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Monday, March 31, 2008

Brewers 4, Cubs 3 (10)

Couple thoughts on today's game:

-Our hitters approach is the same as it was last year: there is no approach, other than Kosuke.

-Loved leadoff hitter Ryan Theriot: 0-4 2ks.

-Kosuke Fukudome is Godlike. Too bad his day was ruined by his supporting cast.

- Rough start for closer Kerry and Bob Howry. We need you guys to come up big, don't shit the bed.

- Carlos looked great, still needs to master that cramping problem. Also, who didn't shit their pants when Derrek and Z almost collided?

-Seriously, I have to reiterate, I can't even get on Theriot and Pie for their lack of patience, nobody, but nobody, but Kosuke showed anything resembling plate discipline. It was like watching the Arizona series all over again.

- It'll be a long day off tomorrow ( I hate the automatic day off after Opening Day, you wait so long for the game, it happens, and then they blue ball you the day after) then our man Ted Lilly goes against Jeff Suppan. Here's hoping the Cubs are a little (read: a whole fucking lot) more patient with Suppan and score a bit off of a guy with a 4.62 ERA last year.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

American League Preview

Yesterday I got the National League, so here's my predictions for the American League

AL East

1. Boston Red Sox (97-65)-
There are some questions about the rotation, but Dice-K will take a step up this year and the offense and bullpen are both excellent. They'll make it back to the playoffs.

2. New York Yankees (88-74)- Their counting on two guys who are essentially rookies (Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy) and two guys who are essentially dead (Andy Pettite, Mike Mussina) to key the rotation. I like Joe Girardi's ability to coax some success out of the youngsters, but this rotation and an aging lineup (Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera are the only starters under 31) will keep them out of the playoffs for the first time since 1994.

3. Tampa Bay Rays (84-78)- I know, I'm batshit crazy, but I like Kazmir, Shields, and Garza in the rotation (assuming Kazmir gets back from his injury soon), and they have a solid lineup with Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, Cliff Floyd, and BJ Upton.

4. Toronto Blue Jays (82-80)- They have some potential in the rotation, but they're injury prone. Scott Rolen sucks offensively these days and he's already hurt. They think David Eckstein will help because he's a "gamer". At least they have Matt Stairs.

5. Baltimore Orioles (64-98)- Fuck Andy MacFail. This team sucks. I won't even describe it for you. Just look at the roster.

AL Central

1.Detroit Tigers (95-67)-
They have some shakiness in the bullpen without Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, but the rotation is solid 1-5 and they'll score 1,000 runs. No exaggeration.

2. Cleveland Indians (92-70)- CC Sabathia could possibly be better in his free agent year than last year when he won the Cy. I don't think Fausto Carmona was a fluke, and I think Travis Hafner rebounds from a so-so year to lead their extremely good offense. If I could trade Felix Pie and my dreams for Grady Sizemore, I'd do it.

3. Chicago White Sox (77-85)-
They're starting Joe Crede over Josh Fields, hoping someone will trade for Crede, they're secretly shopping Paul Konerko. This team has fire sale written all over it. They'll blow it up and start from scratch.

4. Minnesota Twins (73-89)- They sent Fransisco Liriano down to the minors to build up strength. There's really not much to be excited about here, but there never is with the Twins. They're a few years away from building back up to contention.

5. Kansas City Royals (71-91)- They have three middle of the rotation starters who will give them some quality innings (Meche, Bannister, Greinke), but you could wander through Kenya and find a place with more power than their lineup.

AL West

1. Seattle Mariners (89-73)-
I think Felix Hernandez has a huge year in their rotation, but it's Erik Bedard who will make them contenders. They need a big rebound from Richie Sexson to score consistently, but I think they'll do just enough.

2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California, 90210 (86-76)- They have potential for a good offense in Guerrero/Hunter/Anderson/Rivera/Kendrick, but John Lackey is out for at least a month and Kelvim Escobar's shoulder may require season ending surgery. I don't think there's enough pitching left after that.

3. Oakland Athletics (76-86)- Their rebuilding, and will probably deal Rich Harden, Joe Blanton, or both during the season. They have a potential star in Daric Barton. Other than that, not much too look forward to in Oakland (is there ever?).

4. Texas Rangers (72-90)- I expect them to shop Hank Blalock as soon as he proves he's healthy, their pitching rotation needs career years from Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla just to hope for .500. Josh Hamilton was a good pick-up, though.

Division Winners- Boston, Detroit, Seattle
Wild Card- Cleveland.
AL MVP- Miguel Cabrera, Tigers. Runner Up- David Ortiz, Red Sox
AL Cy Young- Justin Verlander, Tigers. Runner Up- CC Sabathia, Indians.
AL ROTY- Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox. Runner Up- Daric Barton, A's.

Division Series-
Cubs over Mets AL- Red Sox over Indians
Phillies over Rockies Tigers over Mariners

Cubs over Phillies ALCS- Tigers over Red Sox

World Series- Cubs over Tigers. Honestly, who the hell else did you think I was going to take?

Cubs Opening Day Roster Finalized

Alright, Lou finally did announce that Pignatiello has made the team over Marshall. This is really a smart move, as keeping Marshall stretched out and ready to start is important to this team in case Dempster or Marquis falter, or in case he becomes a bargaining chip for a trade. Pignatiello was a reliever in the minors and during his 4 appearances with the Cubs last year. So that means..

Roster Spot #24- P- Carmen Pignatiello #63
Ht: 6'0'' Wt: 205 Bats: Left Throws: Left

No major league photo available

Also, I'm pretty much tired of the previews now. So preview Pignatiello yourself. Here's his baseball reference page. Make him whatever you want to be. Is he a pony lover? Does he paint in his free time? Was it always his childhood dream to be a left handed middle relief pitcher? Can he be good enough that they just get rid of Scott Eyre? You decide.

Anywho, until Eyre gets back here's the official rankings of your Cubs 25 man roster for Opening Day 2008

25. Ronny Cedeno #5
24. Carmen Pignatiello #63
23. Reed Johnson #9
22. Mike Fontenot #17
21. Michael Wuertz #43
20. Jon Lieber #32
19. Hank White #24
18. Kevin Hart #22 (Eyre's Spot)
17. Felix Pie #20
16. Ryan Dempster #46
15. Jason Marquis #21
14. Ryan Theriot #2
13. Bob Howry #62
12. Daryle Ward #33
11. Carlos Marmol #49
10. Kerry Wood #34
9. Geovany Soto #18
8. Mark DeRosa #7
7. Rich Hill #53
6. Kosuke Fukudome #1
5. Ted Lilly #30
4. Aramis Ramirez #16
3. Alfonso Soriano #12
1B. Carlos Zambrano #38
1A. Derrek Lee #25

Tomorrow's game will be Cubs vs. Brewers at Wrigley Field. 1:20 pm central time.

Pitching Matchup: Carlos Zambrano (0-0) vs. Ben Sheets (0-0)

SS Ryan Theriot
LF Alfonso Soriano
1B Derrek Lee
3B Aramis Ramirez
RF Kosuke Fukudome
2B Mark DeRosa
C Geovany Soto
CF Felix Pie
P Carlos Zambrano

2B Ricky Weeks
CF Tony Gwynn, Jr.
1B Prince Fielder
LF Ryan Braun
RF Corey Hart
3B Bill Hall
SS JJ Hardy
P Ben Sheets
C Jason Kendall

That's right, the intrepid manager of the Brewers, Ned Yost, has decided that his lineup will be more productive with former Cub Jason Kendall batting in the 9 spot and PROTECTING the pitcher than with the traditional pitcher in the 9 hole lineup. Yikes.

But soon our national nightmare is over, Opening Day is coming!

Cubs Preview 3/30/08

Roster Spot 1A- 1B- Derrek Lee #25
Ht: 6'5'' Wt: 245 Bats: Right Throws: Right

Bow to me. Or not, I'm still gonna tower over you.

I know this is debatable. There are those of you out there mentioning how Soriano and Ramirez had more homers last year, and Ramirez had more RBIs. You'll mention Derrek's abysmal spring training stats. You'll show that I picked Aramis Ramirez to win National League MVP this year. You'll, hell, I don't know, and I don't care. Derrek Lee is the most valuable position player on this team. He is the only person who consistently blends hitting for average, hitting for power, near-perfect defense, and a high on-base %. When he went down in 2006, the whole team fell apart. He is the undisputed team leader, as noted by Lou Piniella, who frequently held conferences with Derrek during the tumultuous early months of last season. He plays the game with dignity and excellence, and seems in perfect control of his actions and emotions, though he knows when to fight and to fire up the team, like his brawl with the Padres Chris Young last year.

Last season Derrek lead the team in average, OBP, hits, was second in total bases, made the All Star team, and he won his third career Gold Glove award. He was the only one of the big three to show up in the playoffs, as he hit .333, where Soriano and Ramirez combined hit .068. Some were afraid, after he hit only 6 home runs in the first half, that his wrist injury of 2006 had forever robbed him of his power. Then he clubbed 16 second half home runs. Overall Derrek hit .317, 22 hrs, 82 RBIs, .400 OBP, and .513 slugging. That's a pretty good year. Not great, at least not by Derrek's standards. I expect that the wrist is now fully healed, given his second half power surge, and will put the number of home runs he hits this season at 35. But the true value of a Derrek Lee to a team isn't with the statistics, its in the clubhouse and the dugout, and in the way he sets an example for his teammates on the field.

After the Cubs let Mark Grace go after the 2000 season I viewed everyone of his replacements at first base with everything from scorn (Fred McGriff, Julio Zuletta, Hee Seop Choi) to bemusement (Randall Simon, Matt Stairs), but never did I really see any of them as the player the team needed at that key spot. From the moment the Cubs acquired the Derrek after the '03 season, he's been my favorite on this team. This season he'll continue to show us all why.

Cubs Preview 3/30/08

We reach the end of the roster preview (pending whether or not I have to do one for Carmen Pignatiello, I really wish Lou would just say whether he or Marshall got the lefty reliever spot), and rather than put one ahead of the other like I did with the previous 23, I'm going to label these two 1A and 1B, and let you , the reader, decide which one is more important to the team, as I can't imagine them winning without either.

Roster Spot 1B-P-Carlos Zambrano #38
Ht: 6'5'' Wt: 255 Bats: Switch Throws: Right

Don't lie, the Crazy turns you on just a little..

There are few characters in Cubs history like Carlos Zambrano. On one hand you have a guy who (if his Venezuelan records can be believed) is only 27 years old and has already won 82 games and pitched at least 200 innings a year since 2003. A guy with five pitches with unbelievable movement that can make him downright unhittable when he's on. A guy with competitive spirit unlike any other and breaks his bat over his knee when he strikes out, because unlike most pitchers he can hit, and wildly screams and gesticulates after getting needed outs.

On the other hand, however, you have a guy who walks way too many batters (0ver 100 in '06 and '07) and frequently erupts because his personality is his own worst enemy. When Carlos has a bad day, everything goes to shit. In his 18 wins last year, Carlos had a 1.43 ERA, in his 13 losses? 7.75. In 123 innings in those wins, he walked 43 batters. In his 76 losing innings he walked the same number. Sometimes his gestures and emotion can broil him in conflict with his teammates (see Barrett, Michael) and anger his manager. Frankly, even Cubs fans should admit that they'd probably hate the crazy Venezuelan if he weren't on our team.

But Carlos IS on our team. And we love him. After years of losing Cubs teams, too many of whom gave the appearance that they didn't Mind losing, we embrace his antics, knowing that more often than not, he'll shove it down the other team's throat. Critics will point to his rising walk total and how his ERA has increased by small increments the last few years. I'll wager on Carlos anyways. The guy is a champion, and anyone who watches him sees that the stamina and the stuff have always been there. He hasn't lost anything, if anything his stuff sometimes gets so much movement and velocity that it surprises him. Maybe losing Prior and Wood and Maddux and having to be the ace put pressure on him and he needed time to cope, especially last year during one of the craziest, most up and down seasons in Cubs history. But Carlos was there when we needed him most. He keyed the June/July turnaround for the Cubs by going 9-3, and he nailed it down in September and August with a 4-2 stretch. In game 1 of the NLDS, he pitched fantastically only to be let down by the bullpen.

This spring training Carlos has steered clear of his usual predictions and bold statements. He's gone out, taken the ball, and quietly dominated. Two weeks ago he declared himself ready for Opening Day. Tomorrow, and all this season, he will prove it.

OPENING DAY IS TOMORROW (well, tonight kinda)

That's right, besides tonights Braves-Nationals one game "look at our ballpark" game, Opening Day starts in earnest tomorrow. Tomorrow starts the first of 162 wonderful Cubs games to keep you from having to deal with the reality of your own life. Girlfriend left ya? Well Derrek Lee hasn't so sit your ass down and turn on WGN. Dying of a terminal illness? So you suffer for a few painful months preoccupied with your own demise. Welcome to life as a Cubs fan! Grab an Old Style and shut up! Wondering what that massive lump on your neck is? It can wait till after the massive lump that is Daryle Ward hits a pinch hit home run to win the game!

Seriously, though, ask any kid,even those that have played both football and baseball on a team, what sport they wished they could play professionally. Jeff Samardzija chose baseball over football. When Michael Jordan had reached the highest of heights in basketball, he went back and he tried baseball. Bo Jackson had it in him to be one of the greatest runningbacks of all time, and he risked it by playing baseball and football. The skeptic will tell you its because there's less chance of getting hurt in baseball, its not a contact sport, it requires less physical exertion. True, all of that may be the reason. But I'm willing to wager that any kid, whoever got that first glove, oiled it, slept with under his mattress with it wrapped around a ball wouldn't tell you its because its easier. Baseball captivates and holds people for life in a way no other sport can. In football its the aesthetic thrill of watching the crack and the thunder of the collisions, of watching the ball fly in the air, and the dazzling catches. Then the game is over, the people head home, and you wait another week. In baseball you see a walk off home run, a complete game shutout saved by a diving catch into the wall by the centerfielder, and you go back, you watch the replay on Sportscenter, and the next day its waiting for you again.

I, like most kids, can still remember that first glove, and how Dad taught me how to use it. How you learn not to be afraid of the ball by having it hit you in the mouth one time and realizing you'll survive. How you sit there and stare the time you hit your first home run, not to show off like Manny Ramirez or Barry Bonds, but just out of sheer amazement that you had the ability to do that. 99.9% will never play Major League Baseball. Hell, I never played high school baseball. But every Opening Day I raced home from school, made excuses to get out of whatever afternoon commitments I had, and got in just in time to catch the last 6 or 7 innings. Baseball's seen a lot in the way of scandals the last decade, from strikes to steroids to Selig. But if you were never watching for the home runs or the excitement, if the reason you sit down in front of a TV to watch the game is just to know that its still there, just like it was when you were four years old and your grandfather talked your ear off while going on about Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and how much he feared having to see the Cubs pitch to Willie Stargell, you never left. Sure, the Cubs could go 66-96 just three years after being 5 outs away from the World Series, and you could curse and swear and Vow not to be pulled into it again. Then someone tells you they signed Alfonso Soriano and you find yourself checking spring training box scores. It's just the game. Just the game.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Baseball Season Preview

Tomorrow night the true regular season begins, because I'm not counting that weird little Japan thing the Red Sox and the A's did. But tomorrow the Braves and the Nationals will play a season opener at the brand new Nationals Park (if you haven't seen pictures of it yet, look it up, it's nice) in the United States of America, followed by the normal full fledged Opening Day slate on Monday, including the Cubs vs. Brewers at Wrigley. So since you clearly have no idea what to expect this season, and look to me as your spiritual and mental leader in all things baseball, here are my team by team, division by division, league by league, previews and prognostications for the 2008 season.

Starting with the National League, where men are men, pitchers bat, and nobody has a Steinbrenner.

NL East (in predicted order of finish)

1. Philadelphia Phillies (92-70)- They have a great lineup including the last two MVPs and a guy who hit 22 homers and 103 RBIs last year despite missing well over a month with a leg injury. Rollins, Howard, and Utley plus Brett Myers back in the rotation and the continued ascendance of Cole Hamels will have the Phils back in the playoffs this year.

2. New York Mets (89-73)- Johan Santana is a god, and no one will deny that, but relying on guys like Moises Alou (already hurt), Orlando Hernandez (already hurt), Pedro Martinez (hurt every year), and Ryan Church (not actually good) for key contributions just ain't gonna cut it. This team is aging and injury prone and will fall far short of their expectations. Fuck David Wright.

3. Washington Nationals (83-79)- Yeah, these guys are my surprise team for 2008. Remember in 2005 when in their first year as the Nationals they surprised everyone by playing .500 for the season? This team is talented, and despite some serious questions in the rotation (read: God-Awful Rotation), I like the outfield of Wily Mo Pena/Elijah Dukes in right, Lastings Milledge in center, and Austin Kearns in right, as well as their two first basemen (Dmitri Young and Nick Johnson), and think that Ryan Zimmerman is just an outstanding young ballplayer. They'll surprise people.

4. Atlanta Braves (81-81)- Smoltz is already suffering some injury problems, Glavine doesn't have much left in him in his second Atlanta go-round, Mike Hampton won't make it through the season, Tim Hudson has posted just one great season in his Atlanta tenure, and I don't think they even know who their fifth starter is. I see this team stumbling out of the gate, trading Teixera at the deadline, losing Chipper Jones to his yearly injury, and causing Bobby Cox to retire in fury.

5. Florida Marlins (69-93)- Mark Hendrickson, Rick VandenHurk, Andrew Miller, Scott Olsen, and Ricky Nolasco. Thats their starting rotation. Miller has bonafide talent, Olsen has a bonafide douchebag attitude, and the other three are bonafide hacks. I don't care what Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla do, they aren't overcoming that rotation.

NL Central

1. Chicago Cubs (95-67)- The pitching is solid, the offense can be great (though it'll probably be just enough), and who else did you think I would pick?

2. Milwaukee Brewers (84-78)- Ben Sheets has pitched one full season in his career, Yovani Gallardo is already hurt, Jeff Suppan has never really been great, Capuano needs another surgery and had a terrible year last year, and Villanueva, Parra, Bush, and whoever else may wind up in that rotation are all just mediocre to bad. The offense will be great again, but I don't understand Brewers fans who can't see that Rickie Weeks is their version of Corey Patterson.

3. Houston Astros (77-85)- I like their lineup, and Carlos Lee always scares the shit outta me, but there is Nobody in that rotation after Oswalt

4. Cincinnatti Reds (75-87)- Everyone and their mother thinks this team will surprise and finish second. Dusty Baker is doing everything he can to keep their true talent off of the team, and he'll run Harang and Arroyo into the ground.

5. St. Louis Cardinals (72-90)- Pujols is hurt, Ankiel will struggle after his HGH debacle as he's not exactly mentally tough, Troy Glaus isn't the force he used to be, they have Cesar at shortstop, and their rotation until Mulder, Carpenter, Matt Clement, and Joel Piniero (laugh at those last two, go ahead) is Adam Wainwright (good), Braden Looper (mediocre), Kyle Lohse (hahaha), Todd Wellemeyer (you're killing me), and Brad Thompson (hoooo boy). This team is gonna be bad, and only Cardinals fans are naive enough to assume that the Carpenter/Mulder/Clement trio is actually going to just come off the DL and be great from day one. Jesus. They'll lose 90 some games.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates (70-92)- The rotation is actually the best in the division behind the Cubs, but the offense is just putrid after Freddy Sanchez, Jason Bay, and Adam LaRoche, none of whom are superstars as it is.

NL West

1. Colorado Rockies (91-71) I don't trust having three unproven starters in the rotation, but that offense is the best 1-8 in the National League.

2. Arizona Diamondbacks (88-74)- Their one two of Webb and Haren is the best in the NL, but I just can't believe in a full season of Randy Johnson at this point, I wish Doug Davis the best with his cancer treatment but there's no telling how long that will keep him out, and Micah Owings has to prove he's a better pitcher than hitter, and the offense has yet to prove itself. Except in three games against the Cubs in the playoffs. Sigh.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers (85-77)- Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, and Chad Billingsley are a solid 1-2-3 combo, and Hideki Kuroda has drawn great reviews from critics. Esteban Loaiza is holding down the 5th spot until Jason Schmidt is ready, but I don't expect much from either. Outside of the rotation, they need to keep playing Andre Ethier over Juan Pierre and play Andy LaRoche over Nomar, but I see Andruw Jones slump from last year continuing, Jeff Kent continuing to decline, and this team failing to be a scoring threat on any kind of a consistent basis.

4. San Diego Padres (79-83)- Yet another great rotation in this division, which contains 3 of the NL's top 4, as the Padres have Jake Peavy, Derrek Lee's punching bag Chris Young, Greg Maddux should still do just enough to win 10-14 ball games, and Randy Wolf is a decent #4. Some guy named Joe Germano is #5, so, good luck with that. The offense is anemic after Adrian Gonzalez. Khalil Greene has yet to put two good offensive seasons together, Brian Giles is nearly dead, their other two outfield spots are practically empty, and they have the great platoon of Michael Barrett and Josh Bard behind the plate. Rough year for Padres fans.

5. San Francisco Giants (63-99)- Oh God will this team be bad. Barry Zito has looked awful lately and will be traded if he puts up good enough numbers to have anybody want him, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum are great young talents who will lose games they shouldn't thanks to their shitty offense, Kevin Correia and Noah Lowry need to rebound big time. Their offense is just, well, sad. They've got the rotting corpses of Omar Vizquel, Rich Aurilia, Dave Roberts, Randy Winn, and Ray Durham either starting or taking up space on the bench, their rookie stars (Daniel Ortmeier and Eugenio Velez) haven't looked all that impresive, and they have Bengie Molina batting cleanup. They'll be the worst team in the majors this year.

Division Winners- Phils, Cubs, Rockies
Wild Card- Mets

NL MVP- Ryan Howard, Phillies. Runner Up- Aramis Ramirez, Cubs.
NL Cy Young- Carlos Zambrano, Cubs. Runner Up- Johan Santana, Mets.
NL ROTY- Kosuke Fukudome, Cubs. Runner Up- Geovany Soto, Cubs. (the girlfriend has him winning it, which she swears is due to his talent and potential, not his name).

Cubs Preview 3/29/08

Roster Spot #3- LF- Alfonso Soriano #12
Ht: 6'1'' Wt: 180 Bats: Right Throws: Right


Few things offer as much excitement for Cubs fans as an Alfonso Soriano at-bat. Though he frequently strikes out and seems to be a walking contradiction to our belief in the power of On Base Percentage, no one, bar none, has as many eyes on him when he comes to the plate as Alfonso. Because everyone knows when he gets one, he hits faster and harder than just about anyone else in the league. Last night's spring training game against the Mariners is a prime example. In Fonzie's second at bat he hammered the first pitch he saw nearly 500 feet down the left field line. Foul. On the second pitch he hammered the next pitch 400 feet to right. Fair. How one human being has so much power in a relatively slight frame no one knows. But he downright punishes the ball.

Soriano started out in Japan, then was signed as second baseman by the Yankees, played with them from 1999-2003, though his first full year was 2001. Before the 2004 season he was traded to the Texas Rangers as the centerpiece of the A-Rod deal. After spending 2004 and 2005 with the Rangers Soriano was traded to the Washington Nationals, who wanted to move him from second base to left field, as Soriano was a less than adequate defensive second baseman. Soriano at first refused the move to left field and said he wouldn't play. When Nationals manager Frank Robinson reminded him that if he didn't play he wouldn't be eligible for free agency after the year, Soriano relented and took the field. In his two seasons as a left fielder Soriano hasn't been spectacular other than with his power arm, as he leads all major league outfielders in assists over that period with 31.

But Soriano is an offensive player and his offense vonsists of the long ball. He's hit 241 of them in his career and averages 36 a season. In his season in Washington he hit an amazing 46 over the deep walls of RFK stadium, which lead to him being the most sought after free agent of the 2006 offseason. Surprisingly the Cubs actually went after the most sought after free agent and gave him the biggest deal in Cubs history for 8 years and $136 million.

In his first season with the Cubs Soriano stayed true to his exciting-if-inconsistent history, if one looks at his month by month totals:

April: .270, 0 hrs, 1 RBI, .308 OBP, .392 slugging
May: .302, 4 hrs, 11 RBIs, .362 OBP, .500 slugging
June: .336, 11 hrs, 18 RBIs, .379 OBP, .697 slugging
July; .265, 3 hrs, 12 RBIs, .276 OBP, .425 slugging
Aug.: .250, 1hr, 1 RBI, .294 OBP, .375 slugging.
Sept/Oct: .320, 14 hrs, 27 RBIs, .354 OBP, .754 (Jesus Christ!) slugging

Soriano's April/May and August numbers especially were hurt by two stints on the DL with leg injuries which also cut his stolen base numbers from 41 in 2006 to 19 last year, but you can see that in general when he was hot, as he was in June when he won National League Player of the Month, and in September when he set a Cub record for home runs in the final month of the season, he was an unholy power-hitting force. When he was cold, he was mostly a mediocre guy who struck out a lot and had a very hard time getting on based. In the end, however, Soriano finished with 33 homers and 70 RBIs despite missing over a month total with the injuries and was the spark plug for the Cubs, as their two really great runs of the season corresponded with Soriano's two really good months, and their August slump began as soon as he went down with his quad injuries.

As Soriano goes, so go to the Cubs, so pray he goes all season long in 2008.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Cubs Preview 3/28/08

Roster Spot #4- 3B- Aramis Ramirez #16
Ht: 6'1'' Wt: 215 Bats: Right Throws: Right

Boom Bitch.

July 23, 2003. Most Cubs remember the day, if not the exact date, when the Cubs acquired Aramis Ramirez from the Pittsburgh Pirates, along with Kenny Lofton, in exchange for Jose Hernandez (hehehe), and two minor leaguers: pitcher Matt Bruback and "can't miss" 2nd base prospect Bobby Hill, in what should easily go down as the greatest trade in Cubs history.

In his 4 1/2 season's with the Cubs Ramirez has hit 146 HRs and has 454 RBIs, and averages 33 homers and 103 RBIs per season as a Cub. The other player that the Cubs received in the deal, Kenny Lofton, was the spark plug of the 2003 Cubs offense throughout the second half and playoffs before moving on to a different team each of the last 4 years.

The players the Pirates got? Well, Hernandez hit .223 the rest of '03 in a Pittsburgh uniform and finished the year leading the majors in strikeouts for the third straight year. He's currently unemployed after spending the last four seasons with four different teams (Dodgers '04, Indians '05, Pittsburgh again and Philadelphia '06). Bruback sucked in the minors for the Pirates, was released, claimed by the Padres, then wandered around for a few years before disappearing from baseball after 2006. Bobby Hill never lived up to his potential in the slightest and was out of baseball after bouncing back and forth between the minors and Pittsburgh in '04 and '05 and spending the the 2006 season with the Padres AAA team.

But besides being an absolute frigg'n steal, even after the Cubs signed him to a new 5 year, 73 million dollar deal in November of '06. For those who don't think thats a bargain, see Cabrera, Miguel, Aramis has been the best consistent power hitter for the Cubs over the years, despite his penchant for taking a month off each year with various aches and pains. Though his home runs dipped to 26 last year, that can be attributed to the slow start that all three of the Cubs power guys (Lee, Soriano, and Ramirez) got off to last year, and I expect a return to 35-40 homers this year as the likelihood of all three repeating their off-seasons of last year is extremely remote. Ramirez did rebound from his slow home run start to hit the epic 2 run, game-winning shot off Brewers closer Francisco Cordero on July 29th in a game considered to be the 2007 season's turning point. Ramirez certainly hasn't shown any signs of a slow start this year as he has a .333 average and .451 OBP in spring training, though I'm hoping, given the cases of Fukudome and Lee, that spring training numbers don't mean shit.

Aramis' defense has also greatly improved since joining the Cubs. After committing 25, 19, and 33 errors as a Pirate in 2001-03, Ramirez has posted career lows in each of his years with the Cubs, and last year had only 10 errors and a career high .972 fielding percentage last year, by the way, in a sign that the media clearly DOES NOT have an East Coast bias, New York Mets 3rd baseman and 2007 Gold Glove winner David Wright had far better defensive numbers with only 21 errors and a much higher .954 fielding percentage. Wait, what? How the f*&k did Wright win the Gold Glove? Probably because Wright was on a playoff team and Ramirez was not. Wait, Ramirez was on the playoff team, and Wright had no homers and only 3 RBIs in his teams 1-7 slide at the end of the season that will go down as one of the greatest choke jobs in history. But there is no East Coast bias. This is yet another example of the underrated nature of Aramis' play, as for his first few years in a Cub uniform he was overshadowed by the last good years of Scott Rolen's career, and then had his best 3rd baseman in the NL title wrongfully passed over to Wright.

Now that I've angried up the blood talking about how Ramirez got jobbed of a Gold Glove that he so desperately wants to shed his "disinterested, horrible fielder" reputation, I'll go on the record as saying that this is the year I believe he vaults his way into legendary status and puts up numbers that even the national (New York/Boston) media can't ignore. Here's to Aramis Ramirez. Fuck David Wright, and fuck Andy MacFail (unrelated, but I get some kind of High from saying it).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cubs Preview 3/26/08

Roster Spot #5- P- Theodore Roosevelt "Ted" Lilly #30
Ht: 6'1'' Wt: 190 Bats:Left Throws: Right

Call me Steve Trachsel Again, Bitch.

I'm not sure how many people anticipated Ted's success last year. Andy Dolan of Desipio did, somehow, but few others. Many of us winced when Jim Hendry signed Ted to a 4 year, 40 million contract. While I didn't disagree with the prediction that Ted's ERA would drop once he left the AL, his career inconsistency made me a little nervous, as did the fact that he had never topped 200 innings pitched in a season. But Ted did indeed prove worth at least the first year of his contract and posted the following line:

34 GS, 207.0 Innings, 15-8, 3.83 ERA, 174 K's, 55 walks, 1.140 WHIP.

All of which either tied or set career highs. The Desipio theory is that Ted is a lot like Jamie Moyer, Randy Johnson, or David Wells, three lefties who posted far better numbers in their 30s than twenties. I can hope, and Ted's first season has given plenty of reason to hope, that he will follow the career path of those three.

In 2007, Ted was the most consistently good starter on the Cubs. While Zambrano and Hill both have better stuff, neither was as reliable every time as Ted, who led the team with 20 quality starts. (6 or more innings pitched, 3 or less runs surrendered). Ted was also the team's stopper in 2007, as he went 9-1 in games he pitched after a Cubs loss. The only time Ted wasn't clutch for the Cubs was his start in the playoffs, when he struggled against the Diamondbacks, gave up 6 runs in 3 innings and famously slammed his glove to the mound after giving up a home run to Chris Young. Given that the whole team skipped the playoffs, I'll let him off the hook.

Ted's personality has always been one of his more aspects, from his bulldog personality on the mound to his notorious clubhouse wrestling match with manager John Gibbons when he was a Blue Jay in '06. Given that the Cubs like their starting pitchers to be well versed in hand-to-hand combat, he fits in well.

Some wonder if Ted Lilly can repeat his success of 2007 this year, but given that he's won 15 games in back-to-back years and now seems to have a grip on the control problems that have plagued him in the past, I am not among them. My bold prediction for Ted this year? 17 wins.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Yet another Change to the Roster Preview

Alright, Lou Piniella has announced that for unexplainable reasons both Cedeno and Fontenot have made the big league club, leaving Matt Murton off the roster and about to be sent to Iowa, or more likely traded (for Matt's sake I really hope he is). So adjust your scorecard so the countdown now looks like this

25. Ronny Cedeno (originally Fontenot/Fuld)
24. Marshall (originally Marshall/Hart)
23. Reed Johnson (originally Cedeno)
22. Mike Fontenot (originally Wuertz)
21. Michael Wuertz (originally Lieber)
20. Jon Lieber (originally Hank White)
19. Hank White (originally Eyre)
18. Kevin Hart (Eyre on DL)
17. Felix Pie (originally Dempster)
16. Ryan Dempster (originally Marquis)
15. Jason Marquis (originally Murton)
14. Ryan Theriot (same)
13. Bob Howry (same)
12. Daryle Ward (same)
11. Carlos Marmol (same)
10. Kerry Wood (same)
9. Geovany Soto (same)
8. Mark DeRosa (same)
7. Rich Hill (same)
6. Kosuke Fukudome (same)
5. ??

So there, that should keep things straight until the next bizarre Cubs roster decision.

F*&k Andy MacFail

God Damn, Do I hate Andy MacPhail

My God I'm a contemptible douche bag..

Alright Andy, you've made official what's been sadly obvious for months. The Brian Roberts deal is off. So really, thank you. You have officially proven that you will continue to fuck over the Cubs regardless of which major league team you are currently working (read: giving the owner a rim job) for. All sources say that the Cubs and Orioles couldn't "match up" on players. Match up? What the F*&k don't the Cubs have that doesn't match up with the Orioles? Ronny Cedeno is actually BETTER than your starting shortstop option, Luis Hernandez (if you don't see the disparity given the small number of major league at bats for Hernandez, check out the minor league stuff). Sean Gallagher would literally be your fifth starter by default. Jose Ascanio, Cerda, Donald Veal, who ever the hell else the Cubs offered would easily have been worth the trade. You already shucked off Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard, and Roberts was your last bargaining chip, unless you really think you're gonna get something for Kevin Millar.YOU NEARLY WOUND UP WITH FREDDY BYNUM AS YOUR STARTING SHORTSTOP. FREDDY BYNUM! God Damnit MacFail, learn to trade a player. Did you fail to notice that the Cubs were the Only bidder for Roberts? The ONLY one. Chances are no team at the July 31st deadline will offer you 4 prospects for Roberts, especially if he should get off to a slow start. This ranks among the greatest baseball executive blunders of all time. When the team you built, er, rebuilt, is busy working its way to its 11th straight losing season this year, Daniel Cabrera has finally managed to flame his way out of your organization (which he would have in a successful franchise 3 years ago) Jay Payton is still rotting on your bench, and Roberts has managed to score only 40 runs on one of the worst offensive team in the majors, look around at the Cubs minor leagues and wonder how many of those players would have had a chance of rescuing you sooner from your team's quagmire of despair. Christ, even Tampa Bay is supposed to have a chance this year and you're wondering whether four prospects , two of whom are considered in the Cubs top 10 prospects and one of those two being in Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects, are worth a career .281 hitter who won't be in an O's uniform past July 31st anyways? No wonder we managed to get two fucking playoff appearances out of your 15 years as Cubs President. Go to hell, where you'll probably find all of the cellar dwelling teams you've built waiting for you.

Cubs Preview 3/26/08

Roster Spot #6- RF- Kosuke Fukudome #1 (Kohs-kay Foo-koo-dough-may)
Ht: 6'0'' Wt: 190 Bats: Left Throws: Right

Insert obligatory samurai/zen-like concentration caption.

Enter the Fukudome. Since signing with the Cubs in November Fukudome has become the big story of the 2008 season. That and that whole century thing. You know the thing where its been 100 years since the Cubs won the World Series? Oh, you hadn't heard that? Me neither. Fukudome has proven popular with Cubs fans already, as many fans can be seen at spring training games wearing his #1 shirt with his last name written in Japanese Kanji script. Fukudome has also become quite popular with his teammates, who have pulled a variety of pranks on him ranging from Zambrano putting on his #1 jersey and telling Kosuke that he is #1 around the Cubs to Scott Eyre leaving a cheeseburger (?) next to his locker. What can you say, he's Scott Eyre. Cheeseburgers are apparently the only things he understands. Fukudome's name has also led to much fun for the Cubs blogosphere, as he's earned such nicknames as Fukakke (Desipio), K-Fuk (Hire Jim Essian!), and Fukker (Iggins!).

So we've established that Fukudome is now a pop culture icon for Chicago fans? But what about the player himself. Well, last year he hit .297 with 13 hrs and 48 RBIs and a .443 (!) OBP for the Chunichi Dragons of the Japanese Central League. Due to bone chips in his elbow requiring surgery, Fukudome put up those numbers in only 81 games last year. For those of you unable to do the math to figure that into a full 162 game schedule, that amounts to 26 homers and 96 RBIs (get it, you multiply by two). That followed a 2006 season where Fukudome was Cental League MVP after hitting .351 with 31 hrs and 104 RBIs with a .438 OBP in 130 games. For his career Fukudome has a lifetime .397 OBP, and has posted OBPs of .400 or better in 4 of the last 5 seasons. He is also a Gold Glove outfielder in Japan with a cannon for an arm. Exhibit A:
In the words of Iggins!, "commence the pants-shitting".

But what can Cubs fans expect in this first season out of Fukudome in the United States? Japanese hitters play in smaller ballparks and Japanese imports Hideki Matsui, Kaz Matsui, and Hideki Okajima all saw declines in their power numbers once they came to America. Personally I do not believe the power drop will be all that drastic for Fukudome playing at Wrigley Field, and see him putting up 20-25 home runs. But even if he falls below the 20 mark, if his average and OBP remain at his Japan levels he will still be extremely valuable to the Cubs lineup. Even as his spring training average has hovered around .230 Kosuke has still put up a very impressive .406 OBP in 19 games, so Cubs fans can still look forward to seeing Fukudome on base even as he adjusts his hitting style to the Majors.

Fukudome was the Cubs most important free agent acquisition in what was a rather quiet off-season for them, and he will be a huge factor in deciding what the team does in 2008. If he follows the Hideki, and not Kaz, Matsui route, the $48 million deal he signed with the Cubs will look like a bargain. If he fails, then he'll be the latest goat in 100 years of frustration. (I know, I said goat. guh.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Roster Spot #7-P-Rich Hill #53
Ht: 6'5'' Wt: 205 Bats: Left Throws: Left

Does he look kinda frightened to you? Me too.

When I previewed the Cubs before last season, I derided Rich Hill as having "the competitive fire of lime jello", and really I still stand by that statement. Rich has a 12-6 curveball and a 90s fastball that could really make him among the most dominant lefties in baseball, and the second coming of early 2000s Barry Zito, and yet he's never really cashed it in in 2 1/2 major league seasons. After a 5 game stretch in last March/April where he went 3-1 with a 1.77 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 35.1 innings, and an August/September stretch in 2006 where he went 6-3 with a 2.92, Rich has never posted an ERA below 3.99 in any of the other months. of his major league career. In 2005 and the first half of 2006 Rich failed to transfer his splendid 3.43 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 626 minor league strikeouts to the majors, as he went 0-6 in his first 16 major league games (10 starts) with an ERA of 9.25. Simply put, he couldn't control that dazzling curveball at the major league level. Rich finally put it together in August of that year and went on that dominating August/September run, had a great 2007 spring training in which he didn't walk a batter, then had that great run to start the season, after which his monthly totals for 2007 tell the maddening story of his inconsistency:

May: 1-3, 4.66 ERA June:1-1, 4.32
July: 1-1, 3.96
August: 2-1, 3.99
Sept./October: 3-1 5.08

Which left Rich with following line for 2007

32 games, 32 GS,195.0 innings, 11-8, 3.92 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 183 strikeouts, 63 walks.

Numbers which are solid for a man's first full major league season (and to be fair, Rich could have won far more games, but the team only supported him with 3.42 runs per game in his starts, which was the lowest support for any Cubs starter last year), but don't really tell the whole story of the often dominating, often disappointing Rich Hill. This spring Rich has struggled with his command and is 0-1 with a 6.11 ERA and 15 walks in 17.1 innings. That's not good, though he did a bit better today as he gave up only 2 runs, struck out 6, and walked 1 in his last spring start.

Rich is here at the number 7 spot solely due to his tremendous talent and potential and his importance to the 2007 Cubs. I believe that Rich may just be the player who will be most responsible for this team going forward this year. If Rich cashes in on his potential and wins around 15 games, the Cubs become, I believe, the best pitching team in the majors. If he falls short once more, than they'll be lucky to scratch out a playoff berth, just like last year.

Cubs Preview 3/25/08- The Aww F*&k... Reed Johnson? Special Edition

Alright, the Cubs signed Reed Johnson the former Blue Jays center fielder today to a one year deal. This means that neither Mike Fontenot or Sam Fuld will make the team out of spring training. Also Scott Eyre is injured, which means that Sean Marshall will likely make the team in the bullpen for at least the first week or so of the season. So for those of you keeping score with the previews, and I KNOW there's many of you, do the following:

1. At 25, drop both Fontenot and Fuld.

2. At 23, move Cedeno from 23 to 25.

3. Insert Reed Johnson at 23.

4. At 19, just pretend Scott Eyre doesn't exist till he comes back. When he does, it may still be necessary to close your eyes and pretend he doesn't exist whenever he pitches.

5. Sean Marshall AND Kevin Hart both made the team, so at 24, keep Marshall, and temporarily make Hart your 19.

6. Cry for Matt Murton, cry, cry, cry.

So here's addendum Roster Spot 23-

CF- Reed Johnson #9
Ht: 5'10'' Wt: 180 Bats: Right Throws: Right

Who signed me? The Cubs? Don't they have Matt Murton? That poor S.O.B.

Matt Murton lovers, look away. For here is the man who just took away Matt's final chance of starting anything anywhere. Reed was just signed to a one year deal today by the Cubs, in need of a right handed hitting center fielder who can take over for Felix against lefties, as Felix hit .111 against lefties last year. Really, though, you had to sign a guy who hit .236 last year, has a bad back, and couldn't beat out an aging Shannon Stewart? Think about this, you have two fast, strong armed corner outfielders in Soriano and Fukudome. You can't just prop Murton up in center field and hope they cover for him? Or put Fukakke in center and Murton in right? Apparently not. You need Reed F*&king Johnson.
Alright. Let's be positive about this. In 2006, his last season before the back injury Reed hit .319 with a .390 OBP. That's good. Exceptionally so. He did hit .325 last season vs. left handers, and in his career hits .308 with a .371 OBP against them. He has a 1.000 fielding percentage in 64 career starts in center field, and has 35 career outfield assists. That is far, far better than Matt Murton. Plus he does remove any fear Cubs fans may have had of ever having to see Ronny Cedeno play center field.

So....Reed Johnson. I'm still not f*&king buying it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Cubs Preview #3- 3/24/08

Roster Spot #8- 2B/3B/SS/1B/OF- Mark DeRosa #7
Ht: 6'1'' Wt:205 Bats: Right Throws: Right

I'll f*&king show that Code Red guy.

Alright, Mark. I'm a big enough man to admit when I'm wrong. I wrote you off before you ever even stepped on the field in a Cubs uniform. I laughed at the Cubs for giving you that 3 year, 13 million deal. I called you a one-year wonder, said that you'd never repeat your .296, 13 hr, 74 RBI, .354 OBP of 2006. I scoffed that you'd hit no higher than .260 I remarked that you'd be blocking Ryan Theriot at 2nd base, since he hit 30 points higher than you in '06 and would probably do it again. I went so far as to call you a right-handed Todd Walker. Todd Walker, Mark. I'm so very very sorry.

Wrong on Count 1: Mark did indeed nearly copy his 2006, posting a .290, 10 hr, 72 RBI, .371 OBP in 2007.

Wrong on Count 2: As noted, Mark did hit higher, much higher, than .260.

Wrong on Count 3: Mark did not block Ryan Theriot, as Theriot wound his way over to shortstop and teamed with Mark to give the Cubs their best middle infield in several years.

Wrong on Count 4: Mark hit 24 points higher than Theriot in 2007.

Right on Count 5: Mark IS Todd Walker.

Which one's Mark? Eh? EH?

Outside of making me look like a total Ass Clown on 4 of my 5 points, DeRosa made several other solid contributions to the 2007 Cubs. Mark's primary value, as Cubs fans learned, is in his versatility as he rotated from position to position on the field, filling in for injuries and ineffectiveness everywhere from 3rd base to right field. Mark finished the season with 149 games played, 93 at 2nd base, 37 at 3rd, 22 in right field, 9 at first, 1 in left field, and 1 at shorstop.

This spring DeRosa has had to battle trouble with a heart murmur which required surgery and the ever present Brian Roberts rumors. Now Mark, its nothing personal as you have greatly earned my respect this season, but I do hope to acquire Roberts, as he does have the one skill you lack: speed. The team needs a true leadoff hitter and Roberts would be that. But even Brian Roberts won't keep DeRosa out of the lineup, as I have no doubt Lou Piniella would find a way to get him those 93 games at some other position. I also have no doubt, this time, that DeRosa will play well.

Cubs Preview #2- 3/24/08

Roster Spot 9- C- Geovany Soto #18
Ht: 6'1'' Wt: 230 Bats: Right Throws: Right

He ain't no Robert Machado..

Quick, name the last Cub catcher you can think of who was both defensively and offensively above-average. Michael Barrett could hit but was a defensive liability at best, and more often played catcher like the Cubs had put Joe from Johnny Got His Gun behind the plate(, and also failed to block Carlos Zambrano's fist from connecting with his mouth. Todd Hundley back in 2001 and 2002 was supposd to provide offense behind the plate, but managed to hit only .187 and .211, respectively, and was shipped off to the Dodgers after earning the place of "Worst Cub of My Lifetime" in the eyes of Bad Kermit of Hire Jim Essian! and no doubt holds that spot for many Cubs fans. The 1990s featured a parade of mediocre backstops, from what was left of Benito Santiago to Scott Servais to Joe Girardi. Really, besides one freak 30 homer season from Rick Wilkins in 1993, the last Cubs catcher to combine a solid average, 20+ homer potential, and plus defensive skills was Jody Davis from 1981-1988. This year the Cubs hope to change that with rookie catcher Geovany Soto.

Soto went from minor league mediocrity all the way up to starting for the Cubs in the playoffs. After 6 season in the minors where he never hit above .271 or slugged more than 9 homers, Soto dropped over 20 pounds in the '06-07 offseason and came into spring training with the Cubs and impressed the big league staff. At AAA Iowa last year Soto tore up the Pacific Coast League, with a .353 avg., 26 hrs, 109 rbis, a .424 OBP and a .652 slugging % in only 110 games. Geovany managed to give some evidence that his minor league numbers might not have been a mirage by ripping .389 in 18 games in the majors last September, with 3 hrs, 8 rbis, a .433 OBP and a .667 slugging %.

There are many people doubting whether or not Soto can duplicate last year's success at the major league level, and they point to Soto's .217 spring training average. I for one side with those who believe in Geovany (among the Geovany boosters is my girlfriend, who I believe just likes the name Geovany) and expect big things from him. I personally also believe he'll do a great deal to balance the strikeout prone Cubs offense, as even in his mediocre minor league years he posted frequent on-base percentages in the .350 range, and never struckout more than 94 times (if that still seems high, Derrek Lee of the .400 OBP struck out 117 times last year ).

I'm not expecting Geovany to replicate his 26 homers of 2007 in the majors, at least not right away (though I wouldn't be surprised if he did), but i think a .280-.300 average, with 15-20 homers and 70-90 RBIs isn't beyond reason, which would put him well ahead of all previous Cubs catchers.

On the defensive side, Geovany had a very solid career .992 fielding percentage in the minors and in his brief call up with the Cubs last year the Cubs pitchers managed a 3.60 ERA with Geovany behind the plate, and he posted a 1.000 percentage in 16 games behind the plate for the Cubs last year.
So here's to Geovany and the hope that he can continue what we saw from him in 2007. If so he wouldn't have far to go to capture the lightly contested title of Greatest Cub Backstop of the 21st Century.

Cubs Preview 3/24/08

We enter the top ten, and thanks to another weekend I have three more to do today. So unto...

Roster Spot 10-P-Kerry Wood #34
Ht: 6'5'' Wt: 220 Bats: Right Throws: Right

Make us proud..

The news officially broke today: Kerry Wood has been named the Cubs closer for the 2008 season. We can only hope that this is the start of the second glorious phase of Kerry's career, where he becomes a superstar once more, albeit in a different role than originally imagined. We all remember Kerry Wood as a starter. The 71 wins, the fastest ever to 1,000 strikeouts, the domination of Atlanta in the '03 playoffs, and of course, the 20 strikeout game. At ten years old I watched with the rest of Cubs fandom as the 20 year old rookie Kerry pitched what I would argue to be the most dominant pitching performance in history. There have been perfect games, of course, which Wood's was not. There have been no hitters, yes, and Wood did give up one dribbling grounder to future Cub Ricky Gutierrez that I still feel should have been ruled an error, but in no perfect game or no hitter has any pitcher approached 20 strikeouts. The only other man to do it is the man who has done it twice, Roger Clemens, a man now slandered with steroid accusations. On that day in May of 1998, Kerry was as powerful as any pitcher could dream of being, and I will maintain until someone does better that I watched the greatest game ever pitched that day. For those of you who didn't see it, here's a brief recap of the strikeouts:

But that was then, this is now. Its really hard to believe that its been a decade since we saw Kerry annihilate the Astros and thought that we were watching the kid who would bring us back to the promised land. A decade in which Kerry has risen and fallen again and again, only to fall prey to some other injury, some other roadblock between him, the Cubs, and glory. There were highs almost as high as the 20 K game, like his pairing with Mark Prior to take the Cubs nearly to the World Series in '03, or his duel against Roger Clemens that same year. But mostly there have been lows: the arm surgery after 98 that kept him out of the majors for all of 1999 and most of 2000. His struggles to rebuild his velocity and control. His loss of game 7 of the 2003 NLCS. His shoulder and arm problems in '05. Then came 2006, and his final arm injury that forced us all into the painful realization that we'd never see him start again for the Cubs, if we were to even see him at all. With his contract up after 2006, another surgery on the horizon, and the Cubs looking elsewhere, we thought we finally had to say goodbye to Kid-K.

But Kerry didn't leave. In a move so unlike so many of the greedy, me-only baseball players of today, Kerry told the Cubs to pay him what they felt he was worth, and steeled himself to face his next surgery and return to the Cubs as a bullpen ace. In something so bizarre to the modern athlete, and so rewarding to the fans, he stated that he felt he owed Us something, and carved in stone his place as the pitcher every Cubs fan would always root for. In 2007 he worked his way back, rehabbed his shoulder through a recovery period that was at one point so painful he nearly called the Cubs to tell him that he was going to retire. But return he did, to a standing ovation on an August night at Wrigley Field. 22 times he took the mound for the Cubs from August to the end of the season, working his way into a valuable setup role by going 1-1 with 3.33 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 24.3 innings.

As spring training started Kerry entered the closer competition with Marmol and Howry, though no one questioned who most Cubs fans were rooting for. Kerry did not disappoint this spring, as his fastball popped the mitt once more at 98 mph. In 10 innings Kerry struckout ten batters and posted a 3.60 ERA, and despite the health questions popping up once more after a one day bout with back spasms, he proved he could pitch on back -to-back days and locked down the role he seemed destined to from the moment his arm failed him as a starter.

So once more the dance begins. This is, in all probability, the last chance for Kerry to claim the greatness that once seemed inevitable for him. I for one believe he will succeed. But when it comes to Kerry Wood, just like all other aspects of being a Cubs fan, it was always about believing.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The "NO" Bears draft pick at #14 of the day

Ryan Clady, OL- Boise State or
Jeff Otah, OL- Pittsburgh or
Chris Williams, OL- Vanderbilt

fat guy

This would be a terrible pick, despite what seems to be popular opinion. Here are the reasons why:

1) Yes, we need offensive linemen, but what we need more is a running back. Our current RB situation is at best mired in mediocrity and at worst completely inert. There has only been one instance in recent memory in which a line has been more important than it's running back and that was in late 90s-early 00s Denver.

2) ONE offensive lineman will change absolutely nothing. We already have a Pro Bowl center and two other better-than-average linemen in John Tait and Roberto Garza. Yes, the other two positions are vacant (almost literally), but we need two (more like 3 for when Tait finally retires) and the #14 pick can only get us one.

3) The most conservative projections have us picking at best the #3 lineman on the board, and most have us picking the 4th or 5th best. The 14th pick in the draft should NOT be used on a player who is 4th or 5th best at their position in a draft. With Rashard Mendenhall or Brian Brohm the Bears would be picking the second best player at their positions which is a much better use of their pick and would give them much greater value. To give a better sense of this, in the last 5 drafts the number 14 pick would have garnered the number 2, 2, 2, 2, and 3rd best lineman in the draft. Settling for this would be foolish.

4) The difference between a first round lineman and a second or third round lineman is negligible beyond the first 1 or two lineman. Much of it is all about technique and the Bears can train a lineman to use proper technique, especially with their veteran line.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cubs Preview 3/20/08

Roster Spot 11- P- Carlos Marmol #49
Ht:6'2'' Wt: 180 Bats: Right Throws: Right

The last thing you see before you head back to the dugout..

Cubs fans came to the consensus last year that Carlos Marmol is The Balls. After bouncing back and forth between starting and relief as a rookie in 2006, to the tune of a 5-7 record, a 6.08 ERA, and an ugly 1.688 WHIP, Marmol was called up in early May of 2007 after an injury to Ryan Dempster and locked his place in the Cubs bullpen with scoreless innings in his first ten games. Marmol spent the rest of the season combining his high 90s fastball with his nasty slider to wind up as the Cubs #1 setup guy, making 59 appearances totalling 69.3 innings, and and going 5-1 with a 1.43 ERA and a dominant 1.096 WHIP. Marmol also struck out 96 batters vs only 35 walks in those appearances, for a ridiculous 12.46 strikeouts per 9 innings ratio.

This spring Carlos was one of the three candidates for the Cubs closer job with Kerry Wood and Bob Howry. Cubs manager Lou Piniella has all but stated that Kerry has the job. Some fans disagree with this move, citing Wood's frequent injuries and Marmol's skill set. I don't want to sound like Dusty Baker, but really there's no reason not to make Kerry the closer. He's got experience, especially in the playoffs where he's 2-2 with a 3.79 ERA and once singlehandedly pitched the Cubs past the Atlanta Braves in 2003, and besides, declaring Kerry the closer has no effect on Marmol's availability. If Wood is the closer and Marmol is his badass set-up man, Carlos is there to take the job if Wood struggles or gets hurt, but you might as well give the veteran who has given the Cubs almost a decade of service through injury after injury a chance.

Having Marmol in the bullpen in any role is one of the Cubs greatest weapons this year. As I mentioned back in October, almost every team that makes a pennant run the last few years seems to have at least one young phenom in the bullpen. The '02 Angels had a young K-Rod, the '05 White Sox had Bobby Jenks, the 2006 Cardinals had Adam Wainwright and their opponent in the World Series the Tigers had Joel Zumaya, and last year's Red Sox had Jonathan Papelbon. The Cubs have Marmol, and hopefully he'll be a key part of seizing the pennant this year.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Cubs Preview 3/19/08

Roster Spot 12- 1B/OF- Daryle Ward
Ht: 6'2'' Wt: 240 Bats: Left Throws: Left

Awwwww Yeaaaaahhh...

Current Cub backup 1st baseman/outfielder/pinch hitter extraordinaire Daryle Ward is the player on the roster considered the preseason favorite for the Matt Stairs Award. Daryle has a lot in common with Matt in his hefty size, his relative lack of starting time yet winning record, and his jolly behavior. Daryle also bears a great resemblance to the loveable Randall Simon, a man who was also a lefty-hitting portly first baseman that hit several key homers for the 2003 Cubs while whacking at everything that ever thought about coming near the plate. Cubs fans fond memories of both Stairs and Simon pegged Daryle as a fan favorite before he ever stepped to the plate. His performance last season sealed his place among Cubs fans favorite fatties ever.

Daryle's 2007: 79 games, 110 at bats, .327 avg., 3 hrs, 19 rbis, .436 OBP, .527 slugging.

Daryle's primary role on the Cubs was that of a pinch hitter, as he only started in 19 of his 79 games, 9 of which came at first base during Derrek Lee's neck injury early in the season and his 5 game suspension for brawling with Chris Young, and 10 in the outfield during one of Cliff Floyd's various stints on the DL. Daryle has mastered the role of National League DH quite well. Not only did he hit .327 last year as a part-time player, but as you can see he had a great OBP which would have lead the team had it qualified and he struck out just once more than he walked (23 to 22).

Daryle not only rarely played the field, but after hitting or walking his way to first base, he frequently found himself pinch-run for by Ronny Cedeno or Felix Pie. At one point Andy Dolan of nicknamed Daryle "The Fat Kangaroo" for as he said "That’s how he got his nickname. He’d get to first, pull little Ronny Cedeno out of his pouch, leave him on first and hop to the clubhouse for some Danish. " This spring Daryle is once again confirming his badassitude by hitting a whopping .478 with 2 hrs and 8 rbis, and has tried to make a case for more playing time as a regular this year. Until he's starting, though, Cubs fans can count on seeing the Kangaroo hop from the bench when the game is on the line.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cubs Preview 3/18/08

Roster Spot 13- P- Bob Howry #62
Ht: 6'5'' Wt: 220 Bats: Left Throws: Right
In 2005 the Cubs suffered greatly trying to hold leads in the 7th and 8th innings. While Ryan Dempster had the best year of his closer career, going 33 of 35, more often than not games were blown before Dempster even had a crack at nailing them down. The combination of LaTryoy Hawkins/Roberto Novoa/Todd Wellemeyer/Will Ohman/Mike Remlinger proved vastly inept at getting leads to the 9th inning. So the Cubs response to their 79-83 finish in '05 was to make three big off-season moves: trade for Juan Pierre to lead-off, and sign Bob Howry and Scott Eyre to big contracts totalling 33 million, the largest contracts ever given to set-up men.

In 2006, with the team crapping itself all around them, Bob and Scott were bright spots, especially Bob, as he went 4-5 with a 3.17 ERA in a team-leading 84 appearances. Many felt that manager Dusty Baker overused Bob and Scott Eyre in a lost cause and shouldn't have put so much stress on their arm by forcing then to make 84 and 78 appearances, respectively, rather than allowing some of the Cubs young pitchers to gain experience. Baker claimed that he wasn't used to "not playing to win", which is odd, as he should have been well used to losing at that point.

In 2007 both Bob and Scott showed the effects early in the season of Dusty's abuse in 2006. While I mentioned Scott's horrendous first half numbers in his article, Bob fared only a little better, posting a 4.68 ERA in 39 first half appearances. Like Scott, Bob improved after the All Star Break with a 1.85 ERA in 39 second half games. Bob finished with a solid line of:

78 games, 81.1 innings pitched, 6-7, 3.32 ERA. 72 strikeouts, 19 walks.

In his two seasons with the Cubs Bob has been a model of consistency and reliability that their bullpen frequently lacks. This spring with Dempster being moved to the rotation Howry was part of the three man competion for the closing spot with Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol, but since has dropped out of the race with an ugly 0-1, 11.81 ERA record in 6 appearances. While his spring numbers have generated a great deal of anxiety among Cubs fans, I'll give Bob the benefit of the doubt for now and base my judgement on his consistent regular season numbers. If he stays close to his career norms, Bob will once again be the Cubs go-to guy in the 7th inning.

Cubs Preview #3- 3/17/08

Roster Spot #14- SS- Ryan Theriot #2
Ht: 5'11'' Wt: 175 Bats: Right Throws: Right

Oh Ryan..if love for the game was a stat you'd be MVP

If I had to pick one players as the 2007 Cubs MVP, it would be Ryan Theriot. With his combination of Grit, Hustle, Sticktoitiveness, Exuberance, Scrappiness, and overall adorability, he was the key to the Cubs winning the division. I mean gosh, yeah, he didn't really hit THAT great, but he's just a "winning" type of ballplayer, I mean, and he's SOOO Cute.

F&%k That.

Look, I like Ryan Theriot. Most Cubs fans like him. He's a nice kid who has done more than was expected of him and plays hard every day. He's not a superstar as the teenage girls and the blue collar morons in the bleachers at Wrigley will tell you, he's not the Cubs key player, and hustle, despite the common myth, does not win ballgames. The people who argue for Ryan's greatness based on hustle are the same people who defended Neifi Perez. They're the ones who get on Aramis Ramirez every year for not running out every single groundball. Yeah, Aramis isn't a "hustler". All he does is average 31 homers and 106 rbis every year. I'll take it.

Ryan hit .266 last year. That's fairly mediocre. As was his play at shortstop where, while he was a huge upgrade from Cesar Izturis and Ronny Cedeno, he didn't exactly remind anyone of Ozzie Smith, given that his arm strength is somewhere between a 12 year old girl and Shane Matthews.

Ryan does have some great qualities, he has tendency to have long at bats, he had a great strikeout to walk ratio, having struck out only 50 times last year and walked 49, and he's an adequate base stealer after stealing 28 bags last year. But he's not the answer to the lead-off problem for the Cubs, and those people who've been clamoring for him to take over the spot from Soriano are ridiculous ( and don't try and point out that that's just what Lou has done the last week, because that move was made to get Soriano used to the two spot before the arrival of Roberts. If we don't get Roberts, Soriano will be back at #1 by opening day. I guarantee it). By what statistic does Theriot merit being the lead-off hitter over Soriano? Batting Average? Al hit .299, Theriot .266. On Base Percentage? Al's- .331, Theriot's- .326. In every measurable stat but stolen bases Soriano is better than Theriot, so get over it.

So quit freaking out about him and look at him for what he is- a decent fielding, decent hitting, decent running player. A DECENT player. He'll probably bat 7th this year if we acquire Brian Roberts, and Cubs fans shouldn't bemoan his fate. In the 7 spot he's a valuable hitter, in the lead-off spot or two hole he's a guy that's only giving Lee/Ramirez a chance to drive him in 32 percent of the time. There, I said it.

Cubs Preview #2- 3/17/08

Roster Spot 15- OF- Matt Murton #19
Ht: 6'1'' Wt: 220 Bats: Right Throws: Right

Murton ready to unleash the power of his massive thighs.

You know, it really has to suck to be Matt Murton. In 2003 Matt is selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 1st round of the MLB Draft. As a first rounder Murton obviously has a bright future in an organization about to win its first world series in 86 years. In his rookie year in low A ball, Matt hits a respectable .286 with a very respectable .375 OBP in 53 games, getting his professional career off to a great start. In 2004 Matt moves to high A ball and hits .301 with 11 hrs, 55 rbis, and an impressive .371 OBP in 102 games to start the season. Surely he's got to be one of the bright spots of the Boston farm system? Nay. The Red Sox flip him to the Cubs as an afterthought to the Nomar Garciaparra trade. Bummer #1 for Matt.

But you know what, new organization, new chance, perhaps Matt wouldn't have had a chance to make his ML debut in 2005 with the defending World Champions. So he bides his time with the Cubs AA West Tennessee Diamon Jaxx for 78 games, hitting a robust .342 with a .403 OBP, 8 hrs, 46 rbis, and 18 stolen bases. And then it happens: the Cubs send struggling center fielder Corey Patterson down and call up Matt Murton and his best friend from West Tennessee, Adam Greenberg. Matt makes his major league debut July 8, 2005 against the Florida Marlins and goes 2-2 with a double, a walk, and a sacrifice fly in a 9-6 Cubs win. Matt's friend Adam makes his debut the next day and gets hit with a fastball in the head, is concussed, later suffers from post-concussion syndrome, and is forced to retire from baseball two years later. Matt may envy him. Matt follows up his debut by playing in 25 games between July 8 and August 16 and hitting .339 with a .415 OBP, 1 hr and 4 rbis. So now young Matt has found his way to rookie stardom with the Cubs, right?

Wrong. In August the Cubs interim center fielder Jerry Hairston, Jr. is hurt and the Cubs decide to call Corey Patterson back to the minors, and, in a move that will never make sense to anyone other than Dusty f*&king Baker, send Murton down to AAA Iowa, where Matt hit .353 with a .421 OBP in 9 games before Baker's stupidity is overruled and Matt is called back up to the Cubs and finishes the season with a final stat line of:

51 games, 140 at-bats, .321 avg., 7 hrs, 14 rbis, .386 OBP, .521 slugging, 2 stolen bases.

So Cubs fans cry foul at Dusty's refusal to give Matt a signficant role in 2005 and Dusty makes Matt the starting left fielder for the Cubs in 2006. Matt responds with the following line:

144 games, 140 ABs, .297 avg., 13 hrs, 62 rbis, .365 OBP, .444 slugging, 5 stolen bases.

His batting avg. was the highest (qualified) on the team, while his OBP was 2nd. Pretty good first full season, eh? Surely Matt has secured his place in the lineup?

Nay. Before the 2007, while swearing that Matt shall remain the starting left fielder, the Cubs sign Alfonso Soriano (ostensibly to play center field) and Cliff Floyd to "back up" Matt. As it happens Matt bats only .252 with 1 hr in the first half, is moved first from left field to right field as Soriano shifted from center to left and Jacque Jones shifted from right to center, then is benched in favor of Cliff Floyd. On June 13, after nearly 2 years in the Majors, Matt is sent down to AAA Iowa for over a month before returning to the Cubs on July 27. Matt played better in a back-up role after his return, batting .310 with 7 hrs and 14 rbis. in the second half. Matt's 2007 numbers:

94 games, 235 ABs, .281 avg., 8 hrs, 22 rbis, .352 OBP, .438. slugging, 1 stolen base.

After the season the Cubs let Cliff Floyd leave as a free agent. Perhaps opening the door for Matt to start again in right field? Nay. On December 11, 2007 the Cubs sign Japanese right fielder Kosuke Fukudome to a $48 million, 4 year deal. Fukudome is a four time Gold Glove winner in Japan, as well as the 2006 Japanese Central League MVP and will be the Cubs every day right fielder, leaving Matt Murton once again totally screwed.

This spring Matt is hitting .359 with a .410 OBP, and has been mentioned in just about every single trade rumor involving the Cubs.

Matt Murton- The World's Unluckiest Player.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cubs Preview- 3/17/08

Sorry for the delay over the weekend, but I am home on spring break with the girlfriend and she kept me away from the computer, but at least I used the time off to convert her from the dangerous waters of Red Sox fandom and have educated her enough that she can name the Cubs starting lineup and rotation. So I've got that going for me. Anywho, on with the previews, of which I must do three..

Roster Spot 16- P- Jason Marquis #21
Ht:6'1'' Wt: 210 Bats: Left Throws: Right

If its May, that's a strike. If it's August, Duck.
For Jason Marquis' entry, I've decided to a pro/con on why you should like/hate Jason

Jason won 12 games last year.

Had a 5.73 ERA after the All-Star Game last season.

When I made it to Wrigley last season for the only game I saw live, Jason pitched and hit a home run against the White Sox.

In that game Jason gave up 5 runs and got a no decision after being bailed out by Derrek Lee's grand slam.

Jason has pitched well this spring with an ERA of 2.00 in 3 starts.

Jason has shown disdain for the idea of a competition for a rotation spot and said early in spring training that if he did not win a spot he would like to be traded.

Lowered his ERA by nearly a 1 1/2 runs from 2006 to 2007.

2006 ERA was 6.02.

Has an impressive (for a pitcher) .224 batting average.
Con: Hit just .151 last year.

Could be traded for Brian Roberts

Has not been traded for Brian Roberts yet.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Cubs Preview 3/14/08

Roster Spot 17- P- Ryan Dempster #46
Ht: 6'2'' Wt: 215 Bats: Right Throws: Right


I knew I'd eventually have to do the Dempster article, and I'd have to face the two polar opposites of Cubs fans regarding Dempster:

1) He's a complete and total abomination of a pitcher who only made it as a closer for three seasons due to luck, he's not funny at all and should never do a Harry Caray impersonation ever again, he sucked as a starter the first time around and shouldn't be tried again, and he should be shot.

2) He's a great closer who just shouldn't be used in non-save situations, he converted a higher percentage of his saves last year than Mariano Rivera, he's fan friendly, and he is hysterical, I love his impersonation of Harry Caray.

The simple fact is, I don't like Dempster. Even in '05, when he had a good era and went 33 of 35 in saves, I never trusted him. I didn't feel confident with him at any point last year. But I don't hate him. He was a serviceable stop-gap closer between the time Joe Borowski's arm and LaTroy Hawkin's brain exploded, and Kerry Wood/Carlos Marmol being ready to take over the job. I think even if the Cubs weren't trying to make him a starter he'd have already been replaced as a closer, not so much for being ineffective but for not being Marmol or Wood. What all Cubs fans seem to agree upon is that Dempster should NOT be made into a starter again. It's pretty easy to see why when one look at his stats as a starter:

162 games started (what a coincidence), 988.2 innings pitched, 6.1 innings per start, 51-58, 4.99 ERA, 809 strikeouts, 517 walks, 1.56 WHIP.

In his 6 games as a starter for the Cubs in 2005: 33.2 innings pitched, 5.5 innings per start, 1-3, 5.34 ERA, 36 strikeouts, 22 walks, 1.77 WHIP.

So really, umm, those numbers suck. The Cubs seemed determined as hell to keep Jason Marquis and Sean Marshall from locking up rotation spots when Jason had an ERA that was a 1/3 of a run better last year than Dempster's career ERA, and Sean's was over a full run lower. Why they seem so determined on giving Ryan a chance to give up runs in the early innings rather than the 9th I don't know. Maybe they're thinking that they'll have the second coming of John Smoltz and he'll be able to be a better starter after a stint as a closer than he was before. Except Smoltz was a damn good starter the first time, a damn good closer, and an even better starter after. Dempster was a mediocre at best starter, then a mediocre at best closer, and most likely a mediocre at best starter again. Sure, Ryan has the talent. His fastball is good, his slider can be devastating when working, but with his high number of walks and his high WHIP he just doesn't make sense in the starting or closing roles. Make him a long reliever and maybe everyone's happy. Or trade him. I don't know.

The Cubs point to Ryan's spring numbers as hope that he'll prove an effective back of the rotation starter, as he's gone 2-0 with a 3.00 era in 3 starts this spring. Cub fans might as wel latch on to this hope as well, because its looking like he's gonna be there that first week of April.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Roster Spot 18- CF- Felix Pie #20
Ht: 6'2'' Wt: 170 Bats: Left Throws:Left balls
For today's preview of the Cubs top position player prospect and current front runner for the center field starting job, I decided to interview Felix Pie himself.

Code Red: So, Felix, tell me why you merit the starting job over Sam Fuld or a trade acquisition, say, Coco Crisp?

Felix: Mang, have you ever seen Sam Fuld hit a ball? No, you ain't. I'm hittin .329 this spring with two homers.

Code Red: But last year in the majors you only managed a .215 average with a .271 obp.

Felix: Yeah, and Sam managed a .000. Woop ti fucking do. And Coco Crisp? That guy hit .268 and struck out 85 times with a mediocre .330 obp, better than my numbers, yeah, but this team needs another right-handed hacker like I need another twisted testicle.

Code Red: So you feel you deserve the starting job in center?

Felix: Yeah, I mean I'm a top prospect, I've spent four full years in the minors, hit well at every level, and have played well this spring. Oh, and I ALMOST LOST A F&%KING TESTICLE FOR THIS TEAM! Come on! Did you Hear the description of what I had to have done? "The surgery involves sewing the outer layer of the testicle to the scrotum wall. The Cubs said it was a minor procedure, and if the problem was not corrected soon, Pie would risk losing the testicle."Mother fucking SEWING my nut. SEWING! I got my nuts sewed for this team! I mean shit, what would you do if Grandma came in with her knitting needles and told you you could play major league centerfield, but she had to weave your boys into a scrotum quilt! I did that for this team! and they called that a minor procedure? Are they calling the risk of me losing my sack a minor risk or are they just saying my boys are minor, because neither's true damnit.

Code Red: Ok I can see this is a "teste" subject for you..

Felix: Oh, you're fucking hilarious man, yeah, you're great. Man, fuck you.

Code Red: So how do you respond to those people who say that with your strikeouts and low obp and the fact that you wear the same number that you're really just the second coming of Corey, I'm sorry, Korey Patterson.

Felix: Corey Patterson? That bitch? Man I am leagues ahead of that guy. Literally, leagues, as in AA and AAA. Corey played 2 1/2 season in the minors and didn't hit above .261 after A-Ball, then got shot ahead to the majors. I've spent almost 6 full season in the minors and I never hit below .283 at any level, and had a .300 career average. My obp in the minors? .355.
Corey's? .334. Last year in the majors I had a 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio as a rookie. Corey's rookie year? 5.5:1 and his career for a whole is 4.6:1. Alright, yeah, I had a little trouble hitting as a rookie, but man give me a fucking chance.

Code Red: Well you certainly make a compelling argument for the starting job Felix. How do you feel about Ronny Cedeno taking some innings in center field this spring to possibly be your backup?

Felix: Cedeno? Ronny Cedeno? Christ, that guy's so retarded I saw him sniffing his jock the other day and sticking his tongue in there out of curiosity. I'd send him to Baltimore even if they don't send Roberts back.

Code Red: Felix, you have my vote.

Felix: Thanks, mang.