There is a Twilight Zone episode from 1963 called "The Parallel." The story goes something like this...
An astronaut (Steve Forrest) blasts-off from Cape Canaveral, and once he is in orbit, his ship disappears from radar. Next scene, the astronaut wakes up in a hospital, and he appears to be OK. Except he notices certain aspects of his life are slightly different. For instance, his best friend (who was a USAF major when he took off) is now a colonel. His house has a white picket fence that it did not have before. And nobody has ever heard of a "President Kennedy." He locates an encyclopedia and finds that certain facts are different from the history that he remembers. And Jim Hendry did not get fired.
In this alternate universe, the 2011 World Series ends with the Texas Rangers victorious (David Frese strikes out swinging in the bottom of the 9th of Game 6), and operating with a 2012 $130M payroll budget, JH goes into the 2011-12 off-season with a plan that is consistent with past off-seasons.
The first thing he does is exercise the $16M 2012 club option on Aramis Ramirez. but A-Ram declines his player option part and is a free-agent. Knowing there are no other viable 3B FA options out there (or in-house waiting in the wings), Hendry offers Ramirez essentially the same deal he eventually got from Milwaukee in the parallel universe: 4/$50M or 3/$36M - $6M (2012), $12M (2013), $14M (2014), and $14M or $4M buy-out (2015). And with the promise that he will sign a FA 1B and RF to upgrade the lineup, Ramirez accepts. Therefore, there is no reason to acquire another third-baseman, so D. J. LeMahieu and Tyler Colvin remain with the Cubs, and Ian Stewart gets non-tendered by COL.
Believing that compensation draft picks are not worth the chance that the player might accept salary arbitration, Carlos Pena is allowed to leave without being offered salary arbitration, so the Cubs will receive no compensation draft picks in the June 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
But that doesn't matter, because JH knows that Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder are available. and he will sign one of them. Pujols (somewhat surprisingly) decides to go to the Angels, but JH meets Fielder's asking price, giving the slugger a 10/$205M contract that bests the one Pujols got from LAA by $1M.
While JH has a $130M budget in 2012, he knows he will get about $50M in payroll back post-2012 when Zambrano, Dempster, Byrd, Marshall, and Baker are free-agents, and Pena's $5M salary deferred from 2011 and Carlos Silva's $2M 2012 buy-out are off the books, so all FA contracts are back-loaded. Therefore, the Fielder contract is paid this way: $12M (2012) and $27M (2013-21), with player opt-out options (naturally) after the 4th, 6th, and 8th seasons.
Additionally, JH offers Carlos Beltran a year more than he got from the Cardinals in the alternate universe, signing Beltran to a three-year 3/$39M back-loaded deal that somewhat mirrors the Ramirez contract: $6M (2012), $15M (2013), $15M (2014), and $15M or $3M buy-out (2015).
Because Beltran has been signed to play RF, JH has no interest in David DeJesus.
At this point, the Cubs 2012 payroll (including signed players and projected salaries for arbitration-eligibles and auto-renewal players) is about $127M.
The Cubs still need a starting pitcher, so Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt are non-tendered, saving another $2M in 2012 payroll, as Baker and DeWitt are replaced on the 25-man roster by LeMahieu and either Ryan Flaherty or Marwin Gonzalez (who are added to the 40-man roster on 11/18).
With $5M left to spend, JH signs Paul Maholm to a three-year $21M contract ($5M in 2012 and $8M in 2013-14), without having to trade Sean Marshall.
Looking ahead, salary increases in 2013 would include Fielder (+$15M), Ramirez (+$6M), Beltran (+$9M), and Maholm (+$3M), plus arbitration driven increases for Matt Garza (+$3M), Geovany Soto (+$2M), and Starlin Castro (+$2M).
If the payroll budget stays the same in 2013 ($130M), JH would have $10M to spend next off-season. With Dempster and Zambrano free-agents, JH signs Garza to a long-term back-loaded contract extension and a front-line FA starting pitcher (perhaps Zack Greinke) to a back-loaded contract, as JH knows he will pick-up payroll post-2013 (after Soto has left as a FA) and post-2014 (after Soriano, Ramirez, and Beltran are off the books).
"Submitted to you without any recommendations as to belief or disbelief. You can accept or reject. You pays your money and you takes your chances. But credulous or incredulous, don't bother to ask anyone for proof that it could happen. The obligation is reverse challenge. Prove that it couldn't. This happens to be... The Twilight Zone."
Ho! Ho ! Ho! Merry Christmas, everybody!
Trouble Boys, the Replacements bio, is a great option. I'm sure Chad loved it.
Amen Brick. What's the point of following early-season games if you can't over-react to them? What, we should be reading books now?
"Weren't the National considered a near lock last year?"
No, I think you're thinking of Radiohead, The 1975, or Bowie's last album.
Although The National's Greatful Dead tribute is pretty cool.
I don't think they're any kind of lock, though I do expect they'll make the playoffs.
It's not like I'm glad they've gone 4-8. I just don't think it's time to be all that worried -- just like I didn't think they were going to keep playing .730 ball.
vegas isn't a fan of the game because of how erratic and unpredictable it is.
SF has recently won 3 world series many thought they weren't supposed to win...BOS won a world series recently that they weren't even supposed to be in the playoffs for...favored teams with huge wins have seen 1st round exists...fun times.
I think they'll be ok too. But having watched this team since the mid-60s, I never think it's time to conclude, well, thank god the drought is over. I've seen/heard way too many people who follow the Cubs say glad we're finally going to win the Series this year. Please. Weren't the National considered a near lock last year?
Best record in baseball and largest division lead.
I'm jumping right now!
Can we please stop pointing out how ridiculous it is to panic and start panicking in earnest?
,571 winning percentage in May.
I think they're gonna be OK.
RAISIN: All I know is that Oscar de la Cruz is still shut down, and I don't know what his prognosis is, or what the plan is going forward.
Remember just two weeks ago, when "all" they had to do was play .500 ball the rest of the season and coast into the playoffs?
Well I guess if pitchers can keep working the edges of the plate to perfection it will be a long season. But that doesn't seem likely. Rizzo finally, fully, snapping out of it would help.
If I didn't believe in coincidences (or science), I would apologize to Gordon Downie--one of my favorites. Sad news about a great talent.
Hi Arizona Phil,
Has there been any news on Oscar de la Cruz' health?
O&B: Cease was apparently working on his off-speed pitches in his first & thrd innings, because in his second inning of work he just blew the D'backs away with high-velocity gas (that's when he hit 99-100 and struck out the side).