Tuesday, February 22, 2005

ARAMIS forever
So far it seems to be all goodness and light in the Cubs camp. Everyone is upbeat as they have always been at this stage. Even Mike Nadel of Copley News, who I am beginning to think is Bipolar where the Cubs are concerned, is talking about the new post-Sosa prospects.

One thing that keeps gnawing at me is now the Cubs are talking alot about how important Aramis Ramirez is to this offense with the departure of Sosa and Alou. Agreed. So why is it that after the Sosa departure was official we saw them sit down and complete the deal to give Aramis a ONE year contract? If he does put up the breakout superstar year that we are all apparantly expecting him to deliver in order to get this team into the postseason, he will only be more expensive to sign next year. I don't get it. Anyone?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A Jim Hendry Target?

In my keeping up with NL Central news, I stumbled across an interesting article at The Red Reporter. Apparently, all the Red's pitchers and catchers showed up for spring training except Jose Acevedo, who has had his home phone disconnected, has no cell phone, and mentioned something about getting on a plane. The Reds have not been able to contact him.

Maybe in the Cub's desperate attempt to find some bullpen arms, they've stooped to the level of this 2004 line:

ERA: 5.94 / IP 157.7 / BB: 45 / W-L: 5-12 / HR: 30

Maybe Acevedo didn't show up to camp because he's out wining and dining with Desperate GMs (1:20PM, WGN weekdays) star Jim Hendry. On a more serious note, it looks like Hendry is still after Oriole closer Jorge Julio despite the Oriole's utter lack of interest.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

New York Anyone?

My wife proved her graciousness yet again this morning. For the last few weeks we have been casually discussing vacation destinations for our first anniversary coming up in June. We were looking really seriously at Boston last night, but I wasn't able to find two Red Sox tickets together anywhere in May or June. I could have settled for a single obstructed view ticket here or there, but I don't think my wife would have liked to sit in a hotel while I went to a ballgame.

Anyway, this morning, I lazily went to the Yankees homepage to see if there were any available tickets for any game in June. I was surprised to see the Cubs were in New York the week I was planning on going on vacation. I remember seeing those games on the Cub schedule earlier, but I dismissed it immediately as I thought the games would have easily been sold out. Well, just for the sadistic love of seeing the "Error: there are no tickets available at this quantity" message you get on the MLB ticket sites, I decided to wing a shot at two tickets to Yankee Stadium - Friday, June 17.

There were two available... And I had two minutes to decide to purchase them.

My wife proved her unchanging love for me again as I drug a groggy headed wife next to my computer early in the morning to ask her if she could decide on a vacation to New York in 1 minute, 47 seconds. Well, all is well in Cubland as the tickets are on their way to my house. Now I just have to figure out the rest of the vacation. Something tells me I might be doing a bunch of "wife things" on the other days of this trip.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

No More Dr. Tightpants

Well, it looks like the Cubs have bid farewell to Kyle Farnsworth. The Cubs struck a deal with the Detroit Tigers sending The Farns to the Tigers for three minor leaguers - pitcher Roberto Novoa, infielder Scott Moore and outfielder Clarence "Bo" Flowers.

I will miss The Farns and his "aura". Farnsworth leaves the Cubs without a clubhouse black belt, a Paul Wilson nemesis, an unpredictable mental stability (ok, maybe the Cubs still have some of these), or 100 MPH heat.

I suppose it's time for me to be a little nostalgic:

I recall an "alleged" story about Farnsworth's broken foot a few years ago. Apparently, the day Dr. Tightpants broke his foot, he was seen punting baseballs during warmup. (Hey, no one said you had to be intelligent to play baseball)

Although The Farns was erratic, I enjoyed his presence on the Cubs and while I won't miss his bad days, I just liked watching a guy who would throw a 101 MPH fastball and then follow it up with a 75 MPH slider low and away. He could have been something incredible for the Cubs and very well still could be with the Tigers. My father always thought The Farns just partied too much and if the Cubs could get him to quit drinking and staying out late, he would be a top-tier reliever. We'll just have to see how this all washes out.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

FROM THE RED STATES


How is it going there my fellow baseball aficionados? I decided to take the day off from work for a little R & R, and boy did I pick a great day to do it. It is seventy, count them, seventy degrees here in North Carolina. The first week of February and I am outside in shorts and a t-shirt, fishing. I am not too sure, but North Carolina just might be heaven.

Anyway, to my thoughts of the Cubs since the Burnitz signing…

I am beginning to wonder whether or not Hendry has begun taking advice from Jerry Angelo on how to run a team. Watching the Super Bowl was rather sickening to me. There I am watching the game, and watching Roosevelt Colvin get a sack - Keith Traylor starting for the Super Bowl champions, and wanting to scream in frustration. The only thing that stopped me was that I was watching the game at a church Party, and I didn't want to appear to be a crazed, sports lunatic, although inside, I was absolutely screaming: "yeah these guys aren't good enough for you Jerry, but they're good enough to win the Super Bowl!"

Hey, at least Angelo replaced these two time Super Bowl champions with the immortal Alfonso Boone, and Joe Odom. Has Jerry Angelo reinvented himself in Jim Hendry? Do they get together for coffee every week and discuss how they might join together to destroy the city of Chicago? I know, maybe they have done one of those switch jobs for the time being to get a deeper appreciation for the other person, and what he does. These seem to be the only logical explanations for this off-season in Cubbie-land. Jim Hendry is simply too good of a GM for this fiasco. You mean to tell me you agree to pay most of Sammy's salary, and yet still give him away for nothing? Then you replace him in RF with Jeromy "Coors Field" Burnitz? While you're at it - I'm sure you could trade Aramis Ramirez for Vinny Castilla even up. Maybe bring in Jay Payton or Preston Wilson. Re-name Wrigley Field to Coors Field East. I'm telling you, there is something rotten in Denmark.

The only explanation I can come up with for Hendry's moves this off-season is that the Cubs are slashing payroll in hopes of being able to pay for this highly talented pitching staff. Even this makes no sense to me now though, because Prior and Zambrano are still a few years away from the real big pay day. They can still be kept for relatively cheap through arbitration. Nomar will be a free agent at the end of the season, but the chances of re-signing him are slim if this is the image the Cubs front office portrays to him. Aramis Ramirez could be very expensive in the next year or two, assuming of course that he continues to play the way he did last season. I think given the situation, the best option would have been to keep Sammy because he gives the Cubs the best shot to win this season, unless of course someone came in with an offer you couldn't refuse. Then next year, when it’s time for A-ram, Prior, and Zambrano to get paid, then you dump Sam-me.

Take it for what it’s worth, but things are looking bleek in Cubbie-land. I have said this before, and I’ll say it again - it looks remarkably similar to the way things looked in St. Louis this time last season. I also am not ready to back off my prediction of a Cubs vs. Cardinals NLCS just yet. Honestly, the more and more the off-season seems to be going down the tubes for the Cubs, the more nervous I get. Two reasons why...1) the Cubs will have pretty much no pressure on them to win this season, everyone will probably be picking them 3rd or 4th (similar to the Cardinals last year), and 2) there is still enough talent on this team to win (like the Cards last season) and a talented team that feels disrespected - look out.

I simply do not understand what is happening in Chicago these days. All this, and the Bulls are actually starting to look like a decent team. Some more bad off-season news for ya Cub fans though...I was checking the St. Louis Cardinals web-site, and it seems that the treatment for the real NL MVP Albert Pujols, is working very well, and he and the Cardinals expect the foot to be 100% by opening day. If he posted the numbers that he did last season with a bum foot, what would he do with a healthy foot?

Now, that’s scary.

Monday, February 07, 2005

More PNR Cubs Roundtable Questions & Answers…

Here’s round 2 of our roundtable questions and answers. As before, some of the answers were submitted before the momentous events of last week.

6) Give one former Cub from the 2003 divisional championship team you think would most help this team today.

CHRIS: No question in my mind – Kenny Lofton. I think losing Lofton was significant – the Cubs never adequately replaced Lofton in the leadoff role to set the table for everyone else. Wish the Cubs would have had him last year to tell you the truth – but who needs a proven veteran when you’ve got a guy like C-Pat?!

BILL: Easy, Kenny Lofton. Wish we had 3 of him in the outfield.

CAMDEN: Kenny Lofton would really give the Cubs a lift. His presence down the stretch in 2003 was incredibly valuable.

RANDY: Gotta go with Kenny Lofton, Cubs need a LF and a lead off batter, can you say Lofton?

7) Give your recommended batting order for the Cubs.

CHRIS: Well, it’s difficult to say since the speculation is that the Cubs will make some move to fill one of those outfield spots. So this batting order comes from the roster as it presently stands – and I can’t say I’m too excited about it. Also – as a note – I put more weight on quality of the bat than on alternating lefties and righties in the line-up in terms of determining batting order.

1) Jerry Hairston Jr. (RF)
2) Todd Walker (2B)
3) Nomar Garciaparra (SS)
4) Aramis Ramirez (3B)
5) Derrek Lee (1B)
6) Burnitz/Hollandsworth (LF)
7) Michael Barrett (C)
8) Corey Patterson (CF)
9) Pitcher

BILL: Assumption: No Ordonez
(vs Righties)
1) Hairston (LF)
2) Walker (2B)
3) Garciaparra (SS)
4) Burnitz (RF)
5) Ramirez (3B)
6) Lee (1B)
7) Patterson (CF)
8) Barrett (C)
9) Pitcher

(vs Southpaws)
1) Hairston (LF)
2) Walker (2B)
3) Garciaparra (SS)
4) Ramirez (3B)
5) Lee (1B)
6) Burnitz (RF)
7) Patterson (CF)
8) Barrett (C)
9) Pitcher


CAMDEN:

1) Hairston, Jr. (R)
2) Garciaparra (R)
3) Ramirez (R)
4) Hollandsworth (L)
5) Lee (R)
6) Walker (L)
7) Barrett (R)
8) Patterson (L)
9) Pitcher

This lineup depends on if Corey is hot or not. If Corey is in a hot
streak, I'd swap Hairston and Patterson or place Corey in the two hole
and move everyone else down.

RANDY:

1) Walker
2) Nomar
3) Aram
4) Lee
5) Sosa
6) Patterson
7) Dubois
8) Barrett
9) Pitcher


8) Give your recommended batting order for the Cardinals (we have to throw Randy a bone).

CHRIS: Here it goes:

1) Eckstein (SS)
2) Walker (RF)
3) Pujols (1B)
4) Rolen (3B)
5) Edmonds (CF)
6) Sanders (LF)
7) Grudzielanek (2B)
8) Molina (C)
9) Pitcher

BILL: Doesn't matter. Any lineup Tony strings together will be formidable.

CAMDEN:

1) Eckstein (R)
2) Walker (L)
3) Pujols (R)
4) Edmonds (L)
5) Rolen (R)
6) Sanders (R)
7) Grudzielanek (R)
8) Molina (R)
9) Pitcher

RANDY:

1) Eckstein
2) Walker
3) Pujols
4) Rolen
5) Edmonds
6) Grudzy
7) Sanders
8) Molina
9) Pitcher


9) Now that Alou is no longer a Cub, who can fulfill the role of "most horrible base runner?"

CHRIS: This is actually one of Camden’s question. I thought that it was pretty funny so I included it for laughs with the thought being that I could slot Sosa & his ridiculous bunny hop here. However, Sosa won’t be hopping around Wrigley this season, so he’s out as a candidate. And looking at the current line-up (unless I’m missing someone) I don’t see any obvious base running misfits. Therefore, in the great spirit of Jeff Suppan (think 2004 World Series game 3) I’ll have to go with a pitcher I suppose – how does Mark Prior strike you (remember that disastrous base running collision with Marcus Giles in 2003)?

BILL: Lee looks pretty confused out there until about June 1.

CAMDEN: I'm going with Corey Patterson. Although Corey is by far our best base stealer, he gets picked-off an awful lot.

RANDY: I really don't know enough about the Cubs base running to make an educated answer to this one.


10) If you could get just one trade before opening day, who or what would you go after? (Cubs and Cards both – another bone for the Randster)

CHRIS: Well even though this question says TRADE, I’m interpreting it to mean ACQUISITION and so I say pick up Magglio Ordonez, and if it takes giving him a 3-5 year contract – give it to the man (and include some protective clauses for health if you have to). This is a guy who has hit very close to .300+ the last eight years running (!), and he had averaged 32 home runs and 118 RBI in the five seasons prior to his injury in 2004 (!!). I just don’t understand the lack of interest in Maggs by either the Cubs front office or the blogger army. There’s no other way to put this - If he is healthy the man is a superstar! If Hendry picks up Maggs – all is forgiven. If we’re strictly talking trade – I’ll join the rest of the dreaming ranks of the blogger army and say Aubrey Huff. That would go a long way to replacing Sosa’s numbers at least.

As far as the Cards – Not many areas of weakness besides possibly some power off the bench (Mabry possibly qualifies as a legitimate power bat off the bench). So a nice pick up of a slugger who can ride your bench and occasionally spell the big dogs might not be a bad idea for the Cards. In fact, I’ve got a great idea for them – Jeromy Burnitz! It’s been said he wants to play for a contender! Is this good or what?

BILL: I'd trade Iowa for a top tier closer. [No answer given for Cards]

CAMDEN: I would have to go after a closer, even though the cost would be steep. I'd like to see a creative deal for someone like Danny Graves. They've got a really weak starting rotation and might be interested in picking up some of the Cubs prospects. Maybe we can send them Dr. Tightpants who I'm sure would love to room with Paul Wilson. [No answer given for Cards]


RANDY: Well assuming this Sosa deal is going through, I move Hairston and a few of those money-ball pitchers you guys got in the minors for Aubrey Huff from Tampa Bay. He is a great young player and Tampa will probably ship him since he is due for a huge pay day next season. [No answer given for Cards]

Well there you have it. It appears that my desire for Hendry to add Magglio to the Cubs lineup is dead with the recent reports of him signing with the Tigers (This is essentially a repeat of what happened in 2004 with Pudge).

Anyway - look for more roundtable answers in the coming days.

And in case you missed it - Bill has a very insightful comparison to what has happened to the Cubs from 2003-2005 and what happened to them in 1969-1971. You should definitely check it out.

I think his analysis is spot-on and it portends ominously for this current Cubs lineup. As it currently stands - I believe that this team will finish third in the division (and that's assuming no injuries).

Now, perhaps that dire prediction places me in Al Yellon's "screamer" category - which is fine, I suppose. If the alternative is coming across as a paid shill for the Tribune, then I'll take the "screamer" label any day.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

FROM THE RED STATES

Alright Peoria area Cub fans how are things going in P-town? I will be returning home to Peoria for a visit in a few weeks and am sure looking forward to being back home in the heart of Fighting Illini country. I am quickly growing tired of hearing nothing but Duke, North Carolina, and Weak Florist, I mean Wake Forest. It seems there aren't any good college basketball teams outside of tobacco road - at least that's what people here in Winston-Salem, NC say. We all know better. Some clown from work even had the nerve to say that my beloved Illini wouldn't finish .500 in the ACC. It is interesting because this statement comes from a Weak Florist, I mean Wake Forest fan. Yes the same Weak Florist, darn I mean Wake Forest, team that our Illini were destroying by 30 some points before showing mercy and putting the walk-ons in the game. Ok I can almost hear Chris screaming at the computer to keep it about baseball so here are my thoughts...the best thing about college basketball is the NCAA Tournament, and the best thing about the NCAA Tournament is that when it is over, it is baseball season. For my post this week I will tell my Kerry Wood and Rod "shooter" Beck stories...

Rod Beck and Kerry Wood are two Cubs players I, as a Cardinals fan, have no problem admitting to actually liking, and here's why. My family and I, along with another group of family friends had the opportunity to witness in person Mark McGwire tying Roger Maris' historic homerun record in 1998. The family friends we went with are Cub fans and we bought the tickets before the season even started - who knew.

Anyway during the course of the weekend we stayed at the Marriot across the street from Busch Stadium, where visiting teams always stay when they come to St. Louis. We were about to leave for some fun stuff around the city of St. Louis and my nephew (who was 5 or 6 at the time) forgot something in our room, so I took him back to get whatever it was he forgot, and then we'd meet the rest of the gang in the lobby. We got on the elevator to head down to the lobby, both of us decked out in Cardinal red. Well we went down a few floors and the elevator door opened up and this dude got on - I paid no attention to it. After a few seconds went by my nephew tapped the guy on the leg and said "excuse me sir." Now, I was about to teach my nephew that it is sometimes considered rude to disturb people, but before I could get the words out of my mouth my nephew says "excuse me sir are you Kerry Wood?" Then and only then did I look at the guy and sure enough it was indeed Kerry Wood. Kerry said "yes I am, what's your name?" My nephew said, "my name is Brendon, can I have your autograph?" Kerry was very polite and signed something for him and talked to him all the way down to the lobby. You should have seen the looks on the faces of our Cub fan friends when we got off the elevator with Kerry Wood, autograph in hand, and Kerry said good bye to Brendon.

Later on that night in a certain watering hole inside the hotel I was there with the Cub fan friend. As it happened - my friend went to use the restroom, leaving me by myself. Well, I happened to be wearing a Dale Earnhardt t-shirt and just sat there drinking a cold frosty Budweiser, all by my lonesome - When this guy came up to me and said "thats a nice t-shirt you got on there." I looked at the guy and was shocked to see Rod Beck himself, with a gorgeous woman on each arm, cigarette in one hand, and a beer in the other. We talked for a minute or two about Dale Earnhardt and then I asked him to groove one to Big Mac the next day if he faced him, and he calmly said, "If Mac breaks the record off me, he will earn it." With that he left. I think those two gorgeous woman were in a hurry to get their future paternity suits underway. My friend returned and I said "you will never guess who was just here. Rod Beck was just here shooting the breeze." He didn't believe a word I said. About that time the waitress came over with another round of unordered beers, and said "these are on Mr. Beck." Rod Beck bought us a round of brew, that was pretty cool.

There you have it Cub fans my Rod Beck and Kerry Wood stories, and every word is the honest truth.

I was reading my fellow poster Chris' post about the man who drank 60 beers and urinated his way to freedom. Chris used this as an illustration that drastic times call for drastic measures. It indeed was a funny story that got me to laughing. However I see things a little differently. Think about this dude trapped in a car buried in snow, and he calmly sits back and drinks a beer while trying to think of a solution to his problem. Drastic times do indeed call for drastic measures. However the proper way to get to the best solution is to remain calm in the midst of the desperate situation.

It would be wise for Jim Hendry in this drastic time to remain calm. The last thing he and all of Cubdom needs is to rush into any move just for the sake of making a move. I have said it before and I will say it again, stay away from $cott Bora$ and Magglio Ordonez. Bora$ is like a shark seeing blood, and Hendry can't afford to let Bora$ see him sweat. If that happens then Bora$ will have Hendry and all of Cubdom, as my dad would say, by the ol' short and curlies. My advice to Hendry is to remain calm, sit back, and wait. Also keep in mind that despite all the things that went wrong for the Cubs last season, they were right in the wild card race up until the end, and if the Cardinals hadn't tanked 5 out of 6 games to the 'stros the last week of the season, the Cubs would probably have been a playoff team last season.

Take care Cub fans and remember, spring training is just a week or so away. Hope springs eternal!

Friday, February 04, 2005

THOUGHTS FROM THE OLD FART

Christopher hinted that I may be the oldest contributing blogger at this site. I’ll have to admit that I do find myself looking back at the past more frequently every day, a sure sign of becoming a bonafide “old fart.” Now, while rehashing ancient history can be painful it can also be instructive. So while we wait to see if Mr. Hendry is going to do anything more to shore up the offense, let’s take a trip down memory lane.

I first became a Cub fan during that famous summer of 1969 at the tender age of 13. The Cubs were rolling along and life was grand, but then September came and the “unthinkable” happened.

Somehow we all got through that pain. I even found it in my heart to root for the Mets in the World Series (always been a NL fan). Eventually the spring of ’70 arrived and lo and behold the Cubs were rolling again. This team seemed to have even more depth than the ’69 team, and they knew what a pennant race felt like, so we were excited again. I seem to remember that the ’70 Cubs had a significant lead on the rest of the NL East for much of the season, but in the end the result was the same - they finished second again, this time 5 games behind Willie Stargell’s Pirates.

The 1970 edition of the Cubs was one of my favorites - lots of pop in the bats and a great starting pitching staff. Sound familiar? So as I was waxing nostalgic a couple of weeks ago I began to think about how this team stacked up against the 2004 Cubs. I believe I have found some interesting correlations.

All of the numbers I am going to present here came from the good people at Baseball-Reference.com

The ’70 Cubs finished 84-78, only 6 games over .500 in spite of outscoring the opposition 806 to 679 on 179 homeruns. Baseball-Reference’s statistical database on each team includes a factor developed by Bill James known as the “Pythagorean Winning Percentage”. This percentage is used to calculate what a team’s record should have been based on the number of runs they scored relative to their opponents. As the story goes, comparing this with the actual won-loss record provides some clue with regard to the “luck” the team had. I think what this may indicate is a team’s effectiveness or ineffectiveness at winning one-run games. And that, my friends, essentially boils down to the ability to play “small ball.” When the PWP is applied to the 1970 Cubs we get an expected W-L record of 94-68. Evidently some underachievement took place (sound familiar again?). That’s the difference in finishing 5 games ahead of the Pirates instead of 5 games behind them.

Anecdotally, I do remember that my lovable 1970 Cubbies were one of the most famous teams for sitting back and waiting for the homerun. Here are a few facts that bear this out. They had great power for the era. Billy Williams led the attack out of LF with 42 HR and 149 RBI. Jim Hickman split about half his time between RF and 1B and tallied 32HR with 115 RBI. When Hickman wasn’t in right Johnny Callison usually was and he added 19 HR and 68 RBI just playing on a part-time basis. Ron Santo at 3rd - 26 HR 114 RBI.

Just four men combined for 119 HR and 446 RBI. Now, let’s think about small ball for a second - moving a runner over or stealing a base. The lead off man, shortstop Don Kessinger led the team with 12 stolen bases. Now remember - for 3 to 4 at bats in a game Kessinger is going to follow the pitcher up to the plate. But he led this team in sacrifice bunts with, count ‘em, 10! What does that say about the rest of the lineup? Even more embarrassing is the fact that Fergie Jenkins tied Kessinger for the team lead and he only played once every 4 days. And Jenkins was a fairly good hitter with power so when he approached the plate with runners on he wasn’t necessarily in an automatic sacrifice situation.

As for the 1970 pitching staff; the four man rotation of Jenkins, Bill Hands, Ken Holtzman and Milt Pappas won 22,18,17 and 10 games respectively and the staff finished 4th out of 12 in team ERA. These four guys combined for an incredible 57 complete games! Yes, in those days the game was managed differently and CG’s were more commonplace, but this tally by the Cubbies was almost double those of both Pittsburgh and the NL Champion Big Red Machine which won 102 games.

Ok, now fast forward to the 2004 Cubs - Record 89-73. Pythagorean W-L 94-68 - and identical to the 1970 Cubs. Only 789 runs scored on a record 235 homeruns.

We have the four top guys (Alou, Ramirez, Sosa and Lee) combining for only 387 RBIs from an incredible 142 HR. Again, small ball tells the story. Corey did swipe 32 bases when he wasn’t flailing at air. But in the area of sacrifice bunts we had no player in double figures. The team was led in sacrifices by Maddux with 9 followed by Zambrano with 8. Ramon Martinez led “everyday” players with a whopping 7. How important were the sacrifices? I don’t know but I find it interesting that Maddux and Zambrano each won 16 games. No one else was in double figures. A pitcher can sure help himself this way in a one-run ballgame.

I’ve belabored this way too much. I hope you’re still with me. My final point - and here's the significant comparison: In spite of losing the division the year before, the front office did practically nothing to upgrade the Cubs for 1971. They felt they had a good team so they put the same 9, save Randy Hundley (whose knees were going), on the field the following year. Manager Leo Durocher ran the offense in the same "station-to-station, let’s wait for the homerun" manner as he had the previous year and the results were even worse. The team turned further south in spite of the fact that the starting pitchers had phenomenal talent, with Ferguson Jenkins compiling a Cy Young winning 24-13 season.

So far the 2005 Cub front office has done LESS than maintain the 2004 status quo.

Ouch.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

It's the End of the World as We Know It...



Ok, now everybody! REM singalong! We're going to need to do something now that the Jeromy Burnitz deal has been announced. The Cubs have effectively replaced Moises Alou and Sammy Sosa with Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Jeromy Burnitz. This certainly looks to be a candidate for deal of the century.

Ok, enough hyperbole, but let's look at some phrases of interest I found in the press release announcing the Burnitz deal:

  • If the team's doing well, let's face it, fans are going to love me... Burnitz

From what I recall, Cub fans don't "love" the guy who strikes out 150 times in a season thereby stopping X amount of potential runs from advancing. It doesn't matter if the team is winning. If Burnitz isn't getting on base or driving runs in, Cub fans are going to be pulling for Burnitz to sit while someone else plays the outfield. To my knowledge, there is only one Cub that attained the status of fan favorite in spite of his terrible offensive production year-in and year-out - Mr. Augie Ojeda.

  • It makes our club more left-handed, more versatile. It gives Dusty a lot of options in the outfield. Hendry

Although I am a little sour toward this deal, Hendry is right here. I've really been looking for the Cubs to add a solid left-handed bat to the starting lineup, and while I don't think Burnitz is exactly what I was looking for (cough, cough, Carlos Beltran), he could end up filling that gap.

  • Burnitz is also known as a good clubhouse guy... And the Cubs won't have to worry about him being a part-time DJ.

As to the smashing of Sosa's boombox: remember, Grudzielanek did it.

  • No. 1, we're better already if we're healthy. Baker

I'll believe it when I see it. The only reason I can see this statement coming true is the sheer fact that the Cubs were not healthy last year.


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)
YearRHRRBIBBSOSBBAOBPSLG%OPS
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)
YearRHRRBIBBSOSBBAOBPSLG%OPS
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?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

When you find yourself in a difficult spot…



it's not so much how you got there that's important but how you respond.

Take this Slovakian gentleman (as you'll see, I am using this term loosely), Richard Kral, for example. Apparently, Richard was motoring along the Tatra mountain range in Northern Slovakia when he suddenly found himself overtaken and buried by an avalanche.

Fortunately, Richard possessed both the necessary resources and a shameless temerity that enabled him to discard discretion and (quite literally) find the relief he was so desperately looking for:

A Slovak man trapped in his car under an avalanche freed himself by drinking 60 bottles of beer and urinating on the snow to melt it.

Rescue teams found Richard Kral drunk and staggering along a mountain path four days after his Audi car was buried in the Slovak Tatra mountains.

He told them that after the avalanche, he had opened his car window and tried to dig his way out.

But as he dug with his hands, he realised the snow would fill his car before he managed to break through.

He had 60 half-litre bottles of beer in his car as he was going on holiday, and after cracking one open to think about the problem he realised he could urinate on the snow to melt it, local media reported.

He said: "I was scooping the snow from above me and packing it down below the window, and then I peed on it to melt it. It was hard and now my kidneys and liver hurt. But I'm glad the beer I took on holiday turned out to be useful and I managed to get out of there."

Parts of Europe have this week been hit by the heaviest snowfalls since 1941, with some places registering more than ten feet of snow in 24 hours.


Now apart from being somewhat of an amusing story, the preceding account illustrates something that I think Jim Hendry could well learn from. It’s actually a time-honored principle that we all learned intuitively the first time we found ourselves in a grim situation – Desperate times call for desperate measures. And since that always proves inevitably to be the case, when you find yourself in a serious dilemma, a half-hearted reaction just isn’t going to pass muster.

You’ll note that in the above story the guy didn’t squander away his narrow window of opportunity with the half-hearted consumption of a mere 10 beers. He didn’t waste his time with a measly 20 – no, not even 30 beers – but double that! The dude downed 60! Count them – S-I-X-T-Y! He was like a modern-day Cool Hand Luke – except with bottles of Topvar instead of hard-boiled eggs. Think about it - when you’re buried under an avalanche it’s not a time to be messing around with half-hearted solutions – you do what you need to do to get out of the mess.

Now, the Cubs find themselves in a similarly desperate situation. If you’ll recall, they finished 7th in run production in the National league last season and they just lost their #2 and #4 offensive producers (I won’t mention the loss of Clement and the bullpen problems). So far (and with apologies to Jerry hairston Jr.) - no one acquired fits the bill as an adequate offensive replacement for Alou and/or Sosa. Not exactly the types of off season moves I think any of us were hoping for.

But, nevertheless, that’s where the Cubs find themselves – buried deep. And as I said – it’s not so much how they got there that is of significance but how they respond now that they’re already in this mess.

That being said - signing Jeromy Burnitz would be like trying to apply a band-aid to a severed artery. That’s not the solution Jim – you know that and we know it – and we know that you know that we know it – so don’t try to pull a quick one on us. A move like this is only going to make matters worse. I would actually prefer that you do nothing and wait for a midseason upgrade to tell you the truth.

Of course (and since you’re interested), my first choice is that you quit messing around with nasty rumors of Cliff Floyd, Jeromy Burnitz, and Eric Byrnes. Fly your rear end out to SoCal to watch Magglio work out. If he satisfies you that his leg is healthy and won’t fall off during the season, sign the man to a 3-5 year deal or whatever it takes.

These are desperate times Jim and if it takes you calling up Omar Minaya to learn what kind of spell he cast on the Wilpon’s to get them to open the coffers up for Pedro and Beltran – get on the horn and then cast that same type of mojo on the Trib execs!

We’ll be watching.