February 2008

The San Francisco Giants rallied to defeat the Cubs 8-6 this afternoon at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.

 box score

The game was played under sunny skies with temperatures in the 80’s, but it was far from a capacity crowd at HoHoKam, as the announced attendance was only 8,838. There was a time when the Cubs Spring Home Opener was an automatic sell-out (which would be just under 12,000), but not this year.

The same two clubs meet again with Jonathan Sanchez and a split-squad Giants team taking on Carlos "Kichigai " Zambrano.

- A couple of quick site modifications with more soon to come. I added a "module" as Drupal calls them, that will automatically fill in the subject line for users when they comment. When you first hit the comment button, it will add "Re: {Title of Post}. If you hit reply to a comment, it will fill-in the subject line with the subject of the comment you are replying to. You can go in and edit them if you wish. If you are replying to someone's comment though, we do ask that you just leave the default because it makes life a lot easier for those viewing comments in the "flat" modes.

- The next tweak is the signature module. It has a few options - the most important is that it will stylize the signature automatically (no more broken tag troubles hopefully). Currently it's set-up to have a small line break and italicize it:

__________________________

Welcome to The New Cub Reporter!

Since the system is doing all the formatting now, I do ask that if you did add a signature, to go in and remove any tags or linebreaks (directly the opposite of what I asked yesterday). I simply typed in: Welcome to the New Cub Reporter! in my signature box without any formatting and what you see above is what is pumped out.

Also, if you change your signature or add one, it will change the signature on all your old comments as well.

Next, your signature will no longer show up in the comment box and you won't have to type around it. If you added a signature to your account, it will automatically attach it to the end of your posts now.

The last note is that after I installed the module, it did take everyone who had a signature yesterday and duplicated them in your comments. An unfortunate side-effect, but everything should be working normally from here on.

Earlier today, Rob alluded to this story in the Baltimore Sun, which says the O's will be sending a scout to Mesa next week "to get a closer look" at players the Cubs and Orioles have discussed as part of a potential Brian Roberts swap.

The same story indicates that Luis Hernandez currently has the edge over Brandon Fahey and--I'm going to try to type this without laughing--Freddie Bynum in the competition to succeed Miguel Tejada as Baltimore's starting shortstop.

Hernandez was snagged off waivers by the O's after the Braves released him following the '06 season. Though he is good with the glove, over six minor league seasons, his career OPS is 621. Baseball Prospectus says:

He's as light-hitting an infielder as you'll find, with three years of Double-A ball under his belt and no apparent improvement. Tejada's injury last year gave him a chance to play in the majors last year, and he hit .290, but it was almost all singles and was accompanied by a single solitary walk.

That's one walk in 71 plate appearances.

That's Neifi Perez...without the power.

And that's a reason you might be thinking about trading for Ronny Cedeno.

========================

AZ PHIL:

Orioles GM Andy MacPhail, Scouting Director John Stockstill, and Manager Dave Trembley all came to BAL from the Cubs. Also, ex-Cubs Minor League Pitching Coordinator Alan Dunn is the O's bullpen coach. So they probably have opinions and personal knowledge about Cubs players and prospects that go well beyond what other organizations might have. For instance, Ronny Cedeno was signed under Stockstill's tenure, and Sean Gallagher and Sean Marshall were drafted by Stockstill, as was Donald Veal.

BTW, the reason the Orioles scout will be coming to Mesa next week instead of right now is that minor league camp hasn't opened yet, so if the Orioles want to get an updated look at Veal, they will have to wait until next week. 

Cubs baseball (Cactus League version) is back! Ryan Dempster begins his attempt to win a spot in the '08 rotation; Noah Lowry starts for the Giants. Neither starter is slated to go beyond the second inning.

First pitch is at 2:05 Central Time. Pat and Ron have the radio call on WGN radio in Chicago.

Rob tells me that Parachat is open and your usernames/passwords from last year will still work, though they are different than the names you just created so you could leave comments here at the new site.

Tribune Company is now owned by a supposed money-making genius, and the best ideas he can come up with to wring more money out of Wrigley Field are more night games, additional concerts, and peddling the naming rights?

What about the weddings you could host on the pitchers mound, the bar mitzvahs, the graduation bashes, and the Congratulations On Getting Out Of Prison parties?

We've all seen the elaborate staging that happens at halftime of the Super Bowl. How hard could it possibly be to wheel a roller derby track onto the field between innings? Or put a petting zoo on the concourse. Or try this, Sam--get to know Cub fans on a personal level and feed the bottom line by setting up a booth where the Cub faithful get to kiss your beard for a buck!

Obviously the creative ideas are out there, and Sam isn't uncovering them. He needs our help. Send your suggestions to Sam Zell at Tribune Tower. Or post them in the Comments.

We can all laugh and be disgusted together.

On July 21st, 2001, Christian started this site somewhere on the World Wide Web with a post simply titled, "Welcome to the Cub Reporter." About six and a half years later, the NEW Cub Reporter is born. Yes, the rumors are true, we've moved to a new site and to our own domain name (finally). If anything, we'll be easier to find now at www.thecubreporter.com. I suppose the first question will be: Why the move?

While we appreciated the opportunities afforded to us at MVN.com and all the fine people working over there, we're just not the conforming types. Plus, we were very anxious to take on the headache of maintaining our own website. Mostly though, we just wanted to do our own thing and be able to swear whenever we wanted.

The second question you might be asking is: What's the ultimate answer to life, the Universe and Everything? Answer: 42 (it's even in our FAQ).

Third question(damn, what's with all the nagging): What's new about the site?

Plenty my friends...plenty.

Tags: 

Just like I did last year, a rundown of the various prospect lists out there.


Criteria
: Once upon a time it was all stat-based (or at least it seemed so), but since hiring Kevin Goldstein (formely of Baseball America) to be their minor league guy, I think he actually bothers to watch some of these guys and certainly talks to a scout or two.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Geovany Soto, C
2. Josh Vitters, 3B
Four-Star Prospects
None
Three-Star Prospects
3. Donald Veal, LHP
4. Jose Ceda, RHP
5. Josh Donaldson, C
6. Sean Gallagher, RHP
7. Tyler Colvin, OF
8. Eric Patterson, 2B/OF
9. Welington Castillo, C
10. Tony Thomas, 2B
Two-Star Prospects
11. Jeff Samardzija, RHP

Just Missing: Kevin Hart, RHP; Chris Huseby, RHP; Larry Suarez, RHP

Sleeper: Kyler Burke

What They Say: Colvin is a below-average center fielder range-wise, and many feel he'll need to move to a corner in short order. That leaves him as a bit of a tweener--his swing-at-anything approach led to just five walks in 62 Double-A games, which is not enough of an offensive force to play in a corner everyday. Lefties give him significant troubles, and he adjusts by shortening his swing, which costs him any chance at power against them.

I haven't enjoyed typing anything as much as this in a very long time:

Per the Sun-Times, here is the Cubs' batting order for Thursday's Cactus League opener at 2:05 Central Time against the now Bonds-less San Francisco Giants:

ss Theriot

3b Cedeno

rf Fukudome

1b Lee

lf Murton

c Soto

2b Cintron

cf Pie

p Dempster

DeLuca and/or Wittenmyer report that following Dempster's two innings, Sean Gallagher will go for two. Ceda, Cotts, Pignatiello, Ascanio, and Hart will then pitch an inning apiece.

Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez are expected to step into the lineup on Friday, when the Cubs host the Giants at HoHoKam.

From Arizona Phil:

The Cubs moved a half-mile up Center Street to HoHoKam Park this morning for the first time this Spring.

There were about 100 fans in attendance for the "free" preview, and as was the case last year, Manager Lou Piniella opted not to play an intrasquad game to prepare for the Cactus League, instead preferring an extended (90 minute) regular season-type infield practice and traditional BP, followed by baserunning practice.

It sure is, we've gone through a few hosts, a few looks and a few writers, but basically the same place that's been around since 2001.

Taxonomy upgrade extras: 

– Gordon Wittenmyer writes in today's Sun-Times that Mark DeRosa's cardiac issues are not a major concern to DeRo or Cub doctors, nor will they be the impetus for any personnel moves by Jim Hendry.

Wittenmyer also thinks the Cubs are more likely to add that
proverbial, right-handed hitting, three-position outfielder before
Opening Day than they are He Who Must Not Be Named.

Baseball Musings sizes up a potential Cubs rotation of Zambrano, Lilly, Hill, Dempster, and Marquis (Where is your Lieber?) based on the Marcel the Monkey projections
and foresees a cumulative 4.28 ERA for the fivesome. That's a few ticks
above the 4.19 ERA Cub starters pitched to last season, when their ERA
was second best in the NL, but still pretty solid.

One highly questionable element in the projection: Ryan Dempster's
projected 4.50 ERA. Only once in his career as a starting
pitcher--Dempster's All-Star season in 2000 down in pitcher-friendly
Florida--has Dempster ever had an ERA at or below 4.50.

What the latest Baseball Prospectus annual has to say about the Cubs, minus all those pesky numbers and the obscure historical and literary allusions:

Ronny Cedeno
"...Cedeno's is a tried and true skill set–the same one that's earning Orlando Cabrera millions of dollars every season..."

Ryan Dempster
"...has experienced a steady decline in his groundball rates over the past three seasons...coupled with command that was never very good to begin with..."

Mark DeRosa
"If the Cubs bring in a Brian Roberts-type...the gains will be less than they might appear at first glance."

Kosuke Fukudome
"An inspired acquisition...a J.D. Drew/Bobby Abreu type of player..."

Cub near Hall of Fame 3rd baseman and radio broadcaster Ron Santo turns 68 today! Yes, he was born on Feb 25th, 1940 in Seattle, Washington. Rumor has it that he clicked his heels right after the delivery.

May all your wishes come true this season (and we all know what that main wish is).

...and remember to keep the "gamer" away from all those birthday cake candles.

OK, so it wasn't literally "Peter Gammons Day" (per se), but the Hall of Famer was at Fitch Park today, as the Cubs continued their workouts in preparation for the 2008 season.

It was a cold, blustery, overcast morning in Mesa today, as the Cubs continued their Spring Training work-outs at Fitch Park.

...where I have nothing exciting to mention.  


UPDATE: If you wish to endorse the buy Wrigley plan at the bottom of this article, send an email with your full name to Mr. Lunchbuckett.

- Tickets for individual games at Wrigley went on sale today. A look through the comments of the previous thread indicate it's as hellacious as ever. Once the home of Bleacher Bums and nuns from DeKalb, it's now just a scalpers heaven. Sigh.


 - Lou Piniella seems to be seeing the same things that our pal Arizona Phil is, suggesting that the Fuk might end up batting third with Soriano and Theriot at the top of the order and Lee and Ramirez following him.
- You can also listen to a Lou's appearance on the Mike North show from this morning. I haven't had a chance to listen to it, but I believe he talks a little about the batting order, the closer job, and Hendry working on some deals...with all the vagueness you should expect. 

- If you're still interested in joining a low-key fantasy league with some fellow TCR readers, drop me an email. We already filled up one league, but I have quite a few names that are still interested and would love to open up a second league. 

- I received an email from someone calling themselves "Joe Lunchbuckett" (how fantastic would that be if that was his real name?). Mr. Lunchbuckett is taking it upon himself to try and organize the Cubs masses into buying Wrigley Field. I don't believe there's any relation to the fan effort to buy the Cubs, but I thought I'd give him his 15 minutes. You can view his press release by following the link (Google Docs is fantastic by the way). 

Enjoy the weekend...

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Or, how Baseball-Reference will be the death of me

 

The latest ridiculously interesting tool released by baseball-reference.com is its Batting Order Position Outcomes page. Plug in a team, a year, and a position in the batting order, and it will break down that position's results by the player batting in that slot.

 

For instance, did you know that on the 2007 Cubs team, Cesar Izturis logged the most games (41) and plate appearances (154) in the 8th spot in the order? He put up a .254/.314/.300/.614 line while hitting 8th, and the Cubs went 18-23 in games where he batted 8th. With Koyie Hill hitting 8th, the Cubs went an impressive 14-7. No thanks to Hill, necessarily, who hit .141/. 203/.211/.414 in those games. In stark contrast to Hill, Ronny Cedeno hit .368/.369/.737/1.052 in nine games there, and the Cubs went 2-7.

 

Other interesting but perhaps entirely meaningless discoveries include...

According to the Daily Herald, the Blackhawks have discussed with the Cubs the possibility that the Hawks would play one of the NHL's outdoor games next season at Wrigley Field. The NHL would obviously need to give its okay and according to the Daily Herald story, the New York Rangers, who are hoping to host a game in soon-to-be-shuttered Yankee Stadium, might be more likely to get Gary Bettman's approval than the Hawks.

I've looked around the Internet trying to find the weight of an NHL hockey rink and can't come up with it, but I'm pretty sure they're heavy.

If Roger Bossard was dead, he would be spinning in his grave.

It was a long day at the Long Beach County Courthouse today for me, fulfilling my civic duties (that woman was guilty the second I saw her).  So I didn't have time to put up the link for my podcast appearance on "The Pitch" with Joe Aiello (of "The View from the Bleachers" fame) from yesterday.  We chat about the upcoming season and the role of midgets in baseball. I'm going to assume it's rather unbearable to listen to me drone on, but I know it's hard to resist watching the car wreck on the side of the road.

 Enjoy...

By way of Gordon Wittenmyer in the Sun-Times, Lou Piniella talks about the importance of finding days off for Soriano, Ramirez, Lee, et al.

Hmmm, sounds like what you could use, Lou, is a “super sub.”

Meanwhile the 26th Cub, Brian Roberts, showed up for Orioles camp and got to choose between discussing his as yet unrealized trade to the Cubs and the presence of his name in the Mitchell Report.

Have the Chicago/Baltimore talks cooled to the point that the supposed principals aren’t even thinking about it any more? Andy MacPhail claims he spoke to Roberts Tuesday morning and the subject didn’t even come up.

Today marked another milestone in the annual Cubs Spring Training ritual, as the "full squad" took the field together at Fitch Park for the first time (which is to say Aramis Ramirez finally arrived) under sunny skies and temperatures in the high 50's, and under the watchful eyes of The Brain Trust (Jim Hendry wandering from field-to-field with a cell-phone glued to his ear while patting players on the back, Lou Piniella with a cup of coffee in hand schmoozing with the fans, Randy Bush and Oneri Fleita following Hendry around, Gary Hughes tooling around in a golf cart, Carrie Muskat feverishly taking notes, et al).

The Cubs have signed 29-year old switch-hitting FA middle-infielder Alex Cintron to a minor league contract with an NRI to Spring Training. He is expected to report to Fitch Park with the rest of the position players tomorrow.

A native of Puerto Rico, Cintron is a veteran of 598 MLB games over parts of seven seasons, the first five with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the last two with the White Sox. He has a 277/315/401 career line, but hit only 243/281/324 last season as a back-up middle-infielder with the Sox. His best season was in 2003 with Arizona, when he hit 317/359/489 with 13 HR, but he hasn't come anywhere close to that since. He had elbow surgery after the 2006 season.

Signing Cintron is presumably insurance in case the Cubs end up trading Ronny Cedeno to Baltimore as part of the long-rumored package that would be required to get second-baseman Brian Roberts from the Orioles.

Or the Cubs could opt to keep both Cedeno and Cintron as extra men, although that might cause a problem since they might also feel the need to carry a right-handed hitting or switch-hitting "4th OF" who can back-up all three OF positions and also (if necessary) play CF against LHP.

Since Daryle Ward, Henry Blanco, and Matt Murton (if he doesn't get traded) would seem to be assured of three of the five bench gigs, carrying two back-up middle-infielders on the roster would probably rule out keeping a "4th OF" on the bench.

If he isn't traded, Cedeno (who is out of minor league options) could conceivably prove to be the right-handed hitting alternate CF the Cubs are seeking, but that is far from a sure thing (Cedeno played only about a dozen games in CF in the Venezuelan Winter League), and a lot would depend on how he adapts to the position during the course of ST.

While it's no Arizona-Phil-from-two-days-ago-live-scouting-update , John Sickles has a post up at his website concerning Felix Pie. For the most part, it's a vanilla run through Pie's minor league credentials, but a couple of things came up from the post that are worth re-emphasizing.

...been doing it clean since 2005.

- The Congressional Hearings were the big topic of the week and I'll add my final two cents. It seems to me now that there are two likely scenarios. In one corner, Roger Clemens is guilty as sin and flat out lying. Or Brian McNamee is the new "Verbal" Kint. He's pieced together all these little snippets of information (team BBQ, B12 injections, things on Clemens's butt, Petitte using HGH, etc) and then he weaved this incredible tale to get him out of jail time. If we see him limping out of the courthouse one day into a waiting car that whisks him away to never be seen again, then I might just believe Clemens. In the meantime, I'm going with guilty as sin.

- While I applaud Zambrano's attempt at humor, there were so many things that could have gotten lost in translation with his little prank today. Hopefully Fukudome has a good sense of humor, because you need one to be around the Cubbies.

- Congrats to Pat Hughes on being named Illinois Sportscaster of the Year. Although it's a limited pool of candidates when you think about it (heck this is Hughes 4th win) and I think just about any sportscaster in Illinois will end up with the honor if they stick around the state long enough.

- I'll be on with Joe Aiello and Brandon Rosage on their podcast, "The Pitch" today. I dont' believe it's live anymore, but the podcast should be available to listen or download sometime later this afternoon. I'll post the link when it becomes available.

Enjoy the holiday weekend....

UPDATE: False alarm on the podcast appearance, going to be pushed back until Tuesday now.

With security understandably tight (well, there was one off-duty Mesa cop in the players parking lot), the Cubs had their first "official" work-out of the 2008 season under mostly cloudy skies (around 60 degrees, with a wind chill of about 59) this morning at Mesa's Fitch Park, as Pitchers & Catchers and eight position player "early birds" took the field. It was a smaller crowd than usual for the first day (maybe about 40 or 50 fans), but at least nobody got arrested.

Dedicated to cockfighting, that is.

Chicago Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramírez is prominently featured in a recent issue of a Dominican cockfighting magazine, En La Traba, in which he is pictured with several roosters that he raises for fighting. Of roosters, he said in the magazine, “When I’m in the Dominican Republic, I’m dedicated entirely to them.”

Too bad all of this is going on in the D.R. It would be a perfect topic for that new Henry Waxman reality show.

As you might have heard, and if you haven't...well you certainly will, the Cubs will go 100 straight years without a championship if 2008 is not the year. And at least one Cub is ready for battle:

"I think we're going to win the World Series. I really do. I wouldn't have worked as hard as I did and everybody worked as hard as they did to not believe that."

That Cub would be Ryan Dempster and I applaud his optimism. What fun would it be if they didn't believe that on the first day of spring training in the warm Arizona sun, a place where optimism should flow like water over Niagara Falls. I hope Dempster is equally optimistic he'll still be a Cub by the time October rolls around because I'm not so sure he will be.

There isn't much else to be said, the first workouts are scheduled for tomorrow, and I think we're all jonesing for any brief snippet of information. I did find this passage amusing though:

The first day was a chance to get reacquainted and organized as coaches discussed the game plan for most of the morning. Zambrano showed off his sleek, black Lamborghini, Michael Wuertz brought red licorice for his teammates, while early bird position players like Ryan Theriot, Tyler Colvin, Sam Fuld, Jake Fox and Koyie Hill took grounders on the half field at Fitch. Position players don't have to report until Feb. 18.

Yes, nothing shows the difference between arbitration-eligible and first free agent contract like a Lamborghini and red licorice.
---------

The only other news of the day comes from Lou who says that he'll try to settle on a closer about three-quarters of the way into spring training. The other spring training competitons will be center field between Felix Pie and Sam Fuld and coming up with the five-man rotation (three of which are set). LDM (Lieber, Dempster, Marquis), and the two Sean's will compete for the final 2 spots and I suppose Kevin Hart might be in there as well. The losers of that competition will likely round out the bullpen which has five set in stone (Howry, Marmol, Wood, Eyre, Wuertz). Tim Lahey and Jose Ascaino will also be in the mix and dont' be surprised if Chad Fox ends up on the Opening Day Roster somehow....and then ends up on the DL by May 1st.

The Cub Reporter was started in 2001 by Christian Ruzich in the midst of the Don Baylor era, when he could no longer bottle up his anger over the sacrifice bunt.

Taxonomy upgrade extras: 

Clemens vs McNamee!!!!!

Only one will be left standing....

Are you Rrrrrready to Rumble!!!!!!!!!

Chicago’s favorite former Chunichi Dragon gets the attention of the New York Times today. The article talks about how Fukudome played shortstop (badly) for his first three years as a pro, and the memory of that evoked this funny, self-deprecating description of what kind of shortstop Fukudome was:

“The kind that caused my pitchers great anxiety.”

(Actually, the comment came through Fukudome’s translator. I guess that means the comment wasn’t self-deprecating...just deprecating.)

Most interesting part of the piece to me was the connection drawn between Fukudome’s move to the outfield and his emergence as a big-time hitter. Fukudome thinks it's no coincidence that the events happened in tandem; says he found playing the outfield "much more relaxing."

If Fukudome struggles early, I hope the right field bleacher creatures at Wrigley give him a break. Otherwise "relaxing" will be the last word he'll use to describe his new home.

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