Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Well, and as many of you already know by now…

Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his hole on Gobbler's Knob Wednesday and saw his shadow, which portends another six weeks of wintry weather for us all - if you believe in that sort of thing, that is.

And as fans of the only truly cursed team in baseball - many of us do, in fact, believe in the power of such things. This gloomy forecast seems only appropriate, if you think about it, in light of recent developments in the world of Cubdom.


You have to love this about winter though – it really makes you look forward to the Spring. I lived in Los Angeles for 3 years during my graduate work and I cannot tell you how I missed the change of seasons that I grew up with here in the beautiful Midwest. The seasonal markers that accompany Spring, Summer, Fall, and yes – even Winter are things I think we often take for granted. What would life be like with no discernible difference between Autumn, Winter, and Spring? Well, I can tell you based on personal experience – tediously dull!

In any event, Jim Hendry is preparing to emerge from his hole at 1060 W. Addison and if he sees his shadow, as Punxsutawney Phil did, the Cubs forecast will be similarly dismal since it appears likely that they’re about to sign Jeromy Burnitz to a deal reportedly worth $5 million for one year with a mutual option for a 2nd year that could kick the value up to $11.5 million:

The Cubs' long and tiring, but never boring, off-season could be tied up in one neat little package sometime Wednesday night.

That's when the long-awaited, history-making, franchise-altering trade of Sammy Sosa to Baltimore should be completed—finally and officially—and the Cubs should be able to announce their signing of free agent Jeromy Burnitz to take his place.

So the Cubs are paying the O’s $12.5 million for Sosa this year and $5 million for Burnitz this year – which means, essentially, that they just got Jeromy Burnitz for $17.5 million. I could be wrong, but I think I’d rather have Sosa for the same cheese.

Here’s Burnitz’s numbers over the last couple of years (when he played for Milwaukee, the Mets, and the Dodgers):

Batting Statistics for Jeromy Burnitz (2000-2003)
2000 (161 games) 913898991216.232.356.456.812
2001 (154 games)10434100801500.251.347.504.851
2002 (154 games)6519545813510.215.311.365.676
2003 (126 games) 633177351125.239.299.487.786

Those are Burnitz’s numbers when he wasn’t regularly playing at Coors field during the last 4 years. How did he do at Coors last year?

Batting Statistics for Jeromy Burnitz (2004)
2004 (150 games) 9437110581245.283.356.559.915

Quite an improvement wouldn’t you say? Now let me ask you – which Burnitz do you think the Cubs are likely to see this year at Wrigley? The 2004 Coors version who hit .283/.356/.559 (37 HR’s & 110 RBI’s) or the 2003 Shea/Dodger Stadium version who hit .239/.299/.487 (31 HR’s & 77 RBI’s)? For $17.5 million, the Cubs had better hope it’s the former.

More Groundhog Material…

Enough of the depressing stuff. Did you know that the Southern states have their own prognosticating groundhog? General Beauregard Lee emerged from his hole at the Yellow River Game Ranch outside Atlanta and unlike Phil, this chubby critter did not see his shadow – which means an early Spring – at least for the South.

Sadly, though, Beau is set to retire after this year – and he’s taking a 97% accuracy rate with him into retirement – a distinction which led to honorary doctorate degrees from both the University of Georgia and Georgia State University. What sort of academic credentials do you think Punxsutawney Phil has?

Beau’s got it pretty good in his old age, even though his handlers are trying to get him on a low-carb Atkins type diet (bleh!):

Handlers at the ranch decided this year to give Beau a home worthy of his stature. On Tuesday, he was moved into a three-story mansion built on his property, appropriately called Weathering Heights.

To lure him out of his new palace Wednesday, ranch handlers again were planning to ply Beau with hash browns and fresh fruit as onlookers cheered, "Go, Beau!"

Last year, Beau was introduced to the low-carb diet when handlers laid out Atkins-approved chicken and cheesy eggs at sunrise to draw the groundhog from his home. He had grown so pudgy the door to his shed had been widened. But Beau ignored that breakfast, choosing instead to chew on the door of his house.

It seems that those doctorates weren’t bestowed in vain on Beau – even he had the good sense to stay away from Atkins!

Now, if only Jim Hendry would display the same type of discernment and stay away from Burnitz we would all be able to exhale.

On the other hand (and after a few swills of the cool-aid), I’m thinking to myself - maybe all of this will actually turn out for the better. What are the chances of that?