a whole lot of nothing


I have other stuff I want to say, but I can’t find a way to make that interesting. For some reason, that’s stopping me, but I’m blocked.

At least, Cubs wise, it’s not my fault. There’s really not a lot meaningful going on. Stuff like the last spot of the bullpen only matters if Angel Guzman and Chad Gaudin is being shipped out, because that last spot will change hands many times during the season. It always does. Same thing with the catching spot (if they don’t keep Koyie Hill, they’ll surely be able to stash him in Iowa.)

Marshall starts as the fifth starter, but should have no expectation of staying there unless he performs. Same thing with Hoffpauir on the bench, and the closer spot – anything that’s so indecisive to be on the line during March can’t really be secured with anything but regular season performance. The big decisions were made during free agency, and the good and bad performances in Mesa won’t mean anything by about April 15.

So far, I’ve been able to keep to my streak of not watching a Spring Training game. The WBC has helped a lot (though not the final round announcers – I’ve got the game on pause as a type this, just so I can fast forward more thru their banality.) But I’m reading people who are watching complain about how much the season needs to get here, and I don’t feel much different. I’m ready for this to get started again.

The one interesting is the whole downfall of Chad Gaudin. There was a stretch after he came over where he was good, right? Not so much, with everyone speculating about him getting cut last week. That trade with the is looking fairer by the day.

25 Man Roster Guess


I spent much time debating the Heilman trade – just not here, but enough to get out of my system. I have an actual non-Cubs post floating around in my head, just not yet the interest to write it out yet. Maybe later.

This is more a guess at what will end up happening rather than a reflection of what’s going on now.

01 LF Soriano
02 SS Theriot
03 1B D Lee
04 RF Bradley
05 3B A Ram
06 CF Kosuke
07 CA Soto
08 2B Fontenot

I don’t think anyone’s realized A-Ram’s batting fifth now. I sure didn’t until I just wrote that. In a different world, Theriot leads off, D-Lee hits second (he’s a 2 based on last season), Milton is 3, Soriano is 4, Ram is 5. Soto should be the 6th hitter, but there’s no way Lou is going three straight righties and then two straight lefties.

09 CA Bako
10 IF Miles
11 OF Johnson
12 OF Gathright
13 PH Hoffpauir

Miles starts vs lefties, Bako only starts versus righties (and even then, probably only 30-40 games.) I don’t think they’re actually planing on bringing Hoffpauir right now, but they kinda haven’t signed a veteran back to replace him. As always, I wish they were bringing 14 hitters, but they’re not. Hitter #14 isn’t so apparent at the moment anyway; I guess either Jack Fox, Sam Fuld or NRI So Taguchi, not the best of ideas. 40 man roster is a little bit unbalanced at the moment; I’ve got ever IF on the ML roster (so a move has to be made if someone gets hurt in the middle infield.)

14 SP Z!
15 SP Harden
16 SP Dempster
17 SP Lilly
18 SP Marshall
19 SP Heilman

Actually, a virtual six man rotation (they all won’t be there at the same time, but at least 6 guys will get at 15 starts) is probably more believable than Heilman (who I defended early but now am shady after reading so much about him being The Worst Pitcher In The Major Leagues last year) starting, but if not him, who? (Oh, him.)

20 CL Marmol
21 R1 Gregg
22 R2 Gaudin
23 L1 Cotts
24 R3 Viscano
25 R4 Guzman

26 SP Samardzija – for whenever Harden gets hurt

I may look a fool later on, but I strongly feel Samardzija starts the year in AAA as a starter. Not only because of how overmatched he looked by the end of last season, but because everyone’s betting on him getting 5-7 big summer starts when Harden needs time off and he’ll be more effective after learning more Iowa than pitching out of the bullpen.

I like Gaudin more than the team does. And I’m just blind guessing on Angel Guzman; I don’t know what to expect from him, but I’d bet the hope is he can eventually take Marmol’s spot as Marmol takes Wood’s spot. It’s not going to be that easy, but it’s a decent dream.

Another oddity – there’s more guys in camp, but right now only Cotts, Lilly, and Marshall are left handed pitchers on the 40 man. If one of the bullpen lefties go down, that’s another move that’ll have to be made.

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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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1yr/0.8mil for Joey Gathright


This has to mean Felix Pie is headed out of town, right?

Gathright is a fast outfielder who can not hit at all, though he has managed to walk a little bit (but would need to do it twice as much to be Theriot level worthwhile.) He’s really a CF, though he’s could play LF or RF as a sub

Pie is a fast outfielder who has not hit at all. He’s really a CF, though he could play LF or RF as a sub.

Ultimate Zone rating had Felix as +1.5 game defender in 2007, and a slightly negative one in 2008, but that was off a small sample. Gathright was +2 games in 2007, +0.7 last year. I think it’s probably about a wash, considering both will ideally be backups.

The bigger difference is Gathright will be 28 and likely never going to be better. Pie is 24, and there’s still a little bit of hope there. Except, the Cubs saying there’s not enough hope for their team, but perhaps there would be more hope on a new team.

The thing is, usually you move the guy you’re replacing before you pick up the replacement. Maybe there’s a fear Gathright would get away and the Cubs really wanted a designed pinch runner on the team, but it seems like everything else could’ve just been done by any number of other pickups if Gathright was in such high demand he signed elsewhere, or they even could call up Sam Fuld to do the same fielding and non-hitting (and everyone’s given up on Fuld, which doesn’t say much for Gathright.) The value of Pie on the trade market has already fallen, and this won’t help.

The strength of Lou Pinella as your National League manager is he’s a guy unafraid to unload the bench for situational advantages and we’ve seen hints of how frequently he’d replace a slow baserunner with Felix when Pie was up and riding the bench, so you can understand how they might use the extra speed. I don’t think they’ve been happy with Felix’s ability to steal bases (all of 3 last year – Gathright went 21 of 25), but the issue becomes more who Gathright (or Pie) would pinch run for on this team. Fukudome, Theriot, Soriano can run fine on their own. You’d lose too much on defense by replacing Lee. DeRosa’s not that slow, and you’d lose a lot of positional flexibility. Taking Ram or Soto’s bat out of the lineup in all but the most dire spots seems like overmanaging. There isn’t an obvious speed platoon here, unless there’s a slow outfielder signing to come.

This doesn’t seem like a good use of resources, but there’s got be a few more things in play which affect it so maybe it’s too soon to judge. I wonder if it’ll eventually come out that the money involved s only guaranteed if he makes the team. It’d make more sense – it’s good to have a Gathright around in case something does happen with Pie, as long as you don’t have to pay him – but make this whole post moot. I think I’m also forgetting that .8 mil isn’t much more than minimum these days.

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