Archive - 2006

October 23rd

The World Series can't end soon enough so we can start concentrating on the Hot Stove. Anyway Alan Trammell got the bench coach gig as has been rumored. He'll also be an infield instructor. I believe the staff currently under Piniella is Rothschild as pitching coach, Trammell as bench coach/infield instructor and Mike Quade in an undetermined role (probably first or third base coach). We still need a hitting coach, bullpen coach and another base coach I believe, although originially someone mentioned that Chris Speier was coming back, but with Trammell in the mix taking over infield duties, this might make Speier's come back a little less likely. The only other bit of news is that Brandon Sing, Luis Montanez and Nic Jackson have opted to become minor league free agents. And cross Jamie Moyer off the available pitchers list as well. Hurry up with this World Series already!

October 22nd

A quick rundown of the rumors... - Paul Kinzer and Hendry will meet again on Monday to discuss Ramirez's extension. - Some inklings of Wade Miller coming back. - More talk of pegging Alfonso Soriano for CF and leadoff duties. That all comes from this Sun-Times article. - Piniella is targeting Alan Trammell for his bench coach.

October 20th

The next week or so should be pretty quiet. Bud Selig has his gag order on MLB clubs so they won't distract from the World Series and the Cubs organizational meetings aren't until November 7th I believe. - Paul Sullivan getting itchy about the Cubs not signing Aramis yet. Best part is that even if they do agree on something in the next week, there's a good chance we won't know about it until after the World Series ends. There's also this little tidbit.
Although the Cubs can't force him to sign at their price, they can, and already have, let him know they have a contingency plan in case he decides to leave.
That of course is being smart, you should always have a contingency plan, but I'm not so sure you should let Ramirez know that. - So much for John McLaren following Lou Piniella in as bench coach of the Cubs. He was offered the deal, but him and his wife like to play 20 questions or something and decided that Seattle was a better place for them, where McLaren will take up bench duties under Mike Hargrove. One of the Lou's previous bench coaches was Lee Elia, so that could be fun. I don't know the full history of bench coaches under Lou, the only other name I could dig up was Jackie Moore who was his bench coach in 1990 with the Reds and he's managing the Round Rock Express right now. - A bit of humor from a Barry Rozner article to get you into the weekend:
Comedian Alex Kaseberg, on Lou Piniellaís new job as manager of the Cubs: ìThe pay is good, you get to travel, and you always have the month of October off.íí
Enjoy the weekend folks!

October 19th

"How about Chicago? Is it cold there now or not? Talk me out of Tampa" -- Joe Nichols, "Talk Me Out Of Tampa"
Following in the footsteps of Derek Zumsteg's Seattle-based look at Lou Piniella's managerial stylings, I have two links from Tampa Bay Devil Rays bloggers regarding Sweet Lou. It isn't pretty, and the more of this stuff I read the less excited I get about Piniella taking the helm of the Cubs. * "Good Riddance," by Jim Wisninski,, September '05 * "A Devil Ray Perspective On Lou Piniella," by Patrick Kennedy of DRays Bay, posted on Bleed Cubbie Blue last week

October 18th

Whatever Lou Piniella's strengths and weaknesses are, one sure thing is that he is never boring. Stories of his many and varied umpire arguments and on-field freakouts are legendary, and thanks to YouTube we can watch a few of the best of them over and over. May 28, 2002: Lou disagrees with a call by John Shulock and covers both home plate and Shulock's feet with infield dirt: September 18, 2002: Lou disagrees with C.B. Bucknor about a call at first. He ends up tossing the base into the outfield (twice) and injuring his shoulder and hamstring. Good times...

October 17th

The Lou Piniella era is about to begin on the Northside and a new wave of expectations and excitement will come along with him. Personally I'm looking forward to every mention of Sweet Lou being accompanied with the term "fiery". It's really been an underused term in our lexicon over the last few years and particularly when it comes to Cubs managers. The last Cubs manager to be bestowed the "fiery" label was probably Lee Elia who coincidentally was a coach under Piniella in his previous stints. Otherwise you need to go all the way back to Leo Durocher who was about as "fiery" as they get. As for the man himself, there's the public perception of Lou, which is of course "fiery". But it's always good to see what people who watched him on a day-to-day basis have to say. So I went to the very fine U.S.S. Mariner and pestered them for their opinion. Derek Zumsteg, author of the soon-to-be released, "The Cheater's Guide to Baseball", was kind enough to humor me. I would have asked a Devil Rays blog, but I'm not sure if they exist and I'm kind of pretending those years didn't happen for Piniella. So let's touch on some manager traits, the board is yours Derek:

October 16th

Lou Piniella will be introduced as the next manager of the Chicago Cubs during a press conference tomorrow. Piniella has apparently agreed to a three-year deal with an option for 2010. I think this is a good move for the Cubs. Piniella pretty obviously lost interest while he was managing the Devil Rays, but as bad as the Cubs were this year they were not Tampa bad. It's on Jim Hendry to get Piniella the players that will make the team competitive, if not in '07 than in '08; if he does that I think Piniella will be a good fit -- a good motivator, a decent in-game strategist, and a guy who I think fans will be happy with.

Forget Joe Girardi. Forget Bob Brenly. Forget Bruce Bochy. Chris DeLuca is reporting in the Sun-Times that Lou Piniella will very likely be introduced as the new Cubs manager on Tuesday, and if so, here is how Lou's coaching staff might look in 2007:

October 14th

Or (Why You Can't Believe What The Papers Tell You). Word comes out that Bruce Bochy received permission the other day to interview for other jobs and immediately he moves to the top of the Cubs wish list because Teflon Jim has some sort of supposed baseball crush on him. That certainly sounded reasonable enough until you read that Hendry is not even certain he'll ask the Padres for permission to speak to Bochy. Then word comes out that Lou Piniella takes himself out of the running of the Giants job and Peter Gammons reports that the Cubs and Piniella could start negotiations on a new contract as soon as Monday, while the locals already are prepared to name Piniella the 48th manager of the Cubs by the end of the NLCS. The story does not end though as this San Diego paper has this doozy:
Cubs GM Jim Hendry said Thursday he was expecting to meet with Bochy soon, but according to Chicago sources, he shifted yesterday after being told by upper management he can't go with Bochy because Piniella and Girardi, a former Cub, resonate more with the team's fan base.
Of course what the hell does a "Chicago source" mean? For all we know it's Mike North just trying to keep up appearances that the Trib must meddle in all baseball affairs. Of course, it also sounds completely reasonable on another level. If this Piniella rumors are true, Teflon Jim has done it again. He's going to go have one of the shiniest race cars on the lot, and he'll put the most popular drivers in the driver's seat. This will distract the media and fans from realizing that the engine running it is no better than what you'll find in your lawnmower.

October 13th

While I continue to plug away on the group predictions for the Cubs players (I really didn't think about how much work this would be when I announced it), here's a new discussion thread for the day. Maybe we can use this space to talk about the Cardinals being SHUT OUT last night. Or maybe about Albert Pujols saying that Tom Glavine "wasn't good. He wasn't good at all," after Glavine SHUT OUT the Cardinals last night. It's up to you all.

October 11th

The Cubs are without a caretaker for the first time in four years and Teflon Jim has been busy gathering the greatest minds in baseball, letting them know what a privilege it would be to manage the worst team in the N.L., for a franchise that hasn't won anything in 98 years. You've got your work cutout for you Jim. God Speed. Some of us TCR-folk (kind of like river folk) had a little chat on the candidates: ---- 1) What's the most important question that Jim Hendry needs to be asking the candidates in their interviews? Rob G. - Know any good places to eat? (just kidding) "What are your methods for preparing the team, not only on a daily basis, but to withstand the rigors of a six to seven month season?" I'm going to cheat here and throw in a second question - "From an outsider's viewpoint, what were the most obvious mistakes this organization has made over the last four years?" AZ PHIL- "What makes you think you can do a better job than the three previous permanent managers (Riggleman, Baylor, Baker), or to put it another way, what (if anything) did they do that you would have not done, or what did they not do that you would have done?" Ruz - "Pop quiz, hotshot: It's the bottom of the first inning. The leadoff man is on first. Ryan Theriot, a pretty good bat-handler is at the plate. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?"

The Mesa Solar Sox played their AFL home opener tonight at HoHoKam Park in Mesa. No wind, and cool temps. A couple of hundred fans and a couple of hundred scouts. A very pleasant evening.

As we've painfully come to realize, the Cubs are in desperate need of not only good pitching but reliable pitching. The big free agent names are Jason Schmidt and Barry Zito from stateside and the enigmatic Daisuke Matsuzaka from Japan. Pulling up a stats page on Schmidt and Zito will pretty much tell us all we need to know about those two, but what about Matsuzaka? TCR Commenter "Wes", took a closer look at Matsuzaka and his highly touted gyroball, which it turns out he doesn't really throw. ---- I'm sure many of you are familiar with Daisuke Matsuzaka. He's the kid who just turned 26 that just might be the hottest pitcher on the market this winter. Some folks think that Seibu might post him to the highest MLB bidder. I've heard a couple of rumors about the Cubs getting in the bidding war, since after all, a high end starter might be nice. I did a little research on Daisuke and the highly coveted gyroball he is claimed to throw. First a little history on the elusive baseball wonder called the gyro. There's clips all over the Internet claiming that you're looking at baseball history. The gyro has turned into a bit of baseball folk lore over the past year or two. A lot of folks thought Daisuke might bust out the gyro in front of a national baseball audience at the World Baseball Classic, but it didn't happen. Many of you who are regular Will Carroll readers are familiar with his research on the gyro. Carroll even went so far to teach an Indiana kid how to throw it (scroll to the bottom). Enter Joey Niezer. Joey is the aforementioned Hoosier who learned the gyro from Carroll and is now playing Division III baseball at Wabash College in West Central Indiana. If you haven't already seen it, here's a video of rather poor quality (taken by Carroll, I think) of Joey dropping a gyro. I live pretty close to Wabash and recently graduated from their rival school, DePauw. I called a game against Wabash, but didn't see him pitch. I made a couple of trips up to Wabash and saw a couple more games, but Joey didn't pitch in those either. He's numbers weren't very good as a freshman (0-2, 7.43). That makes me think he doesn't throw the gyro all that often. That said, he's still the only guy this side of the International Date Line who throws it. The scout on the gyro is that it behaves like a slider that's got more steriods in it than Jason Grimsley and Floyd Landis put together. It's supposed to start spinning flat like a slider for the first 45-50 feet and then fall off the table and break away from a right-hander. This one in particular looks a lot like a straight curve that you'd see a right hander throw, however it breaks entirely too much and entirely too late for it to be a curve. Carroll alledges that this thing is capable of breaking three feet or more. The question is whether or not Daisuke throws the gyro. In the Yahoo! Sports article linked above, he has claimed that he's just learning it. This video surfaced a while back and everybody thought they'd struck gyro jackpot. Here he is throwing that pitch from a a different (very bad) angle. Is it a gyro? Despite being perhaps the filthiest pitch I've ever seen, no. Sorry to burst your bubble. Turns out what you're seeing is a pitch called a shuuto, and it's absolutely nasty. It's pretty much like a slider, fastball and a screwball thrown into one. You'd need a boat oar to hit it, especially when paired with Daisuke's fastball that runs up there between 96-98. I work as a radio broadcaster in Chicago for an independent minor league baseball team. I sat down with our pitching coach, a career AAAA guy who has spent time coaching in affiliated ball, a few of our pitchers and a buddy of mine who used to play. All of them know a thing or two about breaking pitches. I showed them these two videos of the shuuto and here's a little bit about what they had to say: 1. Note that the grip of the pitch is similar to that of a typical slide piece, with a couple of exceptions. If you watch the video from CF, you can see that he releases the pitch with his index finger. Typical sliders are released with the middle finger. Looking at the video from behind the dish, he's also not on the seams. Part of the reason that a slider does what it does is because of gripping it on the seams. 2. The ball also reacts much differently than a slider. Duh. When you're on the business end of a slider thrown by somebody who knows what they're doing, the ball spins in such a manner that an optical illusion of a red spot about the size of a dime appears in the center of the ball from the way the seams spin. If you look at the video from behind the plate, there's no such spin on that pitch. My pitching coach said this behaves a lot like a screw, except it's thrown like a slider. By the way, he was absolutely awestruck by this pitch and made me show it to him at least 50 times. It's that good. 3. The arm angle on this pitch is similar to that of a fastball. On a slider or a curve, guys will try to get their arm out and around the baseball to impose a breaking motion on it. On this video, his arm is in more of a fastball slot, giving it motion in towards right handers. Also, imparting the spin with the index finger helps this ball move inside to righties. It's a lot like Maddux's 2-seamer, except the bottom drops straight out of it and it's techincally a slider. The Wikipedia article above about the shuuto claims that what Maddux actually throws is a variation of a shuuto, but I'm not inclined to believe that. Daisuke throws this pitch a lot, and when paired with his live fastball, a good curveball, a slider, a rumored fork, and a change he can be downright devastating. Here's a highlight clip of him in an appearance in May. You get a good look at a couple of curves, a slider or two, and a nice pair of shuutos (shuttoes? shuuti? San Diegoans? San Diegans?) to lefties. He strikes out a ton of guys in the clip mainly because the umpire is giving him a strike zone that you could park a double-wide in, but you get the drift of what he throws. So everything sounds great. Let's sign him up tomorrow, right? Not exactly. There are a few knocks on this kid: 1. He's subject to injury. Daisuke missed a large portion of 2003 with an undiscolsed injury to his pitching elbow. Japanese teams don't exactly run around telling the press what's wrong with their players when they get hurt, so we don't have any way of knowing what that was. Matsuzaka also missed a few starts this season with a groin injury of some nature. The only explanation given was that he didn't need to be hospitalized. Thank the good Lord. I think he should fit right in with the rest of the Cubs staff. 2. When throwing from the wind, he's got a very long pause. The shuuto clip from CF will show you that. A lot of folks, including myself, aren't too sure about the legality of that manuever in the US. I know Hideo Nomo used to have a pause in his wind-up as well, but it wasn't that long. That sounds easily correctable, but you never know. 3. He's thrown a lot (I mean a lot) of pitches over the past several years. Rumor has it he threw 250 pitches in a 17 inning ball game in high school and then came back the next day and threw a no-no. That's high school, I know, but good golly. This year he went 186 innings and posted a 17-5 mark with an ERA of 2.13 for Seibu. He made 25 starts and went the distance 14 times. Many experts (alot of people I've read over at rotoworld, specifically) are very concerned about how much his arm has been taxed over the past 5 years of playing in Japan. Pitch counts aren't that big of a deal over there and guys will go as long as they need to to get the win. When you're arguably the best pitcher on the planet, you'll typically find your way well into the triple digits in pitches. I'm not as concerned about the amount he's thrown over the past few years. Zito' and Schmidt have thrown a lot over the past few years, too. If you're truly going for a top of the rotation guy, that's part of it. I would be concerned, however, about his knack for getting hurt. I've seen numbers as high as $50 million tossed around as the amount that it may take to purchase Daisuke from Seibu. I'd bank on something in the mid $30's, but that's still some cash. You still have to pay him, too. Rotoworld says about 4 years & $50 million. Don't get me wrong here. I like this kid. In my research, somebody said that they thought he had the ability to be a top five pitcher and a Cy Young contender in the majors. With all the tape I've watched, I believe it without a doubt. He is absolutely electric. However, if you have to give up $50 million to get him (and then still pay him), you might want that to be a sound investment. There's about nine teams in the hunt for him. Whoever gets him is going to get somebody to build their rotation around for a long time, assuming he's healthy. I'm under the opinion the Cubs should maybe take a chance here. There is a lot of risk involved, but you'll get the best pitcher out there. The Cubs need pitching. Here's a kid who will give you exactly what you need. ---- Thanks to Wes for his time.

October 10th

The Cubs have signed former top pitching prospect Matt Harrington to a minor league contract. Back in 2000, the Cubs selected Luis Montanez with their #1 pick (#3 overall), passing on Harrington (the #1 rated high school pitcher in the draft) because of his pre-draft contract demands.

I know that technically the ex-Cub factor is three or more Cubs on your post-season roster, but it's better not to tempt fate. Each division series winner had less ex-Cubs than the team they beat, at least on their pre-playoff rosters. It's going to make the Mets vs. Cardinals series very interesting. Also my Rule #1 of picking a team with a good run over the last few months has been completely blown up over the last two years. White Sox won it all last year despite almost coughing up the division to the Indians, Tigers looked unbeatable after dismantling the almighty Yankees and the Cardinals beat up on the formally hot Padres. It's all luck in the playoffs baby (and pitching). Onto the brief and useless preview and predictions:


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