Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Coming Soon: The Magical Cubdom

The Cubs announced today that they would be unveiling a new statue outside of Wrigley for Billy Williams this coming September.  That is nice and I want to say up front that I don't necessarily believe that Billy doesn't deserve it, but it begs the question: What is next? 

For those of you keeping score at home, the Cubs have six players numbers retired represented by the five flags hanging on the fair poles.  Those same fair poles have the Hey Hey memorials to Jack Brickhouse.  Harry Caray gets the pressbox caricature and the statue outside the Captain Morgan's Club.  Ernie Banks has his statue by the ticket windows.  There are flags waiving on the rooftop that commemorate every Cubs playoff appearance and important players, events, and even a former owner.

Now Billy gets his own statue.  That's nice.

I guess I didn't think that another statue was really necessary to properly commemorate any more players on a team that hasn't won anything since before the Titanic was built.

I think the problem is that they went a little too overboard on the commemoration of broadcasters to the point where it became obvious that they were lacking in solid memorials to great players.  Since the Harry Statue went up in 1999, the Cubs have retired the numbers of Santo, Sandberg, Jenkins, and Maddux and they added the Banks statue.  I guess I thought that was enough to balance it out.  Especially since there really hasn't been a whole lot of winning on the North Side about which we should get all nostalgic.

What it boils down to is that the Cubs are going full bore ahead with their plans to make Wrigley a baseball version of Disney World.  If they have to build a few statues to support a revisionist view of their past history of failure, that is exactly what they are going to do.

If you go to Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom, you don't get an actual jungle experience.  There are no warring tribes, bugs the size of a Volkswagen (though with it being in Florida, this part is actually pretty close), and people dying of malaria, dysentary, or ebola.  You get happy natives and friendly British explorers who have no intentions of enslaving the darker skinned people.  You get friendly animals banding together to defeat the more harshly designed, mean looking animals that are only violent because they are bad eggs, not because they are naturally carnivores looking to survive in a harsh environment.  It is good clean fun and no one cares that it isn't close to reality.  In fact, they prefer it isn't and they pay big bucks to escape reality for a while.

Wrigley Field has real potential to become a place where reality is suspended and we as fans can pay a lot of money to walk down memory lane to the great teams of Cubs past.  I've been giving it some thought, and I think I've come up with some good attractions that could enhance the experience:
  • Audioanimatronic Harry (voice provided by Ryan Dempster) - An interactive computer program will allow a virtual Harry to mispronounce visitors' names as he would if he were calling a game.
  • The College of Coaches Jamboree - Audioanimatronic versions of El Tappe, Goldie Holt, Bobby Adams, Harry Craft, Verlon Walker, Ripper Collins, Vedie Himsl and Charlie Grimm will sing a medley of classics like "Go Cubs Go" and "It's a Beautiful Day For a Ballgame"
  • The Carousel of Diminutive Middle Infielders - this could be audioanimatronic or it could help keep guys like Manny Alexander, Neifi Perez, and Aaron Miles out of the unemployment line.
  • Journey to the Bottom of Yosh Kawano's Laundry Bag - kids can attempt to find the lucky soiled jock strap to win a prize.
  • Michael Barrett's Punching Gallery - visitors can choose to be Michael Barret and punch A.J. Pierzynski, or they can choose to be Carlos Zambrano and punch Michael Barrett.  It's win/win.
  • It's a Small Strike Zone Afterall - where visitors attempt to throw a virtual pitch on 3 and 2 to complete a perfect game that Bruce Froemming doesn't call a ball.
  • Honey, I Shrunk My Testicles - where visitors try to hit virtual homeruns as Sammy Sosa or Rafael Palmeiro for prize tickets and they can use virtual cream, clear, or needles to enhance their power.  But watch out! If you get caught you have to go sit and explain yourself in the Hall of Congressional Committees, but you get to keep the prize tickets.
  • Cindy Sandberg's Wild Ride (Adults only)
  • Wait 'Til Next Year! - this is just a long line that never ends.
Mr. Kenney, please feel free to e-mail me to find out where to send the royalty checks.  Thanks.

A Walk Through the Cubs Blogosphere

I don't do this nearly enough, but there are some good things out there that were not written by me.  I know it seems shocking, but the interwebs are full of good stuff and I'm not even talking about porn.
  • Mike D. at Hire Jim Essian is still pretty pissed at the Cubs, though admittedly a little less now that Kevin Millar has been sent packing.
  • Joe at View from the Bleachers reminds us all to keep our wits about us as Tyler Colvin becomes the Messiah du Jour for Cubdom.
  • John at Wasting Away in Wrigleyville looks over his predictions from last year that were depressingly accurate.
  • Tim Souers at Cubby-Blue answers the age-old question: What does one do with a Cardinals hat?
  • ccd at Waxpaperbeercup is not ashamed to say he believes in chemistry, but he believes in Lou more.
  • Adam at And Counting gives us a little reminder that Ronny Cedeno still exists and is still a pretty bad hitter.
  • OK, maybe a little porn:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Kevin Millar IS the Weakest Link

The Cubs made it official today.  They believe that Chad Tracy's relative youth (30 years old as opposed to Millar being 38), left-handedness (here we go with THAT again), and defensive versatility (DeRosa-like) is more valuable to the team than Kevin Millar's old, slow, bad-joke-making ass.

Bruce Miles ran down the moves today in his blog:

Millar was given his release. Sam Fuld and Micah Hoffpauir were optioned to Class AAA Iowa and nonroster catcher Chris Robinson was assigned to minor-league camp. The roster:

Catchers: Geovany Soto and Koyie Hill

Infielders: Derrek Lee, Mike Fontenot, Jeff Baker, Ryan Theriot, Aramis Ramirez, Chad Tracy

Outfielders: Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, Kosuke Fukudome, Xavier Nady, Tyler Colvin

Starting pitchers: Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny

Relievers: Carlos Marmol, John Grabow, Esmailin Caridad, Justin Berg, Jeff Samardzija, Sean Marshall and James Russell

The Cubs keeping Chad Tracy over Millar for the "last" spot on the bench doesn't necessarily speak volumes about what the Cubs really think about Millar's realistic contributions to the team, but the fact that they also chose Jeff Samardzija's flowing locks and Ol' One-Armed Xavier Nady over Millar does.

If the Cubs REALLY thought that Kevin Millar could help the team on the field, one of those two guys would not be on the Cubs Opening Day roster.  Samardzija is the twelfth pitcher and a team really only needs eleven pitchers early on in the season because of all the off days.  If the Cubs had felt Millar would be useful, there is no reason why Samardzija had to make the team out of camp.

But let's say that Samardzija DID have to make the team because Hendry is going to shove that one-pitch wonder down our throats simply because he handed the kid eight figures to concentrate on throwing a baseball poorly.  Is there any reason why Xavier Nady can't start out on the disabled list?  As of right now, the man would come in last in a throwing contest with Juan Pierre, Jacque Jones, and any random fourth grader.  He is, for all intents and purposes, the last player on the bench because he has the least use on a team that doesn't play in a league with the DH rule.

Again, if the Cubs really wanted to keep Kevin Millar and his rootin' tootin' good clubhouse chemistry around, they could have easily put Nady on the DL for 15 days and made a decision about the roster again two weeks into the season.

My hope is that Millar never really had a chance to make the Cubs team.  My hope is that the front office was savvy enough to bring in a dope like that to give the beat reporters something to write about during the boring month and a half of Spring Training that did not involve Zambrano's temper, Lou's contract status, Lee and Ramirez's contract status, Silva's weight problem and sketchy history, Soriano's knee, Soto's weight, Lilly's recovery, Marmol's erratic performances, and any of the other scary questions they could have written about exhaustively.

Instead, they all wrote primarily about team chemistry and what a joy the clubhouse is without a certain someone who is getting ejected for a team in the Pacific Northwest now.  Those other topics were mentioned, but none ever really gained any traction.  If that was intentional, whoever pitched that at the brainstorming session needs to get a bonus check and a raise.

Good luck, Kevin.  Perhaps you can live in an RV outside of Wrigley and make dick jokes with the players as they walk from the parking lot to the locker room.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ryan Theriot: The Iron Shetland Pony

Now that the Cubs locker room has supplanted Disney World as the happiest place on earth, the most polarizing issue facing the Cubs is how we feel about Ryan Theriot at shortstop.

Some people really like Ryan Theriot because of his scrappy, hustling play and don't want to hear about how he isn't a very good shortstop.  These people will usually point out that Theriot is the best of any candidates that the Cubs have had to play shortstop in the last few years, not realizing that fact is an indictment of the Cubs' organization rather than an endorsement of Theriot's abilities.  These people will also often refer to Theriot as a "youngster" or a "kid" because he hasn't been around overly long and he looks younger than most newborns.

Some people recognize that Theriot has value as a player because he has shown an ability to get on base at a decent rate, he has decent speed, and he makes the routine plays at shortstop with consistency.  These are people who would be very content with Ryan Theriot as a second baseman where his lack of range and arm would minimally impact the team.

Some people can't stand Theriot and are actively rooting for him to get hurt so that the Starlin Castro era can begin.  These people hate the people who love Theriot and mock those who wear the Theriot jerseys and jersey t-shirts.  They hate that he thought he was a power hitter after hitting a couple of homeruns last year, they hate that he leads off, they hate that he has no arm, no range, and a slow release in the field, and they hate that he can't figure out how not to get thrown out on the bases after managing to reach safely.  These people threw mini-parties when the Cubs defeated Theriot in arbitration earlier this year.

I'll say I fall somewhere between the second and third group.  If he puts his power-hitting tendencies behind him as he seems to have this Spring, I have no problem if he was the teams' second baseman, assuming a competent shortstop takes his place.

The problem is that Theriot is the shortstop, he will be the shortstop, and he now has no real back-up at the position.

The Cubs traded away the only real shortstop they would have realistically had on the roster when they traded Andy White away for a case of hot dog buns and have placed the fate of the back-up shortstop spot to Mike Fontenot who is somehow worse at playing the position than Theriot.  To give you an indication of how bad Fontenot's skills at shortstop are, Aaron Miles played shortstop for 44 innings for the Cubs last year.  Mike Fontenot played one inning at shorststop.  The Cubs actually preferred Aaron Miles to Mike Fontenot at that position.  That does not speak well of Fontenot's capabilities there.

That means we need Ryan Theriot to be the Cubs' shortstop no matter the situation. I wouldn't recommend days off to rest.  He shouldn't get days off when a tough righty pitcher is on the mound.  If he has to stay out there for all 17 innings of a tie game, so be it.

You folks rooting for injury should be careful what you wish for because an appearance of Starlin Castro means Theriot is pretty badly hurt, so he isn't shifting over to second.  It simply means making Castro run out there every day no matter the situation, which scares the hell out of me.

I hope Theriot has a bit of Lou Gehrig in him (not the power-hitting, Ryan, the endurance part).

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ricketts Says Wrigley PSLs Not "Off the Table"

If you don't go over to Waxpaperbeercup to see what friend of Aisle 424, ccd, has been writing about the renovations and advertisement plans in Wrigley, you definitely should.  The latest post on that subject includes a spirited discussion in the comments, including a link from commenter, "waiting4cubs," to a story in the Sun-Times by Fran Spielman, City Hall reporter.

The story recounts a number of items dicussed by Tom Ricketts at a luncheon at the City Club of Chicago, and this part caught my eye:

"Ricketts also raised a few eyebrows when he refused to rule out personal seat licenses at Wrigley Field to someday finance renovation of the 96-year-old shrine of Major League Baseball.

“I won’t rule them out only because I don’t know what it’s gonna take to really save Wrigley. It may be a financing option that makes sense for us down the line,” Ricketts said.

“There’s no current thought on doing that, at least any time in the near future. But, I don’t know what all of our issues are and I can’t 100 percent say that that’s always gonna be off the table.”

Back in October as the final i's were being dotted and t's were being crossed on the TRANSFER of the Cubs to the Ricketts, I wrote a post about what we could probably expect from the new owners:

"As the Tribune Ownership Era draws to a close and we prepare for the Ricketts Majority with a Dash of Trib Ownership Era nears, we can start wildly speculating on what the new folks in the big office are going to do with our Cubs.

One thing is for sure, the Tribune never had $450 million in debt to deal with (not on the Cubs side of the business anyway) so one has to figure that the Ricketts family will be looking for revenue anywhere they can find it. I can't imagine that anything is absolutely off the table. If they haven't already started discussing such things, somewhere in a room behind closed doors, they will be talking about Jumbotrons, selling naming rights to Wrigley Field, building an entirely new stadium somewhere, and/or rolling out some sort of Personal Seat License plan."

If you care to see some of what I dug up with my Google machine about other baseball teams' PSL plans, you can read more about it here

You may remember that back at the convention, Crane Kenney said that the Cubs were not planning on implementing PSLs "anytime soon."  In light of the comments by Ricketts, the key to determining when it is going to cost some folks extra bucks just to have the rights to purchase seats will be the Cubs' definition of "soon."  My guess is that they define "soon" as "prior to completion of Wrigley 2014 renovations" in anticipation of Wrigley's 100th birthday.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Dawning of a New Era

I have seen the top of the mountain, and it is good. The sun seems a little brighter today.  Carlos Silva seems thinner, Ryan Theriot seems taller, Xavier Nady seems like he can throw a ball further than an average eight year old, and Jeff Samardzija's hair seems glossier and bouncier.

You hear the eloquent speeches and rhetoric about how "change" is coming.  You know in your heart that the soundbites and the flowery language are just that without action to back it up.  You see bold initiatives outlined that sound too good to be true on the surface, but you dare to hope that the greater good would be served by even a portion of the plan coming to fruition.

The opponents come out of the woodwork and criticize the sweeping changes of the new administration and begin laying blame for years of problems that pre-dated the new leaders.  Scare tactics are used and some resort to name-calling.  Yet the resolve of the new administration does not waiver and slowly and painfully the changes start to take effect.

You have learned from past experience that the other shoe will almost assuredly drop and that any good that may have occurred in the recent past will suddenly be swept away by another long string of disappointment.  Still, the assuredness of the new leadership has you daring to dream.

Deep down though, you never really think that anything significant will happen.  There is a core part of you that resigned itself to the fact that things are the way they are and that nothing will ever change for the better.  When a miracle occurs and it does happen, the pure joy and excitement are almost overwhelming.

Today, I feel like Susan Lucci after her first Emmy or Martin Scorsese after his long-awaited Oscar win.  I feel as though I just beat the Russians in hockey.  I feel like I have an appreciation for the emotions that accompanied the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

Today, I picked up my 2010 season tickets from the ticket office at Wrigley and as I received the tickets and turned to leave, the ticket dude said, "Thank you, sir,"

God bless you, Tom Ricketts.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Fantasy Team Has Bad Team Chemistry

I have just finished my first of five fantasy baseball drafts and look who I picked up in the 19th round:



 And look who does not approve:


No luck of the Irish for me.

Samardzija to Destroy Games Out of Bullpen Instead of Rotation

Did the rules of baseball change while I wasn't paying attention?  The role of a pitcher is to get the opposing team to make outs and not allow them to score, right?  That is still how baseball is played?

If that is true, how is Jeff Samardzija's largely unsuccessful attempts at getting opposing batters out this spring earned him anything but a bus ticket to Iowa?  That is apparently what will happen if the Chicago Tribune is to be believed:

"It appears the final two rotation winners will be Carlos Silva and Tom Gorzelanny, with Samardzija and Sean Marshall headed to the bullpen, where they have succeeded before. The decision will come after Marshall and Gorzelanny make starts this week."

While I am also pissed that Gorzelanny is going to get a rotation spot ahead of Marshall, I concede that it will be easier to lift Gorzelanny out of the rotation when Lilly returns in June. (He ain't making a Cactus League start afterall, folks.  Turns out he's human.) 

Samardzija has no business being on this team unless there are a few more injuries and/or massive failures by guys who have shown a much better propensity to not allow opposing batters to run willy nilly on the bases and cross home plate repeatedly.  Maybe if hair length is suddenly a valuable baseball skill there is an argument to be made.

Samardzija has a 1.75 WHIP this Spring.  The only pitcher with a worse WHIP that will make the roster is John (Hey, Its Only Two Years!) Grabow.  Opposing batters have a .918 OPS against him.  That is better than Matt Holliday, Chase Utley, and Lance Berkman hit last year.

OK, so Spring stats don't mean much.  The important thing is his history where he has "succeeded before," right?  Ah, yes, what a glorious August of 2008 that was.  Samardzija was brought up to a team that was in the midst of winning 97 games and succeeded out of the bullpen for a month before the rest of the league figured out that he has no secondary pitch.  If there was some way to make all of the other opposing teams in the league forget that Samardzija has only a very straight fastball (that he doesn't locate very well), he could return to that one month's worth of success that the Tribune seems to be referencing.  Maybe the Ricketts have developed some Men-in-Black-like mind altering technology that can wipe out opposing teams' memories.

There wasn't any success last year, that's for damn sure.  Anybody who witnessed his start against the Phillies and Pedro Martinez are scarred for life and the rest of his season wasn't a hell of a lot better. This Spring has been a marginal improvement at best.  But somehow, someone like Justin Berg (0.57 WHIP, .412 OPS), James Russell (1.00 WHIP, .489 OPS), or even Mike Parisi (1.38 WHIP, .788 OPS) are going to lose out because Samardzija has "earned" a spot in the bullpen?

As far as I can tell, there are ten million reasons Samardzija's flowing locks will be gracing the Cubs' clubhouse in Wrigley when the season starts and they all have a portrait of George Washington printed on them.  It certainly isn't because of anything positive that has happened on the field.

It can not be good for the players in an organization to feel like they have no shot at making the roster if there is a player making more money ahead of them on the depth chart.  It has to be demoralizing to bust your ass to make the team when the spots have pretty much been pre-determined and everyone knows it.

Meanwhile, people are pissed off about a sign blocking a different sign... (sigh...)

Well, take heart you Toyota sign haters, with Samardzija pitching with any regularity, that sign is going to get peppered with so many rockets off the bats of opposing batters, the thing may get knocked over by May.  Then they'll start in on the Horseshoe Casino ad.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sox Go Back to the "We Hate the Cubs" Well Again

A lot happened over the weekend.  There were some fantastic college basketball games, tremendous upsets that killed bracket predictions everywhere, Tiger was on a major sports channel talking about things in which I have long since lost interest, I may be able to finally afford having these chest pains that radiate out into my arms treated by someone who may have actually graduated from medical school, a Guillen made news by mouthing off about Kenny Williams and it shockingly wasn't Ozzie, and Jake Peavy decided he hates the Cubs.

Since no one cares about the health of other people's NCAA brackets, I'll spare you all my complaints and simply pass on my congratulations to the Big East for taking the title of Most Disappointing Performance by a Major Conference from the Big Ten, who had held that title for the previous twenty years.

Speaking of health, my opinions of the health care reform bill would be so embarassingly uninformed I will simply refer you to the comments section of any mainstream story that mentions it.  Unless, of course, you are looking for reasoned, intellectual debate with correctly spelled words and DISCREET USE OF ALL CAPS, in which case I can't help you.

Tiger is still sorry, I guess.  I don't know.  I don't care.

So that leaves us with our friends down on the Southside who have been making their P.R. department work overtime lately.


First, Oney Guillen, son of Ozzie, made some comments on his Twitter feed that the White Sox (translation: Kenny Williams) didn't like.  I took a look at Oney's feed from the week leading up to the mess.  Like his father, it is a potpourri of a loose grasp of the English language and its spelling and grammar rules:

"9:47 PM Mar 16th - Poker with the family was nice

1:12 PM Mar 16th - Hit and run from oz man. Kotsay very well done. If we are agressive we r dangerous

1:03 PM Mar 16th - @cst_sox and a pic of u in vegas. Would be u and jay m canoddling behind a craps table. Both with ur pasty white culos

12:34 PM Mar 16th @cst_sox I do what I got to do to get a w. I help the team. What u do for us jc?

6:07 PM Mar 15th - Pods is with royals and getting picked off. Sox fans are glad they don't have to c that anymore.

11:51 PM Mar 14th - A guy on a bar serenading his girl to thong song that's a first by far

9:24 PM Mar 14th - Andruw loves his flip camera he loves it

8:44 PM Mar 13th - All of a sudden asian r cool?

7:03 PM Mar 13th - Eating alone at the wynn. Good thing I entertain myself"

So, he made a flip remark about Asians which could piss some people off, and he had some back and forth going with the Sun-Times' Sox beat reporter, Joe Cowley.  I don't know what their relationship is with each other, but it seems that they have a banter that goes back and forth without any real animosity.  This doesn't appear to be Paul Sullivan vs. Milton Bradley II.

But someone on the Sox didn't like it and they began monitoring Oney's tweets.  Oney, being an apple that didn't fall far from the tree, took umbrage and began tweeting out some comments that were decidely less benign towards the White Sox organization:

12:13 PM Mar 17th - I love it how people are monitoring my tweets like I'm someone important. Everyone is entitled to there own opinion

11:16 AM Mar 19th - Remember this day march 19 2010. Mark my words

11:25 AM Mar 19th - I guess not all employees are held to same standard. Maybe if I left for 2 weeks then came back I can continue to work

11:26 AM Mar 19th - When I grow up I want my kids to like me and love me not hate me and bad mouth me all over the place

11:43 AM Mar 19th - I hope the dorks aren't running the organization or else were fucked. 3 geeks who never played baseball a day in there life telling expe ...

11:43 AM Mar 19th - a day in there life telling experts what to do

1:50 PM Mar 19th - Oh shit we r getting beat. I'm sure someone cares

Shortly after a meeting with Kenny Williams, Ozzie advised Oney to resign his position in the Sox scouting video department.  Ozzie blew off reporters after his team lost to the Cubs on Friday, and the story hit the media.  TWITTER FIGHT!!!

Of course, Oney is not the first person in the history of the world to lose their job because an employer didn't like what was being said on a personal blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, etc.  It is understandable that the White Sox wouldn't want a young, less mature member of the Guillen family publishing his stream of consciousness out into the public forum of Twitter.  Let's face it, there wasn't anything to really get upset about yet, but that was a ticking time bomb and everyone in that organization damn well knew it.

The problem is that they exacerbated the situation by attempting to control it, and now instead of Oney and his approximately 150 followers as of March 16th hearing about his thoughts on the thong song, Oney now has almost 1,000 followers (including members of the media like Dave Kaplan, who immediately hit the waves with a breathless criticism of the Guillens on WGN on Friday night) who are actively paying attention to his feed where he rips on the White Sox and Kenny Williams in every other tweet.  Way to keep that under wraps and protect your image, guys. (Add sarcastic clapping.)

So, I'm hypothesizing that the Sox public relations folks got together and decided that the story wouldn't go away on its own unless they could somehow start a battle with their evil nemesis, the Cubs.  But how?  I imagine the idea evolved something like this:

PR Director:  We have to start diverting attention away from this ridiculous Oney Guillen bullshit.

PR Rep A:  Do any of the Cubs have Twitter feeds we could try to bait into a battle of words?

PR Rep B:  Well, there's Randy Wells.

PR Rep A:  Who the hell is Randy Wells?

PR Director:  Seriously? No Lou? No Dempster? No Soriano? Not even Theriot?  Since when does he pass up an opportunity to talk as a representative of the team?

PR Rep B:  There is a Fake Ronnie Woo.

PR Director:  Oh Christ. This is not going to work. What else have you got?

PR Rep A:  What if we had Jake Peavy talk about how much he hates the Cubs?  That always stirs up some bullshit nonsense that the media and moron fans can fixate on, plus it will endear him to Sox fans who think he's only here because a trade didn't work out with the Cubs.

PR Rep B:  Here we go again.

PR Rep A:  What?

PR Rep B:  That is your answer for EVERYTHING.  The Cubs sell more tickets, "Why don't we have Steve Stone make fun of Milton?" The Cubs TV ratings are higher, "Why don't we tell Ozzie to talk about the rats at Wrigley again?"  Buerhle, Pierzynski, Jenks.  Where does it end?  I mean I know our fans aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer, but the toothless guy with the mullet and undersized Federal Boob Inspector t-shirt is going to be able to read that play.

PR Director: What's wrong with a Federal Boob.... look, nevermind.  We need something and we need something fast.  Do you have anything better?

PR Rep B:  There has to be something... there just has to be.

PR Rep A:  I'll admit this plan lacks in originality, but Oney is out there tweeting away.  He just tweeted that Lou Piniella is hanging with him and Ozzie at the Blackhawks game and that Lou supports them.

PR Director:  Holy hell. What is his follower count up to? 

PR Rep B:  823 and rising faster than Bobby Jenks' cholesterol.  Damn it. Let's just tell Peavy to let it slip that he hates the Cubs.  And the Twins.  Let 'em have it with both guns.

PR Director:  Fine. We'll go with the Peavy thing.  Make sure he's chewing a lot of tobacco when he's making the comments and make sure he spits anytime he mentions the Cubs specifically.

PR Rep A & PR Rep B: You got it.

---------------------
UPDATE
---------------------

Ozzie is not happy that Oney has been making the sports talkshow rounds to talk about his Twitter account and the White Sox.  According to Patrick Mooney at CSNChicago:

“He hurt my feelings a little bit because I told him that’s enough – don’t talk anymore,” Guillen said before Monday’s 9-5 loss to the Royals. “When your father says, ‘Don’t do it’ and all of a sudden you do it, you’re not respecting what I say and it hurt my feelings a little bit...

The manager met with the media in his Camelback Ranch office for 20 minutes Saturday morning because he thought that would close the issue and everyone could talk about baseball again. Guillen doesn’t want to address this controversy again.

“(If) he feels betrayed by the White Sox by the way they treated him, that’s his own opinion,” Guillen said. “The White Sox (didn’t) fire my kid – I did. If they want to give him a second chance, third chance, fourth chance, I don’t believe in that. I did it to set an example because we got to respect our bosses.”

Good luck with not addressing it again, Ozzie.  By the way, Oney is up to four digits in followers with 1,024 as of 6:30 PM this evening.  He had 153 on Friday morning.  That is a 563% increase over the weekend.

Quick, somebody tell Andruw Jones to say he thinks Wrigley Field is a shithole.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Cub Reporter May Have Jumped the Shark

Rob G. over at The Cub Reporter runs a fine site and has many excellent contributors, so one has to question his sanity when he asked me to post a guest spot while he is on vacation this week.  Hopefully, I am more warmly received there than Cousin Oliver or the obligatory baby-delivered-in-an-elevator episode seen more times than I can count.

Anyway, if you are interested in some of my thoughts on proposed changes to Wrigley and the game day operations, take a peek here.

Tune in next time when Aisle 424 introduces a space alien named Azmodiar that only I can hear.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Since I'm Wishing For Stuff, I'd Also Like to Win the Lottery

God help me, I'm about to write a post that will involve my endorsement of Kevin Millar making the roster if decisions had to be made today. (Translation: I reserve the right to resume my Millar mocking the moment he starts to play like the 38-year-old wash-up I have pre-supposed him to be.)

Also, please keep in mind that I hold no hopes that the roster as I would construct it will come close to being the actual roster.  This is simply an excercise in fantasy and a healthy dose of optimism (with a dash of reality).

Let's start with the guys who are both going to be on the roster and whom I would also include:

Soriano, Byrd, Fukudome, Ramirez, Theriot, Fontenot, Lee, Soto, Hill, Baker, Zambrano, Dempster, Wells, Marshall, Gorzelanny, Caridad, Grabow, and Marmol.

In my world, Marshall and Gorzelanny win the fourth and fifth starter spots. I'm also assuming they go with eleven pitchers. This would leave four more position players and three more bullpen spots.

It is always helpful to have professional hitters sitting on the bench who are at the point in their careers where they embrace the role of a bench player. They are going to see the most action as a pinch-hitter or spot starter to keep the regulars healthy and I don't want them sitting there thinking that all they need to get going is some regular playing time.  They aren't going to get it unless something goes terribly wrong. 

For the Cubs, Chad Tracy can fill the role from the left side and Kevin Millar from the right side.  I didn't want them on the team just to build morale and make jokes woth Dempster, but if they can bring most of what they are producing this Spring into the regular season, Lou suddenly has some nice hitting options at the end of tight games no matter what reliever the opposition brings into the game.

Both guys are corner infielders and both are capable of stepping in and providing a better replacement bat than last year's middle infielders from hell if something catastrophic happens to Lee or Ramirez.

On the flip side, If I'm constructing a roster, I want my farm system to have burgeoning talent licking at the heels of our well-paid core of players.  I don't want anyone getting complacent.  Thus I would include Tyler Colvin as the fourth outfielder.  He can play all of the outfield positions and his bat is showing that it can be potent enough to warrant spot starts occasionally to rest the veterans that currently will be patrolling the outfield.

This leaves one spot remaining and that spot needs to go to someone who can play shortstop because I don't buy Fontenot as anything but an emergency replacement at short.  He is as much a shortstop as Randy Wells is the third catcher.

While I would LOVE for Starlin Castro to be the Cubs answer to Albert Pujols who hit his way onto the Cards after he basically jumped from A ball and never stopped hitting, it simply isn't realistic enough for even this fantasy version of the Cubs.  So, while Colvin could realistically get some decent amounts of playing time as a fourth outfielder, Castro would not get nearly that kind of playing time with Theriot apparently lodged in at shortstop for now and Fontenot/Baker at second.  He would be better served playing every day in Iowa (for now).

If it were up to me, I would bring Darwin Barney back to Chicago with the big club.  He's basically a slightly younger version of Andy White, so I like to think that makes his upside with the bat slightly higher than Blanco's.  Meanwhile, the moment anything happens to one of our middle infielders, I want Castro in Chicago and starting.

Xavier Nady would start the season on the DL and decisions about what to do when he can throw the ball better than Juan Pierre can be made based on the health and production of the team as we near May.

The three spots left in the bullpen is definitely a tough choice.  There isn't a ton of experience and six guys have thrown well enough this spring to warrant consideration: Berg, Cashner, Diamond, Gaub, Russell, and Parisi.

Mike Parisi is the Rule 5 pick from the Cardinals, so unless he falls away enough to convince the Cubs he won't be useful at all, he should make the team.

John Gaub has pitched well since arriving for Mark DeRosa last year.  He strikes out a lot of guys and he is left-handed.  Welcome to Chicago, Mr. Gaub.

For the last spot, I'm going to give the nod to James Russell.  If I thought Lilly was going to be out for more than the first month or so, I would probably go with Cashner, but there is no reason to start the clock on his major league time on a temp job when there are other perfectly fine candidates for the job.

Another Cubs Blog has been doing a series of posts (using math I don't understand) about how difficult it looks to be to have this team win 90 games without a tremendous amount of luck and/or many players exceeding reasonable expectations.  I wanted my version of the Cubs to have as much upside as possible so that it could be conceivable that a few players bust out above what the stat heads have projected (while still preserving some semblance of how things can realistically play out).

It is also why I would tell Silva he is injured, leave Samardzija to keep working on an extra pitch in AAA, and keep Fuld, Scales, and Hoffpauir in AAA where they probably belong since there is no AAAA.

So, it's not based on much other than pure emotion and hope, but that is the roster I'm rooting for.  Feel free to tell me how stupid I am in the comments.

UPDATE
-------------------

Since his first horrendous outing, Silva has put together seven scoreless innings and is making my dream of him being told he is injured less likely than an extra-base hit from Aaron Miles.  So, if Silva makes the team, he will be a starter and I would assume that will push the extremely accomodating Sean Marshall to the bullpen and push James Russell off the roster.  Sorry, James.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Wrigley is Darwin's Waiting Room

I've had it with you fucking people.  You know who you are.  (Actually, I'm assuming that no one who reads this is the actual target of my wrath because in order to read this, it would entail knowing how to read, so sorry in advance to everyone else.)  Spitting on players?  Really?  REALLY?

MB21 over at Another Cubs Blog found a blog post from Morgan Ensberg of the Houston Astros, who claims that Cubs fans spit on him after he had been chatting with them:

"I was talking to a group of 7 and they started ragging me, but I got them to laugh and the conversation quickly turned into a Q & A session. After 15 min I told them I had to hit. When I turned my back I heard a guy spit and felt phlegm hit my left temple.

As I jogged into the dugout my eyes were watering up. I took 3 or 4 deep breaths and regained my composure. It took me over an hour to stop feeling humiliated. Someone just spit on me because he thought it would be funny and instead it burned a memory into my heart that I will never forget."

So I believe Ensberg and here is why:
  1. If he is going to tell a story about Cubs fans that isn't true, it would have been prudent to leave out the fact that they had almost made him cry because that is going to lead to some serious mockery by his own teammates. 
  2. He said this because he was trying to relate a story that backed up the claims of his former teammate with a persecution complex who now plays in Seattle.  NOBODY is friends with that guy.  In fact, I'm sure the only reason Ensberg is supportive at all is because he was only teammates with him for two months when they were on the Padres.  Ensberg would have nothing to gain in making this claim unless it were true.
  3. I've seen behavior of this nature from Cubs fans outside the park aimed at each other, so I can't believe they wouldn't feel entitled to do something like that to a player.
What the fuck is wrong with you fucking people?  The guy comes over, has a good sense of humor about you ripping on him, answers your questions for fifteen minutes and when he turns his back, you spit on him?  I know it must have been difficult being raised in a family where the family tree doesn't fork, but seriously, you fucking hocked a loogy on a guy for no other reason than he was wearing a hat indicating a different sports team from your own.  It's people like you that make me wish I could strangle people with my mind.

Where the fuck is it ever OK to spit on someone and not expect to get your ass kicked all over creation?  If you went to your job smuggling heroine balloons shoved up your ass and some giant gangster-looking pimp in withdrawal spit on you, you'd probably still be mad enough to try to smack him around a bit.  Why the fuck would you ever think in your demented, alcohol soaked head that spitting on someone is acceptable at all?

Mr. Ricketts?  You know that Disneyesque experience you want to have in the ballpark?  I'd just like to point out that Disney doesn't have fucking morons spitting on people at their theme parks.  If they do?  They are escorted off the property or chained to the seats in the Carousel of Progress with toothpicks holding their eyes open as Goofy is allowed to anally molest them.

Here is my suggestion, Mr. Ricketts: go hire someone who has run security in a Vegas casino to take over security operations in the ballpark.  Put some of that bathroom renovating money into a state-of-the-art security surveillance system.  Cameras all over the place, facial recognition technology, and a staff that is trained to be focused and aware at all times so they can respond immediately to shit like this.  I bet Ronnie Woo would be a good candidate to hire in the Goofy role.

It won't dampen the fun for everyone else.  People can have plenty of fun drinking and cursing and trying to get girls to take off their tops and whatever other shit goes on out there, and the spitters and the beer-tossers and the people tossing out racial slurs can be dealt with quickly.  I've sat next to many a drunken frat boy at a blackjack table having all kinds of drunken, lunatic fun that didn't draw any more than a watchful eye from security because they weren't hurting anybody.  They were acting like childish jackasses, but they weren't assaulting people physically or verbally.  Plus, I was comforted knowing that if these douches ever did step over the line, somone with a nightstick would be having a forceful conversation with them very quickly, so I was able to still enjoy myself as I lost money.

Major League Baseball has a major problem looming on their hands.  Fan behavior is getting worse because people think they are entitled to act like total dicks because they bought such an expensive ticket and because the players have millions of dollars to wipe away any tears a spitting incident might cause.  The players represent millions of dollars of invested capital and they are being guarded by retirees and rent-a-cops at Wrigley.  I doubt the security at other ballparks is a hell of a lot better, from what I've seen when I visit.

It's insane to treat player safety like such a joke.  If I ever purchased something in my job for $136 million dollars like Hendry did with Soriano, I'd better have a plan to keep it safe other than Grandma Johnson and her stern matronly attitude.  I'd want surly looking guys with weapons and earpieces trained to take a motherfucker down if he tried something.

You can't stop everything, but you can change the culture from the "anything goes" douchefest it has become by being quick to respond in dealing with these assholes.  Douches talk to other douches and word gets around eventually that the risk isn't worth the "humor."  I guarantee you that same dickwad that spit on Ensberg would never even THINK about spitting at a blackjack dealer after losing a double-down.

I agree it shouldn't be necessary for such measures, but clearly some people are just too fucking stupid to know that they should STOP FUCKING SPITTING ON OTHER PEOPLE!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

We Love Derrek Lee Even If He Isn't So Great

If I were Derrek Lee, I might be a little insulted.

In the course of debunking allegations from the Pacific Northwest that the fans of Chicago don't like African-American players that aren't Hall of Famers, both David Haugh and Dave Kaplan pointed at Derrek Lee as their prime example of why that isn't so.

Haugh wrote:

"If Bradley believed playing on the North Side can be so tough on African-American players who aren't Hall of Famers... Why did Derrek Lee, one of the most popular modern Cubs of any race, recently express a desire to retire here?"

Kaplan wrote:

"Are you kidding me? Have you ever heard of Derrek Lee? Lee is well liked and respected and loves playing in Chicago. So much so that he stated a couple of weeks back when I interviewed him at spring training that he wants to retire as a Cub."

Now, I don't think that Derrek Lee will ever be in the Hall of Fame, nor do I believe it will be the greatest injustice in the world when he doesn't get in, but quickly pointing a finger at one of the two best players on the Cubs as prime examples of a player that isn't great seems a bit awkward.

It seems like the scene in Seinfeld where Elaine told Jerry his standard in girlfriends was too high and he replied, "Well, I dated you."  The point may have been made, but it isn't really the most tactful way to do it.

Surely, they could have thought of other African-American players that Cubs fans have liked that maybe aren't on the team right now.  Maybe some guys whose careers are done and they have definitively not made the Hall of Fame already, so that they aren't inadvertantly pissing on Derrek Lee's fine career by pointing out what it isn't instead of what it has been so far.

They could have referenced Shawon Dunston and the famous Shawon-O-Meter.  Fans would get pissed at Shawon every time he swung at that low and outside breaking ball, but man did we love his hustle and the absolute cannon from which he would occasionally throw a ball into the stands.

They could have mentioned Glenallen Hill whose occasional long homeruns created a love by fans far surpassing his actual usefulness to a team.

To Kaplan's credit, he did reference Doug Glanville, but I don't remember Doug getting a ton of love despite owning the last game-winning RBI in Cubs' post-season play.

The fans loved Lee Smith.  They loved Gary Matthews.  They even loved Leon Durham until he let that ball through his legs and put the rest of his career up his nose.  I'm working off the top of my head here.  I'm sure there are plenty of others and you can feel free to put them in the comments section.

I don't think Haugh or Kaplan meant to insult Lee, nor do I think Lee will even take it as an insult.  But if I were Derrek Lee and I heard someone say what they wrote, my reaction would have been, "Dude! I'm standing right here!"

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Once More With Feeling

When it is all said and done, Lou was right about Milton back in June of last year.  Milton Bradley is a piece of shit.  There is no getting around it.  The man is a despicable human being with a persecution complex that probably crosses the border into downright psychosis.  His latest ripping of anyone and everyone in the Cubs organization to the fan base itself is just one last piece of evidence piled on top of a pile of evidence that makes Mount Everest look like a speed bump.

But if we are looking for a hero in this whole melodrama that is now entering its fifteenth month despite Bradley only being a member of the Cubs for eleven months, we will be hard pressed to find one.

Hendry is the latest to go on record with ESPN to criticize Milton's latest diatribe:

"We have a long history of quality people who want to play here," Hendry said. "I don't believe in the last seven or eight years, under this regime, we lost a free-agent player we wanted to keep.

"And that still is the case. We just heard from Aramis [Ramirez] and Derrek Lee [who are in the last year of their contracts], how strongly they would like to end their careers here."

Hendry also pointed out that two free agents he signed during the offseason -- Marlon Byrd and Kevin Millar -- are represented by the Levinson brothers, who also represent Bradley.

"If there were any truth to any of the things that are coming up now ... I don't think [the Levinsons] would have been dying to have their clients come here," Hendry said. "And I think Kevin and Marlon will tell you we were clearly their first choice.

"So it's really unfortunate to get to that situation, to deflect the lack of production you did in the year you were here, to try to use the other areas for excuses."

Those are all good points, but Jim, you know full well how certain numbnuts get in the bleachers.  They aren't called the lowest common denominator for nothing.  It is the lowest to attack people based on their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, etc. and no one can tell me that words in that vein haven't floated out of the drunken sprawl of humanity known as the Bud Light Bleachers.

This is also not the first time someone on the Cubs has claimed they have received hate mail at Wrigley.  Whether other people deal with it better, or have somehow managed to dismiss the behavior does not excuse the behavior or even make it something that players should have to deal with.  We like to believe that this has got to be a fairly common practice throughout the major leagues, but for some reason the team with the most problems of hate and racial tension is our own Chicago Cubs.  It used to be Boston, now it is Chicago.  Good job, assholes.

Clearly the fans are not the hero here.

So maybe the hero is Jim Hendry.  He is the one who dispatched Bradley off into the Pacific Northwest instead of keeping his usually potent bat in the lineup.  He is the one who helped wash away the Bradley stain by bringing in such clubhouse friendly players like Marlon Byrd and *choke* Kevin *heave* Millar *vomit* to make 2010 a happier time at the ballpark.

Unfortunately, Jim is the reason we are talking about this at all.  If he hadn't over-reacted the way he always does in a quest to get "more left-handed" we would be sitting back and watching some other city try to figure out what the hell to do with Bradley.

As much as the media would like to be the hero, they are prime instigators and have been since Milton signed with the Cubs.  There are some that are worse than others and I won't go into it further other than to say that the worst offender's name rhymes with Small Dullivan. 

They started in on the "when will Bradley implode" stories instantly, followed by the inevitable "could his slow start trigger an eruption" stories, followed by the "See? Milton Bradley is a jerk that is destroying the Cubs' season" stories, followed by the "Cubs finally learn what we all already knew and suspend Bradley" stories, followed by "Now Bradley is calling us racist, we told you he was batshit crazy" stories, followed by the "Cubs have to trade Bradley" stories, followed by the "Nobody wants Bradley and the Cubs might be stuck with him" stories, followed by the "Now Bradley is Seattle's problem, but lets recap what a dick that guy was" stories, followed by the "Isn't it great now that Bradley is gone?" stories.  I swear people didn't write this much about Sammy Sosa when he was the only player on the team worth writing about.

So Bradley is gone, but people can't stop talking about him, and then act all shocked when he responds in the only way he knows how, like a fucking lunatic.

What's next?  I have no idea and I can't think of a better representation of where we are in the Bradley saga than the following scene:



(I'm represented by Spike.)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Helluva Battle Brewing for Second Base

I know the Cubs are only three games into Spring Training, so this may be jumping the gun a little bit, but why the hell does Bobby Scales have as many plate appearances so far as Jeff Baker and Mike Fontenot combined?

Bobby has seen action in all three games so far while Baker and Fontenot have gotten into one game each.

I thought this was supposed to be a competition for a role as an everyday second baseman.  Has Bobby Scales somehow become a candidate for the position?

We talked about this a bit on the podcast during the beatdown at the hands of the Sox on Saturday and nobody could figure it out. Though there has not been an opportunity to change anything since then, the fact remains that Bobby Scales is getting playing time ahead of two guys that are supposed to be competing for a pretty important job on the team.  I don't get it.

I get why Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin, and even Brad Snyder are getting work.  They are young and the coaches want to see a bit more of them so they can be as informed as possible when choices need to be made.  Those guys are young and have potential futures with the major league club.

Bobby Scales is not young and he has no future with the Cubs that we want any part of.  Let me put it this way: If Bobby Scales is on the major league roster at any point this season, it means things have gone horribly, horribly wrong.  Right now, Andres Blanco, Darwin Barney, and Starlin Castro have to be ahead of Scales on the list of players to be used as backups or in the event of an injury to any of our diminutive middle infielders.

I don't dislike Bobby Scales.  His rise to the major leagues was a wonderful story of perserverance and realizing one's dreams.  He had some nice moments, but lets not fool ourselves into thinking that he is suddenly going to be worthy of a major league roster spot for any period of time that does not involve catastrophic injuries to numerous other players.  There is no way in hell he should continue getting time on the field ahead of Baker and Fontenot.  Like them or not, they are the Cubs options at second base this year.

Like I said, it is early and I am sure that Fontenot and Baker will get plenty of playing time, but I have to wonder why Scales has gotten as much work as he has.  Maybe it's a thank you for the effort he has put in, knowing these first few games mean almost nothing at all with starting pitchers going two innings and kids that are barely old enough to vote getting the bulk of the work.

I hope he enjoys it while it lasts, and I hope it doesn't last too much longer.

Friday, March 5, 2010

We're Talkin' 'Bout Practice


The Cubs will play the White Sox split squad in a practice game tomorrow afternoon starting at 2:00 PM central time that will be carried by WGN.  As if that were not exciting enough, you have the option of listening to my fellow bloggers, Julie from A League of Her Own and Adam from And Counting... join me (from this blog that you are currently reading, Mom) discussing the game live as it unfolds before us.  Actually, this is all Julie's thing, it's just that the Mom joke only worked the way I wrote it.

We should get to see Alfonso Soriano make his Spring debut and hopefully we can see some more of the developing awesomeness of guys like Tyler Colvin and Brett Jackson.  Personally, I am hoping for a Millar-free game, but you have to take the bitter with the sweet.

You can listen live here, or you can listen to the archived podcast later, but the game commentary probably won't make as much sense later since I doubt we will be as good at describing the scenes playing out as Pat Hughes can.  Though I don't want to underestimate Adam's ability to describe the teams' uniforms as well as Pat.

So that is tomorrow, Saturday, March 5, at 2:00 PM Central Time.  In the meantime, I would also like to share some information about Marlon Byrd that you may not have heard...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Chicago Broke Milton

It was really only a matter of time before Milton Bradley opened his yap about the time he spent in Chicago and it should be a surprise to no one that Paul Sullivan jumped all over the opportunity to call attention to it.  He tweeted out a link to a New York Times blog about the Mariners and Milton.

Apparently, Milton's poor season last year was our fault:

“Two years ago, I played, and I was good,” Bradley said. “I go to Chicago, not good. I’ve been good my whole career. So, obviously, it was something with Chicago, not me.”

Maybe it was the pizza.  I love the deepdish stuff, but it's not for everyone.  Maybe he likes ketchup on his hotdogs and never fit in.  Maybe he could never figure out the slanty streets on the Chicago grid.

“Just no communication. I never hit more than 22 homers in my career, and all of a sudden I get to Chicago and they expect me to hit 30. It doesn’t make sense. History tells you I’m not going to hit that many. Just a lot of things that try to make me a player I’m not.”

So, someone on the Cubs tried to make him a power hitter, when he isn't really a power hitter.  Well, I'm glad that the Mariners can learn from the Cubs' mistakes.  I'm sure they'll be batting him sixth or seventh in the lineup.
 
 
 
"Unless they trade for a big hitter (and how about that, the Padres’ Adrian Gonzalez trains right here at the Peoria Sports Complex), they will count on Bradley to be their primary slugger in Don Wakamatsu’s batting order.
 
'We made the deal because we were looking for someone to hit in the middle of our lineup,' said Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik."

Uh oh.

UPDATE
------------------

Gordon Wittenmyer weighed in about Milton blaming the Cubs for trying to make him a power hitter and found that Lou remembered it differently:

"Bradley also told NYT Cubs expected him to hit 30 HR. 'I don't think that was the case,' Lou says."

So, the Cubs didn't try to make Milton into a pure power hitter?

"Lou on Milty: 'we were hoping he'd come in and hit fifth in our lineup and be productive. And that was it.'"

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Media Casting Kevin Millar as Tinkerbell

I have gone on record before that the Cubs need to own the curse if they are to ever break it.  Whether you believe in supernatural forces or not, the psychology of the curse has a grip on this team that ends up playing a role in how the players play in crucial situations.

I'm certain that the players don't believe that ghosts will prevent them from accomplishing their goals, but I'm also certain that players' egos (which are necessary to be an athlete at the professional level) allow the notion to sneak into their brains that it would be really damn cool to be the one to be the hero that finally delivers the team a championship.  When you try to be the hero, you lose focus on the situation at hand, and the odds of failure rise dramatically.

Thus my stance that the Cubs need to acknowledge the curse in some form, and decide to tell it to go f---itself because they have work to do.  I stole the framework of President Obama's inaugural speech to do it:

"So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of 1983, in the coldest of Aprils, a bad team was 5-14. Strategies were abandoned. The losses were mounting. The scorecards were littered with errors and strikeouts. At a moment when the success of the team was most in doubt, the manager uttered these words to the people:

"F--- those f---in' fans who come out here and say they're Cub fans that are supposed to be behind you rippin' every f---in' thing you do. I'll tell you one f---in' thing, I hope we get f---in' hotter than sh--, just to stuff it up them 3,000 f---in' people that show up every f---in' day, because if they're the real Chicago f---in' fans, they can kiss my f---in' a-- right downtown and PRINT IT."

Cubs fans, in the face of back-to-back failed playoff performances and 100 years of futility, in this April 1983 of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us f---in' stuff it up the f---in' gods' a--es, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not become White Sox fans nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and Harry's grace upon us, we carried forth and finally celebrated a World Series title."

I also got pissed off and less eloquently told the Baseball Gods to suck it in my own words:

"I've come to the conclusion that no amount of kow-towing or groveling is going to be good enough for the baseball gods. They hate the Cubs and that is all there is to it. So you know what? The baseball gods can suck it...

...I've had enough. The gods deemed that the Red Sox have paid off their debts for selling Babe Ruth to finance a musical. They have forgiven the White Sox for throwing a World Series! But the Cubs have not been forgiven for refusing to let a smelly goat into the bleachers for a World Series game. How is that the biggest crime in baseball history? So the goat can suck it too."

So you would think that I would be a big proponent of Kevin Millar getting a spot on this year's roster.  Afterall, as Gordon Wittenmyer reminds us today in the Sun-Times, Millar has broken a curse before:

"What's certain is that Kevin Millar has done what nobody in the Cubs' clubhouse has done -- end a curse -- and he's willing to share the formula his self-proclaimed ''bunch of idiots'' in Boston used six years ago to bring down the Curse of the Bambino."

I'll save the Cubs a whole lot of trouble and a roster spot to someone who can't hit, run, or field with any degree of competence by sharing that formula right here:

Johnny Damon in his prime + 'roided up David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez - Nomar in a wheelchair at shortstop + eventual Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez + (Curt Schilling x Fake blood on his sock) + a bullpen where just about everyone had the best year of their lives = World Series championship.  Notice that Kevin Millar doesn't enter into the equation at all and that was when he was still a useful player.  He most certainly shouldn't be a factor in any equation the Cubs are putting together this year.

Mostly because the core of that championship equation centered around the factors being good at playing baseball.  Not just good.  There needs to be greatness factored in.  Mediocrity, whether you feel good about it or whether you feel bad about it is not going to win championships.

That isn't what Millar thinks though.  He just thinks guys need to believe in themselves:

''You get a group of guys believing, and you get a group of guys that don't worry about a lot of stuff but winning games,'' Millar said. ''We'll see what happens.''

"If you believe, clap your hands!  Don't let the Cubs die!"

Sadly, Wittenmyer agrees with him:


That's as big a part of the formula as anything. But it also includes about six parts swagger, two parts big-stage experience, three parts slowing down the heart rate and one part ignoring the press clippings -- along with just a dash of timing and an occasional shot of whiskey.

So the theme of Spring Training last year was poking Milton with a stick every damn day to try to provoke the man into doing something volatile and exciting enough to sell newspapers.  This year, the theme is kicking Milton's ghost in the rear every day as a subtle reminder that the reason this year's team chemistry is so good is because Milton is gone.  Nevermind that they did everything in their power to antagonize him into being a nuisance in the clubhouse.

It is shocking that the media continues to take this angle.  It's not just Paul Sullivan.  In fact, at least Paul Sullivan (whether you agree with its place in journalism or not) has the balls to come right out and say he thinks Milton is an idiot and imply that he is glad Milton is gone.  Everyone else in the media just hints around at it, but that theme underlies just about everything that is written this Spring.  Marlon Byrd: good teammate.  Milton Bradley: bad teammate.

I will concede that life on the Cubs will undoubtedly be a bit easier this year with Milton's frowny face in Seattle.  I will also allow for the possibility that Millar is merely not mentioning having elite talent as a foregone conclusion in any team seriously discussing a championship run.  However, the end conclusion people get after reading crap like this is that the "intangibles" are as big a part of putting together a quality team as finding players that are better at playing baseball than most of their peers.

You know who else had some good intangibles?  Aaron Miles.  That man took crap from every angle last year and I never heard a word of complaint from him.  Not one.  Sure his performance warranted the heat, but so do most of the guys who take heat and that doesn't stop guys from mouthing off about fans not understanding the game or the media never having played the game.  I never heard a peep from Miles.  he showed up, did his job as best as he could, sucked at it, and then went home after another crushing defeat.

Kevin Gregg sounded like a pretty stand-up guy too.  After blown saves, he would sit there at his locker and explain how it was his fault for allowing the latest crushing homerun. He would take all the blame for blowing a game that his teammates had worked so hard in to provide him with a lead.  He never referenced his bad knee.  He never said anything about how Lou having to use him repeatedly for multiple-inning saves might have been detrimental to his late-season performance. He sat there and took the heat like a good teammate does.

So whether Milton was an idiot, an asshole, a dick, a psychopath, some combination of those, or just plain misunderstood did not cause the Cubs to miss the playoffs last year.  The Cubs didn't play well because they got hurt a lot at crucial positions where they had no depth and because every single decision Hendry made last off-season ended up being a terrible decision.  A laundry list of tangible baseball reasons shouldn't have to be re-hashed to point out that guys feeling good about themselves and their teammates probably had very little to do with the outcome.

Soto will not hit better this year because he's getting slapped on the butt more by teammates.  Soriano will not start laying off the breaking ball low and away because the guys in the dugout are now REALLY pulling for him.  Marmol's ability to throw strikes should not be improved by having guys behind him who are ignoring press clippings.

All of this talk about the improved chemistry almost makes me want the Cubs to fall on their faces again this year.  Then no amount of holding hands, singing kumbaya, or other Millar nonsense will mask the fact that Jim Hendry tied his own hands with stupid contracts with no-trade clauses and a farm system that can't develop impact players.

It will almost assuredly happen if Kevin Millar is given a roster spot.

Quick!  If you want Millar to get cut and go away, clap your hands!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Getting to Know: Mike Fontenot

Name: Mike Fontenot

Position: 2nd Base/Backup SS?

Batting Order Position: 7th?

Bats/Throws: Left/Right

Opening Day Age: 29

Uniform Number: 17

Can you even believe this guy is the only asset the Cubs have left from trading Sammy Sosa?: No.

After last season, we have to use the term "asset" loosely when referring to Fontenot, but he is a warm body that Lou still sees as a potential useful member of the team.  That sure is what you hope a team can get in return for a player who single-handedly carried your team for about five years and would be an easy Hall of Fame vote if the writers would get it through their heads that damn near everyone was using some sort of PED at the time, and Sammy was among the best of them.

Who do I have to thank for allowing me to place a gratuitous photo of Megan Fox in an otherwise boring post about Mike Fontenot?: The Cubs Brickyard.

They probably also have a pretty good case to be made that they should get some royalties from the upcoming movie, She's Out of My League. The storyline seems to be stolen from one of their blog posts about Mike Fontenot trying to tell his teammates that he was dating Megan Fox, and none of them believing him.

“I’m not saying he doesn’t have a girlfriend. And I’m not even saying she isn’t hot. But she isn’t Megan Fox. Making knucklechildren with a Ladies Home Journal featuring an interview with Megan Fox doesn’t make her your girlfriend [said Mark DeRosa]...

...After four or five hours of zingers from teammates, Fontenot had had enough. He stormed out of the clubhouse shouting that he would be back, and he would have proof of his relationship with Megan Fox.

When he came back some 30 minutes later, he stood victoriously, and lifted over his head - so it was eye level for the rest of those in the room - what he claimed was proof of his torrid celebrity love affair: a pair of Megan Fox’s panties...

...“Look, all I’m saying,” said DeRosa, “is if you’re going to claim you’re have a pair of Megan Fox’s panties, you should probably make sure they’re like, a lacy number or a thong. Not a pair of Hanes Her Way. Oh, and clean. Make sure they’re clean.”

“And I don’t know where he got those, but he got them fast. It only took him 30 minutes. Here’s what I know. Megan Fox lives in Los Angeles, a couple thousand miles away. I know what you’re thinking, maybe he had them at his place. Well, Mike lives way up North, approximately 45 minutes from Wrigley Field.”

“Mike’s mom lives about four blocks away. I’m just saying. You do the math.”

Baseball-Reference.com's Most Similar Batter: Geronimo Pena (cue Sad Trombone)

Fourth Most Similar Batter Through the Age of 29: Mark DeRosa!

Why We Might Like Him:
  • In 2008 he had an OPS of .909, earning him the nicknames "Little Babe Ruth" and "The Pocket Rocket"
  • We think of him as a youngster because of his tiny stature and it is hard not to root for children.
  • He is not Aaron Miles.
Why We Might Hate Him:
  • Aaron Miles isn't here to take the heat off him as he puts up a .677 OPS like he did last year.
  • The more he plays, the less we will see the awesomeness of Jeff Baker.
  • Two words: The Mullet
  • He looks a little too much like the Russian cry-baby ice skater, Evgeni Plushenko


If You Rearrange the Letters in His Name You Get: "OMEN OF KITTEN" and "NOT TO KNIFE ME"

What Cubs Blogosphere Thinks of Him:
  • A League of Her Own - "If I have to grab Fontenot off the field in Mesa, tie him up, toss him in the back of my car, and hold him in a safehouse somewhere to get people to stop thinking he can start, so help me, I'll do it!"
  • Goat Riders of the Apocalypse - "Fontenot's line drop % dropped from 24.1 to 17.5, which explains a lot of the drop in BABIP. Line drives fall for hits about 75% of the time. Line drives are also much more likely to go for extra bases. Fontenot's ISO fell off the face of the earth, dropping nearly 70 points. Font wasn't squaring the ball up last season, and his hitting suffered. Luck probably had something to do with his bad year end stats, but so did his ability to drive the ball. He isn't going to ever be the player we hoped he might be."
  • Hire Jim Essian - "Remember in 2004 when Todd Hollandsworth was so awesome in a part-time role that some fans were actually seriously screaming for him to replace Sammy Sosa in right field? And then remember in 2005 when Hollandsworth was given a starting spot in left field as Moises Alou’s replacement, and he sucked, and everyone wanted to punch him right in his blond mullet? Well, Fontenot has a blond mullet."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Getting to Know: Ryan Dempster

Name: Ryan Dempster

Position: Starting Pitcher

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

Opening Day Age: 33

Uniform Number: 46

Is there anything in this post about Dempster that I didn't already know?:  Probably not. 

Dempster is one of the most easily accessible Cubs and is a favorite of fans and the media.  It is unlikely I have turned up any new information on him from my couch.

Does he do a good Harry Caray impression?:  Not really.

He does an impression that is more of a Will Ferrell-doing-Harry-Caray impression, but whatever.  For a long time, no one did a George H.W. Bush impression and then Dana Carvey did his and suddenly everyone was doing a Bush impression that was actually a Carvey-doing-Bush impression. That's generally how impressions that hit the mainstream work.

My problem with Dempster's Harry impression is that it isn't funny.  It's not an homage because he makes Harry sound like a drunken stroke victim, which may have been accurate, but it isn't something that honors Harry's memory.  Meanwhile, everyone knows how to use the "Samardzija backwards is ajizdramas (heh heh)" or the "Paaaaahhhhped it up" bits when doing Harry, so he gets no points for originality.
How is his daughter doing?: Better.

"She's doing well. She's still unable to swallow but she's doing well. She's a tough little fighter."
As you may remember, Dempster's daughter was born with DiGeorge syndrome caused by a defect in a chromosome.  She has undergone numerous surgeries and is currently learning how to swallow, which doesn't sound like it should be difficult, but that is because we all knew how to do it instinctively. 
"You're taking an involuntary muscle and turning it into a voluntary muscle. You are teaching her to swallow," Dempster said.

Apparently, she is doing well enough where she will be able to travel with the rest of the family to Arizona while Dempster readies for the season.

"I watch what she goes through on a daily basis and I know she's tougher than everybody in here and a lot tougher than I am," he said standing at his locker. "So she's challenging me to be a lot better. That's for sure."

If you would like to learn more or donate to fight DiGeorge syndrome, you can go to the Dempster Family Foundation site here.
Baseball-Reference.com's Most Similar Pitcher: Matt Clement

Why We Might Like Him:
  • He's a stand-up guy (get it?) and owns when he pitches poorly and doesn't get too full of himself when he pitches well.
  • Since becoming a starter again in 2008 he is 28-15 with a 3.30 ERA and 1.257 WHIP, which is worlds better than Matt Clement.
  • He buzzed Ryan Braun last year.
Why We Might Hate Him:
  • There are those that haven't forgiven his bad outing in Game 1 of the 2008 NLDS.
  • He is paid a lot of money to be the 2008 version of himself and that is a pretty lofty goal for any pitcher to achieve, much less one that is 33 years old now.
  • Walks.  Those damn walks!  Throw a frickin' strike!  How hard is that?
What the Cubs Blogosphere Thinks of Him:
  • Hire Jim Essian - "For as much shit as I give Dempster around here for being a terrible comedian, he’s been a good-to-great pitcher for the Cubs, he has had some very cool interactions with the fans, and he’s apparently a very likable and approachable guy. He also busted his ass the last couple of offseasons to get in better shape, and the results have paid off. Just try not to think of Game One last year."
  • Cubs f/x - "One of the keys for Dempster appears to be a stat I call "Chase" - it's just swing rate on pitches out of the zone (zone=two foot wide plate, btw). He's 10th in the majors, with 30% of his pitches out of the zone yielding swings. As you'd expect, that rate is driven by the splitter and the slider, which both check in with Chase rates around 37%, and, combined, they account for 2 out of 5 pitches thrown by Dempster since 2007."
  • Waxpaperbeercup - "No one should be expecting Dempster to duplicate the kind of success he had [in 2008], but that has more to do with how high the bar would be set for that to happen than how good a pitcher he really is. Fortunately, Dempster’s breakout year happened to come on the eve of the best buyer’s market in recent baseball history, so for him to live up to the contract he signed he’ll merely have to be good, not great. That being said, if he takes a step back this year it will probably have a lot to do with the regression in his HR/9 rate. Dempster has shown the ability to keep the ball on the ground and in the park, but it’s very unlikely that he’ll manage a .61 rate like he did last year."
  • Goat Riders of the Apocalypse - For the statheads out there, Dempster's '09 season was worth 3.7 wins over a replacement level pitcher, a value of just over $16 million, or twice his 2009 salary.  How'd he do it? Demp ended up taking the meh-diocre route, allowing two or fewer runs in only 16 of his 31 starts, and allowing three runs in exactly three starts. That's 12 starts with 4 or more runs, which is kinda not really all that great, actually.