Friday, September 30, 2005

Concerns about Prior

Wednesday's 2005 home finale showed all of the Cubs warts. In the bottom of the ninth the Cubs loaded the bases with nobody out. You know the rest... Patterson struckout (surprise, surprise), Grieve whiffed and the Gremlin popped out. Game over, home season over, time to rip down the bleachers. My concerns, though, do not lie in the outcome of the game nor in the Cubs offensive failures. I am very concerned about what we saw out of Mark Prior.

Prior's day was all to typical of his starts this season. He threw 97 pitches in only 5 innings. Along the way he allowed 6 hits, and (gulp) 4 walks, 3 runs of which only one was earned. The number of pitches and the walks are not what we expect from Prior. Still this year he has had more outings like this than the dominant starts we have come to expect from Mark Prior.

In Prior's five starts in September he went 6, 6.2, 5, 6, and 5 innings. Since he was hit on the right elbow on May 27th, Prior has not looked right. His starts have been fine for a number four starter, but that is not what the Cubs need or expect from #22. Here's what he said about his performance:
"I was out of sync," Prior said. "I felt out of sync all day. I never was able to get into a groove, for whatever reason -- I don't know. The ball never felt comfortable coming out of my hand today. My breaking ball was awful. Some days you show up and for whatever reason it doesn't line up."

So as we look ahead to 2006 what should we expect from Prior. Can he be the ace that he was in 2003 or will he be the injury-prone pitcher we have seen over the past 2 seasons.

A Good Sign?
I was surprised to read in today's Bright One that Jim Hendry recognizes that the Cubs need some help in the starting rotation.
"But we would look into [acquiring another starter] if we could, if you find somebody that's the right guy and could make the staff deeper. I'm happy with the way [No. 5 starter] Jerome Williams has pitched at times. But we need to augment the pitching.''

Starting pitching, relief pitching, outfielders, a leadoff guy, some speed, the list goes on and on... Jim Hendry is going to have alot of work in front of him. I for one do not want to go into another season counting on Wood and Prior to anchor this pitching staff.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

the bank of nostalgia

astute 1060west contributor john dooley, commenting on the cubs recent slide into irrelevance and the reaction of the fans in attendance at wrigley field, noted the lack of disgust evident among them despite it all.

I think people are starting to seriously not care about this team.

i've thought for quite some time now that the tribune company could waltz a trained-bear act or the jesse white tumblers out there to the mound instead of the cubs -- and it wouldn't make the slightest difference to 80% of those in attendance. beer? sunshine? hardbodies and bikini tops? "who's in left today?" is the question, and "who cares?" becomes the answer for most.

now, every ballpark has some aspect of this devolution which insults the purist. that it's been more successful at wrigley than elsewhere is testament to the north side revivial of the last twenty years, and hard to complain about in the bigger picture.

but something more insidious has been at work on chicago baseball fans, which compounds the problem immensely and has perverted the franchise.

all the "cathedral of the game" propaganda that's been showered on chicagoland for decades now has infected and rotted the critical baseball mind of the average chicago cub fan -- to the point where the hallowed park itself has become a huge part of a now-97-year-old problem. and the cubs marketing campaign of the last twenty years or more is directly responsible.

the cubs have successfully made going to see the cubs all about ivy and bricks, harry and ronnie, hand-operated scoreboards and rooftops and a litany of archaistic nostalgia (as well as one or two overrated individual players, who will be unceremoniusly scrapped when their contract demands outweigh their value to the marketing machine) -- and nothing at all about the pennant except inasmuchas pretext to drop another sentimental reference to the good old days, when we were young, of 1969, 1945 and 1908. (remember the second world war? wasn't that just grand?)

this recasting of a baseball team as a vehicle to an idealized, innocent and incorruptable past is genius for the bottom line -- which is all the mother ship cares about or can care about, being a soulless profit-driven engine of shareholder equity. after all, the iconography of the ancient isn't subject to the vacillations of free agency and injury. so successful has it been in tapping into that vein of popular disillusionment with the postmodern age that the cubs' strategy has become a model for all of baseball, sparking the return to old-tyme ballparks nationwide.

but the entire process is anathema to the construction of quality ballclubs. with no real (read: fiscal) pain being felt in the tower, no economic signal (the only kind understood by the corporation) from the fan to compel them to field success over nostalgia, they toss some dough at the team every five years to get that "whiff of competition" and keep a faint aura of actual baseball around this infomediatainment enterprise. then they crank up the 50,000-watt blowtorch and the printing presses to hype it into another decade of profitability with the force of faux golden memories.

each and every time, it's calculated and measured to be just enough to dupe a new generation of actual baseball fans -- that dedicated other 20%, a reflective lot by trade, clinging to a fading 19th c sport of gentlemen amateurs -- holding out a promise of invested hope fulfilled long enough to grab a hold of their aimless melancholy hearts with the siren call of days gone by, using a love for the mechanisms of the game to pass the time until they return.

but as far as making the commitment to a real baseball organization, building over years under attentive and stable leadership, going out of the way to hire the best and most knowledgable people, assembling an institution of the game which nurtures talent and pilots change toward success over more superficial and less expensive forms of disposable marketability? hell no. from a corporate perspective, why would you bother? the value of the chicago cubs to the tribune corporation is not in winning -- it's in programming and advertising. they might even be worth less to the shareholder if they finally win, thereby upsetting the bank of emotional involvement which now holds the legacy of a century of hope, upon which they trade.

i don't think the future success of the cubs will be determined by the oblivious and carefree 80%. a significant fraction of them would disappear in a moment if the scene became a "downer" -- they follow the wind. the future will be determined the the 20% that have it within their power to fill wrigley with criticism and anger, driving off the ephemeral partiers if they so choose. and the cubs know that, which is why they bother to hunt their more difficult affections in the first place.

the potential of the future is jeopardized most, then, by an acquiescence among these dedicated few -- a misdirection of allegiance to the causes of technique, archaism and memory. when longtime and passionate fans become satiated simply with the rhythms of the game that should merely brook the tides, when they become more enamored with the lustrous illusion of a better past than a possible real future, when they refuse to forsake a malfeasant stability and risk the immense emotional capital they've sunk into this team for fear of being cheated out of it -- then, ultimately, they have cheated not only themselves but all those whom they might help by leading.

it is far past time for dedicated cub fans to break this bank of nostalgia and actively campaign not for rooftops and halls of fame and bleachers and good old days but for a striving franchise that can accomplish the goal that it has long merely feigned and masqueraded at.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

a medical revelation

i came across this laugher of inadvertent self-diagnosis in the trib the other day:

Corey Patterson had another adventurous day, falling on the wet warning track in the seventh to turn a Morgan Ensberg fly into an RBI triple, right before the deluge. Nomar Garciaparra made a defensive gaffe when the game resumed.

Baker said the poor defense is not a sign of end-of-the-season blahs.

"You have to play," he said. "You're getting paid to play. They're playing hard, but Corey fell down. … We just played bad defense."

The Cubs are considering asking Patterson to see a sports psychologist to help him relax and concentrate better. Baker said "nothing has been set" and he hasn't spoken to Patterson to see if he's even amenable to the idea.

"Everyone is looking for answers and clues," Baker said.

Baker knows the subject will bring derision by some, though he said he's "not opposed" to such alternative measures to help players.

"I'm open-minded with stuff like that, actually, because I was probably one of the first guys who took some relaxation courses in Venezuela in 1974," Baker said. "I even got hypnotized in '78. I was having trouble concentrating. … So, no, I'm very open to a lot of stuff."

dusty -- you have a history of trouble paying attention for short spans of time? you have had difficulty focusing on events as they happen? you find it hard to muster the discipline to analyze and solve problems? and often suffer for thinking on your feet and being consistent? why, i can't tell you how shocked, utterly shocked i am! my apologies -- all this time i thought you were simply stupid and a charlatan. turns out that you're a sick, sick man. here, nurse -- get this poor wretch a prescription for ritalin, stat!

it surely explains his recent fealty to the klown, who continues to get at-bats for god-knows-what reason. birds of a feather, and all that.

unless k-pat actually is just stupid, of course. or an idiot savant. different feathers, then....

just when i was recovering from the giggling that ensued upon hearing that the cubs still dream that a shrink can make the klown a respectable baseball player, they hit me with the cub chieftan's untreated (unless you count venezuelan hypnosis) attention-deficit disorder. you can't make this stuff up, people. that dusty! he should book some gigs at zanies. that's talent, folks -- it's all in the timing.

anyway, remember what this page has said -- if patterson, shrunk or unshrunk, is on the 25-man roster on opening day 2006, you should become a fan of something, really anything else. unless you're a masochist, of course. then you might find 2006 at wrigley pleasurable in the same way you found the abu ghraib photos pleasurable. and as much might be said for the continued presence of dusty at the helm.

demand change with your wallets, cub fans, for that's the only way you'll ever see it.

Today in Cub History...

On this date in 1938 Gabby Hartnett hit his famous "Homer in the Gloamin" as darkness descended on Wrigley Field in the ninth inning. This Homerun is one of the biggest in Cubs history. Gabby's blast gave the Cubs a 6-5 victory over the Pirates. It was their ninth straight victory on their way to the NL crown. This win would be critical for the Northsiders who would win the NL Pennant by 2 games over the Bucs.

Back in those days the Cubs used to win the National League Pennant every 3 years. The Northsiders took the Pennant in '29, '32, 35, and in '38. Gabby played on all of those teams and finished the '38 season as a Player/Manager. In 1938 what Cub fan would have imagined that the team would only win one more pennant over the next 67 years. It's hard to imagine.

Monday, September 26, 2005

media creature: Where will the Stone Pony be in 2006?

Chip's still a babbling fool(tune into any Brave broadcast for proof)! Will the Stone Pony be a regular in a teams booth in 2006?

I listened to Steve Stone's show this afternoon on the Score. They are winding down the shows with Stone. Next week will be his last show. This got me wondering about the future of the best baseball analyst in the business. I did a search on the Stone Pony and stumbled across this interview Maggie Haskins had with Stone back in August, on

It's a pretty good interview. Stone lays out the entire "first-guess" scenario that pissed off Dusty during the final week of 2004. Here's how Stone recalls the situation:

Stone: That was a terrible, horrible game and put things over the top for me with No. 12 [Baker's number]. He left Remlinger in to face Adam Dunn and I said before the fact, "I don't think you can leave Remlinger in to face Adam Dunn. Not only is Dunn 5-for-6 lifetime against Remlinger, Remlinger is about 100 points worse against right-handers. Well, Dusty leaves him in and boom there is a base hit.

Now, he brings in Farnsworth. So I say, "Well someone is going to have to go out there and tell Farnsworth that though Adam Dunn has five stolen bases all year, this is when he steals bases." Nobody goes out and talks to Farnsworth. He threw ball one, didn't use a side step and Dunn steals second. I say "now the bright side to this stolen base is you can take Javier Valentin who is a switch hitter, hitting only .119 from the right side and you can put him on first and face Sanderson Machado who hasn't hit the ball out of the infield all day." So the Cubs elect to pitch to Javier Valentin, he doubles off the wall and the Reds win the game. I laid out the inning exactly as it was going to happen before the fact.

After the game I questioned Dusty about the ninth inning and he was quite upset with it. Had I not made my observations during the game I would never have second-guessed him, but I feel if I have already made the statements it is absolutely within bounds. I admit that I don't know the ins and outs of what is going on like a manager does but ...

That shit happened a year ago this week. And just like that--our dumb ass thin-skinned Manager and his ass kissing GM ran the best color commentator off of Cub telecasts. 20+ years calling games on the northside meant nothing.

Anyway, I think it's pretty safe to say the Stone Pony probably won't be working for the Tribsters anytime soon. Not only did the Cubs allow Stone to walk, but they hired Bob Brenly at nearly twice the salary Stone received. Have you listened to Brenly? This was an insult to Stone.

So what does the future hold for the Stone Pony? Read this question from Haskins interview:

Do you ever envision yourself out of the booth? Whether managerial, ownership or GM?

Stone: I chased it for about 10 years and at various times have been closer than at other times, but I don't know. I just know that I love the game of baseball. I am never happier than when I get a chance to go to the ballpark on a daily basis or talk about baseball on a daily basis. I do have a one-year contract with the WSCR in Chicago [where Stone has a weekly show] and one-year contract with ESPN because I wanted to see how it fit with Chicago still in the picture, seeing if I really missed broadcasting for one particular team. It's been really good though and going back to Wrigley is always great. It's been a unique and interesting year and I know what the future holds.
He says he signed one year deals with both ESPN and the Score. He than adds "I know what the future holds." Ladies and gents, I have no proof of this, no inside scoop, but I PREDICT Steve Stone will be working on White Sox radio or television broadcasts next season. They have already announced that John Rooney will exit at the end of the season. Ed Farmer will be the radio play-by-play man. This leaves a vacant seat for an analyst. Stone has often said that he considers Chicago his summer home and has no desire to stay in Phoenix in the summer. Add to all of this that Stone is a friend of Jerry Reinsdorf. I'd say the writing is on the wall. The announcement will probably come sometime after the series.

This will be a coup for the Sox and bring life to some pretty boring broadcasts.

Marcus Giles for Walker and KPat?

This little nugget in the sidebar of Chris DeLuca's Sunday column:

MARCUS GILES, Braves second baseman
He's eligible for arbitration and has had a rocky relationship with the Braves' front office. He probably will earn $3.5 million next season. Insiders say there is a 50-50 chance he will be traded. Could be had for Todd Walker and Corey Patterson.

The Braves love to take the Cubs crap and put it into their system and see what happens. Look at Farnsworth. They even took the worst Play-by-play announcer in MLB off of our hands. Still, can they do anything with Korey? If I were the Cubs I'd make this deal as soon as possible. Giles is a scrappy guy, that the Cubs can build around.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

the sweet release of death

the cubs are now officially done -- though it was long ago plain that they were eliminated. appropriately enough, the final dagger featured houston, shoddy pitching, a lot of rain delay and the klown circling under a morgan ensberg flyball like a wounded dog, playing it into a triple and sparking the decisive astro rally. (how has this bastard remained on the roster?)

now that even the diehards have been forced to concede, let the offseason demolition begin -- please! destroy it! destroy it all! i see only these pieces as unassailable in the 2006 reconstruction: lee, ramirez, barrett, zambrano and prior. and i'm frankly not too sure about all o' those.

in any case, we'll find out shortly just how serious (if at all) the cubs are about succeeding next season. the most obvious indication that 2006 will be no different than 2005 would be the inclusion of patterson on the 25-man roster. if he's still there in april 2006, it should be plain to god and everyone that the cubs don't care whether they win or not -- and neither should you. and if he's the starting centerfielder breaking camp, the management has actively decided to annihilate the team in a fiery blast on opening day -- you should seek cover underground if you live within a three-mile radius of clark and addison.

secondary indications that the cubs don't really care if they win or not next year:

  • the continued tenure of dusty fucking baker, who has been clearly identified now as a snake-oil-selling fraud of a major league manager, unfit for yosh kawano's job, much less the one he's been paid to derelict;
  • an inability or unwillingness to land at least two of the free agent relievers listed here, to bolster dempster and ohman;
  • an inability or unwillingness to sign two legitimate first-tier outfielders to play right and center;
  • an inability or unwillingness to sign a major-league shortstop. 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. nomar may have proven that he's no longer an effective big-league shortstop, but that doesn't mean one can plug in neifi and expect success. he simply cannot produce offensively.
  • an inability or unwillingness to sign a major-league leadoff hitter. the solution to this problem is bound up in the solution of one of the preceding two points -- the cubs need a rafael furcal, a kenny lofton or (dare to dream) a juan pierre. forget about felix pie -- the kid is still a strikeout monster in the mold of patterson at this point, may well be the product of system hype more than personal talent and won't be ready for the show next year in any case after spending the entire second half on the dl.

  • these initial indicators might surface in october even before the conclusion of the playoffs, as the cubs try to formulate a plan of action (something you just know hendry and macFail haven't done yet) for 2006 -- so keep a lazy eye open as you immerse yourself in the kyle orton era (which appears to be flaming out as i write). more of interest may happen with regards to the cub franchise in the next six weeks than has in the last twelve.

    Friday, September 23, 2005

    Friday observations

    The Cubs delayed their Mathematical elimination this afternoon. Beating the Astros 5-4 the Northsiders played the role of spoiler. They did this despite an awful outing from Scott Williamson. Ryan Dempster reached a milestone in his career recording his 30th save of 2005. The Cubs have not had many bright spots on the mound this season, but Dempster has done a good job as closer.

    Earlier in the day I drove from Detroit to Chicago. On a drive like that you have plenty of time to think about things. Listening to the radio I heard the panic of Sox fans. Even the national media has discovered the Sox collapse. All of the national sports channels were discussing the AL Central.

    The Sox collapse got me thinking about the Cubs 2003 and 2004 finishes. A year ago at this time the Cubs were leading the NL Wildcard by a half game. The games versus the Muts and the Reds were awful. The end of this season has actually been much less stressful than the past few. Still, I would take the excitement of where the Sox are and enjoy having meaningful games the last week of the season. It really sucks not to have the Cubs playing meaningful games this time of year.

    Derrek Lee is still trying to win the batting title. He'd be the first Cub to do so since Bill Buckner did it in 1980. Billy Buck won the title hitting .324 that year. Back to 2005, Lee went 3-3 this afternoon (and knocked in his 104th run). His average now stands at .341. With one week to play watching Lee pursue the batting title and rooting for the Cubs to knock the Astros out of the playoffs are really the only things we have left to watch.

    Have a great weekend everyone. Go Badgers Saturday! Go Bears on Sunday!

    Thursday, September 22, 2005

    Mike Kiley - Sun Times Staff Reporter

    I love this portion of Kiley's column...

    "You wouldn't think general manager Jim Hendry could just pencil in Murton as his likely starter in left for 2006. He might if he added overwhelming offensive veterans in center and right, but odds are Murton has won a chance to at least platoon in left."

    Come on Mike, we're talking about a team that went into this season with Todd Freaking Hollandsworth as the starting left fielder.

    One word...


    Wednesday, September 21, 2005

    Dusty's wisdom

    While great playoff chases are taking place in the AL and NL the Cubs and Brewers are in a dogfight for third place in the NL Central. I have paid very little attention to the Cubs the last few days, focusing on the Tribe/Sox series at the Cell. Still the Dusty Watch is on and in today's newspapers the Cub manager had a few nuggets that just add to the chorus of calls for his head.

    In today's Tribune Dusty informs us that he has no intention of playing youngsters the final 11 games. This from Bill Jauss' notes:

    "We want to try to finish above .500," Baker said before Tuesday night's game against the Brewers. "I also owe it to baseball and owe it to the Phillies and the Florida Marlins and the Washington Nationals to play my best lineup because those teams are competing with Houston in the wild-card race."

    This from the manager that ran out Korey Patterson, Todd Hollandsworth, and Neifi Perez on a daily basis when the games mattered. Now this guy is telling us what he owes to baseball, the Phillies, the Marlins and the Nationals. Does he owe the Cubs anything for the $4 million he's receiving this year?

    In Mike Kiley's article in today's Bright-One the Cub manager discussed this sites favorite strikeout artist Korey. Dusty gave us this brilliance:

    Baker was asked if he had soured on Patterson.

    "No,'' he said. "I wish he had done better, but he wishes he'd done better. You don't just lose your skills like that. It's not like he's old and hurt, so most of it has to be mental. Guys around the league ask me: What's up?

    "Remember Mark McGwire came up and hit 49 home runs and there was a year he hit under .200. He came back. So it can be done, most definitely. It's a matter of being positive and mentally strong. Sometimes you can't put your finger on it. We have tried almost everything, and he's tried a lot of stuff. It's not from lack of effort.''

    This has got to be one of the dumbest things I have ever heard the Cub manager say. (And we're talking about the guy that told us Latin and African-American ballplayers were better playing in hot weather.) What "skills" has Patterson ever shown us? Swinging and missing? He is fast. As far as I can see that's it. Next comparing him to a young Mark McGwire? How about the list of players GM gave us on September 13th?:
    there were only thirteen that fit these lowly conditions. harry craft. tuck stainback. cito gaston. mickey stanley. bill robinson. tony scott. george wright. tony armas. marvell wynne. john shelby. henry cotto. cory snyder. darrin jackson. and now patterson has become the fourteenth.

    Those players are a much better comparison Dusty.

    It really looks to me like Dusty has no interest in helping this organization position itself for 2006 and beyond. Here's hoping Hendry allows the Dodgers and any other teams that want to talk with Baker do so. Meanwhile I'd like to see Hendry go after Lou Pinella or Joe Girardi. In Tampa Pinella has agreed not to return to the Rays bench in 2006. Uncle Lou would be an interesting fit in the Cub dugout.

    Monday, September 19, 2005

    The Elimination Number

    As we all know the Cubs let the Cardinals clinch the NL Central at Wrigley Field on Saturday. Last week 1060west's very own John Dooley asked when the Cubs would be mathematically eliminated from the postseason. Well Dools, I PREDICT the Cubs will be eliminated from the NL Wildcard this coming Friday afternoon against the Astros, probably around 5:05 Central Time.

    For the record the Cubs elimination number -- before any games were played on Monday -- stands at 6. I wonder if the organ will play taps for those of us who stay for the entire Irish Wake.

    Pennant Race Baseball

    Returns to Chicago tonight. The White Sox and the Indians are about to play the biggest series for both franchises in years.

    Around Chicago, Sox fans are nervous. Comparisons to the '78 Red Sox, the '64 Phillies, and--most hurtful to most Sox fans--the '69 Cubs are being made. Still the Sox enter this series with a 3-1/2 game lead over the tribe. This means they could get swept and still lead the division. More likely they will leave this series with a 2-1/2 or 4-1/2 game lead with a week and a half to play.

    Cub fans have different feelings toward the White Sox. Many of us are indifferent and really don't wish them anything bad. Still many others cannot stand the thought of seeing the Sox play in the postseason. Whatever way you stand these should be three fun baseball games to watch at U.S. Comiscular. As a baseball fan I'll enjoy the pennant races with or without the Northsiders.

    Out West
    Take a look out in the NL West. The .500 Padres have opened up a 5-1/2 game lead over the Giants. The Cubs would be 1 game back if they were in the NL West.

    I heard somebody on XM-Radio's MLB HomePlate propose the idea that a division winning team that is .500 or below should not make the playoffs. If this were to happen the league would take the team that comes in second in the Wildcard. I like this idea. I wonder if the MLB owners will take a look at this in the offseason.

    Sunday, September 18, 2005

    National League class

    On Saturday at Wrigley Field we watched as the hated rival from hell clinched their fifth playoff birth in six seasons. I saw:

    • A team that had 7 and 8 hitters who could execute a hit and run.
    • A starting pitcher, who up until this year had spent his entire career in the AL, laydown a perfect squeeze bunt.
    • A team that has been ravaged by injuries all year long, to star players like Scott Rolen and Larry Walker, not make any excuses. They simply plug in players and keep winning.
    • A team that celebrated winning the division with class and respect. They acted like they had been there before. Becuase they have. They expect more celebrations in the coming month. They'll probably have them.

    I hate the Cardinals more than anything. Still, I would love to see my team play and act the way the Redbirds do. I have to tip my cap to "The Genius" and Walt Jockety for the style of play they expect and the team they have assembled to play that style. The Redbirds lost Edgar Renteria and Tony Womack off of their NL Pennant winning team from a year ago. They replaced those two with David Eckstein and the second baseman the Cubs chose not to bring back Mark Grudzielanek. The Cardinals went out and added an ace to their staff in Mark Mulder last winter. They did all of this with a payroll below the Cubs. BTW: where the hell was Jim Hendry last year when Mulder and Tim Hudson were available? (and puh-lease don't give me the excuse that he couldn't do anything because of Sammy)

    Future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux who knows a thing or two about winning teams said this: "It's amazing. You play the game right, you usually win your division. You don't have to be the best team to win, but you have to play the best. They have done it."

    You look at the class teams in the NL over the past decade and you see teams that execute. The Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves do not make the number of boneheaded baserunning errors the Cubs have made over the past few years, they don't repeatedly miss signs, they do not have pitchers forget to cover first base three times in one game. The crap that has flown around these parst for years would not fly in St. Louis or Atlanta. Both of those teams have managers that do not enable their players failure by making excuses for them. They have expectations. If the players can't meet them, they're moved. How many years would Bobby Cox or "The Genius" tolerate the antics of one Korey Patterson? (for those of you scoring at home that's the 1060west obligatory K-Pat rip)

    Teams like the Braves and Cardinals know they are good and know they are going to find a way to win. As Cub fans it's hard not to look across the diamond and imagine "what if that was the Cubs?" or ask "why not us?". I'm sick of imagining.

    Thursday, September 15, 2005

    media creatures: MLB cashes in

    Despite all of the bad press baseball has gotten this year from the ongoing steroid scandal, baseball remains a huge money maker. The latest contract with ESPN proves this. Despite tiny ratings, Major League Baseball signed a nearly $2.4 billion deal with ESPN earlier this week. This is an increase of 50% from the current agreement with ESPN.
    According to my hometown rag the USA Today:

    The games aren't an enormous ratings draw. ESPN's Wednesday night doubleheaders, in its current deal, draw about 1% of U.S. cable TV households. Its Sunday night games, despite being aired on television's most-watched night and not having to compete for fans because they're the only MLB games played that night, draw about 1.7%. (By contrast, ESPN's NFL opener Sunday drew 9.1%.)

    ESPN will air live batting practice of their new Monday Night Baseball Game. Sportscenter will be allowed to have cut-ins to games similar to what Baseball Tonight already does. Live batting practice? Didn't Comcast broadcast bp for a couple of the Cubs/Sox games this summer? I didn't bother watching any of it. Did any of you? I'd be interested in what it was all about.

    Another fact that the AP snuck into their story was Baseball will follow the NFL Network and start Uncle Bud's long rumored baseball network:
    In addition, Selig and his staff have been planning to launch baseball's own cable network next year.
    "I don't regard the channel in any way, shape or form as competitive," Selig said. "I regard it as an additional complement to everything else we've done."
    I guess the "Baseball Network" will give us baseball addicts something to watch in January and February when the snow is flying.

    As much as I detest ESPN and their coverage of sports I guess I have to accept that MLB is gonna be there for a while. Could they just get Chris Berman off of the Homerun Derby?

    Tuesday, September 13, 2005

    patterson: the historical analysis

    much has been said in this space about the trials and travails of a certain klown, who has traded on his assumed "potential" far longer than any player deserves to -- perhaps in part because of the detrimentally optimistic nature of altogether too many cub fans who love pathetic losing so long as the sun shines, the beer flows and the tribune company agrees to take their money. it has been asserted here that patterson is not only the worst outfielder in one of the worst outfields in the national league, but that he is the worst everyday player in major league baseball.

    but this space would now say yet more than that -- that patterson is in fact historically bad -- one of the least productive outfielders to ever be allowed to play the game to the extent he has been allowed to.

    using the database so kindly supplied by the baseball archive, which enables a person with some knowledge of databases to query the entire record of player performance data going back to 1871, we have combed the record looking for patterson's equal in ineptitude -- and that, friends, is a difficult search indeed. since the founding of the national league, over 5700 outfielders have patrolled some portion of major league turf at some point or another.

    we have long extolled the virtue of getting on base as a precursor to offensive success -- there is no single easily-measured component of a player's production that so consistently coincides with individual productivity and team success. in short, one has to get aboard in order to score. and the klown doesn't.

    this is not new news, of course. what is new is the revelation of the context of his awfulness in this aspect.

    there have been 1642 players who have logged at least 2000 at-bats since 1921. but only 148 -- just 9% -- have been allowed, for one reason or another, to amass as many as that while being unable to create an on-base percentage of more than a meager .300. (patterson, as of this writing, has a .294 obp in 2125 at-bats in the majors.)

    but that isn't to say patterson is merely among the worst tenth in the last five decades, for the vast majority of those inept 148 are pitchers, catchers, middle infielders -- players whose special skills in other phases of the game were such as to merit playing time in spite of their offensive shortcomings.

    so what number of these are primarily outfielders -- that is, who have played in the outfield in more than 60% of their major league games?

    there were only thirteen that fit these lowly conditions. harry craft. tuck stainback. cito gaston. mickey stanley. bill robinson. tony scott. george wright. tony armas. marvell wynne. john shelby. henry cotto. cory snyder. darrin jackson. and now patterson has become the fourteenth.

    some probably remember a few of these names. tony armas in particular gained a measure of fame as a member of the 1986 red sox, and snyder was a spectacular first-round draft bust for the up-and-coming indians of the late 1980s. snyder and robinson ostensibly clung to roster spots thanks to the ability to hit a home run every 20 or so at-bats. (that number for k-pat: 30.3.) others (particularly craft and wright) were -- unlike korey -- excellent defensive outfielders, with range factors of over 2.4. still others could -- unlike korey -- play almost any position, including stanley. armas could both field and hit for power, giving him the second-longest career of this lot (next to stanley). most (like stainback) took a considerable number of years on major-league benches to amass two thousand at-bats.

    the point of the exercize is to drive home yet again to those deluded cub fans who still imagine patterson to be a player that exhibits a chimera of potential the fact that he is not just bad -- patterson is one of the worst failures of an outfielder to ever don a uniform for so many chances at redemption. for so long as cub fans complacently accept him and players of his dint as everyday fixtures in the hope of a realization of some panglossian assessment of his talents, the cubs will continue to be a bad baseball team -- as they have been these last decades, without improvement. in an absence of any real leadership within the team organization, the fans must demand a change toward higher quality for that change to occur. we must reject patterson, vocally and vehemently, in every way we can -- wallet, tv remote, internet.

    Monday, September 12, 2005

    The ride is almost over...

    The roller coaster season is coming into the station.

    Following a tremendous road trip--that saw the Cubs go 8-2 and actually climb back into the Wild Card Standings printed in the Trib and Bright One-- the Cubs returned to Wrigley Field Monday night. Greg Maddux did his job, holding the Redlegs to 2 runs through seven innings. The Cub offense was silent and the team continued to struggle at home. A Matt Murton bomb in the third was overshadowed by a homer by Javier Valentin and two from Wily Mo Pena. The Northsiders fell 5-2.

    So we knock another day off of the calendar and we see that like it or not this roller coaster ride is nearly over. Despite the Cubs recent good play they still sit 2 games below the .500 mark at 71-73--3 losing streaks of seven or more seem to stand out. With 18 games left on the schedule the Cubs have to go 11-7 just to finish with 82 wins. Finishing above .500 for the third straight year is not going to be easy for the Fabulous Baker Boys.

    After Wily Mo's homerun in the top of the ninth, Wrigley Field emptied pretty fast. Outside the ballpark it was really somber. Going home from the park, I thought about where the Cubs are at with this 71-73 record. The Cubs have been bad the majority of my life, many seasons a 71-73 record at this point would be okay or celebrated. This year that is not the case. I sense that the EXPECTATIONS for this franchise have risen. I hope they have.

    Thursday, September 08, 2005

    Inside a 68-71 record

    Behind Greg Maddux the Cubs rolled to a 2-1 win at Busch Stadium, on Wednesday night. This win moved the Cubs record to 8-4 vs. the rival Redbirds. The Cubs, who have historically struggled at Busch Stadium (leading many Cub fans to bad memories of that park) have actually won two series at that dump since the All Star break. So the Cubs have taken care of the best team in the NL this season. Why does their record stand at 68-71, 19-1/2 games out of first?

    Struggles at Home
    Earlier in the season Dusty Baker blamed the Wrigleyville faithful for the Cubs woes at home. Remember when Baker said the team could use some time on the road? The Cubs are actually pretty good on the road. They are 35-35 away from the Friendly Confines. Maybe it's the sunshine or the late nights on Rush St., whatever it is the Cubs have really struggled at home. They are only 33-36 at Wrigley Field. Three below .500 in your own ballpark is a killer.

    Strong within the division
    Dusty and company have had no problems against teams in the NL Central. The Cubs are 35-25 in their own division (second only to the Redbirds amongst NL Central teams). The Cubs are a respectable 16-14 vs. the NL West. Where this all fell apart for the battling Cubbies was against the NL East. The Cubs have the pathetic mark of 11-23 vs. the Braves, Mets, Phils, Nats & Marlins.

    BTW: In interleague play the Cubs were 6-9. (I hate Interleague Play)

    Baseball in the sunshine...
    Well the Cubs have struggled at home this year, where they play a majority of day games. So it's logical that they have played bad during the day. That logic holds up. The Bruins are 34-39 in daylight. At night they are two games over at 34-32.

    One Run Games
    The Cubs are actually not bad in close games. They are 20-17 in one run games. The first place Cardinals by comparison are 18-22 in one run games.

    I guess it's pretty simple. The Cubs need to build a club that can win at Wrigley Field. Remember they built the place on a cemetary.

    Can anyone help me?

    I can't figure out if

    Neifi Perez = slap hitter

    or if

    Neifi Perez = double play

    Anyone have a Spanish-English dictionary?

    Wednesday, September 07, 2005

    Cubs Predictions for 2006

    Note that these are predictions, not necessarily my preferences.

    - Dusty will be the opening day manager
    - Hendry will be the opening day GM
    - Corey Patterson will be the opening day CF
    - Nomar will be the opening day SS
    - Neither Matt Murton nor Ronny Cedeno will be on the opening day 25 man roster
    - Ditto for Rich Hill
    - On the other hand T-rex lookalike, Roberto Novoa, will be on the opening day roster and will be used regularly in high leverage situations because Dusty thinks he physically resembles a "young Armando Benitez". No word whether Dusty actually thinks he pitches like a "young Armando Benitez".
    - If Glendon Rusch opts to stay with the Cubs, he will again start the season in the pen.
    - Kerry Wood will be in the starting rotation to begin the season. He will only be removed when his arm flies off during a simulated game.
    - The bullpen will start the season 7 men strong and will never be reduced to 6 (possible exception: short term, day or two, roster shuffle between the minors and the big club).

    I'll try to remember to pull this post back up early next season, so we can have some laughs.

    Tuesday, September 06, 2005

    And the Tribsters shrugged...

    It comes as no surprise to this Cub fan that the Northsiders TV ratings are down. Ed Sherman reports in today's Tribune that the Cubs local tv ratings have fallen nearly 30%:

    The Cubs are off nearly 30 percent on WGN and WCIU, dropping from a 9.1 to a 6.3, and they have slid from a 6.5 on Fox Sports Net in 2004 to a 4.1 on CSN in 2005.

    Well, if you can't hurt the team at the box office (seats were sold back in February), you can vote with your remote. It looks to me like this past year, full of bullshit on and off the field, is finally taking a toll on this franchise.

    Talking to Cub fans throughout Chicago and the midwest I have heard more indifference than I have in years. Die-Hard fans, that were pissed off last year, are now just chalking up another bad year. They were ready for football season weeks ago.

    BUFFETT AT WRIGLEY -- I had a fun time at the ballpark on Saturday night watching Jimmy Buffett. Buffet put on his normal show -- with a Cubbie spin. The ballpark was a fun venue to watch the concert. Hopefully the the neighborhood will allow the Trib to hold a few more concerts at the ballpark in the future.

    Thursday, September 01, 2005

    And the ca$h register rings on...

    Since the Cubs are just playing out the string this September...NOW WHAT? Cub tickets have been in such high demand the past few years that they sell out in February, when snow is flying. As fans we take a leap of faith, whether we buy season tickets or single tickets to games in August and September. So what should we do if we are stuck with September tickets?

    1. Use the tickets and enjoy your time at the ballpark.
    2. Use the tickets and be miserable. This is a great opportunity to boo and heckle the players you cannot stand (I took this approach with Mo Alou last season.)
    3. Try and sell these tickets for whatever you can get at this point.
    4. Give the tickets to someone who will appreciate them, and may not have a chance to go otherwise.
    5. Give the tickets to a homeless guy and walk him to the gate to make sure he uses them.
    6. Burn the tickets in a bizzarre End-of-Cubs-Season-Ritual.

    I am not sure what the best approach to this situation is. The shame is that these tickets ain't cheap.

    What are you gonna do with your remaining tickets?