Preview: The Chicago National League Ball Club
The Chicago National League Ball Club
An objective look at the love of my life--the Chicago Cubs.
SHUT UP RICK MORRISSEY
Baker haters: More bluster than substanceSeptember 3, 2006We pass each other on the street and know. Maybe it's the averted eyes or the wariness in our step. But we know each other. We're the people who don't think Dusty Baker is evil incarnate.We've learned we're better off keeping this to ourselves. If you're a man and you don't think Baker is the cause of the Cubs' woes, then you have had your manhood questioned. If you're a woman with similar thoughts, you haven't had your womanhood questioned, and I can't tell you why that is.Anyway, it's a lonely existence, being in Baker's corner. We know we're a distinct minority. We've learned not to raise a defense of the Cubs manager, not if we value the next two hours of our lives, in which we will be pilloried, flogged, tarred, feathered, quartered and ground into a lovely pesto sauce for offering an encouraging word.Now this might sound cowardly, but it isn't. It's called self-preservation. We have made our case, and it might as well have been a whisper in a busy train station. You would think Baker had been the captain of the Exxon Valdez instead of the manager of a foundering, no-talent team.To say the public anger toward him is disproportionate to his perceived sins would be to say an elephant is slightly larger than a flea.The volume on the criticism is so high now, the attacks so personal that you wonder what the guy has done to possibly bring this on. And if you don't jump on board the Hate Train, there's something not quite right about you. You're certainly not a tough guy. Tough guys chew up people like Baker and spit them out.It's not that the haters don't have a point. It's that the point has been buried under a mountain of abuse. They could send in rescue dogs and never find the point.The original point was that Baker couldn't manage his way out of a paper bag. OK, a point certainly worth debating. You say the Cubs have the fundamentals of a Class A team. I say Jim Leyland couldn't have made a winner out of this clump of mediocrity.See, we actually could have a sane discussion.But when people make fun of everything from Baker's young son to his wristbands to his way of speaking, dude, where do you go from there? How do you have a discussion in the face of that? Well, you don't.As the last grains of sand slip through the hourglass for Baker, he carries on. Every day, he is asked questions about his future, and every day he answers them. His responses are all over the board. More pickings for his critics. What used to be considered quaint about Baker—his willingness to talk on a number of different topics—now is considered the ramblings of a befuddled manager.He talks about race because somebody asks him about hate mail he has received. Critics see this as a blatant attempt by Baker to gain sympathy. No, the guy can't win.Frankly, I don't know why he would want to stay in Chicago. To turn things around and then have to watch the Baker Haters turn into Baker Backers? How would you stomach that, knowing how you had been treated for at least two seasons? You're supposed to forgive and forget?If—when—general manager Jim Hendry lets Baker go, it will be a mercy killing. Baker should thank him. He deserves better than he has gotten, from his players and from fans. He deserves his dignity.Could the majority be right and we in the minority be wrong? Of course. There's room for that, at least on this end. But the other side doesn't want to hear a defense of Baker. It doesn't want to hear about a team that has been decimated by injuries. It doesn't want to hear that Hendry's failure to acquire starting pitchers is the true reason this franchise has stumbled the past two seasons. It doesn't want to hear about the misguided decision to give closer Ryan Dempster a three-year, $15.5 million contract extension last fall.It would rather turn Baker into a toothpick-chewing caricature.So we pass each other on the street, we Baker people, and we know. We don't say anything. What's the point?Everything Baker does is wrong. Why can't we get that through our thick skulls?[...]
Getting rid of Dusty Baker because his team is not performing is about as ridiculous as trading Albert Pujols because he fails to hit a home run every game. Leave the responsibility for the Cubbies' poor performance where it belongs, with the players
. -- John Earl, St. Louis, Mo.
This is the type of Cubs fan I'm embarassed to be associated with.
I'm going to try to update this blog more often.
I took a look at the top base stealers in MLB so far and noticed two things.
1) Corey Patterson has stolen more bases than anyone in baseball. I'm not saying we made a mistake. I'm just saying he's the leader.
2) Juan Pierre ranks 7th. But that's not what's interesting. Amongst the top 30 base stealers, Pierre has a lower OBP than anyone. He also has less RBI's than anyone in the top 40. And amongst the top 25, only two players (Patterson being one) have drawn fewer walks than Pierre.
He's very fun to watch. He seems like a great guy. He is not getting the job done by any stretch of the imagination.
What is there to say about the current state of the Cubs?
Boers and Bernstein had an interesting discussion yesterday following the shameful 9-3 loss and eventual sweep by the Marlins. They discussed how the Cubs front office hasn't done anything to give fans the impression that they care the team is losing.
You can see it in the players, most recently with Greg Maddux going medieval on a water cooler during yesterday's game. But what has the organization done in the last month that leads you to believe they are as disgusted with the losing as the fans are?
I'm in the all-too-familiar position of being content with seeing my team fail if that's what it takes to bring real change. Change on the field, in the dugout, and in the front office.
The 2003 euphoria/2004 expectations suddenly feels like a decade ago.
As far as I'm concerned, Derrek Lee and Carlos Zambrano are the only 100% untouchables on the current roster. I wouldn't LIKE to trade Prior, but I'd definitely listen.
Meanwhile, the White Sox, with a smaller budget and smaller fan base, are positioning themselves for a run at another title.
And even though I'm supposed to hate him, Albert Pujols is putting up mind boggling numbers
. Part of me hopes he hits 62 HR because there really is no evidence to suggest he's juicing.
If Pujols hits 62, you'd be wise to consider him the single season home run king.EDIT: According to USA Today, the Sox actually have a higher payroll than the Cubs, $102.8 million to $94.4 million. I apologize for being misinformed.
In 34 games, Albert Pujols
has 18 HR, 43 RBI, has scored 35 runs, is hitting .328, and has an OBP of .466.
Since it appears that he doesn't use any 'performance enhancing supplements', he should be getting more much attention than this cartoon monster
I'm having trouble watching this team. Not because I don't stick by them, but because it actually depresses me and it's not healthy.
I get too down when the Cubs are playing like crap and it's not a good thing. Their play affects my overall joy far more than it should.
So when they get down by a few runs, I usually turn the game off. You're calling me a quitter aren't you?
I like to think that my mental health is more important than watching the game. If I continue watching the team swing at first pitches
, give up 0-2 hits
, walk leadoff men
, get doubled off base
, and try to pull everything the pitcher throws
, I'm going to give myself a stroke.
New Cubs drinking game...have a shot every time Matt Murton gets called out on an inside fastball. Happens about twice a game.
This is how the Cubs can stay afloat...
1. Aramis Ramirez needs to start HITTING. He can't keep doing this pop up crap with runners in scoring position. He's now the biggest threat in this lineup, and he needs to show why. Heat it up, Aramis.
2. Juan Pierre needs to raise his OBP bigtime. His little punches through the infield are nice when they actually get through. But I'd love to see him break form and work the pitchers more. He is invaluable when he's on base.
3. More power. Speed is great, I'm not denying that. And even WITH Lee, there is not a lot of pop in this lineup. Barrett, Jones, and Murton need to play longball a little more often.
4. Maddux and Z need to carry the starting rotation. Maddux has re-discovered his winning ways, and Z will come around (right?). These two are crucial until the fragile Wood, Prior, and Miller return next month.
5. Bullpen needs to stay sharp. Aardsma did nothing to impress me against LA, and Ohman and Novoa still make me feel like someone is jabbing me with a spork. But Eyre, Howry, Williamson, and Dempster have been studs. PLEASE keep it up.
And hows this for positive...
In 2003, Corey Patterson was arguably the Cubs MVP before he went down with a season ending injury. I remember hearing that on the radio and thinking "we're screwed." We all know how close we came to a World Series that year without our young stud. Anything can happen.
And once again, Dusty Baker shows why he's a terrible game manager.
Someone tell me why you hit and run with Aramis Ramirez on first base and John Mabry (a high K hitter) at the plate?
Or...explain to me why Aardsma entered a tie game instead of Scott Williamson?
And NOW, Derrek Lee and Scott Eyre have left the game because of injuries.
SON OF AEDIT: They came back and won on a clutch 2 out single by Ronny 'Shawon' Cedeno. Hopefully Lee and Eyre will be ok. Dusty still sucks.
2 swings, 7 runs.
Up until Saturday, the Cubs weren't scoring all their runs off HR. The past couple days, they have. But they're getting timely hitting, which has been sorely missing the last couple years.
And isn't it funny how baseball works...Ronny Cedeno finished the spring hitting .218, and so far he has 10 hits in 18 at bats for a .556 average.
I think it's time for Juan Pierre to steal a base or two.
Says Barry Rozner of The Daily Herald....
"It doesn’t take long to realize that the most complete package the Cubs have at second base is Jerry Hairston, who has found his defense again.
If he keeps picking it up and throwing the ball to first, he ought to be the Cubs’ everyday player at second base."
I'm taking a stand...
This may be an unpopular view, but that's what blogs are for.
Jerry Hairston Jr. should be the starting second baseman for the Chicago Cubs.
But Todd Walker is a better hitter! Todd Walker hit .305 last year! Todd Walker is sexier!
Right on all three counts.
Here's my question...
Will Todd Walker really hit that much higher than JH to justify his inferior speed and glove? Do you really get that much more from having Walker in there?
He's a lefty, that's the best thing he's got going for him.
There could be a huge difference in batting averages. Walker could hit .310 to Hairston's .260. A 50-point drop is pretty substantial.
But what if Hairston and Walker both hover around .280? Or what if Walker hits .290 and Hairston hits .280? Is it worth it? Is a 10 point advantage worth the speed and defense you lose by having Hairston on the bench?
Last year Walker hit 44 points higher than Hairston (.305 vs. .261). But Hairston was never fully healthy last year and had inconsistent playing time.
The debate rages on, but if Jerry Hairston Jr. wins the starting spot over Todd Walker, I can't say I'll protest.
Who will hit more home runs?Derrek LeeAramis Ramirez Free polls from Pollhost.comWhich of the following will have the highest batting average?Juan PierreTodd WalkerMatt Murton Free polls from Pollhost.comWho will lead the team in wins?Carlos ZambranoMark PriorGreg MadduxGlendon Rusch Free polls from Pollhost.com[...]
So I'm thinking podcasting may not be my thing. We'll see.
to see some spring training photos.
Now my question...
Why do the Cubs give us such BS when it comes to injuries? I prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt, but it gets a little tired.
For example, Prior and Wood threw off a mound on Friday. That's terrific. You can read the story on Cubs.com
. Here's one sentence that bothered me..."Prior is sticking to the program in hopes of avoiding any injuries. The other pitchers are facing hitters now."
Does that not make sense to anyone else? So they don't want to rush him back to the mound because he's 'behind' other pitchers right now. But he threw 5 more pitches than Kerry Wood, who is coming off of surgery. I want to believe Prior is fine, and I want to believe him when he says he's healthy. But there's been so much lying from this team over the past few years that I have ZERO reason to believe them.
How many times have they dismissed injury concerns only to result in multiple stints on the DL for key players?
This year is already stressing me out, and we're not even into March.
Question for Sox fans
Why do you hate the Cubs?
Use as many or as few words as you need.
Interview with 670 The Score's Dan Bernstein
I shot a few quick questions about our beloved Cubbies to The Score's Dan Bernstein and he fired back some quick answers.I have a ton of respect for Bernstein's knowledge and opinion. And let me say, it was hard to think of good questions to ask someone who asks good questions for a living.Anyway, HUGE thanks to Mr. Bernstein for bringing a glimmer of credibility to this blog.DBrown: What is the Cubs biggest concern going into the 2006 season? Is it the defensive outfield? Do they need another power hitter in the middle of the lineup? Or is it something else?DBernstein: The biggest concern is whether or not they have improved enough relative to their competition. Are they now better than St. Louis or Houston? Can they hold off an improving Brewer team? They were a fourth-place team last year that has made only marginal off-season changes.DBrown: The Cubs have played awful fundamental baseball the last two seasons. Can Dusty and his staff find a new way to instill the fundamentals? Is it just a matter of the players not concentrating? How do the Cubs fix this?DBernstein: There needs to be accountability for fundamental mistakes. Talk is cheap: players who fail to execute the basics of the game need to be disciplined.DBrown: I've heard a lot of fans complain that the Cubs "overpaid" for Eyre and Howry. The same fans who wanted to spend whatever it took to land Furcal. Is "overpay" still as valid a term as it was a few years ago? Don't teams spend the necessary money to get the guys to make the team better?DBernstein: "Overpaid" or not depends on several factors -- how his salary affects the money available for other players (present and future), what the market rate is for similar players, and whether or not he is performing well.DBrown: The Cubs have two unproven players in their projected 2006 starting lineup: Matt Murton and Ronny Cedeno. Can you win a World Series with these two guys in your starting lineup?DBernstein: It is impossible to answer that question, as nobody has any idea how good Murton and Cedeno are. Young players will prove their mettle in the second half of the season, after the league knows their tendencies.DBrown: If the pitching staff stays healthy, and there's no reason to believe it will, is this team good enough to compete in the playoffs?DBernstein: If the pitching staff stays healthy, they could reach the postseason. Many other teams can say that as well.DBrown: Can the Chicago Cubs win a World Series with Dusty Baker as manager?DBernstein: Dusty Baker's managerial skill has been lauded only when he's been able to ride on the back of at least one steroid-bloated slugger. His reputation, it seems, is as much a product of the steroid era as the meaningless statistics posted by the freakish perpetrators themselves.[...]
So this is it?
This is our 2006 lineup? At least until further notice?
What are you expecting out of Matt Murton that leads you to believe you're set in LF?
And since when is Jacque Jones a viable left-handed bat?
I'm not saying the Cubs should have thrown $40 million at Brian Giles. Nor am I saying they should have given up Prior for Tejada or Abreu.
But come on...is this offense really good enough to compete with the Cards and Astros?
Does it need to be?
Was the 2005 White Sox offense all that better?
Have your kleenex ready...
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I put this together rather quickly. Low quality tribute for a low quality player.
These podcasts need to improve. They're bush league.
I need to give you a better product.
And you will get it my babies.
My Prior Theory
I will get the feed on here soon
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Read this article
and tell me what you think.
Personally, I don't trade Mark Prior. He's too young and too talented.
Drink it in.
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I will podcast this weekend.