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Monday, September 29, 2008

Why I've More or Less Proven That You Can't Listen to Me.

Now that the regular season is more or less over other than the feces flinging between the Twins and White Sox, I thought this would be a good time to look back at my hilariously bad preseason predictions-

AL East-
1. Red Sox 97-65
2. Yankees 88-74
3. Rays 84-78
4. Blue Jays 82-80
5. Orioles 64-98

1. Tampa BayRays 97-65
Okay, so I wasn't ready to stake the farm on them, but I had faith in this team. Nobody expected this though, but good for them.

2. Boston Red Sox 95-67
They more or less did what everyone thought they would do, and would have won the division but for the miracle Rays.

3. New York Yankees 89-73
I was only off by one game. This team is Old, and I think everyone but them (and Sports Illustrated) knew that.

4. Toronto Blue Jays 86-76
The injury prone rotation kept them short of the playoffs, as I predicted. Scott Rolen sucks.

5. Baltimore Orioles 68-93
Fuck Andy MacPhail.

I did a better job predicting this division than most, as you'll see with my AL Central and West Previews.

AL Central-

1. Detroit Tigers 95-67
2. Cleveland Indians 92-70
3. Chicago White Sox 77-85
4. Minnesota Twins 73-89
5. Kansas City Royals 71-91

1A. Minnesota Twins 88-74
Oh come on, like you thought they'd be good.

1B. Chicago White Sox 88-74
I hate this division, I hate this team, I hate their manager, I hate their fan. I hate that they seem intent on dredging their way to a three game sweep at the hands of the Rays.

3. Cleveland Indians 81-81
I said Fausto Carmona wasn't a fluke. He was. I said Travis Hafner would rebound. He didn't. I said CC Sabathia would be great in his free agent year. He was. For Milwaukee. Fuck.

4. Kansas City Royals 75-87
They won 75 games, their best season since 2003. Wulf.

5. Detroit Tigers 74-88
I had them in the world series, and so did Sports Illustrated. Sadly, you'll see I whiffed worse on other teams.

AL West:
1. Seattle Mariners 89-73
2. California Angels 86-76
3. Oakland Athletics 76-86
4. Texas Rangers 72-90

1. California Angels 100-62
I still don't know if they're as good as their record, but they sure told me to go fuck myself.

2. Texas Rangers 79-83
I was right, Josh Hamilton WAS a good pickup.

3. Oakland Athletics 75-86
Probably my most accurate prediction.

4. Seattle Mariners 61-101
This is what I get for doubting sabermetrics. Their pythagorean W-L in 2007 said they were worse than their 88-74 record, and I should have jumped ship when I saw that Jose Vidro was DHing. God. This is probably my worst call, but there's one more you'll laugh your ass off at.

NL East-

1. Philadelphia Phillies 92-70
2. New York Mets 89-73
3. Washington Nationals 83-79
4. Atlanta Braves 81-81
5. Florida Marlins 69-93

1. Philadelphia Phillies 92-70
I got one! I got one!

2. New York Mets 89-73
On a roll baby!

3. Florida Marlins 84-78
This just proves that the Marlins are determined to screw with me at every possible opportunity.

4.Atlanta Braves 72-90
I overestimated my win total, but did say the following: "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 and trading Teixera at the deadline" Eh? Pretty good prognostication, right? Remember that when we get to...

5. Washington Nationals 59-102
Seriously I'm not sure whether this is worse than my Mariners prediction or not. I thought that the new ballpark and a potentially talented lineup would get them a few wins. But seriously Austin Kearns, Wily Mo Pena, Ryan Zimmerman, and Paul Lo Duca all had below average seasons, and Dmitri Young and Nick Johnson both missed most of the season. Can I really be blamed for that much bad luck befalling Washington?

NL West-

1. Colorado Rockies 91-71
2. Arizona Diamondbacks 88-74
3. Los Angeles Dodgers 85-77
4. San Diego Padres 79-83
5. San Fransisco Giants 63-99


1. Los Angeles Dodgers 84-78
So I was actually pretty close on their record, I just underestimated how thin this division really was.

2. Arizona Diamondbacks 81-81
Their offense, which was hit or miss last year, was more miss.

3. Colorado Rockies 74-88
Their pitching just absolutely fell apart. I guess their total badassitude in High Heat 2002 has always made me wish that the Rockies could have sustained success. Oh the follies of youth.

4. San Fransisco Giants 70-92
Well, they sucked, but not as much as that's...good for them? Tim Lincecum is the balls.Other than this team is still screwed offensively.

5. San Diego Padres 63-99
Speaking of sucking offensively, how has Kevin Towers managed to justify letting this offense degrade year after year? They were mediocre or less than from 2004-2007, and showed absolutely no power, and yet no remedy was even attempted. One mediocre showing from their pitching staff and they sank into oblivion. They finished last in the NL in runs, OBP, and steals, and were damn near the bottom in every other category. I've had to watch some horrible Cubs teams in my life, but most of those could be attributed to horrible pitching, the hardest ones to watch are the ones with no semblance of an offense. Adrian Gonzalez probably weeps everytime he looks at the lineup card.

NL Central-

1. Chicago Cubs 95-67
2. Milwaukee Brewers 84-78
3. Houston Astros 77-85
4. Cincinnati Reds 75-87
5. St. Louis Cardinals 72-90
6. Pittsburgh Pirates 70-92


1. Chicago Cubs 97-64
I was criticized for suggesting they'd win 95 games, but this team's proven over and over again that it's just too much of a juggernaut to slow down. There were no injuries, no excuses, no prima donna superstarts collecting paychecks from a hot tub, Lou Piniella knew all season just what buttons to push and this team posted its best record since 1945. Hopefully they've got 11 more wins left in them.

2. Milwaukee Brewers 90-72
They nearly blew it again, but managed to go 5-1 against the vaunted Pirates and the Iowa Cubs to outlast the choking Mets. They think they have momentum, but I won't be surprised when that falls apart against the Phillies.

3. Houston Astros 86-75
They think Bud Selig killed their season, but perhaps a 44-51 first half and the fact that they surrendered more runs than they scored (pythagorean W-L 77-84) deserves its fair share of the blame. Their pitching was as miserable behind Oswalt as expected. They'll be worse next year.

4.St. Louis Cardinals 86-76
I've come to the conclusion that this team will never be as bad as it should be, let alone as bad as I Want it to be.The difference is that now I just don't care. They can't touch the Cubs this year, and really we've had the upperhand head to head ever since Dusty's days. They just chucked a ton of money at Kyle Lohse and that will hopefully bite them.

5. Cincinnati Reds 74-88
They were about as bad as I expected them to be. Some people in the national media seemed to think that the combination of young talent and Dusty's "leadership" would spur them to a better record, but anyone with experience with Dustbag (i.e., Cubs fans), knew he'd play the wrong players (Corey, Bako) and run the good ones into the ground (Harang, Cueto, Volquez). They need to wake up and fire him before he ruins their future.

6.Pittsburgh 67-95
I just...I know only one Pirates fan, and he's a bald history teacher who developed a brain tumor and had to have it removed recently. Coincidence? I think not.

So there you have it....some hits, some misses, some total what-the-fuck-was-he-thinking calls. Just don't listen to me. Don't do it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Your SKO Random Cubs Third Baseman of the Day: Keith Moreland

Name: Bobby Keith Moreland
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Ht: 6'0'' Weight: 200 lb
Years as a Cub: 1982-1987

"Have Keith Moreland drop a Routine Fly.."

Keith Moreland is remembered fondly by most Cubs fans as the popular, if defensively challenged right fielder for the Cubs of the early 80s, specifically the 1984 Cubs. Many fans forget that he occasionally started at third those years, and became the full time third baseman his final year with the Cubs in 1987. Had Keith remembered to take his glove with him to third base, fans might remember him even more fondly.

Keith was acquired by the Cubs in a 1981 trade with the Phillies that sent current Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow east in exchange for Moreland and pitchers Dickie Noles and Dan Larson. Larson and Noles were mostly busts with the Cubs, as Larson was gone after 1982 and Noles was moved from the rotation to the pen and traded away early in 1984. Keith, however, appeared in over 138 games in each of his six seasons in Chicago and was a key part of the 1984 NL East champion team.

After averaging 15 homers and 81 RBIs a year to go along with a .279 average in his first 5 seasons with the Cubs, mostly in the outfield, Moreland was moved to third base when the Cubs signed free agent Andre Dawson before the 1987 season. A hole had opened up at third base when the Cubs had allowed the 38 year old Ron Cey, who had manned the position since 1983, to walk after the 1986 season. With Dawson in the outfield, and an infield of Moreland at third, promising second-year starter Shawon Dunston at short, Ryne Sandberg at second, Leon Durham at 1st, and Jody Davis catching, hopes were high for the 1987 Cubs to contend for the first time since their '84 division championship.

Alas it was not to be, as an injury to Sandberg, revolving doors in left and center field, poor play by Dunston, a below average season from Jody Davis, and the lack of a starting pitcher behind Rick Sutcliffe all conspired to land the Cubs in last place, despite leading the league in homer runs thanks mostly to an MVP season from newcomer Dawson. On the offensive side of the ball, Moreland contributed to the Cubs 209 home runs that year with a career high 27 of his own, and had a respectable .266/27/88/.309/.465 line in 153 games.

Where Moreland failed to be respectable in 1987, however, was in the field. Despite having 40 career starts at the hot corner going into 1987, Moreland played like a raw rookie in a 149 starts. With 28 errors, a below average .934 fielding %, and an average-at-best 2.66 range factor, Moreland proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was not the answer at that position, and the Cubs decided to go in a different direction.

Before the 1988 season, the Cubs signed Vance Law, a much better defensive player, to play third base and shipped Moreland to the Padres in exchange for Goose Gossage and Ray Hayward, and thus ended the Cubs career of one of the more popular players of the 80s.

Today Moreland is a baseball coach at St. Stephen's Episcopal School, where he shares a connection with your beloved author. Moreland's pitching coach at St. Stephen's is Scott Ruffcorn, a former first round pick of the White Sox and cousin to the author in question. We don't discuss his former team.

Keith Moreland: Should have stayed in the outfield.

Cubs Clinch- An Hour by Hour/Inning by Inning Account

This Saturday, as anyone here should know, the Cubs clinched their 2nd consecutive NL Central Division Title. The girlfriend bought us tickets for my birthday so like good cornfield denizens of the Quad Cities, we drove to Aurora and hopped on a train to avoid driving in Chicago. The game was perfect as was the night, so here's a brief account of how it all went down

5:40 AM- Wake up. Girlfriend practically drags me out of bed. I am most hesitant to go. Eventually I stir myself.

7:00 AM- Drop the dogs off at the kennel, as my parents had friends with them for the weekend out at our family's camper, and neither of us would be home to take care of the pups. Hit the road with my dad's TomTom as our guide to the Aurora train station.

7:30 AM- Realized that I forgot to hit "start" on the TomTom, and have thus managed to get lost in Rock Island..a town I travel through every day.

7:40 AM- After turning the TomTom on, we hit the interstate for Aurora.

9:50 AM- Arrive in Aurora, buy tickets for the 10:20 to Union Station. We ask a man in a uniform if the train currently on the tracks is the right train. He responds in a thick Chicago accent "Yeah, of course it is. Fuck, ya never rode the train before? If you're heading to the game I hope ya bring them some fuckin luck. Fuck. That fuckin' Zambrano got fuckin torched yesterday. Hope they can at least fuckin clinch today. But yeah, thats the right train. Have fun. Fuckin go Cubs!" We board the train.

12:00 PM- Arrive in Union Station 18 minutes late due to "construction on the track". My heart goes out to the poor bastards who ride those things to work every day.

12:30 PM- After getting directions from Union Station to the Red Line from a hobo (who turned out to be wrong) we walk 8 blocks toward the wrong station before being directed by a kind, though loud mouthed, Cubs fan, who directs us underground to the right station. While waiting for the train, the kindly loud mouth comments that "this is where you go if you want to get to the Cubs game." I respond that if you want to go to the White Sox game, you hop down and lick the third rail. Laughs all around.

1:00 PM- Arrive at the Addison station after climbing from below ground to well above, which made the girlfriend beyond nervous. The huge camera around her neck and our complete and obvious lack of direction make our inexperience in the city as obvious as though we'd had signs around our necks saying "gullible tourists". As Wrigley comes into view the girlfriend (her first trip ever) smiles bright enough to power most of the North Side. Its a proud moment for the man who converted her from a Red Sox (not her fault, her father's from Boston) to a Cubs fan in February.

1:10 PM- Girlfriend asks why the statue of Harry Caray is so unnervingly creepy. I respond that the designer confused Harry's diet of beer with a diet of Souls.

1:25 PM- We enter Wrigley and climb up the stairs to watch batting practice. Upon her first view of the field, girlfriend marvels that "its so much smaller than it looks on TV". We move down to watch BP, but are unable to obtain autographs, though we snap a few good pictures of Z, Lou, and Geovany Soto as he warms up.

1:45 PM- After purchasing two Chicago Dogs, we devour them after moving to our seats. The girlfriend, who is normally Not a hot dog eater, marvels at the concept of grilled onions and tomatoes as condiments. Watching my girlfriend with the normally perfect table manners and very select eating habits wolf down a dog and smear mustard on her mouth nearly brings a tear to my eye.

2:30 PM- two couples sit down to my right. The man in the seat next to me reveals that he's from Toronto and is a Blue Jays fan. We discuss Lyle Overbay, AJ Burnett's fragility, his surprise at Ted's success with the Cubs, and our mutual love of Matt Stairs. True baseball fans are fun, no matter the franchise. He is clearly smitten with Wrigley Field.

2:40 PM- First pitch from a 104 year old hobbit. Crowd goes wild.

2:45 PM- First pitch from Vince Vaughn. Crowd less than impressed.

2:55 PM/ Top of the 1st-First pitch. Cesar Izturis leads off the game. The girlfriend, who only learned the principle of On Base Percentage in April (still ahead of Dusty Baker), has the following conversation with me-
GF- Why's someone with such a low average and OBP leading off?
Me- Because Tony LaRussa is a genius.
GF- Doesn't seem like it to me ( as she talks, Izturis pops out to Soto, GF cheers ecstatically for her "Little Geovany").

Ryan Ludwick bats, and doubles before retires Pujols and Lopez to end the inning.

Bottom of the 1st-Joel Piniero starts and the Cubs answer the Cardinals with a double wedged between three outs.

Top of the 2nd- I question the Cardinals fan sitting next to the Blue Jays fan as to why .267/24/90/.369/.477 Troy Glaus is batting 5th while .264/5/39/.328/.362 Felipe Lopez bats cleanup. Cards fan rolls his eyes and mutters something that sounds like "trucking LaRussa". curious. Cardinals go down quick, with only a soft single from Brian Barton.

Bottom of the 2nd-Cubs load the bases with two outs. Soriano singles to left to make it 3-0. Girlfriend goes for the hug while I moronically go for the high five. Awkwardness ensues. Eventually a high five and hug result.

Top of the 3rd- Ted mows them down and erases the only base runner with a double play.

Bottom of the 3rd- Cubs go down in order. The game is moving along quickly.

Top of the 4th-Ted continues to roll, setting the heart of the order,although with Felipe Lopez batting cleanup one can argue that its a heart with serious defects, down 1-2-3.

Bottom of the 4th- Cubs score two on a double by Mark DeRosa and a suicide squeeze by Lilly, possibly the most exciting play of the game.

Top of the 5th- Cardinals go down in order. Ted sets the cruise control.

Bottom of the 5th- Cubs go down quietly, with an Edmonds DP erasing an Aramis single.

Top of the 6th- Ted sparks fears of pants-shitting everywhere as a Lopez single and Glaus three run homer cut a 5-0 lead to 5-4. Girlfriend attempts to calm down my growing fears. Tension hovers in the air.

Bottom of the 6th- Hopes for a momentum swing are dashed as Fukudome refuses to swing on a hit and run call and gets Soto thrown out at second, then strikes out. I'm not sure if I'm more pissed at Fukudome for playing so meek, or if the Girlfriend is more pissed that he got Soto thrown out.

Top of the 7th- In a surprise move, Lou sends Ted to start the 7th. Ted reverts to form, striking out the first two batters and getting Cesar to ground out to end the inning. All in all 6 great innings out of 7 total for Ted.

Bottom of the 7th- Cubs go down in order, but not before the Girlfriend snaps a perfect picture of Mike Fontenot. Not sure why that matters.

Top of the 8th- Crowd on its feet as Marmol slices through Ludwick, Pujols, and Lopez. I rejoice that Pujols can't ruin it in the 9th. The crowd gets even more tense as they start to taste victory.

Bottom of the 8th- Lee, Ramirez, Edmonds all go down as everyone seems intent on finishing this thing quickly.

Top of the 9th- 41,597 on their feet as Wood comes in to close it out. After some grumbling over a walk to Glaus, Kerry grounds out Kennedy and strikes out Skip Schumaker. A soft fly ball off of the bat of Aaron Miles fittingly lands in the glove of Jim Edmonds. The crowd goes nuts as the Girlfriend (an opera major with some serious pipes) destroys a row of ear drums with an ear piercing scream of joy. Three rounds of "Go Cubs Go" follow, as well as "Someday We'll Go All the Way". I find myself disappointed at the low number of fans who've actually heard the song. After watching the Cubs celebrate on the mound, we wait for them to return from the dugout and watch them spray the stands with champagne. Finally we work our way out, still singing "Go Cubs Go" as we high five half of Wrigleyville.

After leaving the stadium we head into Wrigleyville Sports to work our way past the crowd of fans desperate for 2008 Central Champion shirts. The Girlfriend picks out a nice pinstriped t-shirt reminiscent of the late 80s/early 90s pullover Cubs jerseys. She demurs my suggestion that she buy the sansabelt pants to match. We walk a mile to reach Giordanos, determined to have some deep dish pizza. The pizza is delicious, and the ride back to Union Station on the red line from Belmont is full of rejoicing Cubs fans and somber Cardinals fans. At Union Station we board the 8:40 train to Aurora, arriving at 10:00. At 1:10 in the morning we arrive back at home, and fall asleep moments after hitting the bed.

In conclusion: It was a wonderful birthday gift and a great moment for Cubs fans, old and new.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Your SKO Random Third Baseman of the Day: Shane Andrews

Name: Shane Andrews
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Height: 6'1'' Weight:215 lbs (Lies!)
Years as a Cub: 2000

The moment his back shattered, recorded for posterity.

Take a look at this box score and you'll notice a few anomalies. 1) Eric Young is flirting with an .800 OPS. 2) Felix Heredia has a 1.29 ERA. 3) Kyle Farnsworth won as a starter and 4) Shane Andrews has a 1.148 OPS and a .286 average.

Andrews is the perfect example of the ineptitude of Ed Lynch as a General Manager. In order to understand the process that lead the Cubs to sign Shane to play third base, you have to go back to before the 1998 season. Before 1998 the team Lynch had put together was widely panned as a mottled collection of aging veterans and untested rookies. The New York Times sneered at a roster of "oddballs and castaways." After 1997's 0-14 start and 68-94 record the outlook was bleak. Then the season began and a combination of two freaks-of-nature (Wood, Sosa) and several surprise years by veterans Kevin Tapani, Steve Trachsel, Mickey Morandini, Lance Johnson, and late-season pick up Gary Gaetti, the Cubs managed a miraculous 90-73 record and a Wild Card championship. Then the playoffs began and the team regressed back to the mean, losing three straight and leaving as quickly as they arrived.

Despite the playoff result, Lynch was, understandably afraid to mess with the roster, and thus the Cubs ignored the warnings of age and injury and entered 1999 with largely the same team, with the huge exception of the injurd Kerry Wood. The results were terrible, as the veterans of the previous year played to their age and the team quickly plummeted to 67-95.

It was after this disaster that Lynch truly failed. Convinced that the core of 1998 team would result in a return to winning form under new manager Don Baylor, Lynch chased no big free agents and made only minor tweaks to his roster, replacing Lance Johnson with Damon Buford, Morandini for Eric Young, Jose Hernandez/Jeff Blauser for Ricky Gutierrez, and last but not least leaving Shane Andrews as the starter at third base for 2000. Andrews had been acquired late in the 1999 season after the Cubs had released Gaetti and the Expos had finally given up on Andrews, their former first round pick, and released him. The Cubs picked Andrews off waivers and played him in 19 September games and were impressed with the power he showed by posting 5 homers and a .537 slugging percentage with 14 runs batted in.

The Cubs had decided that this 19 game stretch was enough of a sample to ignore his terrible career .220/.298/.421 line and named him the starter going into the 2000 season, with Willie Greene, who hit .204 the previous year, as their only insurance in case Andrews faltered or his injury history plagued him again.

Thus our story brings us round to the 2000 season, Lynch's last hurrah. Lynch's status quo approach to team-building results in a 65-97 season surprising no one but Lynch. Andrews displayed the inconsistency and injury problems that had plagued his career with the Expos as a hot start that had him among the league leaders in homers in April faded to mediocrity and a back injury sidelined him for much of the summer. His final line for the 2000 season:
.229 avg., 14 homers, 39 rbis, .329 OBP, .474 Slug.

Lynch himself seemed to realize that his tenure as GM had dissolved into an abject failure and attempted to resign as early as May. His brilliant boss, Andy MacPhail told him to wait and see if the team would turnaround from their 20-33 start. After that regressed to a 35-51 mark at the all star break, MacPhail mercifully accepted Lynch's resignation, and Ed and Andrews were both gone by the end of the 2000 season.

Andrews disappeared from MLB after the 2000 season, with just one 7 game stint with the Red Sox in 2002 before his retirement.

We're Not Worthy

F*&king Awesome