Sunday, December 30, 2007

6 most memorable wins from 2007

Happy New Year to everyone. Everything has been quiet on the Cubs front of late. So I want to take a look back at 2007. The Cubs NL Central Championship gave us a bunch of memories. Here are MY most memorable Cub wins of 2007:

Every win is said to be just as important as every other win. While that is probably the case, at times following a team some wins just seem more important than others, they stand out to you as a fan. Maybe it was the way the team won, the timing of the win or a memorable individual performance. So when I started looking over the 2007 schedule it was easy to find more than 6 memorable wins for this team. Here are a few that just missed the cut:

Most memorable wins of 2007 Honorable Mention

August 17, 2007, Cubs 2 - Cardinals 1. Jacque Jones hit a two run homer and made a brilliant catch as the Cubs moved into first place.

June 8, 2007, Cubs 9 - Braves 1. Soriano jacks three homeruns in his first three AB's down in Hotlanta.

June 24, 2007, Cubs 3 - White Sox 0. Soriano homers for the third consecutive game in the series. Marshall and the pen shut out Sox en route to a sweep on the Southside.

June 3, 2007, Cubs 10 - Braves 1. Following the Barrett/Z fight and Uncle Lou's tirade on the first two days of this series with the Braves, the Cub offense came to life. We have seen lesser Cub teams rollover following games like the Friday and Sunday prior to this.

September 17, 2007, Cubs 7 - Reds 6. Mark DeRosa goes 5-5 as the Cubs keep pushing for the NL Central crown.

You can make an argment for any of those games and I'm sure I missed a few. Feel free to let me know in the comments below. Okay here is my list of the 6 most memorable games of 2007:

CCD's 6 most memorable wins from 2007

6. August 18, 2007, Cubs 5 - Cardinals 3. In a game full of rain delays (over 2 hours worth), the only thing that mattered was the outcome. The Cubs beat the cardianls for the second consecutive day. They scored all the runs they would need that day on one blast. A grand slam homerun by Daryle Ward, his first homerun wearing the blue pinstripes.

Ward was in the lineup because earlier in the day Cliff Floyd and his family buried his father Cornelius. Cub players and management attended the funeral.

Defensively Carlos Marmol and Jason Kendall pulled off a memorable play on Albert Pujols at to end the sixth inning:

It got a little messy in the St. Louis sixth. Pujols was at third base with one out and tried to score when Carlos Marmol's pitch got away from Kendall. Kendall scrambled to retrieve the ball and threw to Marmol covering home while on his belly. Home-plate umpire Ted Barrett called Pujols out, although Cardinals fans might challenge that.
The Cubs, who had just moved into first place a day earlier, knew that at the end of this game they were still in first place. A wild race with Milwaukee was on...

5. May 19, 2007, Cubs 11 - White Sox 6. The score of this game doesn't indicate how close this game was. In the top of the eighth Paul Konerko gave the southside team the lead with a solo shot off of Bobby Howry. Trailing 6-5 in the bottom of the eighth things were about to change:

But the Cubs answered in their half, much to the delight of the fans with red and blue face paint in the sellout crowd of 41,101 at Wrigley Field. Ryan Theriot tripled to lead off against David Aardsma (2-1), and one out later, scored on Soriano's single. It was Soriano's first RBI since moving into the No. 3 spot on Monday in Lee's spot.

"You can't be afraid to get thrown out -- that's a momentum changer," Theriot said of his hit.

Aramis Ramirez then tripled to right, driving in Soriano to give the Cubs the lead. Daryle Ward was intentionally walked, and Michael Barrett was safe on an infield single that deflected off Aardsma to load the bases.

That brought Derrek Lee to the plate. Lee who had been out for 5 games with back spasms wasn't scheduled to start until the following Tuesday. Cue 'The Natural' movie footage. Lee connected for a pinch hit grand slam and sunk the White Sox hopes that afternoon.

4. September 28, 2007, Cubs 6 - Reds 0. The Cubs clincher in the Queen City.

Following an awful series in South Florida (a sweep at the hands of the Fish) most of us were getting worried that the Cubs were going to choke away the division which they had taken a commanding lead in thanks in large part to a sweep of the Bucs in the final home series of the regular season. The good news for the Cubs was the Brewers were not taking full advantage of the Cubs nose dive. As a matter of fact, Brewers losses on Wednesday and Thursday had lowered the Cubs magic number all the way to two.

The Cubs started the series in Cincy with their ace Carlos Zambrano on the hill. I had been critical of Big Z for sometime. He proved me wrong and then some pitching an absolute gem. Offensively Alfonso Soriano started the night like this. That would actually be all Z would need on this night. He went seven strong allowing 6 hits, 1 walk, and no runs while striking out 4. Howry and Dempster each added a scoreless inning of relief. The Cub offense would add on 5 more runs and the Cubs would have to awit the result from Milwaukee where former Cub Greg Maddux went to the hill for the Padres against the Brewers.

When that game was all over the Padres had beaten the Brewers 6-3 and the celebration was on in the Cubs clubhouse in Cincy and throughout the northside of Chicago!

3. August 21, 2007, Cubs 5-Giants 1. The Cubs and the Brewers were tied for first going into this ballgame. Milwaukee won in Phoenix 7-4 over the D-backs. This meant the Cubs had to win to stay tied with the Brewers.

Through 8 innings it didn't look good. Against young Tim Lincecum the Cub bats had only scratched out only 2 hits. Still the Cubs pitching staff behind 7.0 strong innings from Marquis and 1.0 inning of relief from Eyre had only allowed 1 run. In the top of the ninth a little something started to happen. Theriot led off the inning with a double. Jones singled sending Theriot to third. Lee singled to tie the game. Ramirez walked to load the bases and set the stage for Cliff Floyd.

Floyd had just returned to the team from the bereavement list following the loss of his father Cornelius. Floyd singled to RF scoring 2 runs to give the Cubs a 2 run lead. The norsthsiders would tack two more on and win a game that for eight innings they had no right to call a 'W'.

2. June 25, 2007. Cubs 10 - Rockies 9. Every summer Wrigley Field hosts a few wild games. This was the wildest of 2007. The Cubs looked to be cruising along through 8 innings they had built up an 8-3 lead on the Rockies. Jason Marquis was okay while the Cubs knocked around Jeff Francis for 6 runs in 5.0 IP.

In the top of the ninth all hell broke lose. Scott Eyre couldn't get anybody out as the first three Rockies reached. Bobby Howry entered and three batters later Troy Tulowitzki (a name few of us were familiar with yet) had homered to make it a 6 run Rockies ninth and given them the lead. Howry recovered and got the next three Rox out. We went to the bottom of the ninth with the Cubs needing one to tie and two to win.

Against Brian Fuentes, DeRosa led off the inning with a single to center. Lou brought in speedy Felix Pie to run for DeRosa. Pagan struck out swinging. Rob Bowen grounded into a force out 3-6. So with Bowen at first the great Koyie Hill pinch hit for Bobby Howry. Hill singled to left. This is where things get strange. Theriot hit a bouncer to Kaz Matsui who bobbled an easy play. All hands were safe. That loaded the bases for Soriano. Fonzie came through with a two run single to center and the Cubs had turned an easy win into a dramatic come from behind win.

1. June 29, 2007, Cubs 6 - Brewers 5. Milwaukee came to Chicago with a 7-1/2 game lead. The Cubs though were starting to play some better baseball. The Cubs entered play winners of 6 in a row and with a win would get back to the .500 mark.

In the first inning the Brewer hitters abused Rich Hill. Fouling off a ton of pitches and getting to Hill for 5 first inning runs. It looked like the 5 runs would stand up as the Cubs entered the bottom of the ninth down by two facing Brewers closer Francisco Cordero. Soriano and Fontenot both singled to start the inning. Lee hit a sac fly scoring Soriano. Next up Aramis Ramirez, who ended this game on the first pitch he saw. A 2 run game ending homerun that woke up Wrigleyville to the crazy summer we were about to see.

That was my most memorable game and moment of the Cubs 2007 season. Ramirez' walk off homerun was just good ole fashioned fun! It was actually a real nice building block for the Cubs in their pursuit of the Brewers.

So that is my list. I'm sure I kept some off this list that you would have mentioned. Let me know what you think. Thanks and again Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Prior joins Pads

Mark Prior is officially a San Diego Padre. To the surprise of very few, he goes home to southern California to play for the team that his friend Kevin Towers is GM for. Here is what Towers had to say:

"Mark Prior is a competitor and is working hard to regain the form that made him one of the great young pitchers in the game," Towers said. "We are confident he is going to help us in our rotation this season. It's exciting that Mark is coming home to San Diego to pitch for the Padres."
And so ends one of the strangest careers in Cubs history. How fast did this guy go from being the toast of Chicago to being 'too soft' to being a player neither the fans nor team even wanted to hear about in 2007. The Cubs moved on from Prior last spring, today Prior did the same.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

It might be, it could be...

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Special Delivery...

for everyone.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Corporate welfare (continued)

The other day I went on and on about the state of Illinois' plan to buy and renovate Wrigley Field. Yeah, they're not gonna use tax dollars to fund the restoration of Wrigley Field. Think again. Yesteday in Fran Spielman's column the former Guv decided the plan should include tax dollars:

"If restoration includes things for the neighborhood -- like parking -- then using tax dollars for that would not be inappropriate," said former Gov. James R. Thompson, chairman of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, the state agency that built U.S. Cellular Field and could acquire and renovate Wrigley."

LMAO. How quickly these politicians change their tune.

Thompson is just waiting for Zell to name his price:

Referring to Zell, Thompson said, "He's the seller. I'm waiting for him to tell me what he wants for Wrigley Field. Then we can say 'yes' or 'no.' . . . The less the ballpark costs, the more resources [from future rent and naming rights] we could use for restoration."

Thompson said Wrigley "desperately needs restoration," but he won't know how much it would cost or how it would be financed until the Cubs' new owners decide how far they want to go and until architects and engineers do an inspection of the stadium.

Not surprising, Thompson believes that the Cubs new owners (wink, wink: John Canning and Andy McKenna) should benefit from the ISFA:

"Didn't the U.S. Cellular Field deal help the White Sox? Didn't the Soldier Field deal help the Bears? Didn't the United Center deal help the Bulls and Blackhawks? Why leave the Cubs out?" the former governor said. "I think ISFA should own Wrigley Field and restore it."

Zell has talked about selling the naming rights to Wrigley to generate millions for stadium renovations. But Thompson predicted that a naming rights deal would not be nearly so lucrative. There would be a "strong push to keep the name Wrigley Field" attached to the new corporate moniker, diminishing the value of such a sponsorship, he said.

There so all of you worried about the name of Wrigley Field can feel good.

Any way you slice this deal the taxpayers of Illinois are going to get screwed. There is no reason for the state of Illinois to buy this decaying ballpark and fix it up so these corporate suits can benefit from the deal.

Stay tuned...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Corporate welfare

Last week it was revealed that the State of Illinois (which cannot figure out how to tie it's own shoes) was considering the idea of buying Wrigley Field. Of course, it was said that no tax money would be used, yada, yada, yada... When politicians say things like this, I wait for the other shoe to drop and the real story to come out. I think alot of the story came out earlier this week in Fran Spielman's Sun-Times report from City Hall:

The 1 percent tax on downtown restaurant meals that helped expand McCormick Place could move north to the area surrounding Wrigley Field to finance either renovation of the landmark stadium or improvements in the neighborhood, officials said Monday.

In the article the Cubs current caretaker Crane Kenney says:

"The city and state could say, 'Let's leave Wrigley Field as is.' But to the extent they do want to make improvements -- and we believe there's a real need for that -- they have talked about a variety of ways, including extending the food and beverage tax to include the Wrigley Field area. Those monies would go to support bonds issued for renovation," he said.

He also states that this is just one of several ideas for the old ballpark. Making me suspicious that this is simply leverage.

But Kenney stressed that having the authority that built U.S. Cellular Field acquire and renovate Wrigley was just "one of eight transactions" the Tribune Co. was reviewing. The other seven involve "private transactions" involving groups that would purchase the stadium and lease it back to the Cubs.

"It's an idea more than anything else. It may go nowhere. We're not even in the bottom of the first inning," Kenney said.

I suggested a week ago that this was a leverage move by Sam Zell so he can get a premium for the team and ballpark. I still believe some of that. I think most owners would want control of the historic ballpark. Apparently I am wrong on John Canning and his group. This from Michael Sneed's column last week:

Tipsville II . . .
Hmmm. Here's a little dugout dirt.

• • To wit: Sneed hears rumbles the John Canning group, which is vying to buy the Chicago Cubs and includes Tribune insiders like Andy McKenna, were well briefed about the possible sale of Wrigley Field to the state -- and may have been trying to push it along because it would benefit them as possible future owners of the Cubs.

• • Isn't it true other groups vying for the Cubs had to wait to hear about it in the News? Questions. Questions.

When you start to connect the dots it looks like this is just another form of the corporate welfare system that baseball owners have benefited from over the past 20 years in town after town. Yeah the team is owned by billionaires and the players are millionaires, but the taxpayers should pay for the stadium. LMAO. Makes perfect sense.

Yesterday Sam Zell fresh off his pulling off the Tribune Deal stated this about the sale of Wrigley Field to the state of Illinois:

"We believe that transaction, when completely vetted, is very beneficial for the city of Chicago, is very beneficial for the Cubs, and for the future of a Major League Baseball team in this city," Zell said. "[Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich] originally approached us on this. We studied it; we thought it was an interesting concept. We started meeting with [Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's] people on it. We'll see where that goes."

In the best interest of the city? WTF. Yeah, this deal is in the best interest of Sam Zell and the next ownership group. Think about this, Sam Zell buys the Tribune. His first order of business is selling the Cubs. Playing in a decaying ballpark this club is not worth nearly as much as if they were playing in a brand new remodeled Wrigley Field.

Enter Cub fan and dumbass Governor Rod Blagojevich. Blago it seems has more interest in the Cubs than he does in his current job and his responsibilities to the taxpayers of Illinois. Blago proposes that the state finance a "$350 million" (wink, wink. you can't get a stop light at Clark and Waveland for under $half a million. How are you gonna rebuild the grandstand for $350 mill?). So once Blago proposes this, you can't blame Zell for being interested. Suddenly he could sell the Cubs at a premium because he has a ballpark renovation in place that will be financed by the state. You can't fault Canning and McKenna because they won't have to pay for the new stadium. You CAN fault any politician in Springfield that thinks this is a good idea.

Study after study has shown that publicly financed stadiums do not benefit the taxpayers. Back in 2003 the DC Fiscal Policy Institute released this study as their Mayor tried to attract an MLB team to the District of Columbia:

Publicly financed stadiums do not pay for themselves. A study of 25 stadiums built between 1978 and 1992 found that none of them generated a net increase in tax revenue for the host city. Even Baltimore’s Camden Yards, which is considered a highly successful stadium, is a net loser for the state.

As a matter of fact according to the 2003 book Public Dollars, Private Stadiums: The Battle over Building Sports Stadiums it has become accepted that stadiums provide little economic benefit to the communities they serve:

Nevertheless, there has lately been a noticeable shift away from economic promises and toward promises of social benefits. We believe this is not just random but reflects conscious strategic decisions by stadium proponents in each city. Proponents have realized that the path to publicly financed stadiums will be less problematic if they downplay the tangible economic benefits and accentuate the intangible social goods that might accompany stadiums. But like the existence and strength of local growth coalitions just discussed, these decisions are largely patterned by the unique structural landscape of each city. Stadium advocates certainly have some discretion about which strategies to employ, but certain cities lend themselves to making certain arguments about why it is in the community's best interest to build new sports stadiums with public dollars.

Contrary to what the owners will tell you, these billionaires can actually fund their own ballparks. In September 2006 a blog by U of I College of Law students published this:

A study done just two years ago contends that sports franchises can build their own stadiums without public subsidizes. [17]. The study reported that teams could recover half the construction costs within five years, and the entire cost within twelve years. [18]. Furthermore, within twenty years, a franchise’s revenues from the stadium could exceed construction costs by $100 million and $200 million in thirty years. [19]. Under this scenario, not only does the team get its new stadium, but the team has a continuous revenue stream that does not subject taxpayers to the burden of covering the stadium’s costs. Thus, if sports stadiums are really supposed to provide a boost to the economy, then they should do it without first imposing costs upon the community.

So what is going on here is Zell and Canning are using the state for their own welfare. While I am in full agreement that the Wrigley Field grandstand needs to be rebuilt, I cannot in any way shape or form say that it would be alright for the state of Illinois to foot the bill. Rebuilding the grandstand should be the responsibility of the new owner. They can finance it however they want. Sell the naming rights, advertising, or $15 beers in the bleachers. Whatever. Just not with taxpayer dollars.

I am not always on the same page as Hizhonor. But for his part, I have to give Mayor Daley some credit for his take on the whole idea:

“We can’t even get any money for the CTA and they’re worried about the Chicago Cubs? They’ve made money every year. It’s very profitable and some way, we’re supposed to bail them out? I’ve never heard [of that] . . . I don’t think they’re leaving. They just increased the price of tickets,” Daley said.

“We have a crisis at the CTA right now. It’s hard to believe . . . that people are now talking about taxpayers helping out the Cubs. The Cubs are not gonna move. It’s a gold mine. . . . If you’re gonna start holding this issue over the heads of passengers of the CTA and this crisis we’re in and they want to start talking about whether or not taxpayers are gonna buy [Wrigley Field] — that’s hard to believe.

Ahhhh, has there ever been a more sensible yet corrupt politician than Daley? For all of his faults when he says things like that, it's hard not to agree.

Back to the Zell/Canning/Blago plan. The plan behind the whole idea is that the state will take over Wrigley Field for $1 and be responsible for the upgrades including a new grandstand. Because you can count on the state of Illinois to do things right! Take a look at the crumbling CTA system.

Remember 'no tax dollars will be used'. Former Governor Jim Thompson who heads up the stadium authority tells us that's the plan, for now:

The former governor acknowledged that "there would have to be neighborhood improvements along with restoration of the stadium."

But he said, "For the moment, I'm not looking at taxes. I'm looking at non-tax revenue" like the tax increment financing scheme now being used to bankroll a new $1 billion Yankee Stadium on a park across the street from the House that Ruth Built.

Spoken like a true politician: "For the moment".

Maybe Blago's wife can get her hand into the cookie jar. At this point nothing would surprise me.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

it is done: zell closes tribco deal

read on:

Taking on the CEO's role as well as chairman, Zell made clear he won't hesitate to make sweeping changes at the media conglomerate even though he has no previous experience in the industry.

He signaled he has no immediate asset sales in mind at the company that owns 23 television stations and nine daily newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, although the Chicago Cubs baseball team and Wrigley Field are to be auctioned off by July.

color me impressed. zell managed to restructure the deal enough to entice his bankers forward, getting them to float the remainder of the necessary tribune company debt -- and he did it in the face of extraordinary pressure in credit markets. it's a deal i didn't think would be done -- nor did the marketplace, which left a hefty discount to zell's equity bid until the last couple days -- and a testament to zell's immense clout.

the changes are on already, as ccd pointed out -- see ya, denny fitz! -- and now the path is clear for the bid submission process for the ballclub to really get rolling. good luck, john canning!

Barring A Trade...

This is what's left of the free agent starting pitchers...

Bartolo Colon

There is always a risk when a pitcher uses 12 ounce curls as his main regiment for conditioning but, he improved with the more starts he had after he came back last year from elbow surgery.

Kyle Lohse

Well Lohse is the antithesis of Colon, and at 29 years of age could be the effective innings eater we hoped J. Marquis would be.

Livan Hernandez

No longer an ace in the rotation and is probably a disciple of the Bartolo Colon workout regiment but, he's never been hurt and is as savvy a starter as you'd want.

Matt Clement

Coming off rotator surgery is always dicey, but he could be acquired for a song and would be worth the gamble to see if he could regain his old form in spring training.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

FitzSimons resigns from Tribune

Over the last few years we have lost nearly all of the people that we used to bitch about on this site on a regular basis. First it was Andy MacPhail, next Dusty Baker, today we can add Tribune front-man Dennis FitzSimons to this list. (Jim Hendry better have that resume updated)

Following a favorable FCC Ruling on Wednesday:

In the end, the most important thing the FCC may have done for newspapers is grant waivers for the 42 existing newspaper-broadcast combinations, relieving them of concerns they one day might have to divest and removing a potential hurdle to sales.

Chicago-based Tribune, owner of The Times and KTLA Channel 5, received waivers last month from the rule to close its $8.2-billion deal to go private. Waiting for FCC approval delayed the deal and had threatened to prevent the company from closing by the end of the year until Tribune and its political allies successfully pushed the FCC to act.

The takeover by Sam Zell is even closer to a reality. Dennis FitzSimons saw the writing on the wall and turned in his resignation on Wednesday. The Chicago Tribune is reporting the Zell is expected to take the Chief Executive spot:

Zell is expected to become chief executive, according to a source close to Tribune. A source at Tribune would not confirm that. A spokeswoman for Zell could not be reached.

These moves, just send us closer to the day the Chicago Cubs are not owned by the Tribune. Hallelujah!

One thing of note. Look at the amount of cash FitzSimons takes away from the company he nearly ran into the ground:

According to public documents, FitzSimons will leave the company with $38.3 million in severance and stock holdings accumulated over a 25-year career with the company.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Rumoring: Joe Nathan has one front and center about the Cubs this morning. Here's the headline: Cubs Like Joe Nathan

This all stems from a Minneapolis Star-Tribune (the paper that still employs Sid Hartman) article where you have to go all the way to the bottom to find this one line:

Note: The Cubs are interested in trading for closer Joe Nathan if he's available.

Wow. Joe Nathan is a top notch MLB closer, who wouldn't be interested? That should give Cub fans somethings to keep their minds off the Mitchell Investigation.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Just Spitballin' Here!

Much has been made of upgrading the Cubs offense this off season and rightly so, but does anyone else think we need another stud in the rotation?

Going after another starter will be difficult, but a team that Hendry has had a good relationship and success in dealing with is the Pirates.

Instead of pursuing B. Roberts, whom I like very much, would there be a package the Cubs could offer the Pirates for J. Wilson and Ian Snell that would solve the SS black hole on the Cubs and bring a proven young starter to bolster the rotation as well.

And while Hendry's at it, go sign K. Lofton for insurance, just in case Pie is included in the deal with the Pirates.

And let's not forget if G. Soto falters, Lollygagger Girl Kerry, is waiting in the wings. It's all good!

Mitchell Investigation day

Today is set to be a real UGLY day for Major League Baseball. The Mitchell Report is gonna go public around 12:00 CT. It sounds as if 60-80 players could be named. Their will be some real prominent players named including a pitcher many have called the greatest of the modern era. According to the 4-letter network it looks like Fat Roger is gonna be named by the Mithchell Investigation. Gee who didn't see that one coming?

A former New York Yankee strength trainer says information he supplied to the George Mitchell investigation regarding supplying Roger Clemens with steroids is included in the Mitchell report scheduled to be released later today, a source close to the trainer told ESPN The Magazine's Shaun Assael.

Brian McNamee, who worked for the Yankees and as a personal trainer for Clemens and Yankee teammates Andy Pettitte, also told investigators that on at least one occasion, Clemens was in possession of steroids from another supplier, the source said.

The source said McNamee told investigators he supplied Clemens with steroids while Clemens was witih the Yankees, and prior to Clemens joining the team.

This is just the tip of the iceberg according to the article several more Yankees will be named. More throughout the day...

Internet Coverage: will stream Senator Mitchell's press conference at 1 CT and Bud Selig's press conference at 3:30 CT.

12:40 UPDATE: No real surprises here for any Cub fans that watched this squad over the past decade, the Score is reporting that Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Sammy Sosa and Nomar Garciaparra will be among the 60+ players named in the report.

1:00 UPDATE: George Mitchell is at the podium. He has announced that the report will soon be available at

2:00 UPDATE: Upon further review there were none of the names listed above in the report. Some of the former Cubs named included Glenallen Hill, Benito Santiago, Todd Pratt, Kent Mercker, Tawd Hundley, RonDL White, Gary Matthews, Jr., and Jerry Hairston, Jr. There is also an interview with former Cub pitching great Matt Karchner said in 1999 he was rooming with two teammates in Chicago who were on the juice. Their names were left out of the report.

Tribune Report: State could buy Wrigley Fd.

More news on the upcoming Cubs sale in this mornings news. The $1 billion mark continues to be floated. This from Bloomberg:

The sale may fetch more than $1 billion, according to John Puchalla, an analyst at Moody's Investors Service. Tribune reiterated today its going-private buyout will close by year-end, in a deal that will leave it with about $12 billion in debt.

You have to hand it to Sam Zell. The scare tactic that he might sell Wrigley Field seperately from the Cubs might work to get a premium on both. According to this mornings Chicago Tribune the state of Illinois is discussing buying the historic ballpark.

City and state officials have had discussions with Cubs executives about possibly selling historic Wrigley Field to a state government entity that currently owns and operates the White Sox's home, U.S. Cellular Field, sources close to the Cubs told the Tribune.

The talks with state and city officials centered on selling the 93-year-old facility to the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, the government unit the Illinois General Assembly created in 1987 for the purpose of building new Comiskey Park, now U.S. Cellular Field.

Now as an Illinois taxpayer, what I wondered how the hell would they pay for it?

It is unclear how the state and ISFA would raise funds for such a purchase, which would fetch hundreds of millions of dollars if consummated. One possible way the state could underwrite a purchase, or pay for major renovations to the ballpark that any buyer would have to fund, would be to sell naming rights to the park, according to sources with knowledge of the discussions. These sources said that even if naming rights were sold, the park likely still would retain the name Wrigley Field as well.

This all seems rather far-fetched to me. In a day where Springfield can't get a transit bill through they can buy a ballpark? What? Hmmmmmmmmm. I guess anything is possible.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's official Prior done with Cubs

The pitcher, who once represented the Cubs tremendous hope for success this decade, was quitely dismissed by the Cubs this evening when Jim Hendry non-tendered Mark Prior. Prior wouldn't sign a one year deal that included a club option for 2009. From a baseball perspective this was the right move for Jim Hendry to make.

Mark Prior brings up so much emotion in Cub fans. He was the can't miss kid from USC who was the pride and joy of this franchise in the early part of the decade. How quickly that changes as sadly he could not stay healthy. The early hope and dreams associated with Prior in recent years turned to frustration as Prior spent more time on the DL. It became even more frustrating when the Cubs and Dr.'s couldn't come up with medical explanations for what was wrong with Prior. You can go into the archives of this blog and see some pretty mean things were said about Prior. In hindsight that was not fair. Finally in the spring of this season Mark Prior had labrum surgery.

At this point the fresh start is probably what is best for both the Cubs and Prior. Still those of us who watched Prior in 2002, 2003, and 2004 are left to wonder what could have been had he stayed healthy.

Cubs non-tender Mark Prior

It's official. Mark Prior is no longer a Chicago Cub.

Mark my words-- the Cubs will live to regret this. CCD, GM, and the other guys here might not necessarily agree, but that's just my opinion. They will regret this.

tribune puts a timeframe on the cubs sale

not to horn in on the ecstasy of kosuke fukudome, but a bit of news is out relating to the eventual divorce of the chicago cubs from the tribune company.

Tribune Co., the country's second-largest newspaper publisher, said Wednesday it anticipates closing on the sale of the Chicago Cubs baseball team as well as its stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago during the first half of next year.

The sale of the Chicago Cubs was a condition that needed to be met in order for Tribune to be taken private in an $8.2 billion buyout led by real estate magnate Sam Zell.

Tribune said it also expects to complete the sale of the Cubs' Wrigley Field and related property during the same period.

Tribune put the Cubs and Wrigley Field up for sale in April, with the company's 25 percent interest in Comcast SportNet Chicago included in the package. The company has not disclosed a buyer....

it's still too early to talk about sam zell's purchase of tribune in the past tense, but if it goes through then this is the plan.

tribco stock is trading this morning around $32, still about 6% shy of zell's takeover price.

Pencil him in: 福留 孝介

Kosuke Fukudome (福留 孝介) will be in the Cubs outfield for the next 4 years. Whether or not Fukudome winds up being a succesful player with the Cubs, this is a historic date in the history of the Cubs franchise. Fukudome is the Cubs first big Free Agent signing from Japan. The first time the Cubs have made a splash with a star Japanese player.

According to Paul Sullivan: terms of this contact are believed to be between $48 and $50 million over the 4 years.

The Daily Herald's Bruce Miles takes us deep into the Cubs war room at Clark and Addison and abroad:

Last year, the Cubs hired former pitcher Steve Wilson to be their Pacific Rim scout. Wilson and several members of the Cubs' front office watched Fukudome play many times this season, and they came away impressed enough to make him the Cubs' No. 1 off-season target.

Hendry credited Wilson, along with assistant GM Randy Bush and scouting advisers Gary Hughes and Paul Weaver.

"Gary Hughes has loved him since 2004," Hendry said. "This was a collaborative effort involving outstanding talent evaluators."

Also this morning in the Herald, Barry Rozner had an interesting quote from a bitter sourrce in San Diego:

Said a San Diego source Tuesday night, "Let's put it this way: If the Cubs want him, they'll get him. There's no amount of money they can't spend, and teams like the Padres and White Sox can't say that. So if the Cubs want him, the Padres can't stop them."

Rozner also add's that Hendry and the Tribune enjoy spending the next owners money:

It's not my money. It's not your money. It's not Jim Hendry's money. It's not even the Cubs' money.

It's the next owner that will foot these bills for a long time.

Sure, in time you're going to pay at the box office, but right now it's all about the glory of ending a gory, 99-year drought.

But these contracts are going to be around long after anyone negotiating them has departed the organization, when people begin to realize that some of these deals were irresponsible.

Like most of you I don't really care for the contract terms. As Rozner points out: It's not my money! All of that being said, what I know about Fukudome comes from YouTube and reading online scouting reports. I don't expect Fukudome to be a star for the Cubs, just a solid left handed stick that will ease some of the pressure on the right handed heavy Cubs lineup.

One thing I will hand to Jim Hendry is after getting beat out for Furcal two wintes back over the last two offseasons the Cubs have achieved their 'Plan A'. Now we awit their next move (maybe a former team president will be involved in this deal).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

...and there were three

Well the always funny Fukudome Sitcom continues to play out. As expected, on Tuesday in Japan, Fukudome announced that he will be coming to the states for the next stage of his baseball career. Here's the quote:

"I won't be playing for a Japanese club next season, I'll play in the majors," Fukudome said. "I appreciate the fans who supported me for nine years. I hope that the fans continue to root for me when they see me playing in the United States."

According to most MSM reports there are three teams involved in the bidding. The San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox and your Chicago Cubs. Interestingly enough the San Diego Union-Tribune reports this morning that the Cubs have already raised their offer to over $50 million. It sounds like Kevin Towers is not going to get into a bidding war. He's gonna let the heavenly climate of San Diego make up the difference in the offers. An interesting tactic. Here's the Padres perspective:

The Padres are facing determined competition from the Cubs for Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome. Growing indications yesterday had the Cubs willing to guarantee Fukudome close to $50 million. The Padres have offered more than $10 million per year, perhaps well above that amount, over at least three years.
General Manager Kevin Towers declined to rate the Padres' chances of importing the right fielder/center fielder.

“I'd be shooting in the dark,” said Towers, who described the Padres' bid as final. “I have no idea. I really don't. The agent's kept this pretty close to the vest.” Last night, both clubs were waiting to learn whether Fukudome, 30, is leaving Japan, as expected. The White Sox also have an interest in Fukudome.

By selling ballpark advertising space to Japanese companies, Fukudome's new club could promptly add to its revenues. Fukudome's .397 career on-base percentage in Japan excited the Padres, who project him for the top third of their lineup.

“It sounds like it's Chicago or San Diego,” Towers said.

There's the first mention of the ballpark advertising to Japanese companies. I apologize for not thinking of the importance of this earlier. Next we see in this mornings Tribune(a cold and wet edition at my home):

If the Cubs sign Fukudome, they can immediately add to their revenues by selling advertising space at Wrigley Field to Japanese companies, as Boston, Seattle and other clubs with Japanese stars have done in their parks.

The Cubs recently announced they will increase the ad signage at Wrigley, and since more Cubs games will be televised in Japan if Fukudome signs, it makes sense that some of the ads will be in Japanese.

Well, well, well, looks like the cat is out of the bag on this one. Mr. Fukudome might be a left handed Matt Murton, except Matt Murton doesn't sell advertising in Japan. Signing Fukudome is as much about the opportunity the Cubs will have to build their brand globally as it is about what he brings to the field of play. And who said McDonough was mailing it in at the organizational meetings. Looks to me like he had his hands all over this one. Sell more advertising internationally...BRILLIANT!

Anyways, back to this drawn out decision making process. Don't expect this to be a long dog and pony show with him visiting the finalists (who the hell would want to come to Chicago in this weather anyways?). Fukudome's U.S. based agent said this:

"Once he makes the decision, he has -- but for maybe some final points -- offers from clubs that we can then talk about," Urbon said. "And then he'll take a reasonable amount of time and maybe ask some reasonable questions. Assuming he's coming, that might take another day."

In this process, I'll take that to mean we should know something by Christmas or Spring Training.


Waiting on Fukudome: Around the Cub Blogosphere

Cubbie cyberspace(this page included) is obsessed with the Fukudome-derby. Amazing isn't it for a ballplayer that most of us have only seen highlights of on YouTube. Let's take a look around:

Chuck at IvyChat takes us back to the last time Jim Hendry put all his eggs in one basket:

What's so sad about this whole situation is that the Cubs entire offensive plans for 2008 depend on this one guy. We saw that in 2006 when Rafael Furcal decided to go to the Dodgers and break Derrek Lee's wrist.

Let's recall, Hendry's backup plan that year was Jacque Jones.

Here's hoping that those of us who will be watching the Len & Bob Show don't have to see Hendry's 2008 Plan B show up. It's scary to think just what that plan might be.

I'm afraid plan b is Geoff Jenkins. (but as noted by comments earlier that might actually be better than Fuku. Who knows.)

At ACB, Maddog seems as frustrated as most Cub fans. The headlines speak for themselves: 'Mr. Fukudome might be coming to the U.S.!', 'Holy fuck, it’s for real this time, folks, Fukudome’s coming to the MLB. About damn time!', 'Fukudome needs a few more hours before he decides', and my favorite headline of this whole ordeal 'In a few more days Fukudome will need a few more days to decide'.

Over at BCB, Al is leading the candle light vigil for Fukudome.

At LOHO there's a great picture of Fuku that describes what this thing feels like.

Kurt at GROTA is as impatient as the rest of us!

The longer this situation with Fukudome goes on, the more convinced I am that he's just not mentally tough enough to come to America. I mean, here's a guy who was going to announce last week, no wait, before this weekend, no, on Monday night, no, maybe today.

Andy Dolan at Desipio writes with the perspective that only he can:

As the greatest name in sports history sits in a pagoda pondering whether to be sort of rich in San Diego or officially rich in Chicago, it seems like a good time to take a look at what’s been going on lately.

To be honest, the only reason I’m even remotely excited about the Cubs signing a Japanese All-Star to play right field is the chance to wear a t-shirt that says Fukudome and not be forced to turn it inside out by a 97 year old Andy Frain usher.

I don’t know if the guy is any good. The next Japanese baseball game I see would be my first. Though, to be fair, I have seen Mr. Baseball twice. Well, one and a half times.

LMAO. Always good stuff from Andy.

TCR is happy LaTroy Hawkins will be in the Bronx this spring.

Wrigleyville23 takes the advertising angle.

Mike (aka Technostats or the Hawk) at badnewscubs is excited about the Cubs adding Fukudome:

I’m hoping the Cubs do end up with Fukudome after all is said and done. I’m sick of the Cubs not fielding fundamentally sound players. Fukudome appears to be that. If we get this guy AND do the smart thing by putting Pie in center, we’re going to be really good defensively.

Joe at View From the Bleachers is frustrated with the 4-letter:

I went to bed last night with visions of an Asian man playing the outfield for the Cubs this season. Everything I read said the decision would be coming late last night. I awoke with yet another story from ESPN saying the decision was coming soon. If ESPN can't seem to get it right, why are they spouting information in the first place.

Cubby-blue has enlisted the help of our 16th president to brink Fukudome to Illinois.

Out of Rightfield has Jeff Fassero attempting a comeback with the Mets!

Finally, makes the most sense with this comment under the former Cubs skipper: 'Yo, Fukudome. DECIDE, ALREADY!'

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Waiting on Fukudome

As the Cubs wait on a decision by Kosuke Fukudome, I wonder more and more what all of the hype is about with this guy. I stumbled upon a scouting report on Fukudome that's over a month old at Dugout Central, here's what was said:

Fukudome is one of the better athletes playing in Japan. He is capable of playing center field and right field. He is a five-tool player capable of hitting in the middle of the batting order or in the number two spot. During the middle of the 2007 season he was hit by a pitch and missed the remainder of the season. A new rule in Japan gives players on the disabled list time served towards their free agency rights, and this makes Fukudome a free agent.

The 30-year old Fukudome is a championship player capable of performing under pressure situations, so this means he should be able to play in bigger markets in MLB. Just like with American-born players, some Japanese players can handle the bigger markets (Hideki Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka) while others can’t (Kaz Matsui, Hideki Irabu).

Scouts Rating (The scouts rating evaluates a player’s raw tools on a 20-80 scale. Albert Pujols, for reference, rates a 75.)

Overall: 62
Power: 65
Hit: 55
Field: 70
Speed: 60
Arm: 60
Player Category “GOOD”

Good stuff. Now some fun projections that I found interesting:

Projected MLB Stats

When evaluating the 2007 MLB line-ups, Fukudome could bat fifth in the line-up for 11 of the 30 teams. He projects to the following:

.265-.285 BA
.380 OBP
20-30 HR
80-100 RBIs
10 SB
Projections courtesy of iScouts, Inc 2007

Friday, December 07, 2007

a step toward finalizing the tribune buyout

tribco will sweeten the deal for sam zell's nervous bankers by contributing $500mm of its own cash on hand.

Tribune said it has told the lead arrangers of its second-step financing that it intends to use up to $500 million of its cash to cut its bridge loan commitment to $1.6 billion from the original amount of $2.1 billion.

Many investors had expressed concern that Tribune's large debt load would jeopardize real estate mogul Sam Zell's plan to take the company private in deal valued at $8.2 billion, or $34 per share. The financing of the transaction involves the creation of an employee stock program that would incur a massive amount of debt, and for several months, the stock has traded well below Zell's offer price as shareholders fretted that the buyout would fall apart.

trib shares jumped 8% to $32 on the news, closing the deal arbitrage gap to 6.3%.

but the deal is still a headscratcher for many, as offered by the wall street journal.

Deal Journal has covered hundreds of mergers and acquisitions. We can't recall one that was publicly contingent on the receipt of a solvency opinion.

Until now: Sam Zell's planned buyout of Tribune Co.

The requirement gives us some pause on the same day Tribune's shares rose $2.31 to $32 on the New York Stock Exchange, inching closer to the $34-a-share takeover price offered in Mr. Zell's exotic employee-stock ownership takeover plan.

Solvency opinions typically are used in highly leveraged financial transactions, to test -- surprise -- a company's continuing solvency.

They are designed as a legal protection for board members against the concept of "fraudulent conveyance." This is a term most often used in bankruptcy court, in situations where assets are cash or are disbursed in a way that is deemed unfair to creditors.

These opinions are notoriously easy to obtain, and people close to the deal say they expect Tribune to pass the test without problem. Still, the fact that it exists is instructive of the nature of the deal.

When the original solvency opinion was granted on May 9, company advisers Valuation Research Corp. estimated Tribune's fiscal 2008 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization would be $1.42 billion, according to SEC filings.

Current fiscal 2008 analyst estimates -- about seven months later -- show a mean projection of $1.076 billion, according to Factset, or 24% lower.

Tribune has improved its cash position beyond its original projections, says one person familiar with the deal. That should well make up for any shortcomings in the near term.

Still, it is worth remembering just how thin Tribune's operating cushion is as it embarks on its journey with Mr. Zell.

the deal looks much closer to being done today than it did monday. but that may not be the best news in the world for tribune's investors. following the last time we talked about this, i said:

maybe the best way to state it is this: IF the deal goes through, i suspect the involved banks will probably lose money, the debt investors in tribune will almost definitely lose money, and tribune itself (either as a whole or in parts) becomes a fine candidate for future bankruptcy proceedings.

i'm clearly not alone in that opinion.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A cold, crisp December day

Well, looks like the winter meetings this year resulted in a minor deal, a bunch of rumors, and hopefully the groundwork on some deals to come. At this point there isn't a bunch to really talk about with this club. Hendry and Company (at least in front of the media) look confident in their plan. So I give JH an incomplete on these winter meetings and we should probably revisit this thing before Christmas.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Will Ohman: don't let the door hit ya'

Jim Hendry has made a deal with the Atlanta Braves. The Cubs acquired Atlanta righthander Jose Ascanio for clubhouse cancer Will Ohman and Omar Infante. The 22 year old Ascanio has mainly been used out of the bullpen throughout the Braves system. Ascanio would fit into the mode of the power arm that Lou Piniella likes to stockpile at the back of his bullpen. The 22 year old throws in the upper 90's and gets groundballs with frequency.

Here is what they are saying at TCR about the deal:
He’s #19 in John Sickels latest rankings, a C+ prospect. Out of Venezeula, Ascanio was signed in 2001 by the Braves and has compiled a 3.58 ERA in the minors so far, mostly as a reliever with a K/9 rate of 7.31. The numbers though have slowly improved as he put up a 2.54 ERA in AA last year with a 8.19 K/9 rate at age 22. He even had a cup of coffee with the Braves last year and compiled a 1-1 record with a 5.06 ERA. says “he throws gas” (mid to upper 90’s consistently) but probably needs another season in the minors and although he’s not very big, the ball “just flies out of his hand”. Although the numbers weren’t fantastic in the bigs, he apparently impressed the coaching staff with his stuff.

He was suspended late in the season in 2006 when former Cub killer Jeff Blauser took him out of a game earlier than he liked and Ascanio stormed off the mound. It seems all has been forgiven though. I couldn’t find a thing about his secondary pitches.

This is just my opinion, but this looks like one of those deals that we won't be able to pass judgement on for a few years. We will have to see if the Cubs can develop this kid and get his numbers to live up to his stuff.

Now onto the RF situation. In this mornings Bright One, Gordon Whittenmyer portrays the Cubs as the leader in pursuit of Japanese Outfielder Kosuke Fukudome:

The market for Fukudome could approach the strength of the center-field market that already yielded a five-year, $90 million deal for Torii Hunter. Enough teams -- including the Cubs -- have made preliminary offers to Fukudome that a deal isn't expected until well after the winter meetings conclude Thursday.
WHAT??? Fukudome is about to command Torii Hunter-like money? LMAO. Seems like quite a bit of cash for a player that hasn't played one inning in MLB. Projecting position players from Japan to MLB is not easy. The success rate has been low. I find it interesting that the Cubs are putting so many eggs in Fukudome's basket. But what do I know.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ticket increase a reality

As Chuck explained over at Ivy Chat earlier this month the Cubs have every right to increase their tickets prices. When a team plays a season to 98% capacity, it's just basic supply and demand that ticket prices will go up. Combine all of that with the fact that the Cubs won the NL Central and they plan on increasing payroll again for 2008 and this thing was a slam dunk. So the letter went out today from Frank Maloney.

The Tribune's very own Paul Sullivan over at their Hardball blog broke down the increase that you see below in a spreadsheet:

another interesting note is how the prime dates have increased, more from Sullivan:

The Cubs will have 50 prime dates in 2008, 25 regular dates and six value dates. That's up from 44 prime dates in 2006 and 40 in '05. The number of value dates have remained the same since '06.

I've had a share in a season ticket plan since 1998. As much as I'd like to bitch and moan about this increase, it really doesn't matter. The Cubs have a waiting list of fans for season tickets. They won't lose any season ticket holders because of this increase. Come February they will break their own marks for single game ticket sales when they go on sale. Sadly it looks to me like the real question is was the ticket increase large enough?

More power to them.

UPDATE: Below is a copy of the letter sent to season ticket holders by ticket czar Frank Maloney. To view it click here (and use your magnifying glass tool).

WF letter

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Offensive Offense

Poor plate discipline and lack of power have short circuited the Cubs offense repeatedly in the recent past, and all the Matsui's and Fukudome's in the world aren't going to change that significantly.

With all of baseball awash in greenbacks and more importantly, the Cubs purported commitment to win now, Hendry should deal from what little roster strength the club has, pitching, and explore a trade for Miguel Tejada and Adam Dunn.

Slide Soriano to RF, pray Pie can cover foul line to foul line and grow the infield grass 2 feet thick if you have to, but who else can we secure to upgrade the corner outfield and SS positions and not trade away more in the process.

I know most all believe Carl Crawford would look awfully good in the blue pinstripes, but do the Cubs have or would they be willing to part with what it might take to get him?

Baltimore wants to rebuild and is anxious to move Tejada, and Dunn is going to cost the Reds $13 million and offer him a full no trade clause if they pick up his '08 option.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Kid K to return

Well, he's far from a kid these days, but Kerry Wood one way or another will go down in Cubs lore. The one time ace of the starting staff, who burst onto the scene in 1998, will return to the Cubs in 2008. This time Kerry will be in the mix, along with Bobby Howry and Carlos Marmol to close games for the defending NL Central Division Champs.

Today the Texas native signed a 1 year, $4.2 million incentive filled deal to pitch for the Cubs in 2008. According to Jim Hendry, Wood had the opportunity to go elsewhere for more years and more money. In the end it's safe to say Wood gave the Cubs a "home town discount". Here is what Kerry said about the deal:

"It's flattering, and it shows the hard work paid off," Wood said of the bids, "but Chicago's my home, and Chicago's been great to me, and obviously there's no better place to play than Chicago, especially if you're winning, and that's been the plan."

In recent days it began to seem as if Woody would go elsewhere. Paul Sullivan wrote this on November 20th:

The longer Kerry Wood remains on the free-agent market, the less likely it appears he will return to the Cubs.

Several teams have courted Wood, including Boston, which wants him to be the primary right-handed setup man for closer Jonathan Papelbon.

General manager Jim Hendry said he has spoken with Wood's agent frequently, but couldn't say whether returning to the Cubs is Wood's priority, as Wood said it was last winter when he became a free agent.

"Kerry is getting a lot of action around the industry," Hendry said. "We're hopeful he'll want to remain a Cub. I believe, probably before we get to the winter meetings [Dec. 3], this will be brought to a conclusion. We certainly would like to have him back, and hopefully it'll work out."

I cannot give you a fair thought on this deal. I am prejudiced, I like Kerry Wood. For all of the guys injury issues he's a guy that I want to see succeed. I want to see him do that in a Cubs uniform. So I guess this guy is right. I know all of the downside possibilities. The Cubs make Wood the closer and he gets injured, etc... Still I think for $4.2 million the Cubs ae making a small investment in a player that can do a good job coming out of the pen. Will it pan out that way? Let's hope so.

And just for fun, here's some video from May 1998:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Developing story: McDonough to resign

In a sign of the uncertainty that surrounds the future of the Chicago National League franchise, ESPN Radio 1000's Bruce Levine is reporting that Cub President John McDonough will resign from his post with the Northsiders to get this...take the same post with your Chicago Black Hawks.

Folks, they are starting to bail from this sinking Tribune ship. McDonough did a great job building the brand that is the Chicago Cubs. His one season as President was a success. I'd chalk this up as a good move for Rocky Wirtz and company.

Now we wait and see what the next move is at Clark and Addison.

UPDATE 9:27--Here's a link to the Tribune story. This is a fun part of the story:

With an uncertain future of new Cubs ownership and the marketing challenge of a lifetime to restore the Hawks to their former place in Chicago sports, the move could be attractive to McDonough. He was in charge of marketing the Cubs before taking over as president, helping the team regularly fill Wrigley Field despite subpar performances on the field.

UPDATE 9:57--Who would have thunk it? There are Hawks message boards! Take a look here at the excitement surrounding this move by Rocky Wirtz. Honestly I stopped following the Hawks and the NHL in the mid-90's so all of this interweb stuff is new to me, there might even be a Hawks blog or two out there. I can't be bothered to look that deep. I am interested to hear what our Hawk fans John Dooley and Newman have to say about this move from the westside perspectice. Think McDonough's gonna revive the life of that little jingle: "Here come the Hawks!"

UPDATE 10:13--Over at ACB, Maddog has the Crane Kenney (above) taking over the Club President role. So the man behind the curtain, is now front and center for a little while anyways.

OFFICIAL RELEASE: Below is the official release from the Cubs regarding the departure of John McDonough.

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs today announced John McDonough resigned as president of the Chicago Cubs to accept a position as president of the Chicago Blackhawks. Crane Kenney, to whom McDonough reported, will continue overseeing Cubs operations until the sale of the team is completed. General Manager Jim Hendry will continue to lead baseball operations.

"The Cubs congratulate John McDonough on his new position," Kenney said. "In his time as team president, John helped the club take an important step toward our ultimate goal - bringing a championship to the greatest fans in baseball."

"John's contributions to the Cubs for the past 24 years have been tremendous," said Dennis FitzSimons, Tribune Company chairman and chief executive officer. "His marketing innovations will be an enduring legacy for Cubs fans. We wish him well in his new role with the Blackhawks."

McDonough received a multi-year contract to head the Blackhawks.

"It has been a privilege to be associated with the Chicago Cubs and to be identified with one of the greatest franchises in all of sports," McDonough said. "Cubs fans truly deserve a World Series Championship and I hope they realize it in 2008."

Kenney has been associated with the Cubs for 14 years, first as legal counsel and for the past five years as the Tribune executive responsible for Cubs operations. "We will not let the ownership transition distract us from our primary goal: to see a championship come to the Chicago Cubs in 2008," Kenney said. "Tribune's commitment through an expanded payroll and additional capital for Wrigley Field evidences the continued focus on taking the next step for Cubs fans.

"Jim Hendry has a well-constructed plan in place and is already working to strengthen our roster for 2008. We also have a new, multi-million dollar playing surface ready to welcome our team on Opening Day."

McDonough joined the Cubs from the Chicago Sting in 1983. He was promoted to vice president of marketing and broadcasting in 1991 and was named a senior vice president in 2004 before assuming the role of club president on October 1, 2006.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Looking back to the 2003 and 1984 Chicago Cub teams and their configuration, a couple of interesting facts really stick out like a sore thumb.

First, both teams had an outstanding rotation but the 1984 team had a dominant closer.

Second, both teams had high OBP men at the top of the order.

Third, both teams had an opportunity to close out their final series with a win instead of a loss by having or at least willing to insert a starter when the original starter faltered.

The lineups of both of these teams sported 1 thru 4 hitters with an OBP over 350, a fact that seems be lost with the most recent Cub lineups.

It's know surprise that teams that work the count have much greater success at scoring runs and this point cannot be overlooked if the Cubs are going to overhaul their lineup.

Securing the on base machine LH bat of Fukudome to patrol RF and signing the ageless Lofton to play CF, would go a long way in addressing this issue.

Now Lofton might not be play CF like he used to but look at his 2007 offensive numbers.
490AB 296BA 367OBP 23 out of 30 SB with 7 HR

If Pie, Marshall, Marquis/Dempster and the infamous player to be named later could be moved to acquire J. Santana, we might be able to live with The Riot at SS hitting 8th.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

it's in the bankers' hands now

i haven't written a damn thing on this blog in a month, and i can't say i'm sorry about it. putting some considerable distance between oneself and one's ballclub is a healthy mental enema which i highly recommend to all baseball fans, and particularly cub fans.

but i wish i could say that i had used the time to repose upon the meadows and convene with the fish and fowl. instead, i've been elbows-deep in the developing disaster of the credit crisis, which seems to take on ever more scandalous and frightening dimensions day by day. i've come to the sullen conclusion that baseball clubs going forward aren't going to matter nearly as much as they perhaps seemed to in the last couple of years to many of us, with fantasy "problems" taking place in some conveniently-remote dugout or playing field replaced by real problems in our homes and workplaces for more of us than anyone would like.

but, as that relates to the chicago cubs:

most readers here understand the outlines of what happened when sam zell took his pile of cash out of the now-stumbling commerical real estate market (at what now appears to have been the top tick -- wise old man, that mr. zell) and claimed tribune company. let me quote myself from july:

when sam zell bought the trib, he did so with a small amount of equity and pile of debt -- a "leveraged buyout". investment banks offered something called a "bridge loan" to zell so he could make the purchase, with the debt later to be collateralized into bonds which are sold down the chain (at a profit) to investors that zell and tribune then have to pay back.

it's very important to note that these deals are conditional on the object being purchased having enough free cash flow to pay the interest and principal on that mountain of debt back to investors. the entire purchase is predicated on the stability of revenues and cash flow.

however, the newspaper business isn't going very well, and tribune's cash flow is rumored to be dropping like a stone.

in an environment where investment banks are becoming wary of bridge loans (for fear that they won't be able to sell the debt on at a profit because investors will demand more interest) and in several cases demanding repricing or killing deals, this is bad news for zell's deal. a nervous market has turned against it, with tribune's initial debt offering already trading underwater.

in the time since, zell's deal has continued to stagnate. it has encountered obstruction from the federal communication commission, which appears to be clearing now with some concessions to divest tribune of television stations in hartford and possibly (yes) chicago.

but the more interesting and salient point is this:

Tribune shares rose 72 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $29.25 yesterday. Holders will get $34 a share if the buyout is completed by Jan. 1, and an additional 8 percent on an annualized basis if it closes later.

skepticism of the deal actually being completed is still sufficient to maintain a 16% discount on tribune stock which will supposedly be bought by tribune at $34 within weeks.

why? in short:

``Bankers are like dogs,'' said Hands, the chief executive officer of London-based Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd., at the industry's SuperInvestor conference in Paris today. ``They hunt in a pack and go into a feeding frenzy. When hit, they whimper, and hide in their baskets. The bankers have been hit very hard, and they're not going to come out of their baskets.''

leveraged buyout bids are failing everywhere you look. all the titans of the lbo business have called off major deals -- cerberus, kkr, blackstone and others have been beset by the inability of the bankers that provide them the leverage necessary to complete their deals. this is because the banks themselves doubt their ability to sell the incurred debt on to investors without taking severe losses.

and the bankers have more to worry about than their bridge loan portfolio. with loss estimates suddenly mounting into the hundreds of billions related to their exposure to the crashing residential mortgage market, they are paying terrible prices to roll over their own debt because of widespread concerns over balance sheet weakness. in an effort to shore up by obtaining capital and reducing leverage, bankers are killing deals as best they can.

will zell's deal be one of them? i can't say, but the equity market is clearly not optimistic -- extremely rarely do traders leave a sure 16% profit on the table.

while some optimists are proclaiming tribune's intention of picking the winning bid for the cubs by the end of the year, it's become clear that no deal will be done this offseason. the glacial pace of the transaction is met by dissembling wonder at the office of bud selig:

But two highly placed MLB sources confirmed Thursday that Commissioner Bud Selig had been unable to keep the process moving at that timetable, ruling out a sale before the end of the year and making one before the Cubs go to training camp next spring highly unlikely.

"I'm afraid that is right," a source said. "I can't say for sure why this is moving at the pace it is, but the pace of it has been frustrating. We had hoped it would pick up some steam, but it hasn't."

but there's no mystery here. one must realize that if the banks kill zell's deal all bets about the cubs are off -- and indeed, the reason the process is being strung out is precisely because zell doesn't own tribune yet and won't until another $4.2bn in debt is taken on by his bankers.

the sale of the cubs is in the hands not of the fcc nor of tribune nor of selig nor of zell at this point. the ball is in the court of citigroup, merrill lynch, jpmorgan chase and bank of america -- zell's bankers. we'll have to wait and see what their decision will be.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Monroe to Minnesota

The Cubs may actually get a low-level prospect out of Craig Monroe! According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (is that the paper that employs Sid Hartman?) Monroe could be dealt by the Cubs for a PTBNL as early as today.

The Cubs were expected to non-tender Monroe so as stated this is 'gravy' for them that they could get anything for Monroe. This could be the Cubs second trade in two days and we still have a few weeks til the winter meetings in Nashville, December 3-6. Keep on trading Jim Dandy!

Monday, November 12, 2007

JJ dealt

Well another ugly tenure at Clark and Addison has ended. Earlier today the Cubs sent the often maligned Jacque Jones to the Detroit Tigers for swing utility player Omar Infante. Jones' struggles in Cubbie blue were memorable. His awful first half in 2007 nearly sent him to the Marlins. Thankfully Bud Selig, Sam Zell, Santa Claus, or some man of mystery nixed that deal. Jones went onto be the Cubs everyday CF in the second half and did a nice job in a role that young Felix Pie was not ready to assume.

Dealing Jones takes $5 million off the payroll and probably gives Crueller Jim a little more urgency in his attempt to sign the great Fukudome to play RF.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Turning Japanese

Much has been made about a LHB to patrol RF in Wrigley next year and a Bobby Abreu type would be optimal.

Here is an interesting breakdown of the recently talked about Kosuke Fukudome .

Go get 'em Jimbo.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Dempster to start in 2008

ESPN Radio 1000's Bruce Levine, at the GM meetings in Orlando, has reported that Jim Hendry has informed him that Ryan Dempster will be returning to the Cubs starting rotation. Dempster, who has been the teams closer since 2005 has had a roller coaster ride as Cub closer. That season he was 33 of 35 in save opportunities. In 2006 he was only 24 of 33 and in 2007 Dempster was a big part of the Cubs NL Central title successfully closing out 28 of 31 save opps. He did this in 2007 despite a 4.73 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP and a 2-7 record.

This move comes as little surprise. If you remember back in late May when Uncle Lou was trying to recreate this team he even toyed with the idea of moving Dempster into the rotation at that time. Remember this episode of All My Cubs:

Last Friday Uncle Lou promised the media some surprises. This led to speculation as to what the shakeup would be. Followed by a very bizzarre series of events Sunday after the ballgame involving Ryan Dempster and the Cub Manager. Dempster told writers he was excited to move to the rotation. Piniella told reporters he had scrapped that plan. This was followed by Dempster saying he would stay put in the Cub bullpen for now:

"I've got a headline for you," Dempster said. " 'Dempster taken out of rotation after one non-start.' "

Well Lou will get his way. He will have a hammer at the back end of his bullpen in 2008. The candidates look to be Bob Howry, Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood (if he's resigned) or who knows. Something tells me this episode is far from over.

Upon further review

At the General Managers meetings this morning in Orlando, FL the MLB GM's began baseball down the path that most of the other professional sports have already gone down. Allowing instant replay to be part of the officiating process. The vote by the GM's was historic, normally these votes are 2-1 against replay, but this time it was 25-5 in favor.

The recommendation, by a 25-5 vote, was limited to boundary calls -- whether potential home runs are fair or foul, whether balls go over fences or hit the top and bounce back, and whether fans interfere with possible homers.

I would say this is pretty much just a sign of the times. All of the new younger GM's in baseball have grown up in an era where replay has been part of the NFL. We are in the technology age. So I guess this is a national progression. Not so fast my friends.

I'm probably 'out of step' on this one, and feel free to tell me if I am. I really think that blown calls and the human element are as much a part of baseball as hot dogs and flat beer in wax cups. The blown call is part of baseball lore. Take the Jeffrey Maier incident back in the 1996 ALCS. Did the umps blow the call? There is no doubt about it (look to the left). But that play is a memorable play in baseball history. I also pretty confident in the MLB umpires. I think they get most of these calls correct. Yeah, occasionally you have a blown call. But that's part of the game. Just like it is when an umpire has a bad day behind the plate.
So it looks like this will take baseball down the merry road toward having replay in the game in the next few years. The next step will be for the owners to vote on it and after that the MLBPA and umpires will have their say. I'm not sure if this will be in place for 2008, but who knows the MLB has started to instigate change at a quicker pace in recent years. It seems like this is the first step in getting replay into the grand ole game.