December 30, 2011


In politics, the term is called "spin."  Candidate handlers tout explanations to the media to get a favorable reaction in the press. In baseball, the same management spin is used to propagandize organizational moves as being needed to great.

When Epstein and Hoyer made their first collective moves, a large portion of the fan base was supportive. However, the key explanation on why they acquired David DeJesus and Ian Stewart is wrong. They said they acquired these two players to improve overall team defense.  This statement was to direct attention away from the fact that both DeJesus and Stewart were coming off career WORST seasons.

The Cubs made their point that the team had to upgrade their defense in order to be competitive. But how important is defense at the major league level?

Tampa Bay led the majors in fielding percentage at .988 (committing only 73 errors). The median team, Detroit, was 15th with 103 errors or fielding percentage of .983. Dead last was the Cubs, committing 134 errors for a .978 fielding percentage. The difference between the Rays and Cubs is a mere .010 (one percent).

The minimum differential between the best team and the worst team is a mere fraction. The reason is simple: pro athletes can catch and throw the baseball once they hit the majors. There is no substantial difference between 25 man rosters over a season. And from the average, the Cubs were only .005, or one-half of one percent worse.

The perception was that the Cubs made errors at the wrong time and cost them games. Let us test this thesis:

In 2011, 8.6 percent of the runs scored in the majors were "unearned." The MLB team average for runs scored was 694.  694 times .086 equals approximately 60 unearned runs/season for an average team.  If you divide 60 errors over 162 games, you get .370 unearned runs/game.

The MLB average for team errors was 102. 102 divided by 162 games equals .630 errors/game.

The ratio between E/G to UNR/G is .587, or 58.7 percent of the errors created an unearned run.

Based upon this error to unearned run ratio, the Cubs made 134 errors times .587 equals 78.65 or an expected 79 unearned runs charged to the Cubs in 2011. However, the actual runs allowed (756) minus actual earned runs allowed (690) equals only 66 unearned runs. This is 16.45 percent below the expected average.

Therefore, the Cubs "poor" defense did not lead to more unearned runs being scored.

The Cubs new players  were labeled as improvements to "increase defensive" play. This is also not true. A comparison of last season's fielding statistics will show:

DeJesus RF Oak .983                 replaces  Fukudome RF   .987
              OF Oak . 984                               Colvin RF    .987  (all OF .991)
DeJesus is an average fielder, while Fukudome and Colvin were both above average outfielders.

Stewart 3B Colo .929                replaces   A. Ramirez 3B  .953
     (6 E in 85 chances)                                 (14 E in 298 chances)
Stewart and Ramirez were both below average fielders, but Ramirez was .024 better.

So, DeJesus and Stewart are not defensive upgrades over last year's Cub players.

And the final point, fans were told that "defense" wins championships. World Series champion St. Louis made 116 errors and ranked 27th with a .982 fielding percentage. Pitching and hitting are more important than defense because the major league differential between teams is so small to not be consequential over a season.

December 29, 2011


This article is a theory on how to construct (not build) a major league pitching staff. It does not follow the sabermetrics of wins over replacement value, but reverts to the basics of the game itself.

The only true measure of each game is the final score. The whole purpose of baseball is to score more runs than your opponent. The simple fact is that during a course of a season, you need to be in a position to hold your opponent to less runs scored than your offense produces on average. If you score more runs than allowed on average, your club will be competitive (above .500).

You have to look at the basics of a season. Each team plays 162 games. Each normal game is set to last 9 innings. Therefore, on average, a team must have its pitching staff throw 1458 innings/season.

Modern team construction has each team with a five man starting rotation. And given the nature of pitch counts, injuries and a liberal definition of a quality start, most teams have a total pitching staff of 11 or 12 pitchers. The Cubs have been more apt to carry 12 pitchers and 5 position/bench players.  So in a 162 game schedule, the five starting pitchers are expected to make 32.4 starts (lets round down to 32).

The current definition of a quality start is set too high. With the 2011 MLB staff average of 3.94 ERA, a "real" quality start should be defined as follows:
1 ER/5 IP = game ERA of 1.80, which is excellent.
2 ER/6 IP = game ERA of 3.00, which is very good.
3 ER/7 IP = game ERA of 3.85, which is just below the MLB average which is slightly better than the norm.

 If you want a very good pitching staff, let's assume 6 quality innings pitched per start. 32 starts times 6 IP = 192 IP/ starter.  Therefore, you starters should be able to handle 960 IP during the season (192 IP x 5). That is 65.8 percent of the innings needed to be played. That leaves the rest of the pitching staff to consume 498 IP.

The next elements of innings pitched is the end of game. Modern baseball has become more specialized as the starters are no longer expected to pitch complete games. The roles of the set up man (8th inning) and the closer (9th inning) have become standard operating procedure. But you do not want to overuse either role player. If you plug in 60 IP for the closer and the set up man, that is 120 IP off the 498 IP remaining. That leaves a total of 378 innings for the middle relievers to consume during a course of a season.

Middle relievers are considered "failed" starters. They are used to pitching long stretches during their career and have to adapt to the up and down daily call. However, if your team has 5 middle relievers to divide the work load, that equates to only 75 2/3 IP per reliever.  Over a 24 week season, that means an average relief pitcher would throw 3 1/3 IP per week.

There is no current stat besides the nebulous "hold" for middle relievers. Instead of a quality start, we can look to a "quality week" for middle relievers as a benchmark for success. If over the reliever's weekly work load of 3 1/3 IP, he gives up 1 ER, that would be a weekly ERA of 2.70, which would be excellent, a "quality" week. If he gives up 2 ER, his weekly ERA would be 5.40, which would be horrible. This demonstrates the paper thin margin of error for the middle relievers on a baseball staff. A general manager would need to find 5 pitchers who are each capable of giving up 24 earned runs or less to have a quality middle relief bullpen.

So a season's work load can be divided as follows:
Starters: 960 IP
Middle Relievers: 378 IP
Set Up Man: 60 IP
Closer: 60 IP
Total IP: 1458

In 2011, the Seattle Mariners scored the least amount of runs (556). That means the M's averaged only 3.43 runs/game in offense.  The league averages for runs scored was 723 for the AL, 668 for the NL and 694 for MLB.

In 2011, the Cubs scored 654 runs, below all league averages. The Cubs runs per game average (RPG) was 4.03. The NL Central RPG average was St. Louis 4.70, Cincinnati 4.53, Milwaukee 4.45, Houston 3.80, Pittsburgh 3.76.

By contrast, average runs allowed were as follows: AL: 717 R (656 ER);  NL: 673 R (615 ER); MLB: 694 (634 ER). (Note: 8.6 percent of runs scored in the majors last season were "unearned.")

In the NL Central, team ERA was as follows: Milwaukee 3.63, St. Louis 3,74, Pittsburgh 4.04, Cincinnati 4.16, Cubs 4.33, Houston 4.54.

The RPG/ERA differential can be calculated as follows:
St. Louis: 0.96
Milwaukee: 0.82
Cincinnati: 0.38
Pittsburgh: (0.28)
Cubs: (0.30)
Houston: (0.78)

The RPG/ERA ratio almost mirrors the final standings:

Milwaukee: 0.82 -- 96 wins
St. Louis: 0.96 -- 90 wins
Cincinnati: 0.38 -- 79 wins
Pittsburgh: (0.28) -- 72 wins
Cubs: (0.30) -- 71 wins
Houston: (0.78) - - 56 wins

The numbers show that a team really needs to have a RPG/ERA ratio of 0.40 + to get to 81 wins (.500). To get 81 wins, using the NL RPG of 4.12 less the .40 ratio, a pitching staff ERA needs to be 3.72 or 603 earned runs.

We already calculated that a quality middle relief corps should only give up 24 ER/season or 120 in total. 603- 120 = 483 ER remaining. The closer and set up man should have an ERA of 3.00 or less, which would equate to 20 ER/each or 40 total. 483 -40 = 443 ER remaining. If you divide that by the five starters, they each can give up 88.6 ER in the season. This calculates to a starter ERA of 4.15, which is above all the league ERA staff averages and above our quality start ERA.

So what is the bottom line in this exercise?

You can construct a viable pitching staff in the NL Central with:
Five starters with an ERA of 4.15;
Five middle relievers with ERAs of 2.85; and
Two end of game relievers with ERAs of 3.00.

It is interesting to note that a team can have a starting staff of average pitchers and closers and still be competitive. However, if each middle reliever adds one additional ER/week, their ERAs soar to 5.70. The RPG/ERA ratio changes from a .500 competitive ratio of .0.40 to only 0.16 which is an approximate 73 win season at best. The middle relievers are the key bridge to an overall pitching staff's success.

December 28, 2011


Cub President Theo Epstein has gone on the record that his move of trading "assets" for
more assets is not over with the Sean Marshall deal.

But what real "trading" chips do the Cubs still have on their roster?

1. Matt Garza, starting pitcher, two years left of control, arb eligible, Cubs #1 starter, projects to #3 starter with contending teams. Garza may be the last ace in the hole for the Cubs to deal for 2 pitchers and 2 prospects (hopefully a third base and first base power hitter). The type of pitcher you would get in return would be a #4 type (like Travis Wood), with a AAA ready pitcher. Trading Garza would also further dump payroll, something which is more than apparent under this new administration.

2. Carlos Zambrano, starting pitcher, one year left at $18 million, Cubs headcase, projects as #3 starter on contending teams. Z has worn out his welcome in Chicago, and everyone in the league knows it. So there will be no line of takers for a pitcher that may be past his prime, physically and mentally. Some think Miami with friend Ozzie Guillen would be the perfect landing spot, but the Marlins already spent big money on Mark Buehrle and other free agents. Even with quality pitching in short supply, there won't be any takers unless the Cubs eat 75% or more of Z's salary. In return, you may get a low prospect or two so it may not pay to trade him, since there are no AAA Cub pitchers capable of starting in 2012.

3. Marlon Byrd, centerfielder, one year left on deal. Byrd's contract is not that hard to swallow for a team looking for a veteran back up outfielder. And that is what Byrd's production tells other teams; back-up role player. Therefore, there will be no great prospects in return in trading Byrd. He would have to be packaged with other players in order to get some viable prospects in return. He should be moved because he is blocking Brett Jackson, the only Cub farmhand  in Baseball America's top 100 prospects.

4. Geo Soto, catcher, still under club control. The majors are devoid of power hitting catchers. Soto's skills are diminishing with more nagging injuries. He is at the point of his best trade value. The Cubs have two catching prospects (Castillo and Clevenger) who are major league ready. Trading Soto could land a major league player and a low prospect.

5. Brett Jackson, Iowa AAA outfielder. The only possible player the new management could consider keeping, but more likely would trade all the Hendry known prospects and re-set the rosters with their own signees. If that is the case, Jackson would return two or three lower prospects in return. This would also signal a much longer "rebuilding" time frame for the Cubs; something that Ricketts and season ticket holders would be denial about . .  . the turnaround would be put off for an additional two or three years, or 2016. No one knows whether ownership can wait that long.

December 27, 2011


The Cubs are operating in the ghostly shadow of Jim Hendry. The new Theo Trio have been underwhelming the fan base with all their moves so far this off-season. Some of these moves smack of the old GM playbook.  Some are just rolling the dice and praying for a miracle comeback, also a chapter in the old Hendry playbook.

The last two additions are strange. The Cubs signed right-handers Manny Corpas, a former Rockies closer and Andy Sonnanstine a former Rays starter, to non-guaranteed contracts for the coming season. Financial terms weren’t disclosed but they are probably at one million or less.

Corpas, 29, is "hoping to rebound" after missing last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He has not been a good pitcher since 2007.
In 2010, he was 3-5 with 10 saves and a 4.62 ERA. He was in the Texas Rangers’ organization last season but didn’t pitch.

Sonnanstine, 28, has worked mostly in relief over the last two seasons, pitching to a 4.78 ERA in 116 2/3 innings. He will be auditioning for the fifth starter spot. He was 0-2 with a 5.55 ERA in 15 appearances last season with the Rays.

Sonnanstine is a fly ball pitcher and is very homer prone. The exact opposite of the type of starting pitcher you want at Wrigley Field.

So far, this off-season looks like a 1900 looping film reel of two steam locomotives colliding at full speed. The model is signing players coming off their career WORST season with the hope that he will be the comeback player of the year. Even scrappy players pulled off the league scrap heap are there for a reason. 

But Epstein must be playing with a short stack of chips. Crane Kenney did that to Hendry, who told the media that he had no financial strings to sign players, when in private Kenney said he did not. 

So it appears that the mandate is to keep the 2012 payroll under $100 million, which would be a 28% decline from last season. The only way to turn over a 71 win roster is to take a $3.1 million chip (Sean Marshall) and turn it into two $1 million markers (Corpas, Sonnanstine) and two $500,000 chips (T. Wood and Sappelt.)

December 26, 2011


A sly general manager in a position of need should look to other clubs to find a player to help improve his own roster. A good way to find a major league ready prospect to see who is being blocked from being promoted from AAA. A highly paid free agent signee or an All-Star at the current major league roster spot will block a AAA player at the same position from being promoted.

The Cubs have a void to fill at first base. Derek Lee held down that spot for years (effectively blocking the promotion of Cub prospects) and Carlos Pena held the position last season. But Pena is a free agent looking for a three year deal the Cubs cannot pay, so the team needs to fill that important spot in the order.

Early in the post season, the discussion of Theo Epstein's compensation with Boston (and the possibility of a trade to make amends) led us to find that the Red Sox have a AAA first base prospect who had fallen out of favor: Lars Anderson.

Anderson, 24, AAA stats:  14 HR,  78 RBI,  5 SB .265 BA .791 OPS .992 Fielding %

He fits the Epstein criteria of being a young player. Anderson will be blocked at first base and DH spot in Boston in 2012.

The next name were heard of was Kendry Morales. After the Angels signed Albert Pujols, the Angels have a surplus of first basemen. However, Morales has been injured for the past two years and would be a risky investment.

Recently, the Padres made a big trade of their Number One starter to the Reds for prospects, including a first baseman. This led to the speculation that the Padres AAA first baseman, Antony Rizzo, was going to be blocked from a promotion in 2012.

Rizzo, 22, AAA stats: 26 HR 101 RBI 7 SB .331 BA 1.056 OPS .985 Fielding %

Again, Rizzo fits the Epstein model of being a young talent with upside potential.

But to pry an Anderson or Rizzo from their current teams would take a major deal. Such a deal would involve Matt Garza. Besides the Padres or Red Sox, the Yankees are also in the market for starters. The Yanks have Texiera at first for the long term, so their AAA first baseman is Jorge Vazquez.

Vazquez, 29 AAA stats: 32 HR, 93 RBI, 0 SB, .262 BA, .830 OPS , .992 Fielding %

Vazquez has the power numbers to be a first baseman, but the negative is that he is 29 years old. After a certain point, players that have not been promoted by this age get labeled "AAAA players."

However, when you look at these three blocked prospects, the Cubs have their own home solution who had better stats than any of them: Bryan LaHair.

LaHair, 29, AAA stats: 38 HR 109 RBI, 2 SB, .331 BA OPS  1.070, .992 Fielding %

Considering that the Cubs have no power hitting back up first baseman on the roster, any of these prospects could be viable alternatives or bench players in 2012.

December 24, 2011


When Tom Ricketts overpaid for the Cubs from the bankrupt Chicago Tribune, he made several key mistakes, foremost was the retention of the current team management. Jim Hendry and his corporate overlords in the Tribune Tower viewed the Cubs as merely a production company to fill entertaining programming slots on the television or radio station properties. The plan was to spend money like a sit-com to be "competitive" enough to draw enough fans (ratings) to sustain The Brand.

It was okay to give Alfonso Soriano an insane player contract because the Cubs were drawing 3 million fans and had a national cable television audience. It wasn't the team executives money; it was just numbers on a conglomerate's balance sheet. It was just like the feasts and greed just before the Fall of the Roman Empire: quaint little Wrigley Field had been transformed into the largest yuppie spring break in the summer tavern. Baseball was secondary to the party atmosphere in the bleachers. As any saloon keeper will tell you, alcohol is more profitable than theater ticket sales.

The Tribune minions never used the term "rebuild" during its ownership tenure that began in 1981. The corporate executives brought in a baseball man, Dallas Green, to re-tool the organization. Green brought in the Phillies way, and was turning the team from the lovable loser label into a contender until he began to clash with the corporate executives in the Tower. It always seemed that someone outside of baseball circles knew better. The Tribune board used to stash near retiring executives to the kid's table called the Cubs to be the team president (which should have been merely an honorary title) to do little until retirement benefits kicked in. With no baseball knowledge, but a desire to keep the park filled, the Tribune kept writing checks for Hendry to spend on stop gap free agents to keep the team competitive. Meanwhile, the minor league system swelled with career minor leaguers blocked from an opportunity to be promoted or noticed by the team.

And that is what Ricketts inherited: an old minor league system of 28 plus year old AAAA talent and a serious amount of deadwood major league no-trade contracts for underperforming old veterans. Instead of sweeping clean the entire house on day one, Ricketts left the management crew in tact, which continued the same philosophy until the payroll budget burst the $150 million mark and the team crashed and burned in the playoffs and fell from grace in 2011.

Ricketts has slowly turned the corner (possibly by accident). Attendance fell, player production fell, losses mounted both in the standings and financially; change was on the horizon. Ricketts obsession with the Red Sox made him hire Theo Epstein and his band of merry young executives (Hoyer and McLeod) to remake the Cubs into the image of the Red Sox Way. Epstein was in charge when the Red Sox won two World Series for a starved fan base (even though the team foundation for the first championship was done by former GM Dan Duquette, now the Orioles new GM). Winning over the fan base with the reputation of Epstein & Company was a media coup.

The question is how long will be the media honeymoon.

It may not be as long as people would have hoped; the initial plan was to have Epstein "overpay" draft choices (especially those high schooler first round picks with signability issues) to bolster the number of prospects in the system. For example, the White Sox do the opposite and hardly spend on draft choices ($2-4 million) while last year the Cubs (under Hendry) spent nearly $12 million in signing bonus contracts, giving later round picks first round money in order to sign. This is what Epstein was going to do next June, until the new collective bargaining agreement effectively outlawed the practice.

The slow scramble to find a Plan B has been a cumbersome process for Epstein and Hoyer. It is clear they have no real affection for the Hendry prospects in the minor league system. It is also clear that they have little to work with on the major league roster. At the winter meetings, it was reported that the Cubs would not be big players in the free agent market because the Cubs "were out of money." There is probably great truth to that statement since when Daddy Ricketts spent the family money on the purchase of Tom's hobby horse, the Cubs, he said that no further money would be invested in the team. In other word, the Cubs had to pay for itself going forward. That was hard to do with a huge debt service on the purchase, a high payroll of $140 million, a bad economy, a fan base that turned to no-shows for the last two months of the season, and declining ratings to match the slide in the standings. So the old way of buying free agents to stem the tide and hover around a "competitive" .500 club was out the window, too.

So the snail crawl to find a Plan C was a mental gizzard grinder for Cubs fans in the first weeks of the hot stove league. The new young genius in charge of the Cubs was already painted himself into a corner with high expectations and little tools to change the situation. It is now apparent that the new Cubs three-headed-monster (Epstein-Hoyer-McLeod) are trying to turnover both the major league and minor league rosters as quickly as possible with their own "players." They have definitively gone to the bargain basement used player bin to patch together an ugly quilt for 2012.

The real anticipation for the new regime would be their first big move. It came as a dud in the minds of many fans: the signing of free agent OF David DeJesus. DeJesus was coming off a career WORST season. The team said they liked his defense, but he lacked power and RBI production throughout his career.

Then, some fans decided to give management a break and wait for the first big trade. It came as another dud: the Cubs sent Tyler Colvin and D.J. LeMahieu to the Colorado Rockies for Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers.

With the loss of Aramis Ramirez at third, Stewart's numbers are extremely weak. He only .156 with zero homers in 122 at-bats with the Rockies last season. He was sent to the minors during the season, and now says he had a wrist injury. (Cub fans know wrist injuries do not heal quickly and have multiple season issues; example, Derek Lee). It appears that the Cubs were looking at Stewart's inflated 2009 numbers (25 HRs) and hoping that he could rebound with a change of scenery. A change of scenery does not change a flawed swing or a wrist injury.

The same holds true for Weathers, who was a first round pick of the Rockies in the 2007 draft. The 26-year-old reliever has a 4.20 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in four minor-league seasons but showed potential before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2009. He has a real control problem and is thought of by major league scouts as "a project."

Hendry used to collect injured pitchers in a MASH unit of "rehab" projects that never panned out. But it was a way to keep signing veterans with an alleged track record to keep the heat off poor talent evaluations and the lack of prospects contributing on the major league club.

So, the Cubs continued the roster turnover with a clear move of going cheaper and collecting bodies. The trade of Sean Marshall to the Reds for a starter with a severe sophomore slump and two minor leaguers shows that Epstein is now in full "rebuild" mode even though his owner is in complete denial. Marshall, who statistically the best left handed relief pitcher the last two seasons, goes to the Reds for left handed starter Travis Wood and prospects Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes.

Marshall has emerged as one of the league’s elite relievers since moving to the bullpen full time in 2010, going 6-6, wth 34 holds in 150 innings of work with a 2.45 ERA and 169/42 K/BB ratio.

The key to the deal was financial. Marshall was set to make $3.1 million in 2012 plus an expensive contract extension. Wood is being paid the league minimum, and at age 24 is under team control through 2016. Neither Torreyes nor Sappelt were among the Reds’ top 10 prospects according to Baseball America. Sappelt is a short, scrappy player with some speed and is projected as a major league bench outfielder while Torreyes, at 5'9" 140 lbs, is a 19-year-old slick fielding second baseman looked good in Single-A last season. Some believe Torreyes could be a Dustin Pedoria type player; others think small compact gritty players like ex-Cubs Ryan Theriot or Mike Fontenot, for whom the Cubs let go for a reason: lack of production.

It is one thing to get a bunch of scrappy players, but another to field an entire major league team with scraps. Season ticket holders are already complaining that the 2012 club is going to be awful, and awful does not sell tickets.

This is acknowledged now by Epstein as Plan C. From finding bottom-out players like DeJesus and Stewart with the hope of a bounce back season, the Cubs are trying to "buy low" and get higher unexpected returns. The team is also now hellbent on trading any valuable "assets" into more "assets," i.e. trading a quality relief pitcher for three other players. As Epstein said at the winter meetings to other GMs, he'd listen to offers on "anybody," he meant it. Starting pitcher Matt Garza appears to be next in the conga line out the door in a three or four for one swap.

If the Cubs do nothing further this off-season, the 2012 payroll is projected to drop 28 percent to $98 million from $135 million. This is the beginning of a significant change in corporate philosophy; the Cubs were labeled as a big market, big spending club. Now, they are falling back to a small market value mentality.

Epstein is rolling the dice on out-of-favor players during his honeymoon period. He is hoping against hope that if he fills the roster with comeback of the year candidates, some will actually play well enough to surprise some people. But how surprised will fans be when they unwrap (player) packages bought at the dollar store?

And this is shaping up not to be a one season lull. The only upside prospect so far, Torreyes, is an A ball player. That means he will need three more years to get major league ready. And Epstein's first June draft will not yield a crop of players for at least two or three years. So the statements that the Cubs will be competitive in 2013 are misguided at best. Look at the Epstein way: stock piling A or AA players means that it is going to take three years to get to the major league roster fully turned over, if at all. That means 2015 and not 2013. And if you keep getting bottom feeder placeholder players at the major league level (Stewart, DeJesus) the club is not going to get progressively better at time soon.

Epstein & Company really need to find gold nuggets in the manure of other team's run-off. They have to act faster and with more desperation or they will lose out on chances to improve the stale product.

You really need to cull the wire to plug in guys with at least some POTENTIAL in the near term. Example, the A's just put on waivers AAA RF Jai Miller, who hit .276 with 32 HR 88 RBI and 14 SB last season. The Chronicle reports the team hopes he clears waivers so he can be back in spring training and make the team. (The A's had to make the roster move due to the players received in the Gio trade). This is the type of player the Cubs should claim - - - some one who has been blocked by his current team and who can be given an opportunity to win a job. And given the fact the Cubs current roster is like the Bears (no back ups at key positions), Miller would be insurance if DeJesus gets hurt or just plain sucks again. Reed Johnson or Sappelt are not full time starters. Plus, who else besides Soriano or LaHair can hit a home run on this team?

If Epstein is reincarnating the Go-Go White Sox of the late 1950s, defense and speed, that won't win at Wrigley when the opponent is blasting homers onto Waveland and the Cubs have no answer. None of the moves so far has excited the fan base.

Besides, signing a guy like Miller costs the team nothing but the major league minimum if he makes the club! That would make Ricky happy happy!!!

But there is nothing to make die-hard Cub fans happy. This rebuilding plan is going to be a long term struggle against the odds of having stop gap, fill in players hoping for career comeback seasons to field a competitive team. The Cubs are not better today by the mere subtraction of Pujols in St. Louis or Fielder or Braun (possible 50 game suspension) in Milwaukee. The free spending Tribune days are over. It is possible that the second coming of the P.K. Wrigley clueless and cheap era is here.