Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Monthly archives: November 2004


Mazel Tov
2004-11-30 08:03
by alex ciepley

I went to my first bris (or is it "briss"?) this morning. Boy am I pooped, though I imagine even in my current state of exhaustion I'm a much happier camper than the little feller I went to go see.

There's not much in the way of explicitly Cubbish news right now, but there are plenty of rumors that, if they come to fruition, would affect Chicago.

For example:

  • Todd Walker has met with the Rangers, who hope to make him their DH and backup second baseman. Walker is one of the leading options to start at second for the Cubs next year, and his departure to Texas might be downright Womackalicious for the masochists among us.

  • The Mets are now serious players in Pedro's Offseason Extravaganza. Snatching Martinez would almost certainly lessen the Mets' desire to relieve the Cubs of their Sosa-sized headache.

  • San Francisco has reportedly blown the doors off the bank, handing Armando Benitez a three-year deal worth an estimated $21M. If those reports are true... man oh man, that's a lot of money. It also means you can scratch Benitez off your Closer Wish List if you're a Cubs fan. And at that price, that's just fine.

  • Orlando Cabrera supposedly wants four or five years in his next contract. Boston will not give him anything close to that: GM Theo Epstein seems unlikely to give such long-term contracts to such question marks, and Red Sox shortstop prospect Hanley Ramirez will likely be ready long before a Cabrera deal has run out. This development, I think, leaves the Cubs as one of Cabrera's top suitors.

  • The Cardinals have supposedly offered Edgar Renteria $22 million over four years. I'm not the world's biggest fan of Renteria, but at those prices he becomes an entirely likable option. I doubt he gets anything remotely that low, though -- those are merely Guzmanesque figures in baseball's New Economy, don't ya know?

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Lib
2004-11-29 11:33
by Derek Smart

If you are, like me, of a *ahem* certain age, you're almost surely familiar with that old road-trip pastime, the Mad Lib. For those unfamiliar, here's how it goes: you are given a list of particular types of words (nouns, verbs, etc), and you must fill them in with whatever comes to mind. Having done that, those words are then plugged into pre-determined spots in a block of text which you had no knowledge of beforehand. This is then shared with others, hilarity ensuing. Here's an example:

    I ask for a noun, and you say, "mattress".

    The sentence I was looking at read like this: Please drive the (noun) to town.

    You have now inadvertently made the sentence, "Please drive the mattress to town".

    See! Hilarity!

Since this offseason is becoming one long, boring road-trip to WallyWorld, without the added benefit/detriment of Chevy Chase doing the driving, what I'm proposing is that we do our own Mad Lib to get us through this winter darkness. Below is a list of words for you to fill in.

*Important! Do this before making the jump, or the hilarity will be less hilarious!*

Once you've done that, plug your chosen words into the text after the jump, then post your text in the comments for all to see! Like I said: Hi-lar-i-ous!

Enough, then. Here are your words:

Past Tense Verb
Plural Noun
Past Tense Verb

Share and Enjoy!
Continue reading...

Offer on the Table?
2004-11-28 08:11
by Derek Smart

Deep in his latest column, Phil Rogers plants this little tidbit:

St. Louis is offering shortstop Edgar Renteria a four-year, $32 million contract, which is back-loaded. It's unclear if that will be enough for the Cardinals to retain him.

A little while ago, Christian estimated Renteria’s pricetag at around 3 years/$25M, and that strikes me as about what the market should bear. The Cardinals’ reported offer is in the same ballpark in yearly money, but it tacks on an extra year and ups the total value by $7M. Not unreasonable, but certainly in the upper reaches of reason.

Of course, reason hasn’t been a part of the equation with this offseason’s shortstop signings. If the offer is truly on the table – and with Rogers, I’d encourage liberal salt usage – then it should be enough to do the job. If it’s not, I pity the team that tops that deal, while I say my prayers that Jim Hendry isn’t the man with the contract in hand.

Scrounging for Leftovers
2004-11-27 11:14
by alex ciepley

It's been a great, slow Thanksgiving weekend for me so far. For the past couple years, I've spent Thanksgiving with some high school friends down in Brooklyn. Our hostess is a vegetarian who prepares a turkey anyway, and she invites some former teacher friends who add some of your usual sides to the spread along with chinese goods like Ma Po Tufo.

Sometimes I bring along typical Thanksgivingish fare -- creamy Brussel Sprouts, sweet potato pie -- though I've been known to add some more unique flavors as well. Tomatoes in a sesame egg sauce. Mussaman yellow curry. Ground pork with chilis and basil.

This year I didn't add anything at all, because the party plans fell through. Something or another about an out-of-town aunt and travelling to Jersey. Bummed but not distraught, I planned on having dinner out with my best friend.

The city's actually big on restaurant-style Thanksgiving, with a huge variety of choices for a holiday prix fixe dinner. Most places offer traditional fare at big prices -- $45 to $85 per person -- so my friend and I, each on a budget, settled on the classic, inexpensive grub offered by the deli Artie's.

Right around the corner from my apartment, Artie's offered up chicken noodle soup, turkey with gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry creation, roasted veggies, and pumpkin pie for the sweet price of 19.95. We realized as we ate that the food was probably a lot better than what we would've cooked up (it's so hard to get a turkey right).

I hope everyone here had a great meal, and is continuing to have a restful weekend.


I'm trying, searching, scrounging for Cubs news, and the barrel's pretty empty at the moment. Newsday has a nice article detailing the relationship between Omar Minaya and the Cubs slugger he signed once-upon-a-time, Sammy Sosa.

I found this quote by former Rangers general manager Tom Grieve (the man who shipped Sosa from the Rangers to the White Sox) interesting:

"Anyone who has said they envisioned what happened for Sammy is an incredible liar. No one could have figured that he would put on 60 pounds and hit balls 500 feet."

This reminded me of what Bill James wrote in his Historical Abstract a few years back:

"Was it foreseeable that Sammy Sosa would develop into a star? Two teams gave up on him before he broke through in 1993 with the Cubs. They didn't foresee that he would become a star. Should they have?

Absolutely they should have. It was not inevitable that he would become a star, but it was always at least a 50/50 shot, and baseball men should have known it. Sosa hit .257 in 58 games when he was 20 years old, hit 15 homers and drove in 70 runs at age 21, before the hitting explosion of the 1990s. There are few examples on record of players who were regulars at age 20 who didn't become stars. Sammy had no idea of the strike zone, and he struggled for a couple years to control the damage that was doing. He could have continued to struggle; he could have devolved into Juan Samuel or Claudell Washington. But his work habits were always good, and his attitude was always good. One should never promote such a player as a star, because that increases the pressure and complicates the player's development, but the Rangers and White Sox were short-sighted not to realize that he was probably going to be a very good player."

I don't think anyone would argue that Sosa's mid-career discovery of plate discipline wasn't surprising: it's just extremely unusual for such a wild swinger to suddenly learn how to take a walk. But James' point is that Sosa's potential should have been seen more clearly by those around him in the early portion of his career. What do you think? Is hindsight 20-20, or is Tom Grieve just trying to cover for a professional boo-boo?

Five Six Questions About Sammy Cliff and Mike
2004-11-24 18:31
by Derek Smart

Yesterday, Jeremy Heit of Jeremy Heit's Blog asked us five questions about Sammy Sosa, with a mind toward recent Cub/Met trade rumors. Sensing an opening, we asked some questions of our own - six of them, in fact - about Cliff Floyd and Mike Piazza. Jeremy was kind enough to answer, so read, enjoy, and discuss!

The Cub Reporter: Floyd has only played in 150+ games once in his career and has a reputation as injury-prone. Is that reputation warranted, and is he a player whose future lies at first base or DH instead of the outfield?

Jeremy Heit: The reputation is warranted. He just doesn't stay healthy, for whatever reasons, whether the injury is suffered in the field or running the bases. He's clearly beat up from past years and is extremely fragile, mostly in the legs.

As for where his future lies, if he keeps hitting when healthy, someone will probably take flyers on him in the OF (I mean, they did with Juan Gonzalez). Should they? Eh... his defense is very suspect. It certainly isn't astheticly pleasing to watch him take routes to the ball, his arm isn't that good and he's not very fast anymore. I personally view him as a below average defender, though he generally catches what he gets to. When he's finally done in the OF, he'll probably end up at DH, which might help him stay healthy with less demands on his legs overall. As for 1B, its generally not a good idea to ask any Met fan about moving players from different positions to 1B after the Mike Piazza debacle last year.

TCR: What do you think the cause of Floyd's drop in batting average and increase in strikeouts might be, and do you see it as a permanent backslide?

Jeremy Heit: Declining bat speed is the main cause with the injuries also hurting him a little. Watching him at the plate this year, he wasn't the same hitter. He couldn't hit any low breaking balls, especially sweeping ones from lefties. He also had some problems getting around on high fastballs, though the biggest problem is the breaking balls.

Also, on the batting average part, he was terrible against lefties. He hit .239 against them with no power, much lower than he normally does. I don't know if he'll be quite that bad against them again next year, but I don't see him doing much better than .260. He just looked lost against lefties this year.

Overall, I don't think he'll strikeout as much as he did this year, but it will be up from his normal career rate. His average might get up to .270, though I wouldn't be shocked to see him at .260 or lower again, especially if he's back at Shea.

TCR: The Cub fanbase has become noticeably hostile toward Sosa both during the season and in the direct aftermath of Left-Early-Gate. What is the general Met fan feeling toward Floyd, and knowing what you do about him, how would you expect him to be received in Wrigley upon arrival? Would you expect feelings to change over the course of a season with prolonged exposure?

Jeremy Heit: The general Met fan feeling towards Floyd is pretty good. Most fans really like him and appreciate how badly he wants to play through injuries, especially in 2003. He definitely enamored himself to me.

The only cause of controversy with Floyd and the fans was the "no light at the end of the tunnel" comments this season, but most fans tended to agree with him, so things didn't get too overblown among fans with this (The Wilpons didn't appreciate it much though). Most fans want him traded because they understand that his contract is tradeable and that clearing his money and spot in LF would be beneficial to the team, not because they don't like him.

I would think he would be received well in Wrigley. He goes out there, he plays hard, he runs everything out hard and he wants to do everything he can for the team. As for prolonged exposure, it depends on how Cub fans take to him and his inevitable injury. If they like his toughness and his willingness to try to work his way through his bumps and bruises, he'll be well appreciated. If not, they might get very angry over just how often he is banged up.

TCR: Mike Piazza: Washed up? First base or Catcher? Blond or Brunette?

Jeremy Heit: Washed up in the sense that he isn't the same Mike Piazza he once was. But he's still a damn good hitter, especially at catcher, though it might only be for 100-120 games between injuries and the years of catching on his body.

Catcher. That's an easy one. He was really bad defensively as a first baseman, so bad that I'm not sure there is an adjective that exists that can verbally explain just how terrible he was (though I tend to go with craptastic). Plus, he is an above average hitting catcher, isn't as bad of a defensive catcher as people make him out to be (his only problem is his arm) and the Mets would be better off finding a real 1B (both offensively and defensively) to fill a hole they don't have players in the farm system to fill for at least a few years.

As for his hair, I guess I prefer the Dodgers mullet look, though I guess that isn't coming back, so we'll go with brunette, since that's what it was back then. Personally, I wouldn't care if it was blue and orange as long as he stayed healthy and hit.

TCR: Is Piazza someone you would like to see dealt? If so, why, and what would you hope to get in return?

Jeremy Heit: I'm going to take this question two ways. First, the emotional side.

No. Never. Mike Piazza is my personal boyhood hero, the one player I could always count on in a big spot. This is the final year in his contract and there is a sentimentality about letting him finish out his contract before he leaves the Mets (which hopefully he will). He's an important part of this Mets era and as a pure fan, I wouldn't ever want to see him traded away.

As for the non-emotional side, the answer is still no. Because, realistically, this would be a salary dump for the Mets, with them getting back overpriced players that another team is unhappy with. What's the point in that? The Mets would create a hole at catcher (and one they can't replace well in house and I'd rather not touch Jason Varitek) which would hurt the team and then end up filling another spot on the team with an overpriced player where they could have just as easily filled that spot with a better player in free agency. Mike Piazza has one year at catcher left and with no real answer for the Mets at that spot in house or out of house, trading their starting catcher doesn't seem like a good idea, especially if it brings back more overpriced/underacheiveing talent.

TCR: Do you want to see Sammy Sosa traded to the Mets, if the deal were Cliff Floyd for Sammy Sosa and some money from the Cubs? Why?

Jeremy Heit: No. This trade doesn't make sense for the Mets in any way possible, unless the Cubs want to make the money perfectly even (or close), in which case I might do it, because I would probably take a shot on Sosa over Floyd next year, plus I get out of Floyd's contract for next year.

But since that isn't realistic, I don't want to do it. Sammy is not the answer for the Mets, just a sidestep, even if his 2006 option doesn't trigger with the trade. The Mets are much better off running at Carlos Beltran (with Mike Cameron moving to RF) and J.D. Drew to fill their RF spot to get stability in their outfield for years to come. Plus, it would actually make them younger, which would be a nice concept for the Mets to take on.

Womack or Walker?
2004-11-24 08:28
by alex ciepley

ESPN Rumor Central now thinks that Todd Walker is the most likely second base choice for the Cubs. I think Walker is great. He doesn't give me that high that, say, Jose Vidro, does, but I'd enjoy seeing Walker's leftward-leaning offense for a full season's worth of at bats. But no, not that high that Jose Vidro offers... Jose... Vidro... Jose... Vidro...

Snapping out of my Vidro fantasies, I find some pleasure in another line in that Rumor Central piece: "Contrary to reports, the Cubs aren't close to signing free agent Tony Womack to play second base."

The Womack Mantra:

.319 Lifetime OBP, Not Good Enough For Me
.319 Lifetime OBP, Not Good Enough For Me
Look Only at Last Year, You'll Get Burned
.319 Lifetime OBP, Not Good Enough For Me

[update: 6:40pm ET] I've decided my mantra, while accurate, is aesthetically displeasing. dc60164's limerick from the comments is much better:

there once was a womack named tony
whose stat line in '04 was phony
if fans of this club
want to hire this schlubb
i would tell them "you're full of baloney"
(By the way, as an aside, every time I look at dc's name in in the comments, I always irrationally think of him as living in Washington, D.C. This despite the next six digits in his moniker, which is clearly a Chicago-ish zip code. I am an easily confused man.)

Five Questions About Sammy
2004-11-23 16:00
by Derek Smart

With all the rumors about a trade involving Sammy Sosa and the Mets, Jeremy Heit of the appropriately titled Jeremy Heit's Blog thought it would be interesting if we Cub Reporter gents answered five questions about Mr. Sosa in the hopes of easing/heightening the fears of Met fans everywhere. Wander on over and see what we had to say!

New Voices: Len Kasper
2004-11-22 11:44
by alex ciepley

Last week the Cubs hired Len Kasper to be their play-by-play guy. I know absolutely nothing about Kasper's game-calling, so I asked a couple other writers for their thoughts.

Since Kasper spent several years working for the Brewers, Al from Al's Ramblings was a natural choice for an opinion:

The time Kasper spent in Milwaukee was mostly as a pre-game host, though he did sub a few times. He did an OK job, a bit generic, but credible. We are blessed in Milwaukee with two outstanding radio guys, Bob Uecker and Jim Powell. Compared to those two, almost anyone will seem mediocre.
I must say, I am surprised by Kasper's meteoric rise. I was shocked he got the Marlins' job, and even more so with the Cubs, one of the top five jobs in sports. I was expecting a Costas-type name, maybe not Bob himself, but a well-known network guy.
Congrats to Len, he always seemed to be a very good guy.
Kasper moved on from the Brewers to Florida, where he'd been their play-by-play guy since 2002. Mike from The Book of Mike covers both the Marlins and, *gasp*, the White Sox. We at TCR will try not to hold that against him. His thoughts:
My initial reaction on hearing that he was leaving for the Cubs was that I was happy; now I might leave the sound on when I'm watching the Marlins on television. He's probably a good fit for the Cubs because it sounds like they won't have the issues with him that they had with Stone. Kasper is most definitely a company guy and isn't afraid to put lipstick on a pig, if that's what the situation calls for.

To me, Len Kasper's style is most definitely new school. By that I don't mean that he's sabermetrically or statistically oriented (he's not), but that he sounds pretty similar to almost any other announcer that's come onto the scene in the last ten or fifteen years. There's no confusing Kasper with a Scully, a Steve Stone, or even that screaming guy from Seattle - all of whom at least have their own unique style, whether you like them or not.

In the end, I'm glad that you guys have him, because that means I won't have to listen to him day in and day out. I'm hoping the Marlins put Boog Sciambi (currently one of their radio guys) on television.

Thai Food Redux
2004-11-22 09:14
by alex ciepley

Two weekends ago I tried out a Thai joint in Astoria, Queens and came away very satisfied -- it was Thai food like you find in Thailand.

This past Saturday, however, I went out to a different Thai restaurant in Woodside (also Queens) with some of the baseball nerds. This place was pure heaven. The incomparable Alex Belth has the details, and he's right: I'm still swooning.

Assuming the Position 2005: Part 3 - Shortstop
2004-11-22 04:22
by Derek Smart

As the promise of the 2004 season shone before us, that big weakness we all sensed - that chink in the armor, that hole in the belly of the dragon - clearly, it resided at shortstop. And while it's debatable whether the failure to address the position earlier was the cause of the team's ultimate demise - injuries, inconsistency and, some would say, peevishness ruled the day on that score - there is little doubt that the Cubs suffered from a lack of production at the six hole, particularly through July.

This was partially due to a flaw in design. Alex Gonzalez was the starter going into the season, and despite his high profile bungle in the NLCS, has always been an excellent defender. However, going into 2004 he was a 31 year-old who had never played a full season when he hit above .255 or got on base at more than a .315 clip. Allowing such an obvious liability on the field every day is like holding a formal dinner for your favorite sheep and inviting along the ram who reeks of eau de loup.

The other factor was injury, and when Gonzalez went on the shelf in May the Cubs had to find a way to fill in the blank, and in searching for a solution, signed the most motley collection of middle-infield washouts collected by a Major League team within the bounds of a single season. From Rey Ordonez to Denny Hocking, Damian Jackson to Neifi Perez, Jim Hendry signed them all to minor league deals in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle while a permanent solution was sought.

Continue reading...
2004-11-21 10:33
by alex ciepley

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Cubs have asked about Brewers closer Danny Kolb.

The Chicago Cubs, among others, have asked about the availability of closer Dan Kolb, a Boras client who is arbitration-eligible.

"His contract is manageable," said [Brewers General Manager Doug] Melvin, who paid Kolb $1.5 million last season. "(The Cubs) asked about him but I said I don’t have to move him.

"The only trade you’d do is if it helped your ballclub. He’s still part of what we’re trying to do. Unless I get bowled over, I’m not motivated to move him."

A couple days ago I had a few brief comments on Kolb. My general impression was slightly favorable: despite having a poor strikeout rate, I thought his groundball-o-matic pitching strategy was a point in his favor.

I also noted that Kolb's control was only "marginally good", figuring that the high walk rates of both 2002 and 2003 weren't entirely cancelled out by the good rate of 2004. However, this sudden improvement in control (and lowering of his strikeout rate) does seem to have been a conscious decision made by Kolb and his pitching coach. From a Journal Sentinel article around midseason:

Changing his pitching style dramatically, Kolb began clicking off saves with regularity. Instead of trying to blow away hitters with his fastball as in the past, Kolb took lessons from pitching coach Mike Maddux and began taking something off his pitches.

The result was better control, lower pitch counts and quicker innings. It also has led to fewer strikeouts, but how can you quibble with the results?

I'm not enamored with Kolb, but I also certainly wouldn't be Neifi Perez Mad if he were acquired at a reasonable price.

All-Baseball's historian and analyst extraordinaire Rich Lederer (you should make his Weekend Beat a regular stop) chimes in with an email on the subject of Kolb:

What is up with Hendry's desire to get Dan Kolb?
I mean, Kolb wasn't good when he was good. OK, Kolb had a good year in 2003, but he regressed last year. 21 K's in 57 IP. Are you kidding me? I know he throws a sinking fastball and relies on making batters hit groundballs (over 3:1 G/F ratio for his career) and getting DPs in crucial situations, but c'mon now. His stats last year were front-end loaded (1.62 ERA 1st half, 4.88 ERA 2nd half with 10 Ks and 10 BB in 24 IP). He also gave up all three of his unearned runs in the second half. His run average was actually 6.00.
Besides the first half, the only thing you can point to that might give you some hope was his ERA on the road (2.19). However, if you drill down deeper, note that he only struck out FIVE batters against EIGHT walks in 24.2 IP.
Personally, I think Hendry must be impressed with how well Kolb pitched against the Cubs (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K, and 6 SV). However, he won't be able to pitch against the Cubs next year. Take those numbers away from him and his ERA for the season is 3.40 rather than 2.98.
Kolb is also nothing more than a one-inning guy. He got absolutely torched after throwing 15 pitches last year (.475/.512/.700).
If I were a Cubs fan, rather than going after guys like Percival and Kolb, I would like to see my Cubbies put all of this money toward Carlos Beltran.
Rich makes some great points, taking a bit of wind out of any Get Kolb! campaigns. I had known Kolb was more effective in the first half, but I hadn't really realized the severity of his second half decline. There's a worry that after half a year of surprising batters with his new strategy (slow it down and get it over), Kolb was perhaps unable to stay ahead of the curve in the second half.

I think Rich's final point, though, is the most important. Teams too often spend a little bit too much on a gaggle of mediocrities, when the collective money would have been spent better on a true impact player. The Giants were a great example of this last year--spending oodles of cash on second-tier players instead of going after Vlad Guerrerro.

More often than not, a "stars and scrubs" strategy will work: spend on top players and fill in remaining holes with less expensive talent. The alternate, perhaps, is to become the Washington Ex-Expos, and realize at the end of the offseason that you could've had a Beltran or Magglio or Drew... but instead have a whole bunch of Vinny Castillas and Christian Guzmans.

A Pun-Free Headline Declaring That Glendon Rusch Has Officially Signed With The Cubs
2004-11-20 12:17
by Derek Smart

We talked about it yesterday, and now it's a done deal. Glendon Rusch will be a Cub for the next two years, and depending on whether you believe the Tribune or Daily Herald, is getting paid either $5M straight up or $4M guaranteed, with incentives that could boost the total to approximately $6M. Either way, I like the deal. It seems fair to both sides in cash and length, especially if he's used as a fifth starter, as I would prefer he be.

as Starter 97.2 0.92 0.74 0.20 3.50
as Reliever 32.0 1.16 0.56 0.41 3.38

Forget about the slight advantage in ERA when he came out of the bullpen, everything else indicates that he was a lot better when he started last year. Of course, those are small sample sizes, my friends, and the fact is I can come up with a table that says the exact opposite about his final year in Milwaukee. But I need to base my opinion on something besides my observation that he looked considerably more comfortable starting than relieving (which I think he did), so I'll roll with what I've got.

It wouldn't be a disaster if, say, the Cubs offered Matt Clement arbitration and he accepted, thus relegating Rusch to the 'pen and a swingman role. However, with all the holes this team still has to fill, plugging the one that reads "fifth starter" with the relatively inexpensive and fairly effective option that is Glendon Rusch makes a ton of sense.

2004-11-19 10:15
by alex ciepley

December 7th is D-Day for offering arbitration to your team's free agents. The benefits of offering arbitration: your team will receive compensatory draft picks if another team signs the player. The drawback: you may be in for an expensive payday if the player accepts arbitration.

I've been a flip-flopper over whether or not the Cubs should offer Matt Clement arbitration, but I think this article in the Toronto Globe and Mail seals the deal. The Cubs should offer. Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi is one of the stingiest GMs when it comes to giving up draft picks to sign a free agent. If he's considering it a worthy tradeoff, you gotta offer Mattie arbitration.

What's the worst-case scenario? Matt decides to accept, and we have him pitching for the Cubs for one more year? Clement is an excellent pitcher, not dead weight. Unless a player's arbitration winnings would so obviously wreck the budget that it makes the risk of him accepting untenable, I think you should offer your good players arbitration and hope to snatch up draft picks.

My current list of who should and shouldn't be offered arbitration is below. Of course, if any of the players below signs with another team before December 7th, then the Cubs will obviously offer them arbitration if it means free draft picks. Free Draft Picks!

Matt Clement - It seems extremely likely he will be offered several tasty multi-year contracts, minimizing the Cubs' risk. If Toronto's attitude is reflective of the industry, perhaps he'll even be signed in the next week or two, making this an easy offer.

Nomar Garciaparra - You offer Nomar arbitration, because the worst thing that could happen is that Nomar Garciaparra is your shortstop next year. That's not a worst-case scenario, that's a good scenario.

Glendon Rusch - It looks like he'll be re-signed, so there would be no need for arbitration.

Todd Walker - Walker would not be particularly expensive even if he accepted, he would be a solid choice for the starting second base job, and he would garner a first-round pick if he signed with another team.

Kent Mercker - I just don't have a good read on Mercker's value to GMs. If it appears there is significant interest, you offer him arbitration. He's a Type A free agent, meaning he'd gift the Cubs with a first round pick and a supplementary first round pick. That's a manageable risk, I think.

Ben Grieve or Todd Hollandsworth - Either Grieve or Hollandsworth could be offered arbitration if the Cubs were sure that they could sign their choice before it reached the courts. In this case, you wouldn't offer them arbitration to get draft picks (though I think Grieve would snatch a second-round supplementary pick) but to extend the time you have to negotiate with the player. This also assumes that you want one of the two players back. I prefer Grieve, though I think you could make a decent case for either or neither.

Moises Alou - He'd be way too expensive. Hopefully a team like the Giants will sign Alou before the arbitration deadline, because Alou, like, Mercker, is a Type A free agent. Free Draft Picks!

Paul Bako - Offering Bako arbitration wouldn't do anything except extend the time the Cubs have to offer him a contract. I don't want the Cubs to even consider offering him a contract, so I say poo on offering him arbitration.

Tom Goodwin - See Paul Bako's comments, put upgrade the word "poo" to a more saucy explicative.

Mark Grudzielanek - Another Type A, but another gamble that's not worth it. If you decline Grudzielanek's $2.5M option because you think it's too much money, you don't risk an even bigger payday by offering arbitration.

Ramon Martinez - Bye-bye, Ramon. We don't love you anymore.

Rusch Rushed In?
2004-11-19 07:28
by alex ciepley

The Cubs are supposedly close to signing a deal with last year's pleasant rotation surprise, Glendon Rusch. I think it's likely a good signing, but I'll hold off on that judgement until we see what the contract looks like.

One of these years looks not like the other:

YEAR   IP      H     HR   BB   SO    ERA
2000 190.2 196 18 44 157 4.01
2001 179.0 216 23 43 156 4.63
2002 210.2 227 30 76 140 4.70
2003 123.1 171 11 45 93 6.42
2004 129.2 127 10 33 90 3.47
To be fair, 2004 was better than any of Rusch's other seasons, but the real runt of the litter was the Blizzard of 2003 that Rusch visited on Milwaukee.

When Rusch was signed back in the spring of 2004, I was cautiously optimistic that he could, if need be, "provide some pretty okay innings at the end of the rotation." He provided some more-than-pretty okay innings out of the rotation: at times he was downright beautiful.

My optimism primarily sprung from the forehead of that 2003 hit-rate. Rusch has always given up a few more hits than it seems like he should, but based on his solid strikeout rate it just didn't make much sense to me that his tee-ball worthiness as a pitcher would continue. 171 hits in 123 innings? That looked like especially bad luck.

But should the Cubs bank on receiving a 3.47 ERA next year from Rusch? Probably not. Maybe he turned a corner I'm unaware of, but I'd expect him to slide a bit, providing perhaps an ERA in the mid fours. Considering Rusch would most likely be the fifth starter, that'd be absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

Searching For A Bullpen Ace
2004-11-18 10:57
by alex ciepley

Somewhere, in some alternate universe, Troy Percival begins next year as the Cubs closer. His signature fresh on a 2 year, $13.5M contract, Percy is expected to be the final piece of the puzzle. Visions of 45-save seasons are dancing in Cubs fan's heads.

Later, in that same alternate universe, there are downcast faces at Wrigley Field. No one can understand why Percival has an ERA over 4.50. The long fly balls he gives up frequently land in the outfield baskets, a problem exacerbated by the guys clogging up the bases--the ones Percy keeps walking. Troy finds himself unable to muscle a pitch by a batter in key situations. These days, batters turn on his fastball.

Thankfully, this is an alternate universe, not the one we live in. Yesterday, Troy Percival inked a two-year deal with the Detroit Tigers for $12M, guaranteeing he won't be the Cubs closer on opening day 2005.

The Cubs still need to sort out who will finish games for them next year. The way I see it, there are three ways they can go about filling this role (and I've noticed with happiness my thoughts echo some found in yesterday's comments):
Continue reading...

Assuming the Position 2005: Part 2 - 2nd Base
2004-11-18 06:11
by Derek Smart

[derek:] In 2003, Mark Grudzielanek had his best season since 1999, posting a solid .314/.366/.416 line in 531 plate appearances. His work was a large part of what made the Cubs successful that season, but a glance at his career statistics would tell most sentient observers that the performance was not likely to be repeated.

To that end, the Cubs GM, Jim Hendry, went looking for some help at second base - the ideal being to find someone who could not only cover the defensive duties, but could act as a high OBP leadoff hitter, and in a perfect scenario, a much needed source of speed.

It didn't take much looking to see that options were few, and the only one that came close to fitting the mold the Cubs had in mind was free agent, Luis Castillo, who had just won a World Series with the Florida Marlins. However, despite making what Jim Hendry later called a "competitive" offer, Castillo wound up re-signing with the team he done gone to the dance with, to the tune of 3 years for 16M, with an option for 2007.

With precious few alternatives available, the Cubs decided to give Grudz another chance to surprise them, signing Mr. Unspellable to a one-year deal with a team option for 2005. This transaction appeared to mark the end of the 2004 Cubs' search for a keystone caretaker. But then, just before Christmas, a gift fell into the Cubs' lap.

Continue reading...
Bad to Worse
2004-11-18 05:15
by Derek Smart

While the Cubs were being beaten to/rescued from Troy Percival yesterday, other options were busy presenting themselves:

Shortly after hearing the news on Percival...Hendry got an unexpected overture from free agent Matt Mantei, who made a sales pitch for a one-year deal...Though the Cubs must do their homework on Mantei, Hendry was impressed with [his] character and pitching tools.


Perhaps, like last season's cornering of the market on exceptionally crappy middle infielders, the Cubs are looking to wrap up every reliever with closing experience who also comes with a history of shoulder problems.

Now that's what I'm talking about
2004-11-17 19:58
by alex ciepley

Check out the profile of Cubs prospect Adam Greenberg over at I especially perked up when I saw Adam assess the major league team:

"They led the league in home runs, but were near the bottom in on-base percentage (11th in the NL)," said Greenberg, who has a career OBP of .384. "Keep putting more people on base and keep hitting home runs, you do the math, you're going to score more runs. If they need a leadoff hitter, that's what I bring to the table. I have to believe that."
Greenberg got his first taste of AA last year (277/366/455) after starting the season down in Daytona (291/381/424). He's currently hitting 310/355/408 in the Arizona Fall League.

I don't think Greenberg is really considered a premium prospect in the Cubs organization, so he'll likely face an uphill battle if he wants to realize his goal of leading off at Wrigley. But you've gotta root for the little guy who understands exactly what value he can bring to his organization.

Fall of Troy
2004-11-17 12:50
by alex ciepley

ESPN is reporting that the Tigers have signed Troy Percival to a two-year, $12M contract. This would eliminate Percival from the Cubs' list of potential bullpen arms. In summary:

One bullet dodged.

O'Brien Out
2004-11-17 07:54
by alex ciepley

It looks like Dave O'Brien will not be the Cubs' play-by-play man next year. ESPN has declined to let him out of his contract with them.

And here I was looking forward to a summer filled with references to the hotdog manufacturing industry.

Move Over Corey... Or Not
2004-11-17 07:34
by alex ciepley

If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it fall, does it make a sound?

If the Cubs make an offer to Carlos Beltran and it isn't competitive, is it really an offer?

Mister Will is back at Carroll Place, and he has the scoop on some rumored offers to Beltran. The numbers being thrown around are surprisingly high, and based on the competition it doesn't look good for the Cubbies.

The number associated with the Cubs is already more than I would feel comfortable paying Beltran: $16M a year for seven years? $112M? I think it's highly unlikely he'd be worth that much moulah over that time span, and yet there are several teams seemingly willing to go beyond that figure.

Will's made a good point on how Beltran is a slightly different commodity than some recent free agents. Young and healthy, Beltran is insurable. But potential injuries or no, it's awful hard to project that someone is going to be a productive player seven years down the line.

How many baseball contracts can you name that are reasonable dollars-wise and over four years in length? Contracts that looked good one year ago (Javy Vazquez, for example, I thought was a decent investment) can look dreadful a few short months later.

I'd love to have Beltran roaming center at Wrigley in blue pinstripes, but I also don't want to see the team I root for make bad decisions.

I am so smart! I am so smart! S-M-R-T!
2004-11-17 06:55
by Derek Smart

For those of you with interest in such things, The Northside Lounge sponsored a prediction contest among sixteen members of the Cubs Blog Army at the beginning of the 2004 season, and the results are in! Alex and Christian both acquitted themselves well, coming in fifth and seventh place respectively.

As for my performance...well...I think Ralph Wiggum hit the nail on the head when he said, "Me fail English? That's unpossible!"

2004-11-16 07:53
by alex ciepley

There comes a time in a typist's life when the shooting pains in one's arm can no longer be ignored, and a trip to the doc is in order. My time came yesterday. Having been bothered by what I assumed was the onset of carpal tunnel, I trudged to my generalist after work yesterday.

My doc put my wrist and arm through the motions, jabbed at some muscles, and concluded that, while my wrist nerves were just fine, I had a case of tennis elbow.

How embarrassing. Despite not having played tennis in eons (yes, I know, it's really a misnomer), and not having done too much physical activity in the past month, I now have an injury named after a sport--seemlingly acquired by doing something tragically banal like taking out the garbage or picking up my bag of laundry from the cleaners.

Oh well. Some anti-inflammatories and a tennis elbow guard later, and I'm back in business.


Mr. Bonds won himself yet another MVP yesterday, in a vote that closely resembled the Internet Baseball Writer's Association tally from a few weeks ago. In fact, the top six names on both results lists were the same, though Edmonds and Rolen switched places.

In yesterday's vote, three Cubs scored some points. Aramis Ramirez placed 10th overall, and he even garnered votes for fourth and fifth place, though I'm not quite sure why.

Moises Alou placed 15th, an occurrence I never could have guessed before the 2004 season began.

Finally, Big Z picked up one ninth place vote, popping up at the tail end of the results sheet.

This wasn't a year where there was a clear-cut Most Valuable Cub, so it's probably not surprising to see several guys grab some votes. If you're one who likes Win Shares, then Alou might be your pick for MVC. If you're more a believer in VORP (pitchers here), then maybe you'll choose Ramirez or Zambrano. And despite falling off at the end, Derrek Lee deserves some consideration as well.

Who'd be your pick for MVC? I lean towards going with Ramirez, though I admit I have a couple biases in play: I'm not crazy about Alou as a player or personality, and I generally like to give a nod to the everyday types over the pitchers, unless a pitcher is clearly head and shoulders above the field.

Assuming the Position 2005: Part 1 - First Base
2004-11-15 04:16
by Derek Smart

Last season at my old stomping grounds, I wrote a series called Assuming the Position - a positional breakdown of the Cubs, covering the year that was and expectations for the season to come. I'm doing it again this year, and having posted the first two installments at The Big Red C, it seems appropriate for continuity's sake to run them again in this space. The first part follows below, with the second part coming later this week, and brand new episodes to follow throughout the winter. Enjoy!

Had you taken a poll of well informed Cub fans in the aftermath of the 2003 season and asked which Florida Marlin was most likely to become a member of the club in 2004, most would have instantly responded with Luis Castillo. The Cubs were in need of a second baseman and a leadoff man, and here was a player who, if the fates were smiling, could do both. Despite their World Series victory, the Marlins were looking to cut costs, or at least keep them similar, so as Castillo entered free agency he looked for all the world like a man who would be playing elsewhere in the year to come.

Around the same time this hypothetical poll would have been taken, I opened this series with a long, rambling, nonsensical journey into the reasons why I thought Hee Seop Choi could not only be a productive member of the 2004 iteration of the Chicago Cubs, but more ridiculously, pointed to what I referred to as "evidence" for why Dusty Baker would actually give him the playing time he so richly deserved. I went over game logs for the portion of the season that came before his collision with Kerry Wood, citing the more reasonable usage pattern Choi experienced before his DL stint, and his encouraging production during that time. It made perfect sense to me, and what's more, I wanted desperately for it to be true.

It was all so much wasted breath.

Continue reading...
2004-11-14 11:40
by alex ciepley

It's been a gross weekend in New York, not that I've really seen much of it. I've been holed up in my apartment working on some freelance projects, assisting my carpal tunnel in its quest for Total Right Arm Domination as I pound away on my keyboard and mouse.

I did have an awesome dinner in Queens on Friday night with some workmates. We ventured out to Astoria (one of the closest neighborhoods to Manhattan) to try out a Thai place that my Thai grocer in Chinatown swears by.

I'd never been to this restaurant, though their online menu excited me because of a couple items I've had trouble finding stateside. I also called them to arrange for the kitchen to ready a couple dishes not on the English menu.

I lived in Thailand for about a year and a half before I moved to New York, and I immediately knew why the local Thais swore by it. The food was a trip down memory lane for me. Roasted eggplant salad with chicken, exploded catfish salad with mango, whole fried fish in tamarind, panaeng and mussaman curries. The whole shebang. Our group finished off about twelve dishes (including desserts), a welcome retreat in an otherwise dreary couple of days in the city.


Cubs news? Not much, ho hum, though now my undies are telling me once again that Sosa just may be traded: he's at least trying to get kicked off the island by asking the player's union to void a bit in his deal that guarantees his salary for 2006 if he's traded.

Alex Rodriguez had problems with the union last offseason when it looked like he was going to become the shortstop for the Red Sox (I'd guess the Sox are fine that deal didn't go down). But Rodriguez was trying to get guaranteed money lopped off his contract, while Sosa is trying to drop a clause. Sosa may get his way, and if he does, it seems the Cubs could end up with a Floyd or Piazza by winter's end.


The Cubs are having a so-so go of it in the AFL. The top Cubs prospect, first baseman Brian Dopirak, is still slugging well (277/333/506 in 86 at-bats), but his 20 Ks and only 5 BBs show that he has a ways to go to improve his plate discipline. Still, he's awful young, so he can hopefully turn any frowns upside-down.

Jacob Fox and Geovany Soto are splitting catching duties, but neither one is hitting all that much. Carrie Muskat has the scoop on Fox over at Ronny Cedeno isn't hitting (179/257/269), Adam Greenberg is (323/364/419), but without power.

Sean Marshall has a nifty 8:1 K/BB ratio so far, which is probably the best note among the pitchers. Russ Rohlicek has whiffed 24 in 18 innings, though he's also walked a fair share. That sure sounds like a lot of guys the Cubs already have populating their bullpen. Jae-Kuk Ryu has been just awful, slapping up a 6.41 ERA.

For more prospect news, both Cubs and otherwise, be sure to check out brYan over at Wait 'Til Next Year. Bryan's been doing a great job with some in-depth looks at young 'uns throughout baseball.

I guess I'll venture out into the cold now. It's pretty sad to stay indoors too long, even if the weather is yucksville. Besides, I have some ripe bananas and my mom's recipe for banana cream pie, so maybe I'll go pick up the missing ingredients and have myself a sugar orgy.

Feet First
2004-11-12 17:33
by Derek Smart
quantum leap

    1) An abrupt change or step, especially in method, information, or knowledge

    2) A late 80's/early 90's cult television series starring the execrable, Scott Bakula

I took one of those earlier today, and since no matter how often I call out, Dean Stockwell never materializes in my living room, I'll have to assume this day's events fall under definition the first. But more on this later: I have some biographizin' to do.

I was born and raised in Portland, OR, and like so many people without easy access to a Major League team in the 80's, I became a Cub fan through the wonder of cable television, hopping on board in 1983, just after Harry Caray and Ryne Sandberg. I've been so blessed/afflicted ever since.

I'll digress for a moment, and since I came to my fandom through television, relate my favorite Harry Caray moment. I can't recall the year, but the game taking place was between the Cubs and the Atlanta Braves. At this time, the Braves were still in old Fulton County Stadium, and as my baby-addled brain remembers it, there were some advertisements on the outfield walls, or at least in the same camera view. The Cubs were at bat, the man at the plate lofted a ball to right, and as Harry called the play, his eye happened to catch one of the billboards (I'll let you do the voice in your head):

It's a high fly ball to right....HEY! I didn't know they had a Hooters here!

Ahhhhh, memories. Anyway, I got lucky in 1993 when the only graduate school that accepted me happened to be in city of my team, the city of Broad Shoulders, the city of Chicago. I've been here ever since, and I make my home in town along with my lovely wife and gorgeous seven month-old daughter. Contrary to logic, proximity has done little to aid me in acquiring tickets to Wrigley.

Despite being a Cub fan for many years, I think of my awakening as a baseball fan taking place sometime in 2001, when I read my first Rob Neyer column. I came late to the revolution, but once the spark was found, the fire burned eternal. Bit by bit I came on other sources of wisdom, and in time I happened here. I loved it. Loved reading a site exclusively about the Cubs, loved Christian's writing, loved the vitality of the community.

When I started my own blog in the fall of 2003, I simply wanted an excuse to write, and the Cubs provided ready subject matter I was passionate about, ensuring that my interest would remain piqued. I had no expectation that anyone would read - I hoped, but never expected. Then one day, I noticed that a link to my site had been added to The Cub Reporter. I was thrilled, ecstatic, I thought, "Dear God, I've made it!"

Boy was I wrong.

I've now joined what I consider to be one of, if not the elite conglomeration of baseball writing talent on the internet, and I'm deeply humbled by the fact. I can't say yet that I belong with this group, only that I'll do my damnedest to be worthy of them, and more than that, to be worthy of this community. Thank you Christian, thank you Alex, thank you to all the A-B team for this wondrous opportunity. I look forward to learning and growing with the great writers and readers that gather here.

But more than that, I look forward to the December meetings, to pitchers and catchers, to Opening Day, and to that most glorious of moments, that pinnacle of joy, the last out of the World Series squeezed in the soft glove of a man wearing blue pinstripes and a hat with a Big Red C.

Salary Review
2004-11-12 07:34
by alex ciepley

I'm a guesstimator, and never is this quality of mine more in play than when I'm trying to figure out salaries. It's all such a blur to me, anyway. $1.0M for a backup shortstop who hits weak choppers to second? That, to me, would be like spending $1,300 on a backup umbrella, in case my primary one flipped a spring.

I've tried to lay out next year's expenses as they currently sit, and I've even done some big-time guesstimation on arbitration numbers. I may end up being way off on those; I hope I overestimated figures instead of the other way around. Numbers that are italicized are my arbitration estimates.

If you think a non-arbitration figure is wrong and can point me in a better direction, make your case in the comments, and I'll adjust the numbers accordingly.


1.  Kerry Wood       $8.5M
2. Mark Prior $2.5M
3. Carlos Zambrano $2.0M
4. Greg Maddux $9.0M
TOTAL $22.0M
Will Big Z get a Big raise? Maybe. I'm giving him $2.0M based a salary bumps given dudes like A.J. Burnett a couple years back. And I won't begrudge him any raise he gets.

Just like at my office, there are several candidates for internal promotion for the fifth spot. Just like at my office, they'll probably hire someone from outside the company. Sergio Mitre and Ryan Dempster could be number fives, but Mitre seems like tasty trade bait and the Cubs want Dempster in the bullpen.

Glendon Rusch may end up being the answer, and as long as he doesn't get some wicked contract, I'm fine with him every fifth day.


1.  LaTroy Hawkins   $3.5M  
2. Joe Borowski $2.3M
3. Mike Remlinger $3.8M
4. Ryan Dempster $2.0M
5. Kyle Farnsworth $2.0M
6. Jon Leicester $.3M
7. Todd Wellemeyer $.3M
TOTAL $14.2M
Wanton excess. Unfortunately, not "wanton excess" as in "excessively good", but "wanton excess" as in "excessively expensive." The Angels and Twins, to think of two clubs off the top of my head, will likely have bullpens next year that are half as expensive and twice as good.

$3.8M for Mike Remlinger? I've laid out my thoughts on Dempster ("ewww"), and while I love Borowski, he may not even pitch next year.

The biggest problem? If the Cubs sign a "closer" such as Troy Bound-to-Suck Percival, the new guys's big bucks will bump off Leicester or Wellemeyer. Wellemeyer isn't a favorite of mine, but both he and Leicester are cheap alternatives that could fare as well as most of the bigger names on the list.

I'm even leaving out two viable 'pen options within the farm system: Mikey Wuertz and Willie Ohman. Ohman in particular could use a look. A lefty who struck out 12.9 batters per nine last year in the high minors? Yup.

Dempster and Farnsworth should, in my mind, be traded. Remy and JoBo are untradeable, Hawkins is too valuable, but dumping Dempster and Farnsworth would free up the funds to get something truly worth the money, like a starting second baseman or a couple new hot dog stands.

You don't buy good bullpens, you build them. The Cubs have goodies galore in the minors among their starting pitchers. Most of those goodies will spoil, never to become starters in the majors. If they can be turned into effective bullpen arms, though, you get rich rewards from the spoilage for little cost. A guy like Angel Guzman, for example, might not turn out to be the starter some thought he'd be, but with his ridiculous control, he could turn out to be an ace in the 'pen.


C:  Michael Barrett  $2.2M 
1B: Derrek Lee $7.0M
3B: Aramis Ramirez $7.0M
CF: Corey Patterson $1.5M
RF: Sammy Sosa $17.0M
TOTAL $34.7M
Patterson will probably get a decent raise, though maybe not as much as I've figured. Barrett and Ramirez could both earn much more if they actually reach arbitration, but I think Hendry will avoid arbitration with both and sign them to multiyear contracts.

The Cubs have three starting positions to fill, and will have four if they're able to ship out Sosa. Sosa's salary is a pretty heavy weight right now, and gaining some financial flexibility by unloading even part of his contract would greatly help out the bottom line.


1. Neifi Perez     $1.0M
2. Jose Macias $.9M
3. Jason Dubois $.3M
Why oh why. WHY OH WHY OH WHY.

If the Cubs don't nontender Jose Macias' butt and sign a utility infielder who can hit, they will have created a most impressively awful core for their bench. Forget the Lemons, they'll be the Steaming Doo-Doos.

The Cubs bench is still short a fifth outfielder who can play center and a backup catcher. Bako seems a likely candidate to be re-signed, though his especially poor offensive output this year might outdo his Madduxian charms.


Grudzielanek        $.25M   
Alou $2.5M
TOTAL $2.75M
I don't know how the Cubs will account for these costs in their budget, but I'm going to include them here for safety's sake.
GRAND TOTAL        $75.85
The Cubs had a budget around $92M last year. That number shouldn't go down, and given some new TV deals I'm going to venture that it will even increase just a touch. I'll guess that the Cubs will have a budget between $95M to $100M, leaving them $19-24M to fill the following positions:

1) starting second baseman
2) starting shortstop
3) starting left fielder
4) fifth starting pitcher
5) two bench players

O'Brien For Play-by-Play?
2004-11-11 09:25
by alex ciepley

It looks like the Cubs are hoping to add Mets and ESPN broadcaster Dave O'Brien as their play-by-play guy on WGN. Despite living in New York City, I don't actually watch many Mets games on the tube (shocking, ain't it), so I don't know much about the guy as a broadcaster.

My friend and cohort Big V, on the other hand, always has an opinion on anything Metsish. I fired off an email requesting his thoughts on O'Brien, and received the following typical Big V response:

Actually, I'm not surprised to hear that The WB is letting "Gnarly O" saunter off to greener pastures.

An experienced professional with a long resume, O'Brien's resonant "Sabado Gigante" voice was etched into the hearts of trillions as the voice of (now-defunct) 3DO's High Heat Baseball, with his "partner in crime" Chuck Valenches. In fact, he sounds a lot like the man he replaced, Gary Thorne, who was fired for leaking his opinions on the competence of the Mets front office during "The Year of the Mo".

Most recently, Mr. O'Brien has delighted Mets fans on Sunday afternoons as part of the scandalous comedy team of "Seaver and O'Brien". Their peculiar brand of brilliant repartee, searing wit, and utterly charming "good-cop, bad-cop" self-deprecation ran the gamut of worldly topics, from golf and politics to landscaping and hotdog manufacture. By the middle of the season, this rip-roaring roasting had reached fever pitch, to the point where even baseball was only rarely discussed. Which was just as well, considering that it was clear neither of them would be watching baseball if their contracts didn't require them to trudge into Flushing. But then none of us could live to hear those flushing words:

Dave: "That one's Gone, and it's not comin' back! Is Glavine tired?"
Tom: "Sayonara Big Boy!"

Exhilarating, to say the least.

For O'Brien, it looks as though this display of his astounding versatility has propelled him into a lucrative new position in Chicago. For Tom, who was nothing less than a God at Shea, it was flatulently embarrassing, and tarnished the Halo. Suddenly none of the fool sports writers in the local press are suggesting Tom Terrific for Mets coach, manager, etc. Which is rather positive, now that I think of it.

Tom Seaver was my favorite player as a kid, and probably still is. If you detect wistfulness, think of the Indian chief on the highway, and the garbage out the window.

*This tirade sponsored by Seaver's All-Meat Sayonara Big Boys - the best hotdogs for a long Sunday afternoon*

Cubs Tidbits
2004-11-11 07:32
by alex ciepley

News from here, there, and everywhere.

  • The cat's out of the bag: trading for Sammy Sosa and his big, big, big salary and payouts doesn't make much sense! Other than the Rangers, who apparently tried to dump a load of Chan Ho Park on the Cubs, it seems that all of these Sosa trades are going to end up being hocus pocusery. Green-Sosa was never on, and even Floyd-Sosa, which I could get excited about, doesn't make a whole lotta sense for either team. I change my mind on this topic as often as I change my underwear (which is at least once a day, thank you), but today my undies tell me that Sosa will again be a Cub next year.
  • Bob Brenly is going to attempt the Herculean task of filling Steve Stone's size 27 shoes. As managers go, Brenly is, ummm, interesting -- I think it is safe to say the D-backs won the 2001 Series despite his dugout manueverings rather than because of them. But in the booth I think he's fine. He will likely look a bit weak when compared to his predecessor, but I'm not crying into my pillow over this hire.
  • We all know the Tribune's out to make money, but we should hope they're not trying to get Rich. Har har har! The Daily Southtown reports the Cubs may have some interest in Aurilia, but I'm not buying it. The story smells of idle breezes and bored winds. Aurilia is represented by the same agent as Matt Clement, so I'm guessing this is a scenario cooked up by either the agent or reporter when the pair where discussing other possible Cubs moves.
  • The Cubs really have no need to spend their dough on another big time pitcher, but if they were so inclined, I think they'd be wise to investigate Daisuke Matsuzaka. A favorite of Will Carroll's, Matsuzaka throws this pitch that all the kool kids are talking about: the gyroball. I don't know what the pitch does, what it looks like, or how it's thrown, but it certainly sounds nifty enough. "And Pujols flails at the gyroball in the dirt!" I like the sound of that.

2004-11-10 08:28
by alex ciepley

Brian Gunn of Redbird Nation has closed up shop, shutting down his blog after two years of covering the Cardinals. Brian's blog really set a standard for team-specific blogs, and not only do I have absolutely zero idea how he was able to write as often as he did, I also don't know how he was able to maintain his top-notch quality so consistently. I wish him the best, and hope he won't disappear entirely from baseball writing.

Flying Times
2004-11-09 07:23
by alex ciepley

Last night my dreams included a fleeting interlude about the Cubs. It wasn't a drawn out affair or anything. Just one of those 10-second imaginings that sometimes stick with you the morning after.

The situation was the following:

It was a night matchup in midseason 2005. There was something vaguely urgent about the game (which, truth be told, was probably just my subconscious telling me I needed to pee), and the Cubs were in a bind. Neifi Perez was at the plate, Jose Macias was on deck, and Tom Goodwin was to follow Macias.

This isn't some lame joke; this really was my sleepytime batting order. And then, to both my delight and consternation, all three players got base hits. I was pumped that the Cubs had scored two runs on Goodwin's double, but I also had a mild sense of the yucks.

You know what those yucks were? The knowledge that the readers at The Cub Reporter were going to dish it out the next day. You going to whine about Neifi now? See, Goodwin and Macias do their part! In my dream, I was prepared to eat my crow and like it, too.

Bizarre. Not to make too much of the snippet (and acknowledging again that my bladder probably had as much to do with my "yucks" as anything else), but I thought I'd share. You see, even while sleeping I can't help but engage with the readers here at TCR. You've forced me to become a more knowledgeable baseball fan, a less cynical Cubs fan, and a better thinker and writer. Thank you for continuing to provide great dialogue.

Why am getting all mushy-eyed today? I realized this morning that my blogging anniversary passed a couple days ago. How the days have flown by, my dear. A year ago I started a rough and tumble lil' blog, Ball Talk, which had only a smattering of readers. Fortunately, Christian was one of them, and after a couple months I joined Ruz here at TCR. (Then last week, of course, I ate him.)

I'm grateful and humbled to be surrounded by such talented writers here at All-Baseball. I'm equally grateful to be a part of the larger world of online baseball writers. I'm grateful for the sport of baseball, which continues to provide me both joy and agony. I'm grateful for the readers, whose comments keep my honest and involved.

And yeah, I guess I'm grateful for Neifi, Macias, and Goodwin and their back-to-back-to-back hits. Their fanciful heroics may only be the stuff of dreams, but they helped remind me to appreciate the good goings I have.

Green Day
2004-11-08 11:41
by alex ciepley

Apparently, I forgot about DHL. They seem to have some special dropoff point in L.A. county.

The new flavor of the minute in the Sammy Sweepstakes is the Dodgers, with rumors, rumors, rumors that the Dodgers and Cubs will try to pull off a Sammy Sosa-Shawn Green swap at the upcoming GM meetings. There are plenty of reasons to think this trade would never happen--not the least of which is that these types of blockbusters tend to surprise--so it's likely a bunch of hooey.

But hey, we like our Sosa rumors. Here are some Fors and Againsts:


1) Shawn Green is cheaper.
By, like, a teensy tiny bit. And when you throw in the no-trade, do-what-I-want, screw-you, and sayonara payments owed Sosa, Green's contract would actually be a few million off the tally. Unfortunately, I'm sure the Cubs would have to ante up the alimony, and the money would be a wash.

2) Shawn Green was better last year.
By, like, a teensy tiny bit. Both Sosa and Green have declined in bunches over the past three years, though Sammy has gone from higher heights to slightly lower lows.

This is your chart:

Shawn Green     G      AVG   OBP   SLG
2002 158 .285 .385 .558
2003 160 .280 .355 .460
2004 157 .266 .352 .459

Sammy Sosa G AVG OBP SLG
2002 150 .288 .399 .594
2003 137 .279 .358 .553
2004 126 .253 .332 .517
This is your chart on drugs:
Shawn Green     EqA   VORP   RCAA   WS
2002 .320 65.5 42 30
2003 .285 36.5 15 20
2004 .280 35.6 9 17

2002 .329 70.5 58 27
2003 .299 44.5 25 22
2004 .277 30 5 14
For the uninitiated (AKA "normal") baseball fans, the weird columns in the second group are Equivalent Average (EqA), Value Over Replacement (VORP), Runs Created Above Average (RCAA), and Win Shares (WS), a virtual toolbox of dorkness.

Basically, Sosa and Green were both worth the big bucks in 2002, but have become relatively stinky in their recent goes at it. Even if they maintain this current level of production, though, I'd much rather have Green's higher OBP than Sosa's higher SLG.

3. Shawn Green plays more
Sosa used to play in all the games, but as the chart above shows, he now misses his fair share of time. Whether it's because he's being naughty with cork or rambunctious with sneezes, Sammy can no longer be counted on to play a full season. Green, on the other hand, has missed virtually no time at all in the past few years, despite some serious shoulder woes.

4) Green is younger
By a couple years. Though honestly, we really don't know how old Sosa really is. Some speculate Sammy is actually a year younger than his listed date, while others claim he's really 57. At any rate, Green is greener by at least two bits, and that counts for something, I suppose.

5) Green is left-handed
Even if all else is equal, this is still a big point in Shawn's favor. The problems with the Cubs' righty-dominated lineup are generally way overblown, but it would be nice to have a legit middle-of-the-order guy swinging from the left.


1) Sosa's upside may be greater
Despite all evidence to the contrary, I still feel that Sosa might have one more very good season in him. That said, I still think I'll end up marrying some rich hottie who owns an island off the coast of Thailand. Possible, but perhaps not likely. Maybe Sammy won't be 60-homer good, or .420 OBP good, but he might have another season with some oomph in 'im. Green had some great seasons a couple years back, but Sosa--at his best--is a better offensive player.

2) The DePodesta factor
For no reason in particular, I worry about the Cubs trading with a GM like DePodesta. I really shouldn't feel this way, since even a smart GM can make a good trade that doesn't work out: DePo was right, for example, to trade Lo Duca and Mota, but it didn't work out in the end... at least for the 2004 season. That said, I just think the chance that the Cubs get the short end of the stick may be higher in dealing with a smarty-pants guy like DePodesta.

3) He is still, after all, Sammy
Sosa has worn out his welcome, sure, but it would be pretty sad to see him leave the Cubs after all the great things he brought the team. (And yes, despite his recent fumblings, Sosa has been a truly remarkable player for the Cubs.) I'd like to see him finish his career as a Cub. In fact, I'd go as far as to say there is no Cub I'd rather see hit a walk-off bomb in the bottom of the ninth in Game Seven of the World Series. But if trading him helps get the Cubs to the World Series, then I'll suck it up and deal.

I admit it
2004-11-05 13:36
by alex ciepley

I ate Christian.

I've been soooooo hungry the past few weeks. In need of a fix, I called up friends Randall Simon and Six-Fingered Alfonseca and we went down to southern Cali to fix us a proper feast. Some chianti... some fava beans... and some Roast de Ruz.

Rumor has it he may be regurgitated some time in the next few days, and that his trip through the land of stomach acid has something or another to do with "travel" and "work" and other such abstract principles. Don't you buy it! I ate him, plain and simple.

And good thing I did, too. For hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, or a Christian who must witness a season of Neifi.

Names in the News
2004-11-05 09:03
by alex ciepley

Threesomes are hot, hot, hot today, so three names it is.

Nomar Garciaparra
Us New Yorkers are limitless when it comes to immoral values. We hold up subway traffic by jamming our briefcases and umbrellas into the closing doors. We run out for a slice of greasy pizza at two in the morning, way past our bedtimes. And by golly, we act like there is nothing wrong with our gay neighbors, foregoing the proper barrage of spitballs, wet willies, and nooses those dirty bastards deserve.

But most of all, we're a greedy lot. And our City Headquarters are located in that northernmost of boroughs, a large round building known by the name of Yankee Stadium.

Erstwhile Red Sock and Once-in-a-while Cub Nomar Garciaparra has informed the world that he is open to playing second, short, or third. When Jose Macias made the same proclamation one year ago, only the Cubs responded, but Nomar's tidings have been better received. The Yankees look at second and see Miguel Cairo, a great utility infielder and questionable starter, and think it might be fun to add to their infield bounty.

"That would be something, wouldn't it, the holy trinity of shortstops on the same team?", Nomar's friend said. Some wondered aloud, "If A-Rod, Jeter, and Nomar represent the Trinity, what is Miguel Tejada? The Lord Buddha? Is Michael Young a ringer for Ganesh?"

The Yankees, belly full but not yet overstuffed, are now said to be interested. Nomar might take a one-year deal to stay at short, but would surely need a rich multi-year deal to play for New York. For the Yankees, Garciaparra would be a post-prime, fragile guy who had a risky contract and was playing out of position. In other words, more of the same.

Sammy Sosa
I've left work early before, and I've probably even been caught doing so on videotape. But I don't know that I've ever left work for no reason at 10 A.M., a mere hour or so into my workday.

I also don't make tens of millions of dollars at my job, so maybe this is one of those perks that comes with great job advancement. I'll have to enquire about that when asking for my next raise.

The Cubs have called UPS, Fed Ex, and the US Postal Service, all in the hopes of shipping Sosa out. So far, the only destinations being serviced seem to be New York, Miami, and Denver, though that strange place in the southern hinterlands, Arlington, is said to receive occasional packages.

The trick is, all these places tend to return things to the sender. These unsavory receipts usually involve such treats as Neagles, Prestons, catching Johnsons, Encarnacions, and Ho Ho Parks. They are, in short, not worth the wrapping paper Sosa would be shipped out in.

The aforementioned City of Greed, however, does have some enticing morsels. Kevin Brown is a subject worthy of debate, but that's more that can be said about the names listed above. And then there is Clifford Floyd. Floyd doesn't play all that much, true. But a DuBois here and there could help lessen those worries, and I don't know that any of us would be surprised if a FloyduBois creation were to outproduce Sosa in the next few years.

Troy Percival
A Closer™! The Cubs are supposedly hot on the trail of this southern California reject, lathering on fake self-tanning lotion to give Troy the impression that Chicago is as beachy as the 'Heim. Many may see his 33 saves with slack-jawed lust, but I see an old dude who pitches 50 innings a year, might give up a home run to Paul Bako, might walk Neifi Perez, and might not be able to strike out Corey Patterson. He looks real tough, so maybe he was earning his $7.5M last year with gruff stares and snorts.

Seriously, why bother:

RELIEVER    INN    HR    BB    K
Percival 49.7 7 19 33
Leicester 41.0 7 15 35
Remlinger 36.7 3 16 35
Farnsworth 66.7 10 33 78
Hawkins 82.0 10 14 69
Given age and expected salary, the great Troy is the pitcher I'd be least interested in on this list. And I say this as a guy who isn't exactly a charter member of the Farnsworth and Remlinger fan clubs. As newly-elected President John F. Kerry once said, "We can do better."

I'm not saying the Cubs shouldn't pursue another effective bullpen arm, I just think that if you drink the Percival Punch, you are asking for one big hangover. Remember when Joe Nathan was a "lucky" set-up man? Remember when Brad Lidge was a young question mark? Remember when Joe Borowski was fending off tarantulas and tacos in the Mexican heat?

Not all big names are worth their weight in letters, and not all great relievers are found in gold mines. Or something like that.

Protest Vote?
2004-11-03 16:50
by alex ciepley

The nomination forms are available for the Ford C. Frick award, given annually to a deserving broadcaster.

Now, I'm not saying it's my right to tell anyone how to vote, but what the hell: wouldn't it be at least a bit humorous for Steve Stone to be a final nominee in the year he gets blasted by the team and leaves the club?

Maddux Wins Gold Glove
2004-11-03 16:27
by alex ciepley

Greg Maddux won his fourteenth gold glove today, the second most of any pitcher in baseball history. I won a poetry award in college twice in a row way back when, but other than that, I don't know that I've ever won anything more than once. In fact, I usually don't win anything at all.

Did Maddux deserve it? Gold Gloves are flakey awards, often given either out of habit (I-Rod) or cluelessness (Jeter). Maddux, however, has kept up appearances despite his age, and continues to be an outstanding fielder. I took a look at Baseball Prospectus' fielding stat, Runs Above Replacement (RAR), which shows how many runs a fielder saved over a replacement-level fielder at that position. Looking at the usual suspects in the NL:

Pitcher   RAR     
Glavine 6
Maddux 5
Rueter 5
Livan 5
Hampton 3
There might be a pitcher or two I missed when looking at these stats, but these are generally some of the better fielding pitchers in the league. Glavine looks to have "outdone" Maddux by one run this time 'round, but knowing the general weirdness of fielding stats and what my subjective eyes tell me when watching the fielders at work, it seems completely reasonable to give Maddux the award.

The Cubs had, in my mind, two other contenders for Gold Gloves on their team. Derrek Lee is commonly considered an elite fielder, but he was beaten out this year by Todd Helton. I'll run the numbers again, though this time I'll add in Fielding Win Shares as an additional category.

1B               WS    RAR
Todd Helton 4.0 27
Derrek Lee 3.6 18
Albert Pujols 2.1 20
Most of the other NL first baseman royally sucked in at least one of these two stats, so I narrowed it down to these three. Considering that Helton led by sizable margins in both stats, it's probably safe to say he was worthy of the award this year. This doesn't take anything away from Lee, who still has to be considered one of baseball's best fielding first baseman.

The other Cub I'd consider is Corey Patterson. Patterson was often praised by Steve Stone (bless 'im), and he certainly looked awesome in center this year, smoothly running down balls and making accurate throws to the bases. Usual suspects Andruw Jones and Jim Edmonds won Gold Gloves this year, as well as comeback kid Steve Finley. I took a look at all the outfielders in the NL (plus Carlos Beltran's combined stats from K.C. and Houston), and here's the leaderboard:

OF               WS    RAR
Andruw Jones 7.4 26
Jim Edmonds 6.5 29
Corey Patterson 6.3 22
Carlos Beltran* 6.1 22
Mike Cameron 5.9 20
Steve Finley 4.8 12
*two leagues

Patterson's numbers bear it out: he was one of the best outfielders in the league this past year. If Corey had lost out to Mike Cameron, I wouldn't object in the slightest. Cameron, despite an off year, is one of the best in the biz. Losing to Steve Finley, though? That sucks. Finley wasn't even close to the league leaders.

There have certainly been greater injustices in the world, though, so I'm not really aflutter over Patterson's snub. He can just take on the usual Cub mantra, and wait 'til... you know the rest.

Vote, Baby, Vote
2004-11-02 06:10
by alex ciepley

I'm not exactly a morning person. But today I got up much earlier than normal to go cast my vote. Not only was I hoping to avoid long lines by arriving at the polling booths at 7:30 AM, but I wasn't exactly sure I knew where I was supposed to be voting.

This is my first time voting on Manhattan's Upper West Side, having been a Brooklyn resident for five years prior to this summer. I knew where to vote in Brooklyn, but when I received the card with my new voting information, I was a bit confused.

Under "POLLING PLACE", my card says the following:

PS 53 or 811, OLD PS 9 (NEW PS 811)
Umm, what the hell does that mean?

I talked to several friends in the area, one who told me that PS 9 (that stands for "Public School 9", for those of you who are unaware of NYC's creative school-naming procedures) was on Columbus, and one who told me that PS 811 was on West End Avenue. The letters "WEA" were also on my voting card, so I figured that PS 811 was the way to go.

Since I only live a few short blocks from that school, I took a quick stroll through the neighborhood. Call me crazy, but I just wanted to make sure that there was actually a school there. Sure enough, PS 811 was right there as advertised. An added bonus, the school also apparently goes by the name, "The Mickey Mantle School".

Well, that Mickey Mantle reference is about as close to a baseball tidbit as I can muster right now. I'm a nervous wreck. If you haven't had a chance yet today, go out and vote.

2004-11-01 12:07
by alex ciepley

Excuse me if I'm distracted the next few days. I'm prone to getting jumpy during certain events: women's Olympic figure skating finals, Cubs games, and presidential elections. You'd think Tums would release a special product: Tums 2004, Election Night Special.

There isn't a whole bunch of Cubs news at the moment, but I thought I'd take a look at a couple quotes from Todd Walker's two chats with ESPN last week. Note: these chats are unfortunately only available through an ESPN Insider subscription.

Todd discussed his desire to return to the Cubs while also touching on Nomar' status:

the cubs are my first choice at this point..hopefully it works out..with Nomar, I know he loved chicago, but the cubbies may not be willing to pay him. The yanks and the Angels will.

I think it is actually likely that Todd will return as the second baseman next year, which is fine by me. I'm also intrigued by the idea of Placido Polanco, but I haven't put much thought into the situation yet. Polanco isn't as strong an offensive force as Walker, but he brings truly fantastic fielding to the mix.

I also think that it may be likely that the Cubs bring back Nomar for one year. I think a one-year deal would be terrific for both parties, allowing Nomar to ramp up his value while letting the Cubs enjoy a year in which Nomar is especially motivated to produce.

Later, Walker discussed some other potential Cubs moves:

I think the cubbies may also pursue Beltran if Mo doesn't come back. And the cubbies have Neifi Perez still

The Cubs seem set to become a finalist in the Beltran sweepstakes. I have no idea how his signing would be financially feasible (unless it is a backloaded contract that starts at 10M for 2005), but it could probably be worked out. And as for Neifi -- no, Todd, I will not consider that nightmare scenario.

Walker chatted again a couple days later, and reemphasized his desire to come back as a Cub.

I think there is a good chance I'm coming back but the ball is in the Cubs court.

The chat sessions, if you have ESPN Insider, are well worth checking out. Walker spoke at length in the chats, and you get a decent sense of his personality through his responses. He's very outspoken, honest, and more than once appeared a bit testy. While I respect his candor at times, I thought the following exchange was pretty lame:

Jon (CT): Todd - There is no denying Cabrera is better defensively than Nomar. Specifically this year where Nomars heel, really limited his range. I think your one example (cabrera one hop to Millar) seems very petty.

Todd Walker: from your extensive experience in the big leagues, is that where you can say "there is no denying??"

I can understand Todd's frustration at being criticized on his opinions by a non-baseball player, but it is exceedingly dumb to think that you have to play a sport in order to observe it intelligently. If we're not filmmakers are we not allowed to have an opinion on a movie? If I go to a restaurant, can I not evaluate my entree because I'm not a professional chef?

There are many, many things I will never understand about the game of baseball because I didn't play it professionally, but it doesn't take an expert to see that Orlando Cabrera gets to more balls than Nomar -- especially the slightly hobbled Nomar we saw in the field this year. If you're not allowed to make observations about the game, why bother watching?