October 2005

Callis on Pie

Last week, Jim Callis of Baseball America weighed in on Felix Pie, responding to an email asking what he thought the Cubs should do with him. The key line: "He needs another season or two in the minors. If they promote him now, the Cubs run the risk of sending the wrong message to Pie, just as they did to [Corey] Patterson." I'm doing my best not to let my excitement about Pie get ahead of me. I keep telling myself he's only 21, and he hasn't played above AA.

Walker, Williamson Back

No real surprise here, but it's being reported on cubs.com that the Cubs picked up the options on Todd Walker ($2.5 mil) and Scott Williamson ($2 mil) for next season. As previously mentioned, Burnitz's option was bought out for $500,000 and he's already filed for free agency. Apparently ESPN radio in Chicago is also reporting that the Cubs are close to a 2 year/$6 million deal with Glendon Rusch. I'll spare you my opinion until I know if it's true or not.

TCR Friday Notes

Well glad thatís all over, onto baseballís fourth season, the oven is warminí and the rumors are poppiní. Free Agents With the World Series ending, players can begin to file for free agency. The first Cub casualty was Jeromy Burnitz who appears to have had his $7 million option bought out by the team for $500,000. A lot of folks spent last season comparing Sosa and Burnitzís 2005 seasons. I always felt that Burnitz needed to equal Sosaís 2004 season and in my ever-present early season optimism, thought he was up for the task. And I was wrongÖ 2005 Burnitz: .258/.322/.435 24 HR, 87 RBI, 84 R, 57 BB, 109 K, 160 Games 2004 Sosa: .253/.332/.517 35 HR, 80 RBI, 69 R, 56 BB, 133 K, 126 Games

Free Agent’s Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Lose

The other day in the comments, the mysteriously-monikered "X" said this:
"I can't think of any STUDS (don't Todd Walker me - please) who have wanted to come to this team since [Andre] Dawson left a signed contract with the amount blank on the GM's desk. I'm sure there are some - I just can't think of them off the top of my head."
That sounded like a call for me to waste some time at work. Of course, it's next-to-impossible to determine which players might have "wanted" to cme to the Cubs -- all we can really do is examine who actually did come.

Congratulations!

We have had our differences over the years, our battles, our disagreements, our love/hate relationship, as in we love to hate each other. But in the end I'm happy for the fans of the Chicago White Sox, the ones who are actually fans, who lived and died with their team with the same fervor that we've done time and time again with our beloved Cubbies. For those Sox fans who jumped on the bandwagon just not to be Cubs fans, and let us know at every turn how your team is doing better, you can eat human waste and find an untimely demise.

This Just In: Cubs Not Involved in World Series

Pity the White Sox and their fans. And believe me, I don't mean "pity the White Sox and their fans" in a "I'm a Cubs fan and therefore I look down on the other team in my city" sense, though it's not a surprise you might think that considering where you're reading this. I'm serious -- I actually feel bad for the White Sox right now. Here they are, in the World Series, and I keep seeing tons of articles talking about how Cubs fans feel about them being there. Are we glad? Cranky? Should we root for them? Against them?

I Know What You Did Last Winter

It was just over a year ago now that the Cubs imploded in the season's final days, losing 7 of their last 9 when the wild card was theirs for the taking. For all its flaws, and there were a good number, that was a playoff team, and so inanimately watching the postseason last year hurt all the more. At the same time though, there was at least the prospect that, if the Cubs continued to improve under Hendry, next year, or at least the year after that, would at last not yield the same October disappointment. The Cubs under Hendry, with a bit more work and a bit more luck, would be going places.

Just how far does Cub Kingdom stretch?

I just stumbled onto the Common Census website, which attempts to track the local cultural spheres of influence within the United States. As part of that project, Common Census has developed a Sports Map Project that tracks the popularity of sports teams by geography. Basically, it tries to color-code a map to show which sports team is most popular from place to place across all of America. They have maps for the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and NCAA Football.

TCR Friday Notes

There's only one other combination that would have made the World Series any less interesting for most Cubs fans. I'm really not sure how to go about rooting in this series. Sure I'd have to hear it from my White Sox friends if they won, but that might be better than watching Roy Oswalt win one or Berkman. To the notes: - Anyone else think this vacuum of silence over the last few weeks is a calculated plan by the Cubs brass and PR departments to stay low? The less noise we make over here on the north side, the less people will notice that we finished below .500 despite a substantially higher payroll then that other team in Chicago who'll be playing for a World Series this week. I see one of two things happening this off-season because of the White Sox success. Option #1) Endorsed by Jim Hendry himself is that the Cubs stay the course and do whatever they were planning to do this off-season anyway. Not sure what that course is, but I think it involves accumulating every "versatile", light-hitting middle infielder available. Option #2) That the Cubs PR department isn't about to let the White Sox steal their thunder and there are some discussions going behind closed doors that the Cubs need to make some splashy moves this off-season. I'm not saying expensive, cause when you work for the Trib you stick to the budget, rain, wind or snow. But I do think splashy, some trade or free agent signing that will bring in one of those players that people can't help but talk about. The first name that comes to mind is Manny Ramirez, but he is grossly expensive, a headcase and will make us remember just how good Jason Dubois and Moises Alou actually were in left field. But the boy can rake. All speculation on my part, but one of the advantages of being owned by a mega-conglomerate is the PR department is ready to go at a moments notice.

Baseball America’s Year End Review

Baseball America has gotten around to summing up the past season in the minors. For each league, they ranked the top 20 prospects in terms of major league longevity and impact. Here's a recap of all things Cubs I could find for your reading enjoyment in these dark days. Arizona League (AZL Cubs RL): #1 Mark Pawelek Chat Wrap with Allan Simpson No discussion on any Cubs players but there's a note that Pawelek was the only first rounder in the entire league. Northwest League (Boise Hawks SS A): #2 Donald Veal #20 Mark Reed

TCR Friday Notes

Could the week have been anymore drab in regards to Cubs news? Nothing, nada, with only the death-defying stuntwork of Nomar and Uncle Victor to keep us warm at night. Of course I should be using this lull in Cubs news to touch-up, polish, start all those articles that I plan to post this off-season, but a healthy dose of anarchy has invaded my life the last few weeks, preventing any such endeavors. Anywhoo, to the notes: - From the NY Times:
The Yankees will have plenty of choices among free-agent relievers, including the left-hander B. J. Ryan, who was a closer for the Baltimore Orioles this year but had said he was open to setting up for a winning team.
Well I'm sure his agent is open to whoever is willing to sign the biggest paycheck, but in my undying fantasy where Hendry realizes a shut-down bullpen may be the most important thing for a team whose starting pitchers avoid late innings like they avoid the strikezone, I still hope Hendry finds Ryan's agent's number from MLB's directory assistance. Quick sidenote, where do GM's get the number of other GM's, or agents or folks like that? Is there an MLB phone number directory? Things I wonder about, such as where do super-criminals get their henchmen from? Back to Ryan, he apparently expresses a wish to play for a winning team, which will be an obstacle that Hendry would have to hurdle if talks ever got serious. Cause winning and the Cubs just don't go hand in hand. But we generally do look good on paper and having Ryan as the backup to Dempster as closer is about as full-proof as you can get. If it was my team, I'd likely reverse the roles or use Ryan against the meaty part of the order, no matter what inning they came up in as he's certainly the superior pitcher. Sure it's an expensive luxury, but when Dempster inevitably comes back down to Earth and stops looking like the 2003 version of Eric Gagne, you can all thank me later. And I'm aware that spending big money on relievers is usually a foolish plan, but A) it's not my money B) the Cubs do have that money to spend this off-season C) this would lower the odds substantially of Dusty and Co. mucking up late innings by trying to play matchups that they don't grasp all too well and D) my ticker can't handle another year of blowing late-inning leads. Am I being selfish? You bet!!! But it would be nice to know that a late inning lead is safe and games could essenitally be over after the 6th or 7th inning. As if I need numbers to prove my point, but here's what Ryan's done in the hitter's league the last 3 years: (2005) 2.43 ERA, 100/26 BB/K, 12.8 K/9, 3.85 K/BB, 0.51 HR/9 (2004) 2.28 ERA, 122/35 BB/K, 12.62 K/9, 3.49 K/BB, 0.41 HR/9 (2003) 3.40 ERA, 63/27 BB/K, 11.27 K/9, 2.33 K/BB, 0.18 HR/9 Hendry said something about getting pitching this off-season, hopefully this is what he meant.

The Worldís Most Useless Playoff Predictor: LCS Edition

I went 3 out of 4 in the Division Series and if I actually paid attention to what I wrote, I might be 4 out of 4. Let's review the rules: #1) Find the teams that have been playing well for longer than a weekÖ.a good 2 month stretch or longer is nice. #2) Find teams that have a knack for coming from behind #3) 2 dominant starters on staff equals trouble for other team. #4) Aggressive managing is better than the same old thing works managing. #5) Never go for a team with a bad defense particularly up the middle (CF, 2b, SS & C) #6) And of course there is the ex-Cub factor. Onto the predictions we go....

Collage of Coaches

Dusty gets his wish, as the entire Cubs coaching staff will be back for 2006. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild apparently weighed the opportunity to be reunited with his World Series champion co-workers Dave Dombrowksi and Jim Leyland, but decided to come back to Chicago on a one-year contract.

AFL Report

Some of you may know reader and roster guru AZ Phil from the comments and roundtable discussions and well he doesn't get that name for nothing. He'll be checking in from Arizona while he catches some of the Mesa Solar Sox games over the next few weeks. He's kindly offered to provide us with his scoop from the ballpark on how the lil' Cubs are doing. Thanks to Phil and hope you enjoy Box Score | Log Although the Solar Sox lost again today(5-3 to the Peoria Javelinas), I got to see†another fine offensive performance by Matt Murton and Brandon Sing. (Murton hit 5th and played LF, Sing hit 6th & was the DH). Murton was 2-3 with a walk, including two doubles, one sliced into the†right-field corner, and the other smoked to left-center.†Murton scored both times he doubled. The one time he came up with men on base (bases loaded, one out),†he rolled into a 6-4-3 DP. It was nice to see Murton play a single to the outfield aggresively and make an immediate throw home without thinking about where to throw it,†something you all may remember he failed to do a few weeks ago playing†behind Carlos Zambrano.†††

Friday Notes Edition

Hope everyone is enjoying the playoffs, so far. Sure it's tough not seeing the Cubs in there and even tougher to see the White Sox and Cards playing, but if you're a fan of just the game of baseball, you generally get to see some well-played games. - The Cubs were suppose to announce any coaching changes by yesterday, but I haven't come across anything yet. I'm assuming the hold-up is being caused by Larry Rothschild. Hendry gave Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski permission to interview Rothschild, who worked with new Tigers manager Jim Leyland back in 1997 when the Marlins won the World Series. Indications are that Rothschild was offered a new contract by the Cubs for one year and it'll just depend if Rothschild is more interested in coaching with an old friend in Leyland or trying to stick around and finish what he's started in Chicago.

End of Year Roundtable: Reader Edition

And to wind things up, today we bring you answers from a few of the many thoughtful and enthusiastic readers of TCR: AZ Phil, KJK, David Geiser and Manny Trillo. Thanks guys! Update And belatedly, Bleeding Blue. Does Derrek Lee deserve the MVP? Will he get it? Bleeding Blue: Yes he deserves it, but since the MVP award has become the 'MVP for a playoff team' award, he won't. Pujols will probably get it.

Arizona Fall League Begins

The AFL league began last night, and as you may know, 7 Cubs are down there right now. David Aardsma, Buck Coats, Angel Guzman, John Koronka, Matt Murton, Eric Patterson, and Brandon Sing. The Mesa Solar Sox lost last night and the only Cub to get into the game was David Aardsma, who came out guns ablazing: 1.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1BB, 2 K, 0 HR, 20.25 ERA. Aardsma came in with 2 outs in the bottom of the fifth and got D'Backs Jarred Bell to ground out. Then, in true Aardsma fashion, got the next two batters out in the bottom of the sixth before giving up three runs with 2 outs. This is something Aardsma has been very familiar with all year, starting innings strong, but unable to get that third out, at least not without some serious difficulties. Last night it started with a single by D'Back uber-prospect Stephen Drew, then a double by the Dodgers uber-prospect Andy LaRoche, a walk to the A's Andre Ethier and finally a triple to the Dodgers Matt Kemp before he struck out Braves catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (imagine Harry trying to pronounce that one).

End of Year Roundtable: Outside Influences Edition

Today, we have five writers from the Cubs world answering the same questions that the TCR writers answered yesterday. The participants: Joe Aiello, View From the Bleachers Will Carroll, Baseball Prospectus and The Juice Chuck Gitles, Ivy Chat TCR alumnus Derek Smart, Cub Town Al Yellon, Bleed Cubbie Blue

The World’s Most Useless Playoff Predictor

I trotted out my playoff prediction process last year at my old site. Before we begin, let me point out that picking names out of a hat or some sort of other randomness would be just as successful. My record last year in the first round, well my original picks went 3-1, but I discovered the Yanks led the league in come from behind victories (See Rule #2), which would have changed my one pick and I would have went 4-0. Onto The Rules: #1) Find the teams that have been playing well for longer than a week....a good 2 month stretch or longer is nice. Records of the playoff teams since August 1st: Yankees (39-20), Angels (35-22), White Sox (31-28), Red Sox (36-22) Astros (32-25), Cardinals (34-24), Padres (31-26), Braves (29-28) Edge to the Yanks, Red Sox and Cardinals.

Only 182 Days Until Opening Day

With the off-season upon us, we thought we'd take a few days to look back at the '05 season and forward to 2006. Today, the four TCR writers take a stab at it, and our feelings range from pessimistic to, uh, really pessimistic. Someone want to talk John in off that ledge? Tune in tomorrow for Q&A with other Cubs writers, and on Wednesday for the opinions of some of the TCR community. ---------- Letís start off with the biggest positive in an otherwise disappointing season: Does Derrek Lee deserve the MVP? Will he get it?

Dempster Signs Extension

The Cubs took their first dive into the free agent market by extending Ryan Dempster's contract for 3 years. It appears the deal is for $15.5 million total or about $5.17 per year. Nice move, once again by Hendry, to pre-empt a bidding war and secure a solid if not spectacular player. Dempster's #'s since becoming a closer on May 9th: 4-0 1.85 ERA, 53/27 K/BB, 1HR, 46 IP 8.2 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, .15 HR/9, 1.96 K/BB

Operation Spoiler, Phase 3

GAME 161 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] CHICAGO CUBS (79-81) @ HOUSTON ASTROS (87-73) @ THE JUICE BOX 3:05 pm CDT, TV: WCIU, Fox Sports Southwest
Roger Clemens, RHP
12-8 1.89 ERA
180/59 K/BB, 11 HR in 204.1 IP
Jerome Williams, RHP
6-9 4.28 ERA
67/47 K/BB, 13 HR in 115.2 IP
2B #Jose Macias 2B Craig Biggio
SS #Neifi Perez CF Wily Taveras
1B Derrek Lee 3B Morgan Ensberg
3B Nomar Garciaparra LF #Lance Berkman
RF *Jeromy Burnitz 1B Mike Lamb
C Michael Barrett RF Jason Lane
LF Matt Murton C Brad Ausmus
CF *Corey Patterson SS Adam Everett
P Jerome Williams P Roger Clemens
That sure was some exciting baseball yesterday, meaningless as it was for the Cubbies, at least they have something to play for this last series. The Cubs have now won the season series versus both the Astros and Cardinals, that sure is frustrating. Be sure to come by Monday as we'll be posting our year end round-table discussion starting with the TCR writers. For the rest of the week, I'll try and keep the other playoff race summaries up-to-date after the jump.