Monday, January 31, 2005

Shipping Sosa was (spell it with me) S-T-U-P-I-D:

Unless, of course, Hendry pulls a rabbit out of his hat and lands an offensive weapon to fill one or both of those two gaping holes that currently exist in the corners at Wrigley field. Maggs seems like a long shot and Huff nothing more than the fantasy of the blogger army - which leaves Jeromy Burnitz (yes the same Jeromy Burnitz who posted miserable numbers in 2002 and 2003 for the Dodgers and Mets - but who had - surprise, surprise - an up year at Coors field last season) as one likely "replacement." In any event, Rob Neyer appropriately referred to this bunch as presently assembled as an "astonishingly weak outfield." Couldn't have put it better myself.

Stoney always has had a knack of getting it right...

and he implicitly affirmed what we have been saying here for the last 3 weeks in spite of the litany of dupes and lemmings who bought into the Tribune’s hardly covert smear campaign of the once untouchable Cub – Trading Sosa is just plain foolish, unless you can somehow credibly replace the offensive production you lose as a result of his absence. Don’t get me wrong, Stone isn’t against trading Sammy, but he realizes that you need to somehow replace his rather formidable offensive production (Stone is – unlike me – optimistic Hendry will in fact find such a replacement):

There were times last season when Todd Hollandsworth looked so good in right field that you wondered if the Cubs weren't better off with him out there.

"That's fine, as long as you have a way to make up somewhere for the 80 home runs Moises Alou and Sammy are likely to give you,'' said former Cubs broadcaster Steve Stone. "Jim (Hendry) has some flexibility now, and I'm sure he'll find a way to make it happen. If not now, then down the line. [emphasis added]

It’s doubtful that the current Cubs dilemma can be put even more pessimistically than we have repeatedly presented it here on this blog, but Ron Rapoport certainly makes a valiant effort:

Fifteen months from having their general manager and manager lauded for working miracles to the brink of a season that could destroy their reputations and point them toward the exit.

It is not just Sammy Sosa leaving town this week, it is any thought of the Cubs as a viable force in the 2005 pennant race. It is conceivable that their season could be over before Opening Day. One spring-training injury to the ouchy likes of Kerry Wood, Mark Prior or Nomar Garciaparra is all it would take.

The Cardinals and Astros are going to finish ahead of the Cubs in the National League Central this season. That is a given. Improve the Reds' pitching a bit from last season, and their battalion of power hitters could have the Cubs staring down into the abyss where the Pirates and Brewers reside.

Jerry Hairston? Good grief, who did the Cubs just trade -- Sammy Sosa or Alex Gonzalez? Todd Hollandsworth in right field? The same Todd Hollandsworth who played 57 games last year? These are the two players who are going to make up for the 74 home runs, 186 RBI and 175 runs from Sosa and Moises Alou last year?

This is exactly the point we have been making here – this is a Cubs team that struggled mightily to produce offense last year (!!!) and to make matters worse you’ve just lost the #2 and #4 offensive producers in Alou and Sosa. To compound matters even further, Matt Clement (who was one of the major plugs who kept the leaky boat afloat for the first half of the season) will now most likely be replaced by Glendon Rusch in the starting rotation – and whether he can repeat his performance from last year is an open question (does anyone remember the fifth starter nightmare of 2003 and are you prepared for a possible reprise?!).

Add to all of this pessimism the depressing fact that the bullpen remains a major source of concern. Let me ask you this – If last’s years offense produced razor thin margins that were unhappily frittered away by an inept bullpen – what, for heaven’s sake, do you think will happen this year? Does anyone really think an outfield of Dubois/Hollandsworth, Patterson, and either Burnitz or Hairston is anything other than a formula for increased offensive frustration?!

Oh but we have a fine starting rotation – you say – perhaps the finest in the National League. Losing Matt Clement has only served to improve this year's starting five! [said with heavy sarcasm] Plus, you can’t possibly expect Mark Prior and Kerry Wood to combine for a 14-13 record like last year!

Oh really? Randy Johnson nearly posted a .500 record alongside an incredible 2.60 ERA last season – which only serves to punctuate a point I have long made – pitching does not win games – it can only try to prevent losses by giving up few or no runs. In order to actually win you need to score runs. Yes we have an incredible pitching staff – and they are going to have to be nearly perfect to carry the sorry carcass of this team into the playoffs!

How many times would it take for Matt Clement to lose 0-1, or 1-2 to illustrate this simple concept for the obstinately recalcitrant? Yes it’s redundant – I know – but I’m frustrated here.

It doesn’t take a Phi Beta Kappa to realize that this team as it is presently assembled is a recipe for disaster. Could I be wrong? Of course, I’ve been wrong in the past – and how I would love to be proven wrong on this, but can anyone explain to me how a team that struggled to produce offensively is going to improve after having lost 2 of the leaders in offensive production from last year? Even if you merely replace those lost rbi’s, runs, and hr’s – you’re just back to a miserly offense. Truthfully, at this point – I’d take just getting back to where we were because now, I think we’re clearly worse.

To wrap things up - Stone also believes – as we do here – that Sammy will have a fine and productive year – which will make this trade look even worse in the final analysis (from the same Rozner article cited above):

But Stone is not among those who think Sosa is finished as a player.

"I think Sammy's going to have a big year for Baltimore,'' Stone said. "He always rises to the challenge, and that's a nice lineup to be hitting in with the Orioles.

"Besides, in that ballpark he can hit it out one-handed to left field.”

What will this year bring? Well, we’ll have to wait and see, of course, but this Chicken Little thinks there may actually be good warrant for concern about that rapidly falling sky.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

PNR Cubs Roundtable Questions & Answers…

Remember this debacle with former Cub [then Pirate] Randall Simon? Well, in the spirit of this great Milwaukee sausage race, we've decided to conduct a contest of our own by providing our own answers and predictions to questions that are relevant to the Cubs. We'll see who turns out to be the most accurate prognosticator once the season begins.

So here are our answers to the first five questions given by Chris, Bill, Camden, and Randy (the Cardinals fan). Please remember that all of us besides Camden answered these questions before the (in)famous Sosa trade and so most of the answers will not reflect that fact (although I [Chris] did make a few notations at the end of a few of my answers which reflect an awareness of this development).

The question that we have for you is - can you figure out which one of us is the polish sausage?

1) What grade would you assign to the Off-season moves of the three teams most people project to contend in the NL Central this year (Cubs, Cards, Astros) and why?


CUBS: (C-) I have to agree with Graham from A Cub Fan Rants, and so I assign the Cubs a grade of C-. Signing Nomar was key of course and should be regarded as an obvious upgrade from the unrighteous Gonzalez/Martinez/Ordonez/Macias platoon that Dusty had going last year. Having Walker for the full year should be an improvement as well at 2nd. However, lest we forget, this is a team that finished third in the central last year and the blame for this cannot be squarely laid on the injury bug’s shoulders. Offensive production was the absolute number one problem of this team (exhibit A: Matt Clement’s 3.68 ERA coupled with his 9-13 record; Exhibit B: a frustrating propensity to lose games where the opponent scored more than 4 runs as pointed out so well by Steve Stone; Exhibit C: a dismal record in 1-run games). As most of you know who actually watched or listened to the games last season, it seemed as if we were often hopelessly lost in a dry and desolate desert looking desperately for some oasis of relief in the form of some walks, hits, and advanced runners – phenomena that were sadly absent for much of the season. So while the addition of Nomar for the entire season (assuming he stays healthy) is an obvious plus, the loss of the team’s leading RBI, run, and HR leader has yet to be adequately filled. This was a team that needed to be looking to upgrade offensively as the number #1 off season priority – and not only have they not upgraded, they may even have slightly regressed in this category. Added to all of this is the fact that the team’s second greatest weakness (i.e., a questionable bullpen) has not been addressed either. With no clear closer or consistently capable middle or late relievers, no offensive upgrades, and the loss of the #1 RBI, run, and HR producer - this is a team that looks like a slightly worse version of last year’s squad! Unless Hendry goes out and does what he is supposed to do (i.e., upgrade offensively by going after Magg$) this team gets a C- for a lackluster off-season. HOWEVER – I wrote all of this before the Sosa trade – and if the Cubs don’t spin off these prospects they acquired for Sosa (and they’ll probably have to include some others) for a big bat like Aubrey Huff - or unless they sign Magglio – they get an F! If they actually do the unthinkable and pick up Jeromy Burnitz they get an F-! I am disgusted with this trade as it now stands - and they better have something else in the works or this offseason will have gone from being merely sub-standard to an absolute disaster!

CARDS: (B+) As for the Cards – I give them a B+. They lost Renteria, Womack, Woody Williams, Matheny, and the man who likes to make funny finger gestures - Steve Kline – considerable losses when you think about it. Remember, Womack hit .300 for them last year and that stellar in field defense is one of the things that made the Cardinals so formidable. However, they still have a frightening line-up with Pujols, Rolen, Walker, and Edmonds. Grudzie might even be viewed as an upgrade from Womack at 2nd. On top of all this, Mark Mulder (if healthy) is a better pitcher than even Mark Prior and that will be a major upgrade from anything they had last year. I think you really have to hand it to the Cardinals – they won 105 games and they still went out and picked up one of the best pitchers in the game! I think they are still the odds on favorites to repeat as the central division champs.

ASTROS: (D+) The Astros get a D+, and they only get that high of a grade in light of the improbable re-signing of Roger Clemens. Without that signing they get an F. Losing the player who single handedly got them into the wildcard last year (Beltran), and their all-star 2nd baseman (who led their team in RBI’s last year), plus starting pitcher Wade Miller means the Stros fall back into a fight for third place this year (probably with the Reds).


CUBS: (D) Only laudable things were the re-signing Garciaparra, Walker and Hollandsworth. Blanco in, Bako out, no big deal. Might
mean 2 or 3 more wins for Maddux. The rest consists of
picking up a mishmash of 2nd tier relief arms to try out in
spring training. The notable things that have not been
done are 1) replacing 30 hrs, 100 rbis in left field and 2)
have not signed Aramis Ramirez to a long term contract.

CARDS: (C+) I think their moves are about a wash, but will give them
a C+ instead of a C because at least they made an effort to
replace their losses. Picked up Mulder, Eckstein,
Grudzielanek and Mike Myers. Lost Woody Williams, Renteria,
Steve Kline, Matheny and Tony Womack.

ASTROS: (C-) May almost be as poor as the Cubs. The signing of
Clemens for one more year pulled them up a bit, but other
than that I think these guys are turning south.
Lost Beltran of course, but the other thing is Berkman
injured a knee playing flag football and needed off-season
surgery. He may be out of action until mid-May. I don't see
where they have done anything to shore things up. All they
did was sign 44 year old John Franco and former Cubbie Turk
Wendell. If I didn’t know better I would think Ed Lynch was
their GM.


CUBS: (C-) The Cubs have just watched people leave and haven't replaced anyone with an equivalent bat (or arm). The only reason I don't give them a failing grade now is the signings of Todd Walker, Corey Patterson, and Nomar Garciaparra.

CARDS: (B-) The Cards have made a big improvement with the trade for Mark Mulder, but they've lost one-year wonder Tony Womack and Edgar Renteria. The middle infield does not look as productive this year as it did last season, but the Cards still have an awfully solid team.

ASTROS: (C) The Astros get a slightly better grade than the Cubs only because they've managed to retain Roger Clemens - even if it did cost them a ridiculous amount of money. It was something they had to do. The Astros have failed to remain as competitive as they were last year. The losses of Jeff Kent and Carlos Beltran are only compounded in the face of aging superstars and nagging injuries (Berkman's knee) and injury-prone players (Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettite).


ASTROS: (F) Well to start the grading off I will go with the 'stros first, and definitely gotta go with an F. They failed to re-sign Beltran, which I think, given the amount of money thrown around was a good idea, however they have no one to replace him as yet. They also compounded the mistake by selling the farm to get Clemens for one season. Clemens is a great pitcher and will certainly help, but 18 million. The signing was just an attempt for ownership to save face with the fans and save a dismal off season. It was like putting a band-aid on a severed artery. Plus although not a "move" per say the loss of Berkman for the first month or so of the season due to a church league flag football injury, really hurts. The 'stros definitely get an F.

CUBS: (C) Next the Cubs...well the re-signing of Nomar to an incentive laden contract for one season was definitely a great move for them. However, I think Jim Hendry's main objective for the off-season was to shore up the bullpen, get a closer, dump Sam-me, and find someone to replace Alou. As of today, none of the goals has been met. However, in my opinion I think sometimes the best move is no move. There really weren't any decent options for closer, unless you want take out a second mortgage on the farm to sign Percival, who is 1 or 2 years away from social security. I would probably keep Sam-me, especially considering in order to trade him your gonna have to pay most of his salary anyway. Not too mention probably take another stiff with a bloated contract and pay that one too. Sam-me cant be this big of a cancer in the clubhouse. I think with Sam-me, you’re pretty much guaranteed a 35-40 HR's, and close to 100 RBI's. These guys don't grow on trees. Keep Sam-me, and besides you would be amazed what winning will do for team chemistry, and what losing will do to it as well. Middle relief is still a concern, and needs to be addressed. I would give it a D, but with the signing of Nomar, I'll bump it up to a C.

CARDS: (C) The Cardinals. Well two goals for Jocketty, 1) sign Renteria, he failed - 2) Get an ace, he was successful. However, was the losing of Renteria a failure given the money it would have taken for him to be re-signed? I think not. No way would I have offered Edgar 10 million per. He is simply not worth that kind of cheese. We had absolutely no interest in Cabrera, which is a good thing. I am happy with Eckstein at short. As far as the ace, we got one in Mulder, which (if he is healthy) will prove to be a great move. We lost Womack and signed Grudzie, I call it a wash. I like all the moves except, I would have made a stronger effort to bring Polanco back to St. Louis. I would have put him back at SS, and slid Eckstein over to second. We didn't re-sign Kline, and we replaced him with Mike Myers, a bad move. I give the Cards a C as well. I give them that grade because Jocketty wasted so much time kissing Renteria's back side, which caused him to miss out on the chance to get Hudson instead of Mulder. Probably could have sent the same 3 players and got Hudson. Mulder is a great pitcher, but Hudson is as well, and not as much injury risk with Hudson.

2) Will the Cubs make any additional off-season moves and if so what will they be?

CHRIS: Who knows – reading Jim Hendry is like trying to read the cuneiform of the ancient Akkadian language (and actually the cuneiform is probably easier to decipher). Hendry needs to go hard after Magg$ - but by all indications, he seems content with this current line-up – which as we all know – worked out really well last year! I am praying he won’t sign Burnitz after shipping Sosa, but I don’t have any idea what he’ll do.

BILL: I hope they would either sign a healthy Maggs or go after
an extra journeyman outfielder with proven power.

CAMDEN: I believe the Cubs are going to go after Magglio Ordonez pretty hard now after trading Sammy Sosa. However, I believe Hendry is going to bring in a closer and I'm betting it will be an incentive-laden deal for Rob Nenn.

RANDY: I think maybe you pick up Rob Nenn and give him a shot. You could probably get him for a case of mountain dew, so what the heck, take a shot. It seems like every year a winning team will take a shot on a guy from the scrap heap and it will turn out to be an incredible move. Remember last season the Cards were looking at Marlon Anderson or Bo Hart as their starting second baseman. They took a shot on Tony Womack off the scrap heap, and we lucked out. Who knows Nenn could be the Cubs version of Womack this season. He is a dominant closer if healthy.

3) Who will start in LF for the Cubs this year? Who should start in LF for the Cubs?

CHRIS: As everyone who knows Baker realizes, he will go with the veteran over the rookie and so Hollandsworth will get the majority of starts with Dubois getting the occasional start. I don’t have a problem with this, b/c (absent of acquiring Magg$ and sticking him and his blasted knee out there) I like Holly better than the unproven Dubois. Maybe Dubois will light it up and reproduce the same type of success in the big leagues that he had in the minors but I’m just not into taking chances when the window of opportunity (with this caliber of pitching staff) stays open for so short a period of time.

BILL: Will probably be Dubois. Should be Ordonez if he's

CAMDEN: Jerry Hairston, Jr. will play in left.

RANDY: Jason Dubois, forget Maggs. To get him you are going to have to make a deal with the devil. No way would I deal with Maggs, when you have to go through $cott Bor-a$$. Dude, I will have to send you a link to an article I read about him in the Houston Chronicle. Bor-a$$ is licensed to practice law in Texas and California, and he is almost ready to be disbarred in Texas for deceptive practices in the A-rod to Texas fiasco. He lied to the Rangers and had them bidding against themselves. He is a slimy used car salesman. Forget it. Give the rookie a shot. Again it seems like every season a rookie steps up for a division winner. Again, the Cardinals for example, a few years ago with an ailing Mark McGwire, TLR took a shot on a 13th round draft pick named Albert Pujols – who never would have even made the team out of spring training without an injury to the great Bobby Bonilla. Is Dubois the next Pujols? W ell probably not, but you never know unless you give him a shot. As far as I know Dubois has hit every level he has played. Give him a shot.

4) Who will be the closer for 2005?

CHRIS: Predicting Baker’s moves is as much of a science as reading tea leaves. I’d like to see what Dempster has or anyone other than Hawkins actually. Hawkins is an excellent set-up man (he’s probably the best pitcher in the bullpen), but when you stick him in the closers role you not only lose a top tier set-up man, but you get a moderately bad closer to boot – no thank you. Let’s see what Dempster can do, or try Leicester for heavens sake. If Borowski got back on the juice (this is a suspicion of mine) and can get his fastball to crack 90 MPH again - stick him back in there – otherwise I don’t want him anywhere near the mound in tight games. Heck, Id even be willing to give the Farns a shot during Spring Training and if he excels (which would absolutely shock me) - give him the job. However, my pessimism concerning Baker leads me to suspect that Hawkins will fill the role once again and, therefore, not only will we not have a closer, but we will struggle in middle and late relief as well.

BILL: The arm that doesn't fall off first between Dempster and

CAMDEN: I'm going with my prediction of Rob Nenn, but if the Cubs don't pick him up, I believe Baker is going to go with LaTroy Hawkins.

RANDY: As I said earlier I would take a shot at Nenn, if not then who knows dude. Go with Dempster. I am not too familiar on the injury of Borowski, but I take your word that he is done. I assume it is some arm problems. I say go with Dempster, and/or take a shot at Nenn.

5) Who will finish the season with more strikeouts, Patterson or Sosa?

CHRIS: This is a tough one b/c I think they will both put up triple digits in this category. I guess I give the nod finally to Patterson especially b/c he will see more at bats in the leadoff position.

BILL: Patterson by 30. I subscribe to the theory that Sosa will
improve in 2005. After the big sneeze last year we saw a
desperate Sosa swinging at low, outside breaking balls like
he did when he was young. He is smart enough to correct
that. But I think Corey will continue to swing at head-high
2-strike fast balls for at least another season because
Baker is too patient with him.

CAMDEN: Even though this question has taken a different turn in the last day, I will say Patterson. This is because I believe Sosa won't play a whole season. I think Sosa will have a worse SO/AB ratio.

RANDY: More K's...gotta go with Sam-me Struck Out Swinging Again.

Those are our answers - feel free to provide your own answers in the comments section if you have the urge. Who knows - maybe you can win the contest! We'll post our answers to the next five questions shortly.

Saturday, January 29, 2005


Alright there Cub fans, how are things in my home town of Peoria? By the way, somebody keep me up to date on how my Central Lions are doing this season. Anyway, I am at work, thinking to myself what everyone is thinking on a nasty, late January, work day – you guessed it, I'm thinking baseball. Well, that and random thoughts of huge bass that can't get enough of the worms on my hooks, or golf balls hit straight down the middle of the fairway, or wondering whether or not my beloved Illini can finish the season undefeated - Go Illini! Seeing how this is a Cubs blog, and my good friend Chris sternly instructed me before coming on board this blog, to keep it to things a Cubs fan would be interested in, I'll stick to the thoughts of baseball.

My take on this rumored Sosa for Hairston, and two minor leaguers trade...

Jim Hendry is way too good of a GM for this kind of nonsense. What in the world is he thinking? Trade Sammy Sosa for a case of Mountain Dew? I will admit it Cubs fans, I always kinda liked Sammy. I mean after the whole 1998 season, who couldn't? Is he this big of a cancer to just give away like this? Just remember it’s losing that destroys team chemistry, and nothing helps it like winning. Keeping Sammy Sosa was the best chance for the Cubs to win this season. I seriously don't understand this move. Then to pay most of his salary anyway? If you're gonna have to pay him, you might as well keep him. What good does it do to pay him to hit 40 HR's for the O's?

I believe Jim Hendry is a great GM, and therefore I just can't believe this is it. As stated above he is too good for something like this. I would expect a move like this from Jerry Angelo, Hendry's contemporary from across town, but not from Jim Hendry. This can't be it. So I’m gonna speculate as to what he does in reaction to this move.

Remember this name Cubs fans, Aubrey Huff. Hendry turns around and deals Hairston to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Aubrey Huff. He normally plays 3rd, but he played 50 games in RF in '03, and he would fit in nicely for the Cubs. I think for a chance to get out of Tampa, he would gladly switch positions, although some might question whether a move from Tampa to the Cubs isn't jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Hey would you expect any less from a Cardinals fan than a little dig on the Cubs every once in a while?

These numbers would look nice to Cubs fans as well, .297 AVG, 29 HR, 104, .360 OBP, all in relative obscurity in Tampa. Hendry sends Hairston, and a few of those prized young pitchers in the Cubs system to Tampa for Aubrey Huff, and slides him in to RF. Then you're looking at a Sosa for Huff, and the exchange of a few minor leaguers. I'd take that if I was a Cubs fan.

As far as LF goes, forget Maggs right now. I would say to Maggs, we ain’t dealing with your crooked agent, here’s a 1 year deal, incentive laden offer, similar to Nomar's deal, take it or leave it. Bora$ is some piece of work, he refuses to let Maggs workout for anyone, yet he’s seeking a 6 to 7 year deal. Who in the world does this guy think he is? If it takes me making a deal with the devil to get Maggs, I'd give the rookie Dubois a shot. I read an article a few weeks ago about Bora$ - we’re talking about a guy who is well on his way to being disbarred in Texas for his "deceptive practices" in the A-Rod to Texas deal. Basically the point to the article, which everyone knew anyway, was that he lied to the Texas Rangers on proposed offers from Seattle and New York, and in essence had the Rangers bidding against themselves, which violates the ethics of the Texas Bar Association. When will Bud Selig do anything to better the game of baseball and revoke his agents license for Major League Baseball? I'm telling you forget Maggs. Give the rookie a shot.

All-Time Rivalry Team
Alright, I was also thinking of an all-time Cubs/Cards rivalry team, with the only requirement being players who have played for both the Cubs and Cardinals in their careers.

In the outfield we have to start with Lou Brock, but other than him I really can't think of anyone else. In the infield we got Leon "the Bull" Durham at first, Tony Womack at second, Shawon Dunston at short, Gary Gaetti at third, and Joe Girardi catching. As for our pitching staff – well, we could go with Ernie Broglio, I know he is a sore spot with Cubs fans, but the guy did 20 and 18 games the two seasons before the famed Brock for Broglio trade. We also got Rick Sutcliffe, who did make a cameo appearance for the Cards in 94 I believe (yes we were that desperate in the mid 90's). We’re kinda thin in the rotation, but who cares with this bullpen...Dennis Eckersley, Lee Smith, and Bruce Sutter. These are the names I came up with, I'm sure I have missed some classic ball players – feel free to add to them.

Anyway that’s enough for now, as Chris said look for my Kerry Wood, and Rod Beck posts in the coming weeks. Take care and Go Illini.

Friday, January 28, 2005

This is stupid…

ESPN is reporting that the Cubs are shipping Sosa to Baltimore for Jerry Hairston Jr. and 2 prospects:

Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa will be traded to the Baltimore Orioles for infielder Jerry Hairston and at least two minor-leaguers, pending physicals and approval from commissioner Bud Selig and the players' association. An Orioles source told ESPN's Tim Kurkjian that the only way the trade will not happen is if someone fails a physical.

The Cubs would pay a substantial part of Sosa's $17 million salary this season, major-league executives told the AP. Sosa would agree to void his salary in 2006, they also said.

So, essentially, the Cubs have now lost two of their substantial offensive producers from last year with no clear replacement(s) readily apparent. Has anyone forgotten that last year was one of offensive futility even with Sosa and Alou? What, for heavens sake, do you think this team will do without both of them?! Do 35 HR/100 RBI guys grow on trees in the major leagues?

To make matters worse, the Cubs are 1) paying a substantial portion of Sosa’s salary for this year, 2) they didn’t even get Julio in return (although the ESPN report indicated that the Cubs are receiving Hairston and at least 2 prospects - other news outlets are reporting that Jorge Julio is included in the deal), and 3) they received a potential leadoff hitter in return. Oh, but there’s only one small problem - he’s spent the majority of the last 2 seasons on the disabled list. Can anyone say injury prone? Further, Hairston's numbers aren't that great - his 162 game average (from Baseball Reference)is .261/.334/.371 and he averages 8 HR and 49 RBI's over the same period. This isn't a suitable replacement for either Alou or Sosa.

As I have said repeatedly on this blog, I didn’t want Hendry to ship Sosa at any cost, and if Sosa returns to his pre-sneeze form of last year (which I think he will) - Hendry is going to have to answer to a lot of angry and frustrated fans. I confess that I just don’t understand this trade and right now I’m pretty upset about it - especially since the Cubs now have 2 significant holes in the outfield and I don't know who's going to fill them.

I like this kind of speculation…

Instead of contemplating a Dubois/Hollandsworth platoon, Baseball Prospectus is speculating about a possible Orondez/Hollandsworth platoon, which would take advantage of the fact that Hollandsworth seems to hit better in a platoon situation and also allow Maggs time to recover:

Ordonez to the Rescue? Even with Sosa still on board, Moises Alou's departure has left a void in the Cubs outfield. Though he likely will not be 100 percent, there has been talk regarding Magglio Ordonez as a possible replacement. An Ordonez/Todd Hollandsworth platoon could work out very well until Mags is ready to go full-tilt. The Cubs could take advantage of Hollandsworth's platoon split (.255/.307/.368 vs. LHP and .286/.351/.481 vs. RHP from 2002-2004), as their early schedule promises to include a lot of lefties (Shawn Estes, Doug Davis, Chris Capuano, Eric Milton, Oliver Perez, Mark Redman, etc.). Such a platoon could give the Cubs time to work Ordonez back to full-time duty.

Unfortunately, Ordonez’s greedy agent (one $cott Bora$) has indicated that Magglio will not sign a cheap one-year incentive laden deal (via the Cubs Chronicle):

ARLINGTON, Texas - Agent Scott Boras confirmed Tuesday that free agent Magglio Ordonez is interested in playing for the Rangers but made two things clear:

Ordonez's injured right knee is healthy after multiple surgeries, and he has no intention of being a designated hitter.

The power hitting outfielder is not willing to accept a one-year contract and a reduced salary well below the $14 million he made with the Chicago White Sox in 2004.

"The market place has been very aggressive for him," said Boras, who has had two conversations with the Rangers about Ordonez. "You're talking about a guy who hit .300 with about 30 home runs and over 100 RBI for five straight years. This is a high-end player."

And that, my friends, probably means Magglio Ordonez will not be a Cub next season. We are speculating that he will end up back in the AL Central with the Detroit Tigers, who have already demonstrated a penchant to overpay (e.g., Troy Percival), and who just received a counteroffer from Bora$ Thursday night. If the knee is gimpy, we will all be thankful for having passed. On the other hand, if Maggs puts up the type of numbers he’s consistently put up the last five seasons (and I suspect he will) – this commentator will be engaged in the perpectual activity that has become commonplace for a Cubs fan – hand-wringing.

I personally am very much in favor of Hendry going after Magglio and platooning him with Hollandsworth while also retaining Sosa for this year. I don’t think it should be an either/or but rather a both/and proposition for Maggs and Sammy. In fact, if Jim Hendry would go out and actually sign Ordonez, I think I would be about as happy as this extremely annoying gentleman:

The relevant question is - Will the Tribune Co. open up the coffers? Probably not, and especially since Hendry is apparently happy with this present squad which underachieved so splendidly well last year.

In any event, from the same Baseball Prospectus article cited above, they make the following interesting comments on the Cubs closer situation:

A-S-T-A-C-I-O: Conventional wisdom has the Cubs signing Robb Nen to be the closer. Nen's numbers certainly stack up well, and he played under Dusty Baker in San Francisco, which may be another plus. Other ideas are to make a deal for Orioles closer Jorge Julio, or turn the job over to an incumbent such as Joe Borowski or Ryan Dempster.

A third option could be turning to Pedro Astacio. While the Cubs have not been included among his list of possible suitors, he could fit well here. He performed well in the Dominican this winter, and the combination of his age and shoulder history make him tailor-made for short outings.
Here's how the candidates stack up:

Nen 2.95 .68 14.7
Julio 1.71 .91 10.7
Dempster 1.40 .93 8.8
Astacio 2.08 1.05 6.7
Borowski 2.09 .76 4.3

Nen is clearly superior among this group, though the risk for someone who hasn't pitched competitively in two years is high. Julio is not only temperamental, but will cost the Cubs prospects, something Jim Hendry has successfully avoided doing. If the Cubs are reluctant to turn the role over to Dempster or Borowski, then Astacio may be a good fit, and he is certainly worth signing even if his shoulder does not hold up.

I personally like the idea of either trading for Julio or giving Dempster a shot. I think Borowski is finished, and Nen is a major question mark with regard to his health. Should be interesting to see how this shapes up in Spring Training!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Let's think about this...

On a slow news day when nothing much is going on besides the ubiquitous speculation about whether the Mets or Orioles will actually bite on a Sosa trade (well, that and the news of some dude who allegedly blasted his kid with a stun gun) - perhaps it's time for some creative speculation about who smashed Sosa's boom box on the last day of the season.

Since it seems improbable that Sosa will be anywhere else next year (and since a bald appeal to the the second law of thermodynamics isn't likely to work), the players will undoubtedly need some sort of explanation as to how Sosa's salsa-spewing machine ended up in a hundred different pieces on the locker room floor - and it would probably be a good idea if they all had their stories straight by the time Spring Training starts.

Now who actually performed the cosmetic rearrangement of Sosa's boom box is somewhat irrelevant. Team chemistry demands a harmonious clubhouse, and so if that means this affair needs to be pinned on a scapegoat - fine. Baseball players have never been able to plausibly serve as ethical exemplars, and so this shouldn't be a problem for any player not named Barrett. As I see it, there's at least 4 candidates who fit the bill:

Moises Alou: In favor of Alou is the fact that the man is obviously not right mentally, a truth that is punctuated by the well-known fact that Alou often mistakes his hands for a urinal. Additionally, he is clearly emotionally unstable as evidenced by his disturbing collapse in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS (of course all of us experienced something of an emotional collapse after that game).

The problem with Alou, however, is the low believability factor. Sosa and Alou are close friends. In fact, Sosa might already know who actually smashed the box as a result. On the other hand, we can't worry about this possibility. Sosa wasn't there and so unless this incident was captured on tape AND the tape hasn't already suffered the same fate as the boombox - it's always going to end in a "he-said/he-said" stalemate. The actual offender only needs to understand something used with great effect in the legal world: plausible deniability. I often am amazed at the simple but effective utility of the following words: "It wasn't me." What more can you do after that? Couple that with a plausible scapegoat and you're as good as gold.

Matt Clement: In favor of Clement is his demonstrably erratic behavior. At times he would appear with the goatee and other times sans goatee. It could just be me, but this clearly is not the conduct of a stable man. It's also quite possible that he was upset that the lack of run support last year would relegate him to the second tier of available free agent pitchers and so he decided to pay back Sosa in a fitting way. Sosa's bat funked him, and so perhaps Clement used Sosa's bat to return the favor. The problem with Clement is that he's a pretty even keel guy and so even Sosa might not fall for this one.

Steve Bartman: Why not? Until the Cubs actually win a world series, Bartman (as sad as this is) remains a living tribute to the utility of a scapegoat - especially for a franchise that's experienced this degree of futility for this long. Isn't it possible that Bartman, realizing that his final vindication rests squarely on the ultimate success of the Cubs, erupted in a fit of rage on the last game of the season? If Sosa shows up in Spring Training and there's a Walkman with headsets and a black "Renegades" sweatshirt sitting in his locker, he'll get the message.

Mark Grudzielanek: Grudzielanek seems to fit the bill as well as anybody. It was a frustrating year for Mark. After an excellent season the year before, he had to deal with the twin frustrations of 1) the presence of Todd Walker, and 2) an Achilles injury that forced him to get off to a late start. Additionally (and unlike Clement and Bartman), he actually knows how to use a bat. Add to this the fact that he has a volatile personality and now plays for the Cubs chief divisional rival and you've got a perfectly viable candidate.

Now what you'll note about all of these candidates is that they all have something in common that makes each of them especially attractive - none of them are around to defend themselves. As the late CIA Director Bill Casey illustrates so well, a person's absence only increases his or her value as a scapegoat. It's unfortunate to say, but this thing has got to be pinned on someone who's no longer with the team.

Therefore, in my opinion, Mark Grudzielanek is your best candidate. Not only is he no longer around to present any kind of defense, but (as noted) he is now a player for the cursed Cardinals. I suggest the team pin a picture of Grudzielanek on the wall in Cardinals red and tape pieces of the boom box to it. What better than to have Sammy come out like a raging bull every time the Cubs play the Cardinals?

In any event, the team better come up with something, and fast, because it looks like Sammy's going to be around next year. I'd rather he be a happy camper because the Cubs are going to need him to produce better than he did last year if there's to be any chance of the postseason.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Analysis Man Is Back With More Numbers

All this talk about attempting to sign Magglio Ordonez, the Cubs' need to dump Sosa's contract, and the potential of getting Cliff Floyd has piqued my curiosity. I've decided to set out on a mission to see just what the Cubs paid last year for the production they got.

Over at Baseball Prospectus there are some wonderful non-traditional statistics you can use to check different aspects of player performance. I've decided to use WARP3, which stands for Wins Above a Replacement Player, for this analysis. From what I take it as, WARP tells you about how many more wins Player A gave you over perfectly average Player B. So in the table below, the Cubs would have had 6 fewer wins if they had a perfectly average third baseman instead of Aramiz Ramirez.

To get a WARP per dollar figure, I looked up each player's 2004 salary and divided it by his 2004 WARP3. This turns out to be a rough estimate of each player's dollar productivity. I'm not sure you can compare WARP across positions (i.e. a catcher with WARP = 5 is as valuable as an outfielder with WARP = 5). Does anyone know this for sure?

I've thrown in Magglio Ordonez, Cliff Floyd, and Carlos Beltran who all have been tossed around as potential 2005 Cubs. Be aware that I've used Magglio's 2004 salary and his 2003 statistics (his last full year). Also, Garciaparra's and Carlos Beltran's 2004 salaries have been prorated to the number of games they played with the Cubs and Astros respectively.

Player2004 SalaryWARP3Salary/WARP3
T. Hollandsworth
A. Ramirez
M. Grudzielanek
M. Alou
M. Barrett
D. Lee
T. Walker
J. Macias
C. Patterson
S. Sosa
R. Martinez
P. Bako
T. Goodwin
N. Garciaparra
Cubs Avg.
M. Ordonez
C. Floyd
C. Beltran

It's not much of a surprise, but Sosa's $3.2M per WARP point is astounding. If the Cubs somehow were able to sign Magglio Ordonez and he could miraculously match his 2003 performance, the Cubs would have to pay Maggs around $30,000,000/year to make an investment as bad as the Cubs did with the 2004 Sammy Sosa. Similarly, it looks like the Cubs would have been better off throwing $650,000 on the floor of the Cubby Bear rather than having Tom Goodwin.

For all you Patterson haters (of whom I am not included), check out the steal we have in center field. Patterson only cost the Cubs $90,566 per WARP3 point.

Another interesting point is that the Dodger's bagged J.D. Drew and his 2004 WARP3 of 10.2 at $11M. This comes out to $1,078,431/point, almost exactly the 2004 Cub average. I don't think Drew can consistently put up WARPs over 10 throughout his 5-year deal, but for the moment it looks like the Cubs may have missed out on a good investment.

For those who feel like torturing themselves - here are the corner infield numbers for the Cardinals:

Rolen: $7.78M/11.1 = $700,901/point
Pujols: $7M/11.7 = $598,291/point

The path leading to nowhere… fast!

Yesterday we speculated about a Sosa-to-Mets deal by connecting the Delgado-to-Marlins dots with the fact that the Mets still need another big name/power bat. As we noted yesterday, Bob Klapisch from the Bergen Record commented that plan B for the Mets was to acquire Sosa if they lost out on Delgado - which, in fact, they did. This type of speculation was also entertained by Chris De Luca in the Sun-Times today:

What is significant to the Cubs is that Delgado didn't choose the New York Mets or Baltimore Orioles, teams that were known to be interested in Sosa but were pursuing Delgado as Plan A.

Now it could be time for Plan B, and a new round of talks concerning Sosa.

Sources say Cubs general manager Jim Hendry hasn't spoken with Mets GM Omar Minaya in at least two weeks while the Delgado derby got serious. Expect the phone lines to begin heating up immediately.

On the other hand, Jayson Stark reported yesterday on ESPN that the Mets ownership has nixed the idea of acquiring Sosa:

Mets ownership has told Minaya it doesn't want him to now turn around and trade for Sammy Sosa, in the wake of losing Delgado,'s Jayson Stark reported. So it's believed the Mets will keep Mike Cameron for now and explore other possible outfield options during spring training, unless something arises before then.

However, in an interview today on ESPN, Stark was more guarded in his language and he acknowledged that Sosa was, in fact, still one of the Mets “plan B options.” He speculated that he thought Sosa was nevertheless on the backburner for them, which is certainly less definitive than his earlier report that “Mets ownership has told Minaya it doesn't want him to now turn around and trade for Sammy Sosa…”

As I noted yesterday, only time will tell who is more reliable – Bob Klapisch or Jayson Stark.

Regardless of who proves to be more trustworthy of a source, Chris De Luca made these comments today which frustrate me to no end, as they seem to so accurately characterize the limp-wristed strategy of the Cubs this offseason:

Sources said the Cubs wouldn't make a serious run at Ordonez until a Sosa deal was completed. With Delgado off the market, Ordonez could find a new home within a week. The four-time All-Star had a face-to-face meeting with the Tigers on Monday but hasn't worked out for teams to show progress in his knee.

This is the same passive and hands-tied posture that prevented them from making a serious run at Beltran. Now is it just me, or does it seem foolishly naïve to think that another team is going to take Sosa and his bloated contract when a superior free agent is available? What GM not named DePodesta is going to pass on available players like Beltran and Ordonez so they can acquire a moody high maintenance slugger on the downside of his hall of fame career?

Hendry seems to think he can pawn off Sosa on some unsuspecting schmuck-of-a-GM so that he can snatch up the better player on the free agent market! “Here, take my garbage so I can go look for something better! Don’t be fooled by the glitter of a Beltran or Ordonez – let me go after them – just concern yourself instead with this guy over here. Did I mention he’s a hall of famer?”

If you are intent on moving Sosa, instead of this passive nonsense, why not take charge of the situation and drive up demand by decreasing supply?! The decreased interest in Sosa has been driven by the fact that there were and are superior free-agents available. If Hendry snatches up Magglio, the Mets, Orioles, and Rangers will have less options and more incentive to take the $25 million dollar millstone off of the Cubs hands! That’s not saying they would, of course, but it certainly would limit their options. Dave van Dyck reasons along similar lines in today’s Tribune:

Will the Cubs outbid the Mets, Orioles, Tigers and at least two other teams for the last major free agent, Magglio Ordonez, whether they trade Sosa or not?

And, most interesting of all, what if the Cubs sign Ordonez, leaving Sosa as the only option for teams that lost out in the Delgado derby and teams that have done virtually nothing to add power to their lineups this winter?

Things could get very interesting very soon, as days until spring training are dwindling as fast as baseball's talent pool. The expected sequence of events is Ordonez signs first, then left-out teams could increase their interest in Sosa, although they might feel the longer they wait the more the Cubs will pay of his $17 million salary.

Regardless of what the Cubs do - this passive, “we can’t do anything until you take Sosa off our hands” attitude is frustratingly inept in my opinion! I would rather the Cubs just explicitly state “Forget the free agents. We’re going to stick with Sosa and hope against hope that this year’s team will produce better than last year’s team, even though it’s not dramatically that different” (i.e., they added Nomar – but lost Alou & Clement).

In case you haven't noticed, Mr. pessimism is back in full force, and he is not a happy camper these days!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Putting the pieces together…

Well, it looks like Carlos Delgado is going to be a Marlin after all, just as we predicted on this blog last week. Apparently the Marlins have agreed to pony up $52 million for 4 years for the national-anthem-challenged first baseman:

Free-agent first baseman Carlos Delgado agreed Tuesday to a $52 million, four-year contract with the Florida Marlins, who added the left-handed power they've lacked.

Now this is very interesting since the Bergen Record’s Bob Klapisch is reporting (with a high degree of certainty it seems) that the Mets are intent on acquiring Sammy Sosa if they lose out on Delgado:

Indeed, after nearly a month of hot pursuit, the Mets still can't get a read on what Delgado truly seeks. Is it the fattest contract? The best chance to appear in the postseason? Proximity to his home in Puerto Rico? The only certainty at Shea is if Delgado picks the Marlins, or by some long shot chooses the Orioles, Plan B is Sammy Sosa. The Mets will fill first base with an inexpensive choice such as John Olerud or Travis Lee, and use their unspent millions on the troubled Cubs' outfielder. [emphasis added]

Doing so would be Minaya's gravest off-season mistake, and would put even more pressure on his rookie manager, Willie Randolph. But Minaya has long been obsessed with Sosa, whom he scouted and signed 20 years ago in the Dominican Republic and still regards as a personal friend.

The Mets' GM chooses to ignore the personal crises that practically swallowed up Sosa at Wrigley last year, not the least of which was the $87,000 he was fined for leaving the ballpark early on the final day of the regular season.

The Mets briefly distanced themselves from the slugger after it was learned that Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds both confessed to steroid use to the BALCO grand jury. Although no one has ever accused Sosa of juicing, Met officials overwhelmingly opposed taking any chances. Even Minaya saw the logic in that.

But two months later, as it appears there'll be no penalties handed down to either Giambi or Bonds - and that there'll be no retroactive investigation by Major League Baseball - the Mets have caught Sosa-fever again. Plan C is to chase Magglio Ordonez.

That is, if they can't get Delgado.

The good news for Mets fans who are dizzy with rumors is that Delgado's camp should have a decision by today. Of course, we've heard that all month. But even the Mets' patience has its limits.

We also speculated here on this blog last week that Sammy’s fate was tied to Delgado’s destination and that once the Delgado domino finally fell, the rest of the free agent landscape would clear up fairly quickly. If Klapisch can be relied upon and the Mets will now seriously consider making a move for Sosa, I am betting that Hendry will ship Sammy and then pick up Magg$. Then the plan will be to stick the Hollandsworth/Dubois platoon in left field.

So if any of this materializes, here’s what the opening day line-up could look like:

1) Todd Walker (a plague upon Dusty Baker if he sticks kkkorey here!)
2) Nomar Garciaparra
3) Magglio Ordonez
4) Aramis Ramirez
5) Derrek Lee
6) Michael Barrett
7) kkkorey Patterson
8) Hollandsworth/Dubois
9) Pitcher

Now, contrary to the pessimism I’ve been spreading on this blog the last few weeks – that’s not a bad line-up (assuming Magg$ is healthy of course). I’ve got to tell you, I like the look of that line-up – and apart from the fact that I’d really like to see Juan Pierre as our leadoff man in my ideal dream-world scenario – I think that line-up (coupled with the starting rotation) could make this team a divisional contender. The only real question marks hovering over this team would be the continuing uncertainty surrounding the bullpen.

In any event, all of this is still speculation. The ball is the in the Mets court so to speak, and we should know rather soon whether Bob Klapisch is a reliable source and commentator or whether he’s just the East Coast’s version of Jay Mariotti.

The Cardinals Fan Speaks!

Hello, my name is Randy, and I am the new guy to the Peoria Northsider Report. First of all, as I believe Chris has already talked about, I am a life long die hard Cardinals fan...thank you for not exiting the post right from the start. Why am I posting on a Cubs blog? That's a good question, a question I wish I had an answer for - I don't even know. I guess to give you guys a perspective from the Red States, as in Cardinal Red. After all there would be no Rush Limbaugh without Bill Clinton, no Bill O'Reilly without Hillary Clinton, no Hannity without Colmes, no Pat Buchanan without the liberal dude from Crossfire, I forget his name, but you get the point. Above all else I am a true lover of the game of baseball. I love all sports, but baseball is my first love. As a baseball fan, I truly believe that the Cubs/Cardinals rivalry is the best in sports. I guess that's why I am here, to give a perspective on all things baseball from the other side of the rivalry.

So what will my first post contain? Well, first of all I want to say that I have been great friends with Chris for a few years now, and I do not believe I have ever met a bigger pessimist. His recent posts have sounded remarkably like – well – like I sounded about this time last season when talking about the Cardinals. I was convinced that the Cardinals would be lucky to finish in third ahead of the Reds, certainly no way we would win the division, let alone the Wild Card, and certainly no where near 105 games. My point, to not only Chris, but to all of Cubdom, especially those from the pessimistic camp, is that no championship has ever been won or lost in January, so cheer up. You have a lot to look forward to.

In 2003 the Chicago Cubs were 5 outs, a booted double play ball, and a dork with a headset away from the World Series. What are the differences in the Cubs from then and now? The Cubs lost Alou in left, and the verdict is still out as to who will replace him. However you have added a gold glove, 30 HR first baseman, in Derrek Lee (instead of Randall Simon/Eric Karros). You’ve added a 3-time batting champion, 25 HR shortstop in Nomar Garciaparra (instead of Alex Gonzalez). You’ve added one of the best set-up men in Latroy Hawkins. You have a 300 game winner, future hall of famer, and a 4 time CY Young award winner, as your 4th starter. You had Joe Borowski as your closer, you now have Joe Borowski as your closer. What is my point? Well other than the loss of Alou, the Cubs are considerably stronger in many other places. Injuries happen in all sports. The Cubs were hit pretty severely due to injuries last season. Will it happen again this season? Well, it could, but I doubt it.

In fact, write this down, and remember where you heard it first...I hereby predict a Cubs/Cardinals NLCS. I really truly believe the Cubs and Cardinals are the two best teams in the NL. The Braves and Giants will be tough, but I don't see either one of them beating the Cardinals or the Cubs in a 5 game series. After all, what would the post season be without watching the Braves choke every year. That's right, I am predicting that as my NLCS, a Cubs vs. Cardinals series - 7 games for a trip to the World Series. The best starting rotation in baseball vs. the best lineup in baseball. The best rivalry in all of sports gets even hotter this October, take it to the bank.

Cheer up you pessimistic gloom and doom Cub fans, you all have a lot to look forward to this season, and this is coming from the biggest Cardinals fan in history, just ask Chris.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Random musings…

Congratulations to Al Yellon for a well deserved “Best Cubs Blog” award of 2004 from the recent poll conducted by The View from the Bleachers. As I have said repeatedly, I believe that Al Yellon has the finest Cubs blog of them all, which is 1) why I voted repeatedly for him in this poll, and 2) why he heads the list of the CBA on the sidebar of this site. He has interesting insights, and he shares his experiences from personally attending every home game (!), which allows the rest of us to vicariously live out this dream existence. As an added bonus, he is intransigently superstitious – and he always provides me with a good chuckle on this front – in fact he was the motivation behind this post, written early last year after the infamous Bartman ball was blown to smithereens. Al seems like a genuinely fine person, and it’s a pleasure to read his blog every day! Keep up the great work Al!

On another front, Dusty Baker announced at the Cubs Convention that kkkorey Patterson would be his leadoff man, which caused much consternation and hand wringing by Chuck at Ivy Chat and yours truly.

That’s just what this franchise needs – the gentleman who led the team in strikeouts last year leading off! At least he is a threat to steal bases and create havoc once on base we’re told. The problem, of course, with this reasoning is that he actually needs to get on base to create havoc (his .320 OBP last year was the lowest among the regular starters in case you were wondering). Once he is down in the count – you can forget about it, he is virtually guaranteed to strike out. Let me ask you - Is this the profile of a player who should be seeing the majority of at-bats for this team? I, for one, think not.

Knowing Dusty, however, I think we’re going to be extremely frustrated as a fine hitter like Nomar will probably be sandwiched between kkkorey and Sosa, which will be a recipe for 1) another year of a high percentage of stranded runners, 2) a general lack of offensive synergy (see #1), and most importantly – 3) a lack of run production (see nos. #1 & 2).

When you get right down to it, I am not optimistic about next year folks. I agree completely with Chris De Luca’s analysis in today’s Sun-Times:

Outlook: Mark Prior and Kerry Wood combined for a 14-13 record. They must stay healthy and be more consistent. Carlos Zambrano and Greg Maddux were the two horses of the rotation. Unlike last season, the fifth spot is up for grabs, and the Cubs will be auditioning for a closer in spring training. Strikeout-prone Corey Patterson will be the leadoff hitter. The middle infield is more stable with shortstop Nomar Garciaparra on hand for a full season and Todd Walker full-time at second base. Alou's loss and a declining Sammy Sosa will change the way pitchers work power threats Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee.

Bottom line: This is a weaker team than what the Cubs opened with last season.

It might be difficult for Prior and Wood to improve their records – especially if they are subject to the same cruel ignominy Matt Clement endured last year – little to no run support. How I would love to be proven wrong on this, but pessimism currently rules the day here at the PNR. Acquiring Magg$ would improve things somewhat, but the Cardinals are still the favorites to win the central in my opinion – with the Cubs a long shot to win the wildcard.


Oh, and will the 2 co-bloggers who haven't replied to my recent email please reply so we can get this roundtable thing off the ground?

:-/ X 2

Friday, January 21, 2005

Welcome Bill and Randy…

The Peoria Northsider Report is pleased to announce the addition of Bill T. and Randy D. as new contributors to this blog. Bill is an Electrical Engineer who lives in Peoria and he has been a Cubs fan longer than the progenitor of this blog has been alive (!). Bill and Chris actually get together every week and discuss the finer points of the grammar and syntax of Classical Hebrew (we are currently reading through the Hebrew text of Ruth). In fact, we probably spend the first 20 minutes of our weekly time talking about the Cubs and then we get down to the business of Hebrew.

Randy is a very good friend of mine, and that is in spite of the fact that he is a life-long Cardinals fan (we are patient with him in light of the fact that he is a Bears and Illini fan)! He currently lives in North Carolina, although he hopes to get back to the promised land of Illinois in the next year or so. We have invited Randy to participate here in order to get his perspective on the Cubs from an opponent’s perspective, which we think will be unique and which we believe will add to the quality of the commentary you find here. Perhaps Randy will publicly share about some of his experiences with Kerry Wood and the "Shooter” in a Hotel in St Louis a number of years ago :-)

In the next few days we will be conducting a Peoria Northsider Report Roundtable discussion on a number of important topics and questions, with each of the contributors providing their answers to a set of questions.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

More food for thought

I've run some additional basic projections for a Cubs outfield that would include Maggs and the Cubs' infield as compared to the Cardinals and Astros. Again, these numbers are terribly basic and make all sorts of ridiculous assumptions such as no injuries and each player's ability to match his per-game performance over the last three seasons.

2005 Projected Averages for Cub Outfielders
Sosa, Patterson, Hollandsworth / Dubois87.6228.8883.9653.81141.8611.130.2720.4910.3360.827
Sosa, Patterson, Ordonez102.9334.72102.7958.93135.4411.620.2850.5170.3460.864
% Change17.5%20.2%22.4%9.5%-4.5%4.4%4.5%5.3%3.1%4.4%

This, of course, is making the monstrous assumption that Ordonez would be able to reproduce his per-game average from the past three years. We don't know how his knee will function after those foreign doctors blasted it with a dirty bomb. However, if he can indeed perform at the level he has been for the last three years, the Cubs would stand to make significant improvements over a Hollandsworth/Dubois platoon.

According to my incredibly rudimentary analysis, the Cubs would be able to make a 4.5% improvement in strikeouts, 4.4% in SB, 4.5% in BA, 5.3% in SLG%, and 4.4% in OPS over their current outfield that includes Hollandsworth and Dubois. These improvements decrease the gap between the Cubs and both the Cardinals and Astros in the outfield department. The ever-present dilemma of risk and return has arrived.

In the infield department, it looks like the Cubs have a slight edge over the Astros (Bagwell, Vizcaino, Everett, Ensberg), but slightly trail the Cardinals (Pujols, Grudzielanek, Eckstein, Rolen) where it counts.

Infield Comparisons
Per Game Average

Season Average

Amidst all the discussion regarding the Cubs' current outfield, I thought I would run a rudimentary analysis of the Cubs' current projected outfield starters against the Cardinals and Astros projected outfields.

This analysis is a very simplistic one at best, so don't take much from it. It was meant to be an objective way to measure Mr. Hendry's optimism against my co-blogger Chris' pessimism. If I get more time, I'll try to come up with something a little more meaningful and maybe I'll analyze the infields as well. I'm assuming (and we know what that makes of me) a Sanders, Edmonds, Walker outfield for the Cardinals and a Berkman, Biggio, Orlando Palmeiro outfield for the Astros.

Season Average (based on 3-year averages for projected 2005 starters)


Basically, I looked at the projected starters for each of the three NL Central teams we're looking at and calculated three-year averages on the major statistical categories. From that, I determined a per game average for each team and used that in determining an estimated 162 game statistical line. This in no way takes into account player health, statistical trends, ballparks, etc.


Two alarming items that you wouldn't need this analysis to point out:
- The Cub outfield is averaging 141 K per season against 54 walks
- The Cub OBP is 33 points lower than the Astros (even without Beltran) and 44 points lower than the Cardinals

Before taking a look at these numbers, I was feeling OK about entering the season with a Hollandsworth/Dubois platoon, but after seeing where the Cubs actually fall in terms of outfield production against their NL Central counterparts and taking into account Hollandworth/Sosa health trends, I might start whistling my co-bloggers tune.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Serving up the news you just won’t find elsewhere in the CBA…

Apparently the Cubs are ranked (appropriately I think) as the #4 biggest loser this winter according to SI’s Albert Chen:

4. Cubs

As I see it, Chicago had two goals this winter: 1) Get rid of Sammy Sosa and 2) Strengthen a bad bullpen. Cubs GM Jim Hendry failed to do both. It shouldn't be any surprise that the Cubs haven't found any takers for Sosa, who will be a massive distraction throughout the summer. That they were unable to upgrade their bullpen should raise eyebrows. LaTroy Hawkins and Joe Borowski remain their best options to close games, and until Hendry nabs a bona fide closer, his Cubs are good enough to win the NL Central but not good enough to reach the World Series.

And unlike the hit reality show by the same name, the operator “loser” isn’t being used in a positive sense here.

Perhaps we can take solace in the fact that the Astros are ranked as the biggest loser, and that (inexplicably) Chen thinks the Cubs can still win the division even though the Cardinals offense is still pretty formidable and Mark Mulder now heads an improved Cardinals rotation. Perhaps that is why Mr. Hendry and the other folks at 1060 W. Addison are optimistic while we continue to sulk in our pessimism.

Magg$, Magg$, Magg$…

Where will he land next season? Both the Sun-Times and Tribune have reported that the Cubs currently have a low interest in the right-handed slugger due to 1) their inability to dump Sammy Sosa, and 2) their hopes Jason Dubois will continue to experience the same success at the big league level that he’s had in the minors:

The New York Mets and Baltimore remain the only two potential suitors with the financial wherewithal to give Sosa a contract extension to his liking. Sosa has veto power on any deal. Both the Mets and Orioles are pursuing Carlos Delgado, leaving Sosa as a last resort. Free-agent outfielder Magglio Ordonez remains available, but if the Cubs are interested, they're not in any hurry to sign him.

Maintaining he's not necessarily through making moves, Hendry believes the club is still strong enough to contend.

"I'm optimistic we can compete with the club we have right now," he said.

I, for one, do not share this optimism, as I expressed in the comments to this post, from the folks at 1060 W. Addison. In fact, I'm willing to bet that Mr. Optimism will be replaced by his sister, Mrs. Dismal Frustration sometime shortly after the 20th game of the season when the Cubs - once again - show an inability to consistently break above the 4-run threshold. And that prediction comes directly from Mr. Pessimism thankyouverymuch.

From the pages of the Sun-Times, and as already noted below on this blog:

As for free-agent outfielder Magglio Ordonez, the Cubs will consider him only if Sosa is traded and they don't get an outfielder in exchange. They haven't even investigated Ordonez's physical status with his troublesome knee. That will only happen if the time comes that Sosa is gone and Ordonez makes sense. For now, Hendry is happy with a left-field combo of Todd Hollandsworth and Jason Dubois.

As I already noted below, that is frustrating in light of last years offensive struggles and the departure of the team's leading rbi, run, and hr producer. On the other hand, I'm now less than confident in the status of Magg'$ knee after reading about the shock wave treatment he opted for in Europe instead of the more conventional surgical procedure (originally found via Desipio Media Ventures):

"In the United States, I don't think the words 'shock wave' as a treatment really makes anybody confident yet, but we have shown that by using shock waves we can have the same success as surgery, and it's non-invasive," Schaden said. "Because of that and our history, I think Magglio was quite enthusiastic."

Most players would be. Schaden offered Ordonez what he says conventional treatment could not-the chance to avoid surgery and cut his recovery time in half.

"He's a great doctor and a great guy," Ordonez said Tuesday on the phone. "I always felt comfortable."

If Ordonez had not sought the alternative that took him to Europe, where the treatment is approved, Schaden predicted U.S. surgeons would have drilled a hole into Ordonez's femur to begin the same type of healing the shock waves would have. Understanding the process is complicated, but basically the electric charge induces the production of different proteins and stimulates blood supply to help bones recover and grow.

"It's impossible to measure, scientifically, but in general we can expect to cut up to 50 percent off the recovery time," Schaden said.

In the case of Ordonez, that reduced his rehab time from six months to three months-to December rather than March. For a free agent such as Ordonez, the difference still could mean millions as a handful of teams, including the Cubs, maintain interest.

Good news travels fast across the Atlantic. Since treating Ordonez, Schaden has heard from representatives of other U.S.-based athletes wondering about the latest in spark-plug technology abroad.

Having studied the controversial treatment for 10 years, Schaden was on the ground floor of the development of a device called an Ossatron. The medical profession refers to the process as extracorporeal shock-wave therapy (ESWT), and it is approved in America only to treat tennis elbow and heel spurs.

Using a machine similar to what commonly is used for ultrasounds, doctors locate the bone and apply 3,000 pulses of electric shock waves for 20 minutes. Patients are put under anesthesia to avoid the pain.

Ordonez already had been anesthetized because Schaden had repaired a torn meniscus that he detected upon reviewing the former Sox slugger's MRI. Schaden stressed Ordonez would have gone to Austria regardless of the meniscus tear because his knee had been afflicted with bone-marrow edema and required shock-wave therapy.

Because the bone does not swell, Schaden says edema occurs when liquid seeps into the marrow after the type of trauma Ordonez sustained to his knee.

In America, the procedure is considered "on the periphery of mainstream orthopedic treatment," said Sherwin Ho, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine.

"We're not sure what the shock waves are doing to the tissue," Ho said. "Most of us born and raised in the U.S. are a little more rigid and want to see the science behind [the shock-wave therapy]."

Of particular concern to me is this:

"It's impossible to measure, scientifically, but in general we can expect to cut up to 50 percent off the recovery time," Schaden said.

And this:

In America, the procedure is considered "on the periphery of mainstream orthopedic treatment," said Sherwin Ho, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine.

"We're not sure what the shock waves are doing to the tissue," Ho said. "Most of us born and raised in the U.S. are a little more rigid and want to see the science behind [the shock-wave therapy]."

So, essentially, they blasted his knee with electric shock waves, and apart from empirical data on exactly what is happening to the tissue, send him on his way with a clean bill of health?! Would this be the medical equivalent to banging the electrical thingamajingy when the darn thing ain't working?!

Perhaps there is another reason (apart from Sosa and Dubois) the Cubs aren't desperate to grab Ordonez.

In any event, other suitors may also drop out of the low-interest Magg$ sweepstakes. Apparently Mike Cameron has once again changed his tune and appears resolved to make the switch from center to right to accommodate Carol$ Beltran, which has a bearing on Magg$ (again via Desipio):

In a meeting with Mets brass in October, Cameron volunteered to switch to right if the Mets secured Beltran. But he began having second thoughts just before the New Year's.

"I had reservations about it for the simple reason of I've never done it before," said Cameron, who did not exactly sound thrilled about his new position last night. "The one thing we came to terms with [yesterday] was I'm here to do what's in the best interests of the ballclub and try to put this team back on the map."

Asked how hard it is to move, Cameron, who takes immense pride in his fielding prowess, replied, "Imagine someone coming in and telling you to do something different than you've always done. It's hard because I've always worked hard to excel at a certain spot."

If the Mets do stick with Cameron in right, that likely takes them out of the Magglio Ordonez sweepstakes.

So if that's true, who else is left to bid for Magg$? Houston still needs a center fielder, the Orioles, Tigers, and Cubs are also potential suitors, but none of these teams have expressed considerable public interest in him. Perhaps the Cubs could land him for a year with a contract that is heavily laden with incentives. Would that be worse than offering tightpants nearly 2 million for next year?

I think not.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

What are the chances the Rocket will return to Houston?

While the rest of the Cubs Blogger Army is infatuated (in the absence of any real news) with the recent signings of Michael Barrett, Kyle Farnsworth, and KKKorey Patterson, the Peoria Northsider Report keeps you abreast of the truly significant developments that affect the Northsiders. And the status of last year's NL Cy Young winner certainly has a significant bearing on the Cubs fortunes for 2005 - and probably more so than the signings of the three players mentioned above.

So - Will he retire?

Well it's anybody's guess I suppose, but my guess is that chances are slim based on the $22 million dollar figure he filed in salary arbitration on Tuesday:

Roger Clemens filed for a record $22 million in salary arbitration on Tuesday, and the Houston Astros offered the seven-time Cy Young Award winner $13.5 million.

The Astros offered him $13.5 million, which is $8.5 million below the figure the Rocket submitted (I've never seen arbitration figures that far apart). My guess is that in his heart Clemens wants to retire (especially after the departure of Beltran and Kent), and therefore he has submitted a figure that will probably allow him to do just that. I can't imagine that the Astros will risk an arbitration panel siding with that figure and so my guess is that Clemens and the Astros will amicably part ways if the Astros don't pony-up before this heads to a hearing.

If in fact that is the case, that is perfectly fine with this commentator. May the good Lord bless him in his retirement, and I just hope he enjoys his retirement as much as I will enjoy seeing him out of the central division.

And as for tightpants - I'm not so sure keeping him around was a good thing.