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Monday, April 28, 2008

The Roster of Broken Dreams

In the game of baseball, there are two ways to build a team that can win consistently each year. One way is what most refer to as the "Yankee" method, where you just throw a heaping wad of cash at every top tier free agent and stock your roster with the whores that say yes, or acquire acquire star players in trades from small market teams that can't afford them any longer. The other way is to develop young players acquired in the draft, signed as amateurs, or prospects picked up from other teams in trades. This method has proven largely successful over the last decade or so for such teams as the Oakland A's, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Florida Marlins, and Minnesota Twins. As far as these two methods apply to the Cubs, the first method has, up until the last few years, been largely ignored as the Cub methods regarding free agency typically involve waving small amount of cash at the top tier free agents, then signing Ron Coomer when the star players decline. As unsuccessful as the Cubs have been in the free agent game, however, their player development failures far surpass all others. The last starting quality position player the Cubs developed was Mark Grace, who made his major league debut in 1988. 1988 happens to be the year I was born. Since the jury is still out on whether such players as Ryan Theriot, Ronny Cedeno, Geovany Soto, and Felix Pie will have sustained success at the major league level, this essentially means that in my Entire lifetime the Cubs minor league system has failed to produce one successful position player.Therefore, as a testament to this glorious failure in player scouting and development, I have compiled a 25 man roster of 13 position players and 12 pitchers who have been brought up to the majors by the Cubs during my lifetime and failed horrendously. This list was compiled mostly through debate and vote over on the Hire Jim Essian! shoutbox, and is by no means a scientific or concrete list. So here I present to you the roll call of busts that has been labeled "The Roster from Hell", "Reason's to Fire Jim Hendry", "MacPhail's Navy", "The SBUCs", "The Bizarro Cubs", and so on.

Note:The statistics that you see next to each player's name are not, in fact, actual statistics they put up in their career, but a 162 game projection from Baseball Reference, which analyzes data and gives you a relative idea of what you could expect from each position player if he started for a full year. The results are terrifying. I also apologize for the length of this long, long, long article

Catchers- The catching position is interesting, as the Cubs have produced relatively few failures at this position. They've also produced no successes since Joe Girardi, thus proving that Cubs catching prospects are often bad enough that they fail to even make the majors.

Starter- Damon Berryhill- .240/11/61/.288/.368

Berryhill was the 1st round pick of the Cubs in the 1984 draft, and was envisioned as the successor to Jody Davis. Berryhill made his major league debut in 1987 and spent that season as as Davis's backup. After splitting time with Davis throughout the first half of 1988, Davis was shipped to the Braves and Berryhill was made the starter. Berryhill hit just .259 with 7 homers and a meager .295 OBP in 95 games in 1988, and would lose his starting job to the rookie Girardi in 1989. Berryhill hit .189 in back to back seasons with the Cubs as Girardis backup before being traded to the Braves like his predecessor.

Reserve-Rick Wrona - .244/6/37/.267/.345

Wrona was a fifth round pick by the Cubs in the 1985 draft, and zipped through their minor league system, making the majors in just his third year of pro ball. The rushed development showed, however, as Wrona never started more than 27 games in his major league career, and hit only 3 career home runs.

First Base- Fortunately for the Cubs, Mark Grace was a mainstay at first base from 1988-2000, thus leaving them with a mere three year window from 2001-2003 in which they had to try their own miserable prospects at first before they manged to swindle Derrek Lee from the Marlins before the 2004 season.

Hee Seop Choi- .240/18/54/.349/.437

Hee Seop Choi was signed by Cubs Far East scout Leon Lee, father of Derrek, in May of 1999. The 6'5'' Choi was sent to play for the Lugnuts and posted a stellar .321/18 hr/70 RBIs/.422 OBP/.610 Slug. line in just 79 games that year with a 1.032 OPS. After posting OPS of .902, 1.042, and .931, in various stops throughout the minors, Choi got the Opening Day start for the Cubs in 2003 after a brief 24 game call up the previous season. After a decent first half in which the left-handed Choi had 7 homers and a .379 OBP while platooning with righty Eric Karros, Choi collided with pitcher Kerry Wood during a game against the Yankees, was placed on the disabled list, and failed to recover after returning. Even before the injury, however, Choi had shown an inability to turn on an inside pitch, leaving a glaring hole in his swing which opponents frequently took advantage of. After finishing 2003 with a .218/8 hr/28 RBIs/.350 OBP/.421 slug., the Cubs were able to deal Choi to the Marlins along with pitcher Mike Nannini in order to acquire Derrek Lee. Lee has been a two-time All Star, two-time Gold Glove winner, and has won batting title in his time with the Cubs. Choi was traded by the Marlins to the Dodgers midway through 2004, wound up on their bench, and was released in 2006. Choi is now back in Korea.

Julio Zuleta-.247/18/74/.309/.466

During the 2000 season, as Mark Grace was playing out what would be his final Cubs season, the Cubs called up 25 year old rookie Julio Zuleta to the majors. Zuleta had signed with the Cubs as an 18 year old in 1993, and after toiling in the low minors with little success for several years, he absolutely crushed minor league pitching in stops in A, AA, and AAA in 1998(.331 avg./18 hr/106 RBI/.385 OBP/.509 Slg.), 1999 (.295/21/97/.342/.519), and 2000 (.311/26/94/.362/.579). Zuleta had three call-ups with the '00 Cubs in April, May, and September. He mashed the ball well in 30 games, hitting .294/3/12/.342/.544. "Zoo-Doo" then earned a place on the Opening Day roster for 2001 as the righty-hitting partner to lefty Matt Stairs. In 49 games with the '01 Cubs, Zuleta obliterated the high hopes held for him and posted a paltry .217/6/24/.288/.415 line. With the Cubs unexpectedly in a playoff race, Zuleta was sent down to Iowa in June, the Cubs traded for Fred Fucking McGriff, and Julio would never appear in the majors again. He is currently playing baseball in Japan where he has hit 137 homers in parts of 5 seasons.

Second Base- Much like Mark Grace at first, the long and successful career of Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg at second until 1997 meant that the Cubs only had a few years in which to screw up the middle infield with their own prospects. Since 2003, capable veterans (Grudzielanek, Walker, DeRosa) have mostly filled the position, so the Cubs presented just two serious prospects as possible full time starters at the position between 1998-2002. Both failed.

Starter- Bobby Hill-.262/4/38/.343/.350

If the Cubs have ever spoonfed us bullshit on any prospect more than they did with Bobby Hill, I'd be amazed. The Cubs 2nd round pick in 2001 was supposedly some kind of damn Wunderkind, and thus this justified moving him up the big league club in 2002, after only 60 games in A and AA ball in 2001. Hill had a great spring training in 2002, but Don Baylor, attempting to be smart, left Hill with AAA Iowa and went with Delino DeShields at second. Unfortunately Delino DeShields turned out to be Delino DeShields and the Cubs bowed to the pressure to bring up Hill in May. Showing the effect of his premature call-up, Hill posted a .182/2/7/.294/.284 line in 30 games before being sent down in late June. Hill was, however, called up in July and in the second half posted a .314/2/13/.358/.451 line in 29 games, for an overall .253/4/20/.327/.374 line. Hill was unable to follow up his strong second half, however, and lost the starting 2nd base job in spring of '03. Hill was unimpressive at Iowa in 2003 and was traded to Pittsburgh for Aramis Ramirez. After three mediocre seasons with the Pirates, Hill was swapped to the Padres. After one year in the Padres system in 2006, Hill was out of pro baseball at 28 years old. Latest rumors have him supposedly playing for the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League.

Reserve- Chad Meyers- .208/0/14/.281/.259

Before Bobby Hill, there was Chad Meyers. Before the 1999 season, concerns about aging Cubs second baseman Mickey Morandini were answered with the assurance that Chad Meyers was on the way. Meyers, the natural lead off hitter who had hit .301 and .290 in 1997 and 1998 with OBPs of .402 and .404 and stolen base totals of 54 and 60 respectively, was nearly ready for the majors. During the '99 season, the fears about Morandini's decline were realized as he hit just .241/4/37/.319/.329 and Meyers was called up in August. Meyers hit just .232/0/4/.292/.296 in 43 games with the Cubs during that call-up and stole just 4 bases. During call-ups in 2000 and 2001, Meyers hit just .173 and .118 and was released as the Cubs had moved on to Bobby Hill, thus crap lead to more crap.

Shortstop- the Cubs spent most of the 1980s and 1990s failing on just one shorstop prospect- Shawon Dunston. Since Shawon's numbers appear too respectable to appear on this list, that leaves a rather short list of candidates, as the Cubs much prefer to stock the shortstop position with untalented veterans rather than untalented rookies. But hey, we all enjoyed Jeff Blauser, Alex Gonzalez, Ramon Martinez, Rey Ordonez, Neifi Perez, and Cesar Izturis, right?

SS- Jose Nieves- .242/7/39/.278/.349

I'm not going to lie: This spot was reserved for Ronny Cedeno up until this last week. As Ronny appears to be (finally) cashing in on his talent and getting a clue, I will hold off on including him on this list for now. In the scramble to find another crappy Cubs shortstop prospect, the name Jose Nieves continued to pop up. Though never a highly regarded prospect, Nieves did make his debut with the Cubs in 1998 at 23 years old. Nieves inexplicably made into 54 games for the Cubs in 1999 and 82 games in 2000. During those two seasons Nieve's posted lines of .249/2/18/.291/.343 and .212/5/24/.251/.348. He was also abysmal in the field, as he made 16 errors in just 52 games at short in 1999.

Third Base- As I've been documenting on this website (and fear not, that list will be resumed when I have finished this roster), the Cubs have had a bit of a problem with finding good third baseman the last thirty years. Of the several prospects the Cubs have tried at third, two stick out from my lifetime:

Starter- Gary Scott-.160/7/39/.250/.240

I won't go in to too much detail on the failure that was Gary Scott, as he will soon get his own article on this website, but I'll touch on just a bit here. True, Gary Scott was just before my memory so most of what I know of the Gary Scott experience is secondhand accounts from other Cub fans. To hit just a few of the key points, however: Scott was a second round pick of the Cubs in 1989. After two solid minor league seasons, Scott had made his way up to #39 on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list for 1991. After a hot spring training, Scott was made the Opening Day starter for the 1991 seasons. In 31 games, Scott posted a .165/1/5/.305/.241 line. Hopes that Scott would do better in 1992 were mistaken, as he hit .156/2/11/.198/.240 in 36 games and never appeared in the majors again.

Reserve- Kevin Orie- .249/11/59/.320/.389

Kevin Orie has been covered in more than enough detail on this site, so I'll just save the space here.

Outfield- The outfield is where the Cubs have produced their greatest number of flops, and the debate over who would make the four spots on this roster was quite intense. The four finalists were:

LF- Roosevelt Brown-.251/8/49/.311/.407

Roosevelt Brown was, as mentioned by Bad Kermit in his Bottom 126 entry, what one would call a AAAA player. Too good for the minors, but too bad for the majors. A once touted Braves prospect who the Cubs had acquired in the minor league draft, Brown's career seemed to be taking off with the Cubs, as he hit .312 and .338 in the Cubs system in '97 and '98. Brown Made his majore league debut with the Cubs in 1999, with a .219/1/10/.239/.391 in 33 games. Brown played more respectably in brief stints with the Cubs in 2000 and 2001, and was made the 4th outfielder for the 2002 club. Unfortunately the Third outfielder for the 2002 Cubs was Moises Alou, whose fragility gave Rosie an Opening Day start, the 1st of 111 games he would appear in that season. In those 111 games, Roosevelt hit .211/3/23/.299/.314 and was released by the Cubs in November of 2002. He has never made it back to the majors.

CF- Corey Patterson- .257/18/63/.297/.416

Corey Patterson. The utter definition of a failed prospect. The 3rd overall pick in the 1998 draft, Patterson dazzled with his combination of power and speed so much that the Cubs overlooked his glaring lack of plate discipline and basic maturity and zipped him to the majors, as he made his debut in just his second pro season. Naturally, he sucked (.167/2/2/.239/.333, 14 K's in 11 games). In 2001 he was called up again despite less than deserving minor league numbers. He sucked again (.221/4/14/.266/.336, 33 K's in 59 games). In 2002, Patterson was handed the starting job in center field. He sucked (.253/14/54/.284/.392, 142 K's in 153 games). In 2003, Patterson got off to a hot start (.298/13/55/.329/.511,77 K's in 83 games) before blowing out his ACL. In 2004 Patterson returned healthy to high expectations. He posted his "best" season, but still mostly sucked (.266/24/72/.320/.452, 168 K's in 157 games). In 2005, the strikeout prone Patterson finally wore out his welcome with Cubs fans after a .215/13/34/.254 OBP/.348 line and 118 strikeouts in 126 games. Patterson was sent down to Iowa, complained frequently, refused to play winter ball, and was finally dealt to Baltimore. He is now back in the NL Central with the Reds, hilariously hitting .224 with a .286 OBP in the leadoff spot for Dusty's team.

RF- Jason Dubois- .233/19/55/.286/.443

In 2005 the Cubs started the season without Sammy Sosa for the first time in 13 seasons, and had to replace both him and departed free agent Moises Alou in the corner outfield spots. Somehow Cub fans actually seemed pleased with the idea that Sosa's replacement would be Jeromy Burnitz and Alou had been allowed to walk in favor a platoon of lefty Todd Hollandsworth and right handed rookie Jason Dubois. Hopes were high for Dubois, as he'd hit 31 homers for Iowa in 2004 and he had homered and tripled for the Cubs on the last day of the 2004 season after getting the last second start when Sammy balked. Dubois failed to build on the expectations created from ONE F*&KING START when he hit .239/7/22/.289/.472 in 52 games in 2005 before being jettisoned to Cleveland for the Indians own failed outfield prospect, Jody Gerut. Dubois played 14 games with Cleveland after the trade and has yet to make it back to the majors. He's currently languishing in Failed Cubs Hell (Baltimore's farm system).

David Kelton-.136/0/9/.136/.227

Dave Kelton makes this team as a 4th OF and utility infielder, as he managed to fail at third base and in the outfield. Kelton, drafted one round after Patterson in 1998, had a sweet swing that was supposed to guarantee him success in the majors. The hype was obviously overstated for a player that hit just .300 once in a 9 season professional career, and who had such glaring defensive problems at third that he needed to be moved to the outfield. Kelton made just two trips up to the majors with the Cubs, hitting .167/0/1/.167/.250 in 10 games in 2003 and .100/0/0/.100/.200 in games in 2004. Kelton was granted free agency by the Cubs after 2005, signed with the Braves, played in 48 games for AAA Richmond, and was released in June of 2006.

So there you have the position players on this tragedy of a roster. How would you make out the lineups? Mine would be-

CF Patterson
2B Hill
1B Choi
RF Dubois
LF Brown
3B Scott
C Berryhill
SS Nieves.

I call it Murdered Row. As in, if all 8 of them were to wind up dead, well, I'd not say a word.

Tomorrow: the pitching staff.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Your SKO Random Third Baseman of the Day: Bill Madlock

Name: Bill Madlock Jr.
Ht: 5'1'' Wt: 185
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 1974-1976

Oh I see, you're all too racist to call it the "Bill Madlock Curse"

Bill Madlock is the best third baseman who will appear on this list. Period. Not that its all that much of an accomplishment, as his biggest competition over 29 years was an over-the-hill Ron Cey, but it needs to be stated. Madlock is also, chronologically, the first player on this list, as he was the immediate replacement for Ron Santo starting with the 1974 season. Madlock was acquired in a trade during the 1973 offseason along with second baseman Vic Harris for pitcher Fergie Jenkins. Jenkins and the Cubs were both coming off disappointing seasons in '73, and the Cubs figured that the Canadian hurler was on the decline. Of course Jenkins went on to win 25 games for the Rangers in 1975 and would win a total of 115 in 7 seasons with the Rangers and Red Sox before returning to the Cubs for the 1982 and 1983 sesons before retiring, and of course Vic Harris would hit just .195 and .179 in his two seasons with the Cubs, proving that in any given situation you can count on the Cubs being wrong on at least 2 of 3 counts. In a surprising move, however, the Cubs were right on the third count, and Bill Madlock turned out to be a pretty damn good ballplayer.

In 1974 with the Cubs, the rookie Madlock had a .313 avg/9 hr/54 RBI/.374 OBP/.442 Slug. line as well as 11 stolen bases, and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. Madlock followed up his stellar rookie campaign by winning back to back batting titles in 1975 (.354) and 1976 (.339), which also resulted in an All Star trip for Madlock in 1975. While Madlock's defense at third was average at best, his offense more than compensated to make him a top tier player. Thus, the Cubs had to get rid of him. Before the 1977 season Madlock was traded to the San Fransisco Giants for outfielder Bobby Murcer and third baseman Steve Ontiveros, who was a poor man's version of Madlock. A very poor man.

Madlock played for 11 more seasons with the Giants, Pirates, Dodgers, and Tigers, won two more batting titles 1981 and 1983, and won a World Series with the Pirates in 1979. Madlock's four batting titles are the highest total for any third baseman behind only Wade Bogg's five.

Now you may be asking yourself, why wasn't the "Curse of Ron Santo" the curse of Bill Madlock? Well, those looking for an excuse would probably throw out race, or one could point to Madlock playing only three years in a Cub uniform, or the fact that Santo has remained a noticeable face in the Cubs franchise, and is naturally identified with third base for most Cubs fans. Another culprit would be the forgettable nature of the mid and late '70s Cubs teams. After six straight winning seasons under Manager Leo Durocher from 1967-1972, the team's longest streak of winning seasons since the 1930s, the Cubs, built around aging stars Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Santo, and Jenkins, began to decline, and by 1974 had gotten rid of Durocher and all four of those players. The result suffered ten straight losing seasons from 1974-1983. This decade of futility is sometimes regarded as the nadir of Cubs history, and attendance went into a tailspin. As a result, very few people witnessed Madlock's time in a Cub uniform, leaving him the "forgotten" third baseman, and thus the common "since Santo" complaint.

Bill Madlock: The Forgotten Man.

Defining Dustyfication

Yesterday on Hire Jim Essian, the subject of Dustyfication was broached. Now, while Dustyfication is, in principle, a known concept to all Cubs and Giants fans, a firm definition has never been compiled. While I do not, in fact, pretend to be an authority capable of creating a concrete defintion, I should like to try.

Therefore, here is my best effort:

Dustyfication (n.)- the process of eroding a team's talent through a combination of the infusion of inferior veteran talent and inept in-game management, resulting in an aging team incapable of fundamentally sound play and a hopeless situation.

Signs that your team may be being Dustyfied:

- Do you have a surplus of 2nd baseman? Are any of them good?
If the answer to the first question is yes, and the answer to the second question is no, you may very well be Dustyfied.

-Are capable, young players left rotting on the bench/in the minors while veteran players who have never started consistently in their major league career are placed in your every day lineup? Typically in the leadoff spot?
Dustyfication, my friend.

- Are talented, power armed pitchers with very little major league experience who are unused to bearing large loads of innings left out to throw 120 pitches nearly every start, resulting in arm trouble for nearly every one of them, barring those with superhuman Venezualan genetic material?

- Has your team taken a lackadaisical attitude toward defense, baserunning, and winning in general resulting in high numbers of errors and men picked off base while win totals decline?

-Is every question your manager is asked about his team's poor play/one player's struggles to show anything resembling plate discipline/a young player rotting on the bench answered with an anecdote about playing with Hank Aaron and nonsensical ramblings about "clogging bases" and overuse of the word "dude"?
You bet your ass you've been Dustyfied.

- Is your manager this guy?

At this point, Dustyfication is inevitable.

Now, what prompted this article was the following tiny little candy nougat found on the Reds website: Jerry Hairston Jr. has been called up the Reds. Now that means that Baker has managed to allow four former Cubs from his tenure on the North Side to become members of the Reds active roster: Corey Patterson, Kent Mercker, Paul Bako, and now Jerry Hairston Jr. Now, the article claims the Reds called up Hairston for, and I quote, "pop". Now, no one has ever confirmed the cut off for "pop" in the majors, but I'd have to believe a guy with a career slugging percentage of .357 (and had a .289 % last year) does not qualify. I'm sure the "pop" label is the work of Dusty himself, who also frequently talked about Neifi Perez's "pop". You know who has "pop", Dusty? Jay Bruce, your top prospect with the .561 slugging percentage in AAA. The one you sent to the minors in favor of Korey Patterson, the guy with the .270 OBP that you've put in the leadoff spot 15 times.

Now, we were the victims of Dustyfication from 2003-2006. Last year, Lou Piniella spent April, May, and June de-Dustyfying the roster, and the result has been a 77-54 record since last June, including this year's 14-6 start. Dusty's Reds currently sit at 8-12 and are losing to the Dodgers as I write this article.

There you have it Dustyfication, it hurts, but God is it funny to see it inflicted on some other poor sonsabitch's baseball team.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Your SKO Random Third Baseman of the Day: Todd Zeile

Name: Todd Edward Zeile
Ht: 6'1'' Wt: 190 LB
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 1995

Todd Zeile watches one of his pop-outs to third.

Todd Zeile is part of a very esteemed list of former players who played effectively for the St. Louis Cardinals, and then played as utter disgraces for the Cubs. This list includes such players as Dave Veres, Ernie Broglio, John Mabry, Alan Benes, and many other I care not to name. Zeile was acquired by the Cubs for Mike Morgan on June 16, 1995. At the time the Cubs were 25-21, 4 games out in both the Central and the Wild Card, and their group of third baseman included an aging and worthless Howard Johnson, and aging and even more worthless Steve Buechele, and a young and mostly worthless Jose Hernandez.

Zeile proved an utter disaster for the Cubs in the second half of 1995, as he hit just .227 avg./9 hrs/ 30 RBIs/.271 OBP/.371 Slugging in 79 games. He also fielded the ball like his glove was made of iron and threw with Cade McNownish accuracy. The result was 11 errors in just 75 games played at third, for a .939 fielding percentage.

Now, normally you'd just dismiss Zeile as a trade gone bad. I, however, suspect sabotage. At the time of his trade, Zeile had a .291 avg./5 hrs/22 RBIs/.378 OBP/.457 slugging line with the Cardinals. Just two years before he had 103 RBIs for St. Louis. In 1996 Todd hit 25 homers for the Phillies and Dodgers. Clearly, Todd deemed it his goal to take down the playoff hopes of the 1995 Cubs. Mission accomplished, Todd. Mission accomplished.

Todd retired in 2004 as the all-time home run leader. For people with a last name beginning with Z. Musta been hard with such esteemed competition as Julio Zuleta, eh Todd?

Todd has now started his own film production company, and starred in the movie Dirty Deeds. I didn't watch it. Neither should you.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Comments! Both allowed and welcome!

Thanks to a tip from one of the fine scholars at Hire Jim Essian!, I added Haloscan to the site, which now means that those of you who do not have a blogger account can leave comments. Not to sound like a shameless, attention craving whore, but please do. This ego doesn't fuel itself people. Well, it does. But it likes outside help too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Your SKO Random Third Baseman of the Day: Mark Bellhorn

Name: Mark Christian Bellhorn
Ht: 6'1'' Wt: 195
Bats: Switch Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 2001-2002

Ron Belliard and Mark Bellhorn. 'Nuff said.

Mark Bellhorn is one of the more intriguing players to appear on this list. Bellhorn started his career with the Oakland A's in 1997, and bounced back and forth between Oakland and AAA until the 2001 season. Before 2002, Bellhorn was swapped to the Cubs for the immortal Adam Morrissey. Bellhorn was an afterthought to most around the Cubs going into the season, as many expected the switch-hitting utility man to spend the season filling out the Iowa Cubs roster. Bellhorn made the team, however, and ended up being one of the few bright spots of a dreary 2002 season.

The Cubs lineup on opening day featured the aging DeLino DeShields and Fred McGriff, and the completely useless Chris Stynes, who was filling in for the completely porcelain Bill Mueller. A few starts for the versatile Bellhorn, who could play all four infield positions, seemed inevitable.

Bellhorn did indeed became a regular for the 2002 Cubs, as he started at all four infield spots and made one appearance in left field. In all, Bellhorn appeared in 146 games for the Cubs, with 109 starts, 29 of which came at third base. Bellhorn also was on-base machine, as his .374 OBP ranked second on the team behind Sosa. Cubs interim manager Bruce Kimm, in a move that would have baffled his successor, Dusty Baker, batted Bellhorn in the leadoff spot for 59 games despite Bellhorn's mediocre speed. A novel concept, this idea that your lead-off hitter should be a guy that gets on-base consistently, regardless of speed. Bellhorn also showed an almost Adam Dunn like ability to accomplish the three true outcomes, as he hit 27 homers, walked 76 times (second behind Sosa), and yet also struck out 144 times (also second behind Sosa). Bellhorn holds the Cub record for home runs in a season by a switch hitter, and set a major league record by becoming the first switch-hitter to homer from both sides of the plate in the same inning. Bellhorn's line for 2002 was:

146 games, .258 avg./27 hrs/56 RBIs/.374 OBP/.512 slug.

Bellhorn also scored 86 runs and was, as most of his stats show, the team's most valuable position player behind Sosa.

Going into the 2003 season, Bellhorn was handed the starting third base job for the Cubs, and Dusty Baker showed his always firm grasp on the importance of OBP by batting Mark Grudzielanek (.301 OBP in 2002) and Alex Gonzalez (.315 OBP) 1-2 on opening day and moving Bellhorn into the 6 hole behind the force of Hee Seop Choi. Over the next few months, however, Bellhorn struggled, and while he still got on base at a respectable .341 clip, he showed no sign of the power he once had, as he posted a .209 average with just 2 hrs and 22 RBIs and a meager .317 slugging percentage through the Cubs first 51 games, ultimately resulting in his being dropped from the lineup (bad), the hideous sight of Lenny Harris at third base (worse), the re-acquisition of Jose Hernandez (ugly), and the trade for Aramis Ramirez (good). Bellhorn was shipped to the Rockies for the aforementioned Hernandez on June 20th, and his Cub career ended.

Bellhorn was traded by the Rockies to the Red Sox before the 2004 season, where he made the team as utility infielder. After injuries to Pokey Reese and Nomar Garciaparra, Bellhorn became a starter for the Red Sox, and posted career highs in several categories on his way to winning a World Series ring. Bellhorn became a fan favorite with Red Sox fans, and those clever bastards had brilliant t-shirts saying "Don't Blame Me, I Voted for Bellhorn" and "Who Died and Made You Mark Bellhorn". The next year Bellhorn hit .210, his fan club evaporated, and he was released. The moral of the story: F&%k the Red Sox.

Bellhorn then bounced around the majors, spending the end of 2005 with the Yankees, 2006 with the Padres, and 2007 with the Reds. He is currently a free agent, and also is a youth pastor.

Mark Bellhorn: Walk, K, Homer, or Preach.

Cubs-Reds, April 16, 2008

Reds @ Cubs. 7:05 PM. Comcast SportsNet Chicago
Starting Pitchers: Chicago- Carlos Zambrano (1-1, 3.20 ERA) Cincinnati- Josh Fogg (1-1, 7.00 ERA)



CF Corey Patterson
SS Jeff Keppinger
RF Ken Griffey, Jr.
2B Brandon Phillips
LF Adam Dunn
3B Edwin Encarnacion
1B Joey Votto
C Javier Valentin
P Josh Fogg


2B Mike Fontenot
SS Ryan Theriot
1B Derrek Lee
3B Aramis Ramirez
RF Kosuke Fukudome
LF Mark DeRosa
C Geovany Soto
CF Reed Johnson (explain why here's here and not Theriot)
P Carlos Zambrano

Soriano DL'd, Patterson Recalled, Murton on Suicide Watch.

Chicago- The Cubs placed left fielder Alfonso Soriano on the DL with a calf injury today, and in a somewhat surprising move, recalled Eric Patterson from AAA Iowa over proven major leaguer Matt Murton. Patterson is rejoiced at the opportunity to play against his brother in the current series against the Reds. The Patterson parents were also invited so the family can be booed as one. Matt Murton, the natural choice to replace Soriano on the roster, was stunned by the move, and has been moved to a safehouse that has been childproofed and removed of all sharp objects.

Your Random Third Baseman of the Day: Wade Rowdon

Name: Wade Lee Rowdon
Ht: 6'2'' Wt: 180
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 1987

That unforgettable Wade Rowdon Swing.

Do you remember the Wade Rowdwon era? You don't? I don't see how you could forget his epic 11 game, 31 at-bat tenure with the Cubs on that 1987 team that made all Cub fans dare to dream...of a 76-85 finish. Teams that only play 161 games amuse me. That means that at some point in the season, you had a game that was postponed. Not only were you so far out that the game had no playoff implications for you, but you were apparently also playing a team that had no postseason implications. Meaning your team was bad enough to have as minimal an effect on the postseason picture as possible. Now who had the most minimal effect on that team? Wade Rowdon.

Wade Rowdon represents the bulk of the 83 guys (I finally counted them) who started at third for the Cubs between Santo and Ramirez. They were neither big ticket free agents who bombed, or star rookies who failed. They were just untalented, mediocre, cheap baseball players who the Cubs propped up there due to a lack of will to win. Some of them were cheap rookies, some of them were aging veteran castoffs, and many, like Wade, were no name players acquired in non-impact trades that no one will ever really note again. Wade Rowdon for Guy Hoffman wasn't exactly a block buster. It had less than marginal effects on either team, and it was quickly forgotten.

But enough of my waxing philosophical on the nature of the third base conundrum, back to the actual man himself. During his 11 game stint with the Cubs in September of '87, Rowdon started 7 games at third, Rowdon hit just .226/1 hr/4 RBI/.294 OBP/.419 slugging in that stint, but what was really notable was his defense. Or lack thereof. Rowdon contributed to the black hole of defense that was the Cubs hot corner that season. Primary starter Keith Moreland made 28 errors in 149 games started and posted a .934 fielding percentage. Backup Manny Trillo made 2 errors in just 5 games started and posted an even worse .926 fielding percentage. But Rowdon topped them all with 4 errors in just 7 games started with an .818 fielding percentage. Combined thats a .929 fielding percentage and 34 errors. All three also posted range factors that were below league average. Rookie groundball pitcher Greg Maddux went 6-14 with a 5.61 ERA that year. I'm willing to be every time a batter pulled one his pitches toward the third baseline Maddux swore and went to block the ball from getting into the dugout.

After the 1987 season the Cubs traded Rowdon to the Baltimore Orioles, who went 54-107 the next year after starting the season 0-21. Rowdon appeared in 9 of those 21 losses. Coincidence? I think not. He was sent down after April and spent most of the season in the minors before being released at the end of the year.

I couldn't find what Rowdon is doing now, though I've heard he's a minister. He apparently hosted a Christian baseball camp in Moldova though.

Wade Rowdon: So bad we sent him to Moldova.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Your SKO Random 3rd Baseman of the Day: Ron Coomer

Name: Ronald Brian Coomer
Ht: 5'11'' Wt: 195 (No one's buying that, Ron)
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 2001

The Strength.. The Skill.. The Coomer

During the 2000 season, as mentioned during the Bill Mueller article, the different third basemen the Cubs were forced to use combined to hit .224 with a .302 OBP and a tepid .712 OPS. The Cubs President and temporary General Manager, the brilliant Andy MacPhail (a favorite around these parts) "rectified" the situation by trading for Mueller and signing free agent Coomer from his former organization, the Twins. Coomer was expected to be the team's top bat off of the bench, Mueller's back up, and the right handed back up to left handed (and similarly burly) first baseman Matt Stairs, the Cubs prized free agent offensive pickup (who had posted a .221, .333, .411 line with Oakland the year before. Are you starting to figure out why this team so rarely works?) . Coomer had been a starter for the Twins from 1996-2000, and had posted decent power numbers as he averaged 13 hrs and 69 RBIs per year in his time in Minnesota. Coomer was not much of a patient hitter, however, and posted OBPs between .295 and .324 in his four full seasons as a starter, and never walked more than 36 times. The Twins made the decision to move in a different direction, and let the 34 year old sign with the Cubs.

During the first month of the 2001 season, Coomer remained on the bench where he belonged, and hit .267 with a .250 OBP in just 6 April games. Coomer was thrust into the starting job, however, after Mueller injured his knee in May, and would start end up starting over 70 games in Mueller's absence. For most of those starts, Coomer and Stairs paired together for perhaps the least athletic corner infield of all time. Coomer as a third baseman was one of those guys that always had his supporters, and they were always old guys who apparently were enamored of the fact that if he could make it as a major leaguer, so could they. They are the guys who'd throw out the same damn fact every time you'd deride him for his 7 errors and .954 fielding percentage, or the fact that his 1.89 range factor that year put him well below the league 2.17 average at third, or the fact that he could hardly ever get on base, as he posted a mediocre .316 OBP for the season.

The typical defense for Coomer was that he was "just supposed to be a backup" and "he has some pop". I've never understood the "he was just supposed to be a backup, therefore you can not boo him for sucking as a starter" argument. Bad players are bad players. Ron Coomer probably would have told you before 2001 he could start. He alone is responsible for not taking pitches, drawing walks, or having a slugging percentage above .400, therefore he deserves to be booed. As for Coomer having "some pop", that may have been true as a Twin, but it was long gone with the Cubs. Coomer's .261/8 hr/53 RBI/.316 OBP/.390 Slugging line for 2001 reaks of a lack of "pop". The only "pop" one could identify with Ron Coomer that season was this:

RC Cola- goes great with NASCAR.

The worst part about Coomer's offense is that the 2001 Cubs craved a second power hitting option behind Sammy Sosa. McGriff was busy wondering whether he wanted to leave the storied Devil Rays franchise for the upstart Cubs, Stairs was posting his lowest home run total since his rookie year, and Ricky Gutierrez was second on the team in RBIs. This dearth of power resulted in Coomer starting over 24 games each in the cleanup spot and the five spot. That mean's the guy protecting Sammy Sosa, he of the .328/64 HR/160 RBI/.437 OBP/.737 slugging was protected by a guy who failed to top double digits in home runs. Now, having a guy with less than 10 homers protect Sosa works alright when that guy is Mark Grace with his career line of .303/.383 OBP/.442 slugging. Despite what I can only imagine were similar tastes in beer, cigarettes, and women named Beth, Ron Coomer was no Mark Grace. Sosa ended 2001 with 116 walks, and 37 intentional walks. How many of those walks do you think came because the pitcher facing Sammy looked at the on deck circle and went "Holy shit, is that Ron Coomer? Nice." BALL FOUR!

After the 2001 season, the New York Yankees lured Coomer away from the Cubs. I'm not sure how you "lure" someone away by giving them a minor league contract, but I can imagine that some of the incentives in the contract included this package:

Coomer played in 55 games for the Yankees in 2002 and 69 games for the Dodgers in 2003 (posting OBPs of .290 and .299, respectively) before retiring, and is now a baseball analyst for FSN North, which carries most Twin games. And you thought it was bad that we had to deal with Dan Plesac.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cubs-Phillies April 11, 2008

Cubs (6-3) @ Phillies (4-6)
6:05 PM CT. Comcast SportsNet Chicago

Pitchers: Cubs- Zambrano (1-0, 1.32 ERA). Phillies- Brett Myers (0-1, 6.31 ERA)

Cubs- LF Alfonso Soriano
CF Kosuke Fukudome (Finally! 2 hole!)
1B Derrek Lee
3B Aramis Ramirez
RF Daryle Ward (this is gonna be good)
C Geovany Soto
2B Mark Derosa
SS Ryan Theriot
P Carlos Zambrano

Phillies- CF Shane Victorino
3B Greg Dobbs
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
LF Pat Burrell
RF Geoff Jenkins
C Carlos Ruiz
SS Eric Bruntlett
P Brett Myers

The Bear's Toughest Draft Day Decision

Draft pick of the day: ?

For as long as I can remember the Bears have used 1 draft pick, between their 2nd and 6th pick, to select a player who was spectacular in college in one way or another who for some reason fell down the draft board. Past recipients of this award have been (along with the reasons they slipped and my reaction when the Bears selected them):

2007: Garrett Wolfe, 3rd round, 93rd pick overall (Too small)
"What, the midget up the road?"
2006: Devin Hester, 2nd round, 57th overall (Didn't know what position he'd play)
"Fuckin Sweet."
2005: Kyle Orton, 4th round, 106th overall (Injury concern, bad senior year)
"NOOOOOOO!!!" (obviously I have grown to love Kyle)
2004: Craig Krenzel, 6th round, 148th overall (Bad quarterback)
"What the fuck is wrong with us?"
2003: Brock Forsey, 6th round, 206th overall (White)
"But he's white! Doesn't he know white guys can't play running back?"

So the biggest question for the Bears in this year's draft (besides why, oh God why, we wouldn't draft Rashard Mendenhall) is which successful college athlete who will slip down the draft board we will pick. Here are the best potential candidates:

QB, Brian Brohm:Louisville
QB, Chad Henne: Michigan
QB, Andre Woodson: Kentucky
RB, Ray Rice: Rutgers
RB, Jamaal Charles: Texas

My money's on Brohm in the second or Woodson in the fourth, but normally this pick surprises the hell out of me.

Your SKO Random Third Baseman of the Day: Steve Buechele

Name: Steven Bernard Buechele
Ht: 6'2'' Wt: 190
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 1992-1995

Steve Buechele, left, changes the life of Mark Grace, right, forever by excitedly discussing the fat chick he nailed the night before.

The early 90s Cubs, sadly, are the first Cubs teams that I am able to remember. That means that the first Cubs third baseman that I remember is that man pictured above. Do you ever wonder how I manged to actually form a lifelong dedication to the Cubs? Me too.

Steve Buechele was acquired from Pittsburgh by the Cubs during the 1992 stretch run, though I don't know if a team thats 40-46 and 7 1/2 games back actually Has a stretch run. The Cubs needed a veteran at third base, as Luis Salazar was rotting away and Gary Scott was..Gary Scott. Buechele was hitting .249 with a .331 OBP for the Pirates after having spent most of his career as a Texas Ranger. In 65 games with the Cubs that year, Buechele hit .276 with an underwhelming .338 OBP, and a less impressive .351 slugging percentage.

Look, I can understand the Cubs acquiring Buechele. He was an improvement over Salazar and they thought for whatever reason they needed him. Whatever. Then they made him the starter, and he had a decent season, hitting .272, 15 hrs, 65 RBIs, .345 OBP, .436 slugging. So they understandably brought him back for 1994. Then he hit just .242, with a sub-par .325 OBP, with 14 hrs, 52 RBIs, and given that his 1993 numbers were far better than his career averages and he was 33, naturally they'd assume he was done and let him go, right? Right? Wrong. Buechele was back for 1995, and rewarded the Cubs absurd faith in him being able to "rebound" with a .189, 1 hr, 9 RBI, .265 OBP, .236 slugging line in 32 games with the Cubs before being traded back to his original team, Texas and then retiring.Do you know how you get a slugging percentage that much lower than your OBP? You hit 3 extra base hits in 32 games. 3. Why did this guy have to be my first Cubs third baseman? Sonofabitch. My dad remembers Santo. My older cousins remember Cey. I got Steve f*&king Buechele.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Aww C'mon, This is Too Easy

Tonight, while watching the Gamecast of the Cardinals game to root for a Giants win that would put the Cubs only a .5 game back, I watched as Chris Duncan came to the bat, with this as his studio picture:

Say it with me: Shoooort Bus!

Random Cubs Third Baseman of the Day: Dave Hansen

Name: Dave Andrew Hansen
Ht: 6'0'' Wt: 195
Bats: Left Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 1997

How many people have Pinch Hitter listed as their primary position?

The 1997 Cubs. They of the 0-14 start, and final record of 68-94. Possibly the most abysmal Cubs team of my young lifetime, or at least a close second to the 2006 Cubs. Yes, I know they technically had a better record than the 1999, 2000, and 2002 Cubs, but the 0-14 start just sticks in the craw. I mentioned in the Kevin Orie article the controversy surrounding Manager Jim Riggleman's decision to start the rookie. The reason Riggleman was forced to start Orie? He had two other options. One was Jose K Hernandez. The other was Dave Hansen. Now one might look at Hansen's .311, 3 hr, 21 RBI, .429 OBP, .450 slugging line and say, hey, that looks good, why wasn't he starting to give Orie another year of seasoning? Well, if you look closer, you'll see that of his 90 games for the Cubs that year, 40 of them consisted of pinch-hitting appearances. Dave Hansen was a National League DH. Like Ryan Braun, even though Ryan doesn't realize it yet.

Dave's career consisted of 1230 games. 341 of those games he started. 341 of 1230. Thats means that Dave came off of the bench for 73 % of his career appearances. Jesus, even Jose Macias started half of the games he played in. I guess the moral of the story here is that Dave Hansen never played for Dusty Baker. What a way to miss the boat Dave. Spent all that time with the Dodgers and never bothered to try heading to San Fransisco. You could have asked about playing with Hank Aaron and found yourself starting 130 games a year.

So why is it a guy with a career .260 average and a career .360 OBP never could stick as a starter? In 1992, the only year of his career in which he was a full timer, Dave hit just .214 with a .286 OBP and a .299 slugging percentage. I won't drag out the kickball analogies again, but that's not good. So the Dodgers, and simultaneously all of baseball, gave up on the idea of Dave Hansen, Starter. Thus began the career of Dave Hansen, 10th man. In 13 seasons after 1992, he never made more than 43 starts in one year. In that time he developed into one of the "best" pinch hitters in major league history, with a career average of .234 as a pinch hitter, with 138 pinch hits, and a .348 OBP. The 138 pinch hits of Dave's career rank him sixth all time. Is that impressive? Not really. Look at #1. Esteemed company, Dave.

Anywho, back to the 1997 season. Orie goes down to AAA Iowa for most of May. Who gets the starts at 3rd base? Dave Hansen, who makes 38 starts, and 51 appearances there. Dave, proving that his awful rookie season on offense wasn't the only thing keeping him from being a starter at his "natural" position, makes 6 errors in those appearances for a miserable .922 fielding percentage. That ain't good. Orie comes back up to start June, and the Dave Hansen experience was no more.

After leaving the Cubs, Hansen went back to the Dodgers, then bounced around with the Padres and Mariners before retiring in 2005. He is currently the minor league hitting instructor for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Dave Hansen- Not as good as Lenny Harris or Kevin Orie. Ouch.

Jon Lieber Descends Down From Heavens, Saves Game For Cubs

It's ok to happens all the time

Pittsburgh- Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lieber, who earned his first win as a Cub since 2002 on Monday, was scene surrounded in an immaculate glow of heavenly light as he walked to the mound from the bullpen on Friday night. Proving that he may just be the team's third best starting pitcher, despite being the one not actually in the rotation, Lieber pitched 4 1/3 innings of shutout ball for the Cubs after relieving pants-wetting starting pitcher Rich Hill. After the Cubs scored 5 runs in the 6th inning to overcome a 3-2 deficit, Lieber was able to earn his second win of the season. With the 7-3 win the Cubs improve to 6-3 on the season.

Cubs-Pirates, April 10, 2008- The "you guys wanna try and wrap this one up in 9?" Edition

Cubs (5-3) @ Pirates (3-5)
6:05 PM on WGN
Starting Pitchers: Cubs- Rich Hill (0-0, 3.00 ERA). Pirates- Matt Morris (0-0, 5.40)


Cubs- LF Soriano
2B Fontenot
1B Derrek Lee
3B Aramis Ramirez
RF Kosuke Fukudome
C Geovany Soto
SS Ryan Theriot
CF Felix Pie
P Rich Hill

Pirates- CF Nate McClouth
2B Freddy Sanchez
LF Jason Bay
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Xavier Nady
C Ronny Paulino
3B Jose Bautista
SS Brian Bixler
P Matt Morris

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Random Cubs Third Baseman of the Day: Bill Mueller

Name: William (Bill) Richard Mueller
Ht: 5'11'' Wt: 175
Bats: Switch Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 2001-2002

Play a whole season for these bums? Yeah, right.

Bill Mueller, I must state, was not a "bad" third basemen. When one looks at his stats, you'll see a consistent hitter who posted solid batting averages and on-base percentages in most of his major league seasons. On defense no one would have nominated him for a Gold Glove, but no one would have considered him a liability, either. Of the 90 some chumps that filled the gap between Santo and Ramirez, Mueller was one of the better and more likeable players. So what was the reason he failed to stick in Chicago? Well, if you look, you'll see that in two seasons with the Cubs, Bill played in 173 games before being traded to the Giants for the last 23 games of the 2002 season. Now a major league season is 162 games long, counting out the 23 games he spent as a Giant in '02, that makes 301 games where he was on the Cubs roster in 2 seasons. Out of those 301 possible chances at playing, Bill played in just 57% of them. Now we like to make fun of Mark Prior for being an injury prone pussy. But let's say a "full season" for a starting pitcher is 30 starts. Now if Mark had made 30 starts all five years he was in a Cub uniform, that would be a 150 starts. He made a 106. That's still 70 %. Is that bad? Yes. But not Bill Mueller bad. Thank you Bill, for making MARK PRIOR look durable.

Bill was acquired from the San Fransisco Giants in a trade before the 2001 season in which the Cubs sent pitcher Tim Worrell the other way. Bill had hit at least .290 in four of the five previous seasons and during the 2000 season the different third basemen the Cubs had used combined to hit just .224 with a .302 OBP. Bill started the 2001 season hot, as did the rest of the Cubs, as the team that had gone 65-97 in 2000 managed to hold 1st place in the NL Central for most of April through August. Bill was hitting .317 with 5 homers, 16 RBIs, a .409 OBP, and a .508 slugging percentage through the team's first 35 games, as the Cubs surged out to a 21-14 start. In the Cubs 36th game of the season, however, disaster struck for Bill Mueller. While chasing a foul pop up at the world's largest toilet bowl (Busch Stadium) Mueller crashed his knee into metal plating on the wall of the seats near the third base line, and shattered his left knee cap. The injury would keep him out for 2 months. Mueller returned in August, but hit just .179 in his first month off the DL as the Cubs lost the grip on first place they had had since April and the team would miss the playoffs and finish the season in third place. Mueller's final line for 2001 was as follows:

70 games, .295 avg., 6 hrs, 23 RBIs, .403 OBP, .448 slugging percentage.

But hope was strong going into the 2002 season for Mueller in the Cubs. The team had orchestrated a fantastic 19 game swing in their second season under Manager Don Baylor, they had signed All Star left fielder Moises Alou to bat behind Sammy Sosa,they could expect a full season from their "great" first baseman Fred McGriff, and the pitching staff featured a healthy Kerry Wood, Jon Lieber coming off of a 20 win season, and new starting young pitcher Matt Clement and closer Antonio Alfonseca. Hopes were high for a healthy Bill Mueller and the Cubs in 2002.

Alas, it was not to be. Complications with his knee injury forced Mueller to have surgery in March of 2002, Alou would also begin the season hurt, Lieber would blow out his arm during the course of the season, and Cubs fans realized that Antonio Alfonseca just sucks. Mueller missed the first 29 games of the 2002 season, during which the Cubs went 11-18. The season wouldn't improve from there, as the Cubs finished with 67-95, fired Baylor mid-season, and traded Mueller back to the Giants during the season's last month as the Cubs decided to go with the younger and cheaper Mark Bellhorn at third base for 2003. Mueller's line for the Cubs in 2002 was as follows:

103 games, .266 avg., 7 hrs, 37 RBIs, .355 OBP, .402 slugging.

And thus ended the Cubs career of Bill Mueller: an injury riddled debacle. Fear not for Mueller, though, he recovered well enough to win a batting title with the Boston Red Sox in 2003 while posting career highs in hits, batting average, home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage, and total bases. Mueller followed up his 2003 season with the Red Sox by winning a World Series championship with them in 2004. After the Red Sox acquired Mike Lowell in a trade with the Marlins in the 2005 offseason, Mueller was made expendable and he signed with the Dodgers for 2006. Believe it or not, a knee injury cut Mueller's season short at 32 games, and he was forced to retire. He now works for the Dodger organization, and even served as their hitting coach in 2007.

Here's to Bill Mueller, likely the most fragile third baseman to appear on this list.

Cubs-Pirates April 9, 2008

Chicago Cubs @ Pittsburgh Pirates
6:05 PM CT, Comcast Sportsnet Chicago

Starting Pitchers- Pittsburgh: Zach Duke (0-0, 3.18 ERA). Chicago: Ryan Dempster (1-0, 1.50 ERA)


Pittsburgh: CF Nate McLouth
2B Freddy Sanchez
LF Jason Bay
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Xavier Nady
C Ryan Doumit
3B Jose Bautista
SS Brian Bixler
P Zach Duke

Chicago: LF Alfonso Soriano
CF Scrappy Reed Johnson
1B Derrek Lee
3B Aramis Ramirez
RF Kosuke Fukudome
2B Mark DeRosa
C Geovany Soto
SS Ronny Cedeno
P Ryan Dempster

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Your SKO Random Cubs Third Baseman of the Day: Kevin Orie

Hello friends. Today at Start Kyle Orton, I start a new feature which I will post daily (read: whenever I feel like doing it). Most Cubs fans have heard of the legendary "hole" at third base the Cubs had between the time they traded Ron Santo to the White Sox after the 1973 season and the when they acquired Aramis Ramirez in July of 2003. In those 30 intervening years the Cubs used nearly 100 different third basemen for varying stretches, in an attempt to find one to work. Santo had manned the position for the Cubs for 13 years, and Ramirez has manned it the past 5. In the meantime Cubs fans were subjected to some God-awful players at the hot corner. Every day I will talk about a different one of these third basemen. So here's the first in our Random Cubs Third Basemen of the Day series: Kevin Orie

Name: Kevin Leonard Orie
Height: 6'4'' Weight: 210
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Cubs Career: 1997-1998, 2002

The Intensity of Orie

The saga of Kevin Orie is one frequently told in baseball circles. I can't tell you how many times Iggins! or I have been begged to regale our non-Cubs fan friends with tales of the exploits of mighty, delicious, creamy centered Orie-O. My friend the Braves fan would frequently say "Man, Chipper Jones is alright, but I really wish Kevin Orie would come to Atlanta". Why do they crave Kevin? Well, my friends, its just because he was something special indeed.

The Cubs drafted Kevin in the 1st round of the 1993 amateur draft. The Cubs needed a young third baseman as their previous "third baseman of the future", Gary Scott, had proven to be a colossal bust (don't worry, he'll show up here soon enough). Kevin made a steady rise through the minors as he made it to AAA Iowa in just his second full pro season in 1996 (in 1993, his rookie year, he signed late and played only 65 games, and his 1994 season was limited to 6 games by injury). During that 1996 season, Kevin hit .299 with an impressive .394 OBP, leading the Cubs to give him a crack at the starting job for the big league club for the 1997 season.

During spring training Orie won the job over veteran Jose Hernandez and broke camp with the team. Many questioned Cubs manager Jim Riggleman's decision to start the young Orie, as he had at that point played only 14 games in AAA. Riggleman stuck with the decision however, and Orie was in the lineup on Opening Day. The Cubs lost that game, and the 13 games after that to set the National League record for consecutive losses to start a season. The 0-14 start would be the worst in major league history, but for those pitiful bastards, the 1988 Orioles, who started 0-21. Orie struggled during those 14 losses by hitting only .216 with no homers and 1 RBI. Orie finished his first month in the majors with a .239 average (with an impressive .354 OBP, however), and was sent down to AAA Iowa for most of the month of May. After Orie hit .378 with a .462 OBP, 3 hrs, 14 RBIs, and a .711 (!) slugging percentage in his 12 games in the minors, the Cubs called him back up on May 30. The fact that the Cubs were 20-32 at the time may have also led them to make the "why not bring him back, we're a minor league team anyways" decision.

After his call up Orie posted a .313 avg/.408 OBP/.531 slugging percentage in the month of June and cemented his position as the starter at third for the rest of the season. Orie ended up being one of the few highlights of the Cubs miserable 68-94 season, as he posted solid rookie numbers with a line of:

114 games, .275 avg, 8 hrs, 44 RBIs, .350 OBP, .431 slugging percentage.

By spring training of 1998, no one questioned Orie's position as the Cubs third sacker. By May of 1998, everyone questioned it. Orie's sophomore season with the Cubs was nothing short of abysmal, as he posted a line of :

64 games, .181 avg, 2 hrs, 21 RBIs, .253 OBP, and an absolutely anemic .279 slugging percentage.

If you want to know how bad a .279 slugging percentage is, picture the weakest kid in your PE class. Remember how when you played kickball he'd look fucking scared? Like he was gonna miss the ball? I mean its a big fucking ball that's bright red. He's terrified he won't be able to make contact. So you try to be nice to the kid even though he smells like ass and you can see the piss stains on his clothes every day, and you encourage him and tell him nobody ever actually whiffs on a kickball. Then he goes out there with his damn eyes closed and whiffs. Then everyone points and laughs at him and the teacher awards him first base out of pity because he's bawling and the piss stains are larger and darker. That's what a .279 slugging percentage feels like. Orie got awarded a single every now and then because he pissed himself. That's about it.

Normally the Cubs would probably have stuck with that much suck from a second year player who had showed so much promise in his rookie season, but the Cubs were, surprisingly, contending that year, and thus they acquired veteran third baseman Gary Gaetti, who dominated the second half of1998 before sucking up 1999 (he's coming too), and shipped Orie to the Marlins for Felix fucking Heredia (once nicknamed The Run Fairy by Yankees fans). Orie did improve with Florida, as he hit .262 in 48 August/September games with them with an OBP of .334 and a more respectable (though still not fantastic) .423 slugging percentage. That's more like the kid who bounced one off the wall of the gym and was so busy admiring it that he didn't realize it had bounced back far enough that the other team already had it, and got thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. I sucked at kickball. What is this article about? Oh right, Kevin Orie.

Orie played in only 77 games for the Marlins in 1999, hitting .254 with 6 hrs, 29 RBI, a .322 OBP, and a .396 slugging percentage. That's more like the kid who just kinda kicked it at whoever had the weakest arm in the infield and got a single every time because of their bad throw. Orie found himself back with the Marlins organization for the 2000 regular season, though all of it was spent with the Marlins AAA team. Orie then bounced from AAA to AAA team during the 2000 and 2001 seasons, racking up averages of .284 and .293 with OBPs of .363 and .386.

2002 found Orie back with the Cubs, as he signed a minor league contract before spring training. Orie failed to make the team as a utility outfielder, and spent most of the year at AAA Iowa, where he hit .299 with a career high 20 home runs, a then best 63 RBIs, a .352 OBP, and a .578 slugging percentage. Thats the dude who'd crush one up against the bottom of the bleachers so it rattled around and he'd get an inside the park home run. The Cubs called Orie back up to the majors for his first appearance in the big leagues since 1999 in September of 2002, and Orie hit .281 with 0 homers, 5 RBIs, a .306 OBP, and a .375 slugging percentage in 13 games. After this unimpressive showing, Orie was released by the Cubs during spring training of 2003. Orie was out of baseball during the 03 season, then bounced between five different organizations in the 2004, 2005, and 2006 seasons, posting great numbers at each stop but never making it back to the majors. He retired just one game in to the 2006 season.

Where is Kevin Orie now? He apparently sells real estate with Grubb & Ellis Professionals. Yes that's actually him. If you don't believe me compare that photograph with this one.

Kevin Orie: from the next Ron Santo to the guy that sold Jim and Donna their lovely three bedroom colonial (it's got a breakfast bar and a nook! a nook!). You were born to be a Cub, Kev.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Thoughts on a Weekend (and Monday) of Baseball

For those of you who may have missed the last couple Cubs games, here's the brief recap:

Friday: Astros 4, Cubs 3
Saturday: Cubs 9, Astros 7
Sunday: Cubs 3, Astros 2
Monday: Cubs 10, Pirates 8

- On Friday Rich Hill temporarily put on hold the worries about his rough spring training, as he threw 6 innings, struck out 4, and gave up just two runs.

-Mark DeRosa has made two pretty bad errors (on Friday and today)but nearly redeemed himself with a line drive homer in the 9th on Friday.

- Sadly (and this is a recurring theme so far) Reed Johnson just looks better than Pie this year.

Look into the face of Scrappiness

- This team has a very bad habit of tying games then immediately giving back the lead.

- The defense as a whole has been terrible. Including today's game, the team has given up 6 unearned runs on the season. That's bad.

-Ryan Theriot is taking a lot of pitches. He's hitting very few of them. And he's not walking. During yesterday's game Ron Santo ripped into Theriot for taking two straight strikes to begin an at bat. Frankly I think Theriot has tried so hard to fit into the leadoff hitter mode he's determined to take more pitches at the expense of not swinging at good hiter's pitches.

-Derrek Lee is back, and I mean 2005 Lee. He's ripped everything he's seen lately, with power. 3 homers in his first 7 games, which ties or surpasses his whole month totals of last April, May, and June each. If 2005 Derrek Lee (.335, 46 hr, 107 RBIs, .418 OBP, .662 slugging) really is back, then he could carry this team for months.

-Kosuke Fukudome is continuing to rape American pitching, after his 3 hits today he's hitting .458.

-I'm hoping his game winning sac fly today will put some fire back in Aramis, as this team could really use him getting hot to give the Cubs the NL's best 3-4-5 combo.

-Ditto for the 3 for 32 Alfonso Soriano.

- Ted Lilly is just not controlling his fastball right now. Judging from his lackluster fourth inning, and the fact that the shit hit the fan in the 5th inning of his first start, it looks like a lack of stamina. Hopefully he'll get stronger and regain last year's form.

- Carlos Marmol is still The Balls.

-Kerry Wood has gone 3 for 3 and looked absolutely dominant since that debacle on Opening Day. Off the ledge, Cubs fans.

- Bob Howry managed to come in and pitch effectively to stop the bleeding in the 5th today. That was huge for the Cubs and Bob.

- All in all, 4-3 in the first weeks worth of game's is not too bad, after they dropped to 1-3 Friday I know even those most practical of Cubs fans were concerned.

On a side note, on Saturday night while visiting the girlfriend at her school near Des Moines, Iowa, the two of us caught the Iowa Cubs game vs. the Round Rock Express. I was excited as the starter for Round Rock, Runelvys Hernandez, was a guy who'd had some success in the majors and I wanted to see how the I Cubs players, including five who've played with the Cubs in the majors (Eric Patterson, Jake Fox, JD Closser, Koyie Hill, and poor Matt Murton), did against major league (relatively) pitching.

After they chased Hernandez with five runs in less than 3 innings, the team took a 7-3 lead into the top of the 7th. What followed was a 31 minute long, 9 run inning by the Express in which the I Cubs used 4 pitchers and got hammered. Final score? 16-8, Round Rock. Ouch. Fortunately, of the 5 pitchers used in the game, and who all got hammered, only one is on the Cubs 40 man roster, the rehabbing Juan Mateo. Mateo looks like he's got a way to go, as he struggled with mid 80's velocity and control. We left after they gave up 3 more runs in the top of the 8th, as the temperature had plummeted and the girlfriend was freezing to death. She did enjoy the game though, helped me to console Matt Murton, noted the Eric Patterson has a lot of power for a little guy (he homered), and she especially enjoyed the infant that sat next to us and stuck his tongue out at me every 3 seconds.

Matt Murton looked solid that game, going 2-4. Somebody help that poor kid out.

Anywho, the Cubs have won 3 in a row. Enjoy it.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Cubs Notch First Win of Season, Ryan Dempster Lives for 4 More Days

Do you like to get freaky? I like to get freaky.

The Cubs got on the board today with a 6-3 win over the Brewers. There were a lot of positives, Soriano got a hit, the team looked incredibly patient at the plate and chipped away at Dave Bush, Ramirez managed to crank a home run into the wind, Kerry rebounded to lock down his first save, and above all else Ryan Dempster looked damn good after the first inning. His control was solid, his stuff was breaking quite well, and he did a fine job of shutting down the Brewers for 5 of his 6 innings. Hopefully we can expect that effort the next couple days from Rich Hill and Jason Marquis.

The win moves the Cubs to 1-2 with Houston coming in for three games at Wrigley starting at 1:20 tomorrow. Hopefully a few wins against the back of the Astros rotation will give us a solid beginning to the season, rather than the slow start of last year.

Go Cubs.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Cubs- Brewers 1:20 PM, April 2, 2008

Pitching Match-up: Ted Lilly (Cubs) (15-8, 3.83 ERA in 2007) vs. Jeff Suppan (Brewers) (12-12, 4.62 ERA in 2007)

Cubs Lineup
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- Ted Lilly

Brewers Lineup
2B- Rickie Weeks
CF- Gabe Kapler
1B- Prince Fielder
LF- Ryan Braun
3B- Bill Hall
RF- Corey Hart
SS- JJ Hardy
P- Jeff Suppan (god damn Ned Yost)
C- Jason Kendall

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Let us all rest now. Are you over what happened yesterday? Good. Now let's take a chill pill and review:

- Fukudome should bat 2 and Soriano should bat 5.

- The Reds have Dusty Baker AND Corey Patterson. Be merry.

- It's one game, and the Cubs are a great team.

- Fukudome is Japanese, so he didn't understand how good Ben Sheets was.

- Speaking of whom, Ben Sheets is a great pitcher and the weather was shit. Both teams struggled for this reason (replace 'Sheets' with 'Zambrano'), not because we lack some kind of plate discipline.

- As I recall, many Cubs walked, and even Pie had a 7+ pitch at bat. The only Cub with swinging problems was Soriano, but we should expect that. It's why we love him, folks.

- Tomorrow the weather will be clear, the opposing pitcher will be Suppan, and the true power of the Cub lineup will shine through. Remember folks, we've only gone through 1/162 of the season. Don't kill yourselves.