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Thursday, March 26, 2009

SKO Predicts the 2009 Season! Part Two, The National League!

National League East

1. Philadelphia Phillies 93-69
They're the World Series Champs. They're my back-up team, they still have one of the best lineups in baseball, and assuming they get past the whole Cole Hamels arm scare of the last week or so, and Jamie Moyer comes even close to the magical season he put up last year at age 45, they'll be fine in the rotation. I've picked them to win this division every year since 2004. I've been right 40% of the time. I'm going for it again.

2. The Atlanta Braves 89-73
They've put together a solid rotation of innings eaters with their free agent additions of Derek Lowe, Javier Vasquez, and Kenshin Kawakami of Japan. Throw in Jair Jurrjens and his impressive rookie year last year, and anything positive they might get from Tom Glavine, and Atlanta should pitch as well as it usually has. The lineup is lacking severely in power, especially When Larry Wayne Jones spends his usual month on the DL, but they have some nice players like Yuniel Escobar and Brian McCann, and I like Kelly Johnson at second base. I do think its hilarious how far Jeff Francouer has fallen since SI declared him "The Natural" back in '05. He royally sucks now.

3. New York Mets 85-77
Let's see, I nailed the Mets record and position in the standings perfectly last year when everyone was screamin OMG SANTANA OMFG!, so what do I find about the team this year to hate? They've admittedly fixed that awful bullpen by adding K-Rod and JJ Putz, but what about the rest of the team? Johan Santana's still as good as it gets, but Oliver Perez is wildly inconsistent, good thing they gave him $36 million (and they've already complained this spring that he's overweight). John Maine's never impressed me, but Mike Pelfrey has good stuff. They've basically given Livan Hernandez their fifth starter job (and they said Oliver Perez was overweight?). You have to be impressed by a guy who can win 13 games with an ERA over six, like Hernandez did last year. Or you don't. How about the offense? Delgado had a nice year last year, but a lot of people thought he was done before that, and he will turn 38 this year. In the outfield Beltran's still a stud and I still haven't gotten over how badly Hendry botched that situation in 2004, but Ryan Church is nothing to fear, and they've handed the left field job to a kid with a .796 career OPS in the minors, though he did impress in a call-up last year. Who's backing the kid up in case he falters? Fernando Tatis?? Fernando Tatis is still alive? I thought he died after he killed Chan Ho Park's career and exiled him to Texas with two grand slams in one innig. Brian Schneider couldn't hit his way onto the '62 Mets, and he won't help this year's. David Wright's still not as good as Aramis Ramirez on offense or defense, and they're just hoping Luis Castillo dies so they can find a real second baseman. Jose Reyes is only slightly less overrated than New York's other shortstop. To top it all off this team's still in the hands of Jerry Manuel, whose lifeless managing of the White Sox led to the myth that Ozzie Guillen's "fire" somehow inspired them to a World Series. This team will fail again.

4. Washington Nationals 80-82
Last year I bought into the "talent" they had on offense and thought that with an outfield consisting of some combination of Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge, Austin Kearns, and Wily Mo Pena, and a healthy Nick Johnson, who was great in '06, or a healthy Dmitri Young, who had a great '07, would, along with their new ballpark, inspire this team to 83 wins. Then literally every player I listed above either got injured, posted numbers below their career averages, or did both, and the team lost 102 games. I also overlooked their strategy of having a 5 man pitching rotation that included 0 good starting pitchers, which, had I noticed it, I would have considered to be a bad idea. But this year I still think Ryan Zimmerman will break out, I still think Elijah Dukes is extremely talented even if he's by all accounts a total f&%kwad, and Lastings Milledge will cash in on at least Some of that talent. They added Adam Dunn and they're smart enough to put him at first, which should lead to him actually Producing more runs than he allows. They added a starting pitcher who isn't a complete and total abomination in Scott Olsen, and John Lannan, their ace, actually had halfway decent numbers given the talent around him. I won't grant them a winning season, but this team could actually Not be a total embarassment to the game of baseball this year.

5. Florida Marlins 77-84
The guy who used to write at this site before he took his own life after realizing that the University and state of Iowa are irrelevant in almost every possible way, is/was terrified of this year's Marlins, based on his irrational fear that since the Marlins more or less held the same fire sale/rebuilding process after their 2003 championship that they did after their 1997 championship, now that 5 seasons have passed this is the year they'll put it all together and win the damn thing again. I'm not buying it, though this team still has a core of talent that could be scary if they had the payroll to make moves in-season. They have a lineup full of high power, low OBP guys like Jorge Cantu ( .327 OBP, 29 homers), Jeremy Hermida (.323, 17), and Cody Ross (.316, 22). They also have one of the game's greatest players in Hanley Ramirez, who sadly signed an extension until 2014, thus putting away my fantasy of him playing short for the Cubs. Dan Uggla's glove may be made of wood, but he can hit, and may end up on the trade block as he's yet to be offered a multi-year deal. Catcher Jeff Baker was impressive in 61 games as a rookie last year, with a .299/5/32/.392/.447 line. The ace of their starting staff, Ricky Nolasco, continues to make us fill with bloodthirsty rage at Jim Hendry and Juan Pierre, their #2, Josh Johnson, is excellent when healthy, which he rarely is, and between Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad, and lefty Adam Miller they have great talent in the back of the rotation. Their bullpen is weak outside of closer Matt Lindstrom. There's definite talent here, but I don't expect a third title until they can spend money.

NL Central

1. Chicago Cubs 93-69
It seems to me that the failed pursuit of Jake Peavy seems to have some Cub fans worried that he's somehow "the missing piece" that'll keep this team from winning. I constantly hear comparisons to the 2004 club that failed miserably under expectations, even though those comparisons would have been more applicable to last year's club, which, you know, won 97 games. The playoffs sucked but despite losing Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa (and for the love of God SHUT UP ABOUT IT), this team improved by ditching Marquis and adding a force in the lineup like Milton Bradley. There's some handwringing already over whether Rich Harden will be healthy, and some idiots (I'm looking at you, Paul Sullivan) seem to think Zambrano is a wildcard, but the fact is this rotation is as good it gets around baseball. It may not be the best, but it can stand up there with any of them. Sean Marshall will be an improvement over Marquis, and who knows if settling the ownership question will lead to some talent added over the course of the season. My gut still tells me Derrek Lee can rebound, and that Aramis Ramirez and Soriano still have a few good seasons left in them. Geovany Soto will hit 30 homers, damnit, and this team will score runs in bunches. Plus their division sucks. They will win this thing handily. After that? Who knows.

2. St. Louis Cardinals 85-77
I keep hearing from Cardinals fans and the ledge jumping Cub fans on how the Cards will sneak up on the Cubs this year. I'm not buying it. If Chris Carpenter can stay healthy after his SECOND Tommy John surgery, not to mention the 8 or 9 hundred times he's had ulnar neuritis, and Adam Wainwright bounces back from his injuries last year, AND Kyle Lohse repeats the career highs he put up in every major category last year, AND Todd Wellemeyer also repeats his breakout season, AND Joel Piniero somehow Doesn't suck, they have a chance at having a slightly worse rotation than the Cubs. Their lineup is feared for some reason, despite the fact that Troy Glaus is hurt and none of his replacements have impressed this spring, they can't find a second baseman (and Skip Schumaker has failed at converting), Khalil Greene is just plain bad, Rick Ankiel strikes out too much and is, dare I say, Wildly inconsistent, and Chris Duncan hasn't looked good since 2006. They're nothing to fear.

3. Milwaukee Brewers 82-80
They're counting on Yovani Gallardo to come back from a knee injury and magically become an ace, they seem to think Jeff Suppan's a major league pitcher, Manny Parra's a number three at Best, Dave Bush is...underwhelming, and is that Braden Looper? Oh that's neat. The lineup, as usual, has power but not much else. Fielder and Braun are undeniably frightening, but the rest of the lineup is worthless if the wind's blowing in. Corey Hart (.300), Rickie Weeks (.342), Bill Hall (.293), Jason Kendall (.327), JJ Hardy (.343), and Mike Cameron (.331), as you can see by the OBP's I put behind each, get on base so rarely that you'd think Ed Lynch signed them. They'll score runs in spurts, much like the 2004 Cubs, and they may even seem frightening on the one or two hot streaks they'll have this season, but in the end they'll be lucky to hit .500.

4. Cincinnati Reds 80-82
There is talent here. There really is. But above all else, there stands one man. One man completely incapable of recognizing or properly utilizing that talent. Joey Votto proved last year he was the real deal, and Jay Bruce did nothing in his 108 game stint last year to truly tarnish his reputation as one of the game's best prospect, and one would expect him to improve his .767 OPS from last year. After that, the lineup gets murkier. Edwin Encarnacion "put it all together," last year, and still Barely passed an .800 OPS. The shortstop position will go to Alex Gonzalez if he's healthy, or Jeff Keppinger if he's not, and neither is really that good. They seem to think Ramon Hernandez's .714 OPS counts as an upgrade at catcher, but sadly the Paul Bako/Dave Ross situation they had last year had a .681 OPS and nearly equivalent power numbers. Watching Willy Tavaras and his .308 OBP from last year get 500+ AB's in the leadoff spot will be priceless, and just in case he miraculously falters so badly that Dusty is moved to bench him (it won't happen, imagine every question being answered with "bench him? He's stolen almost 40 bases this year. He makes things happen, dude."), they're assuring everyone that Jerry Hairston is ready to take over. Jerry Hairston. This is the most beautiful job of cherry picking stats ever performed. Take a look at Jerry's line last year- .326/6/36/.384/.487/.871. Now his career averages- .260/7/45/.330/.370/.700. In case you were curious, I put every category in which Jerry posted a career high last year in bold. So guys just consistently put batting averages, OBP's, slugging %'s, and OPS's way above their career numbers up every year, right? Oy. As for the pitching? There's no denying Edinson Volquez's stellar season last year, or the talent of Johnny Cueto, but I think I've done a fairly decent job here of detailing Baker's handling of Volquez, and as for the veterans in the rotation, Aaron Harang(6-17, 4.78 ERA, 1.38 WHIP) and Bronson Arroyo (15-11, 4.77 ERA, 1.44 WHIP) both put up some awful numbers last year, even if Arroyo fluked his way to 15 wins, and Harang especially seemed dead after a stretch in which Dusty used him as a starter twice and for multiple innings out of the bullpen during a five day stretch last summer. As for the "superstar" that Homer Bailey was sure to become, his career numbers (4-8, 6.72 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, and a .316 BAA), seem, well, putrid. I just realized that I've written far more about the Reds than I did the Cubs. Perhaps I should try to hate Dusty just a little less. Or not.

5. Houston Astros 72-90
I'll make up for the Long Long Reds article with a short one. They have one ace in Roy Oswalt and four schmucks of all ages (Wandy Rodriguez, Mike Hampton, Brian Moehler, Russ Ortiz). Their bullpen still has LaTroy Hawkins in it. Their lineup has only three spots that will provide adequate offense this season (left field- Carlos Lee, right field- Hunter Pence, first base- Lance Berkman), and no matter what Cecil Cooper thinks, Pudge Rodriguez will not lead them to a 90 win season.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates 68-94
Whenever I hear people talk about how hard it is to be Cub fan or a Red Sox fan before 2004, and they talk about the years and years of losing, I laugh. I'm 20 fucking years old. Chances are, you aren't old enough to have borne the weight of a century without a championship. Get over it. I will gladly take having been a Cub fan my entire life over being a Pirates fan in that same time period. This year will make for consecutive losing season number #17 for Pittsburgh. Unless you're impressed by the rotation (Paul Maholm, Ian Snell, Zach Duke, Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens), the veterans (Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, Adam LaRoche), or any of the kids other than Nate McClouth (Brandon Moss, Nyjer Morgan, Andy LaRoche, Ryan Doumit). I'll give you a hint- I'm not. At least they can look forward to the excitement prospect Jose Tabata will bring.

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers 90-72
I'm really getting tired of typing, and I've dragged these things out way too long, so I'm gonna cut these short. Dodgers Pitching- Good, but not great (Kuroda- OK, Wolf- Meh, Billingsley- Excellent, Kershaw- impressivo, 5th starter- Good luck. Bullpen- Awesome.) Lineup- (Russell Martin- Good, James Loney- Slightly above average, Orlando Hudson- overrated, Rafael Furcal- still good, but health is an issue, Casey Blake- Not. That. Good., Manny Ramirez- Awesome., Matt Kemp- Good, Andre Ethier- Very, very good.)

2. San Fransisco Giants 83-79
Pitching- So-So (Lincecum- the balls, Randy Johnson- hangin' in there, Matt Cain- also really, really good, Barry Zito-umm..., Jonathan Sanchez- talented? Bullpen- Oh God, that's a disaster). Lineup (Bengie Molina- Good, but old. Travis Ishikawa- not that good, but young, Kevin Frandsen- not that good, but young, Edgar Renteria- not that good, but old, Pablo Sandoval- maybe good, but young, Fred Lewis- pretty good, and young, Aaron Rowand- okay, but older and overpaid, Randy Winn- good, but really old.)

3. Arizona Diamondbacks 80-82
Pitching- Good (Brandon Webb- the balls, Dan Haren- good, but not ballsy, Doug Davis- CANCER survivor good, Jon Garland- better than Matt Karchner, Max Scherzer- isn't that the Nazi that lost to Joe Lewis? Bullpen- Not too shabby.) Lineup- (Chris Snyder- OK for catcher, Connor Jackson- Mediocre, Felipe Lopez- not good, Stephen Drew- very good, Mark Reynolds- like a white Jose Hernandez, Chad Tracy- good long ago, not anymore, Chris Young- highly, highly overrated, Justin Upton- Not good. Yet.)

4. Colorado Rockies 75-87
Pitching- Bad. (Aaron Cook- halfway decent, Ubaldo Jimenez- Spanish for Kyle Farnsworth, Jason Marquis- haha, hoho, hahaha, Jorge De La Rosa- pass, Greg Smith- who? Bullpen- Also Bad.). Lineup (Chris Iannetta- Really Good, Todd Helton- Really Old, Clint Barmes- Haha Bad, Troy Tulowitzki- Not as good as advertised, Garrett Atkins- he's still good, Brad Hawpe- very good, Ryan Spillborghs- passable, Seth Smith- might be okay?)

5. San Diego Padres 62-100
Jake Peavy- Please be a Cub. Adrian Gonzalez- Really Good. Everything else- Bad. Bad. Bad.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

SKO Predicts the 2009 MLB Season!

Last year, around this time, I began previewing the Cubs player by player, one a day, until opening day. I really don't feel like doing that. At all. Read the old ones. Half of them are still here, so, just change the date and forget I ever said Derrek Lee would be the team's most important player in 2008 and that he'd hit 35 homers again. Just forget that. I am, however, going to preview all thirty teams, use the SKORAG (Start Kyle Orton Random Ass Guess) system to project their record, and the standings. I was Highly, HIGHLY successful at this last year, so pay attention, friendo.

Starting alphabetically with the junior circuit-

American League East
1. Boston Red Sox 94-68
Even with the Yankees additions of Sabathia and Burnett, I'd still take their pitching rotation over anyone else's in that division. Beckett, Daisuke, Lester, and Wakefield are a great 1-4, and they need only one of either Brad Penny or John Smoltz to lock up the 5th spot, and both seem healthy this spring. Their lineup is solid, even if Lowell, Oritz, and Varitek are well past their prime, and players like Youkilis, Pedroia, and Jason Bay give them a balanced lineup. Pedroia's overrated because of where he plays and his "grit," but that doesn't mean he's not a damn good baseball player.

2. New York Yankees 90-72
I'm not impressed really, and I personally think I'm giving them too much credit by saying they'll win 90. That rotation's not as impressive as it's cost would imply. Sabathia's a beast, but god only knows what damage Ned Yost may have done to him last year. Burnett's health is always in question, especially after a career high 221 innings ( and an unimpressive 4.07 ERA) last year. Chien-Ming Wang is coming off an injury and was never as good as they claimed he was to begin with. Andy Pettite is old, and Joba Chamberlain, despite ESPN's mancrush, has yet to do...anything in his major league career. Beyond the rotation? They have no outfield to speak off, unless Johnny Damon's .836 OPS last year blew you away (for the record, thats .101 points below the OPS Edmonds had with the Cubs last year). Xavier Nady was lackluster after he got traded last to the Yankees last year, Nick Swisher's bad enough that his attitude couldn't find a place in the White Sox' clubhouse, and they've got something known as a Melky Cabrera in center field. Jorge Posada's old and only played in 51 games last year, no one knows when A-Rod will play again, and neither Robinson Cano or Captain Clutch hit as well as an .800 OPS last year (Cano was actually Worse than Fukudome (.715 vs. .738). Simply put, this team will be a disappointment, and sadly, Joe Girardi will get the blame.

3. Tampa Bay Rays 89-73
I love the Rays. I really do. My gut tells me to put them ahead of the Yankees, so, when the season comes and the win the damn division again, I'll use that as my pathetic excuse. I like their lineup, even if the outfield's a little weak unless BJ Upton can post his 2007 numbers rather than his 2008 numbers, but Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria, and Pat Burrell make a solid middle of the lineup, and Dioner Navarro's a nice player to have behind the plate. They have a better rotation than the Yankees, as Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Matt Garza, and Andy Sonnanstine were a very solid 1-4 last year, and rookie David Price looks like he could end up being better than all four of them.

4. Toronto Blue Jays 75-87
They appear to be in some dire financial trouble, and rumors that Halladay could wind up on the trading block have popped up all winter. They have no one in the rotation after Hallady and Justin Lisch, and their lineup is God Awful, unless you still maintain the illusion that Vernon Wells is a star, or believe that Alexis Rios will become one. Lyle Overbay used to be a nice imitation Mark Grace, but now he's just bad.

5. Baltimore Orioles 70-92
Their rotation drops off completely after Jeremy Guthrie and Japanese import Uehara, their most likely bottom three starters are Danys Baez, a veteran who hasn't started a game since 2002, Adam freakin' Eaton, and our beloved Rich Hill. They let Felix Pie and Ryan Freel compete for the job in left field this spring, and neither won, meaning Ty Wiggington is the most likely starter. Adam Jones is a project in center, Nick Markakis is a stud in right, Aubrey Huff had a nice year last year at first, Luke Scott is their DH for now but seems to be trade bait, and their big free agent additions were Cesar Izturis and Gregg Zaun. Seriously. They have ultra-prospect Matt Wieters waiting to take over for Zaun once they've waited until June and postponed his arbitration clock, but the hole at shortstop's just plain ugly. They swear they're going to add free agents soon, but this team's going to stay at the bottom for a while.

AL Central
1.Cleveland Indians 89-73
Their rotation is weak unless Fausto Carmona proves 2007 wasn't a fluke, but their bullpen is solid, and if Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez wake up and don't suck, they could have a nice lineup with those two, DeRosa, Shin Soo Choo, and the best centerfielder in baseball-Grady Sizemore. This division just sucks.

2. Chicago White Sox 86-76
If Jon Danks and Gavin Floyd repeat their breakout years, and my hope that this is the year Mark Buerhle's arm falls off proves unfounded, they might have a decent rotation, even if they don't get the "rebound" they want from Jose Contreras. I put "rebound" in "" because I'm not sure what he's supposed to rebound to- that one year wonder he had in 2005, or to his career averages, which are all unimpressive. They also think Bartolo Colon's still alive. They deflect concern's about the down years that Konerko and Thome put up last year, and the ages of their big three (Konerko- 33, Thome- 38, Dye-35) by touting their "youth movement" with players like Alexei Ramirez, Josh Fields, Chris Getz, and Brian Anderson, although the overrated Ramirez had just a .317 OBP last year and walked just 18 times, Fields is a career .233/.303/.454 hitter in 125 major league games, Getz's minor league OPS of .742 leaves everything to be desired, and Anderson's .655 OPS in 597 career AB's is just atrocius. I hate this team.

3. Kansas City Royals 84-78
There's some buzz around them as "this year's Rays," but I'm not biting into them that hard. I do like the talent in the rotation with ace Gil(Ga)Meche, Brian Bannister, the awesome curveball of Zack Greinke, and first round pick Luke Hochevar, and they have a lights out closer in Joakim Soria, though their faith in set-up men (and former Cubs) Juan Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth seems highly misplaced. Their line up isn't spectacular, but it has some serious promise in players like Alex Gordon and Mike Aviles, and players like Coco Crisp, Jose Guillen, Alberto Callaspo, David DeJesus, and Mike Jacobs are decent enough to put together a major league offense. They're maybe a star or two away from really making the leap.

4. Minnesota Twins 81-81
Ron Gardenhire managed to drag this team to 88 wins last year, but even with what's most likely the best rotation in the division (definitely the best if Fransisco Liriano is fully recovered from his surgery in '07), I don't see enough in the lineup to get them back there. Joe Mauer is injured again, and outside of him and Morneau there's not much to look at in this lineup. I liked their decision to pick up Joe Crede, but his bat is highly overrated due to "clutch" and that bandbox on the south side. A .500 season seems very likely for this crew, but everyone's been wrong on the Twins before.

5. Detroit Tigers 76-86
Their offseason moves last year had everyone drooling, and both I and Sports Illustrated had them in the World Series. Once the season started, however, it was obvious this team had more holes in it than OJ's defense. The rotation fell apart, the lineup didn't produce anywhere near expected, and they slumped to 74-88. The rotation they're entering this season with is shaky unless Justin Verlander rebounds, Jeremy Bonderman comes back healthy, and they find a fifth starter that isn't Nate Robertson or Dontrelle Willis, both of whom are utterly pathetic at this point. The lineup's weak outside of Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, and Curtis Granderson. They're not going anywhere soon.

AL West
1. Oakland A's 91-71
It's a little known fact that I can't stand the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California, United States of America, and that I'm a closet A's fan. Billy Beane's moves to acquire Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi tell me he believes the team can contend this year, and by God, I've got my spoon and I will lap. that. shit. up. There's young talent in the rotation with guys like Dana Eveland and Sean Gallagher, and they have a promising young closer in Brad Ziegler. They have a good enough middle of the order in Giambi, Holliday, and Jack Cust to give them a competitive offense in that division. If Billy says they can win it, then they can.

2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California, United States of America 88-74
A lot of people make a big deal out of the 100 games they won last year, but their Pythagorean W-L was just 88-74, meaning they were really f*&king lucky and won some close ball games, as evidenced by the record 62 saves logged by K-Rod last year. Well he's gone, and so are Garrett Anderson and Mark Teixiera. They've added Bobby Abreu and Brian Fuentes, but Abreu is getting older, as is Vladimir Guerrero. They have a pretty solid rotation, but I hate them. Teams that way out-perform their Pythagorean W-L tend to fall back to earth hard, so they'll finish second this year.

3. Texas Rangers 79-83
They'll score runs in that ballpark, Josh Hamilton is great, and they really believe they may have fixed Andruw Jones. Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla are in contract years, and they believe the two will pitch better than they did last year, but even if they don't, the salary they'll clear by letting those two walk will help. They have the top rated farm system in the majors, and for once actually have legitimate starting pitching prospects. They've got some hope for the future, but not this year.

4. Seattle Mariners 66-96
My worst whiff last season was predicting they'd win their division. They lost over 100 games. Then they added Ronny Cedeno.This team just plain sucks. Other than King Felix, there's nothing here worth writing home about, and there doesn't appear to be any real coordinated effort to fix them. If Erik Bedard can rebound, he'll get traded. Don't even bother looking at their lineup. Other than Ken Griffey Jr's farewell tour, there's nothing remotely interesting about them.

Tomorrow- The National League.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The 2nd Annual Matt Stairs Award for Excellence in Mediocrity

Last year we introduced the Matt Stairs Award for Excellence in Mediocrity. This award, honoring perhaps the most beloved example of mediocrity in Cubs history, was determined to find that key player who, while not really being one of the better players on the team, earned a great deal of love from the fans for his general appeal as "just a good guy." The pre-season favorites last year, Reed Johnson and Ryan Theriot, actually took themselves out of the running by passing the .280 mark in batting average, the threshold for mediocrity. Fortunately Jim Edmonds swooped in, and with his picture perfect .256 batting average, 19 home runs, and 49 RBIs matched up well with Matt's own numbers as a Cub (.255, 17, 61) and snagged him the award. (Sure, you may point out that Edmonds .937 OPS as a Cub was anything but mediocre, but f*&k you!). So, with Edmonds hardware in the mail (we swear!), we take a pre-season glance at this years early candidates based on the following qualifications-

Position Players:
1. Must appear in over half of the team's games (81).

2. Batting Average must fall in the .250-.280 range, while home runs cannot exceed 20 and RBIs may not exceed 70, as the Matt himself batted .250 with 17 homers and 61 rbis during his campaign with the Cubs.

1. Must make at least 20 appearances.

2.ERA must be between 4.00 and 4.99

For Everyone:3. The Cubs record in the player's appearances must be over .500. (Matt in 2001: 71-57)

4. The player cannot have one of the top 10 salaries on the team, as we're not here to reward underachievement by the superstars, but mediocrity by the little guys. (True, Matt himself was #9, but considering that the Cubs payroll was far smaller in those days and Sosa's contract counted for like, 6 of everyone elses, we'll make 10 the bar.)

Last year, Jimbo met every requirement perfectly with a .256 average, 19 homers, 49 RBIs, 85 games played, a 46-39 record and a veteran minimum salary well out of the top ten range. So who qualifies for this years contest? Not counting the non-roster invites who might have an outside shot at making the team, here are this year's candidates (ranked in order of 2008 salaries)-

Kevin Gregg, RHP
Chad Gaudin, RHP
Aaron Miles, 2B-UTIL
Reed Johnson, OF
Aaron Heilman, RHP
Neal Cotts, LHP
Paul Bako, C
Carlos Marmol, RHP
Ryan Theriot, SS
Joey Gathright, OF
Mike Fontenot, 2B
Angel Guzman, RHP
Geovany Soto, C
Kevin Hart, RHP
Micah Hoffpauir, 1B
Koyie Hill, C

Because its my contest, and its completely arbitrary, I'm making Soto and Marmol ineligible for this award, as mediocre seasons from either one of them would be a damnable shame. I will try to be better this season (read: I will try not to disappear from the months of June-August) at posting the standings on at least a semi-regular basis. The above list is obviously not final, as any player, like Edmonds, who is picked up during the season and hits the requirements for appearances will be added to the list. So here's to an exciting 2009 season for all of the mediocre Cubs!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Your SKO Random Third Baseman of the Day: Dave Magadan

Name: David Joseph Magadan
Height: 6'3'' Weight: 200 lb.
Bats: Left Throws: Right

Believe it or not kids, you can buy this autographed Magadan photo for just 12.00 on Ebay!

For years Cubs fans have remembered Mark Grace as a solid OBP, great average, chubby-chasing, Marlboro loving infielder with slightly below average power. He wasn't. Well, he was all of those things, but just about every one of those could also be used to describe Dave Magadan. Actually I don't really know what kind of women Magadan loved, or what tobacco he preferred, but he was a good hitter/on base guy for most of his major league career, but he's living proof that a guy like Mark Grace isn't weak for a corner infielder. A guy like Dave Magadan, with his career .377 slugging percentage, is.

Magadan, the cousin of Lou Piniella, started his career with the Mets in 1986 and started for them until 1992. He hit .328 in 1990 and never posted an OBP below .367 in that stretch. He then bounced around as part time player for the Marlins, Mariners, and Astros before coming to the Cubs in 1996 to be a part of the three headed monster the Cubs had at third base that year, between Magadan, Jose Hernandez, and Leo Gomez. The young Hernandez started the opener, struggled, was replaced by Gomez, who wilted in the second half, leading to 41 starts at the hot corner for Magadan, who naturally posted one of the worst seasons of his career, hitting just .254 (career avg.-.288) with a .360 OBP (career-.390), and a .367 slugging % (career-.377), with just 3 homers and 17 RBIs. One highlight, though, was his .963 fielding % at third base, well above his .951 mark for his career.

After the Cubs finished the season a disappointing 76-86, Magadan and Gomez were both jettisoned to make room for rookie superstar Kevin Orie, and that worked out famously, I believe. Magadan would go on to play five more major league seasons with the A's and Padres before retiring in 2001 at the age of 38. He spent 2003 to 2006 as the hitting coach for the Padres (they sucked) until he was fired. He then was hired as the Red Sox hitting coach in 2007 (they didn't suck), and thus he has proven that hitting coaches don't necessarily matter. At all.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Are Your Parents Brother and Sister?

So the other day while glancing at, which I really only go to for game and injury updates, since the majority of the pieces there are giant heaps of fluff, I realized that they had comment sections on their articles. This intrigued me, as those who know me realize that my most hated fanbases in all of sports range thusly:

1. Packers Fans
2. Red Sox Fans
3. Yankees
4. White Sox Fans
5. Cardinals Fans.
6. The majority of all Cubs fans.

I say this, because as a person whose had to endure so many horrible Cubs teams, I hate that as the team's finally discovered direction and the importance of such things as OBP, OPS, and defense, I'm still constantly having to listen to someone explain why Ryan Theriot is the "MVP" of the Chicago Cubs. It was even less tolerable in 2007 when the kid was hitting .266 with a .326 OBP, but it still annoyed me last year, as I had to sit and listen to numerous fans explain to me why Alfonso Soriano can take his selfish .876 OPS and go fuck himself, while Ryan Theriot "ignites" the team. This despite the fact that in his two years as a Cub, the Cubs record in games in which Soriano plays is 143-101, with a .586 winning %, while their record with Theriot in that same period of time is 163-134, or a .558%. While I hate to use wins as an evaluator of a players talent (because they aren't. At all.), by the Theriot fans own metric, Soriano would appear to be more of a "spark plug." But the point of this article isn't an attack on Theriot, no sir, its my response to the comments on a article entitled "Bradley to DH for Cubs on Wednesday," which addressed Milton's minor quad tweak and the fact that he WOULD BE PLAYING A GAME THAT VERY WEEK. But did that stop our ledge jumping legion of Cub DOOM? Nay good sir..

From intrepid commenter "Jman1978"
"this guy's been here what? a couple weeks? i'm sick of him already..... if he worked for me he'd be fired."

Yeah, fuck that guy! He's gonna, what, call in sick with the flu? Fire his ass. I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR PEOPLE WHO CAN'T WORK EVERY DAY. Bradley should know better than to let Cub fans down by walking out of a spring training game against the Brewers where he would have played at most two or three innings. I'm sick of this guy. Bring back Jeromy Burnitz, he played hard throughout spring training.

But even better DOOM comes from "zyles"
"Ahhh great sign Hendry. 30 million down the drain"

Actually, thanks to language in the contract, if Bradley misses significant time due to injury, its only for 2 years, 20 million, senor! But don't dare to look that up. And lets also assume that he's going to be injured for the entire length of his three year deal, its most certainly not like you're commenting on an article describing how he will be PLAYING BASEBALL THAT VERY WEEK.

Then comes "easyman," who feels the need to hijack the intelligent conversation about Milton Bradley for this diatribe:

I'm frequently mocked in chat programs and shoutboxes for never using my shift key. I think gentlemen like "easyman" are proof positive of the slippery slope that can come from using such a dastardly button. But seriously, Reed deserves to start everday because he hit .318 in 2006, and that was on a team with players like Vernon Wells (.283 career avg.), or Lyle Overbay (.281), or Alexis Rios (.288), and Troy Glaus (.256). How did he manage to out hit all of those .300 hitters?? Also, the closest Reed Johnson's ever come to 600 at bats was in 2004, when he had 537, and he hit .270. With a .320 OBP. And a .380 slugging %. And his career batting average against right handers is .268. BUT HE HAD A HIGHER BATTING AVERAGE THAN "FLUNK-O-DOMEY" AND "BADLEY" HAS ALREADY MISSED A GAME IN MARCH. PLAY THE WINNARS LOU! Badley only had one good year, last year, and that was when he led the American League in OPS. Like its that impressive to lead the entire junior circuit in the most important offensive stat.

But wait, before we get carried away with these idiots, let's not that there are Cub intellectuals, like WrigleyvilleUSA, who seems to think the Spoon River Anthology is applicable here:

"yeah well...i couldn't agree with you more Rockn. people are so quick to judge from their computer chair. i can only hope the unrespectable cubs fans don't wear down bradley's psyche so much that they cause him to snap. OVER and over they used to ask me, While buying the wine or the beer, In Peoria first, and later in Chicago, Denver, Frisco, New York, wherever I lived How I happened to lead the life, And what was the start of it. Well, I told them a silk dress, And a promise of marriage from a rich man-- (It was Lucius Atherton). But that was not really it at all. Suppose a boy steals an apple From the tray at the grocery store, And they all begin to call him a thief, The editor, minister, judge, and all the people-- "A thief," "a thief," "a thief," wherever he goes And he can't get work, and he can't get bread Without stealing it, why the boy will steal. It's the way the people regard the theft of the apple That makes the boy what he is. but i doubt anyone here has the mental capacity to understand that"

I'm not really sure what he's going for here. Is he saying that if everyone accuses Bradley of being injury prone, he'll get injured? STOP HURTING MILTON WITH YOUR WORDS, PEOPLE"

But in case you were mistaken and thought those were wrigleyvilleUSA's own words, he quickly adds:
"hahahaha! oh well. now it looks like the poem i pasted is just me talking....anyway. spoon river anthology - aner clute. just google it."

Just google it, you illiterate fools! I read the Spoon River Anthology my junior year of high school. It doesn't really smack of intellectual superiority, chief. Neither does writing on

But wait, time to defend the morons! In swoops "NStrublmakkr" with:

"Never insult the most supportive fans in all of sports! If I don't understand " your poetry", it's because it's nonsense. You likely know nothing of baseball and how you found your way to I don't know. I'm not going to google that B.S., it would insult google to do so. Here's a poem for you; the ivy is green, the cubbies wear blue, if I see you in the bleachers, I'll make a fool out of you! Not that you don't do it yourself every day. I'd think you're a whitesox fan but then you wouldn't know poetry or baseball. You sound like a liberal so you must be a Yankees fan or some other team associated with head-in-ass diseased fans! Look out for the cubs this season, they're going to blow everyone away! Learn to type, it reflects on your intelligence. How's that for judgement, there's nothing wrong with it when you are correct. GO CUBBIES!"

Now, I'm a registered Republican. I'm quite far to the right on the political spectrum you could say, but I must not really be as devoted as our friend here, because I didn't make the connection that our poet laureate must be a librul for posting the Spoon River Anthology. But hey, at least this guy wrote his own poem.

The next two pages are just back and forth hurling between these two, as NStrubblmakkr takes the approach of former HJE commenter A-Ram Baller, and starts touting his merits as a "REAL CUBS FAN" at the expense of all others. Look, I'm a die-hard fan, and its a bit insane for a kid my age. At 20 years old, I shouldn't really remember Steve Buechele or Shawn Boskie. But I do. That doesn't make me a better fan than those friends of mine who started watching in 1998, or 2001 or 2003 or even in the last two years. It's the saddest excuse in sports when people deflects someones arguments with "I'm more REAL of a FAN than you." Go read BCB. Yellon wrote an entire book about every Cub player by jersey number. Does that make him a REAL fan? If so, I'll continue to fake it.

Finally peace is made between the two by the ironically named "BleedinCubbyBlue," who pulls a
Jimmy Carter at Camp David and says:
"Gentlemen...may I? Wriglwyville and NS you both seem to be intelligent men, capable of carrying on an intelligent discussion. (but if I must nitpick, it's treading, not tredding. But no big deal) I think you're both past the point of no return on this argument, but since you are both Cubs fans, please shake virtual hands and agree that you've gotten off on the wrong foot. I'm sure in the future you'll both share some good points with each other, as you are both intelligent, passionate Cub fans. I look forward to seeing future posts from you both. - BCB"

I don't know if its just a moron who thinks thats a good name, or if its a regular contributer to the actual BCB, but its pretty representative of Herr Yellon may asking them not to fight, while elevating yourself above them with the self-described nitpick at their grammar.

So in summary, if you want to laugh at the decline of western civilization, read the comments. If you don't want your brain to try and crawl out of your head while trying to comprehend the arguments there, I'd stay away.