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February 26, 2009 at 3:49 pm ET
Cubs Get Revenge on the Dodgers, Somehow Not Satisfying

Take that Dodgers!テつ You thought that sweeping the Cubs in the playoffs was the last laugh?テつ Well we got you good!テつ That’s right, a meaningless spring training victory!テつ IN YOUR FACE L.A.!!

Seriously though, the Cubs looked good yesterday, except for Jeff Samardzijdzjdzjjzdjzjdzija.テつ Apparently we’re trying to make him into the fifth starter instead of keeping him as a powerful a powerful arm in the bullpen.テつ I’m not sure why though since Sean Marshall is already overqualified for the 5 spot with a sub-4.oo ERA for the past two years in a row.テつ And shouldn’t we be training Big Irish to handle back-to-back short appearances since he’ll be in the bullpen and not in our rotation come playoff time?テつ (Yes, I’m predicting that the Cubs will make the payoffs.テつ The rest of the teams in our division are a joke except for the Cardinals.テつ If you are thinking of the Brewers, then you haven’t been paying attention to the players that they’ve lost since last year when they clinched the wild-card on the last day of the season.テつ The Cards on the other hand will have a healthy rotation complete with Chris Carpenter, and we already know that they have some big bats in their lineup.)

ANYWAY, back to yesterday’s game.テつ The obvious star of the show was Micah Hoffpauir (pronounced Hoff-power).テつ Soon to be a familiar sight.For those of you that aren’t familiar, look him up.テつ This guy is a masher.テつ He hit the ball so hard after his September call up that it ran crying back to its mama.テつ Yesterday, Hoffpauir hit a grand slam.テつ Most people are saying to themselves, “Nice!テつ We have a power hitter to come off the bench and pinch hit for us this season.”テつ But they are missing a much bigger issue.テつ If Hoff-Power keeps hitting like this, we could be looking at a platoon situation at first with GIDP Lee.テつ Double Play Derrek had an issue with hitting for power two years ago after recovering from a broken wrist, but still hit above .300 by driving the ball to the gap for doubles instead.テつ Last year people figured he would be back to normal, but instead he decided to convert those doubles into double plays.テつ He actually hit less homers than the year before.テつ If this trend continues, he will be seriously squeezed by a guy who batted .342 with 2 HR and 8 RBI last year in only 33 appearances.テつ Although Double Play Derrek is still a gold glove first baseman, you can’t afford to have a guy at either corner infield position who can’t hit for power.テつ That’s why, despite Hoffpauir’s inability to catch or throw a baseball, we might be looking at a platoon situation at 1B before too long.

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February 5, 2009 at 5:15 pm ET
Offseason Moves, Sell Low Buy High Edition

Before starting my bitterness-laden tirade about our ongoing ineptitude, I bring you some good news.テつ The Cubs got rid of Michael Worst in a trade to the A’s for two minor leaguers.テつ This is a good trade because Worst was bad at pitching, and the players we traded him for have a chance at not being as bad at their jobs as Michael Worst is at throwing baseballs.

Now, I know you’ve heard it from me before, but what is up with our inability to either properly develop our minor league talent or to trade them while their stock is high?

The latest example of this is Rich Hill.テつ Hill is remembered mostly for his 2007 season in which he posted numbers like an 11-9 record, a 3.92 ERA, a 8.45 K/9 Inn, and 2.91K/BB.テつ So he looked like a rising young star.テつ Last year, though, he showed that the joke was on us again by walking everyone who came up to face him.テつ “Ha ha.テつ Fooled you there, Cubs fans.テつ You though I was going to be a very good pitcher for years to come and instead I’m terrible and won’t be heard of again in your town after only 5 games in 2008!テつ Got ya! “テつ Rich Hill’s commitment to comedy is so solid, that he even refused to perform even adequately in the minor leagues after his demotion.テつテつ Good one Rich!テつ In the end, we traded him to the Orioles for a player to be named later.テつ Obviously we can’t evaluate this trade yet, since we don’t know who it’s for, but in the end we are the losers anyway because we had a potential no. 2 guy for years to come and turned him into a career minor leaguer.テつ Way to go Cubs!

Looks like Koufax, throws like Daniel Cabrera

I think the Cubs need to rethink our development strategy.テつ Here’s the new model I’m proposing:テつ trade every prospect who even gets a DECENT review by Baseball America.テつ Yes, we’ve had some success with Geo Soto, Ryan Theriot, Jeff Smardzija, and Carlos Marmol, but those are the exception to the rule.テつ There are far too many to name, but here are a few choice examples of how the Cubs player development has failed over the past few years: Mark Prior, Corey Patterson, Eric Patterson, Ronny Cedeno, Felix Pie, and now Hill.テつ This list contains three names that were at one point considered the best prospect in baseball.テつ How have they fared?テつ About as well as Governor Blago trying to prove his innocence.テつ The prospects that have done well have come from nowhere.テつ Soto was a defensive catcher drafted in the 11th round.テつ Theriot was projected as a backup infielder.テつ Marmol was the one case in which we drafted a talent that we didn’t immediately ruin, and Samardzija was pretty much MLB-ready when we got him.テつ In the end, I think we’re better off not having minor league teams, and just trading our draft picks for other teams’ developed talent.テつ Go Cubs Go!

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January 29, 2009 at 5:22 pm ET
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No, I’m not Dead

Sorry I’ve been gone everybody.テつ I was just hibernating until pitchers and catchers report like I do every year, but I woke up a little early.テつ Did I miss anything?テつテつテつ A bunch of infuriating trades and confusing signings/non-signings?テつ That sounds just like the Cubs.テつ What’s that you said?テつ They finally sold the team?!?!?テつ Holy crap!テつ Time for me to read up on these developments and weigh in on them.

And….. up to speed.テつ So, let’s start with the sale of the team.テつ My verdict:テつ good.テつ Sam Zell is, by all accounts, a prick.テつ He’s known mostly for his sailor’s vocab (though we probably just missed out on hearing a casual-Fbomb-dropping contest between him and Hendry which would have been cool), and for his propensity to treat his employees like crap.テつ Plus, I’m glad to see the Tribune company be out of the picture.テつ First of all, newspapers are failing, and the Cubs don’t need to be associated with failure any more than they already are.テつ Secondly, although this changed in the last few years, they were a company that owned a wildly lucrative team for which they had a monopoly on television rights and they routinely failed to spend money on players and showed no desire to win despite fans coming to the park every day and spending all their cash on a losing franchise that was OK with failure as long as they made a buck.テつ They perpetuated a ticket scalping scheme in which they bought their own tickets through team-owned ticket brokerages and resold them for a huge markup (Studs Terkel went as far to describe this practice as ENRON-like).テつ They used their hold on the Chicago media market, through WGN and the Tribune itself, to spread propaganda about the team and players (including a completely made-up smear campaign about Sammy Sosa demanding to be the highest paid player in baseball in order to turn fan opinion in their favor and against Sammy so they wouldn’t get any backlash for letting him walk as a free agent; it didn’t work).テつ Oh, and they let Gregg Maddux go.テつ Unforgivable.テつ Overall, the Tribune Company did more to hurt the team then help them, was WAY more interested in the bottom line than in winning, and is largely responsible for our team STILL not having won in 100 years.テつ So here’s to new owner Tom Ricketts, a true lifelong Cubs fan who will inject some much needed passion into a team formerly run by a faceless corporate behemoth.

Now, as for those transactions….

The Good:

We excercised the 2010 option for Sweet Lou.テつ We’ve won with Lou.テつ Not the Series yet, but consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since 1907-1908 is kind of a big deal.テつ God, it really reminds me how pathetic our team has been when I write things like that.テつ But Lou can distract from those depressing feelings with an entertainig rant or a skirmish with the umps.

We signed Jim Hendry to a 4 year extension.テつ Hendry wins.テつ Ever since he took over for Andy McFail we’ve been contenders (other than 2006, which has more than been made up for since).

We re-signed Ryan Dempster to a four year deal.テつ Not sure if he’ll stay as effective as a starter as he was this year, but his preformance made it worth the risk.テつ Plus, it’s fun to watch him to that twich with his glove before every pitch.テつ We should assemble an entire team of guys with querks.テつ We already have Dempster’s twitch, Soriano’s hop, and Zambrano yelling at himself.テつ We should acquire Craig Counsil for his unsually tall batting stance, Gary Sheffield for his bat shake, re-sign Nomar for his batting glove ritual, trade for Big Papi for his spit-on-his-hands-and-clap routine, and bring Sammy Sosa, Joe Morgan, Jeff Cirillo, and Eric Davis out of retirement for their respective home run hop, arm pit-fart motion, plate tapping, and baby rattle shake before swinging.テつ If we can assemble a whole team like this, I think opposing players will be mesmerized by all of the querky motions going on at the same time and will be unable to concentrate for long enough to play well.テつ We would be a sure thing to win the Series.

We re-signed Reed Johnson, Chad Gaudin, and Neal Cotts to one year deals.テつ These guys are integral pieces to the puzzle.

We signed Joey Gaithwright to a one year deal.テつ He can jump over cars (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cySfw8f0beg), first baseman, tall buildings in a single bound, you name it.テつ This guy is one of the most athletic players in baseball and that will payoff in the outfield and on the base paths.

We signed Milton Bradley to a 3 year deal.テつ This one is troublesome.テつ He has a temper, he can’t stay healthy, and he hasn’t played outfield regularly for years.テつ BUT, he led the AL in OPS last year.テつ And his name is synonymous with Battle Ship.テつ I’m willing to take a shot at a guy like that, so thumbs up for the board game guy.

The Bad:

I’m going to start with the most recent.テつ Ronny Cedeno and Garrett Olsen for Aaron Heilman.テつ We acquired Olsen to help sweeten the deal for Jake Peavy.テつ Now we’ve delt him and a good young hitter who can play multiple positions for a poor man’s Mike Timlin.テつ I don’t get it.

Felix Pie for Garrett Olsen.テつ We botched this one.テつ We always find a way to screw up our prospects.テつ Pie is the new Corey Patterson.テつ Both were rated among the best prospects in baseball, both floundered when we brought them up.テつ Both were traded after their value had fallen (although Pie hasn’t fallen nearly as far).テつ Why can’t we learn to either sell high, or just keep these guys and develop them properly?テつ We essentially traded Pie and Cedeno for Aaron Heilman.テつ Is that really all they were worth?テつ An ok at best reliever?

We signed a one year deal with Kevin Gregg.テつ This was a good deal.テつ We got a closer for cheap because he was coming off an injury.テつ Now he can compete with Marmol for the closers position.テつ But, this discussion inevitably leads us to this topic…

We let Kerry Wood go.テつ This one will always hurt.テつ Wood wanted to stay, the fans loved him, he was a good player and a good influence on other guys.テつ We did this to save money, pure and simple.

We signed Aaron Miles to a two year deal.テつ I don’t like this signing simply because Miles is a piss-poor man’s version of Mark DeRosa.テつ Speaking of which…

We traded Mark DeRosa.テつ It doesn’t matter what we got for him.テつ He was one of the best offensive 2Bs in the game last year, and he is the ultimate super sub at every infield position plus right field.テつ And he was a college quarterback, which means that Jeff Smardzijzdjzjdjza now has nobody to throw touchdown passes to him.テつ And if the Cubs decide to solve this problem by signing Kyle Orton or Rex Grossman I’m going to beat myself unconscious with the first object I can grab.

We agreed to terms with Michael Worst.


According to Buster Olney of ESPN, the Cubs are still trying to acquire Jake Peavy from the Padres.テつ The DeRosa trade was for 3 MLB-bound minor league pitchers and freed up some cash.テつ Kerry Wood’s departure freed up money as well.テつ Aaron Miles is a cheaper version of DeRosa’s super sub capabilities and Mike Fontenot is an above average hitting 2B.テつ The Olsen and subsequent Heilman deals are designed to have more pitchers to trade to the Padres, apparently in a package that includes minor league phenom Josh Vitters.テつ If this Peavy deal goes through, all of these other transactions are forgiven.テつ Without him we have maybe the 3rd best rotation in baseball.テつ With him we have by far the best.テつ Ted Lilly, our no. 2 guy two years ago will then be our no. 5 guy.テつ End of story.テつ I will miss Wood and DeRosa, but we should at least be able to make the Series, if not win it, with a rotation like that.

So, stay tuned Cubs fans.テつ There might be more news ahead.

Oh, and one more bit of Cubs related news: Governor Blagojavich was caught trying to take kickbacks in the sales of the Cubs and Wrigley field on top of trying to sell the senate seat vacated by President Obama and various other schemes.テつ I would like to nominate him for the Dumb Crook of the Year Award.テつ I know that he’ll have a lot of competition from both OJ and Plaxico, but I think Blago has a legitimate shot to beat them.テつ Thoughts?

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January 17, 2009 at 11:19 am ET
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My Buddy So!

So Taguchi's job is to buddy up to Kosuke, not give him hitting tipsThe Cubs have launched a new paradigm in personnel movements with their recent signing of outfielder, rent-a-friend So Taguchi.テつ Taguchi clearly has no baseball value after hitting .220/.283/.297 for the Phillies last season, but it’s no secret that the Cubs have been searching for a Japanese buddy for outfielder Kosuke Fukudome.テつ It doesn’t matter if you’re 39 or your slugging percentage was .297 last year.テつ If you can tell a good joke and yuk it up about all the great times you’ve had in sleeping capsules, you’re welcome in Chicago.

I have no problem with the Cubs getting a buddy to try to work Fukudome out of his abysmal second half of last season.テつ The real curiosity is who else the Cubbies will be inviting to Spring Training this year.テつ Here are some suggestions:

Will Ferrell (Ryan Dempster) — Nothing like long, sunny days filled with thirtysomething men doing Harry Caray impressions until they fall over laughing.テつ Plus, Ferrell might be confused with Adam Dunn and at least take some walks.

Dr. James Andrews (Rich Harden) — They might as well get to know each other now.テつ Seems like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Bo Jackson (Jeff Samardjiza) – Bo knows playing two sports.テつ Jeff Samardjiza is dying for some endorsement deals.テつ “Hi, I’m Jeff Samardjiza and I’d like to remind you that I played football at Notre Dame and know a great place to refinance your home…”テつ Bo knows lousy commercials.

Foghorn Leghornテつ (Aramis Ramirez) — This seems like a no-brainer.テつ Leghorn is legit on the field and clearly a presence in the henhouse clubhouse.テつテつ Aramis Ramirez has a well-publicized passion for cockfighting and leghorn would give him the taste of home because he’s a huge, huge cock.Knows how to take a pitch

General Lee (Derrek Lee) – Yee Hah!!!!

Dr. Phil (Milton Bradley) — Milton will undoubtedly show his trademark, uh, temper at some point, so who better to talk him off the ledge than America’s favorite Doctor?

It’d surely make for a hell of an entertaining camp.テつ Anyone other Buddy’s you’d like to see Jim Hendry bring to Mesa?テつ Drop a comment below.

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January 5, 2009 at 9:09 pm ET
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Cubs Hope To Shed “Lovable Loser” Tag

Will the Cubs make Milton Bradley loveable?  Don't count on it.  Desperate to shed their reputation as “lovable losers”, the Cubs signed one of Major League Baseball’s least lovable players, Milton Bradley.テつ I know, his name is the name of a board game company.テつ Heh.テつ That aside, Bradley has proven to be as combustable a force as there is in the major leagues, culminating in him tearing his ACL while arguing with an umpire near the close of the ’07 season.テつ Still, if the Cubs ever had a chance to ditch this “lovable loser” reputation they’ve got, having as asshole like Milton Bradley on the team is the way to get it done.テつ Bradley’s outbursts and red-hot temper have been well-documented throughout his well-traveled MLB tenure and the fans in Chicago should expect some fireworks from Milton and Sweet Lou.テつ

But perhaps more importantly, this signing completes a full set of albatross contracts for the Cubs outfield.テつ Already armed with owing Alfonso Soriano $114 million over the next 6 years(!) and owing virtually worthless Kosuke Fukudome $42 million over the next 3 years, having 120 games of Bradley before his inevitable injury for a mere $30 million must seem like a bargain.テつテつ

Bradley is a switch hitter,テつmeaning the Cubs will have a semblance of balance in the lineup whenテつol’ Milton is healthy.テつ Bradley figures to hurt the defense a bit, given that he’s not particularly good at it and usuallyテつinjures himself when he tries to play it.テつ He logged 20 games in the field last season in Texas.テつテつ Worse, his presence will force Fukudome to CF where he’s more lost thanテつMike Piazzaテつin a strip club.

Still, Hendry has coveted Milton Bradley all winter and he’s got his man.テつ The Cubs moved the salary of Jason Marquis and Mark DeRosa (.285, 21HR, $5.5M) to sign Bradley, soテつhe’ll have some pressure from Cubs fans to produce.テつテつThe 30-year old Bradley joins his 7th team in his 9-year career.テつ Here’s betting that it’s not his last.テつ


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December 17, 2008 at 11:38 pm ET
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Baby Kangaroos and Expired Pie

Felix Pie likely won't have a chance to learn much from Joey GAfter a week of heavy petting and no action with Jake Peavy, the Cubs made their first significant move in weeks by signing former Royals outfielder Joey Gathright to a one-year deal.テつ As a fan, I really like the deal — Gathright is a fast, exciting player that I somehow always found a way to employ in hundreds of simulations of OOTP baseball.テつ He seems particularly well-suited to the National League given his ability to run, bunt, and field and his general lack of ability to do much of anything else.テつ Technically, that makes him well suited to play for the Pirates, but they’ve got Nyjer Morgan for such purposes.

The Joey Gathright signing does bring up a longstanding question — when is it no longer acceptable to call a grown man a child’s name?テつ I mean, no offense to “Joey” here, but he clearly has to realize that he’s no longer 10 years old, right? テつ And Blossom was a cultural revolution that launched the career of Joey Lawrence, but it hasn’t stood the test of time as well as one might have expected.テつ It’s pretty clear that this is only socially acceptable because he’s a ballplayer — I don’t know any mortgage brokers named Joey — but still feels a bit odd given that he’s 27 years old and presumably no longer sleeps in footy pajamas.

Reason number 137 to call me There was probably a natural transition point to “Joe” or “Joeseph” somewhere around the time he started in the Devil Rays minor league system in 2001 at age 20.テつ Even if he hadn’t seen the light then, it might have hit him in 2004 before his rookie cards were printed.テつ I mean, my god, even Albert Belle figured out that being a man named “Joey” is a little embarrassing.

Still, no one is more troubled by the “Joey” than Felix Pie, the Cubs latest uber-prospect to completely suck.テつ Long heralded as the next 5-tool outfielder and “untouchable” in trades, Pie dared to don the #20 jersey of erstwhile outfielder Corey Patterson and will not ultimately share his fate.テつ Out of options, public support and Sweet Lou’s patience, Pie is almost certain to be traded, probably to a substandard AL team where he’ll waste away and never be heard from again.テつ It’s tough to be too disappointed that Felix didn’t pan out — we’re obviously well rehearsed when it comes to bust prospects — and it’s impossible to say that Felix didn’t have his chances.テつテつ It’s mostly just disappointing the Cubs weren’t smart enough to trade him while he still had some value.テつ Here’s hoping that whatever middling middle reliever we get in a trade is better than Will Ohman.

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November 14, 2008 at 7:13 pm ET
So Long Kid K, We’ll Miss You

Today is a very sad day in Cubdom. GM Jim Hendry announced that the team would not be offering a new contract to free agent pitcher Kerry Wood.

“We felt it was time Kerry goes out and does what is best for him and his family and get a huge multiyear deal, if possible,” Hendry said. “This is really the right thing to do. We’ve had some really honest conversations in the last week. We don’t have to get into how much I think of him, but at the same time I don’t think we could do for him right now what he deserves and what I think he’ll get going elsewhere.”

As our longest tenured player, we’ve been through a lot with Wood. He first endeared himself to his fans in his rookie year in 1998. He won us over by throwing a 20 strikeout, complete game, one hit shutout agains the Astros in just his fifth game in the MLB. This is considered by many to be the most dominant pitching performance in the history of the game. He went on to have a brilliant year, winning the NL Rookie of the Year award and helping us to reach the playoffs for the first time in 9 years. from there on it was up and down with Wood. He would miss the entire next season after having Tommy John surgery, which was a sign of things to come. For the next 8 years, Wood was either dominant or injured. He was the fastest player in MLB history to 1,000 strikeouts. He transitioned from our ace to a dominant closer. He led us to the playoffs 4 times (an unbelievable feat for a Cub in the last 60 years).

But then there is the other side of Wood: the guy who made 12 trips to the DL in 10 years.
You can’t talk about Wood wihout mentioning his injuries. It’s part of who he is as a pitcher. And the good and bad side of him are one and the same. He threw so hard that his ligaments would shred, his elbow and shoulder unable to stand the force he put into them in order to summon that scorching heat and those sharp breaking-balls. He was also notorious for having a bad pitching motion, often throwing across his body. The problem is that he needed to toe that line in order to be who he was. He needed to throw hard enouh to hurt himself in order to be as dominant as he was, and it wasn’t until he had his innings limited to bullpen appearances that he was able to keep his hard throwing from doing damage.

Even at his absolute best, that 20 strikeout game, Wood was destroying his joints. We just didn;t know about it until later. Back then, Wood threw a pitch that some have called a circle slurve. You can see it’s nastiness in the desperate whiffs of helpless Astros batters on that amazing May day. It came at such speed, and broke so late and so much that no one had a chance at touching it. People talk about the gyro ball as this mythical pitch that, if it were perfected, would dominate any hitter who dared try to hit it. Well, there is no gyro ball. It’s only a rumor. But if you really want to see a pitch that is completely untouchable, truly the most unhittable ball ever thrown in an MLB game, just take a look at some video of a young Kerry Wood and his ultimate “out” pitch. The only problem was the torque that it required to throw the circle slurve would, over time, render tendon and cartilige from bone.
But after retiring the circle slurve, and learning not to throw across his body enough to keep it intact, Kerry Wood reinvented himself as one of the best closers in the game. And we all dreamed of the day that our Texas flamethrower would be standing on the mound for the last out of our ultimate redemption, a World Series championship. But this is not to be.

In closing, I want to tell a story that I’ve heard repeated throught Cubs insider circles. In the winter before the ’07 season, both Kerry Wood and Mark Prior were free agents. Both of them had spent significantly more time on the DL than on the mound in the previous 3 years. But their reactions to their situations could not have been different. While Mark Prior felt that he deserved a mutli-year deal to reward his his 3 years of sitting in a tub, Kerry Wood approached Jim Hendry in person and told him, “Pay me what you think I’m worth.” He did this because he felt he owed the team for their patience and dedication in his rehabilitation, and wanted to repay them in kind. He was paid $1million for that year, and was able to earn himself a new contract and the role of our new closer for the next year. In an era where most athletes take the Scott Boras rout and have a “gotta get mine” attitude, it was an honor to have a player on my team who was willing to earn his money. And in the end, hopefully he finds that multi-year deal that he deserves for all his hard work and dedication to the game, for the pride that he had to swallow in moving from the ace to another arm in the bullpen, and for the strength he showed in taking that opportunity to rise up to a prominent role on a Cubs team that gave us so many great memories this season. I wish Kerry Wood all the luck in the world.

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November 10, 2008 at 7:24 pm ET
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Congratulations to Geovany Soto, the 2008 NL Rookie of the Year.テつ I have to say, he deserved it.テつ Easily.テつ How good was Geo this year?テつ He was not only the best rookie in recent memory, he was the MVP of the team with the best record in the NL.

His offensive numbers were as good as anyone else on our team (.285 BA, 23 HR, 88 RBI), and included clutch hits and plate patience that would be impressive for a veteran, let alone a rookie.テつ Defensively, he had the 4th best fielding percentage of any catcher in baseball, and was 9th best at throwing out base stealers.テつ More importantly than hitting and throwing though, Geovany Soto had one of the toughest assignments of any catcher this season and handled it beautifully.テつ What did he do that was so impressive?

  • Handled Carlos Zambrano’s emotions
  • Caught a no hitter from said emotional trainwreck (for the first time by the Cubs in 36 years)
  • Transitioned Ryan Dempster from an ok closer to an All-Star starting pitcher
  • Transitioned Kerry Wood from a starter in the bullpen to an All-Star closer
  • Transitioned Rich Harden from the AL to the NL and improved his stats despite leaving a pitchers park for a more hitter-friendly park

In the end, the combination of hitting, defense, and managing the pitching staff makes Geo the Rookie of the year, the Cubs MVP, and one of the best rookies in a decade at least.テつ I know there is some bias here since I’m a Cubs fan, but honestly, I can’t remember a rookie having this much impact with a team since… I was going to finish that sentence with a players name, but honestly couldn’t think of anyone.テつ I can’t remember off the top of my head the last rookie that was this good.

After looking up the last decade of ROY winners, the last rookie that was this good was Albert Pujols, who had better hitting stats but wasn’t a great defender and didn’t guide his team to the best record in the NL.テつ The other interesting thing I noticed while looking that up, is that Ichiro was the AL winner that year (2001).テつ Not to jinx them, but seems like this class of Soto and Longoria will have a similar impact as those two for the next few years given that they are the best players on their teams immediately and also project to be among the best in the MLB from now on.

In closing, I would also like to thank Geo for getting me my job here at Bugs & Cranks.テつ When I was asked to submit a writing sample to see if I was B & C material I turned to Geo for my inspiration, and I guess it worked.テつ Here’s that writing sample in homage of the man of the hour.テつ Thanks Geo, both for your ROY campaign and for this kick ass writing job.テつ Here’s to many more years!

During tonight’s telecast of the Cubs Vs the ‘Stros on the Worldwide Leader, Orel Hersheiser told an interesting story. Apparently during Carlos Zambrano’s last start he was struggling at one point, so Geovani Soto decided to visit him at the mound.テつ But instead of saying something to Big Z, Soto just moved his lips without saying anything just to fuck with Zambrano and loosen him up.テつ Z looked at him like he was crazy, and then went back to work completely forgetting about his struggles and proceeded to pitch well from there on.テつ Steve Phillips added that In another start, Zambrano threw a shutout without shaking off a single one of Soto’s signs.テつ He just calls that good of a game.テつ Oh yeah, and he’s the first rookie catcher ever to start the All Star Game for the NL.テつ And his 17 homers are the most for a rookie catcher since Mike Piazza in 93, and that guy was pretty good.テつ In a related story, Soto practices his catching skills by meditating with Mr. Miyagi and catching flies with chop sticks.テつ Also, inside sources who wished to remain anonymous told me that he doesn’t guess pitches when he is in the batters box.テつ Instead, he uses the force to guide his bat to the ball.テつ He perfected this technique when training as a young man with his friend Ben Kenobi.テつ When not playing baseball, Soto likes to relax by walking on top of the water of Lake Michigan.

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October 13, 2008 at 10:31 am ET
Hey, Remember That One Time When the Cubs Lost? Hilarious!

Oh my God, do you know what I just thought about that made me laugh?テつ That time that the Cubs got the shit kicked out of them by the Dodgers.テつ Oh man, that was a good one!テつ They really put one over on us that time.テつ I probably should have seen this coming, but they lulled me to sleep with that whole schtick where they just lose a lot year after year.テつ Boy do I have egg on my face.テつ Good one Cubs!

See, this time they decided to reel us in with an amazing regular season where they were among the tops in the majors in several offensive and pitching statistics, won like they hadn’t in decades, and gave themselves home field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.テつ And then came the punchline!テつ Ha ha, Cubs fans, we got you!テつ Here’s a bunch of walks from our starting pitcher [what a zinger!].テつ And as if that wasn’t enough to leave you in stitches,テつthen came aテつLITTERAL comedy of errors.テつ Whoops, Mark DeRosa bobbled an inning ending double play.テつ Now it’s Derrek Lee’s turn to do the same with the very next batter.テつ What the hell, let’s get the whole infield in on it. Ha ha ha.テつ Oh man, these Cubs will do anything for a laugh.テつ Good one guys.テつ Then they pulled the old “get runners on base but fail repeatedly to drive them in” gag in game three.テつ Thatテつone never gets old!テつ Oh man, the Cubs might not be the best baseball team, but they sure are the funniest.テつ Noテつother team gets as many laughs as our Cubbies.テつ Keep the laughs coming guys.

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October 6, 2008 at 10:58 am ET
What Went Wrong

Although normally this would be in bad taste, the pathetic display that the Cubs put on in the NLDS after such a promising season deserves some major finger pointing.テつ So here goes:


This one is on you Lou.テつ In any sport these days, the opposing team has enough scouting material on your guys that they know what your game plan is, they know your strengths and weaknesses, and they know how their team matches up with yours.テつ The trick to winning in this era is, to quote Tim Duncan, “To impose your will on the other team.”テつ If you want some historical background to this stomach turning loss, you have to go back to another basketball figure, Avery Johnson.テつ When his Mavericks had the best record in basketball and were the clear favorites to go to the finals, Avery Johnson’s team got matched up against a team the barely made the playoffs.テつ So instead of doing the same things that got his team where they were, Avery decided to change both his starting lineup and his overall game plan.テつ What was the result?テつ An upset of historical proportions.テつ This is exactly what Pinella did in game one.テつ Instead of sticking withテつthe rotation and lineup that was a proven success all year, he decided to give the ball to our number 2 or 3 in the rotation just because he had a great record at home, never mind that he lacked the experience or demeanor to take the ball under such pressure.テつ On top of that, he decided to switch around our lineup, putting the struggling Fukudome at the #2 spot while our leader in AVG, Ryan Theriot, was relegated to the #8 spot.テつ What was the result of these creative changes?テつ A record-tying 7 walks from our starter, who was wild as anyone I’ve ever seen, and an anemic offense.

Aside from his game 1 mistakes though, Pinella also decided to rest our starters for an entire week prior to the playoffs, leaving our players well-rested but rusty.テつ If he really wanted to help our guys out, he would have sat them for the entire 4 game series against the Mets and played our starters for the entire weekend series against the Brewers for a pre-playoff tuneup.テつ Aside from keeping our players in tune, this would have also left us with a favorable match-up.テつ If we sat our starters against the Mets, we could have picked out our playoff roster while tanking it against a team that would have given us a much easier path to the NLCS.テつ And if we would have played our starters against the Brewers, we could both keep them warmed up for the playoffs while ensuring that our division rivals would miss the post-season and guarantee us playing the worst team in the playoffs (the Mets).テつ Instead our players were rusty, and we ended up playing the hottest team in baseball.テつ Well done.

Game 2

I don’t think there’s anything I can say about this game.テつ We shot ourselves in the foot repeatedly.テつ We booted two tailor-made double plays back to back.テつ We had 4 errors in our infield.テつ We blew a well-pitched game by Big Z.テつ We couldn’t hit anything.テつ Overall, it was the worst playoff game I’ve ever seen any team play in my life in any sport.テつ We just shit the bed.

Game 3

Our offense.テつ The thingテつthat was great about this team was that there was no one superstar carrying us.テつ The entire offense just clicked.テつ We had 6 players with 20 or more homers.テつ We led the majors in on base percentage.テつ We would get a guy on and someone would drive him in, no matter where we were in the lineup.テつ I remember games in which we were down several runs late, which for a normal Cubs team would mean that they were out of it.テつ But then a guy would get a hit, then the next guy, and it would just snowball from there.テつ It happened so often that I began to expect it.テつ No matter how many runs we were down, and no matter what inning it was, we were gonna make a run and get back into it, and probably take the lead and go on to win. In game 3 though, that somehow changed.テつ We left 9 men on base.テつ There’s not much more I can say than that.テつ We put ourselves in a position to win, and then couldn’t do anything about it.

To sum it all up, this loss was devastating.テつ Every Cubs fan out there just spent the last year rooting for a team that was unlike anything we had ever seen.テつ It was the best Cubs team in 6 decades.テつ Some of us expected them to finally end our 100 year World Series drought.テつ Others would have been happy to at least get there for the first time since 1945.テつ But all of usテつKNEW that theyテつwould at least go out with aテつbang, that if they didn’t get there we would at least battle to the very end.テつ And that would leave us with hope for next year, something to build on.テつ But instead they faded out with barely a whimper.テつ They shrank from the moment.

What do we have to look forward to now?テつ Next regular season when they will look like a contender?テつ Next post season when we will all have a sick feeling in our stomachs that they will get swept again?テつ Do we look forward to all of our hopesテつbeing shattered and all of our worst fears realized?テつ Where do we go from here?テつ How do we move forward?テつ How can we forget about it and move on withoutテつit lingering in the back of our minds?テつ I don’t know the answers to these questions.テつ But I know that we’ll find a way somehow.テつ And next year we will be back rooting for our team to build on this and learn from it.テつ In the face of allテつevidenceテつto the contrary, andテつagainst all rationality, we will hope that somehow next years team will be the one to do it.テつ That’s who we are.テつテつIt’s our defining feature.テつ A Cubs fan’s hope springs eternal.

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