Archive - Feb 2007

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February 10th

A couple of events this week have left me thinking about just where TCR and other sports blogs fit in the world of sports journalism. On the Thursday episode of ESPN’s “Around the Horn,” an execrable show in which sports “journalists” with faces made for radio “compete” at offering ten-second bits of “analysis” that are scored by some point system that is as arbitrary as it is absurd, Jay Mariotti concluded the program with a brief commentary about bloggers. No one has yet gone broke betting on Mariotti’s ability to explore new depths of idiocy, but this was new territory even for him.

February 9th

I'm not sure if I'll have time to put up another edition of TCR Friday Notes, but I do have a double dose of Cubs trivia for you. Reader Jacos sent this one:
Who are (hopefully) the only three players ever to play for the Cubs, White Sox, Yankees and Mets?
And today's calendar questions was:
The Cubs first used a designated hitter on June 16, 1997, as Interleague Play was introduced that season. Who was the Cubs DH in that game?
As always, please attempt to answer without a web search.

February 8th

My first exposure to fantasy baseball was through a guy who I was sort of friends with in middle school. There were maybe eight of us in the league, maybe five of whom were regulars, maybe three of whom sort of knew what we were doing, sort of. One guy, for instance, used his first eight draft picks to pick the Detroit Tigers' lineup. The guy who ran the league would “publish” a little newsletter at random intervals, updating the point standings (which he calculated on his own) and with funny little faux baseball articles. That must have been the 1990 or 1991 baseball season, but I still remember some of the players I picked for that team. God, they sucked. Sadly, it wouldn’t be the last team I owned that I then proceeded to populate with Has-beens, Never-would-be’s, The Suspended and The Dead. Here’s a fun romp through some of the low-lights of my fantasy career. (In a topic as bountiful as this, it will be tough to limit myself.) Hensley "Bam-Bam" Meulens, 1991 I’ve always been a sucker for players with cool names or nicknames....

The Super Bowl is over, March Madness isn't until next month, and the NBA and NHL regular seasons (AKA the playoffs) haven't started yet. So what time IS it? Well, it's time again for Spring Training, which is when professional baseball teams gather in Florida and Arizona to prepare for the coming season.

February 7th

Chicago real estate bigshot Sam Zell and international despot Rupert Murdoch were mentioned today in separate stories about the possible sale of Tribune Company. The piece in the Trib says Zell has not made a bid on the company but has entered into "preliminary" talks to see if a deal could be put in place, probably involving some sort of partnership between himself and the McCormick Tribune Foundation, which is run by current and former Tribune Company execs, including former Chairman John Madigan and current Chairman/CEO Dennis FitzSimons. The possible involvement of Murdoch, meanwhile, was reported at chicagobusiness.com. Like a feral cat who’s sniffed out the alley behind restaurant row, Murdoch has been prowling around the edges of this affair. His name has come up in connection to the Chandler family, former owners of the Los Angeles Times, who sold out to Tribune Company a few years ago, becoming Tribune’s largest shareholder. Murdoch is interested in "working with" the Chandlers on their bid to buy. So sayeth the devil:
"We are interested quite openly; and frankly, if we could do something — not too expensive — that will lead to a joint operating agreement between the New York Post and Newsday."
(Newsday is a Tribune property.) Nowhere in either of these stories are the Cubs mentioned specifically, and given how little I really understand of the five or six paragraphs I’ve just written, I would have to guess the future of Cub ownership will remain mostly cloudy until a deal for Tribune Company is actually struck.

February 6th

(Quick aside: I want to thank Rob and the other TCRers for inviting me to play with them. Going back to the days when Ruz was the one and only Cub Reporter, I have marveled at both the quality and quantity of information available here. I hope to measure up.) I have a throwing-things-out problem, as in, I can’t make myself do it. WIFE: What are those? ME: Hockey cards…from 1973. WIFE: Are you saving them? ME: Of course. WIFE: Why? ME: What if one of the kids asks what Henry Boucha looked like when he played for the Detroit Red Wings? Wouldn’t it be nice to have an answer? And so on. As a result of this disorder, a few years ago when I was helping my dad clean out the attic of the house I grew up in, I found a number of Cub treasures I was never able to part with, but had long ago forgotten. The prize of prizes was a 1968 program from the first game I ever attended in Wrigley Field. July 30th. Cubs vs. Giants. Ernie Banks. Ron Santo. Willie Mays. Willie McCovey. Hal Lanier! Jim Davenport!! ADOLPHO PHILLIPS!!! For nearly 40 years, I have had a memory of that day and here was proof I was really there. Today, I pride myself on keeping a neat, comprehensive scorecard. On that first magical afternoon, I marked the outs with an O, the singles with a 1, the homers with an HR, and I was in business. Earlier tonight, I went to Retrosheet and pulled up the box score and play-by-play summary of that game, and the site dutifully provides every detail of the Cubs’ 10-4 victory on 7/30/68: Santo’s homer in the first; Banks’ homer in the third; Bobby Bonds entering the game to replace Mays in center field in the fifth; Hands fanning Lanier on a called third strike in the ninth to end the game. Retrosheet is really a glorious resource. But all in all, I like my old scorecard better.

Once upon a time, Baseball America was the only game in town when it came to covering the minor leagues and prospectdom in general. As one can tell from yesterday's post, there are quite a few new kids on the block and the one making the most noise these days is Scout.com. Their team-specific approach has been a rather rousing success, and MVN can only hope they're bought out by Rupert Murdoch one day as well. And TCR is lucky to have the one-man show that runs Inside the Ivy, Steve Holley, answer a few questions about Scout.com and the Cubs minor league system. 1. Give us a little background on yourself and how you got into baseball writing and what eventually lead you to “Inside the Ivy”?

I ventured into sports journalism in the spring of 2000. Around that time, I met David Marran, the Sports Editor for the Kenosha Daily News in Wisconsin. Dave has had several books published on the subject of Cubs Trivia, and he ran a popular Cubs news site through Rivals.com so that’s how we me met. At the time, Rivals.com covered not only college sports, but the NFL and of course, Major League Baseball. I joined Scout.com a few years later when they managed to head up a group of former Rivals’ baseball editors to publish several of their team sites.

February 5th

I told you I'd break these out if something interesting came along. My calendar trivia question today was: "Which Cubs pitcher surrendered Lou Brock's 3,000th career hit, August 13th, 1979?" Please try to answer without a web search.

Here at TCR, we're just like you, we put our pants on one leg at a time. The only difference is once we put our pants on, we read, write and talk about the Cubs 24/7 (okay, I guess that's just like a lot of you actually). But what we do know is a good writer when we read one, so we're happy to add "Cubnut" (you'll have to ask him if the name is inspired by Michael Barrett or not) to our ever expanding author's list. You can find his previous work at "A Hundred Next Years" and we're certain you'll come to enjoy his take on all things Cubs as much as we have. I'm sure he'll be along soon enough to introduce himself, but rest assured we've been putting him through the ringer to make sure he's got the chops for TCR. The other "big news" is that yours truly is being published. Stu Shea, author of Wrigley Field: An Unauthorized Biography" approached me a few months back to contribute a few articles for a 2007 Cubs Annual that Maple Street Press is publishing. Even if I wasn't involved, I'd probably want a copy for myself. Other than my two articles (a very in-depth roster review along with a look at the NL Central), it's got minor league coverage, a Q&A with Jeremy Papelbon, everything you need to know about Lou Piniella, a celebration of Ernie Banks, an evaluation of Jim Hendry's tenure, a discussion on our ever-present OBP problem as well as insight on the media and ticket practices of Tribco and I'm sure much, much more. Now I haven't had the chance to read the Cubs version yet, but I did read last year's Red Sox annual that they published and trust me, it's chock full of stats and info that you'll want at your fingertips. I believe it's shipping sometime this month and for the low cost of $14.95 plus S+H. Now unfortunately, neither TCR or myself get revenue from the sales, but it's still a great way to support the site and I really do think you guys will enjoy this.

Baseball America released their top 10 prospects from the Chicago Cubs farm system which sort of culminates the prospect ranking season. Most lists exclude players who played enough to qualify for Rookie of the Year honors, thus the Cubs system becomes a bit difficult to analyze since players like Angel Guzman, Sean Marshall, Carlos Marmol and Juan Mateo would all probably get top 10 mentions (or close to it) but are disregarded although they'll most certainly start their seasons in the minors. Each list has their way own of weighing the players and if known, I'll give it a brief mention. To the lists:

Baseball America Top 30 (The Top 30 are published in their prospect handbook)

Criteria: Stress tools and ceiling over stats, speak to a lot of scouts, can be guilty of relying on reputation over substance on occassion.

1. Felix Pie
2. Donald Veal
3. Tyler Colvin
4. Jeff Samardzija
5. Sean Gallagher
6. Eric Patterson
7. Scott Moore
8. Ryan Harvey
9. Chris Huseby
10. Mark Pawelek
11. Juan Mateo
12. Brian Dopirak
13. Jae-kuk Ryu
14. Mark Reed
15. Drew Rundle
16. Rocky Cherry
17. Geovany Soto
18. Billy Petrick
19. Dylan Johnston
20. Josh Lansford
21. Sammy Baez
22. Chris Robinson
23. Mark Holliman
24. Jake Fox
25. Larry Suarez
26. Rocky Roquet
27. Sam Fuld
28. Scott Taylor
29. Mitch Atkins
30. Mike Fontentot What They Say: Not much, I guess you have to pay to join the chat to get analysis. What I Say: Mark Reed, Geovany Soto and Mike Fontentot make appearances which are all very odd. I want Fontenot to succeed as much as the next guy but his own team won't even put him on their 40-man roster, he wasn't selected in the Rule V draft by any other team and he didn't even get a spring training invite. They also seem rather low on Pawelek.

February 4th

Bear down, Chicago Bears, make every play clear the way to victory; Bear down, Chicago Bears, put up a fight with a might so fearlessly. We'll never forget the way you thrilled the nation with your T-formation. Bear down, Chicago Bears, and let them know why you're wearing the crown. You're the pride and joy of Illinois, Chicago Bears, bear down.
Classical Version | Ska Version | City of Chicago Version Join the mayhem at Chad's Bears Chat.....

February 2nd

Tick-tock, tick-tock, pitchers and catchers reporting grows ever closer.... - "Dying Cub Fan" of Ron Santo fame, sent along a few links gauging some of the Veterans Committee members' takes on Santo's candidacy. Bob Feller believes Riggs Stephenson is more deserving than Ron Santo (although Riggs isn't even on the ballot, makes you wonder what trouble Riggs got Feller out of back in the day). Feller has this little gem:
"We're going to find out in a few days who makes it, and I think we're going to lower the standards, and when we lower the standards, I think [Ron] will have a better chance."
Really Bob, you have to lower the standards to get Ron in, but your old pal Riggs (I can only assume they were pals because otherwise Feller is just dumb or delusional or both) has a much better chance. Meh! On the last ballot, Mike Schmidt made it pretty clear he'll never vote for anyone so forget him. The ever-fortunate Brooks Robinson backs Santo and Lou Brock is in Santo's corner as well. UPDATE: It appears Mike Schmidt has changed his mind since the last vote, thanks to Cubster for the tip. - The Brewers site here had a nice comparison of their pitchers using PECOTA 2007 forecasts versus what the World Champion Cardinals actually did do last year (which is not very well). So I thought I'd at least post the Cubs numbers and see how they stack up:
Name GS VORP
Zambrano 32 40.6
Hill 26 24.2
Lilly 27 24.6
Marquis 21 9.1
Prior 15 12.8
Miller 12 7.3
Guzman 16 11.6
Total 149 130.2
What does this tell us? First, forecasting systems are kind of a joke. It predicts Sean Gallagher with the 4th highest VORP on the team and it doesn't even have Marquis as a Cub yet (this is the first round of predictions, more will be coming). Second, the Brewers came out at 130.5 in 161 starts using their top 6 pitchers and I'd say we stack up just fine. - In other news....well there isn't any other news, go watch the Bears this weekend! I've got some serious Chicago Cubs prospect talk for Monday and Tuesday ready to go though.

February 1st

Hidden deep within the bowels of this story about the Chicago Cubs and Prior agreeing to a deal yesterday, Bruce Miles gives us this sobering thought:
Prior’s settlement leaves the Cubs with one arbitration case pending, and all indications are that it will go to a hearing. Star pitcher Carlos Zambrano is looking to up his salary from $6.5 million last year to $15.5 million. The Cubs are holding firm at $11.025 million. Zambrano, who went 16-7 with a 3.41 ERA in 33 starts in 2006, won’t be a free agent until next fall, but Cubs insiders apparently believe Zambrano and his agents are approaching this year as if he already is on the open market. For that reason, the Cubs likely will not want to settle at the midpoint between the two figures. An arbitration hearing is set for Feb. 20, and things could get interesting if it gets that far because teams generally put forth negative statistics in their argument for the arbitrator, who must pick one figure or the other.
Ugh, first we get the revelation that Zambrano doesn't seem to inclined to go along with the Hendry plan of we'll sign you long-term the year before you hit the open market. Hey Z, it's a good plan, it works, no reason to mess it up now. Second, if they do make it to arbitration, the chances of Z sticking around go down dramatically. Those cases can get ugly as the team basically has to berate its own player and Z seems like a proud hombre that won't take kindly to that sort of talk. Of course, I think the Cubs have a solid case, I don't know of any pitchers going into their sixth year of service time who got anywhere near $15 million. Hendry still has a few weeks to fix this one and he's got a good track record on signing his own players, but we're getting dangerously close to panic time.

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