February 2007

The Week in Quotations

If Wishes Were Ponies, Part1
''They are guys that can throw around 200 innings -- they can save your bullpen -- and you can have people win 15 or 16 games no matter what their ERA. If they can win 16 each and I win another 20 or 22, that will be fun.'' -Carlos Zambrano, on new teammates Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis
If Wishes Were Ponies, Part 2
'Boy, we'd be awfully deep and awfully talented.'' -Lou Piniella, on an injury-free pitching staff
Guess Who Said....
"I was embarrassed by the way I threw the ball last year. I want to improve on that." - Answer, Jacques Jones

They’re Watching Us

On Friday, All The News That’s Fit To Print included an account of Lou Piniella’s first day as captain aboard the good ship Heartbreak. The piece, by Lee Jenkins, describes Piniella as most fans, myself included, have long seen him: “fiery” “known for his outbursts” “naturally animated and restless” “a manager who really knows how to vent” “as famous for his dirt kicking…as he is for any pep talks” “a man…who clearly hates to lose” “(reacting) to every booted ball…with a tortured expression or a fit of rage” But the story isn’t just a string of clichés.

Lotsa Lefties

The Cubs may be short these days on professional centerfielders and recent World Championship banners, but the Wrigley Boys are positively drowning in lefthanded pitching candidates. In fact, with five southpaws in line to make the big league roster (see Arizona Phil’s post from early Thursday), it’s difficult to even recognize them as the Cubs. Assuming Ted Lilly and Rich Hill each make 30 starts this season—a big stretch for young Hill; Lilly has hit 30 in three of the last four years—the duo would become the first pair of lefties to do so since Dick Ellsworth and Kenny Holtzman way back in 1966. For a little historical perspective, last season, led by Hill and Sean Marshall, lefthanders accounted for just over 31% of all Cubs IP. That’s the highest total since 1986, when the 70-90 Cubs relied on six lefties for 31.2% of their total IP. (For the record, the “Southpaw Six” were Steve Trout (161 IP), Jamie Moyer (87), Ray Fontenot (56), Guy Hoffman (84), Frank DiPino (40), and Drew Hall (23.7). I’m not sure, but I’m guessing that’s the first time Guy Hoffman’s name has ever been mentioned at The Cub Reporter. Congrats, Guy!)

TCR Writer Demands 5 Years

Today when asked by the Podunk Free Press about his current contract status, TCR writer Rob G. had this to say:
"Rob G. demands that a new deal be done by Opening Day, otherwise you give Rob G. no choice but to test the blogging free agent waters. That's what Rob G. thinks. I know Evan Brunell spent a lot of money this offseason on the new site. I hope he has more for Rob G's contract. I'm ready to sign and I'll do my job this year if a deal doesn't get done, but if there's no new deal by Opening Day, Rob G. must go."

Make Mine Piniella

The smell of freshly-cut grass, and temperatures in the 60's with nary a cloud in the sky. A smilin' Lou Piniella strolling from field to field, bantering with the fans and signing autographs. The sound of bat on ball, and pitchers practicing covering first on a ball hit to the first-baseman. Ah, yes. While it might not be absolutely as good as it gets, it's pretty close. Your pal AZ Phil and about 100 hopeful Cub fans attended the Cubs first Spring Training workout of 2007 this morning at Fitch Park in Mesa. It was a mandatory work-out for the Cubs' 30 pitchers and six catchers, but six position players (infielders and outfielders) who were not required to report showed up anyway.

Quick Plug

Just letting you guys know that you can read my NL Central prediction over at MVN's Pittsburgh Lumber Co. A little roundtable with some fellow NL Central bloggers. Also I've got a bit on the Cubs in The Hardball Times 2007 Season Preview. I don't know the particulars yet on when it ships or the cost, but I did want to give everyone a heads up so you can save your allowances.

Cubs 2007 Spring Training Roster, Contracts, and Options

The rain has stopped, skies have cleared, Kerry Wood is a lean, mean, fighting machine, and with pitchers, catchers, and a few of the position players having reported to Fitch Park yesterday (minus Carlos Zambrano, whose arrival was delayed), and with the first offical Spring Training workout scheduled for this morning, here is the up-to-date Cubs 40-man roster and ST NRI list, the contract status and minor league option status for all players on the 40-man roster, the list of Cubs minor league players who will be eligible to be free-agents after the 2007 season and those who will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft next December, and AZ Phil's pre-ST Cubs organizational depth chart:

An Ess-say on Pee-ay (Felix Pie that is)

Reader "Virginia Phil" recently brought up an interesting comparision of some recent "5-tool" prospects in the comments last week on our "Prospect List-mania" article. He's expanded a bit on his original effort and we hope you enjoy....
"If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all." --Hamlet
Is Felix Pie ready? Here are Felix Pie's minor-league stats and those of three other fairly recent toolsy centerfield prospects, Carlos Beltran, Vernon Wells and Carl Crawford. (Actually, Crawford plays left in a crowded young outfield at TB.)

An Eternal Cub, Forever Young

This time each year, I get stoked. It's automatic. It never fails. I'm in Arizona. The weather's great. It's time for Spring Training. But there's this one thing that gnaws at me, that keeps me from enjoying the experience quite as much as I would like to enjoy it. The start of Spring Training is fun, but there's this one memory from my youth--it's kind of a Long Sorrow--that I guess will be in the back of my mind for the rest of my life. For those of you who don't remember him or who aren't all that familar with his career, Ken Hubbs was born in Riverside, CA on December 23, 1941, and as a 12-year old, he led his Colton (California) Little League team to the Little League World Series championship game in Williamsport in August 1954. Colton lost the game to future Cub Billy Connors and his Schenectady (New York) team, but by the time he was a senior in high school (1959), Kenny Hubbs was nothing but a winner. President of his high school class and a star football, basketball, and baseball player, he could have followed his older brother Keith to BYU--where he probably would have been a two or three-sport star and BMOC. But Kenny instead chose to sign a professional baseball contract with the Chicago Cubs (yes, YOUR Chicago Cubs), all the more significant because this was before the amateur draft, and Hubbs had the option to sign with any of the then-16 MLB clubs.

Bend It Like Selig

Ahhh, spring training. A time for doubt, self-pity, hopelessness, and the bitter, burning anger that comes from realizing your heydays are now so far behind you, they’re barely specks in your rear view mirror. At least, that’s what I imagine spring training means to fans of the Royals and the Pirates, and, if you take away the heydays part, to loyalists of the Rockies and Devil Rays. (A Cubs fan feeling sorry for other teams’ fans—pretty funny, huh?) Ever since I first became acquainted with it, I’ve been fascinated by the tiered structure of professional soccer in places like England and Italy, where clubs compete for championships only within their tiers, the top finishing teams at the end of each season are promoted to the next level for the subsequent season, and the bottom finishers are demoted or “relegated” to the next lower rung on the ladder. Such a system would be completely unacceptable in Major League Baseball for a thousand reasons. One of the most obvious is the travel burden it would impose on a team from the West Coast, say, if it was in a division with nine teams from the east. But logic aside…

The “Reporter” in The Cub Reporter

A couple of events this week have left me thinking about just where TCR and other sports blogs fit in the world of sports journalism. On the Thursday episode of ESPN’s “Around the Horn,” an execrable show in which sports “journalists” with faces made for radio “compete” at offering ten-second bits of “analysis” that are scored by some point system that is as arbitrary as it is absurd, Jay Mariotti concluded the program with a brief commentary about bloggers. No one has yet gone broke betting on Mariotti’s ability to explore new depths of idiocy, but this was new territory even for him.

Cubs Trivia

I'm not sure if I'll have time to put up another edition of TCR Friday Notes, but I do have a double dose of Cubs trivia for you. Reader Jacos sent this one:
Who are (hopefully) the only three players ever to play for the Cubs, White Sox, Yankees and Mets?
And today's calendar questions was:
The Cubs first used a designated hitter on June 16, 1997, as Interleague Play was introduced that season. Who was the Cubs DH in that game?
As always, please attempt to answer without a web search.

Fantasy Nightmares

My first exposure to fantasy baseball was through a guy who I was sort of friends with in middle school. There were maybe eight of us in the league, maybe five of whom were regulars, maybe three of whom sort of knew what we were doing, sort of. One guy, for instance, used his first eight draft picks to pick the Detroit Tigers' lineup. The guy who ran the league would “publish” a little newsletter at random intervals, updating the point standings (which he calculated on his own) and with funny little faux baseball articles. That must have been the 1990 or 1991 baseball season, but I still remember some of the players I picked for that team. God, they sucked. Sadly, it wouldn’t be the last team I owned that I then proceeded to populate with Has-beens, Never-would-be’s, The Suspended and The Dead. Here’s a fun romp through some of the low-lights of my fantasy career. (In a topic as bountiful as this, it will be tough to limit myself.) Hensley "Bam-Bam" Meulens, 1991 I’ve always been a sucker for players with cool names or nicknames....

A TCR Cubs Spring Training Preview for the Casual Fan

The Super Bowl is over, March Madness isn't until next month, and the NBA and NHL regular seasons (AKA the playoffs) haven't started yet. So what time IS it? Well, it's time again for Spring Training, which is when professional baseball teams gather in Florida and Arizona to prepare for the coming season.

Lucky For Me, I’m A Pig

(Quick aside: I want to thank Rob and the other TCRers for inviting me to play with them. Going back to the days when Ruz was the one and only Cub Reporter, I have marveled at both the quality and quantity of information available here. I hope to measure up.) I have a throwing-things-out problem, as in, I can’t make myself do it. WIFE: What are those? ME: Hockey cards…from 1973. WIFE: Are you saving them? ME: Of course. WIFE: Why? ME: What if one of the kids asks what Henry Boucha looked like when he played for the Detroit Red Wings? Wouldn’t it be nice to have an answer? And so on.

19 Questions with Steve Holley

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.

Needs More Cowbell

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.

Prospect List-mania

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.

Superstitious I Am

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.

The Clock is Ticking on Z

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.

Prior VERBOTTEN, Hendry’s Downfall or Glenallen and the Spiders from Mars

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:

Recent comments

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  • if they dont win at least 130 games this season they can pack it all up, turn wrigley into a concert venue, and move the damn team to san jose.

    #Bernie130orBust

    crunch 3 hours 33 min ago view
  • I see where catcher Cael Brockmeyer was promoted to Tennessee a couple of days ago, to fill a roster spot vacated by David Freitas, recently promoted to Iowa. Caratini is the other catcher at Tennessee.

    VirginiaPhil 3 hours 37 min ago view
  • They've already clinched a minimum winning percentage of .607 for the month, and that's only if they lose the last 2 games. If they win both, they can push that up to .679. So much for "stumbling" in May. When you're winning over 60% of your games, you're doing baseball well.

    John Beasley 4 hours 50 min ago view
  • If the best walk-off hit possible is a solo home run in a zero-zero game--Eloy did it tonight!

    (But maybe it's a grand slam when your team is down three? He didn't do that.)

    Number eight for Jimenez. His team is 31-17. Yesterday they scored 17 runs against Lansing. Two weeks ago it was 15 runs against the same team. This is a nice team, South Bend. The Cubs must have had a good draft last year.

    Tonight the pitchers were Sands, Brooks and Effross.

    VirginiaPhil 4 hours 58 min ago view
  • RIP Zoobrest.

    crunch 6 hours 31 min ago view
  • He'll be fine. He's not some wimpy young pup.

    Old and Blue 7 hours 1 min ago view
  • In all seriousness the Cubs have the fewest amount of games played in the NL which means they're gonna be facing quite the grind later on including 24 games in a row at the end of June and beginning of July so I hope he does get a few days off.

    johann 8 hours 57 min ago view
  • Meh. He only got one hit today. Maybe give him a rest?

    Old and Blue 9 hours 33 min ago view
  • 34-14...awww yeah.

    crunch 10 hours 29 min ago view
  • Good thing the Cubs have five left-handed batters in the lineup. Velasquez is just tearing thru the righties [edit - doesn't seem to faze Bryant!]

    Eric S 11 hours 50 min ago view
  • ben zobrist gets to ride up front tonight cause he's a good guy at sports.

    cubs with a 5 run lead and a lackey shutout through 3ip \m/

    crunch 12 hours 24 min ago view
  • HAGSAG: I have not seen Joe Nathan out on the field, but he is supposedly at the UAPC. 

    Arizona Phil 15 hours 20 min ago view
  • ERIC S: Best outing I've ever seen from Manny Rondon, and I've seen most of his outings since the Cubs got him from the Angels. 

    M. Rondon is competing with six others (Dylan Cease, Bryan Hudson, Jose Paulino, Pedro Silverio, Jesus Castillo, and Erling Moreno) for a starting slot at Eugene, and (as you can probably tell from the EXST box scores)  the competition has gotten fierce over the last couple of weeks, With the exception of Moreno, the Eugene SP candidates have upped their game lately, and M. Rondon's outing yesterday was especially impressive/dominating. 

    Arizona Phil 15 hours 23 min ago view
  • E-MAN: Pierce Johnsion was mixing a 92-94 MPH fastball with a plus-change-up AND curve, and he threw strike-after-strike-after-strike with all three of his pitches. I believe that was the best command and pitch-efficiency I've ever seen from Johnson, who often pitches from behind in the count and issues too many walks.  

    Of course now he has to avoid a recurrence of the lat strain (whch he has had previously in his career) as well as all of the other miscellaneous physical problems he's had over the last three years (hamstring, quad, back, etc).  

    Arizona Phil 15 hours 33 min ago view
  • PHIL: Any movement on P. Johnsons pitches? What was his "out" pitch? I know he was working on a 4th pitch, so wondering what he is looking like these days. Thanks.

    The E-Man 16 hours 16 min ago view
  • AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.

    Hagsag 21 hours 1 min ago view