Dr. Joseph Hecht's Archives

TCR Book Review: The Best Team Ever

The Best Team Ever -- A Novel of America, Chicago and the 1907 Cubs

Authors: Alan Alop and Doc Noel







 

It started out like this.

 

Rob G. mentioned that they were promoting a new Cub related book and if I would write a review, he’d get me a copy.

 

I read the book last December and planned on the review in time for spring training. To enhance the book review, we contacted the authors with a list of questions.

 

Then I got this e-mail response from one of the authors,with an unusual addendum:

 

I have one unique question for Dr. Hecht...

 

Cocktail Napkin Trading

My how the sports writers love to speculate. They don't start a rumor mind you, they get a few out of context quotes to make it seem like it's from a real "the trade's just about ready to be completed" source. We all know Captain Wrongway Phil Rogers loves to do this stuff in his Sunday 'mlb whispers' column. The newest wanna-be GM rumor comes from Paul Sullivan, the Cubs beat specialist from the currently bankrupt (can I count the ways) Chicago Tribune.

Pseudo GM, 'Paul Sully-My-Reputation' pulls out the two martini cocktail napkin and draws up trade possibilities for Milton Bradley this offseason. On a bigger picture level he categorizes two "how to unload Bradley scenerios". Then he paints a classic bad contract for bad contract, real dollar salary swap with the Giants that oddly makes some sense (accent on odd).

Wrigley Field: Back to the Future

Apparently Fenway Park is a big part of Wrigley Field's Upgrade Template for Tom Ricketts. 

Cubs management over the past few years has held several luncheon meetings for season ticket holders where they provide a forum for suggestions to improve the ballpark experience. I finally had my chance last Thursday to attend one of these sessions.

Wrigley Field on this warm September non-game day had it's usual majestic feel but without the game day buzz, one senses the serenity that is baseball's crown jewel at rest. The streets surrounding the ballpark maintain their working day activities, construction site sidewalk hazards, beer trucks unloading their wares, but open parking spots on Addison seemed out of place.

The Solution

Allyssa Milano says have a happy Labor day holiday. 
Just a little rant from me after a game where Soriano left his pants on the left field chalk line. After he did the pretzel dance, I thought that chalk outline was from a CSI scene. Someone should press criminal charges for that effort.Tired ol' Lou Piniella just grunts and shrugs his shoulders. "Ah, ah, ah...Whaddya expect me to do about it?" Clearly he's been beaten into submission by overexposure to Cubbery.

After torturing myself by listening to local sports talk outlets, with the only brief reprieve coming from occasional banter about a meaningless preseason Bears game, I think I've had enough pain to land on my own personal DL. Steve Stone with glee in his voice said, "that's what you get for playing a DH in left field." I get the message. Listening how the Cubs are held hostage to their long term contracts with no end in sight (well it's 3-5 years before we see the end to this tunnel), forcing them to play overpaid, under performing players (Soriano in the role of 40/40 guy and Bradley in the role of rbi machine) or under performing players with a brief track record of performance (Geo Soto, Kevin Gregg, The not-Hanks...Aaron Miles and Heilman) or under performing players without a track record of performance (better when in small doses, Fonte-NOT), it dawned on me that there is a simple solution. 

They Shoot Horses Don't They?

Apparently Alfonso Soriano's cranky left knee was bothering him enough during his outfield play this past Friday that his plans to get an elective MRI (magnetic resonance image) in a few weeks got moved up to Saturday morning since he wasn't going to start today. In this video interview he says it's been sore for four months but with (approximately) 40 games left why can't he keep playing with the same pain? The pain seems to bother him more when he runs (rather than when he hits) so it's affecting his limited outfield abilities and I expect it's been a factor regarding his on and mostly off offense this season too.

Soriano was in no hurry to get the MRI as recently as this week.  He originally expected to take the time to get it on their next day off, Sept 10th (after returning from the trip to NY and Pitt), but his limp became more noticeable after his game winning 3 run HR on Friday so they moved it up to Monday and when it was clear he couldn't start today they sent him for the test this morning.

Carrie Muskat from cubs.com reports that the MRI results just showed inflammation and the outfielder will likely get a cortisone shot (based on the manager's postgame comments) and be sidelined a few days. From the horses mouth, in the postgame interview, Lou Piniella said  the team orthopedic specialist (probably Dr. Gryzlo) will look at Soriano on Sunday, and he most likely will get a cortisone shot to alleviate the pain.

A Bone to Pick

Time for a little rant.

In this era of internet fast - rapid dissemination of information, we've expected our hard-hitting beat reporters to keep asking the tough questions. Yesterday, the reporting on Reed Johnson's foot injury disappointed me. The news was lightning fast. I got a twitter text message from David Kaplan regarding Johnson's X-Rays showing a fracture in his foot. Then before blinking an eye there were links to articles from all of the major beat writers...Tribune's Paul Sullivan, Gordon Wittenmeyer/Sun-Times and Bruce Miles/Herald

The Ted Lilly Chronicles --The Knee Bone is connected to the Shoulder Bone

Bruce Levine reports Ted Lilly goes to the DL, righty reliever Justin Berg (acquired in the 2005 Matt Lawton trade from the Yankees) gets called up from Iowa. Lilly's MRI-Arthrogram apparently didn't show "any significant abnormalities" (possibly showing tendonitis but no structural damage) but as we've all seen what the media gets to report and what the radiologist and orthopods see isn't always identical.

Levine also says Lilly has agreed to having his sore left knee undergo arthroscopic surgery (scheduled for Monday) to clean up Lilly's meniscus (link to anatomy pic), speculating that he can be back in 3 weeks if they do that now.

From a report on Levine's ESPN-1000 radio show, Lilly said the shoulder got his attention the day after the game in Philly. The shoulder felt "a little unusual". Yesterday he tried to throw and had sharp pain. He said he was familiar with it as it felt like his symptoms in Toronto. Lilly said he expects himself to come back in 3 weeks...

Based on my experience, how long it takes to recover from a knee arthroscopy varies greatly and 3 weeks is certainly possible but continuing to push the envelope on these injuries is like playing with fire. This implies the medical staff thinks Lilly's shoulder injury is a cascade problem, meaning that his knee soreness lead to altered pitching mechanics that secondarily lead to the shoulder problem. I found evidence that they connected his knee and shoulder woes when his shoulder took the brunt of the blame in 2005. 

From this mlb.com article on the Bluejays archive circa Spring 2006:

Last year, he said he had a tendency to have a "stiff" landing with his right leg, which put unnecessary strain on his throwing shoulder. Perhaps not coincidentally, Lilly sat out last spring with a shoulder injury.

I did some additional background research on Lilly's shoulder problems from 2005. Back then his diagnosis was biceps tendonitis (link to anatomy drawing). He missed most of spring training and started his season by coming off the DL 4/10/05 but had a rough April and worked through the problem until it flared up at the end of July 05. This lead to a 2nd DL stint lasting 5 weeks. 2005 wasn't kind to Lilly producing a 10-11 record but Lilly is a tough guy and naturally he didn't make his injury an excuse in this end of season interview from the Bluejays site.

"To put it very mildly, I'm disappointed in the way I've gone out there and competed," Lilly said Wednesday after his last start of the season. "I guess, coming into this year, I just expected us to be competitive in this league. And [I expected] myself to really make a push to help us do that."

To be fair, injuries played a large part in his inability to meet those goals. Lilly missed all of Spring Training with a case of shoulder tendinitis, and when he came back, he clearly wasn't ready to pitch in the big leagues.

Regarding the 2009 version of Ted Lilly, his shoulder tendonitis/torn knee meniscus might just take 3-5 weeks if they don't push things and add the knee arthroscopic surgery to his recovery list. Getting Lilly back in September is just like trading for an All-Star for the pennant stretch (slamming head in Rob G's door).

A chronology of the Ted Lilly 2005 biceps tendonitis after the fold...

Tags: 

Sometimes It Feels As If We're Dropping Like Flies

Saturday, 10 AM UPDATE: Bruce Levine's ESPN AM-1000, Talkin' Baseball radio show from this saturday morning has updates
on Soriano's injury saying it's just a jammed finger and not a
dislocation. Also, Lilly's knee symptoms are related to a meniscus problem
and Dempster may just miss one more start.

Also he interviewed Oneri Fleita (Cubs VP of Player Personnel)
who comments on all things in the Cubs minor league system as well as
the recent rule 4 amateur draft, saying 2nd round pick LSU infielder DJ LeMahieu is close to signing.


A dark cloud seems to loom even with a two game winning streak after tonight's 3-1 win vs the Gnats.  So I ask, is dropping like flies worse than dropping flys?

This is not following Lou Piniella's script for the 2nd half of the season:

1) Get Healthy and Stay Healthy

2) Score runs

The "Road to Wrigley" game with the Iowa Cubs vs the Vegas 51's isn't coming until August 9th but it looks like the Iowa Cubs will be staying with their parent club just a bit longer, as two more Cub starters are possibly out for days and maybe more.

 

 

 

In the friday night 6-2 win against the Nationals, Alfonso Soriano dislocated his right little "pinky" finger (his throwing hand) in a base running mishap during the 4th inning. He singled to center on a play where DLee was on second but Lee rounded third and held there based on a strong but high throw to the plate by Nyjer Morgan. The catcher, Josh Bard caught the throw well in front of the plate then caught Soriano half way between first and second in an 8-2-6-4 putout. On the replay you can see that Soriano jammed his hand sliding into the base and he pulled on the finger right away apparently reducing the dislocated knuckle. The Comcast telecast also showed Soriano getting treatment from trainer Mark O'Neal as soon as he got back to the dugout but he stayed in the game and even batted again (he grounded out to 3B in the 6th and walked in the 9th). This type of injury doesn't swell until a few hours later but once the swelling develops the finger stiffens up making it hard to grip things (like a baseball or a bat).

Sgt Hulka says: It Only Hurts When You Laugh

 

"I'm gonna go out on a limb here. I'm gonna volunteer my leadership to this platoon. An army without leaders is like a foot without a big toe. And Sergeant Hulka isn't always gonna be here to be that big toe for us. I think that we owe a big round of applause to our newest, bestest buddy, and big toe... Sergeant Hulka."  (Cub fan, Bill Murray as John Winger, Stripes. 1981) 

 

This team needs a kick in the pants. Unfortunately, it won't be Ryan Dempster to administer the sorely needed swift one.  It's hard to do that when your foot hurts because you acted like a knucklehead tripping over a dugout fence and injuring your big toe. Accidents happen. Anyone with a broken toe knows how painful it is. Typically, they don't need an orthopod to treat this injury and the pain usually subsides in 1-3 weeks depending on how bad the toenail injury is. Of course, running and pitching may be a problem if swelling, which can persists for months, leads to problems wearing shoes. I just hope it doesn't lead to ruining his pitching mechanics and the ever dreaded career altering sore shoulder.

I can't recall an exact comparable injury but I did remember when Sammy Sosa had an infected right big toe nail and had the nail removed surgically back in 2003. He was on the DL from May 10th to May 30th (essentially 3 weeks). Unfortunately it's a little harder to assess how Sammy did upon his return because his corked bat episode happened 4 days later leading to an 8 game suspension.

Father's Day: Darren Baker asks the question...and Dusty has no answers

Roster Update: Angel Guzman to the DL with a right triceps strain, Kevin Hart called up from Iowa.


Happy Father's Day everyone.

I've mostly been shoulder shrugging since the story came out that Sammy Sosa was on the positive test list for PED's that the MLB Players Association didn't destroy. To me it was old news. After the "Steroid Era" cloud passes and everyone in it washs off the stink, I wonder what will be the impact on what baseball should consider one of it's most important assets, the kids who fall in love with the game because of their father's (or mom's, but today is father's day) love of the game.

On this father's day, one of the things I treasure most is that my son is a Cubs fan and a Baseball fan. So when I read this brief Fred Mitchell article in the Tribune, it made more impact on me than when the Sammy news was leaked in the NY Times.

"The worst part for me is that I don't know what to tell my son [Darren]," the Reds manager said after Saturday's Civil Rights Game luncheon at the Duke Energy Center. "He asks me, 'Dad, are there any good hitters not on something?' I just tell him that everyone is under suspicion. I will just be glad when it's all over."

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  • video of Maddon.

    http://www.espn.com/espn/now?nowId=21-0561343809737202839-4

    always nice that he actually tries to honestly answer questions. Does mention that he wanted to give Zastr? a chance in a meaningful spot rather than a mop-up role.

    Rob G. 6 hours 42 min ago view
  • from Muskat:

    #Cubs Maddon: "I'm not going to make up an excuse for why I did what I did. It has nothing to do with lack of confidence" ... "It was the right thing to do today based on what I saw, what their lineup looked like and Rob Z.'s availability." #Cubs

    Rob G. 6 hours 47 min ago view
  • http://www.espn.com/espn/now?nowId=21-0561339391889382475-4

    Hammel not particularly understanding of getting pulled out...as he should. Be curious what Maddon had to say. All I can think of is is keeping arms fresh and maybe wanting to see if Zastr? is worth considering for the playoffs and how he'd do against the Dodgers.

    Rob G. 6 hours 52 min ago view
  • great defense

    Heyward, Russell, Baez, Bryant, Ross in particular...although Bryant's a bit hard to judge with all the positions.

    Fowler and Rizzo in the top half of the NL for their positions as well (per fangraphs)...Zobrist right at the halfway cutoff for 2b in the NL.

    I'm sure some luck is involved too, but the Cubs and Maddon knew what they were doing.

    Rob G. 7 hours 4 min ago view
  • If all the starters have FIP > ERA, is that luck or good defense?

    Craig A. 7 hours 15 min ago view
  • #Cubs plummet to 19-5 in August.

    Fun with FIP

    • J. Hammel   3.07 ERA/4.27 FIP (3.68 FIP last year)
    • J. Arrieta     2.62 ERA/3.05 FIP (2.35 FIP last year)
    • J. Lester     2.81 ERA/3.67 FIP (2.92 FIP last year)
    • K. Hendricks  2.19 ERA/3.37 FIP (3.36 FIP last year)
    • J. Lackey     3.41 ERA/3.72 FIP (3.57 FIP last year with Cards)
    Rob G. 7 hours 41 min ago view
  • zastyryzryzryzny put in 3.2ip 1h 0bb 3k

    he's great when his control is "on"...problem is it's rarely "on" consistently. he could vault up the cubs prospect list if he ever gets better with that aspect of his game.

    crunch 8 hours 21 min ago view
  • JD's take was just trying to get in a lefty to better deal with mostly lefty Dodgers lineup.

    My second thought was what you came up with. My first thought was he was trying to light a fire under Hammel.

    Jackstraw 9 hours 33 min ago view
  • Maybe he was trying to spare him another brutal road start? NY, Colorado...

    billybucks 9 hours 50 min ago view
  • joe got a pitcher up for hammel at nearly the 1st sign of trouble in the 3rd...pulled after 2.1

    not injured and though it wasn't his day so far he wasn't looking like a pure disaster.

    really short leash on him. zastryznzryzryny in.

    crunch 9 hours 54 min ago view
  • Russell and Soler can attest that Urias has a pretty good curve/slider - two big strikeouts looking to get out of that jam in the first.

    Eric S 10 hours 39 min ago view
  • Classic Scully - great stuff.

    Thank God we'll still have Hawk next season. (cricket cricket cricket)

    Eric S 15 hours 30 min ago view
  • Here's Scully's call on Bryant's 10th-inning homer:

    "And it's a long fly ball, a mean fly ball, and a gone fly ball."

    VirginiaPhil 16 hours 43 min ago view
  • When the Cubs were the old, hundred-year Cubs, one bad hop did not undo their opponents.

    VirginiaPhil 16 hours 47 min ago view
  • If only he was clutcher. More clutcher.

    Jackstraw 18 hours 5 min ago view
  • cubs win...bryant with 7HR in his last 8 games.

    crunch 1 day 1 hour ago view