitter? Furcal again. Need a Lefthanded power OF bat? How about Brian Giles or Hideki Matsui. Need a dominant set-up man? How about B.J Ryan. Now that looks like an offseason haul that the Cubs could realistically accomplish...if they weren't the Cubs. Although they could more than afford all three they will most likely go after one (Furcal) and claim they did all they could to sign the others. I see them (and hope they don't) going cheapie on getting another OF and frankly it would be a said situation if they did. Let's take a look at the Cubs current payroll, counting each player on a rookie contract as $500,000 and estimating arbitration numbers.

Kerry Wood ($) 12,000,000
Aramis Ramirez 10,500,000
Greg Maddux 9,000,000
Derek Lee 8,670,000
Carlos Zambrano 5,500,000* (est.)
Ryan Dempster 5,000,000
Michael Barrett 4,000,000
Corey Patterson 3,500,000* (est.)
Jerry Hairston 3,200,000* (est.)
Scott Williamson 3,000,000
Glendon Rusch 3,000,000
Mark Prior 2,500,000
Nefi Perez 2,500,000
Todd Walker 2,500,000
Henry Blanco 1,500,000
Ronny Cedeno 500,000
Adam Greenberg 500,000
Matt Murton 500,000
Roberto Novoa 500,000
Will Ohman 500,000
Jerome Williams 500,000
Michael Wuertz 500,000
___________
Total $ 79,870,000


Now this total is squed a bit high as those rookies will not make that much and the arbitration figures might actually be lower as I used a high-end estimation. Also Jim Hendry has stated that he only picked up Todd Walkers option to deal him so were actually looking at around $75,000,000 for a current payroll heading into next season. The Tribune is saying they want to commit around $100,000,000 in salary leaving $25 mil to sign a SS, a RF, a backup OF or INF who can hit for power, and another piece of the bullpen. Seems pretty reasonable to me to aquire the guys mentioned above.

In all honesty I think that the Cubs will land Furcal for between $8-10 mil a year. They need a SS and a leadoff man, and Furcal can fill both of those needs. He has to be priority no.1 for Trader Jim this offseason and everything seems to indicate that's true. The only teams mentioned for Furcal so far in the rumor mill has been Atlanta, the Cubs, and the Mets - but I cannot see him moving to 2nd base to play in Flushing. He has the best arm in the league and is an above average defender. He can get on base and steal them as well. Coupled with Cedeno at 2nd, the Gold Glover Lee and first, and a competent Aramis the Cubs would have thier best infield defense since the Shawon-o-meter donned the bleachers. Atlanta seems poised to let him go as thier unbelievable development system has people in place to take over his spot as well as the fact that they are trying to reduce payroll again this offseason. (It's unbelievable what they do down there - it must be something they put in thier Coke)

As for getting a RF, this is a different story. I cannot stop this nagging feeling that Hendry is going to bring back Jer-O-my Burnitz at a reduced price for the upcoming season. How he could do it after last year I don't know, but I just cannot shake that feeling. If they go after Matsui or Giles they're going to have to pay at least $9 mil a year for them, probably more. Matsui will require a longer contract but he has less power, onbase percentage, and defensive ability than Giles - but is 3 years older. However all of this is a moot point if Matsui resigns with Yankees before November 15th (as he must be released by then according to his previous contract, making him a free agent). Another positive of signing Giles would be to keep him away from St. Louis, who has shown serious interest in him with the retirement of Larry Walker.

As for the bullpen help, what they really need here is a dominant set-up man. B.J. Ryan fits that bill perfectly, but are the Cubs willing to spend as much or more on Ryan than closer Ryan Dempster? Probably not. But Ryan has said that he'd rather play for a contender, make less and set-up than close for a ton of money on a crappy team so there is hope. Maybe Hendry can look at former Mets closer Brandon Looper or former Astros and A's closer Octavial Dotel, who is coming off of reconstrucive elbow surgery last season and could be got for the Dempster/Williamson deal. Or maybe someone who can get lefties out like Mike Myers? He would come on the cheap so if he doesn't work out they can get rid of him easily. This will probably be the direction the team goes.

A power guy off the bench. Please, thats almost impossible to find. However there are a couple of guys who could be pinewarmers with some pop. Bobby Higginson, the immortal Jose Hernandez, Travis Lee, Julio Franco, Ruben Sierra, Wes Helms, Robert Fick, and John Mabry are the cream of this crop. You might be able to convince people like Rich Aurilia or Tino Martinez or Rondell White to take a bench role, but you probably won't. I like the idea of signing a guy like Higginson or Mabry would be good as they are lefty guys with pop who can play 1B and the OF.


Trade-ho.....

Rumours are swirling that the Cubs and Marlins are putting together a deal where the principals are Cpatt and Juan Pierre. Adding a guy to the team to hit leadoff is a giant positive, especially if they can get Furcal as the 1-2 top of the order would be outstanding. However this would also really weaken an already average overall outfield defense. Is hitting Pierre-Furcal at the top with the downgrade in defense better than a Furcal-Murton one-two? I'm not sure on either account.


Nomar coming back....

It appears that discussions are going on between Jim Hendry and Nomar Garciaparra's agent about him possibly coming back next season...if he will move to an OF position. Nomar as the Cubs starting RF, probably not, but anything is possible and not always for the better.


Can we get a pitcher please....

And finally Congradulations to the Cubs and prospects Jermaine Van Buren and Ricky Nolasco as they made Baseball America's Minor League postseason All-Star teams. Van Buren was the 1st team closer while Nolasco was one of 4 starters on the second team. Van Buren did his work at AAA Iowa last season and has been pretty dominant the last two years in the minors after the Cubs plucked him from the Independent leagues and made him a closer. If the Cubs don't sign anyone this offseason for the bullpen he will most likely get the final spot, or at least a head start in the competition for it.

Nolasco is still a couple of years away as he did his bidding at AA West Tennessee this past season. Although his BAA was a bit high at .245, he posted excellent numbers with 173 K's in 162 inn, with only 46 walks. His ERA was also stellar at 2.89. Hopefully he fullfils his potential as rotation spots will start to open up in the next few years at the major league level.

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Monday, October 31, 2005

The Offseason is starting to heat up...

Teams are starting to make moves after the White Sox closed the 2005 season with a sweep of the Houston Astros. Did I just really type those words. Anyways, teams are moving along and the Cubs have done plenty already. Let's recap.

Though it didn't happen this week, 'Trader' Jim Hendry and incumbent closer Ryan Dempster agreed to a 3 year, $15 million deal during the last series of the season. Dempster put up stellar numbers in relief this past season. In 58.1 innings over 57 appearances he struck out 53 with a 1.85 ERA, finishing up the season 33 of 35 in save attempts. Really good numbers for a closer, especially one that has started his entire career up to this point. But for some reason I just cannot shake this feeling that these will be better numbers than anything we see during his new contract. The Cubs still need to pick up another reliever this offseason whether it be one of the dominant lefties out there - Billy Wagner or B.J. Ryan - or even Brandon Looper, who's option year was declined by the Mets earlier today.

In a move that reeks of brilliant timing combined with extreme incompetence, 'Trader' Jim brought back the entire Cubs coaching staff - announcing the decision during game 1 of the ALCS. I honestly don't think it got a mention on any of the tv stations and no more than a blurb the next day in the paper. The White Sox were the best thing that happened to the Cubs this offseason, as no one cared about any of the moves they made, as there were more important things happening in town - a team was winning in the playoffs. How Hendry can bring back an entire staff that led an underperforming team who had next to zero fundamentals seriously perplexes me. Guys couldn't cover bases, couldn't run the bases, couldn't play defense, couldn't move runners over, and can't teach Michael Barrett to catch deserve to come back for one more hurrah? Give me a break. I used to think Hendry was a decent general manager but his moves from the 2004 offseason to now have been very questionable. Yes, the executive team he has assembled has drafted well and turned around the farm system, which is much better than the black hole it was for twenty years, but they still haven't produced a starting position player for any team in the MLB since Mark Grace and Rafael Palmiero came up in the late 1980's. Hendry is lining up for an extension before the start of next season, who's contract ends after the 2006 baseball season, and he better start acting as shrewdly as he did in previous seasons.

Over the past weekend the Cubs did some options work as they picked up the options of 2B Todd Walker and RP Scott Williamson while denying the $7 million option of Jeromy Burnitz. The Cubs also had the $9 million option of Greg Maddux kick in automatically when he hit inning no. 188 of the last season. So lets roll through these. Is Todd Walker making $2.5 mil next season a good thing? Only if its in a different uniform. I have to think that Hendry picked up this option only to deal Walker to someone this offseason, maybe in a package for a SS or RF? Williamson is more a of question mark going into next season as he got the Ryan Dempster deal from last year, getting his $2 million option picked up after coming back from Tommy John surgery. His velocity wasn't up to par during the last couple of months, but the Cubs apparently believe that it will be back by next season. If healthy, Williamson is a very good to dominant relief pitcher, plus its only a one year commitment so there's not to much risk here for the team, I like this move. Dumping Burnitz, please, it appears that Hendry isn't as stupid as I just questioned him to be. Now let's see if he decides to bring Burnitz back at a cheaper price - this will determine how serious the team is to winning next year. And finally Mad-Dog coming back. Hendry didn't really have to make a decision on this, but when signing him you had to expected that he would have pitched 400 innings over two years (his clause for the third year kicking in). He's not the pitcher he used to be, Maddux is beneficial in other ways besides pitching to the club, like actually setting a professional example and teaching things to the other pitchers on staff. Although I would like the move a lot more if he was our no. 5 starter.

The final note of Cubs news is that rubber armed Glendon Rusch was signed to a 2 year, $6 million contract. In doing this the Rusch gave up his player option of $2 mil for this season. He will get $2.75 mil this season and $3.25 next, with up to $500,000 in bonuses for starts during each year. At the end of the season Rusch talked to Jim Hendry about how he wanted to start this season and did not want to pitch out of the bullpen anymore. Hendry had this to say about it, "Obviously you don't promise anyone...that they are penciled into the rotation. But I assured him that he would come back as a starting candidate and that I didn't have any interest any longer in putting him in the bullpen." Here is the key line in that statement, " I didn't have any interest any longer in putting him in the bullpen," that sure sounds like he's part of the rotation to me. Even though Rusch pitched decently as a starter last year he crept much closer to his career averages than staying towards the outstanding performance he had in 2004. This is very troubling. His batting average against went from .256 to .296 - almost at his career average. His ERA went up to 4.32 as a starter much closer to his career average of 4.88. Rusch throws more flyball outs than groundouts per average start and his walk/9inn pitched ratio went up by over a full point last season. It appears to me that 2004 was an aberration year for Rusch and if anything, he should have been worse in his performance last season. This looks like a bad (re)signing to me, especially if he's going to be your new no.4 or 5 starter. This also gives the staff 6 starting pitchers, and that's if none of the younger guys just forces his way onto the staff during spring training. Right now were looking at:
1) Zambrano
2) Prior
3) Wood
4) Maddux
5) Williams
6) Rusch

Odds are that Wood will not last the year and will (hopefully) be moved full time to the bullpen, but that significantly weakens the staff overall unless one of the youngsters steps it up. The starters, which was possibly the best in MLB going into 2004, is now not even the best staff in its own division, and won't be again if Roger Clemens comes back for one more go-around. There have been rumors floating around of the Cubs going after him of the best stuff in baseball A.J Burnett or Kevin Millwood, but I really cannot see them spending on those guys. Plus getting one of those guys would add to the serious logjam starting to accumulate in the starting pitching position. This isn't a bad thing, as the old axiom goes, you can never have enough pitching, but sometimes you need to deal from a strength to correct a weakness.


Other Happenings...

Moneyballers have taken a serious hit the past week as two of their followers, Boston GM Theo Epstein and Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta quit/was fired leaving only the originator Billy Beane left in the GM ranks. Although neither man followed the formula through completely, they used a lot of the idea process to put their respective teams together. DePodesta was fired after less than two years on the job and after winning a division championship in 2004. Theo's Boston teams made the playoffs all three of his years and winning it all last season. Both of these guys will catch on somewhere else, but probably not till next season. Look for the BoSox to hire Kevin Towers as GM. Towers teamed up with Red Sox president Larry Lucchino to lead the Padres to the World Series in 1998.

Pitching coach extrordinarre Leo Mazzone flew the Braves coup and landed with the Orioles earlier this month, spurning the Yankees in the process. We'll now see how much of an impact he had on the Braves pitchers as he has been the coach there since the 1980's. Since he was still under contract at the time the O's gave up prospect Moises Hernandez to the Braves. If the name looks familiar it's Seattle phenom Felix Hernandez's older brother. He is 21 and not nearly as good as his younger brother but still is a solid prospect. Atlanta replaced Mazzone with the eccentric Roger McDowell, which should be interesting at times to say the least.

On the South Side of town Sox GM Kenny Williams has already got started preparations to defend their title as he declined the option of Carl 'dinosaurs never existed' Everett, picked up reliever Cliff Polittes option, and saw Frank Thomas accept his $10 million player option - virtually guaranteeing that Williams will use his clause for a $3.5 million buyout of that option. The Sox will probably bring him back, or at least try to, giving him a contract for $1.5 - $2 mil with heavy incentives. There wont be many teams out willing to offer him more than that - if any - so he'll begrudgingly head back to 35th and Shields for 2006.


Why aren't there Gold Sluggers....

Congrats to Derek Lee and Michael Barrett who picked up Silver Slugger awards this year at 1B and C respectively. The award is based on voting by all coaches and managers in the National League - who cannot vote for anyone on their own team. Lee should be the Gold Glove and MVP as well, we'll see if he picks those up, but here's your Silver Slugger line for catching this year: .276, .345, 16, 61. I knew I should have stuck with catching. But if you seriously look at the numbers for National League Catchers this season he probably had the best overall season. If only Cincinnati's Jason LaRue and Javier Valentin could add their numbers together they would have crushed all competition - good thing this is an individual award.


Just saying...

In 2004 the Boston Red Sox win the World Series for the first time in 86 years, ending the third longest drought in MLB.

In 2005 the Chicago White Sox win the World Series for the first time in 88 years, ending the second longest drought in MLB.

Dare I say what's next...

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Friday, October 21, 2005

World Series Preview....

Houston Astros vs. Chicago White Sox

The Palehosers win thier first pennant since '59, and I cry like a baby with disgust

Matchups(subject to change):
Game 1, Clemens v. Contreras
Game 2, Pettitte v. Buehrle
Game 3, Garland v. Oswalt
Game 4, Garcia v. Backe
Game 5, Contreras v. Clemens
Game 6, Pettitte v. Buehrle
Game 7, Oswalt v. Garland

Astros winning thier first pennant ever

Well through the first two rounds of the baseball playoffs I only made one correct prediction, the Astros over Atlanta in 4. The next closest to correct prediction I made was the 'stros in 6 in the NLCS, unfortunately i had them over the Padres, not the Cardinals - but I think I can work with that one. When it boils down to getting the series winners I was 4-2 getting the Angels, White Sox, Astros, and Astros correct. Maybe things just weren't meant for me to go 6 for 6 this postseason as the Pads revealed that Jake Peavy broke a rib celebrated thier NL West championship....after he got lit up by Reggie Sanders in Game 1. Would Bartolo Colon throwing 2-3 games in the ALCS have helped the Angels, probably not the way the White Sox played in the series - especially with the horseshoe that has been prominently stuck up their ass all of October, but i would have liked to see what he could have done against his former team.

Alas, you can't pick 'em all, but maybe I can go 5 for 7 this year. Originally picking the Astros in 7 in the world series, I'm not going to go back on that pick, but lets say that the degree of difficulty for them to win has risen in the past three weeks. The White Sox have been playing well in the postseason, and have gotton more than thier share of luck on thier side. But you need a little luck to win in the postseason, and there's no asterik next to the champ in the record books if they had lady luck on thier side during a series. Can the White keep up thier great starting pitching with timely hitting and catch a few breaks along the way? Thats the question that will be answered in the next 10 days.

The White Sox already have luck on thier side as they catch a major break since Houston cannot put Roy Oswalt out there in Game 1, where he could have possibly pitched three games in the series. Oswalt is a top 5 pitching in MLB and is hands-down the best pitcher that toed the rubber during this postseason. He'll most likely be pitching games 3 and 7 for Houston, if it goes that far. The Sox DO NOT want to be facing Oswalt in a game 7, no matter where its played, so it is imperative that they close the series in 6 games or less. The major factor in this World Series is how Roger Clemens hamstring will respond in Game 1 at the Cell. Will he be able to get his leg this high? It is supposed to be damp and in the 40's in Chicago for that game and Clemens' hammy is injured to the point that it severly slowed him down during his game 3 start in Houston. If Clemens doesn't feel any after-effects of that pulled hamstring during his start he could add to his career 3-0, 1.90 ERA in the World Series. If not, the White Sox will probably take the early advantege in this series. But Clemens isn't the only pitcher hurt for the Astros in this series. Not counting the ego of Brad Lidge after giving up a 800 foot bomb to lose game 5 of the NLCS, Andy Pettitte has been trying to work off a leg injury which saw him limit the size of his leg kick to his disadvantege. It was noticable in his postseason starts up to that aforementioned game 5, where he looked more like he had during the regular season, but if its not 100%, or acts up again during his next couple of starts - this could be a short series in favor of the White Sox.

On the offensive side of things these teams are fairly equal, especially with the breakout of Chris Burke and Criag Biggio playing like he's 33 years old again. If Morgan Ensberg figures out that he used to hit with power that could be trouble for the Sox pitchers as that adds another weapon for Houston. Right now Paul Konerko is bashing left and right as he sees the dollar signs for his contract this offseason getting higher and higher while everyone else on the team, including the much maligned on the South-Side Joe Crede, is getting the timely hit. Both teams have speed guys at the top, some pop in the middle, and timely hitting in the back end (with the sox getting the edge here). It's amazing how close these two teams are all-around. The major x-factor will be how good Jeff Bagwell will be DH'ing during the games in Chicago. He has the ability to swing the offensive side of things towards the 'stros.

The edge for the bullpen has to go to the Astros for two reasons. One, the sox relief pitchers have thrown 2/3 of an inning since October 8th. TWO-THIRDS OF AN INNING IN TWO WEEKS. Thats insane, but will it be a detriment if they have to pitch in this series, for some of the guys, especially thier rookie closer Bobby Jenks, it probably will. And two, the Astros have better 7th, 8th, and 9th inning guys on thier team. Thier set-up tandem of Chad Qualls and Dan Wheeler, and closer Brad Lidge are dominant. Lidge may have given up the bomb to Pujols in game 5, he was to juiced during that outing and overthrew his slider, causing it to not slide - which is something he can probably learn from to use during this series. Power pitching usually gets it done in the late innings of the postseason and Lidge and 8th inning man Wheeler are getting 12 and 9 k/9 this postseason. Even though Lidge was gotton to by the Cardinals in two of his appearances in the NLCS he is still better than anyone the White Sox can throw out there in the 9th.

So for the breakdown of edges we have:

Starting Pitching - White Sox (slight edge)
Relief Pitching - Astros
Offense - White Sox (slight edge)
Defense - White Sox
Managers - pick'em - both of these managers fly by the seats of thier pants
Intangibles - Theres a lot going for both sides here. The Sox making thier first series since '59. The 'stros making thier first series ever. The Sox benifiting from many close to questionable calls during the playoffs. The Astros coming back from a blow in game 5 of the NLCS that many teams cannot recover from. The Astros can also ralley around the fact that this is probably Roger Clemens last few games and the fact that Bagwell and Biggio have finally made it. Negative points for both side since these two teams have two of the most notoriously cheap owners in the game in Drayton McClaine and Jerry Riensdorf, niether team should win just for that reason alone. However the Sox get more negative points for making a Journey song thier theme of the playoffs as well as a media and fan bandwagon that became longer than the Oregon trail. Plus always remember that the baseball gods like to lull you into a sense of well-being before dropping the hammer - but what happens when two teams that have been bowled over by them in the past get together? We'll soon find out. Astros get the edge here. Too.....many.....Guillens....


Fun Fact

- Earlier this season Craig Biggio joined the exclusive club of having playing 2500 regular season games without appearing in the World Series. Till the Astros pennant win in Game 6 of the NLCS joining him on that list were Rafeal Palmerio, Andre Dawson, and Ernie Banks. Care to take a guess at what those three guys have in common?

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Monday, October 03, 2005

Playoff Preview...

True to my title, here's my thoughts on the upcoming playoff series' in the American and National League.

American League

Every team in the American league playoffs has holes and two teams that are very opposite will be facing off. The strengths of Anaheim and Chicago are in pitching, and the strengths of Boston and New York are at the plate. We all know the old playoff baseball axiom, good pitching always beats good hitting...but does good pitching beat great hitting. Lets find out.

Chicago White Sox vs. Boston Red Sox

Matchups:
Game 1, Contreras V. Clement
Game 2, Buehrle v. Wells
Game 3, Garcia v. Wakefield
Game 4, Garland v. Schilling
Game 5, Contreras/Buehrle v. Undecided

The White Sox have the pitching edge in every game of this series, no matter who gets thrown out there by Boston in game 5. The key is for the White Sox pitchers to actually pitch like they have an advantage as they have been spotty lately on the mound. The only consistent one in the second half has been Contreras who sported a 2.96 ERA post all-star break winning his last 8 starts down the stretch (who would have guessed that during spring training). However against the BoSox he has posted a 11.67 ERA during the regular season and a 5.79 ERA during the postseason in 31.2 inn.

Boston has a significant advantage on the bats, especially with David Ortiz hitting everything in sight lately. The White Sox have experience in one-run games this season going 35-19. Will this experience help them, I think so. The Red Sox rotation is just too beat up and they will be counting on too many rookies out of the pen this postseason (Papelbon, Hansen, DiNardo) and no true closer. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen will be under heavy critization for not putting rookie phenom Brandon McCarthy on the roster if they lose.
WHITE SOX in 5.


Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. New York Yankees

Matchups:
Game 1, Colon v. Mussina
Game 2, Lackey v. Wang
Game 3, Byrd v. Johnson
Game 4, Washburn/Santana v. Chacon
Game 5, Undecided for both

Again we have here another pitching vs. hitting matchup. The Yankees have a decisive hitting edge while the Angels take the pitching edge - both in the pen and on the mound. The Yankees still have the best closer in the game in Mariano Rivera and good setup men in Tom Gordon and Tanyon Sturtze, but the Angles have had the most dominating bullpen since 2002.

Although the Yankees have great hitting, the Angles have some production as well, with the main source of it being Vlad Guerrero - the best bad-ball hitter in baseball. They also have Bengie Molina, Garrett Anderson, and possibly Steve Finely to provide some thump. Chone Figgins races around the bases almost as much as Scott Posednik, but at a higher success rate. On paper the Yankees pitching looks better but in real life it wont be.
ANGELS in 4.


National League

The National league has four ballclubs with great pitching in the postseason, so if you like old-timey baseball this will be your year.


St.Louis Cardinals vs. San Diego Padres

Matchups:
Game 1, Peavy v. Carpenter
Game 2, Astacio v. Mulder
Game 3, Williams v. Morris
Game 4, Peavy v. Undecided
Game 5, Eaton v. Undecided

At first you look at this series and think, "Cardinals in a walk". But if you examine it more closely you'll see that the Cardinals might be in some serious trouble here. Peavy is a top pitcher in the game and more than capable of shutting the Redbirds out in his two starts. Astacio has given up earned runs of 1,2,1,2,1,2,2 while going at least 6 innings in his starts since August 6th. Eaton has electric stuff if he is on, like he was in his final start on Sunday against LA. The Bullpen comprised of Seanez, Otsuka, Linebrink, and Hoffman is better than St.Louis' Flores, King, Tavarez, and Irsinghausen - now that Al Reyes is out for the season. My question though is why pitch Williams, who has a career 2.91 ERA at Busch, at home and not in game 2.

Matt Morris is 1-5 career with a 4.06 ERA in the postseason. Jason Marquis was roughed up last year in the postseason. Scott Rolen is out for the playoffs. Edmonds, Sanders, and Walker can still rake - while Pulojs is the best hitter in baseball. Eckstien is a competent leadoff/no.2 man - depending where Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa puts him. The key on offense for this series is if the Cardinal pitchers can shut down the San Diego offense on the road, where almost all of their players are much much better. Will that happen, I don't think so.
PADRES in 5.


Atlanta Braves vs. Houston Astros

Matchups:
Game 1, Pettite v. Hudson
Game 2, Clemens v. Smoltz
Game 3, Oswalt v. Sosa
Game 4, Undecided for both
Game 5, Undecided for both

Although its been said all season, the Braves will be using too many rookies in its everyday lineup with Francouer and Langerhans playing the corners in the outfield, and boths production have dropped recently, not to mention catcher Brian McCann if Johnny Estrada's back acts up again. This will also force them to carry 3 catchers taking up another roster spot from someone that could potentially help them. Their Bullpen is in shambles, with their closer changing hands throughout the season. Is The Farns a World Series closer?

Atlanta has two excellent starters in Smoltz and Hudson, but is John Smoltz the dominant playoff starter he once before his conversion to closer? The Astros have three excellent starters in Pettite, Oswalt, and Clemens, an excellent setup man in Dan Wheeler, as well as a dominant closer in Brad Lidge. Yes Andruw Jones has been a power juggernaut this season (think Kenny Williams wants to go back and make that trade) The offense of Atlanta is not significantly greater than Houstons either - at least not as big as the difference between Houston's pitching edge over the Braves.
HOUSTON in 4.


ALCS
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim over Chicago White Sox in 7.

NLCS
Houston Astros
over San Diego Padres in 6.


World Series
Houston Astros
over Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 7.


Yep, I think Houston's pitching will take them to the Series, as much as I hate to write it. Stay tuned, see what happens, see if I'm right. Hopefully I'll be able to put the Cubbies in as world series champs next year.

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Why aren't these guys in the Hall of Fame?

Andre Dawson
Ron Santo