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.

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.

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.....
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.
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.
TCR's guest correspondent Joseph Hecht, M.D. is back with a look at the wild and wacky side of baseball injuries. ---- Now that Mark Prior may be the only player in the arbitration process to receive a slight pay cut, he should be embarrassed but definitely motivated to make more money from here on out. No more excuses as to some wacky injury this year, correct? After all, he’s covered every possible thing that can go wrong, right? (Image courtesty of Jeff Roberson/AP) To paraphrase Johnny Carson’s line to Ed McMahon, “Wrong, oh traumatized Cub one”. Take a look at a few of the baseball injuries he’s yet to suffer. Our pitching prodigy is explicitly forbidden to see this stuff (just in case his ailments are psychosomatic). I “stumbled” onto the True Baseball Injuries website that has some beauties. Lets start by preventing him from talking to ‘70’s Cub outfielder Jose Cardenal at the next Cub convention. As a kid, Jose Cardenal must have had some great excuses to get out of school. He wouldn’t dare come up with a lame excuse like, my dog at my homework. He missed a game in 1972 because he was kept up all night by chirping crickets outside his hotel room. Two years later he missed a game because he couldn’t blink, reporting that his eyes were stuck, “open”.

Next I “bumped” into a website called The Baseball Injury Hall of Fame. Their list includes over 30 of the weirdest injuries that have happened to baseball players and of course our Cubs and their maladies have been able-bodied in their representation.

Some of these injury reports are the party line as to what happened. If the truth came out, some of these players just might have violated something in their contract or even worse been the laughing stock of the clubhouse and the whole baseball world. I’m sure they were the latter from those in the know.

Here are few of my favorites, but I’d love to see more from our readers:

Mark Prior and the Cubs have agreed on a one year deal, terms have yet to be disclosed. I imagine they'll just agree in the middle and Prior will get the same that he did last year which was $3.65 million. The Cubs should demand from Prior a public apology for even thinking he deserved a raise, but the MLBPA would probably shoot it down. Hendry will have to close a substantial gap between Zambrano and the Cubs numbers($15.5m to $11.025m) to keep the Cubs streak of avoiding arbitration alive (14 years running since Grace in 1993). UPDATE: The Cubs played hard-ass and got Prior to agree to $3.575 million, but he can earn an additional $150,000 if he makes 27 starts and another $150,000 if he makes it up to 30 starts, which if I add it up correctly means he could make $3.875 million next year which is exactly what he asked for when the two sides exchanged arbitration numbers. Isn't that cute?
Beyond my normal day job, I'm working on a bunch of other stuff for the site from articles to some permanent features to new contributors and so forth, so you'll have to bear with a few slow days until spring training starts. In the meantime, Scout.com released the Top 100 prospects for the 2007 MLB draft and with us picking third (and 31st I believe), I'd imagine that would interest us all. Any of the first four picks sure sound interesting : David Price (LHP): ...electrifying, 6-foot-6 lefty who not only has the projectability and explosive stuff, but the college polish to go along with it. Andrew Brackman (RHP): ...the towering 7-foot righty... (What else do you need to know?) Matt Wieters (C): He has thunder in his bat and has an outstanding arm behind the plate that scouts are already raving about. He's one of the best hitting prospects to come along in recent years. Rick Porcello (RHP): ....armed with a 96 mph fastball and a hard curveball, and his 6-foot-5 frame gives him a huge amount of upside. For an added bonus, three of the four (excluding Porcello) are in college right now so the road to the majors should be a little shorter.
No, this isn't a betting column although I've never been able to figure out what the gambling lines on a baseball game mean. I had this wonderful post all ready to go running down the various prospect lists that have been circulated over the last few months. We're talking pictures, animated charts, flash demos, in-depth interviews, a whole streaming webcast with Tim Wilkens and Oneri Fleita set-up so they could answer your questions live and then Baseball America moved back the release date of their top 10 Cubs prospects for a week. (And much like a Cubs injury report, about half of that last sentence is true). So instead, I'm wondering if you guys could help me out with a problem that's got me baffled? A certain website asked me to do a write-up on our beloved Chicago Cubs (hint: I recently reviewed one of their books). So I'm supposed to provide a name for the most overrated Cub and the most underrated Cub and I just can't pin it down. The most underrated Cub seems easy enough, find a guy that flies under the media radar or is overshadowed by a bigger name, but quietly gets the job done. But do I go with an unproven no-name like Ryan Theriot with less than 150 major league at-bats or someone with a little more seasoning whom the spotlight passes over such as Bob Howry who quietly got it done quite consistently last year with little fanfare. The overrated player really has me racking me brain. First, how can anyone on a 66 win team be overrated? Second, it seems like such a slap in the face to the unfortunate player tagged with the label. For example, that certain team that's going to be playing in the Super Bowl this upcoming week has a middle linebacker who seems to find his way on the most overrated list every once in awhile. And everytime he's on one of those lists, I immediately think to myself, "What the hell? Urlacher doesn't suck, you people are morons." Of course, that's the problem I'm having, you see someone on an overrated list and you start equating that with a "These players suck" list, rather than it's intended meaning which is that they're just not as good as the hype machine has made them. (But just to be clear, those people are morons, Urlacher is worth the hype.) So there you go, who are the most underrated and overrated Cubs players? Now hopefully they're different players, although I bet you I could make a pretty convincing case for Carlos Zambrano on both accounts. And give me some reasoning behind the choices because I'm going to have to justify them somehow.
The Arizona Republic is reporting that late yesterday or early today, someone broke in to Bob Brenly's home to steal the emmy he won for his work with Len last year. This demands a serious investigation. First of all, how did Bob Brenly win an Emmy? Ok, maybe it would be better to start with an easier problem: Who stole Bob's Emmy?
I actually wasn't going to do one today, but after spending all morning working on something for the site, I felt the need to unveil it upon you all. But first... - Dayn Perry HATES the Cubs. The article ranges from the absurd to the obvious. My favorite gem:
(Derrek) Lee must stay healthy. While it's not likely he'll ever again be as dominant as he was in 2005, he is capable of returning to his typical "very good but not great" self. Provided he avoids injury.
While certainly there's truth behind the statement, who's really worried about him getting injured? A bad luck broken bone last year and we're walking on eggshells with him all of sudden? Didn't Sammy Sosa get hit by a pitch in 1996 that prematurely ended his season? Was everyone freaking out that he'll never be able to play a full season again?
Butterball Rusch's days as a Cub are over, the team has released him to make room on the 40-man roster to fit in Cliff Floyd and Jeff Samardzija. There were no statements from Rusch or the team as of yet, so I'll just make some up.
"Did you see him pitch last year? My apologies to Cubs fans everywhere." (Jim Hendry) "I've fooled 4 different teams over 9 years, convincing them that I could pitch in the majors. So yes, I consider my career a success." (Glendon Rusch)
All kidding aside, best wishes on recovering from the blood clot that ended your season Glendon and I hope you continue your career with the St. Louis Cardinals one day. The fact that I defended Glendon on far too many occasions (conveniently I can't link to any of them right now as our archives are in Internet limbo) makes this move even better in my book, since he won't be around anymore to make me look bad, which I can do all by myself anway. AZ PHIL: Rusch is owed $3.25M for 2007, and the Cubs are on the hook for the entire bag of coins unless some other MLB GM chooses to sign him for the MLB minimum, in which case the Cubs will only owe Rusch $2.87M. My guess is that Rusch will sit-out the 2007 season and make sure the blood-thinner medication is working, and then maybe mount a comeback in 2008. After signing Jeff Samardzija and Cliff Floyd and adding them to the 40-man roster, the Cubs will still need to remove one more player from the 40-man roster. My guess is that player will probably be Buck Coats.
TCR is happy to announce the addition of Joseph Hecht, M.D. as a guest contributor to the site. You may recall his detailed insights in the comments as "Cubster" on the various medical woes that our team has suffered throughout the years. He's a board certified orthopedic surgeon with over 20 years of experience, currently running a private practice just outside of Chicago, in Munster, Indiana. He'll be providing us with insight on the various ailments that will undoubtedly befall the boys in blue as the season progresses. --- Cliff Floyd, the most recent Cub addition will immediately fit in with the Cub tradition as he’s been a walking wounded athlete much of his career. His current malady for which he had surgery last October is Achilles Tendonitis. Recent Cubs surviving this Epic Malady include the “Marks” Grudzielanek and Prior, although neither of those athletes needed surgery for the condition. From Greek Mythology and Homer’s Iliad come the origin of the concept that the Achilles tendon is the weak spot of many a legendary hero. Thetis (Achilles Mother) held the young Achilles by the heel and dipped him in the river Styx; everything the sacred waters touched became invulnerable, but the heel remained dry and therefore vulnerable. I don’t believe Cliff Floyd’s mom’s first name is Thetis although she might have listened to a song or two from the band Styx. But seriously folks, this stuff hurts…

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