November 2007

Who says the Milwaukee Brewers aren't nice guys? On behalf of Cubs fans everywhere, allow me to extend deepest thanks to Brewers GM Doug Melvin, who just couldn't wait until after December 1st to sign Cubs FA catcher Jason Kendall.
The editors at mlb.com obviously sent all of the team correspondents a mass email ordering them to write Winter Meeting shopping list stories...pronto! Well, their loss of editorial independence is your gain. Here, based on those stories and reports from a few of the hometown papers, is a summary of what the Cubs’ NL Central brothers might be looking for during next week’s meetings in Nashville: Brewers NL Central teams posted four of the five worst bullpen ERAs in the National League last season, with Milwaukee (4.15/12th in NL), Houston (4.62/14th), Pittsburgh (4.77/15th) and Cincy (5.10/16th) positively embarrassing the Cubs (3.76/3rd) and Cardinals (4.00/9th). No surprise then that so many of the division’s teams are hoping to address bullpen issues. The Brewers actually lost their best reliever, closer Francisco Cordero, who signed last week with the Reds, plus set-up man Scott Linebrink, who signed with the White Sox. (You think Kenny Williams will ask him to play centerfield?) GM Doug Melvin says he doesn’t anticipate trading for an established closer given the typical asking price, but he’s also understandably wary of the three remaining, free-agent closers—Gagne, Percival, and Dotel—given their colorful injury histories. Sounds to me like Doug Melvin has a problem.
Jim Hendry acknowledges that Kerry Wood will have to show he can occasionally pitch on three consecutive days to become a full-fledged closer. But can he even pitch on two? Woody pitched in both ends of the 9/15 doubleheader in St. Louis, but other than that, he never pitched in consecutive days in ’07; in half of his 22 appearances, he was going on two, three or four days rest. The Cubs also saved Kerry for the low-leverage innings. In fact, according to Fangraphs, Wood pitched, on average, in lower leverage situations than any other Cub pitchers, except young Gallagher, Petrick, Pignatiello and Marshall (relief appearances only.) The stat I’m drawing on here is Average Leverage Index per plate appearance, which measures the possible change in win probability due to the result of any one at-bat. Wood’s pLI was 0.52; Marmol (1.19), Howry (1.44), and Dempster (1.57) were dealing with entirely different stress levels altogether. I thought the Cubs handled Wood well after his return from the DL in early August. He contributed, and he didn’t get hurt. But if he really does get the closer’s job, I don’t think either will be the case for very long in ’08.
With the MLB Winter Meetings set for next week in Nashville, the Hot Stove League should start to heat-up. So here is a summary of what appears to be the "Hendry/Piniella Cubs Plan for 2008" (or whatever they call it internally) that was apparently devised at the Cubs Organizational Meeting in Mesa last month (and I am NOT necessarily advocating any of this stuff):
UPDATE #2: The deal is for $4.2 MM with the potential to earn another $3.45 MM in incentive clauses. Last year the incentive clauses in his contract were (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts):
$2M based on games: $0.3M for 40 g, $0.35M for 45 g, $0.4M for 50 g, $0.45M for 55 g, $0.5M for 60 g $2M based on games finished: $0.2M for 25 GF, $0.25M for 30 GF, $0.3M for 35 GF, $0.35M for 40 GF, $0.4M for 45 GF, $0.5M for 50 GF $0.75M based on days on active roster: $0.25M each for 90, 120 & 150 days on active roster
so expect something similar. UPDATE: The official press release... Our faithful readers are telling us that ESPN 1000 and Bruce Levine are reporting that Kerry Wood will resign with the Cubs on what sounds like an uber-cheap one year, four million dollar deal. I imagine there will be plenty of incentive clauses in there. I'm sure details will leak out soon enough but Hendry keeps his record in tact for keeping ballplayers that he wants to keep and the Cubs get another bullpen power arm with huge upside. Chances are that Wood, Marmol and Howry will compete for the closer duties this spring.
The Cubs have signed their first batch of minor league free-agents. Minor League FAs signed prior to 11/20 are normally the ones most in demand, and so they often get the best deals, including more money and usually an NRI to Spring Training. The six minor league free-agents signed recently by the Cubs are:
Not as old or celebrated as the Macy's parade, but more entertaining, it's.... it's.... Thanksgiving-Themed Baseball Names! Re-hashbrowning what we came up with, last year, here's your All-Turkey Team.
You may have noticed the The Sun-Times report that Jim Hendry was in Los Angeles and had dinner with free agent Kaz Matsui and his people last night. L.A. happens to be my neck of the woods and in one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments, I happened to run into Hendry while getting my morning coffee at the Coffee Bean on Pico/Smithwood in Beverly Hills. I couldn't resist striking up a conversation... ------- (Busy coffee shop, about 6 people in line waiting to order. I stroll up and notice a older, Caucasian gentleman on his cell phone) Hendry: I know Miguel Cabrera is good, but he's a righty, we need lefties. I think Kaz and Jenkins are the much better options, Randy. (Hangs up phone) Rob: Pardon me, are you Jim Hendry? Hendry: (Surprised) Yeah, didn't think people would recognize me out here. Rob: Well I'm a huge Cubs fans, how'd your meeting with Kaz go last night. Hendry: How'd you know that? Rob: It was in the papers this morning and I came across it on this fan site I read, The Cub Reporter.
In the wake of his big job change, John McDonough absolutely carpet-bombed the Chicago media today. I heard his interview with Mike Murphy on WSCR over the noon hour, just missed his late afternoon interview on WMVP (local ESPN Radio), then caught his appearance around 6pm with Roe Conn on WLS Radio. Naturally, his mug was all over local television as well, so much so that he effectively deprived poor Drew Peterson of the screen time he requires to continue creeping out the viewing public. McDonough's 24 years with the Cubs coincided with the 24 highest annual attendance totals in Cub history. The Cub fan convention, McDonough's idea, has become an annual rite of winter in Chicago and the blueprint for similar events now hosted by many teams in all major sports. (The 2008 Royals FanFest will be held January 19th at the Overland Park Convention Center. Get your tickets now!)
Today is the deadline for MLB clubs to submit their major league and minor league reserve lists to the MLB office, the beginning of the so-called "frozen period" that runs between November 20th and the conclusion of the MLB Rule 5 Draft (which will be conducted on Thursday, December 6th, as the last order of business at the 2007 MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville). During this period, a player on a minor league roster is essentially "frozen," meaning the player cannot be added to his club's 40-man roster or be traded. The only way a player can be moved off a minor league roster during the "frozen period" is by outright release. Back in 2003, the Cubs acquired 1B Derrek Lee from the Florida Marlins for 1B Hee Seop Choi and a PTBNL during the "frozen" period between November 20th and the Rule 5 Draft. The PTBNL was RHP Mike Nannini, who was "frozen" (by rule) on the Cubs AAA roster until the conclusion of the Rule 5 Draft. So as soon as the '03 Rule 5 Draft ended, the Cubs sent Nannini to FLA as the PTBNL. 45 Cubs minor leaguers are presently eligible for selection in the 2007 Rule 5 Draft if not added today to the Cubs MLB Reserve List (40-man roster): James Adduci, OF Alberto Alburquerque, RHP Cory Bailey, RHP Andres Blanco, INF Robinson Chirinos, INF Edward Campusano, LHP J. D. Closser, C Rafael Cova, RHP Matt Craig, 3B Brian Dopirak, 1B Darin Downs, LHP Danny Fatheree, C Alberto Garcia, 1B-OF Ryan Harvey, OF Jim Henderson, RHP Koyie Hill, C Micah Hoffpauir, 1B Grant Johnson, RHP Geoff Jones, LHP Scott Koerber, LHP Josh Kroeger, OF Tim Layden, LHP Marcos Mateo, RHP J. R. Mathes, LHP Casey McGehee, 3B-C Adalberto Mendez, RHP Mario Mercedes, C Jonathan Mota, INF Leonel Perez, RHP (was a coach for AZL Cubs in 2007) Jose Pina, RHP Tony Richie, C Alan Rick, C-1B Carlos Rojas, SS Issmael Salas, INF Joel Santo, RHP Paul Schappert, LHP Chris Shaver, LHP Mike Smith, RHP Jemel Spearman, IF-OF Nate Spears, 2B Andres Torres, OF Chris Walker, OF Les Walrond, LHP Matt Weber, RHP (RESTRICTED LIST - is playing college basketball) Randy Wells, RHP The Major League Reserve List limit is 40 players (which is why the Reserve List is also known as the "40-man roster"), with a 38-man reserve list limit for AAA clubs, a 37-man limit for AA clubs, and a 35-man limit for all Class "A" clubs. A player who is not on his club's MLB reserve list (40-man roster) can be assigned to any minor league roster in the organization. A player on an MLB 40-man roster is exempt from selection in the Rule 5 Draft. However, a player on a AAA roster who is eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft is available for $50,000 in the "Major League Phase" of the draft, and if a player is selected off a AAA roster in the Major League Phase, the player must be given a "reasonable opportunity" in Spring Training to earn a spot on the drafting club's 25-man Opening Day roster. The first date a Rule 5 pick can be placed on waivers is 25 days prior to Opening Day. If the drafting club chooses to keep the Rule 5 player, the player must be kept on the selecting club's MLB 25-man roster (or DL) for the entire season following selection before the player can be optioned to the minors. If because of time spent on the DL a player spends less than 90 days on the selecting club's active 25-man roster during the season immediately following selection in the Rule 5 Draft, the Rule 5 restrictions continue into the next season, and remain in effect until the player accrues 90 days on an active 25-man regular season roster (not including time spent of the 15-day or 60-day DL). Only then can the player be optioned to the minors (presuming the player has minor league options available). If the selecting club decides not to keep a Rule 5 drafted player, MLB Rule 6 kicks-in, and the player must be placed on Outright Waivers (with a $25,000 Rule 6 waiver price, $5K more than the usual $20,000 waiver price). If another MLB claims a Rule 5 player off waivers, the claiming club assumes the Rule 5 roster restrictions. If the player is not claimed, he must be offered back to the club from which he was drafted. The club from which he was drafted can then either reclaim the player for $25,000 (half the Rule 5 Draft price) or can decline. If the club from which the player was drafted reclaims the player, the player is automatically assigned outright to the previous club's AAA affiliate. If the club from which the player was drafted declines its Rule 6 option to reclaim the drafted player, the player remains with the drafting club. Sometimes clubs will work out a trade at this point in the process, as the selecting team will send a player or players to the Rule 5 player's old team in exchange for the player's old team declining its option to reclaim the Rule 5 player. In the "AAA Phase" of the Rule 5 Draft, players on AA rosters who are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft can be selected for $12,000, with no roster restrictions for the following season. Although the drafted player is supposed to receive a "reasonable opportunity" to compete for a roster spot with the drafting club's AAA affiliate in Spring Training, the player can ultimately be assigned anywhere in the drafting club's minor league system. In the "AA Phase" of the Rule 5 Draft, players on a Class "A" roster who are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft can be selected for $4,000, with no roster restrictions for the following season. As with the AAA Phase, players selected in the AA Phase must be given an opportunity to compete for a roster spot with the drafting club's AA affiliate, but can ultimately be assigned to any affiliate in the drafting club's minor league system. Last year, 48 Cubs minor leaguers were eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft. Of those 48 players, 32 were placed on the Cubs AAA Iowa roster (with six of the 38 slots left open), 11 were assigned to the Cubs AA Tennessee roster, and five were assigned to one of the Cubs Class "A" rosters. Of the 32 Rule 5 eligible players assigned to AAA Iowa last November 20th, three were selected in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft (LHP Edward Campusano by MIL then traded to DET, RHP Lincoln Holdzkom by HOU, and INF Jason Smith by TOR). Campusano suffered a torn elbow ligament while at Spring Training with the Tigers and underwent TJ surgery in April, before eventually being placed on Rule 6 waivers and eventually getting reclaimed by the Cubs last month. Holdzkom was reclaimed by the Cubs last March, but was released by the Cubs at the end of ST and was subsequently signed to a minor league contract by the Red Sox, where he split the '07 season between AA and AAA, before being assigned to the AFL last month. The Jason Smith 2007 Rule 5 selection was peculiar, because he had been signed by the Cubs as a minor league FA just prior to the November 20th deadline, and would have been available to the Blue Jays as a minor league FA in November if they were all that interested. The Blue Jays ended up placing Smith on Rule 6 waivers in May, but he was claimed by the Diamondbacks before the Cubs got a shot at reclaiming him (not that they would have been interested). Then after recovering from abdominal surgery, Smith was placed on waivers again in July, with the KC Royals making a claim. Smith remains on the Royals 40-man roster. Players available for selection in the Rule 5 Draft who are assigned by a parent club to it's AA roster on November 20th are almost always players the club doesn't consider to be MLB prospects. Although placing a player on a AA reserve list is sometimes a matter of a AAA 38-man roster being full, usually when a club places a player on a AA roster (with a $12,000 "price tag" and no roster restrictions), it's a bit like a seller placing a "Buy It Now" item on eBay. Last year, LHPs Nate Bland, Luke Hagerty, and Geoff Jones, RHPs Alfredo Francisco and Andy Shipman, 3B Matt Craig, 1B Alberto Garcia and Jesse Hoorelbeke, 2B Richard Lewis, INF Albenis Machado, and catcher Tony Richie were placed on the Cubs AA roster. Lewis (by KC) and Shipman (by OAK) were selected in the AAA Phase of the Rule 5 Draft, while Bland, Francisco, Hoorelbeke, and Machado were released at the end of Spring Training in March, and Hagerty was released during EXST in May. Only Craig, Garcia, Jones, and Richie survived the 2007 season. Players available for selection in the Rule 5 Draft who are placed on a Class "A" roster on November 20th (and are available for just $4,000 with no roster restrictions) are very often guys the club plans to release anyway, and getting even four grand for one of these fellows is considered a minor victory. In fact, four of the five players eligible for selection in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft who were placed on the Cubs Class "A" Daytona roster last November 20th (RHPs Ryan Bicondoa and Robert Ransom and LHPs Issac Pavlik and Jesus Yepez) were released almost immediately after the 2006 Rule 5 Draft ended.
Chicago Cubs team president John McDonough will be moving to the West Side and become the Blackhawks new man in charge. McDonough had been with the Cubs organization since 1983, although most Cubs fans hadn't heard of him until last year when he took over as team president from Andy MacPhail. According to our wonderful readers from various radio reports, Crane Kenney will step in to take over his Cubs duties. With ownership in limbo and McDonough supposedly not working with any contract, it's probably a smart move on his part as chances of him remaining with the club under new ownership were slim. Kenney was the guy that McDonough reported to as is, so it's doubtful this will change much of the Cubs offseason plans.
It appears at the moment that our NL Central rivals are getting into the Christmas spirit a little early this year... - The Rocky Mountain news tells us that "Kaz Matsui appears headed to the Astros ". Well thank you, Ed Wade, your fruitcake is in the mail. Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle is less than happy with the potential signing as the Astros continue to find ways to block Chris Burke from playing everyday, apparently the Texas version of Matt Murton. - The Brewers are making a big push to sign Jason Kendall, hopefully before everyone settles in for their Thanksgiving dinners. If he's signed before the deadline to offer arbitration of December 1st, then the Cubs can posthumously offer him arbitration and get a free sandwich pick between the first and second rounds. Merry Christmas to us!!!
Baseball America released its annual Cubs Top Ten Prospects list today. BA doesn't consider MLB service time when rating prospects, but it does hold to the 130 AB and 50 IP rookie limit, making Felix Pie, Ronny Cedeno, and Carlos Marmol ineligible for the list this time around. BA did provide somewhat detailed scouting reports on each of the Cubs Top Ten prospects, but since it's available only by subscription, I will not provide that additional information here.
Saturday’s Wall Street Journal reports that Alex Rodriguez turned to billionaire friend Warren Buffett and two execs from Goldman Sachs with ties to the Steinbrenner family to help assist his apparent return to Yankee pinstripes. It was Buffett, a rabid baseball fan whom Rodiguez first met socially a few years ago, who suggested that Rodriguez meet the Yankees without Boras. The Goldman Sachs executives then contacted Hank and Hal Steinbrenner and said Rodriguez was heartsick over the break-up with the Yanks and wanted to talk. The Steinbrenners agreed, on the condition that Boras stay away. The Goldman Sachs money men then withdrew from the process, owing to terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which specify that the only person besides a player himself who can negotiate on his behalf is the player's agent of record. Now Rodriguez looks to be headed toward a ten-year, $275 million deal, incentives included, and Warren Buffett would seem assured of getting really good seats for New York Yankees games. In retrospect, it was the waste of a perfectly good fantasy to even imagine that Alex Rodriguez would ever wear Cubbie blue, but I’m still surprised that A-Rod’s new team turned out to be his old one.
The week started off with a flurry of moves to clear money and space off the roster and it looks like Hendry is wasting no time wasting that space and money.
The Chicago Cubs are pressing hard to sign the free-agent second baseman. One source close to the negotiations said he wouldn't be surprised if Matsui is offered a contract similar to the three-year, $14.4 million deal the Mets gave Torrealba.
Dave Kaplan on WGN radio pretty much said the same thing. I have nothing good to say about this. - The Wrigley resodding project should be done by this weekend, two weeks ahead of schedule. Some other noteworthy details that have been touched upon in the comments:
The warning track has been extended 3 ft to help the outfielders better gauge when they'll crash into the unforgiving brick.
The infield "crown" was removed, lowering that portion of the field 14 inches. Groundskeeping guru Roger Brossard, who was in charge of the project, says it should help runners with their footing as they were essentially running downhill when rounding third base.
Brossard and Wrigley head groundskeeper, Roger Baird placed a small canister with their names on it somewhere below the playing surface. Anyone care to guess the contents in the canister?
- Interesting story from Reuters:
Researchers who studied the impact of initials found that baseballs players whose first or last name starts with the letter K, which signifies a strikeout, tended to strike out more often than other players.
I love it, next time Hendry is unsure on bringing in new players might as well use this, probably work just as well as his current method: Kerry Wood - Good Kaz Matsui - Stay Away Kosuke Fukudome - Stay Away Jason Kendall - Stay Away Korey Patterson - Stay Away - The front of cubs.com has a short piece with interviews highlighting Ernie Banks's 500th homer with some nice historical footage of the Cub great. YouTube Find of the Week The Cubs have had 12 official no-hitters in their history and I found Don Cardwell's gem from 1960. The backend of a double-header versus the Cardinals, Cardwell walked the 2nd batter of the game and then retired 26 straight including two nice defensive plays by his outfielders to save the no-no.
Sam Fuld played only three innings and went 1-2 with a SB and a run score, as the Cubs outfielder completed his AFL season today.
Jake Peavy wins an award that honors his pitching; Sam Fuld wins an award that honors his character.
In an interview with the Sun Times yesterday, Lou Piniella discussed some of his ideas about the upcoming season, including a desire for added bullpen depth. Sun Times Cubs beat writer Gordon Wittenmyer speculated that in their quest to add depth, the Cubs would probably be looking at minor league free-agents. Of course, teams do that every year.
As most of you now know by now, the Cubs traded OF Craig Monroe to the Minnesota Twins today for a PTBNL. The Cubs also reactivated RHPs Angel Guzman (TJ elbow surgery) and Mark Prior (shoulder surgery) from the 60-day DL (MLB clubs have until November 20th to reactivate players from the 15-day and 60-day DL), bringing the Cubs MLB Reserve List (AKA "40-man roster") up to 38 players, and leaving two slots open.
I put in my two cents on the Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year awards yesterday but got pre-empted by the JJ trade. I'm back to finish the job. Cy Young NL - Jake Peavy AL - C.C. Sabathia Considering Jake Peavy essentially lead in the pitching Triple Crown of wins, ERA and strikeouts, the NL award is a no-brainer. The AL though is far more interesting.
Name VORP Win Shares WPA ERA+ FIP
C.C. Sabathia 65.2 24 3.66 143 3.27
Fausto Carmona 64 22 4.38 151 4.05
Josh Beckett 58.6 19 3.02 145 3.22
John Lackey 60.7 19 3.12 151 3.66
UPDATE #3: The Sun-Times is reporting that the Cubs sent $2 million over in the deal and repeat the previous mention that JJ is owed $5.5 MM in 2008. My guess at this point is that he was only owed a half million of his pro-rated signing bonus, not the $1.3 MM that I suggested earlier. If Infante sticks with the team and makes about $1.5 MM next year plus the $2MM the Cubs gave to Detroit, that's only about $2MM in savings for 2008 for the Cubs. UPDATE #2: The Cubs.com press release says the Cubs will send over cash considerations but no word on the amount. Anything more than covering Jacque's signing bonus and we should burn Hendry at the stake. UPDATE: SI.com is indicating it's a done deal. I assume the financials will come out later and I can only pray that the Cubs are saving a bunch of money with this move. ----------------- The Detroit Free Press (who?) and now Phil Rogers are reporting that a Jacque Jones for Omar Infante swap is nearly complete. This would jive with an earlier Bruce Levine report. First, let me say, WTF? Now that I got out of the way, let's try and see what Jimbo might be thinking with this one. Jones is due $5 MM for 2008 plus the last installment of his $4MM signing bonus which brings his total contract up to $6.3MM this year. Omar Infante is eligible for arbitration and made $1.3 MM last season. It's reasonable to expect a half million raise for a utility player with limited at-bats. If this deal goes down, and hopefully we learned our lesson last year about jumping the gun on a Jones trade, we'll see how much money the Cubs fork over to the Tigers in this deal. Hopefully, it's none at all since the Cubs are getting a nobody for a marginally useful player. This seems to be a case of a salary dump for the Cubs to hopefully make room in the payroll for our big Alex Rodriguez push. What better way to motivate going after ARod then bringing in the generally useless Omar Infante as a potential backup. ARod jokes aside, Infante is a waste of roster space, time and energy. He doesn't get on-base, he doesn't hit and he's not particulary fast if you look at his stolen base numbers. Well maybe he's fast, but he's not very good at stealing bags. He has played six positions in his career including second, short, third, center, right and left. If this deal is completed, I hope the Cubs just non-tender him and save the extra million or so.
Every year I dip my toes into the post-season awards waters. Here's one man's opinion... Manager of the Year NL - Bob Melvin AL - Mike Scioscia This award seems to usually go to the manager of the team that no one had expectations to win before the season started but my vote usually goes to the manager who had to handle the most adversity throughout the year. I figure it's a lot easier to manage when everyone is healthy and the lineup and bullpen choices were decided in spring training. In the NL though, Bob Melvin seems like a slam-dunk. The Dbacks end up leading the NL in wins and take their division despite being outscored by their opponents over the year. The manager deserves some credit for that I say. Clint Hurdle of the Rockies seems to be the only other skipper worth even mentioning.
I stumbled across a few fun Youtube items last night and I thought these highlights of a 1981 Dick Tidrow implosion would be good for some fun weekend nostalgia. Doug Bair?!?You give up a homer to freaking Doug Bair?
So little to talk about.... - The Denver Post gives more credence to the Kaz Matsui rumors, saying the Cubs might go three years on a contract and covet Kaz's speed and (pardon my insensitivity here) Japanese-ness. As reader "The Joe" pointed out, signing Kaz might help sway other Japanese players to sign with the Cubs, most notably Fukudome. The same blurb suggest the Rockies might look at Michael Barrett for catching duties if Torrealba walks. -  The Cubs sale inches along ever so slowly and nothing is expected to be finalized until sometime in 2008. Besides the FCC issues, Trib and Zell haven't decided whether Wrigley will be part of the deal or not. The article does say only five groups have even been approved by MLB to view Trib's books and they are: John Canning, Mark Cuban, the Ricketts Family of Ohio, and two groups I hadn't even heard of: a partnership of attorney Thomas Mandler and businessman Jim Anixter and a group headed by MVC Capital Chairman Michael Tokarz. - Yahoo Japan is supposedly reporting that lefty reliever Hitoki Iwase has received both a one year and multi-years offers from his current Japanese team, the Chunichi Dragos. Iwase was on the the three Japanese ballplayer that the Cubs apparently covet but like Fukudome has yet to apply for free agency in the States. That article could actually be telling us that Godzilla is planning to attack New York in the next week for all I know, but that's what mlbtraderumors.com got out of the translation. And sadly, that's all the news that's fit to print...
On Monday, The Sporting News Web site began a day-by-day replay of the 1986 MLB season using the Strat-O-Matic baseball simulation software. The site will be tracking the season with a daily scoreboard, box scores, game recaps, and player stats. Each of the 26 teams in existence back in '86 is being managed by a different baseball insider, writer, super-fan, etc. The faux Cubs’ manager is espn.com writer Dan Shanoff. Shanoff’s managerial debut was Tuesday, when the Cubs opened against the Cardinals. After the Cubs scored twice in the top of the eighth to erase a 4-2 deficit, the Cards scored in the last of the ninth on a single by John Morris to win 5-4. Cub starter Scott Sanderson took an ND; the loser was reliever Dave Gumpert. Shawon Dunston led the Cub offense with three hits. The box score even lists attendance, in this case, just 19,154. (For a Cubs/Cardinals opener? They must have played in a simulated blizzard.) Oh, yeah—I’m already calling for Shanoff’s head. Letting Gumpert go 2 2/3 innings when he had a rested Lee Smith in his virtual bullpen?! I can’t imagine what in the name of Jim Frey he was thinking.
We are going to utilize several objective measures of player performance to evaluate and develop players. We'll rely on the more traditional objective evaluations: OPS (on base percentage plus slugging percentage) , WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched), Runs Created, ERC (Component ERA), GB/FB (ground ball to fly ball ratio), K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings), K/BB (strikeouts to walks ratio), BB%, etc., but we'll also look to rely on some of the more recent variations: VORP (value over replacement player), Relative Performance, EqAve (equivalent average), EqOBP (equivalent on base percentage), EqSLG (equivalent slugging percentage), BIP% (balls put into play percentage), wOBA (weighted on base average), Range Factor, PMR (probabilistic model of range) and Zone Rating. That said, we will continue to stress the importance of our subjective evaluations. Succinctly stated, we believe that a combination of quality objective and subjective analysis will allow us to maximize our probability of success and to make the best possible decisions.
That would be from new Pirates GM, Neil Huntington in a recent Q&A on the Pirates website. The Baseball Prospectus crew probably just wet themselves.
It seems that as I get older, there's just very little in the world that surprises me anymore. You read the news and people seem to redefine the word despicable almost everyday. And it might just be the sensationalistic nature of journalism today that has numbed the pain, or just my generally placid everyday demeanor that makes everything just a little too bearable. But then something comes along that strikes a chord loud enough that even Beethoven could hear it. It's probably because it has something to do with my earlier years, the years that branded me a Cubs fan. The years of Sandberg, Cey, Moreland and Jody and the all too magical 1984 season that created this obsession of mine. In a rather revealing story in the Chicago Sun-Times (and you'll see why this wasn't in the Trib), former MLB commissionerPeter Ueberroth unveils a few inconvenient truths about the Chicago Cubs. The focus of the article is about the 1984 playoffs. As many around here will remember, MLB was up in arms with the Cubs making the playoffs because without lights at Wrigley they could not play and henceforth broadcast the games in primetime when television ratings were the highest. And of course this was still a time when baseball playoff games easily beat sitcoms in the Nielsens, so the concern was deserved. I recall the whispers at the time that if the Cubs did make the Series, there was a good chance that some of their home games would be played somewhere else with St. Louis's Busch Stadium leading the way. Ueberroth though reveals that he had in fact decided that Comiskey Park would be home to the Cubs if they did advance. That's right, what could have been the first World Series appearance in 39 years would have been played in an American League park, in a stadium with fireworks in the scoreboard. No decaying ivy, no bleachers, no rooftops for what could have been one of the teams greatest moments. Of course it never got there thanks to Steve Garvey, Lee Smith and Leon Durham's sticky glove. But that actually wasn't the most shocking revelation by Ueberroth... Ueberroth let's it be known that he invoked the mythical "best interests of baseball" clause to squash a rather shameful Tribune plan. A plan to knock down Wrigley Field and build a new stadium somewhere in the suburbs. Now I recall whispers back in the day that the Cubs were thinking of moving and I definitely recall the struggles to get lights and nightime baseball at Wrigley as the north side residents were appropriately worried about the noise and drunken debauchery that would accompany those games. Yet I had never known that Trib was actually willing and in fact had decided that enough was enough, time to tear down one of baseball's great treasures for the almighty dollar. I suppose that it's probably not as big a deal as I'm making it out to be and that these sort of corporate hijinx happen all the time behind closed doors with the public none the wiser. Nonetheless I'm a bit appalled by the whole notion that Trib was willing to pursue their bottom line over baseball history. And I'm a bit saddened that all those memories of going to Wrigley may never have been.
  • The GMs have voted 25-5 in support of limited use of video replay. A proposal will now be forwarded to the Commissioner, who will involve representatives of the Players and Umpires unions in evaluating the proposal. Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB's VP of Baseball Operations, says he does not expect the proposal to become a rule in time for the 2008 season.
  • Curt Schilling is now officially no longer a free agent, but rather, Red Sox property for the upcoming season, his last in the big leagues. It seemed like just the other day he was listing 12 teams in addition to the BoSox that he would be willing to play for. I'm going to assume the Cubs came in second.
  • Rob mentioned this earlier in the comments: Glendon Rusch has apparently recovered from the life-threatening blood clot that ended his '06 season prematurely. Last week, he threw a 60-pitch audition for scouts from nine Major League clubs, the Cubs not among them. The session included breaking balls, change-ups and 86-87 mph fastballs. He is hoping/expecting to get a Spring Training invitation...from somebody.
Awards season has started and a Cub walked away with some gold glove hardware. This is Derrek Lee's third glove of the golden variety and while he probably didn't deserve it (most metrics show Albert Pujols as the superior NL first basemen), he won nonetheless. The full list: American League P - Johan Santana C - Ivan Rodriguez 1B - Kevin Youklis 2B - Placido Polanco SS - Orlando Cabrera 3B - Adrian Beltre OF - Torii Hunter, Grady Sizemore, Ichiro Suzuki National League P - Greg Maddux (Gold Glove #17, you have a sense he'll still be collecting these after he retires) C - Russ Martin 1B - Derrek Lee 2B - Orlando Hudson SS - Jimmy Rollins 3B - David Wright OF - Carlos Beltran, Andruw Jones, Jeff Francouer/Aaron Rowand (the two tied in voting) I don't have access today to the usual defensive metrics I follow, but for the most part that seems about right other than Ryan Braun should have won for NL third basemen (I kid, I kid). Last time I did check, Troy Tulowitzki was way ahead among NL shortstops but they don't give Gold Gloves to rookies. Congrats to Derrek Lee! ----- Also a quick update that Bruce Levine on ESPN 1000 is reporting that Ryan Dempster will be moved into the starting rotation for next season. I'm going to just hope that he gets traded before it ever actually gets there. UPDATE: What some of the defensive metrics say about the NL gold glove winners after the jump....
The general manager's meetings started yesterday in Orlando, enjoy the "GM's in Action" photos at the link. There likely won't be much news this week as teams are meeting to set up meetings for the Winter Meetings in December and teams can't talk money with potential free agents until next week. Two things we do know... - As I expected (even though I talked myself out of it in our FA Frenzy contest), Curt Schilling is poised to return to the Red Sox barring something "unforseen or outrageously odd happening." - Hendry will do everything he can to retain Kerry Wood, possibly offering him the closer role. This in turn would make Ryan Dempster expendable or a desperate 5th starter option if Hendry strikes out on plans A through F to fill that role. - The same article says the Cubs would tender Mark Prior a contract but only if they can get him to agree to a 2009 option. The team likely doesn't want to lose another year on a rehab season, plus if Prior does pitch and does it well, the Cubs don't want him walking away after just one season.  Early Vegas line is 1000 to 1 that Prior agrees to the option.
Ten Cubs have won the NL Batting crown, a total of twelve times - name the ten and bonus points if you can name the two repeat winners.
And today is the last day to enter TCR's Free Agent Frenzy Contest!
I know a lot can change (and very likely will change) over the next couple of seasons, but AS THINGS STAND RIGHT NOW, here is the payroll preview for the Cubs 2008-09:
The Cubs have declined their 2008 club options on RHP Steve Trachsel and OF Cliff Floyd, and the Cubs and 1B-OF Daryle Ward have agreed to exercise the 32-year old Ward's $1.2M mutual option for 2008, bringing the Cubs #1 LHPH and back-up 1B back to the team for one more year. Ward is one of the top pinch-hitters in baseball, going 296/404/464 as a PH over the past three seasons, with 37 total pinch-hits (including four home runs and nine doubles) and 23 pinch-hit walks over that period of time. Trachsel, who turned 37 on Halloween, was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles on August 31st for 3B Scott Moore and RHP Rocky Cherry, but pitched poorly for the Cubs in September and was left off the Cubs post-season roster. The 34-year old Floyd was signed by the Cubs as a FA last January. Trachsel and Floyd had filed (provisionally) for free-agency earlier this week while waiting for the Cubs to decide whether to exercise their options for next season. The only issue still to be resolved regarding potential Cubs free-agents is Scott Eyre's $3.8M player option for next season. Eyre has until November 12th to file for free-agency. If he doesn't, he returns to the Cubs in 2008. The Cubs have also added RHP Adam Harben to their 40-man roster. Harben was acquired frrom the Minnesota Twins in September 2006 as the PTBNL in the Phil Nevin deal, but suffered a torn elbow ligament while pitching in the AFL a year ago. After undergoing Tommy John surgery, Harben was non-tendered last December 12th, but signed a minor league contract with the Cubs that allowed him to spend the 2007 season rehabbing at Fitch Park in Mesa. He made three rehab starts for the AZL Cubs in August, and should be 100% by the time pitchers and catchers report to Fitch Park in February. The last season prior to his injury (2006), the now 24-year old Harben was a rotation starter for the Twins in AA. It's possible the Cubs will bring Harben back the same way they did with Rocky Cherry after Cherry's 2005 TJ surgery, and that is as a late-inning reliever. Cherry had been a rotation starter prior to his injury, but found success as a set-up man and closer when he returned to action in 2006. Harben has two minor league options left. ===================================== Speaking of minor league options, here is the 2008 minor league option status for players on the Cubs 40-man roster who have less than five years of MLB service time (and thus cannot refuse an optional assignment to the minors). * Must clear Optional Assignment Waivers to be optioned to minors NO MINOR LEAGUE OPTIONS LEFT: Ronny Cedeno Geovany Soto ONE MINOR LEAGUE OPTION LEFT: * Neal Cotts (eligible for salary arbitration) Mike Fontenot * Angel Guzman (likely 60-day DL in 2008 after TJ surgery) Rich Hill Carlos Marmol Angel Pagan Felix Pie * Michael Wuertz (eligible for salary arbitration) TWO MINOR LEAGUE OPTIONS LEFT: Jake Fox Sean Gallagher Adam Harben Sean Marshall Juan Mateo Matt Murton Eric Patterson Billy Petrick Ryan Theriot THREE MINOR LEAGUE OPTIONS LEFT: Sam Fuld Kevin Hart Carmen Pignatiello Jeff Samardzija
The list of post-2007 minor league free-agents has been released by MLB, and ten of the 18 Cubs minor leaguers eligible to be free-agents after the 2007 season have filed: Federico Baez, RHP Cory Bailey, RHP Gary Cates, INF Jorge Cortes, OF Ben Howard, RHP John Nelson, INF Mike Nannini, RHP Mike Mahoney, C Ryan O'Malley, LHP John Webb, RHP The eight eligible Cubs minor league FAs who did not file (and this means they almost certainly have signed 2008 minor league contracts with the Cubs) are: Robinson Chirinos, INF Adam Harben, RHP Koyie Hill, C Geoff Jones, LHP Josh Kroeger, OF Carlos Rojas, INF Issmael Salas, INF Les Walrond, LHP All eight of the players who have (apparently) re-signed with the Cubs for 2008 will be eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft next month if not added to the Cubs 40-man roster by November 20th. Normally, to get a player eligible to be a minor league FA to "re-up" (sign a minor league contract for the following season), a club needs to offer a salary equal to or greater than what a player would get on a "split contract" if assigned to the 40-man roster (at least $31,125 for players never on a 40-man roster previous, or at least $62,500 for players who have been on a 40-man roster previously in their career), plus (for veteran players) an NRI to Spring Training. So I fully expect to see Adam Harben (who was rehabbing from TJ surgery this past season), Koyie Hill, Geoff Jones, Josh Kroeger, and Les Walrond on the list of non-roster players invited to ST with the Cubs in 2008, while Robinson Chirinos, Carlos Rojas, and Issmael Salas will likely report to minor league camp at Fitch Park on March 1st, albeit with a lot higher salaries than they had in 2007! Ex-Cubs and ex-Cubs minor leaguers who have filed as minor league FAs from other organizations include: Manny Alexander, INF (WAS) Francis Beltran, RHP (BAL) Bobby Brownlie, RHP (CLE) Jon Connolly, LHP (DET) Gookie Dawkins, INF (PHI) Jason Dubois, OF (BAL) Shawn Estes, LHP (SD) Jason Fransz, OF (BAL) Adam Greenberg, OF (KC) Lindsay Gulin, LHP (MIL) Chad Hermansen, OF (NYM) Jose Hernandez, IF (PIT) Nic Jackson, OF (PHI) Mike Kinkade, IF-OF (NYY) Richard Lewis, 2B (KC) Jose Macias, IF-OF (MIL) Pat Mahomes, RHP (TOR) Sandy Martinez, C (FLA) Luis Montanez, OF (BAL) Miguel Negron, OF (NYM) Carlos Perez, LHP (BAL) Jose Reyes, C (NYM) Aaron Sisk, INF (TB) Jerome Williams, RHP (MIN)
The Cubs have seven left-handed hitting center-field prospects in their system, four at the upper levels, and three more at the lower levels. It's likely that one of them will eventually end up as the Cubs everyday CF. But the big question is, which one?
Who was the first member of the Cubs to hit a home run in the World Series?
and
What was the title of the famous poem by Franklin P. Adams that immortalized the double-play combination of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance?
Bonus points if you can name the third baseman during that period....
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