It was just over a year ago now that the Cubs imploded in the season's final days, losing 7 of their last 9 when the wild card was theirs for the taking. For all its flaws, and there were a good number, that was a playoff team, and so inanimately watching the postseason last year hurt all the more. At the same time though, there was at least the prospect that, if the Cubs continued to improve under Hendry, next year, or at least the year after that, would at last not yield the same October disappointment. The Cubs under Hendry, with a bit more work and a bit more luck, would be going places.
I just stumbled onto the Common Census website, which attempts to track the local cultural spheres of influence within the United States. As part of that project, Common Census has developed a Sports Map Project that tracks the popularity of sports teams by geography. Basically, it tries to color-code a map to show which sports team is most popular from place to place across all of America. They have maps for the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and NCAA Football.
There's only one other combination that would have made the World Series any less interesting for most Cubs fans. I'm really not sure how to go about rooting in this series. Sure I'd have to hear it from my White Sox friends if they won, but that might be better than watching Roy Oswalt win one or Berkman. To the notes: - Anyone else think this vacuum of silence over the last few weeks is a calculated plan by the Cubs brass and PR departments to stay low? The less noise we make over here on the north side, the less people will notice that we finished below .500 despite a substantially higher payroll then that other team in Chicago who'll be playing for a World Series this week. I see one of two things happening this off-season because of the White Sox success. Option #1) Endorsed by Jim Hendry himself is that the Cubs stay the course and do whatever they were planning to do this off-season anyway. Not sure what that course is, but I think it involves accumulating every "versatile", light-hitting middle infielder available. Option #2) That the Cubs PR department isn't about to let the White Sox steal their thunder and there are some discussions going behind closed doors that the Cubs need to make some splashy moves this off-season. I'm not saying expensive, cause when you work for the Trib you stick to the budget, rain, wind or snow. But I do think splashy, some trade or free agent signing that will bring in one of those players that people can't help but talk about. The first name that comes to mind is Manny Ramirez, but he is grossly expensive, a headcase and will make us remember just how good Jason Dubois and Moises Alou actually were in left field. But the boy can rake. All speculation on my part, but one of the advantages of being owned by a mega-conglomerate is the PR department is ready to go at a moments notice.
Baseball America has gotten around to summing up the past season in the minors. For each league, they ranked the top 20 prospects in terms of major league longevity and impact. Here's a recap of all things Cubs I could find for your reading enjoyment in these dark days. Arizona League (AZL Cubs RL): #1 Mark Pawelek Chat Wrap with Allan Simpson No discussion on any Cubs players but there's a note that Pawelek was the only first rounder in the entire league. Northwest League (Boise Hawks SS A): #2 Donald Veal #20 Mark Reed
Could the week have been anymore drab in regards to Cubs news? Nothing, nada, with only the death-defying stuntwork of Nomar and Uncle Victor to keep us warm at night. Of course I should be using this lull in Cubs news to
touch-up, polish, start all those articles that I plan to post this off-season, but a healthy dose of anarchy has invaded my life the last few weeks, preventing any such endeavors. Anywhoo, to the notes:
- From the NY Times:
The Yankees will have plenty of choices among free-agent relievers, including the left-hander B. J. Ryan, who was a closer for the Baltimore Orioles this year but had said he was open to setting up for a winning team.Well I'm sure his agent is open to whoever is willing to sign the biggest paycheck, but in my undying fantasy where Hendry realizes a shut-down bullpen may be the most important thing for a team whose starting pitchers avoid late innings like they avoid the strikezone, I still hope Hendry finds Ryan's agent's number from MLB's directory assistance. Quick sidenote, where do GM's get the number of other GM's, or agents or folks like that? Is there an MLB phone number directory? Things I wonder about, such as where do super-criminals get their henchmen from? Back to Ryan, he apparently expresses a wish to play for a winning team, which will be an obstacle that Hendry would have to hurdle if talks ever got serious. Cause winning and the Cubs just don't go hand in hand. But we generally do look good on paper and having Ryan as the backup to Dempster as closer is about as full-proof as you can get. If it was my team, I'd likely reverse the roles or use Ryan against the meaty part of the order, no matter what inning they came up in as he's certainly the superior pitcher. Sure it's an expensive luxury, but when Dempster inevitably comes back down to Earth and stops looking like the 2003 version of Eric Gagne, you can all thank me later. And I'm aware that spending big money on relievers is usually a foolish plan, but A) it's not my money B) the Cubs do have that money to spend this off-season C) this would lower the odds substantially of Dusty and Co. mucking up late innings by trying to play matchups that they don't grasp all too well and D) my ticker can't handle another year of blowing late-inning leads. Am I being selfish? You bet!!! But it would be nice to know that a late inning lead is safe and games could essenitally be over after the 6th or 7th inning. As if I need numbers to prove my point, but here's what Ryan's done in the hitter's league the last 3 years: (2005) 2.43 ERA, 100/26 BB/K, 12.8 K/9, 3.85 K/BB, 0.51 HR/9 (2004) 2.28 ERA, 122/35 BB/K, 12.62 K/9, 3.49 K/BB, 0.41 HR/9 (2003) 3.40 ERA, 63/27 BB/K, 11.27 K/9, 2.33 K/BB, 0.18 HR/9 Hendry said something about getting pitching this off-season, hopefully this is what he meant.