Minor Observations on a Major [?] Event

Was it worth all the trouble?

The Iowa Cubs had a 5:00 A.M. wakeup call after Saturday's game in Des Moines. The team's traveling party chartered to Midway and bussed to Wrigley for the ultimate matinee following a night game.

As for your intrepid correspondent, my trip began a week ago today when we piled the family into two cars instead of one so I could leave them a day early and triangulate my way home from our lake vacation in Minnesota via a stopover at yesterday's "Road to Wrigley" contest in Chicago.

Despite the extra thousand miles [and 50 gallons] plus of driving, despite the six-hour room rental off of I-90 at a Motel 6 [is that where the name comes from?], despite the aurora borealis thunderstorm show that had me on the edge of my seat as I drove the last hundred miles home around midnight last night, my answer is emphatically, "yes!"

I can't speak for the I-Cubs and their entourage, but given that they not only won the game, 5-4, but set a franchise attendance record of 16,280 [talk about an asterisk!], I suspect the consensus on the way back down to reality was that it had been a good long day.

I walked the hallowed grounds.

One of the subtle, subliminal perks that go into the mix of home-field advantage caught my eye. The bench in the Cub bullpen is cushioned; the one in the visitors' is unpadded.

Who brings the balls for a minor-league game in a major-league ballpark? The BP baskets were filled with official MLB models, one of which Brad Snyder hit to me in the right-centerfield bleachers during pre-game muscle-flexing.

Only Moe represented the regular crew of ballhawkers on Waveland Ave. during BP and he wasn't getting much action. He should have posted himself on Sheffield. Not only was the brisk breeze blowing out to right, most of what power the I-Cubs boast is from the left side, especially since Jason Dubois was shuffled off to Buffalo last week. Snyder and Micah Hoffpauir took turns firing at a big dumpster in front of the building next to the Eamus Catuli sign where a refurbishing is underway.

No retired jersey flags were hoisted atop the foul poles; no team pennants in order of the league standings fluttered from the scoreboard. The only games posted on the gigantic green abacus were Colorado/Chicago and Iowa/Las Vegas. Apparently only a skeleton crew of "numbers runners" was scheduled.

The Lowery organ was up and running. There should always be an organist when services are being held.

I had a brief audience with I-Cub skipper Bobby Dickerson in Lou Piniella's office. Did Lou leave him a note a la Bush/Obama? Nope, but Bobby was gonna leave one for Lou, just to say thanks for the use of whatever.

Finally got to ask Oneri Fleita about the memo mandating that all I-Cubs wear their pants old-school knickers style. He said the policy applies to the whole farm system, was decided upon by he and Dave Bialas - among others - and that he just likes them better that way. I told him I do too, but I chickened out of asking him about the origins of his name which is an odd one for such an ordinary looking guy. He was in a good mood and I didn't want to make him, uh, ornery.

What was Hoffpauir doing here? I didn't know he'd been sent down on Friday while I was swatting grizzly mosquitoes up north. There he was, graciously fielding questions from a blogger twice his age. In a bizarre twist, he was dressing in a #24 Iowa jersey while we talked. On the other side of the plastic left over from a champagne spray that never happened was his still-in-its-cubicle #6 Chicago blouse. It must have appeared suddenly dream-like to him. The already narrow home team clubhouse was made even more so by cordoning off the personal spaces and effects of the big leaguers, just like they do when taking fans on tours of the inner sanctum.

Scrunched in the middle of what was reduced to little more than a corridor was a cluster of chess and backgammon players clad in jockstraps and sanitary socks. I got an image of Fischer taking Spassky out at second base.

From the press box the "record" crowd looked modest, like a typical gathering at PNC or a Cub audience pre-Wrigleyville phenomenon. There was plenty of room for foul balls to carom and ricochet in most areas of the stands.

I watched the game from a seat in the first row, right between the chairs usually assigned to Wittenmeyer and Sullivan.

Iowa starter J.R. Mathes walked no one for the 10th time in his 16 starts this year but probably won't get a whiff while Zombie nurses his ailing back. Wait and see how many free passes The Chosen One hands out in his start later this week.

Las Vegas hit three homers in the game and all were tossed back in keeping with tradition. Other than that, there were was much evidence that you can take the game out of the minors but you can't take the minors out of the game.

A menagerie of costumed and inflated creatures called "Zooperstars" [e.g., Harry Canary] annoyed between innings. We have The Famous Chicken to thank for this troupe which threatens, like a copycat killer, to scare pure baseball fans away from ballparks.

The I-Cub mascot, "Cubby Bear" also cavorted about in a brazen display of blasphemy. I hoped I'd never see the day.

Wrigleyville bars advertised beer specials on their marquees for the "baby Cubs" [redundant, no?].

At game's end no song was sung in the stands. Instead, long queues formed down both foul lines for a chance to run the bases. Having paid my respects to the holy land before the gates opened, I beelined for the car, slipped right into traffic on Clark, hung a right at Irving Park Road to Lake Shore Drive and headed for home where I slid in safely about 11 hours ago.

On Wednesday Lilly throws at Principal Park against the Las Vegas 51's and Samardzija throws at Wrigley against the world champion Phillies.

I don't know where the Zooperstars will be...MW



Mike --

Welcome home! You are really good at this writing thing. You should write a book :-).

Don't hold back that interview with Micah Hoffpauir Mike.

Hoffpauir is very classy; said all the right things [understands the move, etc.]still prefers 1st base [made a fine catch reaching into the photo well yesterday] but feels adequate as an OF & syas he believes his big league days have just begun...he is very likeable & an easy guy to pull for...

Sorry to have to ask this, but who is "The Chosen One"? Samardzija?

Yes, Ryno...guess I shoulda been clearer

Lou, you really are sweet!

Nice post, Mike. Sounds like a lot of driving, I'm not envious of that part. Watching the game from the Wrigley press box must have been a neat experience.

Driving with thunderstorm = amazing yet frightening. Good post, Mike.

Speaking of the minors -- what in the world happened to Cashner in his last start?

His ERA jumped from under 1.00 to over 3.00.

Thanks MW...

Now that you're back home in Des Moines, don't forget:

Dog Night tonight! Bring your pup for the dog parade on the warning track at 6:20 p.m. before the Cubs take on Las Vegas @ 7pm
God is Dog backwards and God loves AAA dognight.

Well, man...who won the game?

The Philadelphia Phillies announced that Martinez will make his first start of the season on Wednesday at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs.


This will be the typical cub move:

My guess is taht he'll be on a pitch count. And that he will throw 8 scoreless innings while only throwing 79 pitches.

and the Cubs starting pitcher will not take a single pitch batting.

According to Baseball Prospectus Cubs have 35% to make playoffs.


They really like the Rockies for that WC spot. Let's see if we can't make a minor correction to those odds tonight.

I'll be at Coors Field for tonight's game. I hope it's a good one... I guess the ump from the controversial call yesterday will be the 1st base ump tonight. I wonder how often that will become an issue...

Enjoy it and make sure to razz that ump if you get a chance.

Maybe I shouldn't have been so shocked to see that Fukudome has the best WAR score on the team. What an ugh year.


Here's an unusual one for me. Can someone explain what that chart represents? If you add the batting runs and fielding runs above replacement, Lee has the highest score, but then there's some positional value... except replacement shortstops (Andres Blanco) don't hit like replacement first basemen (Micah Hoffpauir) so why are they double accruing positional value?

Esmailin Caridad added to 40-man and called up to replace Jeff Stevens....

THAT came out of left field! Iowa Mike, scouting report on Caridad please? Anyone?

Feel bad for Jeff Stevens, he's pitched OK by my book

getting word that rios is now a white sox. the jays just let him go.

That team actually had some payroll flexibility for next year. Add Peavy and Rios, and now they might be cutting. Presumably either Thome or Dye or maybe both is gone at the end of the year. I just don't get putting waiver claim on one of the most market-defying contracts in the game. Solid player, bad price.

The Rios contract isn't THAT bad. V. Wells, now that's a bad price for a decent player. That has to be the worst contract this side of Barry Zito.

The Sox have Thome, Conreras, and Dotel coming off the books. They make a combined $29M this year. Dye has a $12M mutual option. They should still have some payroll flexibility, while adding 2 solid pieces who should be around for quite a few years.


especially since CF has been a HUGE black hole over there since Rowland got traded.

MLB.com has a RIOS to the Sox article up

Rios has really hit pretty well against AL Central opponents the last three years

.516 1.188 vs KC
.462 1.077 vs Minn
.383 0.904 vs Wsox
.322 0.804 vs Det
.280 0.680 vs Clev

That's the kind of in depth analysis I would expect Kenny Williams to use when spending $70 million of someone elses money.

Really what happened here was that Williams was sleeping at the wheel and just claiming players he though the Tigers may want, without thinking about things like 'the market'.



says he tried to get him at the trade deadline, but was also trying to block other teams. My guess is that he played a little poker and didn't think the Blue Jays would just cough him up for nothing or they'd pay part of his salary.

Personally I don't think it's a terrible thing for the WSox albeit it costly, Rios has become spectacularly average but can play CF and RF. He's still got upside at age 28 and the WSox don't have too many big contracts to worry about besides Rios and Peavy now.

Caridad has been the team's constant in the rotation, making 23 starts on the year. His promotion promises to be the proverbial cup o' coffee, a brief reward for service rendered to the organization. His ceiling? The stats probably are not lying if you care to look them up...

Is Zombie in labor?

So Wednesday is Samardzija against Pedro? That might draw a crowd even bigger than Iowa vs. Las Vegas!

Was Zombie takin' the same stuff Man-Ram was on?

theriot, bradley, lee, Fox, Soto, Soriano, Baker, Fuld, Gorzelanny tonight...

Probably 3/44, but I didn't know Chad's name was actually Kyle.


wouldn't that joke work better on someone who loves their stats so much they forget what a player is actually capable of?

there's a .892 FHABNBBA chance you meant that, but your .549 TTAXNW percentage points to the likelihood you would make that mistake.


Just got back from a tour of Wrigley, it was a lot of fun. One thing that was intriguing is that Hoffpauir's jersey is still hanging in his locker, with a Hoffpauir nameplate. I snagged a picture of it.

I took the tour in June and got a picture of Waddell's jersey, more than two weeks (IIRC) after he'd left town. I guess with 25+ lockers they can keep them around for awhile.

watching some dude make bats at wrigley (on TV, pregame) reminds me.

anyone notice m.bradley and d.lee are using the same bat lately?

Speaking of Minors, here is something from AZ Phil that I have in my archives from last year (5/08) before I went to see the Peoria Chiefs. Interesting to see what has happened in 15 months since then. Sorry for the long post, but I like my AZ PHIL:


OF Cliff Andersen has been hot lately. He's a very good prospect, a Jim Edmonds clone. He strikes out a lot, but he also walks a lot, and he has good--albeit only occasional (at this point in his career)--power. (I saw him hit a 440 ft HR over the CF batter's eye at Fitch Park last year). He signed an NLI to attend Oklahoma State, but the Cubs "bought him out" by giving him an over-slot bonus in 2006. He can play all three OF positions, but he's best in CF where he can use his athleticism to make big plays defensively. He plays OF like a free safety in football (which he played in HS).

Catcher Josh Donaldson (2007 compensation pick for losing Type "B" FA Juan Pierre) started out very slow at bat in 2007 (as did the entire Peoria Chiefs team), but he has started to hit lately. I still rate Donaldson as the Cubs #1 position player prospect. He has outstanding power, and reminds me of Paul Konerko. Donaldson received an NRI to ST with the Cubs this past February. While slumping at the plate in April, he still managed to throw out nearly 50% of the opposing base-runners who tried to steal against him. Donaldson played 3B in HS and in his freshman year at Auburn, before being moved to catcher. He needs to improve his "receiving skills" (way too many passed balls, and he needs to work on framing pitches and blocking balls in the dirt) but he is (IMO) a top prospect.

1B-3B Jovan Rosa was a SS in college, but the Cubs moved him to 3B after they signed him as a "Draft & Follow" (DNF) last May. He made some really fine stops at 3B when playing for the AZL Cubs last Summer, although he also made some really terrible throws. Then after they drafted and signed Josh Vitters and Marquez Smith in June, the Cubs moved Rosa to 1B at the AZ Instructional League last Fall, although he continues to play 3B, too. Rosa was originally a 22nd round draft pick in 2006, but the Cubs gave him 5th round money to sign as a DNF last May after he was projected as a Top 5 round pick in the '07 draft. He was born in Puerto Rico, but attended JC in Florida. He speaks fluent Spanish and fluent English and is used as a Spanish translator on the field. He has put up a 1.000+ OPS over his last 20 games at Peoria and is unquestionably the Chiefs best hitter right now, although he has NOT made a smooth transition to 1B defensively. He might end up back at 3B, especially if the Cubs eventually move Josh Vitters to RF, which I think is possible if Vitters continues to struggle defensively at 3B (it could be affecting his hitting). Rosa is (right now) morphing into a Top 15 prospect.

Marquez Smith was a teammate of Tyler Colvin at Clemson, and he played 3B in college. But because of the glut of 3B in the system, the Cubs have tried him at 2B and he has looked OK there, although 3B is definitely his best position. He is a stocky kid with a quick bat who should develop into a 20+ HR man eventually, although he might not hit for average. He really should be at Daytona, but he's blocked there by Josh Lansford at 3B and by Tony Thomas at 2B.

SS Nathan Samson was another 2006 HS draft pick who got above slot money to sign, and he initially struggled with the bat and in the field last season. He played in the Hawaiian Winter League post-2007 with RF Kyler Burke (who was demoted from Peoria to EXST last week). Samson has played a lot better the past few weeks, after being moved back to SS (his "natural" position) from 2B.

CF Leon Johnson attended BYU (2007 10th round pick) and is the younger brother of Tampa Bay 3B Elliot Johnson. Another brother (Cedric) was drafted by the Phillies last June, but did not sign. (I believe Cedric is presently on an LDS mission, but I don't know for sure). Leon (also known as "Leo") was a state hurdles champion while attending HS in Arizona, and he runs with a longish stride. As I've mentioned before, Leon (Leo) spent two years on an LDS mission in Siberia that set his career back a bit, but he is one of the fastest players in the Cubs organization. He is an outstanding defensive outfielder with a plus-arm (he leads the Cubs organization in OF assists in 2008), is the best bunter in the organization, and a good base-stealer and baserunner. He also takes a lot of walks. A VERY fundamentally sound player. The one and only thing he has yet to solve is hitting, where he has a LOT of trouble making contact. Lots and lots of swings & misses. And he is prone to lengthy slumps, too, where he appears totally clueless at the plate. He would probably be better off bunting on every AB, although he actually has some surprising power when he does make contact.

LF-RF Dylan Johnston was a 2005 4th round pick as a shortstop out of Hamilton HS in Chandler, AZ, and the Cubs pushed him WAY too fast. Like with Luis Montanez, the Cubs finally decided to move Johnston to the outfield and early returns show the move to be a success. He has finally started to hit. He has always had outstanding power potential, and he certainly has the arm strength necessary to play RF. His big problem throughout his career has been strikeouts and throwing errors (while playing SS). Lots of strikeouts and lots of errors. He has put on some weight since last season, and no longer runs as well as he did in years previous, which is another reason the Cubs moved him to the outfield.

LF-DH Brandon Guyer (2007 5th round pick out of U. of Virginia) was at EXST until just last week, rehabbing from a fractured elbow. He wears a black pressure-sleeve on his right arm. He played one game in LF in an intrasquad game at Fitch Park last Thursday, and the Cubs immediately promoted him to Peoria after the game. Offensively, Guyer is a Matt Murton clone, and (like Murton) Guyer really needs to play LF (or DH).

Gian Guzman is an 18-year old (turns 19 next week) Dominican infielder who can play 2B, SS, or 3B. He was signed by the Cubs after the 2006 season and (unlike most Dominican players) went directly to the U. S. without playing in the Dominican Summer League (DSL Cubs). Guzman has a line drive stroke but could very well develop HR power as he matures physically. He is a solid defender no matter where he plays, and he is also a good base-runner with slightly above-average speed. He plays smarter than his years, and facially resembles a young Aramis Ramirez. He is tall and lanky, not at all the prototypical middle infielder, and as long as he doesn't outgrow SS, he could move quickly through the Cubs system.

Elvis Lara was MVP of the DSL Cubs in 2006 and played for the AZL Cubs (Mesa) last Summer. He was originally a 2B, but was moved to LF this season. He is a good hitter but with minimal power, and he is just an average runner. He is below average defensively no matter where he plays. He is a very gregarious fellow, and spent a lot of time learning English at Fitch Park (Latin players have the opportinuity to take English classes, although it's not required). Some think he got promoted to Peoria last month as much for his willingness to "get with the program" as anything he does on the field, but he IS a good hitter. He loves to yell baseball cliches (in English) from the dugout. You can hear Lara all over the field. "Atta baby!"

1B-C Luis Bautista (Florida International) is the younger brother of Pirates 3B Jose Bautista, but Luis looks more like Lurch from the Addams Family than his older brother. He is a big lug, and a terrible defensive player. Totally clueless. You would think he would have more power than he does, but he is more of a line drive hitter than a power hitter (although he does hit the ball hard). He needs to hit home runs if he wants to make it in pro ball. Did I mention he is a slow runner?


By the time you see the Chiefs play at Wrigley, the pitching staff might look different than it is now. For instance, I expect former #1 draft pick LHP Mark Pawelek to get promoted to Peoria pretty soon. He has looked VERY good in his last several outings at EXST, after he apparently decided to stop listening to the coaches and went back to doing things his way. Lately he has started to resemble the Mark Pawelek I saw in 2005 when he first signed with the Cubs, although the Mohawk haircut is a new look for him.

As for the pitchers presently at Peoria, RHP Hung-Wen Chen is a 22-year old advanced-polished pitcher who may or may not pitch for Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) in the Summer Olympics. If he does not, he should get moved up to Daytona pretty soon, although he might still be at Peoria when the Chiefs play at Wrigley.

18-year old South Korean RHP Dae-Eun Rhee got a big bonus last Summer, and he looks like he's worth every penny of it. He is presently sidelined with biceps tendinitis, but he has a slider that moves like a splitter. Virtually an unhittable pitch. His other pitches (fastball, curve, and change) are very good, too. I would rate him as probably the Cubs #3 pitching prospect right now (behind only Gallagher and Ceda).

19-year old Venezuelan RHP Robert Hernandez is another one of the Cubs top pitching prospects (Top 5 among the pitchers). He is presently serving a 50-game prohibited substance suspension, but he will be eligible for reinstatement next week. He is throwing the ball VERY well at EXST. He somewhat resembles former Cubs OF David Martinez.

RHP Blake Parker (U. of Arkansas) is a former C-1B-3B who was converted to pitcher at EXST a year ago. (His last day as a position player he hit a game-winning grand slam!). The conversion has progresed very well (although he was a pitcher in HS), and he is presently probably the most-reliable of the Peoria relievers. Last time I saw him he was throwing a 93 MPH fastball with a very good breaking ball, although he needs to throw strikes.

RHP Jordan Latham was another Draft & Follow signed by the Cubs a year ago, back when you could still sign a DNF. Latham throws about 93-94, and was pitching at a JC baseball factory known as the College of Southern Idaho (where Scott Eyre once played) and had signed an NLI to transfer to Arizona State before the Cubs threw money at him to get him to turn pro.

RHP Billy Muldowney (2006 8th round pick out of Pitt) had TJ surgery last July, but he has completed his rehab and is once again in the starting rotation at Peoria and has thrown the ball well (so far). I had him rated as the Cubs overall #10 prospect a year ago (before he got hurt). He has a solid fastball, breaking ball, and curve, and he is a very smart pitcher.

RHP Stephen Vento was drafted & signed out of Palm Beach JC in Florida last June, and (other than Rhee and Hernandez) may have the best pure stuff on the Peoria staff. High velocity gas and a power slider. He just needs to refine his delivery and be more consistent. He could develop into a closer at some point if he can find some polish.

What's the record for most men left on base in a game?

I think the Cubs are doing this on purpose, just to annoy the fans.

Gorz out with a leg injury in the 2nd, Caridad making his MLB debut with 2 on with 1 out in the inning.

Wittenmeyer tweet:

Gorzelanny taken for x-rays after leaving game with ''right foot contusion'' after getting hit.

Help I'm falling and I can't get up...

Geo Soto gets a clutch HR, woo.

he throws 78-82mph sliders...he throws a straight-as-an-arrow 90mph and an equally straight mid-90s fastball...he throws a rare and flat mid 70s curve.

...he's hung too much tonight.

this guy can't throw a fastball that slow with no movement in the bigs, though...that's just not good stuff.

hope he enjoys his trip back to AAA tomorrow.

Cubs should immediately forfeit all road games against good teams.

1. Lowers injury risk
2. Saves the bullpen
3. It's not like they're going to win them anyway

This hemmoroid of a season lurches on.

"Cubs should immediately forfeit all road games against good teams."

This is the point I made in the previous thread:

They do not win series against the better NL: teams.

How have they fared against the Dodgers, Rockies, Cardinals, Phillies so far?

My guess is they will win ONE game in each series against the Dodgers and Giants on the road.

Blech - this team is just not good enough to compete against the above even if they were to make the playoffs by some miracle.

Fuck Hendry.

We should start a new contest how many games out of first by end of next home stand.

Interesting observations.

Indeed he has been astonishingly irritating this season as well.

Yet, I recall that he was almost lights out in his spring training duel with Marshall to get the last starting spot, & I was looking forward to having him on the team.

Silly me.

I swear, Wrigley eats into relief pitchers like termites into balsa wood.

Don't you love this Cub team?

The E-Man:
Blech - this team is just not good enough to compete against the above even if they were to make the playoffs by some miracle.

Fuck Hendry.

He had a brutal year this year. Awful. I mean there's a lot of focus on how he inexplicably got rid of Derosa, and that was bad enough, but then to disassemble the bullpen and piece together the turds that make up our bullpen ... blah. Cotts? Honestly?

And this team still doesn't have a legit SS. I can't help but feel that other GMs accomplish far more with far less payroll.

Blah, I guess just angry and bitchy. I'll be in a better mood tomorrow.

Hey, he's already got 21 Home Runs.

Each of Derosa's 21 HRs has been hit right handed, so they count less.

I wonder if the fact that Wrigley has the worst bullpen in MLB has anything to do with the quality of relief pitching over the years. No room to get up and stretch, no protection from the elements -- if I were a reliever, I would hate it.

Agreed. Other GMs do accomplish more with less. Of course some GMs are able to develop a young outfielder or corner infielder who can be payed less than top dollar for a few years. Those five positions on the current team are costing a fortune.

What did Theriot do last night? Sorry..didn't see the game, and I was curious.

Nothing. Theriot played fine at SS last night. My comment was about the big picture and how I would definitely not put Theriot at SS on a daily basis.

So...get a new SS and play Theriot at 2B?

Only if Hendry succeeds in filling his offseason wishlist of:

Left handed hitting SS
Switch Hitting Catcher
Lefthanded utiltiy guy
Lefthanded starter
Ambidextrous Reliever

(Quality of said players is not of great importance)

Just watching the highlights, Theriot had a hand in Tulowitzki's hitting for the cycle. Theriot muffed a throw from Fuld that might have turned Tulo's double into a single--it would have been close--and he made a bad relay to Fox that would have shortened the triple to a double.

I thought it was Baker who muffed the throw from Fuld on the hustle double.

Either way, would anyone on the Cubs have run hard enough to even try to stretch that hit into a double?

Not this year. The obvious lack of hustle by most guys on the Cubs makes this team increasingly difficult to watch.

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