re: Rich Hill to BAL rumor


(reported by the SunTimes, for PTBNL)

I think I’ve cracked the code: the Cubs can’t trade for Brian Roberts, so they’re going to trade everyone else to stage a coup, capture B-Rob, and force him back to Chicago.

this does not sound promising


In the latest Peter Gammons column, after you get thru the anti-WBC bit (heavy on Marmol), there’s this note:

Rich Harden had two choices at the end of last season because of the shoulder issues he’s fought through: Either have surgery or try to rehab. Harden chose the rehab. He has worked really hard all winter, and if the Cubs can get 15-20 starts from him in 2009, they will be happy.

Maybe THEY’D be happy, but I don’t know if the rest of us would be so thrilled. If it hasn’t been clear before, it’s crystal now – even if everyone else stays healthy, the Cubs are going to have 6 pitchers take 20+ starts this year, and they don’t actually have that sixth pitcher on the staff.

It seems like finalizing the sale is going to take some time, but some decisions can’t wait. They’re catching a break that market isn’t moving at all and there are (Marquis-level) guys remaining to be grabbed, but the Cubs needed to decide if they’re going to go with one of them or finally get Peavy. The status quo is not a sane idea.

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next chapter


New owner revealed. I think the Sun Times had it first, but the Tribute was the first place I saw the number ($900mil, or $100 mil then we would’ve figured.) There’s still time to change but it’s been hinted towards Ricketts for a while so it would take quite something.

Kinda more interested in the first speech by the new Cubs owner than that first speech from the other day. But that’s because I have no idea how this one is going to go, and the other guy has been telling us what he’s going to say for quite a while now.

Wonder if the first question to the Ricketts will be Wrigley-related or Peavy-related. Wonder if it’ll be tomorrow.

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one vote he’s not getting


Because I love baseball, and because it’s on easier to have in the background while I get some work done before I go to bed, I’m watching the Cubs @ Pirates classic game they had on MLB Network* this evening.

* – great in theory, completely useless hot stove analysis in action, hilarious for the complete lack of advertisers – feels like 75% of the commercials during non-live shows are for MLB, the network, or a related charity. It’ll be better when there are actual games.

I think I must really love baseball, because I looked up the boxscore for this game – MLBN doesn’t actually mention why the game is a classic game – and even now knowing how tragically this turns out (except if you’re Justin). There’s no way this game would ever be repeated locally, that’s for sure. Even if the Pirates had their own channel, they wouldn’t air it, because it’s WGN’s telecast (which probably means there was no Pittsburgh version.)

If it was a Pirates version, I’m sure I’d be done. At least this way, I get early 90s Cubs uniforms, early 90s WGN graphics, and early 90s Harry and Steve. Thru 1.5, we’ve already had Steve Stone being disgusted at Shawon Dunston swinging at a pitch low and awa and Harry coughing up a lung going to break.

Harry, just now : “Boy, they sure are lucky to have a guy like Mike Bielecki around!” – FORESHADOWING! Also, I’m not sure if someone’s pointed this out before, but Barry Bonds is a lot thinner in 1991.

Anyway, the point of the post was the best comment so far, during the bottom of the 1st. “Jay Bell, who isn’t much of a hitter.” Pedro Gomez disagrees! No one knows why! I would figure we find out tomorrow he’s the only one.

Ricky and Jim Rice get in tommorow. Byleven gets in the low 70s or high 60s as the closest and may get in 2010. Dawson is 2nd out and the next year is people making “if Rice is in the HOF, so should Dawson”.

Milton Bradley getting hurt is NOT the problem


it’s anyone else getting hurt.

The Cubs still have Micah Hoffpauir, right? 342/400/534. He’s still a poor fielder for a corner outfielder, but that why Pie/Gathright/Reed will be on the bench. It’s an easy offense/defense platoon, and I suspect which the Cubs may plan to do from time to even when Bradley is healthy – either give Micah a start versus a right hander, or give Bradley a break in the late innings for fresher legs. (The Gathright signing makes much more sense in this context, but I’d still rather it be Pie.)

If you figure Bradley gets about 350 PA and Micah gets the about 250 out there, the RF position is projected to have an OBP 375 and an SLG of 480, up from last year’s 350/381. That leaves 100 PA on the table for the defense replacements and the odd Reed Johnson start but the bottom line is RF should hit much better than it hit last year, even based on conservative playing time estimates. They’re not doomed in RF if the starter gets hurt.

Everywhere else? DOOM. Last year’s big plan, for whenever anyone got hurt, was to move DeRosa there and put Fontenot (or occasionally someone else) in the lineup. DeRosa was the #1 backup at 3B, RF, LF, was trust more than Micah and Ward at 1B, and the quasi #2 backup at CF (Fukudome would move over and DeRosa would take the vacant spot.) DeRosa’s maneuverability saved the Cubs from having to put a wasted bat in the order for any extended period. Without him…

1B – if Lee goes down, you could put Hoffpauir here, but that means there’s no time share in RF and eventually a hole there.
2B – Miles. Who is not going to have Fontenot’s hitting season
SS – Cedeno? Miles?
3B – Cedeno? Miles? A no hope duo. They could really use one more IF who could hit.
OF – again, if Hoffpauir is splitting time in RF, that leaves Reed (bad idea vs rights) or Pie/Gathright (bad idea at all times)

That’s not to mention that dropping Marquis without picking someone else leaves a big question mark not just at the 5th rotation spot – where if they believed in Marshall, it wouldn’t have taken this long for him to go into camp with a set spot in the rotation – but also the 6th/7th rotation guys (Guzman? Hart? if they decide to put Gaudin and Samardzija in the pen, it’s a tough to take them back out during the season), pitchers who should be expected to log meaningful innings given Rich Harden’s past history, not to mention Z’s annual mysterious injury.

The biggest strength of the 2008 Chicago Cubs were their depth. They were as strong and complete as any team. Not just 1-25 on the active, but closer to 1-33, with guys coming up and being used perfectly when others were hurt or unavialable. The OF was showing examples of this all season, with guys able filling in for Soriano’s injury, or the Cubs figuring out a low-cost CF solution to Felix Pie’s inability to hit the baseball, or DeRosa being able to take over in right when Fukudome was getting killed. It was the same with the starts, and even the closers spot.

The acqustion of Milton Bradley makes the Cubs a strong everyday lineup, and may make a difference in a playoff series. The moves they had to make to create salary room for Bradley make shallower and less able to deal with a major injury.

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Cubs prospective owners made easy


The Chicago Tribune goes over the three possible owners still left in the running, with the deal expected to be done imminently. That link is a thumbnail sketch, but I’m going to thumbnail ite even more for you

1: lived above a bar near Wrigley. Met his wife in the bleachers. (Son of actual money guy.)
2: media/telecommunications tycoon (IMAX)
3: South African soccer fan involved in real estate

Gee, wonder which one I’m supposed to be rooting for. Actually, I could use about a dozen stories on the South African to explain why he wants the Cubs. First is clearly someone doing it to be The Beloved Owner Of The Cubs When They Win The World Series, second is doing it for the media rights (bye bye WGN and Comcast, hello Cubs Network), but the info on the third guy doesn’t really explain it. Maybe Wrigley (and the land underneath?) Maybe just as short term investment with plans to sell when the economy gets better?

A google search tells me what the tribune does not: the South African has donated to Republican candidates. It’s nice to see he gave money to Oberwies in the past election, because it shows great familiarity with doomed causes. (Interestingly (?), all his contributions were to Democrats before this year, and now all are for Republicans.) #2 gave to Joe Biden for President, so he’s got that going for him.

Like always, I don’t think we really know how anyone is going to run the team until they actually run it, and it’s not like I’m getting a say in it anyway. Just hope it’s really over soon.

DeRosa and Miles


I’ve had a couple of days to digest the New Year’s Eve roster shuffle, and I still don’t feel all that different from my instant react: the Cubs are a worse team now than they were at the start of the week.

Now, there’s a good reason for that, something local coverage doesn’t seem to have noticed (Paul Sullivan theorizing about Miles being the new leadoff hitter was the high of missing-the-point-ness, and a bad idea better left unsaid) but seems to have been grasped nationally. It goes kinda like this:

+3.5mil = DeRosa ($5.5) -> Miles ($2.0)
+5.0mil = Jason Marquis ($9.0) -> Viscano ($3 + $1mil to take Marquis)
+2.0mil = Henry Blanco ($2.8; free agency) -> Paul Bako (>$1mil; strongly rumored but not announced)
10.5mil freed up, just about enough for the first year of Milton Bradley’s contract.

This is really all this was: they liked DeRosa, but he was expendable because he didn’t find time to learn how to switch hit in between playing six positions, and they could cut costs there to use it elsewhere. I hate the move because I like DeRosa, but I understand having to do it in a fixed budget situation. The players acquired are pretty meaningless; two unremarkable A ball pitchers and a possible situational lefty don’t amount to all that much.

Except – how are the Cubs in a topped out budget situation? They seemed to do pretty okay in ticket sales, merchandise and the like last year. While the economy is down, the revenues generated by the Chicago National League Ballclub are going in the other direction. Even with the new contract for Dempster (and all of the other escalating contracts that Hendry always backloads), the cupboard shouldn’t be empty.

It’s the ownership. Or lack of one. Or lack of one that’s not bankrupt and afraid of disaster striking the Cubs and having to cover the losses. The Cubs should easily be able to cover all they’re liable for in future contracts, but when other business under the envelope are worried about existing in the near future, they’re probably hesitant to take chances.

I really don’t there’d be the same problem with a new owner. The economy would still be bad, but the owner would’ve just gotten this team, be dealing with a questioning public (who have only been told about Mark Cuban’s interest in the team and might be less than trusting of anyone not named Cuban at this point) and not looking to make his first big impression by restricting money spent on the team. Nor would they want to send one of the more popular players out the door for magic beans – owning a major sports franchise is too much of an ego stroke to do that, at the start

What I’m trying to say is I think Mark DeRosa is a Cleveland Indian, and Aaron Miles is a regrettable Chicago Cub, because the sale has taken so long. If this hadn’t been dragged out, they find that extra $3.5 million. All along, we’ve been told the sale isn’t affecting things, it’s business as usual, but this a clear sign of the club being harmed because this sale is taking forever. I hope they’re everyone’s finally not wrong when they say it’ll be over before the season starts, because I’m ready for it.

As for the actual player acquired here…

When I was talking about this on Wednesday, I compared Aaron Miles to Neifi Perez, a horrible accusation. Miles has 20 more points of Average and 30 more points of On Base for his career, so he’s a slightly better Neifi Perez when hitting and apparently a worse one fielding. It’s a much more nuanced way of saying he’s still not any good.

The goal for second base in 2008 has to be a right/left platoon. It’s kinda funny, given all the second baseman who’ve been around this decade that I can’t think of any times where the Cubs have done one before at that position, but Fontenot has always been extremely better versus right hand pitchers. If you’re getting him the starting job, you’re getting a guy who will perform pretty good most of the time (defensive metrics rate his fielding pretty good too; I didn’t see it as better than average but I’ll go with it) but must have a partner to face lefties.

Miles vs Lefties
2008: 315/377/378
2007: 286/368/336
2006: 291/378/360
Carer: 284/352/352

Miles is a black hole of power versus lefties. He does walk far more often from that side, but he’s average at best. This is not a guy you need to pay $2 mil for two years – average middle infielders who can hit right handlers are a plentiful resource and there’s nothing special about Miles that requires him locked you. If Miles doesn’t want to take your 1 year offer, there are still plenty of Willie Bloomquist around to be the 25th man instead.

I’d rather just gamble on AAAA/questionable guy (or, more likely, a few of them in Spring Training and see who pans out) than sign them, but this is a case where they pay more to play it safe before trading DeRosa, where safe as comfortably bad. Most any AB Miles gets is going to be a wasted one.

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