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Congratulations to ex-Cub reliever Bruce Sutter, just elected to the Hall of Fame. The rest of the ex-Cub candidates didn't fare as well -- Andre Dawson, Goose Gossage, and Lee Smith missed the cut, and Rick Aguilera, Gary Gaetti, and Doug Jones received less than 5% and fell off the ballot. I'm happy to see Sutter get in. He's deserving both as an innovator (he was the first great practicioner of the split-fingered fastball) and due to his performance on the field, and his election makes me hopeful that we're seeing the beginning of a re-eveluation of the pitchers of the first great relief era. I don't know if guys like Smith and Gossage deserve to be in the Hall or not, but I do know that they need to be examined through a lens that isn't distorted by the one-inning-only, 40+ save statistics being put up by today's closers. The complete results, with ex-Cubs in bold:
Bruce Sutter 400 76.9
----- 390 Votes Needed For Election -----
Jim Rice 337 64.8
Rich Gossage 336 64.6
Andre Dawson 317 61.0
Bert Blyleven 277 53.3
Lee Smith 234 45.0
Jack Morris 214 41.2
Tommy John 154 29.6
Steve Garvey 135 26.0
Alan Trammell 92 17.7
Dave Parker 76 14.4
Dave Concepcion 65 12.5
Don Mattingly 64 12.3
Orel Hershiser 58 11.2
Dale Murphy 56 10.8
Albert Belle 40 7.7
----- 26 Votes Needed to Stay on Ballot -----
Will Clark 23 4.4
Dwight Gooden 17 3.3
Willie McGee 12 2.3
Hal Morris 5 1.0
Ozzie Guillen 5 1.0
Gary Gaetti 4 0.8
John Wetteland 4 0.8
Rick Aguilera 3 0.6
Doug Jones 2 0.4
Greg Jefferies 2 0.4
Walt Weiss 1 0.2
Gary DiSarcina 0 0.0
Alex Fernandez 0 0.0
Our first candidate for the group prediction is Michael Barrett.
Catcher
6'2", 200 lb
Bats Right, Throws Right
Age 29 (DOB 10/22/76)
BRef card | ESPN card | BPro card
2005 stats (career highs in bold, lows in italics)
133 G, 424 AB, 117 H, 32 2B, 3 3B, 16 HR, 61 RBI, 48 R, 40 BB, 61 K, 0 SB, 276/345/479
Please send your predicted stats for Barrett to cubreporter @ gmail.com. The categories to be predicted can be found at the initial post. Only predictions sent by email will be included in the final prediction. Please include your name if you want to be eligible for the fantastic prizes I'm sure I'll be able to round up before the end of the season. All rights reserved. Do not taunt happy fun ball.
The Cubs have traded Corey Patterson to the Orioles for two minor leaguers. ESPN Radio reports that the players are shortstop Nate Spears and lefthanded pitcher Carlos Perez. We'll gather as much info on these guys as we can find and post it here. * Spears is 21 years old. He was a 5th round pick in the 2003 draft. At High A Frederick last year he hit 294/349/429. From the Orioles Hangout prospect list, where Spears is ranked #14:
20-year old who hits .294 with 42 extra base hits in the Carolina League is something, but what is the real question. Only average defensively and not a speedster on the bases. His 36-82 BB-K ratio is a bit of concern as well. A little guy who doesn't have a projectable frame. If he turns those doubles into homers at a higher level he may become a better prospect, but right now it's hard to project him as more than a lower Division second baseman. He's a baseball rat who continues to beat the odds, so don't bet against him.
* Perez is 24 years old. He was signed as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican in 1999 and has started throughout his time in the minors, which means he has logged nearly 400 professional innings. Lat year at Delmarva (A) he went 11-8, 4.28. In 151 1/3 innings he struck out 146 (8.7 K/9) and walked 61 (3.6 BB/9). He's #36 at Orioles Hangout:
Started off the year like gangbusters. Went 4-4 with a decent 3.08 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 26 walks in 70 innings pitched through his first 13 starts. Lost his command a bit after that stretch and even worse, started to get hit like Mike Timlin in a save situation. Ended up with career highs in just about every category but allowed Sally League batters to hit .280 off him. With less then overwhelming stuff, and at 23-years old, Perez will need to prove more next year at Frederick.
At this point I would have been happy with a bag of used baseballs and a cheeseburger (As long as it was from In N' Out) in exchange for Patterson. Yes, he had five tools, but he misplaced his toolbox in 2003 and even a trip to Iowa last year couldn't help him find it. David Appleman at Hardball Times put into graphic terms what we all knew, which was that Patterson had a really bad year last year. Can he bounce back? Maybe. But it's not like he's a green youngster who is still learning how to play baseball. He's 26 years old, an age at which most players have figured out what works for them and what doesn't. Even more damning is the fact that he has over 2,300 major league plate appearances. That's nearly four full seasons, and it's more than (for example) Mark Bellhorn, Luis Rivas or Robert Fick. Again, he's not someone who has spent only a little bit of time in the majors and it still feeling his way. He's a guy who came up, got established, had some success, and has now settled into a specific style of play that leads to occasional power, guesswork swings, and very low on-base percentage. I didn't want the Cubs to even tender Patterson, so the fact that they're going to not only avoid paying him the millions of dollars he'd get in arbitration (or a new contract), but also get someone (anyone) in exchange for him, makes me happy. Vaya con Dios, Coreylito. May you rediscover the joy of occasionally taking a pitch. If you end up turning things around in Baltimore, I'll be in the front row cheering for you, but I haven't bought any tickets to Camden Yards yet. PS - Bonus points to whoever remembers the last time I used this headline (no peeking in the archives).
We have entered the most boring part of the year for a baseball fan. The season is long over, and the once-sizzling hot stove has been reduced to embers. We have nothing to occupy us except what-if scenarios and trade talk. This is the time of year that leads actual paid writers to write things like "Club relying on starters to stay healthy all season long." Seriously, if that's what the Cubs are relying on, I'm out of here. But fear not - there is a cure for boredom, and it comes from a non-baseball source. We're going to spend the next month predicting how the Cubs will do this season.
The Cub Reporter has been nominated for Best Sports Blog of 2005. Go on over the Red Reporter and vote. Don't let the Batlings steal the election!
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As if it isn't bad enough that my wife, my daughter, and I have all been sick for the last three days, today I have to wake up and find out that the Cubs actually went to three years on Jacque Jones. The one thing I've been clinging to these last few weeks was the knowledge that only the Royals had offered him the third guaranteed year. I hoped that would be enough for him to decide to play there instead of in Chicago. So much for that. The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that I don't hate this signing. I certainly don't think it's terrible, like giving nearly $40M to Jarrod Washburn, or like giving any money at all to Tony Batista. It's only about $5M a year, so it won't break the bank. In general, I guess I'm ambivalent, leaning barely toward grudging acceptance. Mostly, it's the third year that upsets me. Let's assume that the Cubs are working toward signing Juan Pierre to a long-term deal. If that happens, then Felix Pie has been effectively blocked by the organization, which strikes me as one of those moves that might help the team in the short run but is going to damage them down the road. If they had blocked Pie with a star player, that would be one thing, but to do it with guys like Pierre and Jones exhibits a short-sightedness that is upsetting.
GAME 60 PREVIEW BOSTON RED SOX (32-28) at CHICAGO CUBS (32-27) Wrigley Field, 2:15pm CT, TV: FOX Greetings from Hannover Germany, where beer and cigarettes are the order of the day! Well, just the beer for me, actually, though I feel like I've been smoking for the last week. I'm checking in from my business trip to deliver some important breaking news. It seems that the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. Not only that, but they're in the middle of a series with the Boston Red Sox, who a) won the World Series last year, and b) before that, hadn't won one since 1918. Why, I had no idea! And apparently neither did anyone else in the country, since that seems to be the only storyline surrounding this series. OK, not the only storyline -- there's also the "Nomar gets his ring, sort of" story. But there's a whole lot more going on in Cub- and Red Sox-land. So here are seven other things that the national media should be talking about: 1. The Cubs have won 11 of their last 13 and are currently 1/2 game out of the wildcard spot. 2. With Kerry Wood and Mark Prior missing significant time with injuries, Carlos Zambrano (4-3, 2.94, 75K/31 BB) has emerged as the ace of the staff and one of the best young pitchers in baseball. 3. Zambrano isn't the best starter on the Cubs this year -- that honor goes to Glendon Rusch (5-1, 2.07, 42/27), who's gunning for the Mr. Unsung Award two years running. 4. Derrek Lee:hitting::German guys:beer drinking 5. N-E-I-F-I 6. The Red Sox are looking up at the Orioles, which is strange, but not as strange as the fact that they're looking down at the Yankees, and can't even see them because the Blue Jays are in the way. 7. Just like the Cubs, the Red Sox are weathering pitching injuries (to David Wells and Curt Schilling), though they're doing it mostly by climbing on Big Papi's back and letting him drag them over .500. I was going to go for ten, but I ran out of steam after two Red Sox ones and, honestly, I don't care enough about them to find three more. Go see what Evan has to say at Fire Brand of the American League if you want more Carmines info. Truth be told, the Red Sox are one of my favorite teams and I was really happy to see them win the Series last year. But I'll be even happier once El Toro shuts them down this afternoon on national TV, thereby verifying his All-Star bona fides, and Rusch does the same on ESPN tomorrow night.

Specifically, San Francisco's. The Cubs today traded LaTroy Hawkins to the Giants for Jerome Williams and David Aardsma.

Since the Giants are my #2 team (thanks to The Lovely Wife), I'm pretty familiar with these guys. Williams came up in 2003 and had a real nice rookie year (88K, 49 BB in 131 IP) but struggled in 2004 and had to have elbow surgery at the end of the season. He hasn't put it back together since - he started this year on the active roster but struggled and was sent down for a few starts to work on his mechanics, and hasn't come back up yet. This is why:

2005, Fresno: 15 K, 17 BB, 30 2/3 IP, 9.39 ERA

He is having trouble finding consistency with his delivery, and I he's also had to deal with some pretty serious family problems, so he's far from a sure thing, but he's still only 23. When he came up in '03, he looked remarkably poised for a 21-year-old and displayed great control. He's a project, but he's also got a pretty decent upside.

Aardsma, John Sickels' #4 Giants prospect, was the Giants' #1 pick in the 2003 draft and made his major league debut less than a year after being drafted. He was a closer in college and has continued in that role in the minors and in his brief time in the majors. He's also notable for replacing Henry Aaron as the first player, alphabetically, in major league history.

I like this trade. I wasn't as down on Hawkins as some, but given that he had been reduced to pitching mop-up (loss of confidence? loss of talent?), I think the Cubs got a good return for him. I think we'll enjoy Jerome Williams' pooka-necklaced presence on the mound if he gets things turned around (and who knows, being back with Dusty might help), and Aardsma can be a solid piece of the bullpen puzzle.

With a day off today, we can all sit back and enjoy the lovely post-McGriff glow. If Baylor actually lets Matt Stairs play left field while Rondell White is hurt, that makes the lineup significantly better than if he decides to keep playing Delino DeShields out there. With The Franchise (finally) being sent down to make room for McGriff, that means one less outfielder out there, which means Stairs might actually get some playing time. He's not much with his glove, but he's the second-best offensive player on the team and he should be playing nearly every day.

The Cubs made a minor deal today, acquiring David Weathers and minor league pitcher Roberto Miniel from the Brewers for Ruben Quevedo and minor league outfielder Peter Zoccolillo. Rotonews calls Miniel a good prospect, and his K/BB ratio, a good indicator of future success, is a sterling 117/27. I hope John Sickels will write a few words about Miniel -- if he is a hot prospect, then this looks like a very good trade for the Cubs. Quevedo has some promise but is not ready to help the team this year, and Weathers is a solid middle reliever who should shift Van Poppel and Fyhrie down a seat in the bullpen. Zoccolillo is a non-prospect, so getting someone good on the back end of the deal is a major bonus.

Finally, the long-awaited position player roundup. Now we can start writing about things like why Baylor bunts so much.

The fact that every first baseman on the market has been mentioned as a possible Cub says something about the success of the Matt Stairs/Ron Coomer/Julio Zuleta troika. They’ve hit a combined .250 with a 745 OPS – hardly what you want to get out of a power position. With Fred McGriff on the way, things should improve here, but up to this point the first basemen get a C-minus.

Recently, I’ve seen a few online columnists I read talk about how Eric Young isn’t a very good player. Usually, it revolves around how his stats aren’t the type of numbers you want your leadoff hitter to put up. It seems to me that, aside from not walking 100 times a year, he’s doing everything you could ask. His on-base percentage is .333 – not in the top ten in the league, to be sure, but among the leaders as far as leadoff hitters are concerned. He’s stolen 21 bases, and his steal percentage is 65%, right around the break-even point. On a team that scores as little as the Cubs do, it would be nice to get your leadoff man onbase a bit more (and into scoring position without giving up an out by bunting), but I’ll take what he’s giving the team. Grade: B

Third base has been a disaster since Bill Mueller went down in May. Ron Coomer, Miguel Cairo, and Augie Ojeda have filled in, less than admirably. About the only good thing that happened was that the Cubs didn’t sign Vinny Castilla (of course, look how he’s doing for Houston). Here’s hoping Mueller comes back and plays as well as he did at the beginning of the year. Grade: INCOMPLETE

Chip Caray has taken to calling Ricky Gutierrez “the Secret Weapon.” While I wouldn’t go that far, I do think he’s an underrated player. He will hit just about anywhere in the lineup, has a bit of power, and (this year at least) has been close to automatic with runners in scoring position (he’s got an 830 OPS in those situations). He could walk more, but the NL is short on shortstop talent right now, and beside Rich Aurilia and Jimmy Rollins, Gutierrez is the best out there. Grade: B+

As far as the outfield goes, it’s a mess. Rondell White is putting up really good numbers when he’s healthy, which appears to be about never. As a result, left and center have seen a revolving door of AAAA players like Todd Dunwoody, not-ready-for-prime-time-players like Sarge Jr., and retreads like Delino DeShields. I was amazed (in a good way) when the Cubs cut Damon Buford loose, but I wish they could have done it with someone in mind to take his place. The Franchise is not ready to play center every day, and it’s unfair to stick him out their occasionally, watch him put up an 0-for-4, and then bench him for not performing. Better to send him to Iowa to play every day and learn the strike zone, like they did with Rosie Brown. So now we get Michael Tucker, who at least didn’t cost anything to acquire. Who knows, maybe he’ll start hitting….

As far as right field goes, I could (and will someday) write a whole column about how Sammy Sosa has changed his career by becoming more selective at the plate, but for now, let’s just say that whatever it was the Cubs ended up paying him, it’s looking like a really good investment right about now. Outfield grades: D-plus, C-minus, A.

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