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Preview: Holy Cow Baseball Blog

Holy Cow Baseball Blog



"Baseball is not necessarily an obsessive-compulsive disorder, like washing your hands 100 times a day, but it's beginning to seem that way. We're reaching the point where you can be a truly dedicated, state-of-the-art fan or you can have a life. Take y



Updated: 2015-09-16T18:20:47.287-05:00

 



Cubbiepalooza!

2005-04-02T19:18:25.266-06:00

This will probably be my last post at Holy Cow. I have decided to move my blog to Typepad, and I now have my own site at Cubbiepalooza.com. My new blog is named Cubbiepalooza, and all of my new writing will be posted there. I will leave Holy Cow up for the archives. I've had a great time blogging at Holy Cow, but I've moved on to bigger and better things. Like a decent blog title. What was I thinking with "Holy Cow Baseball Blog". Oh well, it's all in the past now. Now it's time for Cubbiepalooza!



Padres 9, Cubs 5

2005-03-28T14:17:17.636-06:00

Ryan Dempster continued his spring struggles, allowing 5 runs on six hits in 3 2/3 innings, as the Cubs fell to the Padres on Sunday. Dempster, who is slated to start the Cubs' third regular season game April 6 vs. Arizona, has a spring ERA of 11.19. Not exactly what I'd like to see from my third starter. But manager Dusty Baker seems to have other ideas.

"He threw the ball pretty good," Baker said of Dempster. "It seems like he might be the kind of guy who, if he gets out of the first or second inning, he gets his rhythm going. We're still learning about him."

Hmm...

Here's what Dempster had to say.

"I feel like I've been here forever," he said of spring camp. "We're definitely ready for the season to start and having these games mean something and start playing some games for real."

"[Spring games] matter, but they don't matter," he said. "I want to get ready for the season."

However, I'd rather see Ryan work out his problems as a starter during spring training. With only 6 spring games left and Dempster's ERA over 11, I'm not quite as excited about the season as Ryan. If he's ready to go with an ERA like that, something's got to be wrong with his head.

With Dempster in the rotation and Joe Borowski injured, LaTroy Hawkins will start the season as the closer. Hawkins enjoyed moderate success last season as a closer, saving 25 games. I have no idea about what to expect from him this year, and I'm going to simply hope for the best. I'd like to see a healthy Borowski take over as closer once he returns from injury, and even if LaTroy is successful, he is much more valuable to the team as a dominant setup man.

David Kelton continues to challenge Jason Dubois for the role of 4th outfielder. Knowing Dusty, it is unlikely a rookie will be starting, so I expect Todd Hollandsworth to get the bulk of the playing time in LF. Kelton's pinch-hit two-run homer yesterday seemed to impress Baker.

"He's looking pretty good," Baker said. "He plays well, runs well, throws well. He's playing like he wants a spot. That's what you want to see."

Here's a comparison of Kelton and Dubois this spring (22 games each).

Dubois: 42 AB/8 R/13 H/0 2B/1 3B/4 HR/8 RBI/.310 AVG/.643 SLG
Kelton: 40 AB/7 R/14 H/5 2B/0 3B/1 HR/6 RBI/.350 AVG/.550 SLG

Dubois has superior minor league stats overall and has shown a lot more pop than Kelton, both this spring and in the minors. With 5 doubles, Kelton seems to be more of a gap hitter than a reliable power source in the outfield, which we need so badly. Dubois is my pick and, unless he completely flops or gets injured during the remaining 6 spring games, will be Dusty's and Hendry's pick as well.



Angels 6, Cubs 4

2005-03-25T20:32:15.890-06:00

Carlos Zambrano finally gave up a run this spring during today's loss, after 15 scoreless innings over 4 starts. Zambrano and Derrek Lee both homered, accounting for 3 of the 4 Cub runs. Zambrano hit a solo shot in the third, and Lee hit a two-run homer following a Jeromy Burnitz double in the fourth. Henry Blanco drove in the 4th run in the 9th inning. Zambrano gave up 3 runs, 9 hits and a walk over 5+ innings, and struck out 3.

With each start, Zambrano solidifies his position as the Cubs' best starter. Not only is his stuff just as good (or better) than Prior's or Wood's, but he's a workhorse with no history of injury problems. Prior may be the "Franchise", but Carlos is simply "#1". When Dusty gave Z the opening day assignment, he finally used his head and realized that Z is the best we've got.

In case you didn't know, Matt Clement was my favorite Cub. I was devastated when the Cubs let him walk. Take away the record (9-13, due to poor run support), and you've got a solid pitcher easily capable of 15+ wins. After looking over his game logs from last year, it is clear that he got cheated out of quite a few wins, and got stuck with quite a few losses. I counted 6 games in which he pitched 6 or more innings, allowed 3 or fewer runs, and did not get a win. It really is a shame. Now, with Prior and Wood battling injuries and the 5th rotation spot still unclaimed, the Cubs could sure use a guy like Clement in the rotation; someone who eats innings and throws a lot of quality starts. Despite his unfortunate departure, I will keep on wearing my Clement jersey with pride.


If you haven't seen the trailers for Star Wars: Episode III, check them out now. You will be blown away! I am counting down the days until the film is released (May 19: 55 days left!)



I Think I'm in Love

2005-03-20T15:11:05.223-06:00

I recently purchased MVP Baseball 2005, and yes, I will admit it; I'm hooked.

This is one of the finest baseball games I can ever recall playing , and I remember back to "Bases Loaded" for the original Nintendo. I've been playing a lot, which has resulted in very few posts the last few weeks. And with the Cubs--excluding Z, Dubois and a few others--playing like a bunch of Little Leaguers this spring (see yesterday's 11-4 loss against the A's), I haven't felt very compelled to write. However, once April hits, you can expect more regular posting. Now back to MVP.

I won't give an indepth review, but if you want one, check out Goodbye 1908, Hello 2005. I love the game, and have been playing a lot. Owner mode is fascinating, giving the gamer complete control over finances, management, stadium and everything else imaginable. The best part of the game has to be owner mode, and it can be quite a challenge to put a winning team on the field, keep the fans and players happy, and still make a profit. And as in reality, the players are always demanding more money. The mini-games, batting and pitching, are challenging and have resulted in countless hours of enjoyment (plus, I've actually learned how to go with the pitch while batting, instead of trying to pull everything for a homer). I love the retro jerseys, too. There's nothing quite like a 1970's Cubs uniform. Overall, I love the game (in case you haven't figured that out by now) and would recommend it to anyone who loves baseball and videogames.

Cubs play the Padres today at 2:05 CT. Listen on WGN Radio.



Angels 3, Cubs 2

2005-03-13T17:59:46.850-06:00

The Chicago Cubs fell to the LA Angels today, wasting 4 scoreless innings by starter Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano gave up 4 hits while walking 2, and has 9 scoreless innings to his credit this spring.

Clearly, no matter what Dusty Baker says, Carlos is the ace of the staff. Kerry Wood, the projected opening day starter, has never won more than 14 games and has been plagued by injuries in his career, most recently this spring's shoulder trouble. Greg Maddux is nearly 39 years old and his numbers have been in a progressive decline during the last few years. Mark Prior was limited to 118 innings last year and is no sure bet to return to his 18-6, 2.43 ERA 2003 season. Without a doubt, Carlos Zambrano is the most dependable and productive pitcher on the Cubs' staff. If Kerry is injured and unable to start Opening Day, I would love to see Dusty start Zambrano.

On another note (Rant --> On), I would love to see Kerry Wood traded. If only he didn't have that blasted no-trade clause! Wood is entering his 8th season in the majors, and has had a very dissappointing career. Every year, he underachieves; whether due to injury or not is irrevalent. I'm just so tired of hearing people, especially those in the Cubs organization, say that Wood is still developing and is on the verge of a breakout, 20-win season. Wood is 28 years old! He's in the prime of his career. Who cares if he has all the potential in the world? By no means does talent translate into success, in anything. Someday, people are only going to remember Kerry Wood as an immensely talented guy who never realized his potential. Personally, I don't want to see Wood spend any more time in Chicago, simply taking up roster space while making $8 million a year. If he didn't have a no-trade clause, the Cubs could trade him now and probably get a pretty good player(s) in return. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to put up with mediocrity from Wood (Rant --> Off).

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Sorry Kerry, you had your chances; Zambrano's #1 now.




Cubs 9, Rangers 4

2005-03-07T18:37:10.146-06:00

The Cubs rebounded from yesterday's 10-1 beating quite nicely. Maddux made his first start of the spring and Joe Borowski made his first appearance. Jason Dubois, Jerry Hairston and Angel Echevarria each hit homers for the Cubs, the first of the spring for all three. For more game details, check out TrueBlue, where Gavin liveblogged the game.
Note: Corey Patterson was hit on the knee by a pitch in the second inning, and was taken out of the game. Diagnosis--Contusion of the right knee. Whether this is a good or bad thing, is for you to decide.

Next Up
Split-squad games. Carlos Zambrano faces Joe Blanton and the A's at 2:05 pm at HoHoKam Park, and Glendon Rusch squares off against Runelvys Hernandez and the Royals in Surprise, Arizona.
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NL Central Preview: Cincinnati Reds

2005-03-06T16:53:07.533-06:00

Sorry for the long delay. Here's the Reds portion of my NL Central preview.Cincinnati Reds2004 Record: 76-84, 4th placeThe Reds are quickly gaining recognition as a good team. With seasoned veterans mixed in among a solid young nucleus, this is a team on the rise. Cincinnati executives spent most of the offseason working to improve the team's pitching, which started strong last year but imploded before midseason.New in '05: LHP Eric Milton (Phillies), RHP Ramon Ortiz (Angels), RHP David Weathers (Marlins), RHP Ben Weber (Angels), LHP Kent Mercker (Cubs), 3B Joe Randa (Royals), and RHP Ricky Stone (Padres)See Ya: SS Barry Larkin (retired), IF Juan Castro (Twins), RHP John Reidling (Marlins), LHP Phil Norton (Astros), LHP Gabe White (Braves), 1B/OF John Vander Wal (unsigned), RHP Todd Van Poppel (Mets), and OF Darren Bragg (Indians)The Outfield: The Reds have four candidates to fill the three outfield spots. Adam Dunn is a lock in LF after having a break-out 2004 in which he finished 3rd in the league in HR (46), 10th in slugging % (.569), and 6th in walks (108). Despite his major league record 195 strikeouts, Dunn had an OBP of .388 and set a career-high in batting average with .266 last year. He is one of the top young players in the game, and if he can strikeout less and continue to post triple-digit BB totals, then the sky is the limit. CF Ken Griffey, Jr. will once again (I've lost count of the seasons) try to make a comeback after suffering a season-ending injury in 2004. As everyone knows, if healthy, he is a Hall of Fame caliber outfielder. Austin Kearns and Wily Mo Pena will be left to fight for the right field spot. There has been talk of shifting Griffey to right to lessen the chance of injury, but regardless, the Reds have 4 qualified outfielders and only 3 spots. Wily Mo Pena (gotta love the name) hit 26 HR and drove in 66 runs last year in only 366 AB. Kearns has been excellent, when healthy, and is a great right-handed batter who can hit for average and power. Someone will be squeezed out, or a plattoon system will have to be implemented. Of course, an injury (Griffey? again) could open up a spot.The Infield: Sean Casey is the heart and soul of this infield, and he is among the best first-baseman around. The Cub Killer hit .324, smacked 24 HR, and drove in 99 runs last year. Newly acquired third-baseman Joe Randa takes over at the hot corner. Randa is a solid competitor, but nothing spectacular. Expect 15 HR, 70 RBI, and about a .285 average from him. The middle infield is without Barry Larkin for the first time in almost two decades, and Felipe Lopez will be his successor. At 24, Lopez should be mature enough to provide solid production and defense from shortstop. To fill the second base hole, the Reds signed D'Angelo Jimenez, a speedy guy with decent pop in his bat. While this infield is nothing spectacular, offensively or defensively, it should be good enough to keep the Reds competitive.Rotation: This offseason, Reds GM Dan O'Brien knew his top priority was pitching. Rather than fill out the rotation with youngsters and hope for the best, O'Brien signed lefty Eric Milton and traded for veteran right-hander Ramon Ortiz to complement staff ace Paul Wilson.Wilson was solid for the Reds and finished 11-6, but his record could have been even better had the bullpen not blown 6 saves in his starts. Milton and Ortiz are both still in the prime of their careers and hope to help turn Cincinnati around. Ortiz averaged 15 wins from 2001-2003, but spent last year bouncing between the rotation and bullpen. With the Reds, Ortiz will be given stability and could easily return to his 2001-2003 success, despite last year's woes. Milton, a free agent from the Phillies, went 14-6 last year. His 4.75 ERA is a little troubling, but he still had success despite the high ERA. If he wants to make himself even better, he needs to cut down on home runs allowed (43 last [...]



Cubs 8, Giants 2

2005-03-05T20:53:13.443-06:00

The Cubs won their 3rd straight Cactus League game against the Giants today. Neifi Perez led the Cubs with two RBIs. Cubs starter John Koronka held the Giants to 1 run on two hits in his two innings of work, and helped himself out with an RBI single in the 5-run first inning. The left-hander, who went 12-9 at AAA Iowa last season, is trying to make a name for himself in his first major-league training camp and make the most of his time in camp. "It's a good experience to be around guys like Wood and Prior and Maddux," Koronka said. "You have to be quiet, shut your mouth and listen." While Koronka is a long shot to make the big-league club this year, he will vie a rotation spot in years to come, along with many of the Cubs' other great young hurlers.

Ryan Dempster, a candidate for the closer job, pitched two brilliant innings, striking out 3 while yielding no walks or hits. Even though this was not a closing situation, Dempster showed his overwhelming stuff and capability. If he continues pitching like he did today, he should be an excellent choice to close.

On a more troubling note, the Cubs committed 4 errors today. However, all of the box scores I have seen do not list the players who committed the errors.

Former Cub Moises Alou didn't do much of anything for the Giants, finishing going hitless in two at-bats. In the first inning, Alou came to bat with the bases loaded and promptly lined into a double play. For some odd reason, fans at HoHoKam Park gave Alou quite an ovation when he came to bat. Personally, I'm glad he's gone. A clubhouse distraction with zero baserunning skills is not someone I would want on my team, and he's only going to get worse as he ages. Good riddance.

Next Up: Sunday, March 6 vs. Giants at Scottsdale, 2:05 pm CT, WGN Radio

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Cubs 2, Athletics 1

2005-03-03T18:20:58.523-06:00

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The Cubs won their spring-training opener today against the Oakland A's. A great performance by the Cubs, highlighted by an Aramis Ramirez two-run homer and two sharp innings by starter Carlos Zambrano. Ramirez hit a towering blast over the left-field wall in the 4th inning, after A's pitcher Joe Blanton hit SS Nomar Garciaparra on the hand. Ramirez is feeling good about 2005, and has confidence in the lineup. "We have a good hitting team," Ramirez said. "With all the hitters we have, I feel as if I don't have to carry the team." Zambrano pitched two scoreless innings, yielding 1 walk while striking out 1.

For the A's, starter Dan Haren pitched two shutout innings in his A's debut. Catcher Jason Kendal, acquired from the Pirates this offseason, knocked in the Athletics' only run in the 3rd inning on an RBI double, plating rookie Nick Swisher.

Overall, a good performance by both teams. Hopefully, as the spring progresses, the Cubs' bats will awaken and provide a bit more run support for the pitchers. Pitching for both teams was excellent, and 5 Cub pitchers held the A's to 4 hits, while the Cubs were held to 5 hits. No errors today, and this was a great spring opener. I hope this is a prelude to good things in the regular season.



Ahh...Baseball

2005-03-03T13:24:49.650-06:00

The Cubs play their first game of spring training today against the A's. Zambrano gets the start. "I'm always excited for the games to start," said Zambrano. After winning 16 games last year and finishing 5th in the NL Cy Young voting, Carlos is looking to establish himself as one of the top pitchers in the game. With his electric personality and talent, Zambrano will look to start off the season right this afternoon.Baseball is back. :)

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Z's ready to go...are you?



Santo Left Out...Again

2005-03-02T16:46:38.290-06:00

For the second consecutive time, the Veterans Committe has not elected anyone to the Hall of Fame. The lovable former Cub Ron Santo, along with Gil Hodges, received 52 votes--8 votes short of the necessary 60 votes, or 75%, for induction. With 65%, Santo and Hodges were the closest to achieving Hall of Fame immortality of the 25 candidates. Some other players of note left out of the Hall include Tony Oliva (45 votes), Jim Kaat (43), Joe Torre (36), Maury Wills (26), Vada Pinson (23), Luis Tiant (20) and Roger Maris (19).

The Veterans Committee votes every two years, so Santo will once again begin his seemingly endless campaigning for the 2007 vote. After missing induction in 2003 by 12 votes, Santo added 4 votes to his cause this year. Santo had another chance for Hall of Fame enshrinement through the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting, but that award went to Jerry Coleman. It would have been nice to see Ryne Sandberg and Santo elected into the Hall together; two of the most popular Cubs players ever, enshrined side-by-side. But Santo will just have to keep on waiting until his time comes.

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Ron Santo: Still waiting...



This One's For You, Ron

2005-03-01T21:12:49.710-06:00

As Cub fans around the world anxiously await the announcement of the Veterans Committee's Hall of Fame selections, I will say, on the eve of this hallowed event, here's to you Ron Santo. I won't rant and rave about stats and why Santo deserves to be in the Hall. Every Cub fan knows the facts and could easily spend hours trying to convince others that Santo belongs. Cub nation knows Santo belongs; now it's time to see if the rest of the baseball world will finally be able to recognize Santo as a true baseball legend, a Hall of Famer. Ron, my heart goes out to you; best of luck from PB4Baseball.

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Cubs Tickets

2005-02-26T12:31:18.530-06:00

Like every other Cubs fan around, I spent all of Friday attempting to purchase tickets. I was very pleased with the outcome, as I got tickets for August 13 vs.Cardinals, August 26 vs.Marlins, July 25 vs. Giants and August 22 vs. Braves. However, I would have been much more happy had I not been stuck in the "virtual waiting room" for over 7 hours before I got my chance to buy tickets. After I got through the first time, sometime after 5:oo p.m., I was lucky enough to be "randomly" picked again a few hours later. I also got through twice on the phone lines, both times late in the afternoon. Total, I spent about 10 hours on Friday trying to get tickets.

Believe it or not, when I checked out the Cubs site earlier today, Saturday, plenty of tickets were still on sale. I managed to get through the waiting room 3 times in the morning, picking up a few extra tickets for each of the games I will be attending. I ended up with 27 tickets this weekend, plenty for myself and family members. So, if you're reading this and don't have any tickets, go get yourself back in the waiting room and you will find plenty of good seats still available. It took me only 10 minutes today before I got through online, so definitely check it out.



NL Central Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

2005-02-24T21:18:46.050-06:00

The brew-crew is here for their 2005 preview.Milwaukee Brewers2004 Record: 67-94, 6th placeThe Brewers have a new owner in '05, Mark Attanasio, and Milwaukee hopes he will be willing to spend some cash and help produce the team's first winning season in over a decade.New in '05: OF Carlos Lee (White Sox), C Damian Miller (A's), P Ricky Bottalico (Mets), 3B Jeff Cirillo (Padres), P Justin Lehr (A's), P Jose Capellan (Braves)See Ya: P Dan Kolb (Braves), C Gary Bennet (Nationals), P Luis Vizciano (White Sox), IF Craig Counsell (D-Backs), IF Keith Ginter (A's), OF Scott Podsednik (White Sox)The Outfield: Last year, the Brewers had one of the weakest hitting outfields in baseball. '05 may be a different story. With the addition of slugger Carlos Lee, the look of the outfield changes dramaticaly. By dumping speedster Scott Podsednik to the White Sox for Lee, the Brewers will definitely increase production from 53 outfield homeruns last year. Veteran Brady Clark will take over in CF, unless rookie Dave Krynzel beats him out for the job in spring training. The other outfield spot will be once again occupied by Geoff Jenkins, who played in a career high 157 games last year. If he is healthy, he will compete with Lee for the team's HR and RBI leads. Jenkins will move to right for the left-fielding Lee, and will continue to play excellent defense and show off his strong arm. Expect this outfield to be much more potent than the '04 version.The Infield: First baseman Lyle Overbay is clearly the top offensive weapon in the infield. He led the team in batting average and doubles, setting a new club record for the latter. However, the Brewers are hoping that many of those doubles turn into homers this year, as the infield is a little lacking in the power department. The biggest long-ball threat in the infield is third baseman and strike-out machine Russell Branyan. Branyan had 11 homers in 51 games with the Brewers after coming over from Cleveland, but his 68 strikeouts in 158 AB is a bit frightening. Russell will have to compete with veteran Wes Helms for playing time. The middle infield will be led by second-baseman Junior Spivey, who was an All-Star in 2002. After injuring himself last year diving into first base and missing most of 2004, Spivey will look to reestablish himself in the majors. Now that Craig Counsell has departed, Bill Hall and rookie JJ Hardy will compete for shortstop. Hall played in 126 games last year, filling in wherever necessary, and managed to hit 9 HR and drive in 53 runs. If he can improve his batting average (.238) and OBP (.276), he is capable of great things in the majors. Hardy has shown promise, but missed all but 26 games last year in the minors due to injury. Hall will likely win the starting job at shortstop. Free-agent and Wisconsin native Damian Miller signed with the team this offseason and will take over catching duties. Miller is known for his skill in calling games, and will greatly improve the young pitching staff. Offensively, lets just say the Brewers didn't sign him for his bat.Starting Rotation: Ben Sheets leads this young rotation, finishing third in the NL with a 2.70 ERA and setting a franchise record for strikeouts with 264 in 2004. His 12-14 record is very deceiving, and he could be the ace of any staff in the majors. Following Sheets is lefty Doug Davis, who also won 12 games in '04 and posted a 3.39 ERA. He also threw 207 innings, and with a little run support, could prove to be one of the game's most productive young pitchers. After Sheets and Davis, the rotation will be filled out by a bunch of youngsters, including Victor Santos, Chris Capuano, Jorge De La Rosa, Wes Obermueller, Ben Hendrickson and Jose Capellan. Santos and Capuano[...]



NL Central Preview: Houston Astros

2005-02-23T21:23:49.283-06:00

After a long delay, here is the Astros portion of my NL Central Preview.Houston Astros2004 Record: 92-70, 2nd placeAfter making it to the NLCS last year and losing to St. Louis, the Astros will be looking to return to the postseason in 2005. However, free-agent departures and injuries may derail any postseason hopes.New in '05: P Turk Wendell (Rockies), P Dave Burba (Giants), P John Franco (Mets), P Dan Wheeler (Marlins), OF Charles Gipson (D-Rays)See Ya: CF Carlos Beltran (Mets), 2B Jeff Kent (Dodgers), P Wade Miller (Red Sox), P Darren Oliver (Rockies), P Dan Miceli (Yomuiri Giants)The Outfield: With Carlos Beltran leaving via free agency and Lance Berkman out until at least May 1st with an offseason knee injury, the Astros' outfield is in shambles. Youngster Jason Lane will likely get a starting outfield spot, and despite the temptation to return Craig Biggio to second-base after Kent's departure, he will have to play in the outfield again. Also, it appears Orlando Palmeiro will start in RF. Palmeiro has never been anything more than a backup and pinch-hitter in his career, and most likely will do nothing more than fill out the outfield. With the return of Berkman, this outfield may return to respectability, but at the moment it is quite pathetic. Defensively, losing Beltran was a huge blow in the wrong direction. Combine that with 36 year old career backup Palmeiro in right, a rookie (Lane) in center, and 39 year old Biggio in left, the oufield is, without a doubt, headed for disaster.The Infield: As with the outfield, the infield does not look very stable. Jeff Kent's departure leaves a gaping hole in the infield. Rookie Chris Burke is expected to replace Kent at second. Burke is a solid hitter with speed and occassional pop, but he won't match Kent's production (.289 Avg, 27 HR, 107 RBI). The aging Jeff Bagwell remains at first, but continues to suffer from shoulder problems and will be hard pressed to reach his '04 totals (.266 Avg, 27 HR, 89 RBI). Catcher Brad Ausmus is gold-glove caliber behind the plate. Adam Everett will return at shortstop and is coming off a promising year cut short by a fractured wrist. Everett will provide average and speed, as well as a solid glove. At third-base, Morgan Ensberg will be the starter and is a decent all-around player. While he is nowhere near the likes of Scott Rolen or Aramis Ramirez, Ensberg is a solid player with good power. Defensively, this infield is nothing special. With a rookie at second and only average defense at the corners, don't expect too many Web-Gems.Starting Rotation: With Roger Clemens returning for another year and 20-game winner Roy Oswalt, the front end of the rotation is in good shape. Lefty Andy Pettite must come back strong from 2004's injury plagued season if this rotation is to be successful. Last season's success is enough to earn Brandon Backe the 4th spot in the rotation, and will be counted on for innings and quality starts. The 5th spot is still up for grabs. Pete Munro, who ended last season as the 5th man, and lefty Carlos Hernandez will compete for the final rotation spot. With health concerns and several youngsters, this rotation is a bit shaky. After Clemens and Oswalt, the rest are very beatable and may cause the season to nose-dive straight down to disaster.Bullpen: Brad Lidge has established himself as one of the top closers in the league. However, the Astros may have trouble getting the ball to Lidge with a lead. This problem was exposed in the 2004 postseason, and manager Phil Garner often used Lidge for 2+ innings to protect leads and prevent the weak bullpen from blowing games. That strategy will not work over the long, 162 game season, and Houston's bull[...]



More Preview on Tuesday

2005-02-21T18:07:45.180-06:00

Sorry I haven't been able to post in a while, but I've been very busy lately. I will have the Houston Astros portion of my NL Central preview posted by Tuesday evening. So check it out. Meanwhile, with spring training upon us, check out the neat photo and more below. Peace and GO CUBS!!!

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Cubs Spring Training in the 1940's at Catalina Island, California
For more photos and other cool stuff, check out Ballpark Digest's Spring Training 2005




NL Central Preview: St. Louis Cardinals

2005-02-18T16:54:09.673-06:00

Here is the second part of my NL Central Preview, featuring...ST. LOUIS CARDINALS2004 Record: 105-57, 1st PlaceMuch of the core of the defending NL championship team is returning from last year, but they have taken a few major blows. Team in ( ) is either the player's 2004 team or new 2005 team, depending upon whether he is arriving or leaving. I will stick with this format for the rest of my previews.New in '05: SP Mark Mulder (trade with A's), SS David Eckstein (Angels), 2B Mark Grudzielanek (Cubs), P Mike Myers (Red Sox, Mariners), C Einar Diaz (Montreal)See Ya: SS Edgar Renteria (Red Sox), P Danny Haren (traded to A's), P Kiko Calero (traded to A's), C Mike Matheny (Giants), SP Woody Williams (Padres), P Steve Kline (Orioles), 2B Tony Womack (Yankees)The Outfield: The Cardinals will get a full season from RF Larry Walker, while the rest of the '04 outfield returns for another year. Gold-Glover Jim Edmonds patrols center-field, and his left-handed bat is good for 35+ HR and 100+ RBI. LF Reggie Sanders provides power and speed in the lineup, but will strike out over 100 times. Larry Walker was limited to 258 AB last year after missing 2 1/2 months with a groin injury. If he is healthy, he plays Gold-Glove defense and hits for power and average. Overall, this is one of the top outfields in all of MLB.The Infield: The 2005 season will feature a revamped infield, with the departures of Rentaria at shortstop and Womack at second-base. Replacing the aforementioned are Eckstein and Grudzielanek. Both are downgrades over their predecessors. Eckstein is a hard-nosed player with limited abilities. He plays hard but does not possess great power or speed, and only hit .276 last year in 566 AB. He has big shoes to fill in replacing All-Star Renteria. Grudzielanek, who was with the Cubs in 2004, is a gap hitter coming off an injury-shortened season. He is a solid player when healthy, but doesn't have the speed of Womack. He is a solid defensive player, but is nothing spectacular. Concerning the corner infield spots, Scott Rolen and Albert Pujols are the best in the game at their respective positions. Rolen is a Gold-Glover, and despite battling a knee injury, hit .314 with 34 HR and 124 RBI in 2004. Pujols played through a heel problem last year and will do the same this year after passing on surgery this offseason. This infield will be very good, but not quite as good as last year.Starting Rotation: Mark Mulder, acquired from the A's, will fill out the rotation after Woody William's departure this offseason. The rest of the rotation will return, but Matt Morris will miss the start of the season after offseason shoulder surgery. Lefty Rick Ankiel will fill in for Morris. Ankiel has struggled with control throughout his career, but showed flashes of brilliance last year, while walking only 1 and striking out 9 in 10 innings. Jeff Suppan, Jason Marquis and Chris Carpenter round out the rotation in solid fashion. Suppan had 16 wins last year and only lost once on the road. Marquis won 15 games, 11 of them in a row. Carpenter, who went 15-5 in the regular season, missed the entire 2004 postseason due to a nerve problem in his right biceps, but he says he is healthy. Suppan and Marquis struggled in the playoffs, despite their regular season success. If the rotation is healthy, another stellar season can be expected. Without a doubt, this is one of the most productive rotations around.Bullpen: The bullpen was one of the Cardinals strengths in '04, but they have lost two key men, Kiko Calero and Steve Kline. Replacing Kline is the Mike Myers, who will become the team's left-handed specialist. Closer Jason Isri[...]



NL Central Preview: Chicago Cubs

2005-02-16T17:01:37.630-06:00

All right Cub fans. My 2005 preview is finally here. With pitchers and catchers reporting today, who could pick a better day to start!? Here is the Cubs portion of the preview, with the rest to follow as I get around to it.CHICAGO CUBS2004 record: 89-73, 3rd placeThe offseason has seen major changes come to the Chicago Cubs. RF Sammy Sosa and LF Moises Alou have departed, as has Matt Clement, Mark Grudzielanek, Kent Mercker, Kyle Farnsworth, and the list goes on. New guys include Jeromy Burnitz, Jerry Hairston, Jr., Roberto Novoa, Henry Blanco, and Stephen Randolph.The Outfield: Between Sammy and Alou alone, the Cubs have lost 74 HR and 186 RBI. Sosa's replacement, Jeromy Burnitz, will likely fill in nicely for Sosa and at least equal his production. But LF is still up for grabs. Youngster Jason Dubois and pinch-hit extraordinaire Todd Hollandsworth will likely split time in left. While this provides a nice lefty-right option, platoon systems often result in less production than would be yielded by sticking with one guy. Jerry Hairston Jr., acquired in the Sosa trade, will fill in anywhere he is needed and act as a super-sub with the capability to start. Also, Corey Patterson must decide whether he is going to be a 5-tool player. He has the capabilities, but has not shown consistancy. Patterson needs to cut down on his strikeouts and work to get on base more often.The Infield: The infield looks solid, with Derrek Lee, Todd Walker, Nomar Garciaparra and Aramis Ramirez. Look for big years from all 4, and the infield will have to carry the club offensively for the Cubs to have success. Nomar is coming of an injury-plagued year, but he is one of the best when healthy. He has never hit below .300 in a season in which he played at least 50 games, and has plenty of pop, too. Michael Barrett showed his potential with last year's breakout performance, and must build on his '04 success. Infield defense is a bit of a question mark with Walker, Nomar and Ramirez. Walker has always been a bit of a klutz with the glove, but Nomar should rebound from last year's lousy performance. Ramirez had a great year with the glove in 2004 and totaled only 10 errors, but his 33 errors in 2004 showcase what could happen. Derrek Lee is Gold-Glove caliber at first, and must stay that way with this infield.Pitching Staff: If everyone is healthy, the Cubs have arguably the best rotation in baseball. Mark Prior and Kerry Wood are coming off injury-shortened years and must rebound. Mr. Consistancy, a.k.a. Greg Maddux, showed his age last year with a 16-11 record and 4.02 ERA. Carlos Zambrano, last season's ace, must continue his success and work to keep a level head. The 5th spot is still questionable, but Glendon Rusch appears to be the favorite to win the job. Rusch was great last year as a spot-starter and long-reliever, and he needs to carry that success over to starting full-time. If the staff stays healthy, the Cubs are headed to the playoffs.Bullpen: The Cubs are currently without a proven closer this year, and it appears Ryan Dempster, with all of 2 career saves, will start the year as the closer. LaTroy Hawkins failed miserably last year as a closer, but was highly successful as a setup man. Joe Borowski is coming off shoulder problems and may not return to his 2002-2003 form. The rest of the bullpen is a mix of veterans and youngsters, with Jon Leicester, Todd Wellemeyer and Mike Remlinger looking to continue success in '05. Newly acquired lefty Stephen Randolph could make the difference in the pen, but has been inconsistant in the majors.Outlook: Overall, much of the Cubs hopes for 200[...]



Pitchers and Catchers

2005-02-15T19:27:48.163-06:00

That's right folks. Pitchers and catchers report on Wednesday. Tomorrow.

FINALLY! THE START OF THE SEASON IS UPON US! :)

Sorry about that. I just had to let it out.

On a more serious note, I should have my predictions for the '05 season up soon. But until then, here's something to chew on.

The Cubs will not win the Central Division crown. That title will be won by, sadly, the Cardinals.

More later, as time permits.



Barry Larkin

2005-02-14T17:39:55.786-06:00

We Are Nearing the End of an Era

12-time All-Star shortstop Barry Larkin announced his retirement on Sunday, after 19 years with the Cincinnati Reds. 19 years! With one team! Larkin recieved offers from several other clubs to play as a utility player, but he turned them all down out of loyalty to the Reds. He will join the Washington Nationals as a special assistant to GM Jim Bowden who, not so coincidentally, is a former Reds GM. These days, 5 years with one team is considered a long time, and 19 years is unfathomable. Loyalty is often spurned by players in favor of greed. When given the choice between staying with a team and money, the majority of players go for money.

About a month ago, I made a similar point following the Carlos Beltran signing. Larkin is of a dying and nearly extinct breed. Since free agency came about in the mid-1970's, teams have constantly been competing for the best players, and the players and their agents--cough cough, Scott Boras, cough cough--keep driving up the prices, saying, "Highest bidder wins!" Loyalty is an aspect of the game that is nearly gone completely. Before free agency, players were basically owned by their owners and had no choice but to play for one team. And when a player did change teams, he was usually sold for money, as with Babe Ruth. Players like Larkin and Cal Ripken, Jr., who voluntarily spent their whole careers with a single team despite free agency, are being phased out of the game. Such a feat is truly remarkable in today's game, and my hat is off to Larkin and other legends of loyalty.

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Larkin and Ripken: Legends of loyalty in today's free agent world.




New CBA Members

2005-02-13T17:47:54.126-06:00

Three new Cubs blogs have joined the Cubs Blog Army within the past few days. They just keep on coming! I guess there's just no stopping the combined powers of Cubdom and the Internet.
The Jose Canseco book and Jason Giambi apology are just about the only recent stories in the baseball world. Pitchers and catchers report on Wednesday, and I should have my NL Central preview and predictions up by the end of the week. Peace, and Go Cubs!



5th Rotation Spot

2005-02-11T18:24:19.256-06:00

Time Will TellWith the Cubs' first 4 rotation spots locked up, attention now turns to the 5th spot. Wood, Zambrano, Prior and Maddux make up the majority of arguably the best rotation in baseball, but the 5th spot may be crucial to success in '05. Glendon Rusch appears to be the front-runner, but the Cubs have plenty of talented youngsters who are looking to impress in spring training. Rusch may be more valuable to the team as a long reliever, allowing a youngster to take the 5th spot. Now, a look at possible candidates for the 5th rotation spot.Glendon Rusch Following last year's surprise success, the left-handed Rusch is looking to obtain a permanent spot in the rotation. Rusch averaged 6.25 K/9 innings and 2.68 BB/9 innings last year, largely helping to improve over his disasterous 1-12 2003 season. He also gave up less than 1 hit/inning last year, and a WHIP of 1.25 was key to his success. If Glendon can show last year was not a fluke, and maintain last year's stats, then he deserves a spot in the rotation. Glendon Rusch: Can he repeat his '04 success? Sergio MitreThe 23-year old right-hander (24 on Feb. 16) is looking to establish himself as a big-league starter. In 12 games with the Cubs last year, 9 as a starter, Mitre showed his inexperience at the major league level. An ERA of 6.62, WHIP of 1.76 and 20 BB in 51.2 innings last year did not help his cause. Mitre has shown he can perform at the minor league level, but has been inconsistant with the Cubs. With the Iowa Cubs (AAA), Mitre was 6-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 102.2 IP last year. His WHIP of 1.32 at Iowa was modest, as Mitre has often struggled with control. Many have speculated that Mitre will be traded before the winter is over, and he appears to be a long shot to start the season as the 5th starter.Sergio Mitre: Can he perform at the major league level?Angel GuzmanGuzman, twice rated the Cubs top pitching prospect by Baseball America, is coming off shoulder surgery in 2003. He has not worked many innings in his career, but has shown excellent control and overwhelming stuff in his 450 career innings over 5 years in the minors. His career WHIP of 1.20 and 7.85 K/9 are indications of good things in the future. Guzman looks to have a legitimate shot at the 5th spot; but if he does obtain the spot, he may fizzle out towards the mid-to-end of the year because of the workload over the long season. Rumor has it that Guzman will take over the 5th spot at mid-season, supplanting Glendon Rusch if he doesn't perform well.Angel Guzman: Does he have the experienceand stamina for the big-leagues?Bobby Brownlie and others have a chance, but it is a very small one. The 3 aforementioned have the greatest chance at obtaining the 5th spot in the starting rotation.My PredictionGlendon Rusch will start the season as the 5th starter. Sergio Mitre will be shipped out of town this winter--possibly to Tamba Bay for Aubrey Huff (and Danys Baez?)--because of his inconsistancy. Angel Guzman will take over for Rusch after he falters around mid-season and is returned to long-relief. Guzman will live up to his potential and serve as a solid 5th starter until the end of the year, unless he is overworked in the first half at AAA and runs out of gas at the end of the year with the big club. In '06, Guzman will spend a whole year with the Cubs and dazzle the league with his stuff.[...]



Bleed Cubbie Blue

2005-02-10T20:58:55.070-06:00

Al Yellon from And Another Thing has moved to Bleed Cubbie Blue. Same Al--new place. There are still a few kinks to be worked out at the new site, but it looks to be just as great as And Another Thing.

Nothing much going on today. Rumors are still floating around about a possible trade for Octavio Dotel, and the Aubrey Huff rumors persist. Huff, yes. Dotel, no. We don't need another possible closer, we need a lights out automatic guy.



Farnsworth traded to the Tigers

2005-02-09T15:47:43.560-06:00

The Farns had no more Worth to the Cubs

In a deal hailed as addition by subtraction, Kyle Farnsworth has been traded, along with a player to be named, to the Detroit Tigers for pitcher Roberto Novoa, infielder Scott Moore and outfielder Clarence "Bo" Flowers. After 6 years with the club, Farnsworth did not live up to his potential and was consistantly inconsistant. With a 100 mph fastball, Farnsworth was viewed as a possible closer for several years, but disappointed again and again. To make matters worse, Farnsworth injured himself last year after kicking a fan. Farnsworth had his chances with the Cubs, but simply never proved his Worth.

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Kyle Farnsworth: Maybe he should have been in the WWE.

The prospects from Detroit have been rated highly in Detroit's minor league system, but only Novoa has shown major league capabilities. GM Jim Hendry may be collecting prospects in order to make a major trade and avoid giving up his prized guys in the process. If so, then Jim has made a wise choice by dumping Farnsworth to obtain trading chips.




Jeromy Burnitz

2005-02-08T18:51:26.830-06:00

My '05 Prediction

Lefty slugger Jeromy Burnitz will be a fine replacement for Sammy Sosa. I have no doubt that Burnitz will surpass Sammy's '04 stats, and he may even outperform Sosa in '05. Hence, my predictions.

Burnitz: .276 avg, 33 HR, 103 RBI, 85 Runs, 31 2B, 2 3B, 150 hits, 4 SB, 55 BB, 132 K, .346 OBP, .568 SLG, 4 Errors in the field

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Wouldn't it be funny to see Burnitz do Sammy's
traditional sprint to RF on opening day at Wrigley?

Overall, Burnitz will have a very similar season to '04, but with slightly lower power numbers. Playing at Wrigley will help to make up for the Rocky Mountain effect. He plays good defense and is an upgrade over Sosa. Jeromy is a solid hitter and a good pickup, despite the harsh criticism he has received from Cub fans. Right field will not be a problem in 2005, and Burnitz is a good guy who comes to the park ready to play every day. I said very early in January that Burnitz would be a good Sosa replacement option, and Hendry has made the right decision.