Do the Cubs Have a White Flag in Their Future?
"It's just disappointing, I guess, to think you have a team where everybody in here thinks you can still do it and you can't. You'll never know what could have happened."
So said White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura to Phil Rogers of the Tribune on August 1, 1997, the day after Ventura's bosses completed the so-called "White Flag Trade," in which the Sox shipped three of Ventura's veteran teammates to San Francisco for six minor leaguers, all while Ventura's team—52-53 at the time—sat just 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians.
"This team had a chance, and it didn't seize it. It was hard to look at this team and feel very confident. I wasn't interested in finishing second in a poker hand."
So said Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf in defending the deal, which moved pitchers Wilson Alvarez, Roberto Hernandez, and Danny Darwin, and netted shortstop Mike Caruso, outfielder Brian Manning, and pitchers Lorenzo Barcelo, Ken Vining, Keith Foulke, and future Cub Bob Howry.
"I looked at it today and I was thinking all it takes is gaining one game a week for the rest of the year and you can win your division... It's going to take 50 wins or so from here on out to...win this division, and we're capable of doing it."
So said Ryan Dempster on ESPN Radio last week when discussing the Cubs' chances of clawing past the Reds and Cardinals.
I bring this up because, while enjoying almost all of the Cubs' four-game series with the Phillies this past weekend, I couldn't help but wonder if Cubs GM Jim Hendry wasn't at least a little bit conflicted. A week ago, he was (presumably) making plans to shed excess salary and re-arm the Cubs organization with prospects acquired through trade, and he would have had the support of all Cubdom in doing so.
Now, with home-and-home series against the lowly Astros and a three-game set against the division leaders in the Cubs' immediate future, Hendry has to at least ponder the possibility that ten days from now, his team could be within, say, six games of the division lead. At the same time, he (presumably) has teams like the Mets and Tigers and Yankees and who-knows-who-else knocking on his door and calling his office to inquire about possible deals with the third-place Chicago Cubs.
What to do, Jim? What to do?
At the time of the "White Flag Trade," Dusty Baker's Giants were in a dead heat with the Dodgers for the lead in the NL West. Following the trade, the Giants went 31-23 and won the West by 2 games over Los Angeles. Alvarez went 4-3, 4.48 for SF down the stretch, while Darwin was 1-3, 4.91, and Hernandez went 5-2, 2.48.
The White Sox finished the season 80-81, six games behind the Indians, who went on to win the AL pennant.
Of the six players the White Sox picked up in the big trade, only Manning failed to reach the majors. A year after the trade, Caruso was the White Sox' starting shortstop and batted .300, Howry saved 49 games for the Sox between '98 and 2002, and Foulke collected 100 saves for the Sox before he was traded to Oakland in a deal for Billy Koch at the end of '02.
I know he's struggles against lefties but Schwarber seems zoned in - hope he starts tonight.
Awesome stuff, Phil.
listening on ESPN 1000, caller says Bill Welke will be the home plate ump today. Supposedly his reputation is for having an even bigger strike zone than last night's Phil Cuzzi. Some of the issues with bad umpiring come from an inconsistent strike zone. Hoping at least for consistency. Last night's called strike on David Ross was outright embarrassing for Cuzzi.
That might work out in favor of Kyle Hendricks, who benefits much from a large strike zone.
it's kind of mesmerizing to watch
should Theo add some Ted Abernathy videos for minor league pitching coordinator's use?
sadly, Ted passed away in 2004 from complications of Alzheimers. I always loved the Cub bullpen trio of Phil Regan, Ted Abernathy and Hank Aguirre. As a kid, I even worked on both Phil Regan (very quirky delivery) and Ted Abernathy (extreme submarine) imitations when throwing a rubber ball against a wall. It wasn't a good imitation unless I could scrape my knuckles off the ground. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for submariners.
HAGSAG: Chris Pieters was sent to instructs to develop his hitting, bunting, and outfield play (he is already a decent first-baseman).
Pieters is tall and rangy , a "long-strider" in the same mold as Trey Martin and Rashad Crawford. He is a very patient hitter (unusual for a hitter with his lack of experience) and has an outstanding (almost uncanny) eye at the plate, and he is a fast runner with unusually good baserunning instincts, and he is a good basestealer, too.
I doubt we will see Pedro in any more "high leverage" situations this series. With Hendricks and the pen today, we need Bryant-Rizzo-Castro to get going ASAP.
One funny thing to see before the game was the two submariner pitchers (David Berg and Corbin Hoffner) playing catch with each other. Both pitchers throw "submarine" even when they play catch, and it's kind of mesmerizing to watch, even for the other players.
CUBSTER: One of the points of emphasis at "basic" Instructs this year was teaching the position players the art of baserunning and base-stealing, like getting a good primary and seconday lead, reading the pitcher, cutting bases sharply, and different ways to slide to maximize the baserunner's chance to arrive safely.
Brooksbaseball.net has some interesting stats/graphs on pitch and strike zones and you can dial up individual games/pitchers. I'd love to see some comments from readers who can interpret this better than I can. I thought the Ump was really inconsistent with a very wide zone. Does this info seem to match up with my eyeball perception? Also, looking at the graphs, Lackey was not throwing as many pitches below the K-zone (certainly more above) while Lester was clearly getting his pitches down and not many above.
As I was fearing in my post yesterday, Maddon keeps trotting Strop out against the Redbirds and he constantly fails. I understand the psychology behind this, but in a series where there is a finite lock on who moves on, why does he keep riding the wrong horse?
AZ Phil: Agree, this must have been a really fun game to watch. There was a lot of base stealing going on. Are the pitchers not holding runners or is the catching still a work in progress?
Cuzzi has long been known as having the biggest strike zone among all umpires.
AZ Phil, give me a scouting report on Chris Pieters since he has become a 1B/OF.
I think it's probably hard to adjust to an ump's zone mid-game, as least for hitters. Pitchers can locate to an ump's zone, but hitters have minimal time to react.
But, whatever. Umps are going to miss calls. Let's beat up on the non-Lackey starters.
Watched a little of Mets-Dodgers.
Jason deGrom -- oh, my.
Cubs 3-4-5 hitters are 0-21 so far in the post-season.
Let's change that in a big effin' way tomorrow, boys.