Wednesday, May 31, 2006

phil nevin to the cubs

cub fans holding out hope for general manager jim hendry to do something in the aftermath of the derrek lee disaster have their answer: rangers' spare part phil nevin, in exchange for jerry hairston jr.

nevin, you may recall, is the 35-year old longtime padre whose erstwhile all-star career has been rattled by injury since 2002. the former first-overall draft pick out of powerhouse cal state-fullerton, who very nearly busted with the tigers, managed to resuscitate his career only to break his arm in 2002, followed by a dislocated shoulder that required surgery in 2003. nevin returned from that odyssey to post a very respectable 2004 -- managing 26 homers and a .492 slugging percentage despite playing at san diego's petco park -- but a poor start to 2005 finally moved him from southern california to texas in exchange for chan ho park, a deadline deal of onerous contracts worn thin.

with the rangers, nevin hasn't hit worth a damn -- 275 at-bats of mendoza line production (204/287/382). he's lost playing time to prospect jason botts, which should say something. a longtime masher of left-handed pitching -- his heavy splits fuelled some discontent in san diego, along with the worst of personalities -- he lately hasn't seemed to hit anything at all.

you may think me slightly daft, dear reader, but for the short term this is a not a bad move for the cubs. mind you, nevin will solve few problems -- this is not the 40-homer player of 2001 that hendry has just obtained, and he's played little but first base in years. this team will still lose with regularity. but nevin did play right field as recently as 2003 -- beyond the return of derrek lee in some weeks, hendry may actually have made an attempt (however half-assed) at a platoon for jacque jones. what is the loss of a second baseman to this team that carries a dozen? and the rangers are further rumors to be covering a large part of nevin's sizable contract -- there seems little fiscal downside. if a small miracle does occur and nevin does hit, hendry will have added to the club; if he doesn't, nothing much was lost.

more disturbing, however, is the implication of the trade -- that this addled and stupefied management still thinks this year is not a totally lost cause. if macfail and hendry really think they are still in a position to add, rather than to start working toward a july disassembly, things at clark and addision have gone to a yet more insular and delusional place of total denial than this page might have feared. just as disturbing is the notion that phil nevin could, at this stage of his career, be considered "adding" in a meaningful way -- but then, sensibility and competence seem rarely to rear their fearsome heads anywhere near andy macfail and jim hendry these days.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

From the Email box

Some great stuff came in over Memorial Day weekend.

blueisthecolor went out to Wrigley Field for the finale of the Cub sweep against the Braves. In what is becoming a pretty funny tradition he asked you the 1060west readers for an idea for a sign. Here's the winner!

There is a funny sidenote to this picture. I'll let blue tell the story:

"incidentally, in the bottom of the 3rd i was hit by a foul liner off the bat of Murton, wasn't paying close enough attention. you can see thebandana which is holding the ice pack in place on my arm."

See what happens when you take a sign like this to the ballpark. The players start aiming for ya' LOL.

Shipwreck? 1060west reader FloppyJanis sent me this picture. I think it describes the two goofs in charge pretty well.

If you have a picture of a sign of protest or thoughts on something Cub please Email (remember we just might post it).

big news for tribco

this page has sometimes commented on the disastrous affairs of tribune company, owner of the cubs, and how the deteriorating condition of the company could spark a massive sale of assets -- potentially including the cubs. sale rumors have been heard and commented on, and shareholder pressure noted.

major news came on that front today. this page again defers to chuck gitles of ivy chat, who has followed the fiscal tribulations of tribco assiduously.

The Tribune Co. ... authorized the repurchase of up to 75 million shares of its outstanding stock Tuesday. That number represents 25 percent of the company's outstanding stock, and is valued at $2.1 billion.

Repurchases will be funded through a combination of bank debt and publicly-issued bonds, the company said, and it will increase cash flow with at least $500 million in asset sales, which "could include certain non-core broadcasting and publishing assets as well as real estate and securities held for investment" according to a release.

this is really happening, dear reader. the tribune company has committed itself to a major divestment of non-core assets -- that is, quite possibly, the cubs. and, as chuck notes, fitch and moody's will enforce that commitment mercilessly by slashing tribco's debt to junk status until they complete these sales.

is this final word that the cubs are going to be sold this year? unfortunately, no. but the chances of a sale of the franchise have never been higher since tribco bought them. speculation about a potential buyer is rampant. this page would advise you, dear reader, to expect and prepare for the probability of a sale before the start of the 2007 season -- that is, put a bottle of dom perignon 1998 in the refrigerator, just in case.

Monday, May 29, 2006

the road to 100 losses

as the cubs get ready to wrap up this appalling may which so completely ended their 2006 season, having just played their 50th game, this page thought perhaps some context for their putridity might provide whatever perspective might be needed to assess what has just happened.

the cubs are 6-21 (.222) this may through memorial day, the 29th, and rest at 19-31 (.380), chasing pittsburgh for the central cellar.

there have only been a handful of months comparable to this may since the founding of the chicago national league baseball club. others in which the total of wins amounted to less than seven: june 1954, april 1962, april 1966, april 1981, april 1997, august 1999 and september 2000. note the preponderance of aprils -- this is because of the smaller number of games historically played during this first month of the season. excluding april, then, there have been only three in 130 seasons of baseball. should the team lose their next two and end may at 6-23, their .207 winning percentage for the month will fit neatly among these.

notably, every one of the above mentioned teams lost 90 or more games -- and two of them more than 100. this team appears more with every passing day to be headed to at least the lesser of those two dubious levels of distinction. the average winning percentage for these clubs was .392 -- an approximate record of 63-99.

as to the overall record of 19-31 on may 29, the cubs have been within percentage points in 2000 and 1997, but one has to go back to 1981 to find a cub team in a worse position on may 29. prior to that, 1966, 1962, 1961, 1960, 1957, 1956 and 1953 have been at least as bad. the average winning percentage of these last eight is .390 -- 63-99 in a 162-game season.

this page has long understood this year to be sold as "back-loaded" -- the hopeful strategy held in mind by many fans and perhaps even management was to hold out until better, healthier days arrive later in the year. and that may yet happen (though a winning season is now all but out of the question).

but we would be remiss if we did not note that similar utterances were probably on the lips of the rationalizing faithful in many of those ghostly years past -- only to have these last futile hopes dashed as the season progressed, as new injuries and new disasters made themselves apparent.

the harder probability to accept is that these 2006 cubs are very much like those cubs of 1981, 1966 and 1962 -- and that this club stands a reasonable chance of making a charge to join them among the worst cub teams of all time and becoming just the third cub club to lose 100 games.

this writer, while conceding 90 losses as all but unavoidable -- the team would now have to finish the string at least 54-58 to do better -- still would like to think that, somehow, this stinking mire is not yet so deep as that. however, the possibility is no longer so remote as to be inconceivable. to the contrary, in fact, this team has shown itself to be altogether capable of such ineptitude.

Obligatory ninth inning rallies

The Cubs made me a criminal
Sent me down a wayward path
They stole my youth from me
(that's the truth)
I'd forsake my teachers
To go sit in the bleachers
In flagrant truancy
--A dying Cub fans last request written by Steve Goodman (1983).

I have many memories, some a little more blurry than others, of Vehere, gm, a few other cronies and myself standing at the backwall of the ole right field bleachers 40+ games a season. There was the time Gary Sheffield flipped us off. There were all the Sammy homeruns. There was the time a friend of ours missed the entire 98 playoff game against the Braves because he had a "disagreement" with one of the fine ushers in the park. But one of my lasting memories will be a theory that we developed about the "obligatory ninth inning rally".

The "obligatory ninth inning rally" was something that I think I stole from a Cubs book I read back in my youth. It works like this. In games at Wrigley Field when the Cubs are down, don't lose interest. There is normally gonna be a rally in the ninth inning. In said rally the Cubs will get the tying run to the plate. That way we can all stay around for the end...good or bad. The rally does not guarantee any outcome, lord knows they seem to come up short most of the time. The funny thing about the "obligatory rally" is it happens more than you would ever think to the Cubs in games they play at Wrigley Field.

So why do I mention the "obligatory ninth inning rally"? Well, as I sat in front of the tube yesterday afternoon watching the ballgame, I wondered to myself: "why am I wasting my time watching this game?" My wife even came in, looked at the score and asked "why do you put yourself through this?". That's when it hit me. I was waiting for my "obligatory ninth inning rally". And guess what, the boys in the blue pinstripes obliged yesterday. I got my obligatory rally in the ninth inning. It's been a while since I had my fix.

This ninth inning rally saw the Cubs come all the way back from 4 runs down to tie the Braves at 12-12. The rally saw a clutch triple from Neifi Perez, he of the frustrating failed bunt attempt to lose a game in a recent "ninth inning rally". Even with all the heroics in one of the strangest games of the year. Stranger things were ahead of us.

The Cub defense invented another way to lose a game. A routine popup to Aramis Ramirez to start the inning hit him in the head. What happened?

"What can I say?" Ramirez said. "It hit me in the head, but I'm fine."

The wind? The sun? Something?

"I have no excuses. I just missed the ball," said Ramirez, who admitted he may have taken his eyes off the ball momentarily.

Thanks to Dave van Dyck's Tribune articlee for the quote. Langerhans who reached second on Ramirez's gaffe scored the winning run and the "L" flag went up again.

They say in baseball you can see something different everyday. The recent slump makes me wonder: when will the Cubs run out of new ways to blow ballgames?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

SeriesPreview: Reds @ Cubs May 29-31

The Cubs close out their "fine" month of May with a three game set with the Red Legs. The numbers for the Cubs are mind boggling. They've lost 9 of 10, 21 of 25, and their record for the month is 5-21.

Pitching matchups and media info:

Monday 1:20 ct
Kerry Wood(0-1, 6.30) vs. Elizardo Ramirex(2-3, 3.72)
Radio- WGN Radio-720 AM; XM-188

Tuesday 7:05 ct
Greg Maddux(5-4, 4.28) vs. Brandon Clausen(3-5, 5.25)
Radio- WGN Radio-720-AM; XM-188

Wednesday 7:05 ct
Carlos Zambrano(3-2, 3.45) vs. Eric Milton(2-2, 5.52)
TV-WGN Channel 9
Radio- WGN Radio-720 AM; XM-188

Saturday, May 27, 2006

another day, another blown save

just a quick note for the holiday weekend to highlight yet another collapse of ryan dempster, whose mean reversion is taking hold with lightning speed to confirm just how lucky he was in 2005. this page would not necessarily expect dempster to become the 6 era pitcher he sometimes was as a starter -- but this sort of volatility is par for the course with a pitcher with so little control.

marshall takes the hill in a moment to try to prove he can survive his scouting report. have a good weekend, folks!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Why I am a Cubs Fan (if that even matters)

On Monday April 6th, 1987 my future as a baseball fan would be determined. I returned from school after a tough day of finger painting and spelling in the 1st grade. My father was watering the plants when I came home. He worked the night shift as a postal worker in Carol Stream, and therefore, he was off during the day.
"Sox are on," he told me.
"Sox are on?" I thought. Why the hell would my father ask if I wanted to watch the White Sox? I was a kid from a community north of Chicago, and I had just memorized the entire Cub roster all the way down to Manny Trillo! Why in HELL would he ask me to watch those ugly, disgusting, and despised Chicago White Sox?!

My dad wanted to give me a chance. One last chance to get out of the hell I was about to inherit.

After passing my father, on my way to the inside of the house, my thoughts and feelings were locked on the Cubs' home opener of 1987 against the Cardinals. Harry had a stroke, and the Cubs were using guest announcers. Hopes were high for a healthy Rick Sutcliffe, a young staff, and some healthy big sticks across the field (sound familiar?).

My thoughts were with the Cubs that day because I was an impressionable young man. My father became a Cub fan in 1967, which wasn't popular seeing as he was a South Side Irish kid. But the next year his family moved up to Hoffman Estates, where he would be around more Cub faithful. My father would tell me stories of how he saw Ernie Banks win a game with a 3 run homer against San Diego, or how Billy Williams was robbed of the MVP award by Johnny Bench.

Growing up in the 1980s with Harry Caray, daytime games, all games on WGN, Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, Keith Moreland, Rick Sutcliffe...the Cubs were easy to like. I would adopt them into my daily life much like a monk adopts prayer into his chores.

I was hypnotized by the green grass, the smell of the all beef hot dog, scoreboards that required addition skills, pennants that told standings, day baseball, and the nameless jerseys of the pinstriped team.

At this time in early '87 though, these feelings were locked to only pictures on a screen in a small ranch home in the northern suburbs. I only knew the guys from the back of baseball cards, or inside my sticker book. They weren't real to me at the time. I had, in my mind, made them as legendary as my Optimus Prime fortress inside my closet.

They would gain reality on June 5th, 1987. My first trip to Wrigley Field: Cubs vs. Cardinals. The Cubs came into the game two games back. They had come together through Dawson's furious first half, Sutcliffe's solid pitching, and good power numbers from Durham and Moreland.

I can vividly remember walking up the ramp, seeing the field being watered, holding my father's hand, and wondering what all those blasted Cardinal fans were doing at the game. My Cubs and my season! Together at last! The pictures on the cards could now match the real movements up close. My fantasy world and my perfect Cubs (who were going to win their first world championship in 79 years) were together at last.

It's almost TOO fitting that my first game was a part of a season that had begun with so much hope, and ended in such a drizzle. The Cubs would lose the game to the Cardinals, lose 3 of 4 in the series, and spiral into last place at season's end.
Gene Michael would be fired, Frank Lucchessi would be hired, and my first Cub summer would end in demise. The only question was if Dawson could reach 50 homers in the ladder portion of September.

That summer was filled with two hopes: 1. Could younger Cub pitchers like Maddux break through, and 2. Would the Cardinals EVER stop losing.
Neither would happen.

Watching the season waste away, I was left to ponder what might have been. The whole proposition did not make sense. Why was I wasting my time on a team that seemed to not get it right? (and yes, I was thinking these things at 7)

My problem was that I was sold on the bright spots of 1987 to the youth of 1988. Vance Law was going to solve third base. Mark Grace was the next Cub young stud. Dunston had just finished going through the rough spots of his youth. Dawson was JUST hitting his prime. Rafael Palmeiro was a future star. Greg Maddux was starting to hit his spots.
"Everything is coming together Johnny, you can see! The Cardinals are banged up, and the Mets are all in rehab, WE CAN DO THIS!"

And so it begins. Year after year, more replacements, more answers, more hopes held by very little fact value, all because of freak years like 89, 98, and even 2001 give us that dumb Telemaco-Pico-Noce hope.

It's not a coincidence that this passage has been written to Tom Waits' 'Closing Time' being played in the background. Wrigley has become a barren barroom of lost dreamers, has-beens, and no-goods.
Like the sketchy bar, it is the home to the schemer, the peruser, the unqualified stockholder.

Waits' music on this album seems to resound lost dreams, missed cut-off men, failed squeezes, and bad decisions.
With all the pain, why am I still here?

Loyalty does not exist anymore. It is as dead as chivalry. Stomped out, beaten down, laughed at, and scorned in public.
Yet loyalty, for all its absurdity in modern times, matters.
I am loyal to my family. I am loyal to my team. I am loyal to my fiancee. I am loyal to my friends. I am loyal to the drunks, the addicts, and the no-goods. I am loyal to the USA.

And, for some unforsaken reason, I am loyal to the Chicago National League Ballclub.
On April 6th, 1987 I made a decision. And however stupid that decision may wind out to be, it's mine. These are MY guys. I picked them.

This doesn't mean that I have to go to games, give the Trib a dime, or wear my Cub paraphanelia.
It just means that I'm not going anywhere. Loyalty matters to this guy.

The trade-off is coming. Kal Daniels tripping over a sprinkler will be replaced by a pennant winner.
Bartman will be replaced by a World's Championship.
It will happen. (I think)

stay of execution

with the cubs languishing at rock bottom, dusty baker's metaphysical egg timer expired last night around 9pm -- and not a single iota of change exhaled from tribune tower regarding the dismal and pathetic laughingstock that is the 2006 chicago cubs. no players acquired or dumped. no coaching changes made. no front office reshuffle. the lack of movement to accountability, however, was plainly no surprise to this page.

but this page has an inkling that the decision to keep baker has already been made by jim hendry and andy macfail and is basically immutable, the organization caring nothing and indeed openly despising its sheepish, slavish fanbase -- expressing its contempt yet again is surely not difficult for such an insular regime.

surely, it hopes otherwise -- if there is no accountability, no impetus, no sincerity of effort here, after all, could one reasonably expect that there will ever be any under macfail? almost certainly not. but hendry has shat out one of the great franchise losers of the last few decades (which is saying something) -- and for it, he was rewarded with a contract extension. should we expect any greater culpability for baker?

in lieu of anything meaningful, andy macfail, the commodore macsweatervest, deigned to be interviewed before the masses both by staff flack fred mitchell for the paper and on the blowtorch by in-house public liaison dave kaplan. (this writer hasn't been able to locate a streaming audio for that interview, but 1060west guru and devoted masochist ccd listened in.) as might have been expected, macfail said nothing -- indeed, simply propogated the same tired lies that are easily disproved by even a cursory examination of the statistical facts. hitting with runners in scoring position is indeed a problem -- the cubs are dead last in the national league -- but this is to ignore that the cubs are dead last in almost every meaningful offensive catagory by almost any split, and often by a wide margin. the cubs aren't hitting with risp because they aren't any damn good at getting on base at all. macfail is deliberately obfuscating the issue, claiming bad luck by focusing on an decontextualized detail, when in fact he and jim hendry simply built a bad offensive team without sufficient depth or ability. any small bout of bad luck -- which is almost inevitable in any 162-game season -- was going to send this offense and this team into a death spiral. if they didn't know that, they should have -- because this page isn't exactly an oracle and it knew it, in examining both infield and outfield.

this team lays completely broken at 18-28, a record which puts it on pace for 63-99. even if this spell of putridity lifts somewhat, yet another 90-loss season likely looms -- the team need compile a 55-61 (.474) record or better henceforth to avoid it, and that is probably at or beyond the upper limit of its capacity. when it happens, it will be the fifth season of macfail's 13 as team president in which the cubs have lost 90 or more games. this time, it will represent a particularly inefficient use of tribune capital resources.

consider that for a moment, dear reader. the cubs are surely one of the financial powerhouses of the national league, very comparable to the boston red sox of the american league. while boston has gone to the playoffs six times since 1995 and won a world series with only one losing season in 11 -- and is probably headed to the playoffs yet again this year, for the seventh time in 12 years -- the cubs have foundered, losing over 90 games four (likely soon to be five) times and compiling a losing record six (certainly soon to be seven) times in 11 (soon to be 12) seasons.

forget dusty baker -- if that isn't an ironclad case for aggravated incompetence and summary dismissal of the entire senior management, this writer isn't sure what would be.

that macfail in both interviews invoked the hopeless haunting ghost of the once-in-a-generation 2005 astros -- the last refuge of deepest denial -- hardly bears any promise for a recognition that this season is as dead as abraham lincoln and a move forward to play for years to come. what is left of this lost season could still be turned to positive account -- if only macfail has the intelligence, courage and moral strength to lead this team to where it can go instead of trying to deceive its delusional and irrational faithful like a preying coward into thinking it can go where it can't, thereby wasting precious time by again indulging a particularly stupid manner of hope.

but there is, at least, some small hope this morning that at least some tattered shard of sensibility remains in cub management. following on the heels of barry rozner's excellent column for the daily herald, the tribune ran a lengthy article on the prospects of dismantling the team before july 31 which included what the marketing department would consider some very big names. in the perpetual corporate game of managing expectations, this is indeed a good sign.

SeriesPreview: Braves @ Cubs May 26-28

Hey it's Memorial Day weekend everyone. The unofficial start of summer. What would Memorial Day be without baseball? Especially when our team is 12.5 games back heading into the weekend. Well scratch the last sentence. Here's a quick look at the weekend series:

The Chicago National League Ballclub(18-28) returns home to beautiful Wrigley Field for a 6 game homestand against the Braves and Reds. The bruins have officially reached rock bottom and now we'll see if they are gonna get dragged along the bottom for a while or if they will try and come up for air.

Don't worry Cub fans, Tony Womack is on his way, riding the white horse he borrowed from Mark Prior.

The Atlanta Braves come in with a record of 24-23, 4.5 games behind the Mets in the NL East. Bobby Cox has the Braves playing well. They've won 12 of 17 as they try to win their 15th straight NL East crown. Offseason acquisition Edgar Renteria is back to old tricks in the NL. Renteria enters play on Friday with a .322 average, 28 runs scored and he's taken 20 walks while striking out 16 times. Catcher Brian McCann is making a name for himself. He's off to a tremendous start for the Braves. In 40 games the left handed hitting catcher is hitting .347 with 5 homeruns and 21 RBi. Still the Jones boys make the offense go. Andruw has 11 dingers and 45 knocked in. Chipper's hitting .315 with 25 RBi and 30 runs scored.

If you can only take one Cub game in this weekend you may want to make it this afternoon's game. The pitching matchup is top-notch. Tim Hudson vs. Big Z. Should be a dandy. You might even have the pleasure of hearing Chip try to explain something about the ballpark he worked in for eight years. I was dumbfounded last year when I caught a game on TBS and the Chipster couldn't identify Clark St. There's a reason he's no longer in his Grampa's chair.

Pitching matchups and media info:

Friday 1:20 ct
Carlos Zambrano(3-2, 3.53) vs. Tim Hudson(4-3, 3.95)
Radio- WGN Radio-720 AM; XM-189

Saturday 12:20 ct
Sean Marshall(3-2, 5.29) vs. Horacio Ramirez(0-0, 15.00)
Radio- WGN Radio-720-AM; XM-189

Sunday 1:20 ct
Kerry Wood(0-1, 6.30)or TBA vs. John Smoltz(4-2, 3.12)
Radio- WGN Radio-720 AM; XM-182

Quick fact: Braves phenom Jeff Francoeur has only walked twice this season.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

More Info on Wood and Prior

You can't blame Cubdom for holding our collective breath every time we hear news on Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. We've grown accustomed to hearing the worst. With the recent news on Mark Prior's lost velocity and Kerry Wood's soreness it just might be time to take a few steps back.

Baseball Prospectus' Will Carroll has a rational and resonable expalnation for Mark Prior's lost velocity. This from Carroll's column today:

Mark Prior was also throwing a simulated game in Arizona, still searching for his lost velocity. Reports from observers say that once again, Prior threw well and without pain, but lacked the pop. This time, my observer had an idea why--“he’s throwing scared.” If the problem is mental rather than physical, then it can more easily be fixed. Pitchers coming back from injury often have similar problems letting it go. Remember Johan Santana in the first month of 2004? Prior’s 65 pitch outing in the rookie league is likely to be followed by one more start at the same level before heading out for his expected two game rehab stint.

I have wondered in this space about the Prior's mental makeup. Keep in mind that everything came very easy for Mark Prior. Up until the Bartman incident he had led a charmed life. That all seemed to change that night. Since that point things have been tough for #22. It wouldn't surprise me if "he's throwing scared" right now. Hopefully Carroll's observer is correct.

Now the second of the DL triplets. Kerry Wood's stiffness in his right shoulder. Carroll told us this in Under The Knife:

The Cubs are going to push Kerry Wood back after his shoulder got “cranky.” You can tell Wood’s a new father given that description. There’s no new damage and, given the proper rest, this should get better with time.

Because the two players are so over hyped and the team is in a death spiral that looks like the 2002 team, these routine recovery setbacks are being overblown by many (including this page). With the season already lost I'd like to see the team take their time with both Wood and Prior and do what's best for the rest of their careers (whether with this club or not).

Protest Set for Saturday @ 11:30
On Monday I detailed Cub fan Bill's protest that is scheduled for Saturday at 11:30. Just to set the record straight, Bill is not affiliated with this crappy/unpopular blog. He's a fan, just like all of us, who is frustrated and wants to do something. You can't blame a guy for trying.

I got another e-mail from Cub fan Bill who is leading the Protest on Saturday. Here is what he had to say:

Just showing up and helping us with the cause would really help, we're not even going to the game, we're just protesting the Tribune Co. in front of Wrigley (big red marquee) at 11:30am. We are protesting the lack of vision and forethought in putting a world series team together for the past 98 years. 25 of it under tribune co. ownership! We still love the cubs, but we're tired of the Tribune Co. taking us for granted. This is not a boycott, but instead, a protest. A peaceful one at that. If you have any other way to help out, let me know. Some will disagree with me and i respect your opinions, but this is my little effort for what it's worth. Feel free to contact me for info.

Thanks for your support.
Help spread the word.


Again if any of you are interested please e-mail Bill at

that's it

holding out for rock bottom is never easy. this writer -- similarly to most of you, it is unfortunately expected -- has had good friends run terrible courses of self-destruction, denying or abusing every entreat to aid, forcing exile upon themselves and ultimately winding up confused, scared and utterly alone, staring dark rumination in the face.

but if they survived that terrible moment, they inevitably went on to brighter days -- certainly not sun and flowers all, all too often with major trials and humiliations in their path still, but at least receiving a relief from the crescendo of impending disaster that frequently accompanies a life spinning gracelessly out of control.

the consensus hereabouts seems to be that yesterday was rock bottom. being swept by what is arguably a minor league team -- not not just swept, but convincingly and harshly beaten -- coming off a seven-game losing streak is about as low to the ground as one can fall without falling through it. indeed, some have asserted that hell hath no floor -- " the lowest deep, a lower deep / Still threatening to devour me opens wide, / To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heaven", to quote the poet of paradise lost -- and this may yet be so.

however, it seems that what cascade of horror, angst and anger has build steadily behind this team over the last month, threatening to inundate it and wash all away, has suddenly crystallized in a moment -- which 1060west guru ccd defined exactly in the moment joe borchard knocked a three-run blast off greg maddux to put the sweep beyond question -- and time seems now, instead of accelerating inexorably ever faster, to have violently reared into a creep, with events taking on the feel of the black surreal.

a clock started on dusty baker at the moment of borchard's homer that will slowly and gravely tick for some 30 hours -- another twelve from now -- whereupon time will likely resume its steady, inevitable course. if by the end of that metaphysical egg timer he is still the manager of this club, this page suspects he will be for another year or two at least. this is the moment, on an off day, when the axe could quickly fall upon his neck, severing his empty toothpick-suckling head from the team as all but the most blighted corners of cubdom seem to expect and indeed encourage. the man himself even now blithely invites his own destruction. if it can happen, it will happen now.

but this page has an inkling that the decision to keep baker has already been made by jim hendry and andy macfail and is basically immutable, the organization caring nothing and indeed openly despising its sheepish, slavish fanbase -- expressing its contempt yet again is surely not difficult for such an insular regime.

surely, it hopes otherwise -- if there is no accountability, no impetus, no sincerity of effort here, after all, could one reasonably expect that there will ever be any under macfail? almost certainly not. but hendry has shat out one of the great franchise losers of the last few decades (which is saying something) -- and for it, he was rewarded with a contract extension. should we expect any greater culpability for baker?

in any case, the road forward gets only steeper. the cubs will face tim hudson and john smoltz on friday and saturday, and to hope for more than a run or two in aggregate in those games seems a bit daft, all things considered.

but the team has been driven, it feels, to a point so spiritually low that it is all but impossible to conceive of lower for a ballclub. it may yet be dragged along the bottom over rocks and crags for some time -- but rock bottom this is.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

not there yet

yesterday this page asked whether or not this cubs team had hit rock bottom. the answer, received last night, is a resounding "not yet".

the game represented another weak effort by the cub offense, who touched scott olsen -- a rookie lefthander who had issued 21 runs in 17.1 innings over his previous four starts -- for four runs in five innings. the cubs managed just one walk and drew just 72 pitches -- both season lows for any olsen outing. nonetheless, the cubs led when he exited, 4-3. the offense then allowed a combination of yusmeiro petit, randy messenger and logan kensing -- three pitchers this page had never heard of before -- to throw four innings of perfect baseball with six strikeouts.

and that was unfortunate, as it turned out. kerry wood's erratic control and diminished velocity -- rarely registering as fast as 93 mph -- combined to limit him to five innings on 86 pitches, allowing three runs on five walks and two home runs. this page had hoped that wood could use these starts to showcase himself for a trade as the july deadline approached, understanding his no-trade clause to be a negotiable item with just a few months left on his contract. however, wood has demonstrated little velocity, little movement on his fastball, little control and is experiencing shoulder pain that scared the team out of his side sessions. he frankly looks every bit a 5+ era pitcher right now, and while one might hope for better to come it would seem here that few if any contenders would be willing to adopt this set of contingencies.

scary moments from scott williamson came to nothing, and will ohman, bob howry and scott eyre negotiated the late innings to get the game to closer ryan dempster with the lead intact. but dempster's control difficulties are clearly still a major consideration. florida, a very patient team for one so young, laid off dempster's slider in the dirt, and without the help of the young marlins dempster was left with nothing. two walks, two hits -- which surely should have been three, but for a stunning and temporarily game-saving play by todd walker at first base -- and two runs later, and dempster had blown his second save opportunity in the month.

a fine april has been followed by a may in which dempster has allowed 13 baserunners in 8.2 innings, compiling a 6.23 era. this page has long considered him to be an explosive variety of closer who may well be trading on a small sample size as a claim to success. comments such as, "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," have peppered this page for months.

in truth, dempster has done a remarkable job for a pitcher with such a shady past between leaving the rotation for good in 2003 and the end of 2005 -- his component era over that stretch of 82 innings was just 3.04. but an eye-popping spring in which he walked 8 to contribute to 17 baserunners in only 9.2 innings rang alarm bells regarding his volatility yet again, and his recent struggles seem to justify that alarm. closers are by the nature of their sample volatile -- in any given inning, a pitcher can implode, and one need look no further than the great billy wagner to demonstrate it. but dempster, with his lack of control and one-pitch dependence, may be more so than most. this page has compared him to, instead of wagner, francisco cordero and danys baez. sadly, it still feels quite justified in that comparison, and would expect dempster to continue on a roller-coaster ride through 2006 with numerous thrills and spills.

today sees the cubs try to avoid a sweep at the hands of the (second?) worst team in the national league. greg maddux will face detroit castoff brian moehler, a groundball control pitcher in the maddux mold who has settled down somewhat from a screamingly awful april. with pitcher-friendly paul emmel calling balls and strikes, it figures to be a fast, low-scoring affair. here's hoping the cubs can eke out of one of the more embarrassing series sweeps in team history.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Jerry Jr Speaks

I ran across this "article" and had to post it. It's a player perspective from our favorite pull-happy, toe-draggin' 2nd baseman. I found two paragraphs near the end quite interesting...

We've been having enough trouble lately without another injury. We've been trying extremely hard to right the ship, and hopefully we will. It's not like we're playing bad -- we're just not hitting. There is a difference.

We're not making three, four errors a game. We're playing great defense. Our pitching, for the most part, has been pretty decent. It's just our hitting hasn't been to where we like it. That's basically it. We've played good baseball, with the exception of a couple games.

Well I'm pretty much speechless. Seems to me that Jerry is delusional.

schooled by fish

no one can say that florida manager joe girardi doesn't have a sense of humor. on a day when former cub farmhand ricky nolasco was made to look like the ghost of mordecai brown by a cub offense which is terrible in the epic sense, girardi didn't hesitate to give irony its fullest manifestation by giving former cub farmhand renyel pinto and former cub farmhand todd wellemeyer chances to twist the knife in their erstwhile matron.

is this rock bottom? it might be, dear reader. the marlins are a farm team transplanted to the majors. the entire active roster named just a handful of players who have seen a major league field prior to this season for anything more than a cup of coffee. nolasco spent last year in double-a west tennessee for the cubs. so did pinto. hanley ramirez spent the evening utterly destroying cub pitching, from sean marshall to michael wuertz to roberto novoa to scott williamson -- he reached in all five plate appearances. chris aguila did more damage. and nolasco himself went two-for-three, including his first major league hit -- a towering solo shot off marshall in the fourth to put a touch of absurdity on a well-worn story of daily cub failure.

these chicago cubs were not only beaten by a quadruple-a ballclub last night, but beaten badly in every facet. cub defense looked spotty, with punchy barrett notably embarrassing himself again by dropping a standard-issue popup behind the plate; ramirez taking the extra base on another daft toss to the wrong base by jacque jones; and marshall throwing away a pickoff throw trying to catch mercurial ex-catcher josh willingham.

cub pitching set the stage by issuing runs in four of the first five innings -- and missed going five-for-five only by the happy fortune of a double play in the third that allowed marshall out of a bases-loaded one-out jam. now is a very dangerous time for marshall -- he's been lit up in two of his last three starts, and (as was commented on before the game) last night was the official beginning of his second tour through the league. he looked good against florida a month ago -- but the marlins came at him with a plan to be patient, and consistently got him into hitters counts and destroyed him. this page would encourage dusty baker and jim hendry to stay with the kid -- he carries a 5.29 era now, isn't looking particularly effective and will get hit hard more frequently than we might like, but this season's over and you might as well let him take his lumps and see what he's made of. this page didn't agree with the decision the club made with marshall -- but it's been made, so at least stick with it and don't start with the debilitating discount-bus-pass to des moines.

and the cub offense -- what more can be said? is it enough to say that they are the least potent offensive team in baseball, including kansas city, pittsburgh and tampa bay, averaging just 3.64 runs/game? is it enough to say that they are on pace to score jut 589 runs -- which would represent the lowest output of any national league team since the 2003 dodgers? and, before them, the 1993 new-expansion-franchise marlins? it may be promising that aramis ramirez appears finally to be awakening, but no one player can eradicate the deep problems with construction and talent inherent to andy macfail's debacle. even with derrek lee in the lineup and playing to expectation, this was always a lower-third national league offense.

kerry wood will apparently make his scheduled start this evening in spite of pain in his repaired shoulder and missing his side sessions -- with bruce froemming behind the plate, he'll probably get the benefit of the doubt around the corners, and maybe that will help him along. but even coming up against rookie scott olsen may be too much for this patience-challenged cub team -- olsen is really struggling, but can get by if he isn't allowed to get himself into trouble with questionable control. olsen took a no-decision a month ago against the cubs, tossing five innings of one-hit ball. this team will need to show more patience this time around to get to him.

is it rock bottom? only time will tell, dear reader, but this writer suspects that, if it isn't, you can at least see it from here.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Tribune Co. Protest: 11:30, May 27, 2006 @ Clark & Addison

The revolution may not be televised. But we'll try to cover it at 1060west.

Cub fan Bill is putting together a formal protest against the Tribune Company. He has been on the SCORE a couple of times in recent weeks promoting this protest. The protest is scheduled for this upcoming Saturday, May 27 prior to the Cubs/Bravos game at Wrigley Field. Bill is a Cub fan who, like so many of us, is tired of all the losing. I e-mailed Bill and he sent me this information on the fan protest:

Below is a copy of an email i sent to people that have shown interest in the protest. Anything you can do to help the cause would be appreciated.
Thanks for your help!

We need confrimation as to how many people we know are committed to joining us for the protest this saturday may 27th, at 11:30am in front of Wrigley Field. Just send an email back to let us know that you will be there.

This is a peaceful protest and understand that this protest is against the Tribune Co.and not the Cubs. We as fans are tired of being taken for granted! We have financially supported the Cubs for 25 years under Tribune Co. ownership and we're tired of losing! Our message to the Tribune Co.: sell the team or put a team on the field that represents the financial support us fans have given them throughout the years! If you're not sure you can make it, please don't tell us you'll be there, we need an accurate count. If you are attending, please make up a sign, and make sure there is no profanity on it. Feel free to use any idea that represents the message we're trying to send! Should you join us, you are responsible for your own actions. We might have shirts to pass out also.

Thanks for your support.


He would love to have fans join him in this cause. If any of you are interested in participating in Bill's fan protest e-mail him at Hopefully somebody will take some pictures. We'll post them here at 1060west. Good Luck.

whither go jerome williams and rich hill?

with this season cooked a as christmas goose, this page is appalled to see rich hill demoted yet again to iowa following his brutal (in more ways than one) saturday start. erstwhile firestarting reliever michael wuertz was recalled. hill had first displaced reliever david aardsma on may 1.

this follows on the heels of jae-kuk ryu's demotion at the hands of kerry wood; ryu was brought up the week before to replace angel guzman. jerome williams was sent down to iowa on april 23 when guzman was called up, where he hasn't pitched well. so goes the shuffling of deck chairs on a sinking ship.

williams has since spent more than 20 days on optional assignment, his last option year has been used and he will not be optionable in 2007. guzman's case is more complex -- he is in his sixth year of professional ball, and has this year again spent more than 20 days on optional assignment, thus making 2006 his third option year. however, guzman's injury time in previous seasons may make him eligible for a fourth option year, as he appears not to have accrued four full years -- that is, years with 60 or more days spent on the active/non-disabled roster -- in his six years. hill has had his second option year expended this season and has one option year remaining; the same situation applies to wuertz and aardsma.

it is completely beyond this writer's ability to explain why williams was not recalled prior to may 11 in order to preserve his final option year -- perhaps jim hendry felt he was simply too bad to pitch often at the major league level to work out his problems, and had not yet recognized that 2006 was a lost cause (though this page certainly had). but with hill and guzman in the cub rotation at the time, and waste of roster space glendon rusch sitting in the bullpen, it seems difficult if not impossible to justify keeping williams down simply because he was having a difficult spell. nonetheless, it has happened.

it seems to this writer that at least four of these pitchers should be permanent fixtures in the cub 25-man for the remainder of this year. ryu, the case can easily be made, needs more time to matriculate in the minors -- he is still just 23, and his experience is still rather limited. guzman too, even at 24, having accumulated just 344 innings in six previous years, could be asked to spend some more time demonstrating his capacities in the pcl.

but these are luxuries unaffordable to wuertz, aardsma, hill and especially williams. hill is 26 and is already proving again this year that the pacific coast league is no trial for him -- he's nothing left to prove there, and is a talented pitcher who simply needs to throw strikes to have some measure of major league success. and williams is now in his do-or-die year with the cub organization -- if he is to remain with the team, he will have to do so without the benefit of recursive trips to des moines. moreover, he is a 24-year-old with 23 major league wins and a career 4.03 era. this is a player who, whatever his shortcomings or current struggles, should receive long consideration for a place in the cubs future plans.

moreover, aardsma is no spring chicken at 24 and is likewise demonstrating that the pcl is beneath him. most egregiously of all, wuertz is 27 and has again been blindingly effective this year for the i-cubs.

now is the time to begin sorting out the futures of these players. if hendry and macfail actually think that this team can somehow correct itself -- and reports for the house organ seem to indicate that they might -- they're an even greater pair of boobs that this page might have suspected.

"We have to right the ship," Hendry said. "Obviously, the White Sox are the best team in the world, and we certainly haven't responded in the past couple of days playing like we would like to. We've taken a slip here the last couple of weeks that I didn't think we would do. Any team is going to be short without Derrek Lee, but a lot of other guys are probably trying to step up and take the place of his production, and are putting themselves in a spot where they've done less."

not only is it too late to right the ship -- the ship is nestled comfortably if fatally into the ocean floor. to continue to manage the roster as though this team has a chance to be competitive is the height of destructive delusion. this year is a failure, but that failure can yet be turned to constructive purpose -- if only the officers still clinging to the tiller have the sense to let go and swim for the surface.

this page certainly understands that there are contingencies that must be allowed for. wood will have to, if he can, be allowed to showcase himself for a possible midseason trade -- as has been noted, the cubs will not under any circumstance exercize their $13mm option on wood at the end of this year, and cannot offer him a contract that represents a decline in total value without him declaring himself an unrestricted free agent first. it must be hoped that he can be dealt for prospective help for 2007 and beyond. likewise, greg maddux is probably the cubs most valuable potential commodity before july 31. relief pitchers such as ryan dempster, scott eyre, bob howry and scott williamson could all be targets of contending clubs. thus they all must pitch. carlos zambrano is going nowhere, and sean marshall too is where he should stay for the duration.

however, that leaves a rotation spot and three bullpen spots that are currently occupied by rusch, will ohman, roberto novoa and wuertz.

rusch should be designated for assignment immediately -- he has no purpose here, and macfail and hendry were fools to sign him to a contract extension in the first place. they should admit their mistake and move on. novoa is 26 and has one option remaining and has already spent two weeks in the minors this year, making him most of the way toward burning it. the cubs are faced with retaining him on the major league roster for the remainder of his time here -- given the lack of quality in his performances and the limitations of roster space, it is here recommended that he be designated for assignment. ohman is now 29 and has one option year remaining. despite a nice year in 2005, he has never been much of a pitcher -- he simply hasn't shown any ability at any level to control his walk rate. he too should be designated for assignment or possibly traded.

wuertz, for his part, has had a yet longer trial in the majors than these last two and has shown only the slightest glimmer of hope in becoming a servicable reliever. his ability to get a strikeout and strong splits versus righthanded batters are tempered by a critical lack of control and propensity for wild pitches in key situations. he also might be recommended to find employment elsewhere, though perhaps less vigorously.

simply ridding the team of rusch, novoa, and ohman would clear the brush off this club's roster and enable new growth -- williams, hill, aardsma -- to break through for the remainder of the season. williams could take final residence in the rotation, and hill be tried as a lefty reliever with the potential of moving into the rotation should he prove able out of the bullpen.

should the cubs be successful in moving wood, maddux, and one or more of the four veteran relievers, yet more room would become available -- possibly opening the way for the trials of players like ryu, guzman and carlos marmol (all on the 40-man), as well as andy shipman, juan mateo and rocky cherry. in any case, disabled vets mark prior and wade miller should be generously extended in rehabilitation until after such deadline trades could be made. prior is as yet a controlled contract, and miller is a player no contender will want to hazard. neither having much if any immediate trade appeal, neither should stand in the way of youth that could be tried now -- miller, for all this writer cares, could never throw a pitch for the cubs.

this page isn't going to sit here and try to sell you, dear reader, on the notion that what talent lies in the cub farm is the immediate salvation of the club. it seems here that not enough can be projected to come of what is in iowa and west tenn over the next two years to make a contending pitching staff of its own accord. and players like mark pawalek, grant johnson, tim layden, sean gallagher and donald veal are still much too distant to be estimated.

but come september, much more could be known about some of these players and what roles they might be able to play for the cubs in 2007, 2008 and beyond -- and, paticularly in the cases of williams, hill, wuertz and aardsma, which the cubs might be better off without. and that would be a step forward, finally.

SeriesPreview: Cubs @ Marlins May 22-24

Following a victory that the Cubs skipper termed "the largest one for us this year", the Northsiders(18-25) head to south Florida to face Joe Girardi and his Fighting Fish(11-31). Girardi's young Marlins are last in the NL East.

The Cubs took two of three from the Fish at the end of April. Still, the Wednesday matinee at Wrigley Field served as a turning point in the Cubs young season. The Cubs went into that game 12-7, 1-1/2 games behind the front running Astros. They lost the finale 7-5 and plummeted into a death spiral going 5-18 since that fateful afternoon. The Cubs now find themselves 10-1/2 games back in the NL Central. In less than one month this team has fallen 9 games in the standings. That my friends, is difficult to do.

This is a series on the road that you would like to see the Bruin's sweep. I'm not sure if this team right now is capable of sweeping any team. But the triple-A Marlins should do the trick to get a few of the Cubs bats going.

This will also be a homecoming of sorts for Cub leadoff hitter Juan Pierre. The struggling Pierre had his best seasons in South Florida. The Northsiders will look to Pierre to spark their sputtering offense.

Pitching matchups and media info:

Monday 6:05 ct
Sean Marshall(3-1, 4.26) vs. Ricky Nolasko(2-1, 3.43)
TV-CSN-Chicago +
Radio- WGN Radio-720 AM; XM-183

Tuesday 6:05 ct
Kerry Wood(0-1, 7.20) or TBA vs. Scott Olsen(2-3, 6.55)
Radio- WGN Radio-720-AM; XM-183

Wednesday 12:05 ct
Greg Maddux(5-3, 3.76) vs. Brian Moehler(1-4, 7.29)
TV-WGN Channel 9
Radio- WGN Radio-720 AM; XM-183

Quick fact: The Cubs as a team have hit 30 homeruns, their opponents 54. The Cubs as a team are on pace to hit 113 homeruns that would be their lowest output in a full 162 game season since the 1992 team hit 104 homeruns.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

dl triplets update, part three

in the third installment of our neverending story, we revisit the triplets kerry wood, mark prior and wade miller as they negotiate the treacherous waters of rehabilitation from shoulder problems.

the big news of the last 24 hours is that wood is experiencing shoulder pain.

Prior to Sunday's game at U.S. Cellular Field, Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild could not discount the idea of Wood being skipped a start.

"It's possible," Rothschild said. "But we'll have to see. It may not be even that (long). It may be quicker than that. He may be ready to go, so we'll see."

Are the Cubs concerned about Wood's health?

"There's concern because you'd like it to go smoothly, but with shoulders it's not going to go smoothly," Rothschild said. ."You just have to check out what the best thing is for him to get through this. We knew coming up these possibilities exist."

rather than repeat itself, this page will quote itself.

wood's rehabilitation is far from over -- the lingering effects of labrum repair run over years, not weeks. it is in fact quite likely that he will never be the pitcher he once was nor ever fulfill his considerable lost promise.

wood surely by now knows the difference between soreness and pain, and soreness doesn't put your next start in jeopardy. pain in the joint is not uncommon after labrum procedures, but it is also not uncommon never to pitch another major league game. wood knows he's in a contract year and is likely to gut it out if at all possible -- but this page expects even less from him now than its previously attested diminished expectations. part of the year and general ineffectiveness, perhaps forcing a move to the bullpen, seems a reasonable forecast.

prior, too, is progressing only very slowly. while virtually no one has seen prior pitch, reports indicate that, though the team is steadily increasing his pitch counts, his velocity is not there. consecutive reports yesterday and today in the sun-times:

Mark Prior threw 38 pitches over two innings for the Mesa Cubs when he pitched Friday in an Arizona rookie-league game. His pitch velocity still sounds short of what he needs for the majors.

"His fastball velocity came up a little bit,'' Rothschild said. "We'll probably build him up innings-wise next time out.''

followed by

Prior is scheduled to throw four innings in another rookie-league game Wednesday in Arizona, double his output from Friday in his first rookie-league appearance this year.

But the real issue is how soon he can show more velocity. He has been average so far, and that needs to improve for him to make a speedy return to the Cubs.

nearly two months since being diagnosed with a tear in a rotator cuff muscle, prior is still throwing less than 40 pitches without velocity. this writer isn't a doctor, but also doesn't think you need to be one to know that this does not correlate with an early june return. again, it would seem that prior's shoulder issues are not completely resolved -- and very well may not be this year.

miller, for his part, may represent the best of the three, if on-the-record comments from the team can be believed. a week ago, this was the news:

Miller threw two sets of 20 pitches Friday.

"[Miller] said it's the best he's felt in two years,'' pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "I think he's building on that. ... Hopefully, we'll get them all going together at some point soon.''

rothschild also called miller a working week behind prior. maybe he would like to have that back, and maybe he wouldn't. but at least there hasn't been anything terribly negative since the revelation three weeks ago that miller was feeling stiffness in the repaired joint.

For those of you scoring at home

Michael Barrett's cheap shot on Saturday is just the latest example of a baseball team that from top to bottom doesn't get it. The 2004 Cubs team will be remembered for bitching and moaning about everything from the fans to the umpires to the broadcasters. There's a difference though, the 2004 team won 89 games and stayed in the wildcard race until they folded the last week of that season. This team of malcontents is on the road to 100 losses.

Barrett's cheap shot at one of the biggest pricks in baseball.

So here's a rundown of how this "class" team--that has taken the lovable out of lovable losers-- has behaved during the first quarter of the season:

APRIL 24 - Jacques Jones wins a game with a dramatic eighth inning home run. Following the ballgame the struggling small market player takes a shot at the Wrigley Field faithful who have been booing him. This from Mike Kiley's AP column:

"I'm hearing all kinds of stuff in the outfield. I try not to pay attention. But it's so loud and so angry right now. It's almost funny. They have a right to voice whatever opinion they want. But it's not going to make me play any better. It's not going to make me play any worse.

"Where I came from (the Minnesota Twins), they were passionate about baseball. We probably didn't draw as many, but through thick and thin it was, 'Let's go, we can do it, we know you can do it.' It's something I got to get used (in Chicago)."

Jones is hitting .209 and expects to hear more catcalls with the Cubs home all week long.

"I'm blocking it out as much as I can," he said. "As long as I'm playing as hard as I can play, I can look myself in the mirror and know I'm doing the right thing."

Jones even made a reference to Cubs fans turning on former right fielder Sammy Sosa when he hit the skids in 2004. He also alluded to his buddy, reliever LaTroy Hawkins, without specifically naming him. Hawkins was booed out of Chicago last season, traded in May.

"I've seen friends go through it," Jones said of the crowd hazing. "Sammy Sosa hit 60 home runs three years and went into a slump and..."

Between APRIL 25-MAY 18 - In response to Paul Sullivan's article in Tribune detailing the Jones gaffe described above. Andy MacPhail and Jim Hendry meet with Sully and Tribune Sports Editor Dan McGrath. According to reports Andy MacPhail is uncharacteristically upset and unprofessional in his dress down of Sullivan. Sullivan correctly points out that his story was no different than those written in the Bright One, Daily Herald and Daily Southtown. I'm just happy to know Andy's still around. I was getting ready to put the APB out. This from Sneed's column in Friday's Bright One:

All in the family? Sneed hears top Chicago Cubs executives Andy McPhail and Jim Hendry berated Chicago Tribune sports editor Dan McGrath and Cubs beat writer Paul Sullivan over what they felt was the paper's unfairly critical coverage of the team. The expletive-laced tongue-lashing supposedly took place last week at Wrigley Field, according to a source.

Sneedless to say, shouldn't the team execs be apologizing to their bosses at Tribune Co. for the Cubs' shabby record?

MAY 12 - A frustrated Michael Barrett in an outburst that would foreshadow a bigger outburst 8 days later. Jawed with Padres outfielder Dave Roberts who stole third in a blowout. Here's the Tribune description of the outburst:

Talk about freaky Friday: three errors that included a timeout that wasn't, a near-brawl, an umpires' warning to both benches and an umpire-ordered trimming of a relief pitcher's sleeves. All of that as the Padres' lead grew from 3-2 to 8-2.

"Actually, I think we've been through a lot worse, believe it or not," said catcher Michael Barrett, who was in the middle of a vocal confrontation.

Barrett was standing at the plate when Dave Roberts, after stealing third base, scored on Mike Cameron's double. The catcher said something to Roberts, who turned and replied. Suddenly, the umpires were trying to keep the peace as Padres mingled about. After a short conference, the umpires warned both sides that any retaliatory pitching tactics would not be tolerated.

MAY 16 - After beating the Nats 4-0, Todd Walker calls out the fans.

"Understand the game a little more," Walker said. "Back this team because we have a great chance to do some good things."

MAY 20 - The bench clearing brawl at US Cellular. David Haugh's article in the Tribune says everything in the headline: "The 'cheap shot' heard 'round city". Here's Chris De Luca's description from the Bright One:

On a routine sacrifice fly to left field and tag-up at third base, Sox
baserunner A.J. Pierzynski bowled over catcher Michael Barrett. After slapping home plate, Pierzynski got up, strolled toward his batting helmet and bumped into Barrett, who put the opposing catcher in a bearhug and punched him squarely in the jaw.

So there it is. Unprofessional/classless behavior from the top of the organization on down.(And I am not getting into complaints about the strikezone or any of the crap that the skipper gives us on a daily basis.) Dusty Baker enables his players to behave like this. (He's also had this team quit on him, but that's a whole 'nother topic).

What is funny to me is the poor behavior by the Cubs President and General Manager in relation to their beat writer from the Tribune. I guess when you have a General Manager that dresses like a gym teacher on a booze cruise, you shouldn't expect much. It is my opinion that if the Tribune (or the new owners) want to make the Cubs a world class outfit, they'll have to start by eliminating MacPhail and Hendry.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

worst. team. ever.

folks, yours truly has watched plenty of bad cub baseball. anyone who has been watching for more than a decade has seen some. when you've been watching for a few decades, as this writer has, you've seen some more. and the poor old souls who have been hanging on for fifty or sixty years -- well, god bless them for what they've seen.

but this cub team is earning the distinction of being the Worst Cub Team I Ever Saw. they may not finish the year 65-97 like donnie baylor's 2000 club (though it can't be counted out) -- they may not be compared to joey amalfitano's boys when all is said and done. this writer continues to think that, no matter how bad they are, they are better than this. but the stretch of baseball they have played over the last four weeks is the worst four weeks of cub baseball this writer has ever seen.

losing is one thing. the cubs haven't stopped and have barely paused in that endeavor for 60 years -- nothing shocking there. but never even having a chance is another -- and this team has no chance. one can feel it before the first pitch is thrown. never mind a surprising win -- if they score two runs in a game, it's shocking. if they allow less than five, it's a moral victory.

but this club has gone yet further still. watch michael barrett show you. this team has completely come apart.

this team didn't have the talent to win from the get-go. it collectively hasn't put forward anything that resembles focused effort in weeks, aside a few scattered individual performances. now, even paragons of measured self-control like maddux are barking at umpires. and barrett, long in need of therapy and psychoactive medication to cure him of his intransigent white-trash-playground-bully insecurity complex, is absolutely running wild. barrett cleared the benches against dave roberts -- one of the more genial gentlemen in the game -- just over a week ago. faced with subtle antagonist a.j. pierzynski, he couldn't help but explode in a barbaric fit of selfishness.

barrett is going to take a nice vacation at the direction of the commissioner's office, and he earned it -- were this writer running this team, he'd already be facing ten games unpaid for conduct detrimental. such violent fits of self-absorbed petulance have no place on a good team, and barrett has seen fit to cost the team the use of one of the very few offensive threats jim hendry, in his incompetence, managed to assemble.

but to focus on barrett alone misses the root problem -- dusty baker has absolutely no control over this club at all. it is spinning utterly beyond him, and the end of discipline is the definitive sign. he should be shown the door immediately.

even rookie ronny cedeno, until now the quiet player any rookie should be, today turned on first base umpire paul nauert after being called out on a close play. this is the hazard of keeping dusty here -- there is a youth movement underway, and it is going to get stronger as july approaches and veterans are shipped off to contending teams. infecting these kids with the mental and emotional malfeasance that dusty enables does them no favors.

this year is lost. even the most obstinate of the ignorantly blissful are belatedly coming to grips with it. so go find the manager that can help this youth movement forward.

buehrle twirling, cubs spinning

just a quick bit to touch on the cubs 6-1 loss at the hands of mark buehrle to open the crosstown series.

greg maddux, uncharacteristically, got into it with plate umpire larry vanover over balls and strikes just before being lifted in the sixth. maddux issued five walks and didn't benefit from a few close ones -- but it is pretty difficult to complain when the other guy is tossing a two-hit, two-walk complete game on 105 pitches (though the cubs once again certainly seemed eager to expedite his efforts). and it is especially hard to complain about larry vanover, who kept the 11th-lowest era of any umpire in baseball last year. vanover is not a plate-squeezer, and buehrle proved it.

sometimes, you just don't have it -- but this writer suspects that all the losing is really eating at maddux. this team is now 4-16 in its last 20, and clearly spinning out of control. this could well be the worst stretch for any professional team maddux has ever pitched for. and the truth is that they've been a bit lucky anyway -- the adjusted standings have the cubs as the worst team in the majors by pythagenport measures at 15-24 coming into today -- two games worse than they actually were, better (arguably) than only pittsburgh.

for what it's worth, it's greg gibson behind the plate tomorrow for hill-garcia and paul nauert on sunday for the zambrano-contreras matchup. gibson is a bona fide high-era umpire -- few strikeouts, high hit rate -- and, working against rich hill, that only magnifies the sox's advantages over the feeble cub attack. could be a double-digit day for the sox. nauert is neutral-to-pitcher-friendly -- shouldn't stand in the way of what promises to be one of the best pitching matchups on the entire cub calendar this year and probably the cubs' best chance to sneak a win out of this series.

playing behind maddux, neifi managed to soil his fielding reputation yet again today by tossing an a.j. pierzynski grounder deflected off todd walker's glove past maddux, who was covering first, long after the sox catcher crossed the bag. nothing came of it in the end -- but ronny cedeno, for his part, could have reversed a jermaine dye bouncer in the fatal third to nail jim thome at the plate by a country mile. strangely, he double-clutched, froze, then mechanically tossed to first, giving up yet another run to make it 4-1 sox. maybe he realized that the cubs weren't going to score three anyway and so didn't bother -- but this team, whose defense was supposed to be better than this, is finding another facet of the game to come apart in. barrett, walker, jacque and pierre we knew would ensure this was never a great team in the field. but cedeno trails only rafael furcal among nl shortstops in errors and now neifi is getting in on the act. without derrek lee around, the cubs seem sometimes to be without a plus defensive player at any position.

that weakness today was highlighted by the presence of joe crede. a former southern league triple crown winner, crede has long been projected to hit -- but hasn't, and probably won't. his start this year is promising, but of course it's only six weeks. so what's kept him playing? crede absolutely shimmered around the bag today, flagging screaming liners and adeptly handling hot grounders with range and an strong, accurate arm. it seems many a weary year since this cub fan watched any cub player handle third base like that. crede isn't a great player, but he plays great defense and that is just fun to watch.

Friday, May 19, 2006

what a good team looks like

while many rote fantasists and the cubs management that deceitfully encourages them may continue to insist that there is some reason to think that this 2006 cub season is not as clearly lost as it is -- blindly clinging to a team with the worst offense in the national league and one of the worst pitching staffs, even after it has gone into a hole that now only a 73-49 (.598) run over the next four and a half months can hope to rectify -- this page has assiduously tried to point out the rational and statistical aspects of this undeniably dire situation.

sometimes, however, numbers aren't enough. sometimes a physical context or example is required in order to drive home points that to some seem terribly abstract when expressed in numbers.

this weekend will provide cub fans with a chance to gain that context. the southside ballclub is not just a good team -- it is a very good team, defending world champions and improved from last year's club thanks to the tireless machinations of general manager kenny williams.

williams brought home the hardware last year, and could easily have done what the cubs did following in 1998 -- resign everyone and hope for a repeat of the career years that aided them to glory. williams would have none of such passive thinking that has repeatedly caught the cubs out in the cold for years. he boldly traded aaron rowand, his starting centerfielder, for jim thome, a obp monster to replace the declining and out-of-favor frank thomas. even in a forgettable 2005, thome worked a .207 batting average into a .360 obp. that anomalous year now behind him, thome is crushing the american league to the tune of 292/431/679 with 16 homers and 40 rbi in 39 games.

williams then engineered a spectacular trade for front-line starter javier vazquez, who williams rightly speculated would be more effective once out of the desert air of arizona. vazquez is posting a 4:1 k:bb ratio, a 1.07 whip and .285 obpa, numbers indeed reminiscent of his stellar years with montreal.

much of williams' providential dealing is possible only because of the massive time and effort his team has sunk into player development, with spectacular results. chris young was key to acquiring vazquez, and williams can afford to part with a star centerfield prospect, his starting centerfielder and turn a third centerfielder into matt thornton because he also has brian anderson. he could add dan haigwood to seal the thome deal because he's sitting on a monstrous trove of pitching talent. the cubs haven't put together a steady and productive minor league player development organization of this quality at any point in their history. the sox have been fuelled to success from beneath since 1999 with no letup, as prospects have turned into productive players or essential bargaining chips.

as a result, this is a sox team so flush with talent that a player like brandon mccarthy -- who would probably be the cubs second or third starter were his side in this series juxtaposed -- cannot find a job in the rotation. and despite difficult beginnings by jon garland, juan uribe, brian anderson and the bullpen as a whole -- with dustin hermanson missing the year and ace jose contreras spending time on the disabled list to boot -- the white sox have run out to a 26-14 (.650) start anyway, scoring 226 and allowing 182 through 40 games.

that is the mark of a quality ballclub -- the ability to take poor performances and injuries with depth, flexibility and offsetting quality in other areas to not "tread water" -- for treading water is how teams fail to make the playoffs -- but win in spite of it all. while the hopeless escapists that populate the ranks of the northside fanbase dream about the pathetic cubs of this lost year playing .600 baseball, the good team in chicago is doing it.

meanwhile, the cubs are picking useless parts like tony womack off the baseball scrap heap and inventing new and infuriating ways to negate their modest efforts.

and here is where some context might arrive. even a club as good as this did last year, on their march to 99 wins and a world title, played .611 baseball -- and indeed, in only three of their six months did they exceed a .600 winning percentage.

study for a moment as you enjoy your weekend, dear reader, the immense gulf in talent and ability between the southside sox and our northside cubs -- and work to remember it. closing that gap and assembling something like this sox juggernaut is what one would have to see in order to have legitimate, rational hope for bringing a world title back to wrigley field.

do you think andy macfail, jim hendry and dusty baker are capable of that? in this year? in any year?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

yet another wood comeback

kerry wood today marks another milestone, returning from his umpteenth trip to the disabled list in his career -- indeed, perhaps it is wrong to imply progress when wood could more appropriately be said to be walking in circles, passing the same tree in the forest again and again. wood hasn't started a big league game in nearly a year -- over eight months of rehab following surgery intended to repair his labrum.

this page has before said that little can be expected, and indeed even the cubs are trying to temper enthusiasm.

"He's not going to walk out there and be the Kerry Wood now that you saw in '03,'' pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "You're not going to see a finished product. You're going to see a guy that's going to get to that point as long as he stays healthy.

"We're going to have to watch him the first month or so. This is where he has to take the next step. I'm optimistic about the way he is throwing the ball. He's ready to compete here. Hopefully, he comes out of it healthy.''

for a truth-challenged organization, this is about as succinct a summary of wood's return as can be imagined coming from the mouth of one of its employees. wood's rehabilitation is far from over -- the lingering effects of labrum repair run over years, not weeks. it is in fact quite likely that he will never be the pitcher he once was nor ever fulfill his considerable lost promise.

of course, that was already true last year, sadly. since the close of 2003, when a plainly spooked wood took the mound and the loss in the most anticlimactic championship series seventh game in baseball history, he has compiled an 11-12 record in 32 starts while chalking an era just a hair under 4 and become the poster child for the prevention of pitcher abuse.

but it is to be fervently hoped that wood can muster at least enough of a performance to showcase himself leading up to the july trading deadline. the cubs are not going to exercize their $13mm option on him for 2007, and he has proven beyond any doubt that he is simply not the kind of reliable pitcher that a team can build around -- his gifted arm is also cursed, it would seem. and the cubs, already out of it in may and likely to be even further back in july, should stop at nothing to move some players to contending teams in exchange for young help that can be a foundation for the future. wood may well be such a player if he does well now.