Monthly archives: March 2008
The Peril of Public
Excellent commentary on the Wrigley Field naming rights controversy at Agony and Ivy:
When it appears that something is necessary to improve profits, but this does nothing to (proportionately) improve your chances to win, what does a team do? To add another level of complication, if this decision in fact goes against the will of your fans and their sense of tradition, what does a team do? Or in another scenario, when it appears that something is necessary to improve your chances to win, but that will cut into profits, what does a team do?
That's the tip of the iceberg that is JCB's thought-provoking essay.
Unwilling and Uncreative
David Pinto, echoing a widespread sentiment, says, "It's absolutely amazing to me that the Cubs can't find a place for [Matt Murton]."
There is no question that Murton hits lefties better than the newly acquired Reed Johnson does. (.326/.399/.510 career for Murton, against .308/.371/.462 for Johnson.) With the outfield lineup against right-handers set -- Soriano, Pie and Fukudome from left to right -- hitting left-handers is the only applicable offensive skill when choosing which platoon man to keep. But there's more than offense to consider.
The Cubs need someone capable of playing center -- something Murton cannot do -- and so the Cubs snapped up Johnson. Still, Murton has been good enough against lefties that you'd like to see the Cubs be a bit more creative in such situations, moving Fukudome to center, which he can play competently, and putting Murton in right. That never seemed very realistic, though. The Cubs could have made it work, but perhaps being unwilling to jerk their new and expensive right fielder around the outfield, or fearing to put their faith in Murton, they opted not to find him a place on the roster.
I'd hate to see Murton leave, but with the Cubs' starting outfield set for the foreseeable future and the Cubs doing everything possible to prevent him from playing, Murton must be clamoring, privately at least, for a trade. And I'd be all for it -- he deserves a job in the majors somewhere -- so long as the Cubs don't give him away solely to better his personal situation.
That Was Quick
The Cubs didn't mess around today, signing Reed Johnson to a one year deal, mere minutes after he had officially cleared waivers. No word on the money involved, but assuming he didn't get Big Z cash, this is a solid signing that should give the club that right-hander who can fake center they've been so anxious to get on board - a move which has the additional benefit of saving them from making an overpriced trade for some sort of Crispy Byrd.
True, this basically fell into Jim Hendry's lap, but I'm going to take that advice about horsey gifts and just be happy he managed to get some outfield insurance he was pleased with while keeping intact what little farm-fresh goodness still exists in the organization.
The Sorting Hat
Shock of shocks, it appears that Mr. Wood is, indeed, this team's closer, and I'm thrilled. I'm also willing to admit that I'm biased, so if anyone wants to drop some logic in here, feel free. The truth is, if the mythical nation of "The Impartial States of Objectivia" were made flesh, on most baseball matters I would be, at the very least, a documented worker. Perhaps in some instances, I might even be a naturalized citizen. Not so with Kerry Wood. When it comes to Kid K, I'm on Objectivia's Terrorist Watch List.
Still, in the games I watched he looked fantastic, hitting his spots, snapping his breaking stuff, and featuring a fastball that looked to rest comfortably between 97-98. That's closer material no matter how you slice it, so the only question we're left with is whether he can handle the workload, and frankly, as a friend mentioned to me the other day, there's a much better chance of controlling that in this role than if he were performing more like a setup man. There's usually plenty of warm-up time, and you're nearly always starting a fresh inning. Seems to me, the only way to make his role less physically impactful would have been to use him more sparingly in the middle innings, and that just wasn't going to happen.
We'll see how it goes. I understand there's a decent chance this thing goes off the rails, but for now, here in the spring before the merciless season begins, I'm going to enjoy a moment of hope.
As for the rest of the decisions made today I say, "Meh." Here's the short version:
I'd rather see Lieber in the rotation than Marquis, but it's not such a huge difference that I'll stage a revolt. Frankly, the decision made was for clubhouse peace - they weren't going to put Dempster in the pen with all the work he's done, and as we've heard previously, Mr. Marquis is unappreciative of the bullpen's siren song - and at least in the short term, I can't find fault. It also makes sense if Marquis is trade bait to not lower his value by declaring your lack of use for him, and it's not like Lieber or Sean Marshall won't be around in July when he begins to be outright terrible on a consistent basis, so relief can be had eventually.
I think Fukudome in the 5-hole is a waste of his skillset, similar in nature but opposite in content to the waste inherent in batting Soriano anywhere near the top. Switch the two and I'm much happier, although, again, I'm not going to waste a ton of energy whinging right now, especially with 'moves' 'coming' 'soon'.
All in all, the best thing about today's revelations is that, after a short period of overanalyzation, we can all stop talking about sort of thing for a while and, in one short week, simply enjoy some baseball.
I'll get to more actual content later, but wanted to quickly mention that there are still plenty of spots in Year 2 of the Cub Town Fantasy Throw-Down.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get on board. And do it quick, lest the lack of interest cause permanent damage to the lithe, delicate flower that is my psyche.
UPDATE: We've made progress, but we're still looking for a couple more folks. Come on down and join the fun!
UPDATE 2: I need one more intrepid soul. Come on, you know you want to!
If Ellipses Lived
I've been silent all winter, and therefore haven't weighed in on this fiasco in general, so very quickly I'll put this out there:
I like Brian Roberts, I like the idea of him being on the team, I don't mind giving up something to get him, I don't like giving up everything in the link above.
I'll leave it at that for now, because anything else is a rant based on events that have yet to transpire, and I'd rather save the bulk of my praise/vitriol for whatever comes to pass. Or doesn't come to pass. Or passes in the night. Like ships. Or strangers on a train. Like sands through the hourglass.
This needs to happen soon, or unequivocally go away, for clearly, all else equals madness.
When Statistics Attack
I'm feeling ornery today. Let's pick a fight. From the cubs.com article regarding the coming Sorianotwoholeacalypse:
Soriano showed last season that he was most comfortable batting first. In 125 games as the leadoff man, he hit .308 (167-for-542), while he hit .179 (5-for-28) in seven games in the three-hole.
From the Daily Herald:
As he always has done, Soriano voiced a willingness to go along with Piniella, even though he prefers to bat first. Last year in the third spot, Soriano was 5-for-28 (.179). He was 0-for-8 batting fifth, but he was a .308 hitter batting leadoff.
From the Tribune:
Last season Soriano batted third in Derrek Lee's absence and hit only .179 in seven games (compared to .308 as leadoff).
28 at bats, eh? Well, here's to the first 54 at bats of Bo Hart's career, or the first 83 at bats of Clint Barmes' 2005. I know I'm likely preaching to the choir here, but there's nothing like cherry picking stats to make a point, or in this case, being too damn lazy to look up something more substantial. Not to mention the fact that they're trying to imply that Soriano will fail in the second spot because of how he performed in the third spot.
Of course, what really weirds me out is the fact that the Sun-Times made no mention of Soriano's batting order splits in 2007, qualifying Gordon Wittenmeyer as a beacon of enlightenment, which makes me question, not just the meaning of 'enlightenment', but of all words ever uttered by man.
But I digress. After going to BB-REF and performing a search on 'Soriano', I was two laborious clicks away from the information outlined below.
That's Soriano's whole career, folks, not just 28 at bats in the middle of a season, and, oh, the journey of suffering and tears it took to get me there. As for the data itself, there are only three spots where he's got enough at bats for me to want to draw any sort of conclusion, and even with those I don't see much there, there. Is there a difference between the first, third, and fifth spots? Sure. Enough to make me assign causality, especially when considering that the last two years of his career, which you could argue are his two best, were spent almost entirely in that first spot in the order? No. So how you decide to do that using 28 at bats is beyond me, even if by this point, I should be used to such failures.
End of rant.
There are still spots open in the Funnest Little Fantasy League Run By Cub Town Writers In 2008, so email me at email@example.com and join in the overwhelming joy.
Fantasy and Reality
If any of you have the same sort of conversations with yourself that I have with my very own person, I can imagine many of you (and really, at this point, I'm guessing "many" is a relative term more precisely expressed as "three") saying to yourselves, "Self. What with the lack of activity at Cub Town, the dearth of posting, as you will, I'm beginning to wonder to myself if, indeed, these mythical beasts known as 'Phil' and 'Derek' actually exist, or whether they are, instead, the sick creation of some Random Diamond Notes fever dream."
If my statements above mirror your inner monologue then, first, I say unto you, we do exist. Second, I say unto you, I strongly encourage you to purchase an updated thesaurus. Third, I further say unto you, proof is at hand, not only in the form of (theoretically) more frequent posting, but in the guise of the Second Annual Cub Town Fantasy Baseball and Beef Corning Extravaganza.*
Learning from last year's experience, I will now give you the rules as they shall be, take them or leave them:
Draft: Live, 8:30 CDT, Friday March 21st
If divining the truth of Phil and my existence interests you, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you the information necessary to join.
On a side note, thanks for bearing with us during this long, cold, dull, boring, terrible, no good, very bad winter. I know for me, it's been a difficult time to engage in this pursuit, but I look forward to providing more content during the season - a time which is far less reliant on my ability to conjure up subject matter or write long-winded diatribes on the relative merits of various options open to our shared passion, these Chicago Cubs.
* Fantasy Baseball may not include production of corned beef.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com