March 2007

Goat Riders of the Apocalypse held a terrific roundtable concerning the relationship between sports bloggers and sports journalists earlier this month, featuring Paul Sullivan, Bruce Miles, Will Carroll and Paul Lukas.

GROTA invited me, Al Yellon, Joe Aiello, and Chuck Gitles of Bleed Cubbie Blue, The View from the Bleachers, and Ivy Chat, respectively, to contribute to the follow-up round table, which you can now read, here. It's more serious than entertaining, but I have to say, I was pretty proud of these two lines:

Looking for good reporting in the sports blogosphere is like when you played spin the bottle with the high school band: You might get the hot saxophonist, but more likely you get stuck with one of the woodwinds.

and

Regarding some of Paul Sullivan’s comments: I’ve already discussed at length his remark about how “most newspaper reporters have to actually go to college and get a degree” and pay their dues, and so forth.

But I wonder if Paul is aware that he split an infinitive in his sentence about the necessity of getting a college degree? ~grin~

My previous TCR commentary on the state of sports blogs and sports journalism can be found here.

Dr. Joseph Hecht returns with a new recurring column, a breakdown of injuries to our Cubs and some of our division rivals. --------- Under the Category: Break out the Blue Duct Tape. Kerry Wood’s latest ache is apparently proximal triceps related. He is officially on the DL and back to slow rehab mode although there has been no word on when towel drills will begin. So far no MRI has been ordered but who knows since we’re not getting much information. Baseball Prospectus’ Will Carroll has said: “What’s not so bad is that sources tell me that pain is not in the back of the shoulder, but rather nearer the triceps where Wood has already had problems this spring.” I commented on the situation a few days back on this TCR thread. Included is a nice link to triceps anatomy. Godspeed Woody… -----
Fun game if you're watching today's game, see who's napping at the game or didn't even bother to show up from too much partying in Vegas. Marquis vs. Horacio Ramirez and then down with the NL starting on Monday.
Vegas Baby, Vegas! Cubs versus Mariners in the desert at Cashman Park. Ted Lilly versus Miguel Batista. Which of these Cubs is most likely to have spent the whole night gambling, drinking and hitting the strip joints? A) Carlos Zambrano B) Cliff Floyd C) Ryan Theriot D) Henry Blanco E) Scott Eyre
As Christmas Opening Day approaches, time to put on the prognostication hats and have some fun with the Cubs season. Reader Bryan has offered to tabulate the results and I'll come up with the prizes at some point (still owe chifan3887 for his Free Agent Frenzy win, I didn't forget about you). So predict away... Five points for a correct answer. 1. Who will have the most plate appearances in the #2 spot of the lineup? 2. Who will have the most plate appearances in the #8 spot of the lineup? 3. Which player will end up playing the most defensive positions? 4. Which pitcher will start the most games for the Cubs? 5. Which pitcher will end up with the most appearances for the Cubs? 6. Which Cub(s) will make the All-Star team? (5 points for each correct name, subtract 2 points if you name someone who doesn't make it) 7. Which Cub(s) will finish in the top 10 in MVP voting? (5 points for each correct name, subtract 2 points if you name someone who doesn't make it - None is an acceptable answer) 8. Who will be the first Cub promoted from the minors? 9. Who will be the first Cub on the Opening Day 25-man roster to land on the disabled list? (that means Kerry Wood, Buck Coats and Juan Mateo are excluded) 10. Where will the Cubs finish in the division (1 through 6)? 8 points for a correct answer on the following 2 questions, subtract one point for how many places you're off. So if you predict they'll be 5th in runs scored and they end up at 3rd or 7th, you get 6 points. We won't get into negatives though, so if you're off by more than eight, you'll get zero points. 11. Where will the Cubs rank in team runs scored among National League teams? (1 through 16) 12. Where will the Cubs rank in team runs allowed among National League teams? (1 through 16, 1 meaning the least amount of runs allowed) 15 points for the correct answer on the following questions, subtract one point for how far you end up off the final answer. For example, if you predict 90 wins for the Cubs and they end up with 88, you get 13 points. We won't get into the negatives though, so if you miss by 15 or more you get a zero for that answer. 13. How many wins for the Cubs in 2007? 14. How many total home runs by Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano combined? 15. How many home runs and stolen bases for Soriano combined? (If you think he'll end up at 40/40, please put 80 as your answer) Tie-Breaker #1: How many innings pitched in the majors for Mark Prior? (closest answer wins) Tie-Breaker #2: How many innings pitched in the minors for Mark Prior? (only used if there happens to be a tie for the first tie-breaker question) To make it easy for Bryan, please use the following format to answer. Please use a separate comment if you care to add your two cents beyond your answers. I'll close the comments on Monday, April 2nd around 11am CST. 1. Name 2. Name 3. Name etc, etc, etc... UPDATE: In my attempt to make things easier I foolishy separated the wins and losses question earlier. Just ignore that and I'll fix the comments on those that answered already.
For the second time this Spring, Micah Hoffpauir stroked a game-winning HR, as the Cubs rallied to defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-4 before an all-time single-game Cactus League record crowd of 12,917 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa this afternoon. box score
The last game at Hohokam Park for the year and Arizona Phil tells us that they're cutting it off after nine innings even if it's tied so everyone can pack up and head to Vegas for the weekend series versus the Mariners. Wade Miller goes for the Cubs against a split-squad DBacks crew led by Doug Davis on the mound.
For your morning's amusement, a sampling of search results that have brought people to TCR.
Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez homered, and Mark Prior got his final 2007 ST start before being optioned to AAA Iowa, as the Cubs and Rockies battled to a ten-inning 4-4 tie in front of a capacity crowd of 12,716 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park today in Mesa. box score
The Cubs optioned Mark Prior to AAA today along with Angel Pagan and Rocky Cherry. That leaves 28 warm bodies in camp and Buck Coats, Juan Mateo and Kerry Wood will all head to the disabled list. So your 2007 Chicago Cubs:
Mark Prior velocity watch vs. Aaron Cook. Snooze. - In other news, the Cubs and Zambrano are still talking about an extension, the Sun-Times has sources saying negotiations center around a five-year deal in the $75 to $85 million range (that includes his $12.4 million contract from this year, so essentially a four-year extension). - The same article says that former top prospect and current reclamation project Matt Harrington has been released - we hardly knew ye. Former #1 pick Bobby Brownlie has also been released. - Lou is threatening to send Michael Wuertz down to Iowa to build up some arm strength and seems to really be pushing for an 11-man staff to get Angel Pagan on the team.
Our resident doctor, Joseph Hecht takes a look at the plight of one of our Cubs heroes. ---------- I have an idea for a dramatic play. Synopsis: It’s about a dysfunctional family. The father ran off years ago, leaving two children and their mother, except for one postcard of Wrigley Field, the father has not been heard from since.
With both teams probably "out of pitchers," and with a tie game looming, Ronny Cedeno lofted a two-out three-run walk-off home run off the scoreboard in left field, giving the Cubs a hard-fought 13-10 ten-inning victory over the Kansas City Royals in front of 10,886 fans at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa today. box score
I'm officially bored of spring training....let the games begin!!!! Rich Hill versus fellow lefty Jorge de la Rosa today at Hohokam Park. The Kerry Wood news from Will Carroll doesn't sound too bad, far less damning than Mr. Wittenmeyer's speculation that Wood will be fortunate to be back by June.
It's bad, in that any setback is bad, especially to a shoulder we already know is both fragile and damaged. What's not so bad is that sources tell me that pain is not in the back of the shoulder, but rather nearer the triceps where Wood has already had problems this spring. After seeing Wood's last outing, it's hard to see any mechanical difference--he's still stepping across his body, and it still looks like scapular dyskinesis could be an issue beyond the triceps and damaged cuff. It's still unclear how long this will sideline Wood, but Opening Day is out for sure. Whether he makes it back and can hold up as a reliever remains to be seen.
Hey, don't we have a doctor in the house? Time for Cubster to chime in... UPDATE: Piniella says the news on Wood is "encouraging." From Sullivan's article:
"A lot of the soreness and pain is gone," Piniella said. "We'll continue to evaluate him over the next few days. Whatever he can do, we'll allow 'em to do."
Wood was evaluated by a team physician Monday. The Cubs are referring to Wood's injury as "shoulder fatigue" and he's being treated with anti-inflammatories. He'll be evaluated "day-to-day."
Mark Prior gets his final ST start tomorrow, facing the Colorado Rockies at HoHoKam Park. But with Wade Miller's outstanding outing at Scottsdale Stadium last Saturday (5 IP, three hits, no runs, no walks, and four strikeouts), it appears that Miller has all but nailed-down the 5th spot in the Cubs starting rotation.
Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez each had three hits and two RBI, leading the Cubs to an 8-7 victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Tempe's Diablo Stadium today. box score
The Cubs cut four more from their spring training roster including uber-prospect Felix Pie. The other three were all non-roster invitees - Tomas Perez, Les Walrond and Koyie Hill. 31 players remain in camp with six more cuts needed to be made. I would guess.... To the DL: Kerry Wood (pesky shoulder) Mark Prior (they'll invent something so he can hang back in Arizona and get some work in) To the Minors: Rocky Cherry Buck Coats (has a knee injury as is) Angel Pagan Juan Mateo Prior might just get sent down to the minors as well.
The Angels once again, lefty Joe Saunders goes for them, the Cubs with Jason Marquis on the mound.
It looks like poor Kerry Wood has gone and done it again, another year, another arm injury. The details have yet to come out but something didn't go right after yesterday's outing and it could just be a re-aggravation of the triceps strain from earlier in spring training or possibly a brand spanking new one to add to the trophy case. Once the Cubs P.R. department figures out how to spin this one finish diagnosing the injury, Wood will likely be put on the disabled list (once again) and it looks like Angel Guzman will travel East with the team come Opening Day. UPDATE: Although an exam has yet to be performed or at least the results yet to be reported, word is that it was the shoulder causing him problems and Wood has been shut down until further notice.
Ted Lilly threw six shutout innings for the Cubs, but the Angels rallied for three runs against Kerry Wood in the 7th, and hung-on to defeat the Cubs 3-2 before a national WGN-TV audience and a capacity crowd of 12,727 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa today. box score
Angels visit the Cubs today, Ted Lilly takes the mound against Ervin Santana. The game is on WGN I believe. Man I wish the season started tomorrow.
In what was one of the best outings by any Cubs starting pitcher so far this ST, Wade Miller tossed five innings of shutout ball and appeared (in the process) to have maybe nailed down the 5th starter job, as the Cubs defeated the Giants 3-2 at Scottsdale Stadium today. box score
Carlos Zambrano threw six innings of one run ball, Ronny Cedeno and Aramis Ramirez hit home runs, Mark DeRosa was 2-4 with a single and a double, and Michael Barrett was on base four straight times on two singles and two walks, as the Cubs defeated the Giants 6-2 before a capacity crowd of 12,752 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa today. box score
Opening Day is still more than a week off, but the prognostication season is well under way. Sports Illustrated’s annual preview was mentioned here yesterday, but The Hardball Times and Baseball Prospectus are also out with their player-by-player predictions, as is Baseball Think Factory’s Dan Szymborski, father of the ZIPS Projections.

THT, BP (with their PECOTA Projections) and Szymborski each employs a unique methodology, which I won’t even try to summarize or explain. Regardless, I thought it would be worthwhile to stack all three sets of Cub player predictions side by side, focusing on the eight likely starting position players plus Cliff Floyd, the five starting pitchers including Wade Miller, and the closer, Ryan Dempster.

The THT numbers come from their most excellent season preview book featuring the work of one Rob G.; the Baseball Prospectus numbers come from BP 2007; and I pulled the ZIPS Projections from the Baseball Think Factory site. (Thanks again, Dan, for your permission to use them here.)

Also, to round out the field, I consulted my old friend, Phil, a very smart, very dedicated Cub fan who can calculate slugging percentages in his head and who, coincidentally, turned me on to The Cub Reporter what seems like a very long time ago. Phil employed no simulation models or complicated algorithms in coming up with his picks, but rather, a time-honored technique called educated guesswork that took about 15 minutes.

The Cubs stay home in Mesa to play the first of back-to-back games versus the Giants, Zambrano vs. Lowry today.
I have a few here I've been saving for a slow day....
  1. Who holds the single-season record for most home runs by a Cubs rookie?
  2. Who has hit the most home runs as a pitcher in Cubs history...bonus if you can name how many?
  3. In 1962, The Chicago Cubs used the first African American Major League Baseball coach. Who was he?
  4. Who was the youngest pitcher in Chicago Cubs history?
  5. Name the winningest left-handed pitcher in Cubs history...by total number of wins?
As always, do your best to answer without the benefit of a web search...
Mark Prior threw four solid innings at Peoria in his best outing of the Spring, and Jeff Samardzija threw four shutout innings in a minor league game at Fitch Park today, before the next round of thunderstorms crashed through the Valley of the Sun.
More drama with another Mark Prior start today...snore. Greg Maddux takes the hill for the Padres. Rich Hill set to relieve Prior, supposedly after four innings but I'd start warming up early if I was Hill.
I’m putting together a look at how some of the online pubs and soothsayers foresee the Cubs season ahead. In the meantime, the Sports Illustrated Baseball Preview edition is on the street. SI has the Cubs pegged for second in the NL Central, behind the Cards and out of the post-season picture. The magazine, which ranks the Cubs as MLB’s 15th strongest club overall, figures the Brewers, Astros, Pirates and Reds will fall in order behind our heroes in the Central. In a sidebar to Albert Chen’s full preview of the Cubs, Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus suggests that the Cubs would be 39 runs better off by the end of the season if Michael Barrett hit leadoff and Alfonso Soriano batted cleanup. The conclusion is based on a computer simulation of the season using BP’s PECOTA projections. I agree with the notion that Soriano could help the team more if he hit further down in the lineup, though Matt Murton would strike me as a better replacement in the top spot than Barrett. Still, it’s kind of a cool idea. I wonder if they’d kick Barrett out of the catchers union if he told them he was batting first.
It appears that Ronny Cedeno has won the final bench spot on the team. Piniella likes the improvements he's made with the glove and bat and has told Hendry unless a substantial move can be made, he's ready to go to war with the soldiers currently in camp. (Cedeno apparently did make one of the more spectacular plays you'll ever see today, although I have yet to see it). While it would be foolish to write-off a 24-year old kid who hit reasonably well for his age and position in the minors, he's got plenty of warts on his game. He strikes out far too much for a guy with little power and has never shown much of an ability to draw a walk. And of course, the tool that got him promoted through the minors - his defense - got left somewhere in Venezuela, two winters ago. But he seems to be a different player so far in camp, his spring training stats are promising, although ultimately meaningless. He's hit to a tune of 310/408/429 and more importantly seven walks to only ten strikeouts in about fifty-two plate appearances. Sure, a whole lot of who cares, but better that he's hitting well; rather than not....to state the obvious. And if he's used as a proper 25th man/defensive replacement, this will be a whole lot of nothing.
Just like old times. A Cubs Spring Training game at HoHoKam Park. Sammy Sosa in the outfield. Heck, even Wayne Messmer and his wife Kathy are at the game, singing "God Bless America" before the game and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in the middle of the seventh inning. Best of all... Cubs Win!! Cubs Win!!! Cubs Win!! Yes, Daryle Ward clubbed a one-out grand slam HR in the bottom of the 9th inning, giving the Cubs a hard-fought 11-7 victory over the Texas Rangers in front of 11,674 fans at cloudy and breezy Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa today. Ward, who has now gone 5-10 with 10 RBI in his last three ST games, had earlier given the Cubs a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the 7th, with a two-out line-drive RBI single. box score
Today in Mesa, Arizona, the Cubs will square off against the Texas Rangers in Cactus League action, which would normally pass by without much reason for the casual Cubs fan to pause. Today though will be a little different, today the Rangers bring with them a man that is as synonymous with the Cubs as the ivy planted in the outfield at Wrigley, a man who very much like Ernie, Fergie and Ryno, needs only a first name introduction - Sammy. The rise and fall of Sosa has been discussed and dissected; ad nauseum. What made him famous ending up making him infamous. The rumors repeated so often, they're essentially accepted as facts. Did he or didn't he? The definitive evidence will likely never be revealed to settle the case. But to be convicted in the court of public opinion, the burden of proof is far less stringent and the verdict was delivered long ago. The man abused and fans were not amused, a matter of fact, many felt used.
I wasn't at the game, but the Cubs dropped a 4-2 decision to the Colorado Rockies today at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson. box score After the game, the Cubs announced several roster cuts, optioning C Geovany Soto to Iowa, and sending NRI LHP Ryan O'Malley and Carmen Pignatiello, C Jake Fox, 3B Casey McGehee, and 1B Micah Hoffpauir to the minor league camp at Fitch Park. The Cubs have also released RHP Eli Diaz and Alfredo Francisco, LHP Nate Bland, C Kevin Ciarrachi, 1B Jason Hart and Luther Murphy, INF Derek Wathan, and OF Tony Miller and Nate Price from minor league camp, and OF Davy Gregg has retired. Diaz was a 2006 40th round draft pick out of Texarkana JC who pitched at AZL Mesa last season, Francisco was a one-time hot-shot Dominican 3B prospect who received a big bonus from the Cubs five years ago, but was converted to a pitcher when he couldn't learn to hit curve balls and sliders, Murphy was a 2005 "draft+follow" JC player (selected in the 46th round out of Palm Beach CC) who signed with the Cubs prior to the 2006 Rule 4 Draft and then was assigned to AZL Mesa, Price was a '06 NDFA (University of Iowa) who hit a combined .263 as a "4th OF" at Peoria and Daytona last year, Ciarrachi was signed last December after playing in professional independent leagues the previous five seasons, and Bland (ex-HOU) , Hart (ex-TEX), Wathan (ex-FLA), and Miller (ex-COL) were minor league FAs signed to minor league contracts during the off-season by the Cubs. Gregg was a speedy CF selected in the 27th round of the 2005 draft out of the University of South Carolina who played at Boise in '05 and at Peoria last year.
I don't really want to wait around till Friday on these, so a bit of link-mania. - For some reason folks keep wanting to ruin their fine podcasts by asking me to appear on them. In this case, 14-year old phenom and Red Sox fan Alex Reimer asked me to talk about the NL Central(Episode #111) and do one of my least favorite things, make predictions. I was a bit skeptical at first at the whole 14-year old thing, but once you hear the open to his show you realize he's going to be taking over the world at any point and I'd like to get on his good side. - John Sickels does a prospect smackdown between Red Sox CF Jacoby Ellsbury and Cubs CF (you may have heard of him) Felix Pie. Sickels gives the nod to Pie and has him quite a bit higher than most prospect lists at around #22 overall in baseball, although he originally had Ellsbury one spot above Pie, but seemed to change his mind in the midst of writing his article. - Hardball Times uses their projection numbers that you can find in their preseason book (including an article by yours truly) to try and predict the division races. They've got the Cubs and Cardinals in a virtual dead heat, with the Cards winning by one game finishing with 85 wins. - SI.com has revamped their team pages and made it considerably more fan-friendly. So much so, that our RSS feed (along with a few other fine Cubs blogs) are included at the bottom. Smart way for SI.com to try and differentiate themselves from all the other sports sites if I do say so myself.
Cubs travel to Tuscon and throw Ted Lilly on the mound to start, Ryan Dempster is set to make an appearance as well. Brian Lawrence goes for the Rockies.

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