November Madness

With Tim Wilken and all of the Cubs scouts from around the world watching from the picnic area above and behind the third base grandstand, the Mesa Solar Sox hosted the first-place Phoenix Desert Dogs at HoHoKam Park in Mesa last night. The annual November organizational meetings in Mesa is probably the only time when all of the Cubs scouts, major league and minor league managers and coaches, and executives get together all in one place. And as Arizona Phil encouraged them to do, Cubs scouts decided to have a party at the Thursday night AFL game at HoHoKam. I won't say who got drunk and made a fool of himself, but needless to say, a good time was had by all. As for the game, Solar Sox manager Pat Listach (Cubs) made sure to get six of the seven Cubs playing for Mesa into the game. Eric Patterson started at 2B and hit lead-off, Scott Moore played 3B and hit 5th, and Jake Fox hit sixth and was the catcher. The Phoenix Desert Dogs are one of only two of the six AFL teams with a winning record, and the Mesa Solar Sox are the other one. Unfortunately, both play in the same division (AFL East), so only one of the two can get a slot in the AFL Championship Game a week from tomorrow at Scottsdale Stadium. And with the Desert Dogs leading the Solar Sox by three games with seven to play, it was pretty clear that last night's game at HoHoKam was critical for the Sox. It's no secret why the Desert Dogs are the best team in the AFL. They have the lowest team ERA, four of the league's five best starting pitchers (Kyle Yates, Virgil Vasquez, Dustin McGowan, and Jordan Tata), the league's best shortstop (Ben Zobrist), the league's best catcher (Curtis Thigpen), and the league HR leader and likely AFL MVP (1B Chip Cannon). And the reason the Solar Sox have been the second-best team so far is because they have the second-best team ERA, the league's best lead-off hitter (Eric Patterson), the league's best RF (Hunter Pence), and the league's best bullpen (Clay Rapada, Jonathan Meloan, Kevin Slowey, Troy Patton, and Lincoln Holdzkom). Unfortunately for the Sox, Pence (HOU) was busted for DUI last week and got kicked off the team. With the Hunter's Moon rising large in the eastern sky over Mesa, Desert Dogs manager Tony Defrancesco (OAK) decided not to start any of his top four rotation starters, instead opting to go with #5 starter LHP Tyler Pelland (CIN). Even so, the game was a pitcher's duel through the first three innings, as Pelland and the Solar Sox Errol Simonitsch (MIN) threw shutout ball and made quick work of the hitters. The Desert Dogs broke through in the top of the fourth, as Sox reliever Carmen Pignatiello (Cubs) issued a two-out walk, after getting an easy one-hopper back to the mound and a strikeout to start the inning. Although Pignatiello was obviously on his game, manager Listach chose to pull Piggy at this point, and bring Brian Akin (LAD) into the game. But Akin didn't have much, and he proceeded to give up two runs (one of which was charged to Pignatiello) on an RBI triple hit off the centerfield Green Monster hitting background by Dogs' DH Rich Robnett (OAK), before getting the final out. The Cubs' Lincoln Holdzkom entered the game in the top of the 7th with the Sox trailing 2-0, and picked the wrong game to struggle with his command. With most of the Cubs organization watching, Linc struggled to throw strikes, with his mechanics obviously totally out of whack. Throwing his usual mid 90's heater high & outside and his slider into the dirt (and expecting Jake Fox to block balls in the dirt is asking too much), Holdzkom was able to get a strikeout before walking the bases loaded. The Dogs were unable to capitalize on the golden opportunity, however, as Fernando Perez (TB) lined out to Moore at third and (with ace reliever Clay Rapada now in the game) Ben Zobrist (TB) grounded out weakly to short. The Solar Sox continued their futility at bat, however, and trailed 2-0 heading into the 8th. Rapada (Cubs) gave up a lead-off infield single to the Blue Jays' Curtis Thigpen (a brilliant diving stop by Eric Patterson in short rightfield, followed by a throw that was fielded by Jake Fox in front of the Solar Sox dugout), but then got Dogs slugger Chip Cannon (TOR) on a fly out to center. With a right-handed hitter due to bat, manager Listach decided to bring his other ace reliever--RHP Jonathan Meloan (LAD)--into the game. But like fellow-Dodger Akin in the fourth inning, Meloan was not on his game in the eighth, and before the inning was over, the Dogs had scored two more runs (one charged to Rapada), doubling their lead to 4-0 with only two ABs left for Mesa. But this is when the Solar Sox began to shine. With two outs and nobody on base in the bottom of the 8th, Mets 1B Michel Abreu (ex-Team Cuba) drew a walk. Scott Moore ripped a triple over the first base bag into the RF corner driving in Abreu, and Jake Fox lined a single to right-center knocking in Moore, cutting the Desert Dogs lead in half. Mesa's Kevin Cameron (MIN) held the Dogs scoreless in the top of the 9th, and the Solar Sox entered the bottom of the 9th with their season essentially on the line, trailing 4-2. With Desert Dogs ace closer Marcus McBeth (OAK) on the hill, Anthony Raglani (LAD) worked a walk to lead-off the inning, and 18-year old Fernando Martinez (NYM) followed with a line single to right-center, sending Raglani to 3rd. (The youngest player in the AFL, Martinez was signed by the Mets out of the Dominican Republic last year, getting a $1.4M bonus). Eric Patterson then dropped a textbook sac bunt, moving Martinez to 2nd, with Raglani holding at 3rd. With the tying run on 2nd, Matt Tolbert (MIN) smoked a single just to the left of the Dogs shortstop, scoring Raglani, and cutting the Phoenix lead to one run. However, Martinez had to hold-up to make sure the liner went through, and could only advance to third. With one out and the tying run on third and the winning run on 1st, Astros' Brooks Conrad (Hunter Pence's roster replacement) worked a walk, leaving it up to Michel Abreu to get the big hit. However, it looked like McBeth might get out of the damn spot, as Abreu rolled a slow grounder to Ben Zobrist at short. But the Dogs just missed the game-ending twin-killing, as the somewhat slow-footed Abreu beat the relay by an eyelash, as fellow-Met Martinez scored the tying run. Then Scott Moore struck out, sending the game into extra innings. Jake Fox launched a long drive to the left that was caught by Desert Dogs left-fielder Cody Strait (CIN) against the fence leading off the bottom of the 10th, but otherwise neither team appeared capable of pushing across the winning run. With a suspended game looming (any AFL game not decided after 11 innings is suspended), the Solar Sox came to bat in the bottom of the 11th, needing just one freaking run. With Cubs scouts looking tired and quite obviously anxious to get back to the hotel, and with Arizona Phil freezing his ass off, Eric Patterson worked a one-out walk. E-Pat then stole second, and advanced to 3rd, making a daring dash after a pitch in the dirt that was scored a wild pitch, barely beating Curtis Thigpen's laser throw. With Cubs scouts calling for a squeeze, manager Listach let Matt Tolbert hit away, and the Solar Sox shortstop drew a walk. Phoenix Manager Defrancesco then chose to intentionally walk Brooks Conrad, setting up a potential DP. Once again, the pressure was on Michel Abreu. But playing in front of a couple of hundred polite fans in Mesa, Arizona, probably pales in comparison to playing in front of Fidel Castro and heavily armed Cuban troops in Havana with a sniper's rifle pointed at his head, so quite naturally the big Cuban came through like a cool breeze off the Bay of Pigs, chopping a high bouncer over Dogs third-baseman Kody Kirkland's head, scoring Eric Patterson with the winning run, giving the Solar Sox a hard-fought 5-4 victory, and cutting the Desert Dogs lead in AFL East to two games, with six to play. By the end of the three hour-plus game, the temperature had dropped into the upper 60's, so you can be sure your old buddy Arizona Phil made a bee-line for the casa and had himself a warm libation in front of the fire.


Nice write up, Phil. Thanks.

Wonderful account Phil. -Always enjoy your posts.
I believe I'll have to drive down next fall to catch a few games.

Halfway through I had to stop and remind myself that I was getting anxious about the outcome of an AFL game. You are an excellent writer, thanks for the update.

The same sentiments are echoed here. As aklways, thanks, AZ PHIL.

And, don't bitch about 60 degree weather to us Chicagoans in November!

Well done, Phil. If anything tells me I spend too much time following this hapless organizatioin it's that I read your entire account of a meaningless game played with a handful of players from said hapless organization. It was fun. I will now go write a check to a charity as punishment for this insane indulgence.

This is why baseball is the greatest -- in what other sport do you follow and track performance in off-season practice games?

Good stuff, Phil!

Gammons is reportedly saying a Sheff deal is close and Michael Wuertz is the center piece.

on TV or the website Mike?

Did you notice this in the Wade Miller article?

Cubs GM Jim Hendry said he has no plans to meet with Aramis Ramirez's agent, Paul Kinzer, at next week's general manager's meetings in Florida. He declined to discuss negotiations or speculation that he has offered Ramirez five years for between $70 million and $75 million.

Sounds like Hendry and the Cubs have no interest in bringing back Ramirez. I hope they know what they are doing......

3rd party info.....nothing official official yet. Just throw it in the rumor file for now on Gammons.

Rosenthal by the way said Cards are close to a 2 yr/20 mil deal for Edmonds.

If there's a silver lining in the Cards WS win, it's that they think they can do it again next year with Marquis, Mulder, Suppan, Weaver and Edmonds. I can only hope.

Kinzer in a ST article said they had plans to meet next week, it seems like that was a direct response to what Kinzer said.

There's very few people I believe less than anything that comes out of Cubs camp, but one of them is Paul Kinzer.

Gammons info came from the radio btw, he was on Mike & Mike in the morning according to the trade rumor guy. (ducking)

Actually Gammons mentioned Wuertz for Sheff yesterday on the DP show. I posted it in yesterday's thread. Also Olney claims his sources say that the RedSox submitted the top bid on Matsuzaka.

yeah, but yesterday it was just a "potential" deal, now it's "close". :)

Rumor mill a flying on Matszuka. End our suffereing Seibu Lions.
Not that I believe in anyway that the Cubs will win.

Bruce Levine in Chicago reports that Hendry won't budge off of 5/$70, with Kinzer demanding a 6th year at unknown dollars. To me, the Cubs' offer seems totally fair, and gives Ram security plus a nice contract upgrade after his opt out. Kinzer disagrees, which is his job.

It also appears that the Cubs have not made the offer "take it or leave it", and will continue to negotiate if Kinzer gets a better offer after Saturday night.

Those GM meetings next week should be a hoot.

Olney is reporting that the Red Sox may have posted the top bid with a figure between $38 million and $45 million, according to Major League Baseball officials who are monitoring the bidding.

RSox bid possibly between $38 to $45 mil. (oh sweet lord!)

Rotoworld also says Boras may be looking for a 3 yr deal that makes Matsuzka a FA afterwards. That's a precedant the owners probably don't want set although I guess Matsui had something similar.

maybe, ESPN claims the Yanks turned down Linebrink for Sheff. If the Yanks are truly looking for a reliever for Sheff, I find it difficult to believe they'd prefer Wuertz over Linebrink. I know Linebrink is closer to FA but it's not like $ is an issue. I'd imagine it would be Wuertz + decent prospect in that scenario.

I don't see why Hendry would ever make it a now or nothing type deal. Not like there's a 3B out there he can just snag if it falls through. It looks like it will be a bidding war, we know how the Cubs do in those.

I can't imagine why Hendry would give Ramirez an ultimatum unless he has a replacement deal he's just waiting to pull the trigger on if/when Ramirez says no.

Nice to see the Red Sox care about their competition and their fans.

I guess the other possibility is that they're just going the Konerko route -- they're giving Ramirez their best offer and letting him go see if he can get an offer good enough to convince him to move teams. Unfortunately, I think that's far more likely with Ramirez than it was with Konerko.

AZPhil - excellent post, not only did you give us a sense how the Cubs prospects are doing but you made an AFL game sound apealing.

assuming nothing gets done by Sunday, I will say that Kinzer and Co. have trumped you again Jimbo, I imagine they just use "Hendry" as a verb now whenever they outsmart a team.

"Man, we really Hendryed them to get Ramirez his money" and so forth.

Well let's hope this turns into a Konerko type thing and Hendry ponies up whatever the Angels or Dodgers offer him.

"Bruce Levine in Chicago reports that Hendry won't budge off of 5/$70, with Kinzer demanding a 6th year at unknown dollars."

That's inaccurate. Hendry claims he won't budge on the length of 5 years where Aramis is said to have demanded 6, but the $ was never a final amount. Right now it's a length of contract issue because the Angels have allegedly stated they would go 6 years.

"Sounds like Hendry and the Cubs have no interest in bringing back Ramirez. I hope they know what they are doing......"

Geez, Mike. I don't understand your point here.

Isn't a $70MM offer (if true) and 5 years an INTENTION?

To me, he's not in the same class with the great superstars. Maybe a notch below.

I think its a heckava lotta money, for someone who is not, "The Man", and he showed last year, he is not.

It the friggin' management's fault that they got into this shit to begin with with the "Opt Out".

Seems like Colletti is experiencing this, too.

Wwe must have A-Ram. He has teh best OBS on our team in 06 and we need guys who can get on base. D-Lee will be healthy so A-Ram will not have the same pressure as last year adn should even put up better numbers. Come on Cubs--pony-up!!!

Wwe must have A-Ram. He has teh best OBS on our team in 06 and we need guys who can get on base. D-Lee will be healthy so A-Ram will not have the same pressure as last year and should even put up better numbers. Come on Cubs--pony-up!!!

Angels will say anything right now besides how much money, cause to have any hope to sign him they need him to be available starting Sunday. If anyone missed when I posted the rules from the CBA, teams can't pretty much talk about anything right now EXCEPT specifc dollars.

If I'm the Dodgers, I'd be like six years?, hell why not seven!!!!

"Isn't a $70MM offer (if true) and 5 years an INTENTION?"

Not necessarily. If Jim knows that the Angels will offer more and ARam will take it then its just window dressing.

"Hey guys, I TRIED to sign him. I offered a lot of money. blah, blah, blah, blah bullshit"

Just like with Beltran. He put in an offer that he knew Beltran wouldn't accept and got turned down. This way he gets to be the victim.

If you don't sign Aram then FU JIM!!!!


Dodgers sign Aram, Cubs sign JD Drew.

"is that they're just going the Konerko route "

Two totally different situations.

Konerko was coming off a World Series victory
He is comfortable with Chicago(weather)
No media flack about "attitude" or "lazieness"

I believe the Angels offered more thant the White Sox, if the either does the same to Aram he will be gone.

read as--

either LA team

Perhaps that's true, but it also begs the question of whether it's a good idea to sign a guy for six years if he's not particularly happy being here to begin with. The media is only going to get worse about the laziness crap if he signs a six year megabucks contract, and Chicago weather sure isn't going to improve.

Suntimes list Cubs value for buyers-,CST-F...

I hope we sign Mark DeRosa instead of Aramis Ramirez. The Tribune guy told me that he really hustles.

and Chicago weather sure isn't going to improve.

Global Warming?

Alot of money can buy thick shirts and ear muffs.

"Global Warming?"

Chicago is suppose to have El Nino this winter.

I have not packed my shorts away yet.

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