Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Furcal or bust, part deux

Jimmy Hendry and the Cub brass are tying their offseason success or failure to the signing of Atlanta shortstop Raffy Furcal. Well, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Jumpin' Jim has Furcal leaning toward the Cubs.

Braves free-agent shortstop Rafael Furcal is leaning toward signing with the Chicago Cubs.

A source familiar with negotiations said Furcal received a five-year offer from the Cubs that was significantly greater than he was offered by the Braves, in dollars and contract length.

The race for Furcal is down to two or three teams — Braves, Cubs and possibly the Los Angeles Dodgers — with a decision expected within a few days.

Furcal's agent, Paul Kinzer, was scheduled to have dinner Tuesday with Furcal to discuss the proposals, and they were waiting to hear what the Dodgers offered in a Tuesday night meeting in Los Angeles between Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti and an associate of Kinzer's from RKL Baseball Group.

Kinzer met with the Braves on Monday after meeting with Cubs officials on Sunday at an Atlanta hotel. Furcal stopped by for a brief discussion with Cubs general manager Jim Hendry during those meetings.

Furcal's career OBP is .348, he's stolen 46, 29, and 25 bases over the last three years. The Dominican native has hit 12, 14, and 15 homeruns over the past three years. He has hit double digit triples twice (11 in 2005 and 10 in 2003). He'll hit doubles too: 31, 24, and 35 in the past three seasons. Furcal's a good player, I am not sure these numbers make Furcal a $10 million player. Still, the Cubs struggles in the leadoff spot and a weak free agent crop might make Raffy a $10 million man over the next 4 or 5 seasons.

It sounds like this drama will play itself out within the next week or so (at some point Hendry will get an outfielder or two). I really wonder what plan B is for Hendry. I also wonder if tying this teams 2006 season to a player with Furcal's track record is smart.

Great News

From the transaction section of the Cubs web site


Acquired 1B Jim Thome and cash from the Phillies for OF Aaron Rowand, LHP Daniel Haigwood and a player to be named later.

Wow, the Cubs got Jim Thome and all they had to do was give away a PTBNL and two White Sox players. Great work Jim Hendry!

Monday, November 28, 2005

progress report

it was some eight weeks ago when this page said: "more of interest may happen with regards to the cub franchise in the next six weeks than has in the last twelve." well, that of course was not setting the bar very high at all, and it took two extra weeks -- but enough has happened to perhaps justify a progress report taken against the points elucidated at the end of the year and before.

the rotation -- the resigning of glendon rusch was a relatively minor move to solidify a starting group that was destined to remain largely intact from 2005 anyway, with prior, maddux, williams, wood and zambrano all under 2006 contract. is this enough to win with? i doubt it. this group, which placed 8th in the NL in era, remains overworked by their manager and injury-prone as a result.

much of the analysis of the cubs 2006 rotation that i've read includes somewhere the qualifying statement, "if wood and prior remain healthy", followed by hope that some great thing may happen. folks, at this point, i think it's far more likely that zambrano will come down with similar ailments than that wood and prior can both make 25 starts (much less 35). i'm with rozner on this one -- relying on this group to stay healthy under the relentless idiocy of dusty "pitcher-killer" baker is ridiculous and courting failure. zambrano ended up the second most abused pitcher in baseball, followed by mark prior in only 27 starts. short of a drive to find at least one more rock-solid starter (and maybe two), one can expect some degree of mediocrity from the 2006 rotation simply because their talent will be severely mitigated by their pain.

the bullpen -- here was the area where i felt the cubs could most help themselves, and help themselves they have. while the price tag can be argued, bobby howry is one of the premier righthanded relievers in the game and can be an invaluable asset. scott eyre, meanwhile, with less of a track record than howry, managed to land a sweet deal to supplant will ohman as the cubs first loogy. dempster was given way too much money and time to revert to the mean -- dempster is going to surprise people, i think, with how inconsistent he is in 2006, and by that i mean he won't be closing all year. the cubs also have brought back williamson, who is a crap shoot and may be finished as a good big league pitcher. dumping leicester was another step in the right direction.

the thing that bothers me at least as much as signing eyre and dempster on those terms is the consistent appearance of the name "novoa" in articles pertaining to the 2006 cubs bullpen. if the cubs don't have bullpen help enough to put novoa in des moines or further outland for the upcoming year, they don't have enough to win.

howry will be solid and eyre should be good if not spectacular, but ohman showed signs of wearing out late, having put in 73 appearances, and may not be the same arm in 2006. i bet dempster carries a 4+ era and a head of controversy into june. wuertz still hasn't exhibited sufficient control to be a reliable reliever. and then you throw novoa in there? that's not a great bullpen. this team still needs not only howry and eyre but more. and they'd better get a long look at jermaine van buren in mesa, because he is hard to hit if he trusts his stuff. and they'd better think of making wood a reliever permanently when he finally does (if he does) come back. only if they get up to a level with four or more relievers who can legitimately toss a sub-3 era will i feel comfortable. right now they have howry, eyre and maybe ohman -- they combine for maybe two and a half, probabilistically speaking. wood could be another, in spite of his salary, and so perhaps could van buren.

the infield -- resigning neifi perez does not constitute a plan. again we'll say it -- a commitment to a significant role for neifi perez on the basis of his 2005 performance -- which some idiots actually think of as successful despite a .302 obp and a .692 ops -- likely dooms the squad to mediocrity. while the corners are set with lee and ramirez, and wodd talker remains the primary option at second for another year, shortstop is a glaring hole. with no plan b -- and garciaparra mercifully cut loose -- it's furcal or bust -- and it feels frighteningly like bust right now. chipper jones' contract restructuring puts atlanta in the hunt to retain him despite the emergence of wilson betemit. while the mets have apparently cooled on furcal and the dodgers have no real reason to sign him, the braves remain a huge obstacle -- furcal's relationship with bobby cox may be the banana peel on which jim hendry is made to slip. still, rumors persist that the cubs are close (along with yet more incredible rumors) -- and we'd better hope they're true.

the outfield -- while matt murton looks increasingly ensconced in left with garciaparra fading, the cubs still have holes to fill in center and right as they try to move away from one of the worst outfields in baseball in 2005. with florida taking this offseason as an opportunity to retool with youth, juan pierre rumors have been flying. the tribune has reported that a pierre deal with the cubs is unlikely because of hendry's unwillingness to deal the requisite prospects -- pie, murton and/or hill. this sort of folly is unfortunately typical of our beloved team. the probability that the net contribution of all three of these guys amounts to what pierre has already done in the majors is, as much as i like hill and particularly murton, frankly quite slim. pierre not only fills a gaping klown-sized hole, but offers valuable insurance against failing to sign furcal as a leadoff man. if the cubs end up with both, so much the better -- a more intimidating 1-2 hasn't been seen in cubdom since dernier and sandberg.

the cubs cannot start 2006 with the failed klown in center or the unripened pie and hope to win much. if pierre cannot be got and failing johnny damon, hendry is going to have to scramble for the likes of kenny lofton to shore up the middle.

meanwhile, virtually no news has emerged from the hot stove regarding the cubs and right field short of the soriano/mench speculation (which simply seems too big to be true). with furcal and pierre occupying the minds of cub fans, we dare not forget that this team still needs a bopper to mind the sheffield side, and preferrably a lefty bopper at that.

the bench -- having reinked neifi to hopefully join hairston and blanco on the cub bench, the infield is well supported at this point. but, as our analysis of reconstruction noted previously, this is really not sufficient for a team with real aspirations. these signings are likely to sort themselves out later in the offseason, and this page will eagerly anticipate how hendry bolsters the bench as an indicator of just how serious the cubs are about 2006.

the management -- despite putting him on watch months ago, goddamned dusty baker appears ever more likely to be at the helm of this team in 2006 -- and that is a tragedy not to be understated. for all the cubs might do right in the offseason -- even if they find furcal and pierre in the opening day lineup (or even soriano and mench); even if howry, eyre, williamson, ohman and dempster all pitch to high expectation; even if health blesses the starting eight and neifi doesn't see the field for more than 150 at-bats -- all this can be quickly and completely undone by the horrifying conjunction of dusty baker's head and the tender arms of wood, prior and zambrano. if the 2006 cubs squad can have only one achilles heel, the wizard is it. if this team patches all its holes and is allowed to putrify anyway under his macabre leadership, it will be a failing not only of baker but of hendry and macfail -- of the entire cub front office, yet again.

in summation, while the critical moves are yet to be made, this much can be known about the 2006 cubs: starting pitching and dusty baker will make success a difficult venture -- and if it should by fortune descend upon the franchise early in the year, cub fans and followers will find it impossible to relax, knowing that the injuries which can gut the club are only a turn of the rotation away. so much for an easy, recumbent year.

but you didn't expect one of those anyway, did you?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hendry trying to step on the pedal in pusuit of Pierre?

On the day Jim Hendry finalized a deal for Bobby Howry(3 yrs, $12 million), the White Sox dealt their centerfielder to the Phillies for Peoria native Jim Thome. This could put Kenny Williams smack dab in the middle of the Juan Pierre bidding. Maybe Jumpin' Jim Hendry realized this and decided it was time to get this Pierre thing done. This from RotoWORLD.com:

Report: Cubs close to acquiring Pierre

WSCR 670 in Chicago is reporting that the Cubs are close to acquiring Juan Pierre from the Marlins for three prospects.One would be left-hander Renyel Pinto. According to the report, center fielder Felix Pie wouldn't be involved.
Another expendable reliever probably would be. Roberto Novoa or Jermaine Van Buren could help the Marlins. Nov. 23 - 9:10 pm et

Van Buren or Novoa, I really don't care. I have lost all faith in the Cub minor league system. So any of these guys is not a big deal to me. I'd be happy to see Pie leave, but that's just me. Pinto may be the key to this deal on for the Fish, as we know the Marlins love to steal young Cub minor league lefthanders.

The 23 year old Pinto was 10-3 at double-A with a 2.78 ERA in 22 games, 21 starts, he had a 1.23 WHIP at West Tenn. Things changed dramatically for Pinto at triple- A. He was 1-2 in 6 starts. Now the disturbing numbers 24 earned runs in 22.2 IP. That's a 9.53 ERA to go along with a 2.43 WHIP.

As the Marlins head into another fire sale, Jim Hendry ought to take a long look at the Marlins talented roster and see if their is any more help that can come from South Florida.

I'm preparing to eat to much and enter the food coma. I hope you do the same.

From the Mailbag of Dayn Perry

Here's an excerpt from the FOXSports.com contributor's mailbag that was posted a several hours ago.


What do the Cubs need to do to get themselves into the playoffs and (finally) win a World Series?


First, they should fire Dusty Baker, who's lost whatever je ne sais quois he had in San Francisco. Second, they need to sign or trade for a corner outfielder who can produce offensively. Third, they need to get past the idea that they can rely on Neifi Perez as an everyday player (that means acquiring another middle infielder). Fourth, Kerry Wood needs to be healthy in 2006. In other words, the Cubs need a "perfect storm" of events next season to overtake the Cardinals and Astros and fend off the hard-charging Brewers. Don't bet the mortgage on that happening.


In my view, Dayn has a wonderful grasp of the situation surrounding the Chicago Cubs. The "perfect storm" phrase captures this Cub fan's feelings to a T.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

More help for the 'pen

Last week Jim Hendry added left handed pitcher Scott Eyre. This week he's in pursuit of help from the right hand side. The Daily Herald and ESPN Radio 1000 are reporting that the Cubs are going after another former White Sox relief pitcher. This time it's former Sox closer Bobby Howry. Howry had a great season with the Indians in 2005.

The financial details will make many shrug. As 1060west expert Gaius Marius stated:

$9mm for two years with a third year player option? does eyre's agent have pictures of colonel mccormick with a donkey? regardless of how one feels about eyre, that is a TON of money for a loogy!! and the second loogy in the pen at that!!
even if eyre has another good year for the cubs (which is questionable), this just reinforces for me the ineptitude of the general management.

Well GM, rumors have the contract for Howry being the same as the contract for Eyre. Errrr. I am happy to see the Cubs adding bullpen help, but GM makes a great point about the cost and the inconsistency of relievers. Is there any question that either Dempster, Eyre or Howry will be this years ticking bomb in the pen?

Zito rumors

According to Athletics Nation rumors of Billy Beane shopping Barry Zito are running rampant. Now the part Cub fans will find very exciting:

I actually have a hunch that if Zito is traded, it will be to one of two teams. Either the Arizona Diamondbacks or the Chicago Cubs. Both are stocked with young talent, which Billy Beane covets and the Cubs have a ton of great young arms. The Cubs could also be looking to bolster a starting staff that has its share of injury problems over the past several years. We all know Zito's stellar health resume. Zito would also get a chance to do the Curt Schilling act in Chicago (lead a pathetic and hopeless franchise to the promised land), and get to play on the bigger stage that he seems destined for. Of course his spotless injury record would be greatly tested by Dusty "Pitcher Killer" Baker.

Boy, would this be a coup for Hendry. Looking at the Cubs starting rotation as it is currently constructed we are looking at Zambrano, Prior, Maddux, Rusch and probably Jerome Williams (yes, I am leaving out Kerry Wood, that's what Larry Rothschild told me to do. Anything out of Wood will be considered a bonus). That roatation does not inspire much confidence.

So if Billy Beane is dangling Zito, I hope Jim Hendry picks up the cell phone and makes a call. I no longer have any confidence in any of the Cubs prospects that were drafted and/or developed by the Cub organization. There is not one of them that I wouldn't include in a deal for Zito or Juan Pierre for that matter. Yeah, I'd even deal the great Felix Pie.

Zito is an innings eater. Over the last 5 years he's pitched 214.1, 229.1, 231.2, 213.0 and 228.1 innings. He has been pretty average the last few years. 11-11 in 2004 with a 4.48 ERA & 14-13 in 2005 with a 3.86 ERA. Still he started the season 1-6. He really put things together from that point on. Zito's WHIP was down from 1.39 to 1.20 in 2005.

A front three of Zambrano, Zito and Prior would be most impressive. Hendry missed out on Mulder and Hudson last winter. I hope he takes a serious look at Zito.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Corporate ownership

I constantly complain about the faceless corporate ownership of the Chicago National League Ballclub. The only thing worse than having them own your favorite team would probably be working for them.

With job loss in the news today, it's difficult to imagine a struggling corporation opening up their checkbook to buy another millionaire ballplayer, while they are eliminating jobs. But that's what's happening.

This might be the first time I have ever agreed with the Tribs Mike Downey. This from his Saturday column:

Please forgive me if I can't quite bring myself to encourage the Cubs to offer $50 million to a shortstop, Rafael Furcal, at the same time Tribune Co. (which owns the Cubs, this newspaper and papers in Los Angeles; Hartford, Conn.; and Orlando, among others) is announcing the elimination of more than 200 jobs. Sorry.

That is today's corporation. Axe several hundred people that make $50 grand because the corporation is suffering. Follow that up by signing a new shortstop for $50 million. It doesn't sound right and it ain't fair, but it's business.

Still the Tribsters know where they can make up for some of the losses. raise ticket prices! This from the annual invoice sent to season ticketholders:

Although the on field performance was disappointing, the 2005 season was memorable with attendance of 3.1 Million, the Red Sox series, and even Jimmy Buffett concerts. Hopefully the 2006 season will be more exciting with a return to post season play.
They fess up to the fact that 2005 sucked. But they tell the fans to remember the fun stuff! What? Now pay 10-20% more for your tickets. Thanks a bunch, we'll see you in April.

It is what it is. The Tribune ownership has grown so, soo, soooooo tiresome. Still the hope that they will sell lingers. When will an owner like Mark Cuban come to the Northside and take the Cubs away from Tribune Company? Not soon enough.


Saturday, November 19, 2005

media creature: Discovering a Voice of the Past

I contend that baseball fans form a bond with their team's broadcasters that is greater than that of any other sports fan. It has got to be the amount of time we "spend" with our guys. Whether it was Lou Boudreau teaching us the fundamentals--"for all you youngsters out there..." or Pat and Ron peeling oranges, we grow to love "our" announcers. A baseball teams radio and tv broadcasters are a conduit between the action on the field and the millions of fans that wish they were in the ballpark on any given day.

Growing up in the 70's and 80's following the Cubs I always felt was great. Yeah, the Cubs were usually horrible. Still, there were only day games at Wrigley Field and our broadcasters were fun! Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau on the WGN radio and of course the Hall of Famer Jack Brickhouse on the tv side. The voices kept us from being too discouraged and always told us that there was reason for hope.

Still in my Cub family every now and again my Dad or Grandpa would mention a name from the past. A name that I was not familiar with: Jack Quinlan.

When you grow up in a family that loves Cub baseball you seem to discuss everything about the team umteen times. You can only talk about the backup middle infielders for so long. Eventually you drift off of the field and talk about the guys in the booth. As a kid I would ask "who's the best announcer the Cubs have had?" The easy answer is of course Brickhouse or years later Harry Caray. Somehow the name that would always pop up along with Jack and Harry would be that of Quinlan.

Until this week, Jack Quinaln was the same to me as Bert Wilson--a guy who had broadcast the Cubs before I was alive. A few weeks ago, Sports Central's Dave Kaplan had a gentleman named Ron Barber on his show along with Bob Costas. They were talking about Quinlan. I stopped and listened. Barber's gotta be close to the same age as my Dad. I wondered to myself: what is the Baby Boomers fascination with this Jack Quinlan? At the end of the interview Barber pitched an audio book on Quinlan called Jack Quinlan: Forgotten Greatness. I jotted the website down and it sat on the kitchen counter a few weeks.

This week, I started to really miss Cub baseball. So I decided, I'd order the audio book and figure out what was so special about Jack Quinlan. When the CD's arrived I popped them into my car stereo and began listening. There's a lot of narration by Barber. Barber talks about growing up in Glenview in the 50's and 60's as a young Cub fan. The narration is kind of like that on the tv show The Wonder Years. That's ok but the real highlight on the CD's are the audio clips of Quinlan calling ball games.

There were highlights of Quinlan calling All Star games, the 1960 World Series, Don Cardwell's no hitter, and several Cub low lights from the era. There is a hillarious episode where Jack and Lou try to read commercials for women's undergarments...it's classic! A favorite of mine was the Cubs first game in Los Angeles at the LA Coloseum. You actually hear two innings of Quinlan and Lou calling the ballgame from the West Coast.

Listening to Quinlan's calls I finally realized what the Baby Boomers enjoyed about Quinlan. Quinlan described the ballgame with precision. As I was listening I could see a player jump into the vines to take a double away. I also heard enjoyment in Quinlan's voice. You could tell that he really enjoyed bringing the action to the fans. So many of today's baseball announcers have a shtick. Listening to Quinlan, I realized this guy didn't have a shtick, because he didn't need it. I realized what the Baby Boomers know Jack Quinlan was a damn good Cub broadcaster.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Retooling the 'pen

Over the past few days Jim Hendry has started rebuilding the Chicago Cubs. He started with one of the teams weakest parts in 2005--the bullpen. Yesterday, Jon Leicester was sent to the Texas Rangers for a PTBNL. Today the Cubs signed left handed relief pitcher Scott Eyre.

The 33 year old reliever is projected to team with Will Ohman as the Cubs left-handed setup men for closer Ryan Dempster. Eyre is coming off the best season of his career. He had a 2.63 ERA pitching in 86 games (73 of those outings were scoreless appearances).

Eyre fits the "Dusty-Proof" plan that I advocate. As we all know Dusty loves the lefty/lefty matchup, even with Mike Remlinger who had splits that showed he shouldn't have been pitching. Eyre pitches well against left handed hitters. In 2005 left handed hitters only hit .182 against Eyre.

On paper this looks like a good addition to the Cubs 'pen. Now we wait to see who will be the right handed compliments to Eyre and Ohman in middle relief.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

How do they define MVP?

Later on today the 2005 National League MVP will be named. 18 year old Albert Pujols is the favorite, but you can sure make a case for Andruw Jones and this site's favorite son Derrek Lee. Here are the offensive stats for the the three candidates:

Pujols .330 Avg/41 HR/117 RBi/129 R/38 2b/16 SB/1.039 OPS
Jones .263 Avg/51 HR/128 RBi/95 R/24 2b/5 SB/.922 OPS
Lee .335 Avg/46 HR/107 RBi/120 R/50 2B/15 SB/1.080 OPS

You can make a case for each of these guys. So now the real frustrating part begins. There is no definition of what the qualifications to be an MVP are. Thus, the baseball writers come up with their own individual parameters.

You see there are several unwritten rules for MLB's postseason awards. Here's a few that I've heard over the past few days (contradictions and all):
  • The players team made the playoffs
  • Only "full-time" players (anyone but a DH, David Ortiz)
  • The MVP is an offensive award
  • Pitchers have the Cy Young award so they are not considered for the MVP.
  • The Cy Young award is only for starting pitchers.
  • Players on teams that finish in the second division need not apply.

Still you can come up with exceptions to all of these "rules". Several in Cubs history. Andre Dawson in 1987, Bruce Sutter in 1979, and of course MR. Cub Ernie Banks in 1958 and 1959. Still in 1998, a Cub player benefited from the unwritten rules when Sammy Sosa beat out Mark McGwire for the MVP, because his team made the playoffs.

Which way is it? When do these rules apply? Reportedly, several writers change their own rules on nearly an annual basis. It seems to me that the clear cut way for baseball to solve this problem would be to list the parameters for the MVP and all other postseason awards. The problem that this creates is we would have a clear cut winner and there wouldn't be anything to talk about baseball-wise in the middle of November.

Just like the HOF voting, baseball postseason award voting is in real muddy waters. That's the way they want it.

For the record, if I had a vote I'd have voted: 1. Pujols, 2. Lee, 3. Jones. But, I'm not sure what I was voting on.

A Few Cold One's can't hurt! Here's another excuse to binge drink this weekend or tonite!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Juan Pierre

Jim Hendry is gonna try and recreate the Cubs offensive team this offseason with a solid one-two punch. While he focuses on signing free agent Raffy Furcal starting today, he is also rumored to be in trade talks trying to work out a multi-team deal that would send Korey packing and bring Juan Pierre to the Northside. This from Thursday's Miami Herald:

In addition, two reports put the Marlins in the middle of preliminary discussions on a multiteam trade that is said to involve the Chicago Cubs' Corey Patterson and Florida's Juan Pierre.

Some in the CBA are not fans of Pierre. Still many Cub fans remember the jackrabbit Pierre that seemed to be in the middle of everything offensive for the Marlins in the 2003 NLCS.

Thursday afternoon on the Score, Steve Stone talked about Pierre. He said that Pierre has a workout regimen that would be good for the Cubs. He said that the Cub players, including a certain overweight third sacker, would benefit from seeing Pierre work. Stone also said that he thought Pierre would provide some of the leadership that has been lacking at Clark and Addison.

Making all of this happen might take a miracle. One thing is clear though. Hendry is going to address the leadoff spot. The Cubs are going to have a one-two punch in 2006 that won't be Corey Patterson and Neifi Perez. That right there is an upgrade.

There are still a few lost souls that are afraid Patterson will go to another team and be Lou Brock. That's not gonna happen. The kid will be lucky if he's in the big leagues in 2008. Since Dusty came to the Cubs in 2003, the best ball the Cubs have played was when Korey Patterson was on the DL. Sending him packing will be a major upgrade, regardless of who they bring in.

If, somehow, Hendry is able to bring in both Furcal and Pierre the Cubs will find themselves with their best top of the order since the daily double of Dernier and Sandberg in '84. These moves would be significant and might restore some of my faith in the Cubs GM.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Furcal or bust?

So this is what it has come down to. The success of Jim Hendry's 2005-6 offseason comes down to whether or not he can sign the Atlanta Braves shortstop. Although all signs point to Furcal signing with the Northsiders, there will be other teams including the Mets interested in signing the strong-armed Furcal.

Despite his drinking issues, Furcal fits. He can leadoff and play a decent short. Furcal fits so well that something probably will go wrong. This is the Cubs.

Still Hendry's gonna have to have a plan B. Let's say Furcal signs with the Mets or somebody besides the Cubs. What will the Cubs do? They'll still have holes at SS and leadoff. Neifi Perez does not fill either of these roles.

If the Cubs miss out on Furcal Hendry will be in the trade market very quickly. Cedeno will probably get his shot at SS and the Cubs will trade for an outfielder that can leadoff. This isn't the option that many of us like to consider ,but I'd say there is a good chance that this will happen.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

What do we know...

So far the Cubs have picked up the 2006 options on Todd Walker and Scott Williamson. They have also signed two-year deals Glendon Rusch and Neifi Perez and a three year deal with Ryan Dempster. The Walker and Williamson moves were predictable and intelligent. I don't think there is anyone who will balk at these. Dempster was probably given more $ than some would like, but all in all this seems to be a solid move. The Rusch and Perez signings though are curious for both the length and reported size (2yrs, $6M total & 2yrs $5M rumored total respectively).

Personally I'm a Glendon Rusch fan and I don't have a huge problem with bringing him back for '06. For those out there who say you can't win with him as the 5th starter (Steve Stone included), take a look at the 5th starter for the playoff teams the last several years. Glendon fits the bill and you can win with him in the 5 spot in the rotation, just not as your #3 or #4. If he's beaten out, he could become valuable to some other team prior to the trading deadline and net a prospect or two. But I do have a suspicion that Hendry is hedging his bets with this signing. I believe that he is exploring trades involving some of the young arms and that the team is also concerned about Wood being fully healthy come Spring Training (and staying healthy all year). If I was a betting man, I'd see what the odds are on Kerry Wood getting twice as many relief appearances and starts in '06. The only reason I see for having him signed for '07 is that he provides an in-house option for the likely departures of Maddux and Wood.

Like everyone else, I think Neifi Perez is a wonderful back up IF (spot starter and late inning defensive replacement). But as a regular starter he's, at best, average, likely below average and that's when he's hitting at the bottom of the line up. If this move helps Hendry ink Rafael Furcal and signals the exodus of Jose Macias, then I applaud it. If not, I'll reserve judgement until I see how Baker uses him next season.

So, the position players on the current 25-man roster, assuming a 12 man pitching staff are...

Catchers (2)

IF (6)
Macias (arb-elig)

OF (5)
Patterson (arb-elig)
Hairston (arb-elig)

So catcher is set. As for the arbitration eligible guys, I don't expect any of them back with the signing of Perez and press about potentially bringing on Furcal. Attempts to trade these guys will be made, but sans a deal(s) all three will likely be non-tendered. So, if the Cubs sign Furcal and don't trade Walker (as is being speculated), the IF will be set. Personally I'd like to see them add an IF-OF guy, but not a Macias-Hairston type. Someone more like John Mabry, a guy who can play the corner IF & OF spots and can pinch hit, would be great fit for the 5th OF.

There's been speculation that Hendry is also interested in Kevin Mench and Juan Pierre (and we all know how much he loves Kearns and Dunn). I like Mench as a 4th OF/PH. He has some power and he's a blue collar, hard working type. Pierre is real deal in my eyes. He had a down 2005, but this may help the Cubs get him on the cheap. My money is on him returning to form next season. Let's say the Mench and Pierre moves are made along with a pick up of a corner IF/OF, while the Cubs only lose the arb-eligibles and some of the minor league/young arms (that's alot of supposing, I know) during these acquisitions. So, they'd only have the starting RF spot to fill out of the position players assuming a 12 man pitching staff. At that point, I'd expect talks with Giles and Matsui (if he becomes a FA) and inquiries with the Reds about Kearns. Taking all this into account the position players look like

Catchers (2)
Blanco (back-up)

IF (6)
Perez (back-up)
Walker (back-up)

OF (5)
Mench (back-up)
Mystery Corner OF/IF (back-up)

Well I've typed enough for now.

Much of the same...

Guess who's coming back for 2 more years?

So much for "Dusty-Proofing" the Cubs in '06.

Last week Jim Hendry resigned Glendon Rusch. Before that he picked up the option on Todd Walker. Now today the word is out that Hendry is about to ink Neifi Perez to a two year deal. What am I missing here? These three players showed up as short term solutions before and during the 2004 season. Now they have become fixtures on this ballclub. A ballclub that has slid backwards since they won the division in 2003. A ballclub in need of a major overhaul.

So Hendry has brought back Perez. Perez is a good defensive player. Still the Cubs saw in 2005 what teams like the Giants did before them: he kills teams with his approach at the plate. The Cubs brilliant tactician in the dugout likes to compound the problem. You see, Dusty Baker will bat Neifi in the #1 or #2 spot if he has no clear cut experienced options. Neifi had a .298 OBP. To put that in perspective that was the same OBP that the great Todd Hollandsworth finished 2005 with and Carlos Zambrano actually finished with a better batting average than that, 'los hit .300. This means that on the right day the guy leading off for the Cubs has a lower OBP than the guy hitting ninth. That is the brilliance of Johnnie B. Baker!

So as we head toward 2006 it looks more like the same ole shit. These three moves show me that Hendry is content with the current makeup of this team. Yeah, he might tinker but a real makeover ain't gonna happen.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Not So Random Cub Boxscore 5/8/90

The news is pretty damn slow concerning the Northsiders. Over at the Cub Town in the Toaster, Derek Smart is in the midst of his annual Assume The Position articles. Take a look. I have enjoyed reading these assessments through the years.


It's the time of year when the days start to get real short in Chicago. Ole Man Winter is getting ready to knock on the door. This is when I start to really miss the day-to-day activity of following the Cubs.

So, I find myself reminiscing about the past. Cub teams from my youth, the can't miss prospect that missed, players that I rooted for only because they wore the blue pinstripes, and of course some of my favorite ballgames. Well, thanks to retrosheet.org it ain't to hard to dig up some of the memories.

In May of 1990, I was less than a month away from graduating High School. I was coasting along through the final month of H.S. when I decided that it would be a good time to sneak out of class and head down to Wrigley Field for a game during the week. I talked a friend into coming. We got to the ballpark early to take in the Wrigley Field atmosphere.

The weather was beautiful on the Tuesday in May. Sun was shining and we were not at school! We picked up a few bleacher tickets from the box office (I don't remember if they still sold the bleacher tickets at the bleacher entrance in those days or if that had moved to Clark and Addison) Made our way into the ballpark early and perched ourselves in the left field bleachers.

During BP I caught a ball hit by Atlanta catcher Greg Olson. A kind fan, sitting next to me, bought us underagers a couple of Old Style's and everything was right with the world. Still the real fireworks would come in the ballgame!

It was a battle of lefthanders as Steve Wilson pitched against some young guy named Tom Glavine. The game wouldn't be decided by either pitcher. Hawk Dawson would be the hero that day! Not once, but twice. Andre tied the ballgame in the ninth with a HR. In the 11th he won the ballgame with another tape measure HR. What a day it was at the ballpark!

Exiting onto Waveland Avenue that afternoon was simply awesome for me as an 18 year old. Of all the games I have been to this is one of the magical games that I'll always remember. So, here's a game I ditched school to watch in May 1990!

Chicago Cubs 10, Atlanta Braves 8

DayGame Played on
Tuesday, May 8, 1990 (D) at Wrigley Field
ATL N 0 0 0 1 2 1 1 2 1 0 0 - 8 14 2
CHI N 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 2 - 10 12 0

Atlanta Braves AB R H RBI BB SO PO A
Gant cf 5 2 2 2 1 2 2 0
Blauser ss 4 1 1 2 2 1 0 3
L. Smith lf 5 1 2 0 1 0 1 0
Murphy rf 5 0 0 0 1 2 3 0
Davis 1b 4 0 1 0 0 1 4 1
Gregg ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Boever p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
McDowell ph 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Henry p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Lemke 3b 5 1 1 0 0 0 1 5
Treadway 2b 5 1 3 1 1 0 2 2
Olson c 3 1 2 2 1 1 10 0
Whitt c 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0
Glavine p 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 2
Thomas ph 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
Bell 1b 1 0 0 0 0 0 6 0
Totals 44 8 14 7 7 8 31 13

E: Blauser (2), Murphy (2).

2B: L. Smith (3,off Assenmacher); McDowell (3,off Long).
HR: Blauser (3,5th inning off Wilson 1 on, 0 out); Olson (1,6th inning off
Wilson 0 on, 1 out); Gant (1,8th inning off Assenmacher 1 on, 0 out).
SH: Lemke (3,off Long).
HBP: Olson (1,by Kraemer).
IBB: Murphy (2,by Assenmacher); Treadway (1,by Long).
Team LOB: 12.

Chicago Cubs AB R H RBI BB SO PO A
Walton cf 5 2 3 0 0 1 4 0
Long p 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 2
Sandberg 2b 6 2 2 1 0 0 2 3
Grace 1b 5 1 1 0 1 2 10 1
Dawson rf 5 2 3 3 1 1 1 0
McClendon lf 4 1 1 1 1 2 2 0
Wilkerson 3b 3 1 1 3 0 1 1 1
Assenmacher p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Nunez p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kraemer p 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Wynne cf 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dunston ss 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ramos ss 4 0 0 0 0 0 3 4
Girardi c 2 0 0 0 1 1 8 1
D. Smith ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wrona c 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0
Wilson p 2 0 1 1 0 1 0 0
Salazar 3b 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 2
Totals 44 10 12 9 4 12 33 14

DP: 2.

2B: Wilkerson (3,off Glavine); Sandberg (7,off Glavine); Walton (3,off Boever).
HR: Dawson 2 (7,9th inning off Boever 0 on, 0 out,11th inning off Henry 1 on,
1 out).
SH: Assenmacher (1,off Glavine).
IBB: Girardi (2,by Glavine); Dawson (3,by Glavine).
Team LOB: 8.
SB: Walton (5,3rd base off Glavine/Olson); Sandberg (5,2nd base off Glavine/Olson).

Atlanta Braves IP H R ER BB SO HR
Glavine 7 7 6 1 4 9 0
Boever 3 3 2 2 0 3 1
Henry L(0-1) 0.1 2 2 2 0 0 1
Totals 10.1 12 10 5 4 12 2

Chicago Cubs IP H R ER BB SO HR
Wilson 5.1 7 4 4 3 3 2
Assenmacher 1.2 4 3 3 3 3 1
Nunez 0.1 1 0 0 0 1 0
Kraemer 1.1 1 1 1 0 0 0
Long W(1-0) 2.1 1 0 0 1 1 0
Totals 11 14 8 8 7 8 3

WP: Glavine (1), Long (1).
HBP: Kraemer (2,Olson).
IBB: Glavine 2 (2,Girardi,Dawson); Assenmacher (2,Murphy); Long (2,Treadway).
Umpires: Terry Tata, Jim Quick, Bill Hohn, Greg Bonin

Time of Game: 3:50 Attendance: 18,503

CUBS 9TH: Dawson homered; McClendon struck out; Wynne grounded out (third to first); Ramos grounded out (third to first); 1 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Braves 8, Cubs 8.

CUBS 11TH: HENRY REPLACED MCDOWELL (PITCHING); Sandberg grounded out (shortstop to first); Grace singled to center; Dawson homered [Grace scored]; 2 R, 2 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Braves 8, Cubs 10.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

lawton suspended

just in case anyone thought that steriods cannot be found in at least half the lockers of the cub clubhouse, not-particularly-powerful recent cub matt lawton was nailed by baseball for boldenone, an injectable anabolic steroid.

steroid use continues to be a rampant fact in baseball -- and not just by guys like sammy sosa or raffy palmeiro. the ability to come back from minor injury and even high levels of repetitive use are a bigger factor, i suspect, than even home runs and big contracts in motivating players to shoot up. as such, it shouldn't be surprising that pitchers like ryan franklin, felix heredia and carlos almanzar have also been pinned. and god help us if they test zambrano -- the only way to survive his reckless overuse is probably directly correlated to his weight gain over the last few years. i remeber seeing him pitch in lansing with corncobdress, when he was rail thin and tossed a few miles-per-hour less than he does now -- i can hardly believe he's the same guy.

with congress -- never a shy bunch when it comes to making rules in front of cameras -- now stepping wholly into the fray, it's difficult to know what baseball's drug policies will be in five years, but they are almost certain to be stricter than they are now.

will that help? it's difficult to say. there will certainly continue to be a great deal of line blurring on the use of supplements, and hefty penalties in combination with an ever-more militant police state (now over 1.5 million jailed, up from 800,000 just 15 years ago) haven't exactly curbed the american drug culture. the incentive of a generous contract will, i suspect, continue to keep steroid use on the map in professional sports for the forseeable future.