September 29, 2012


The muted slogan, "wait to next year," is already happening before the season ends, as writers and fans begin the 2012 autopsy of the Cubs.

As it stands, the Cubs will to into the winter with 10 players who have contracts or will be offered arbitration: Soriano, Marmol, Garza, DeJesus, Samardzija, Concepcion, Castro,  Russell, Barney, Valbuena.  The base salary for these ten players is around $53.47 million, with the arbitration eligible players of Garza, Samardzija, Russell and Valbuena will probably get moderate raises so the team will be at around $55 million with 15 positions to fill on the opening day roster.

If the remaining roster is filled with non-arbitration eligible players like Castillo, Clevenger, Dolis or Campana, those 15 prospects would add only $7.5 million to the base payroll, for a total of $62.5 million. Cot's Baseball contracts pegged the Cubs 2012 payroll at $109.4 million. So it is possible that the Cubs payroll will decrease by $46.9 million or  42.9 percent.

Even though Hoyer has told the press the Cubs will be in the free agent market, it is doubtful that the Cubs will want to spend money on premiere free agents for a club that may lose another 100 games in 2013.  And what kind of free agent would be willing to join the Cubs when the team is hitting rock bottom?

The two glaring holes to fill are at third base and center field. It is doubtful that the new front office will be patient with Jim Hendry prospects Josh Vitters or Brett Jackson.  But is less likely that the Cubs will go out and spend tens of millions of dollars on a veteran third baseman or center fielder when they will not be around when the blueprint of the turnaround comes in 2015.

So fans should brace themselves for another 2012 season in 2013.

September 28, 2012


The light at the end of the season may be a speeding locomotive.

As the Cubs need to play .500 ball to stave off 100 losses, a pace not season all season, the Cubs will continue to rack of unfortunate milestones.  For example, for the first time in club history, the Cubs have been swept on the road by all five NL West teams.

That is really, really hard to do yet alone fathom. But with ex-Cubs Colvin and LeMathieu pistol whipping Cub pitching in the last Colorado series, it may have been inevitable. 

What this season will give the Cubs will be most likely the Number Two draft choice next season. It is a protected draft choice, meaning that the Cubs can not lose their first round pick if they sign a free agent who has declined a qualifying offer from his old team.

It is doubtful that the Cubs will make a play for a marquee free agent. All signs point to a significant attendance drop for 2013. All signs point to the new front office remaining patient with their long term plan of developing Class A ball players. That means the Cubs will continue to struggle for the next three years or more.

Also, the Cubs with another 100 loss season, will be the first franchise in baseball to have three 100-loss seasons without winning a championship in between those low point seasons. A century of futility is what the Ricketts family bought; and a wary fan base not used to dynamic or premium pricing for a low quality product.

Demographically, Cub fans and White Sox fans are similar: same income levels, suburban Chicago homes, generational loyalty.  But Sox fans long ago tied their attendance to the team's performance. In seasons where the team was bad, attendance was bad. In years the team was great, attendance was very good. But this season, despite being in first place for 2 months in the summer, White Sox attendance lagged their record. It may be a sign of the metro economy: it is too expensive for even suburbanites to go to ball games.

It will be a hard sell at the Cub and White Sox conventions. The Cubs will try to put a pretty bow on a sack of burning dog poo. The White Sox may count on their young players, especially pitchers, to try to sell hope for the near future.

September 27, 2012


Cubs GM Hoyer said today in the local papers that the Cubs have the budget flexibility to be active players in the free agent market this off season. The contracts of Zambrano, Dempster, Soto, Byrd and Maholm are off the books. There is estimated about a $30 million decrease in obligations heading into 2013.

But don't buy the statement that the Cubs will be active participants in big money free agents. There is nothing to gain by going for broke in the free agent market during a long rebuilding process. The idea that Hoyer is floating is a trial balloon to keep season ticket holders interested and renewing their packages.  For an empty Wrigley Field will never draw the attention of would-be free agents.

The free agents the Cubs may sign are the second tier, journeymen types that they will attempt to flip at the trade deadline for more prospects. Maholm is a good example of a player acquired on a reasonable two year contract, traded to the Braves at the deadline for a younger starter (though coming off surgery).

The other reason the Cubs will not be big in free agency this winter is that the free agent class is thin. Besides the Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke or BJ Upton bidding, the market is weak.  For example, here are the list from MLBR of the non-option free agent starting pitchers (age):

Erik Bedard (34)
Joe Blanton (32)
Bartolo Colon (40)
Aaron Cook (34)
Kevin Correia (32)
Ryan Dempster (36)
Jeff Francis (32)
Freddy Garcia (37)
Zack Greinke (28)
Jeremy Guthrie (34)
Rich Harden (31)
Edwin Jackson (29)
Hiroki Kuroda (38)
Francisco Liriano (29)
Kyle Lohse (34)
Derek Lowe (40)
Shaun Marcum (31)
Jason Marquis (34)
Daisuke Matsuzaka (32)
Brandon McCarthy (29)
Kevin Millwood (38)
Jamie Moyer (50)
Roy Oswalt (35)
Carl Pavano (37)
Anibal Sanchez (29)
Jonathan Sanchez (30)
Joe Saunders (32)
Ben Sheets (34)
Carlos Villanueva (29)
Chien-Ming Wang (33)
Kip Wells (36)
Randy Wolf (36)
Chris Young (34)
Carlos Zambrano (32)

There are very few $5 million/year middle starters in the list. And the Cubs will certainly not bring back Dempster or Zambrano.


I remember watching the WGN telecast when it happened: a young Cub outfield prospect was pinch hitting in a game and gets brutally beaned on the head with the first pitch. Adam Greenberg was never touted as a great major league prospect, but he did have a good minor league average and some speed to be a reserve like a Seth Smith or a Tyler Colvin. His major league career ended on July 9, 2005.

Since Greenberg got hit in one pitch, he never had an official at bat. So a fan this season took up the cause and sought to have the Cubs give Greenberg an at bat. The Cubs passed on the PR stunt.

After Greenberg was injured, he attempted several come backs. He bounced around the minor leagues a few seasons, then left the game. It is one of many sad footnotes in baseball history.

The Miami Marlins trumpeted season is also a sad footnote. The Marlins spend money on massive free agents in the off season with the simple plan of winning it all this year. New manager Ozzie Guillen was to give South Florida his magic. Fans would flock to the new stadium. All will be good.

But Guillen started the season offending Cuban-Americans, and the Marlins players woefully underperformed. The Marlins owner called it quits, trading Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers and putting Guillen on the hot seat.

So to salvage some good PR, MLB announed that the Marlins signed Greenberg, 31 years old,  to a one-day contract to play on October 2, 2012 against the Mets. It may also be some karma payback for the Marlins, since it was one of their pitchers, Valerio De Los Santos, who hit Greenberg that night.

As part of the agreement, Greenberg is donating his one day salary (which is around $1,300) to a charity through the Marlins Foundation, the Palm Beach Post reported.

It may give some closure to Greenberg. But it really is a bad precedent. Even though the Mets and the Marlins are not in a pennant chase, Greenberg's position takes up space on the Marlin's 40 man roster. He is displacing a current prospect from getting maybe his one and only shot at the major leagues. Leave the happy endings to fiction like in Bull Durham or Field of Dreams

MIAMI -- Adam Greenberg struck out on three pitches as a pinch hitter. It was his first at-bat in seven years when the first pitch of his career beaned him out of the game. The Marlins gave Greenberg a one-game contract to complete the publicity stunt.

So Greenberg's career ends with  2 PA, 1 AB, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, .000 BA, 1 HBP.

September 26, 2012


As the Cubs wind down towards a 100 loss season, there seems to be no rush on the baseball side of the organization to change their direction. The tortoise approach to stock the low minors with high value prospects and wait for their development for the next four years is what fans need to expect from the front office.

Fans can also expect that the Cubs big market payroll will be reduced to under $100 million, as the team will not go after any big money free agents during these rebuilding years.

The only rush the Cubs have at the moment is to try to get the State of Illinois and City of Chicago to kick in $150 million or more in taxpayer money to "rehab" Wrigley Field. Ricketts stumbled through an ill-timed and ill-prepared proposal last year, which was DOA in the state capitol. Since then, the Ricketts family has bought the McDonald's block across the street from Wrigley with plans to add that parcel to the annex and rehab plans to create and entertainment and commercial campus in the neighborhood.

The problem lies in the fact that the Cubs owners are spending tens of millions of dollars on real estate transactions for future growth, but are begging "poor" to government agencies to get a corporate welfare hand-out. The public has grown tired of expensive sports subsidies. Further making the case against such taxpayer funded projects for private business enterprises is that both the State and City are bankrupt, facing huge budget deficits and bond rating downgrades.

So why are the Cubs going to force the issue for public funds? Because it is a free money to the owners. All the consultants studies claiming that the Cubs bring in massive tourist dollars and city revenue must be taken with a grain of salt. The Cubs have maxxed out on ticket sales at 3 million at the turnstyle. There is no substantial revenue growth from the government handing the Ricketts family $150 million.  Especially when the deal is a shell game; the city and state are on the hook to repay the bonds, but somehow the Cubs still want to take or divert a percentage of the amusement tax for their own portion of the reconstruction budget. The payment of tax dollars to a private company is repulsive: it is an annuity to the club and a stealth increase in ticket prices on the fans.

With the Cubs projected to spend $30 million less in each of the next 4 years in payroll alone, that equals $120 million in budget savings that the club could use for their own reconstruction of Wrigley. That payroll savings may be substantially more when their Class A prospects reach the majors at minimum salaries for three years.

Also hidden from the discussion is the new realization of baseball teams. The only reason the Dodgers took on $260 million in contract obligations from the Red Sox this season was that the Dodgers are in the midst of a multi-Billion new cable television contract. Baseball is going away from dependence on turnstyle ticket sales towards the big money returns of owning and operating their own team network. 

The Cubs WGN contract expires in 2014. Its Comcast partnership ends in 2019. When the Tribune owned the Cubs, it created a weak, below market broadcasting deals that carry forwarded when the team was sold. The Cubs may have one of the worse TV deals in the majors. The Padres just re-did their broadcast contracts, and nearly doubled their revenue from the past deal. The Cubs new broadcast deal should surpass the Padres numbers, and could reach $100 million per year. And once the Comcast deal is over, the Cubs could create their own network with a hundreds of millions more in revenue, on par with the potential  multi-billion dollar Dodger deal (at $400 million x 20 years).

In our opinion, the Ricketts are looking for the public to pay for their renovations before the big broadcast revenue streams hit the books in 2020. That is the bigger picture for the owners than player development.

September 25, 2012


When the Cubs opened the 2012 season under new management, this is what the front office provided the faithful:

1. DeJesus, rf
2. Barney, 2b
3. Castro, ss
4. Soriano, lf
5. I. Stewart, 3b
6. Baker, 1b
7. Byrd, cf
8. Soto, c
9. Dempster, sp

DeJesus was the first free agent signing by Epstein-Hoyer. He was supposed to solve the lead off position issue, and to allow Castro and his career .300 BA to move down the lineup to hopefully produce runs. However, by any measure, DeJesus was a disappointment. He does not have the power to be the regular right fielder, and does not have the speed to be consistent lead off hitter.  His .266 BA, 8 HR, 49 RBI, 7 SB is another Koskie Fukudome type output from that position.

Barney has turned into a fan favorite at second base; the new Ryan Theriot 2.0. He makes few errors at second base, but he does not have superior range. And his batting is below average for an NL second baseman with .263 BA, 7 HR, 43 RBI, 6 SB.

Castro has been moved around the line-up all season long. He started in the uncomfortable three slot because he was the best hitter on the team. But the pressure to produce RBIs has lessened his effectiveness. He has hit from 2 to 5 in the line up so management does not know where to slot him. The club is looking for more power production from Castro. He has given the team a slight boost in that area, but his defense still struggles at times. But at age 22 in his third season, All-Star Castro has had a good year: .284, 13 HR, 76 RBI, 25 SB.

Soriano appears to make the most of non-pressure situations. This season the Cubs were out of the race early, so Soriano could concentrate on his stats. And they were good at age 36: .263, 31 HR, 105 RBI, 6 SB. Even though the broadcasters believe that he has improved on his defense, that is still below average.

Ian Stewart was the "big" trade piece to replace Aramis Ramirez at third base. Stewart, injured and underwhelming last year continued to be injured and underperforming this year. It is no surprise that he was a bust which leads a huge hole at third base in the next few years.

Baker started at first base, in a caretaker position until Anthony Rizzo was called up from AAA to settle in the infield for the next decade. Baker was the lefty pitcher secret weapon which fizzled this season until his departure by trade near the deadline. Bryan LaHair was the All-Star first baseman who fell off the face of the earth when Rizzo took over first.

Byrd had an awful spring training and slow start. That is why he started the season batting seventh, and was traded to Boston early in the season before tapping out on a PED suspension. One could believe that Byrd was also a caretaker in CF until the Brett Jackson call-up, but Jackson has continued to underperform at the major league level.

Soto struggled for the second straight year with the Cubs. He was batting only .199, with 6 HR, 14 RBI when he was traded to Texas. The catching position has since been a showcase of AAA catchers, Wellington Castillo who projects more power hitting, and Steve Clevenger, who projects better defensively at the position. But neither Castillo or Clevenger have solidified their position on the team next season. That leaves the catching corps another hole in the roster to fill.

Dempster was the opening day starter. He performed well with the Cubs, but got no run support. He was traded to the Rangers at the deadline after turning down a trade to the Braves. The pitching staff has been a total train wreck this season as fill-ins like Volstad, Rusin, Raley, Germano, Berken all look like AAA spring training bullpen fodder. Only Jeff Samardzija had an above expectation year as a starter. Matt Garza ends the season on the DL, and his status will not be truly known until spring training. The starting pitching is going to have another major turnover in 2013, but there is no one currently in the minor league system ready to take a role.

So, the Opening Day roster pans out like this:

1. DeJesus, rf, below average performance
2. Barney, 2b, below average performance
3. Castro, ss, met expectations with more power stats
4. Soriano, lf, met personal expectations with power stats
5. I. Stewart, 3b, bust
6. Baker, 1b, bust and traded away
7. Byrd, cf, bust and traded away
8. Soto, c, bust and traded away
9. Dempster, sp, solid but traded away for prospects.

September 24, 2012


Roger Clemens announced that he won't say whether he will try a major league comeback in 2013. The new Astros owner was looking for a publicity stunt one shot game this season to bring some fans to the ball park after Clemens pitched in a low minor league contest this summer. The idea of Clemens making a "come back" at his age brings the skeptics to the forefront. One reason is that Clemens wants to get himself "off" the hall of fame ballot next year so he is not part of the steroid era big names. 

Another reason is ego. Clemens has an ego the size of Texas. He does want he wants to do, and no one can tell him otherwise. If he sees someone like Jamie Moyer hanging on to a major league job, Clemens may believe he is better and wants to prove the world wrong like in his perjury case.

But the underlying reason may be as simple as Clemens has nothing better to do than to hang on to baseball. For most of his life, he has been a pitcher. He really knows little else. Unless he has started businesses while playing, his retirement of sitting at home and going to his children's events, pales to the memory of pitching at Yankee Stadium.

Ex-ball players who don't want to give up the baseball life, hang on in many ways. Some go into coaching. Some go into broadcasting. Some start baseball clinics.

Kerry Wood is another former player who wants back into the game. He continually pops up during Wrigley Field broadcasts, hinting that he is going to have a role in the organization. What that role will be is unknown. Some believe he had a side agreement with former GM Jim Hendry about post-career position. But there is a new front office in town. And the Boston boys appear to want to scrub away all reference to past Cubs as they try to rebuild the club in their own image.

Wood said he would like to stay involved in the team. He also suggested that the Cubs bring back other players, like Ryne Sandberg or Sammy Sosa. Sandberg is going to be a major league manager, and the Cubs burned that bridge a long time ago. Sosa left the team in a feud that was never healed, and his Congressional testimony does not help in any PR sense. Wood is dreaming if he wants to put the band together and hang out in the clubhouse like the country club setting under his former field managers. There are times when ex-players need to move on.

September 21, 2012


Baseball is all about statistics and rules. The simplest rules are based simple mathematics. Batting average equals hits divided by plate appearances. The player with the highest batting average wins the batting crown. Simple. Straight forward.

But contracts, negotiations, bonus clauses and lawyering have confused a simple rule into a major PR mess. The Associated Press quotes the rule book as stating:

Baseball rules state a player needs to average 3.1 plate appearances for each of his team's games to become a batting, slugging or on-base percentage champion. But the last sentence of 10.22(a) says: ``Notwithstanding the foregoing requirement of minimum appearances at the plate, any player with fewer than the required number of plate appearances whose average would be the highest, if he were charged with the required number of plate appearances shall be awarded the batting, slugging or on-base percentage championship, as the case may be.''

 So a player may "win" the batting title even if he does not have enough "real" plate appearances to qualify for the crown?  It is a stupid rule, to add phantom plate appearances so a player can "win" an award he did not actually qualify for - - -  part of baseball is endurance. So if you can't get to 502 plate appearances to qualify, then you don't win the award.

Giants oufielder Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games for testing positive to PEDs. The 50 game suspension ended his regular season.

As AP article states, Cabrera has 501 plate appearances, one fewer than the required amount if the Giants play 162 games. Under section 10.22(a) of the Official Baseball Rules, he would win the batting title if an extra hitless at-bat is added to his average and it remained higher than that of any other qualifying player. That rule came into play for the first time in 1996, when San Diego's Tony Gwynn won his third straight NL batting title, and his seventh overall. Gwynn hit .353 in 498 plate appearances and won when four hitless at-bats were added and his average still topped that of Colorado's Ellis Burks, Gwynn's closest pursuer at .344.

Major league baseball and commissioner Bud Selig do not want a drug user to win the batting title. So the union and owners got together to re-write the batting championship rule to state that the phantom at-bats will not be counted for any player who is under a league suspension. That would mean that Cabrera at 501 at bats would not win the batting crown this season, since Cabrera is one plate appearance short. End of potential controversy, or is it.

The media reports suggest that the league and union agreement is worded in such a fashion that it is still possible that Cabrera could win the title:  the only way Cabrera would qualify for the batting title is if the Giants had a rainout and played only 161 games, in which case 499 plate appearances would be sufficient.

More controversy if that happens. And none of this has to happen if the rule was simple and crystal clear: 502 plate appearances or bust. You don't have 502 plate appearances, you can't win the batting championship. 

September 20, 2012


Sveum downplays Valbuena's bonehead play. “That’s one of these things,” Sveum said. “We have one of these things every three or four days that are not even explainable. You obviously don’t practice staying on a base when a pitcher isn’t on the mound. (These are) things that just boggle your mind, for major league players who have played a lot of baseball to just be looking off into left field when the pitcher is on the mound.  These things get unacceptable. And (asking) why are these things happening drives you crazy as a manager because there’s no rhyme or reason for things like that to happen.”

So Valbuena's mental error in the field, which directly killed a rally, is "unacceptable" behavior. Except, Valbuena is not benched for the next game. Why?

"(He) feels as bad as anybody,” Sveum said. “It’s not one of those things where you’re dogging it or anything like that. Why these brain farts happen ... it’s not (cause to) bench anybody over it. It’s hard to fathom when something like that happens, especially in a key moment of the ballgame. We had (Leake) on the ropes right there.”

So Valbuena in the line-up in a game that does not change the fortunes of the Cubs in the standings is more important than sending a clear message that such mental "brain farts" are unacceptable behavior. This is the problem with Cubs coaches: there is almost zero accountability on the players for their bad play. As a result bad play is tolerated, in some cases, now even expected during the season. So, why during a perfect "learning situation," does Valbuena continue to be rewarded with playing time at third base, at the expense of prospect Josh Vitters?

“We don’t have people who are here that are guaranteed jobs,” Sveum said. “That alone is a motivating factor for stuff like that to not happen. You’ve got to learn how to focus 300 pitches a game, nine or 10 innings, to never let your guard down. Those are the things we’re evaluating for people we want in this organization when we get ready to win.”

Except, it looks like Sveum has given up evaluating Vitters for next season by playing Valbuena today. It is another example of the inconsistency of the manager to assess and address these baseball issues with players. Favoritism of veterans and harshness towards young players is not a winning formula on the North Side. In fact, it is a poor reflection on management.


Alfonso Soriano has been on winning teams, big money teams, pennant and playoff pressures . . .  but his demeanor has always been hard to put into context.

Last night, Soriano hit his 30th HR for the Cubs.  At age 36, Soriano has surpassed pre-season expectations. For the third time in his career, he has reached the the 30 HR-100 RBI milestone. The last time he did that was 2005 with the Rangers. He is one RBI away from tying his career high in RBIs at 104 (also set in 2005).

In his 14 major league seasons, Soriano career stats are .273 BA, 370 HR, 1030 RBI, .317 OBP, 269 SB.  He averaged 26.5 HR and 73.5 RBI per season.

Those are not Hall of Fame numbers. He is still overpaid at $18 million per season (with a contract through 2014). But he has been the most consistent and productive offensive player the Cubs have had since his arrival in 2007.

Maybe it was his selfish reputation that cooled some fans. He had a massive blow up with his manager in Washington when he refused to move from the infield to the outfield. He had bouts of being mopey when he did not lead off games. His view was that he would see more fastballs leading off, and therefore have more chances to hit home runs. But is low on-base percentage, free swinging style did not lend itself to being a traditional lead off man. But more often than not, Soriano got his way and was the lead off man. Whether that hurt his team or not is subject to debate. He also is a below par outfielder. Even casual observers of the game realized quickly that Soriano was afraid of the fences. He looked nonchalant patrolling the outfield, and a lot of "catchable" balls went over his head or into the gaps. It may have been due to the weakness of his legs, nagging injuries and age but fans wanted to see a complete ball player since he was being paid as a superstar.

Soriano's laid back attitude did not help the perception that he was only self-focused in his approach to the game. All his teammates say he is a great guy in the clubhouse. That he leads by example and not by words. But it is just as clear that he performs better with less pressure. That is why many believe he has blocked any trade to a contender. There is a huge comfort zone playing for the Cubs.

As such, Soriano will be the Cubs left fielder for the next two years. When he leaves his starting position as the Cubs LF, that event should signal the last piece of the rebuilding puzzle has been completed and the new Cubs organization is ready to compete for a title.

September 19, 2012


They cannot be confused as the Cubs' Three Wise Men. But if there is a crystal ball for the end of the bad season showcase of talent, three Cubs with high expectations and a potential future seem to be fading away faster than a chunk of space debris falling through the ozone layer.

All Star Bryan LaHair has fallen off Planet Cub. Ever since Rizzo was called up to be the Epstein-Hoyer cornerstone franchise pick at first base, LaHair has been riding the bench like a splinter. Since August 1st, he has only had 50 AB, 12 H, .240 BA, 1 HR and 4 RBI. It is clear that management has put LaHair out to pasture.

But just as bothersome is the two AAA rookies with high expectations for fans. They had been told for years that these two guys had major league talent, and that they would be pieces of the turnaround puzzle. But these are not Epstein-Hoyer guys. And their showcases after their early call-ups have fallen flat.

With no third baseman on the roster, one would think Josh Vitters would get an extended look in the field and at the plate. But no. Since September 1st, he has only 25 AB, 4 H,.160 BA, 1 HR and 1 RBI. There is even some talk that the Cubs should tender injured failure Ian Stewart a 2013 contract. Really? Or maybe the Cubs should just give Luis Valbuena third for 2013 until the rebuilding demolition work is complete. Those rumors clearly mean that Vitters has not won any backers in the front office.

And even more surprising is five tool outfielder Brett Jackson. He did not have the "savior" label attached to his call-up, but he was supposed to anchor the outfield for the next five years. He has some speed, and can make some difficult catches in the outfield. But his arm is less than touted. But his batting and strike out ratio is what people grimace about since his call-up. Since September 1st, Jackson has 26 AB, 2 H, .076 BA 0 HR 0 RBI. September is showcase month for rookies. This has turned into an opening night theater flop.

The writing was on the wall that LaHair would not be a starter in 2013. The question was whether he had enough to power his way to a bench position. But apparently not. The Cubs may try to deal him to Japan this off-season. Japan, home of the AAAA ball player.

Vitters is still too young to export to Japan. But he may have lost his one opportunity to make a case for a real competition this spring for the opening day third base position. His main minor league rival, Christian Villanueva, BA #100 prospect, is hitting .250 with 4 HR and 9 RBI in high A Daytona as a Cub (and for 2012 total since the Rangers trade: .279 BA, 14 AB, 68 RBI, .353 OBP). Villanueva is years away from a major league chance so Vitters has to beat out the likes of a Joe Mather, Jose Cardenas or another journeyman free agent like Stewart. Third base will not be kind to the Cubs in 2013.

Jackson may not be long in the majors, either. The Cubs brought in their two top picks, Almora and Soler, to take some batting practice at Wrigley during the last home stand. It is now believed that Almora is management's pick to be the centerfielder of the future, not Jackson. And the team may fast track Soler to the majors to play right field (which would move DeJesus to CF). And that would displace Jackson to trying to capture a 5th outfielder bench role with a Tony Campana or Dave Sappelt.

LaHair, Vitters and B Jackson are all in the same boat with the Cubs, a very small life boat for their careers.

September 17, 2012


Cubs manager Dale Sveum continues to tinker with Starlin Castro.  He made some comments in regard to Castro's batter's box set up.

“We don’t want to be hit-chasers,” Sveum said. “We want him to be a complete, full, prolific-type hitter. Those kind of three-run homers happen more often because of the timing issues. Not just being worried about hits, the OPS and all that comes into play with adjusting to situations.”

“There are some inconsistencies, but it’s just a matter of getting to another level,” Sveum said of his young shortstop. “He’s at one level, but we want to get this 22-year-old kid to another level.”

“It’s one of those things you like to see, quiet all that down because of the eye-hand coordination that he has,” Sveum said. “I think that kind of stuff can happen more often without the leg kick and the little hand gesture that he has in there too.”

The idea of "quieting" down Castro's movements in the batter's box really should not matter if he is in a hitter's position when the ball is thrown. Players will tell you that in their mechanics, they have certain "trigger" points to start their swing. In Anthony Rizzo's case, he bends his back backwards in a rigid stance, then slowly comes back into a hitting position. In Alfonso Soriano's case, he has a nervous hand jitter with the bat and a leg kick to snap his swing through the zone (and many cases miss sliders away in the dirt).

The fact that Castro hit a home run over the weekend by not doing a leg kick is not the reason to mess with his swing mechanics just for the sake of changing his routine. For the first two seasons, Castro's approach to the plate worked  - - - he was a .300 contact hitter. In 2010, Castro hit .300 BA, 3 HR, 41 RBI, .347 OBP. In 2011, Castro hit .307, 10 HR, 66 RBI, .341 OBP. This season, Castro is hitting .282 BA, 13 HR, 75 RBI and .320 OBP. But now, the Cubs want Castro to be "more patient" at the plate.

Sveum said he now likes Castro batting lower in the order so he can be more "selective" in his pitches. If that is what Sveum said, what did he mean? In a batting order, the lead off man and number 2 hitters are supposed to be the most selective in order to draw walks or get pitches they can handle. When you are batting Castro in the 5th spot, that is an RBI slot in the line up. A player in that position is not being "selective," but to find a pitch in the zone to drive. Unless Sveum was really saying that that Castro must "adapt" to pitchers who would be more "selective" in their approach to him, especially with runners on base. A pitcher throwing to a clean up or 5th spot hitter will avoid throwing fastballs into a hitter's power zone. A pitcher is more likely to nibble at the edges to get a pitcher's count, and try to get the batter out with a slider or curve.

One would expect that a power hitter's batting average would be down, but his RBI totals would increase. Castro has always had a low walk ratio, because his approach has been a slash and contact hitter. To take away his "natural" swing dynamic in order to increase his OBP (in reality, walk totals), seems to be the wrong approach in Castro's case. If you want Castro to continue to hit, let him hit in the way he feels most comfortable.

September 15, 2012


Under the headline that the rebuilding contains some "rough edges," Tribune columnist Dave Van Dyke spoke to Cub President Theo Epstein. Epstein seemed to be relieved that the Cubs have begun to win enough games to avoid a dreaded 100-loss season.

"No one wants to be associated with a 100-loss team, so it would be really nice to avoid," Epstein said. "No one wants to be a part of that."

Yes, indeed. No one, including fans. Only 26,946 tickets were sold for Friday's contest, and only a fraction showed up to see the Pirates game.

There has been some public push back on the Cubs near stealth rebuilding program, especially when Epstein desperately tried to trade away three starters (Dempster, Maholm and Garza) at the July trade deadline.

"We're trying to be transparent about (the pain of rebuilding)," Epstein said. "We have a plan and we have a vision, and it's not going to happen overnight.

"We're not trying to hide the ball. We're being honest with (fans). … There might be another trading deadline in our future when we trade away 40 percent of a really good rotation.

"You do that because there's going to be a day when you acquire two starting pitchers at the deadline to cement your club and go on a run in the postseason."

Epstein is aware that the cross town White Sox are in first place. GM Kenny Williams has a different approach, trading prospects for veterans and free agent signings to build a competitive ball club.

 "There's a choice," Epstein said to Van Dyke.  "You can say we're going to Band-Aid this thing and try to polish it up the best we can and make it as presentable as possible to try to squeeze every last fan through the gates this year and we'll deal with next year next year.

"Or we can say we want to make this thing right, no matter how tough the road is. We're taking the second path, so it doesn't matter how many teams are in the city, we're going to take the path we feel is right."

Epstein's path appears to rebuild the minor league system, with a heavy emphasis on drafting and developing starting pitchers.  However, there was a third path that Epstein did not discuss. It was the way the Tribune and former GM Jim Hendry ran the team. The Cubs spent heavily on free agent talent, while at the same time overdrafting pitchers. The risk of this plan is that free agents are older, more expensive players with limited shelf life, and developing pitchers is a real art form that some organizations never master. The rag tag number of pitchers in the Cubs organization used this season shows overdrafting young pitchers is not a guaranteed solution.

The "rough edges" that are apparent in Epstein's approach is several more seasons of very bad and bland teams. A roster filled with old regime rookies and journeymen players until Epstein's own prospects mature in three or four years will be torture to some die-hard fans and unwatchable to the casual fan, who will stop coming to Wrigley for games as shown in this current Pirates series.

September 13, 2012


Some people in LA rue the day the Dodgers made the $250 million trade with the Red Sox, as the team continues to under perform.

How are the ex-Cub players doing in their pennant chases?

Maholm as a Cub in 21 games, went 9-6, 3.74 ERA with 1.238 WHIP. In Atlanta, in 8 games, he is 3-4, 4.28 ERA and 1.324 WHIP.  He is below his Cub par with the Braves so far.

Reed Johnson as a Cub in 76 games hit 3 HR, 16 RBI, .302 BA. In Atlanta, in 26 games, he has hit 0 HR, 4 RBI and .313 BA. He was brought in as a bench player, so he is probably on par so far with the Braves.

Dempster as a Cub in 16 games went 5-5, 2.25 ERA and 1.038 WHIP. In Texas, in 8 gqames, he is 6-1, 4.11 ERA and 1.291 WHIP.  Dempster, with more offensive support, is doing exactly what the Rangers want him to do: post wins.

Soto as a Cub in 52 games hit 6 HR, 14 RBI, .199 BA. In Texas, in 33 games, he is hitting 3 HR, 17 RBI and .213 BA. He is slightly improved over his Cub stats as a Ranger.

The Braves and the Rangers are content with the trades that they made because the ex-Cubs are contributing to their pennant runs.

The one person coming in via trade on the Cubs now is Anthony Recker, from Oakland. In 13 games as an A's, he hit only .129 with 0 HR and 0 RBI. In 4 games as a Cub, he is hitting .222 with 1 HR and 2 RBI. He is hardly the answer at catcher.

September 12, 2012


What is the vision of the Cubs? What does the new front office believe will be "their" team on the field?

We can only speculate, but based upon the moves and the distaste for old regime players, this is what the Cubs are looking to field as soon as possible:


SORIANO       ALMORA(*)     SOLER($)







(*) draft picks
(T) trade acquisitions
($) free agent signing

September 11, 2012


With 21 games left in the season, the Cubs sole goal is not to lose 100 games. The "magic" number is 8 more wins. Playing the Astros helps that goal.

The Cubs have the reputation of being the Lovable Losers. But how many awful 100-loss seasons have there been in the franchise history? Surprisingly, only two.

In 1966, the Cubs went 59-103. In 1962, the Cubs also went 59-103.

Now, if those are rock bottom falls from grace, what happens in the next season? In 1967, the Cubs rebounded with a 87-74 record. In 1963, the Cubs improved to 82-80. In the financial world, one could call the next season success like a stock's "dead cat bounce."  It does not last very long.

On the flip side, how many 100 win seasons for the Cubs? The answer is five. But you have to go way back in a time machine to find them.

In 1935, the Cubs went 100-54, losing the World Series 4-2. The next year, the Cubs faded to 87-67.

In 1910, the Cubs went 104-50, losing the World Series 4-1. The next year, the Cubs went 92-62.

In 1909, the Cubs went 104-49.

In 1907, the Cubs won a record 107 games (107-45) and the World Series. The next year, 1908, the Cubs repeated as World Series champions with a record of 99-55.

In 1906, the Cubs went 116-36 but lost the World Series 4-2).

It is clear that a team that wins 100 games is more likely to continue its success in the next year. That makes sense since a team that wins 100 games must have a wealth of talented players performing well.  When a team loses 100 games, there is also a rebound but for a different reason. Players are a 100 loss club are not very good, and management needs "real" change in order to get fans into the stands. Roster turnover is probably the main reason for improvement for 100 loss clubs.

So when Cub players focus in on NOT losing 100 games, they are fighting against the perception of being on a 100-loss team (and probable loss of employment for the next season). But in order to improve a club, it must hit rock bottom.

September 10, 2012


There is little news coming from the Cubs as the season winds to an end.

But there are little tidbits and rumors that begin to create a bigger picture.

First, the shutdown of Jeff Samardzija was interesting. The reason was that this was the most innings he had pitched since 2008. A starter to reliever and now a converted starter is a different mind set for a pitcher, a different routine. Since the Cubs have been out of the race since May, there really was no reason for the Cubs to even start Samardzija this weekend. But they did. And he went out and threw his best game of the year: a complete game victory over the Pirates.

Afterward, the Cubs web site writer reports that Samardzija is slated to be the #1 or #2 starter in the rotation in 2013.  That is good news for Samardzija, but a question mark for the rest of the staff.

Then, there is a rumor that after six weeks of rest, Matt Garza is still not throwing a baseball. The implication is that his elbow injury is much worse than we were led to believe in July. An injured Garza equates to zero trade value so one would expect he would return to the Cubs for 2013. But if he needs to have surgery, Garza may not even be in the picture for most of 2013. Either scenario is bad news for the Cubs.

Another piece of news was that the Cubs continue to purge old management employees.
The Cubs have dismissed six members of the Minor League coaching staff, including Dave Bialas, who has been with the organization for 18 years, most recently as Triple-A Iowa's manager. Bialas was the Cubs' Minor League field coordinator for 10 seasons before returning to managing this past season for the first time since 2001.

Also gone are Class A Daytona pitching coach Marty Mason, Class A Peoria manager Casey Kopitzke and hitting coach Barbaro Garbey, and Mesa Rookie League pitching coach Frank Castillo and hitting coach Jason Dubois. Kopitzke is headed to Marquette University to enroll in its sports law program. Castillo and Dubois both played for the Cubs. Garbey was in his third season with the Chiefs and seventh in the Cubs organization. Kopitzke was in his fourth season as a Minor League manager in the Cubs' system.

It means that Epstein and Hoyer are on a drive to replace all the old Hendry-Tribune baseball employees with their own people. It is consolidation of power and loyalty. It is also a move to insulate the baseball side from the Tribune dominated business side run by Crane Kenney. It foretells a power struggle.

It also may be an indictment of the minor league system which continues to lack the development of skilled major league players. Catcher Steve Clevenger's antics in the Nationals series sums up the point: throwing at Bryce Harper because the Nationals were continuing to play hard in the 5th inning up 5 runs is no excuse to throw at a batter. Clevenger claims he was sticking up for his team. But it was a boneheaded move and instigated another on field scrum. Clevenger was suspended one game by the league.  The result may be he will lose his job, because the new front office has brought in former A's catcher Antony Recker, another career minor leaguer who has some power numbers in AAA. Recker is not a long term solution at catcher, but he is another AAA guy filling a roster spot in the short term.

Epstein and Hoyer are looking to fill the system with "their" guys. While it is normal to blame the previous administration for the inability to develop talent, the move to consolidate all aspects of the operation will lead to full accountability on Epstein in the near future. The question is whether the Cubs can hold on long enough for his talent to reach the majors.

The Cubs drafted many pitchers in June, but none will be ready for at least 2 years. This puts the weakness of the Cubs current minor league system in the spotlight. Here are the last of the Hendry era starters vying for a rotation spot next season: Rusin, Raley, and Coleman. None have impressed. Further, Epstein's pitchers on the 40 man roster for next season are not much better: Brigham, Castillo, Concepcion, Germano, Socolovich, or Volstad. Vizcaino is on the 60 day DL for arm surgery and his prognosis for 2013 is unknown.

In the best case situation, the 2013 Cubs rotation is Garza, Samardzija, Vizcaino, T. Wood and Germano. In the worst case it is Samardzija, T. Wood, Germano, Volstad and Rusin.

The other tidbit last week was the promotional special featuring Jorge Soler, the Cubs $30 million Cuba exile outfielder who just finished up in short stint in Class A. A thirty minute special on a Cubs prospect is early propaganda to try to keep some level of nominal interest in the Cubs as the season ticket renewals are mailed to fans. But even if the Cubs try to fast track their new signees like Soler and Almora, they will start at best in AA next season. And if there is that arbitrary 500 AAA at bats promotion milestone, they will not be able to reach Wrigley until mid 2014. If Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters continue to struggle under .200 BA, the move to promote may become acute if projected season ticket sales drop 25 percent this off season.

September 8, 2012


The news that Jeff Samardzija will be shut down after his next start is surprising. If the Cubs are really concerned about his career number of innings pitched, 165.1, the most since 145 in 2008, then WHY not shut him down now to avoid injury, instead of adding another 6 IP to his season total. The season is over. The logic is so irrational it grinds the back molars to dust.

So the Cubs picked up another piece of discarded raw pitching meat to fill this rotation slot for the last three weeks of the season. The Cubs claimed pitcher Jason Berken off waivers from Baltimore. It is the second Oriole cast off pitcher the Cubs have claimed in less than a month. Miguel Socolovich was the other one. It just seems odd that Epstein is collecting discarded Baltimore pitchers to add to his collection of woeful bullpen arms. Then you have to realize who is in charge in Baltimore, Dan Duquette, the general manager who built the roster for the Red Sox championships but who was forced out of Boston in a power struggle with the front office. Is Epstein trying to live off the scraps of his old boss? Trying to find some gold dust in a landfill?

Berken fits the recent Cub "profile." He is 28 years old. He pitched one game for the Orioles this season. His ERA is 18.00. Last year in relief for the O's, he appeared in 40 games. His record was 1-2, 5.36 ERA and 1.787 WHIP. Holy crap that is bad, but not Lendy Castillo bad.

So the Cubs picked up a failed 2009 major league starter and a bad 2010-11 major league reliever to ride out the season.  Berken gets a three or four start "showcase" to see if he can get a spring training invitation.

In order to pick up Berken, the Cubs placed Blake Parker on the 60 day DL.

September 7, 2012


It has to be the worst series performance by the Cubs in my lifetime.

The Cubs lost all four games in D.C.: 2-1, 11-5, 9-1 and 9-2. The pitching staff was mostly throwing batting practice and the hitters unable to put together quality innings. The whole season can be summed up on the final out of the game, where Jackson hit a ball deep to the wall but jogged around second base not knowing where it was or the call on the play. He did not pick up his coaches, he just stopped after rounding second and was easily tagged out to end the game. Broadcaster Bob Brenly growled that Jackson deserved to be tagged out because he did not run hard around the bases. It was another frustrating lack of basic baseball IQ that has been the calling card for Cub players for years.

The Nationals smacked 15 home runs to the Cubs 3 (2 by Rizzo, 1 by Soriano). The Nationals batted .366 for the series, the Cubs batted only .195. The Cubs were outscored 31-9.

The Cubs have lost 17 of their last 18 road games. The Cubs have only won a meager 17 road games all season. The Cubs record of 51-86 is a pace for a team record for losses in a season. There is no life is this dullard team.

And when there is a spark, it is the bad kind. Bench coach Jamie Quirk got into an obscene laced shouting match with Nationals third base coach Bo Porter in the 5th inning. Apparently, Quirk took issue that the Nationals "were running up the score" by swinging at 3-0 pitches. Come on, this is not little league without a slaughter rule! But no, Quirk went nuts and the benches cleared with no fights. Quirk was ejected from the game.  As home plate umpire Jerry Layne said, "All that stuff that happened, it was instigated by Quirk screaming out at Porter. And the obscenities that he screamed out I just felt was inappropriate, and that's what caused everything. The reason he was ejected was he was the cause."

Quirk is part of the Cause, indeed. Why it took 137 games to realize that the Cubs team is horribly bad and the players collectively have stopped competing is hard to fathom. The Nationals are in a pennant race. Their players know that in order to win they have to continue to perform. They are not going to throttle back when a weak team comes into town. If the Cubs coaches were looking for mercy or sympathy from their opponents, this is not the time or sport for that garbage. The Nationals accomplished the goal at the start of every game: to win. So they took the Cubs to wood shed in the process. Epstein and Hoyer always talk about "the process." The process so far has not been good.

The fundamentals are horrible. Pitchers can't throw strikes. Batters can't make contact with the ball.
But the baseball IQ is just as bad. Players don't seem to instinctively know what is going to happen before and during the play. There is no anticipatory action, just eye to hand reaction to events in front of them. The Jackson out to end the game stuck in Brenly's craw because it should have never been an out if the player understood the situation he was in; if he assumed he hit a home run, don't assume it until an umpire signals a home run.

It is hard to feel any sympathy for the Cub players who got chippy all game. When Lenny Castillo, a wasted Rule 5 roster spot, threw deep inside at Bryce Harper's knees, things once again got ugly. Harper started to the mound, but catcher Steve Clevenger stopped him. When the benches emptied, Clevenger was the one looking to punch someone, anyone. Clevenger and Manny Corpas were ejected for fighting, as well as a National reliever, Mike Gonzalez. The real punishment for manager Dale Sveum was that he was NOT ejected from the game; so he had stand in the corner with an imaginary dunce hat on as his club got walloped for the third night in a row.

"It's probably one of the biggest butt-whippings I've ever gotten in my career, as a coach or player," Sveum said. "I don't remember getting man handled that bad in any kind of series I've ever been a part of." So what is Sveum going to do about it? Nothing. And that is the frustrating thing for Cub fans. The team checked out of the season this week in D.C. There really is nothing left for Cub fans to watch expect more bad baseball. The Bears NFL season starts Sunday so that is where the fan base will gravitate towards - - - expected victories in the NFC North.

Every baseball team has it faults. The Cubs currently have all the faults. Competency appears at a low ebb right now. The minor league system is still not training players to be able to perform at the major league level. The major league coaches are still not getting their players to  perform consistently at a major league level. The team's baseball IQ has to be at the low end of the league. And the front office is more focused in on pimping out players for paid lunches for additional fan revenue than developing the talent that is part of the alleged process. It is one thing to blame the last regime for the sad state of the organization, but Epstein and Hoyer have to take full blame for the ugly record and further regression of the team of this season.

September 6, 2012


The Boston Globe reports that the Red Sox are keen on trying to acquire John Farrell, the current Toronto Blue Jay manager, to take over Bobby Valentine's position in 2013. Farrell is under contract with the Blue Jays for the 2013 season, so a trade is the only way for Boston to get their new skipper. Apparently, before hiring Valentine, the Red Sox sought to get Farrell from Toronto. Farrell was the former Red Sox pitching coach, and may have mutual interest in returning to Boston.

But major league baseball frowns upon "trades" involving managers. The Ozzie Guillen to Miami "trade" had to involve players.

The Globe writer speculates that the Blue Jays would want someone like pitcher Rubby De La Rosa in return. De La Rosa was just acquired from the Dodgers. In 2011, he appeared in 13 games, went 4-5 3.71 ERA in 60.1 IP with a 1.401 WHIP. An arm injury has sidelined him, but he is still considered a top pitching prospect.

The question is whether a manager's talent equates to team wins. The old baseball adage is that a good manager can "win" one or two games a season, a great manager maybe three or four. But how can a manager "win" a game when he is not a player on the field?

The major league manager's role is simple: fill out a daily line up card and "manage" the game from the bench by a) positioning fielders, b) giving signs to batters, c) telling runners to steal bases, d) and replacing pitchers and hitters during the game to get the best match-ups. But a manager is only as good as his talent.

A manager may have more influence on his team by leadership skills, motivational skills and teaching skills than the slight differences in line up card adjustments or giving in-game direction like bunting or hit-and-run calls with a runner on first base. It is believed that a manager's influence on his team is giving his players the best opportunity to succeed, managing the pitching staff, and keeping his reserves fresh and into the games.

On the other side, a bad manager can directly influence wins and losses on the field. Keeping a starter in the game when he is clearly out of gas, leading to more hits and runs by your opponent, is an avoidable disaster. Playing players out of their natural position, leading to errors, base runners or "four" out innings, is another avoidable disaster. Overusing your bullpen so they have tired arms is another managerial offense. Fans can see when their manager "has blown the game."

From an objective standpoint, does a manager's ability truly contribute to wins? Baseball Prospectus looked at this question and acknowledged that strategic blunders can influence a team's win-loss record, but such an effect is hard to trace over a long season of 162 games. For every decision a manager makes, the outcome is decided by his player's performance and the opponent's adjustment to the situation. In other words, managerial decisions are made in a vacuum, in the down time of the game. The results of the decisions play out on the field, which is solely based on the talent of the players.

Baseball Prospectus concluded that over a season, and from season to season, over-achieving or under-achieving teams had little impact from a managerial prospective. The conclusion: a manager has little consistent impact on whether a team over or under achieves its projected talent level in team wins and losses.

The Valentine situation in Boston is a different animal. It is a disruption. The players came out not liking the manager. The manager came out criticizing veteran players. Team performance suffered, but that may also have been a carry over from the 2011 swan song disaster. As many commentators say, when everything is said and done, it is up to the players in any sport to perform. The accountability must start on the results on the field of play. Everything else sounds more like excuses than reasons for failure.

So when we look at the proposed Farrell for De La Rosa trade, it is clear that a good manager cannot guarantee an extra one or two wins for his team. On the other hand, De La Rosa earned 4 wins in his last season, which is a tangible result on the field. It would be a bonus to the Blue Jays to acquire a player who can add 4 or more wins to the team.

Management also seems to think newer managers are fungible commodities. The Cubs new front office went through a whole series of interviews and tests of candidates, but in the end wound up with "one of their guys" in Dale Sveum, who worked with Epstein in Boston. The managerial ranks are members of a closed fraternity, because teams continually recycle fired managers from season to season. Some Cub fans believe that Sveum is nothing more than Mike Quade, version 2.0.

September 5, 2012


The Cubs have just become a sad team; a AAA team that is going through the motions until the last game of the season is over.  The $108 million payroll will get cut dramatically when the season ends as $26.5 million comes off the books for dead money deals like Byrd and Zambrano. But almost half of the roster could be arbitration eligible, leading with injured Matt Garza, who will still seek a raise from his current $9.5 million salary.

Things could be worse.

Epstein's old club, the Red Sox, are imploding their team as a means of purging the malcontents and rebuilding from the rubble. In 2011, the Red Sox had one of the worst September collapses in history. Epstein fled town, and player-friendly manager Terry Francona got fired. Reports had players drinking beer and eating chicken in the clubhouse during games. The players were running the asylum. Ownership was not pleased.

But ownership continued to appease the players. The team kept most of the old coaching staff (some people call that keeping the enablers). The team president pushed and got an old school manager to shake things up. He hired Bobby Valentine, who has a gruff opinionated personality.  The first shot across the complacency bow was Valentine trying to get some accountability for the poor start of third baseman Youkilis. Veterans were upset that a veteran was called on the carpet. The real situation was that Youk was going to lose his job to a rookie, which is never something veteran players like to see. The result was like smashing atoms together. The players texted management and ownership about their displeasure. Then they had a non-Valentine stealth meeting with management. Nothing was resolved. The team continued to struggle and lose. Big money players continued to have nagging injuries, dead money contracts and the overall public impression that the players were no longer likeable individuals. Recently, in Seattle, team owners and management went to "observe" their team and gather "facts" about the current situation. That is never a good sign.

YahooSports reported that the Red Sox players continue to gripe about their situation. The players also don't trust management, claiming they are the source of leaks and backstabbing comments in the press. But Boston has a long history of backstabbing people as they leave town. But now, it is an open street fight. Ken Rosenthal reported that it appears that Valentine will not be back as Red Sox skipper in 2013. If so, the players will think that is a victory.  But it is a Pyrrhic victory.

When the Red Sox shuffled $250 million worth of player baggage to the Dodgers, the only team dumb enough to take Beckett and Crawford's deals in order to get Gonzalez's offense, management pushed out of town some of the biggest clubhouse complainers.  The purge may continue this offseason as the Red Sox are in the position where they can turn over most of their roster.

The current $175 million payroll loses Ortiz ($14.575M), Matsuzaka ($10.33M), Loney ($6.375M), Ross ($3 M) , Cook ($1.5 M), Padilla ($1.5 M) and Podsednik . That is more than $37.5 million. The team is still committed to 5 players for $45.63 million (Lackey, Pedroia, Lester, Bucholz and Iglesias). Ellsbury, Bailey, Saltalamacchia, Breslow, Sweeney, Bard,  Aceves, Aviles, Miller, Morales and R. Hill are arbitration eligible, but some of them may not be tendered contracts. Arbitration may add $25 million to the payroll so in theory the Red Sox could field a roster with 9 other minimum salary players for a total 2013 payroll of  $75.2 million. An immediate $100 million in payroll reduction is a huge factor for any sports franchise.

The savings question means there are three ways to deal with the team's fortunate luck. One, save the money and hope the minor leagues will produce major league talent like Middlebrooks showed this season. The Red Sox have a lot of young arms in Melancon, Carpenter, Atchison, Beato, Doubront, DelaRosa, and Stewart. Or two, use the bankroll on the free agent market and become an overnight contender. But the free agent market may not be a blockbuster winter. Top FAs include Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton, Nick Swisher  - - - all who will be seeking a $100 million plus contract. There are a few quality starters on the market like Greinke, Edwin Jackson, Marcum, or Sanchez. Or three, do a combination of both. Promote your best system talent and fill in with veteran pick-ups. The team really has first base, left field, right field, catcher and starting pitching holes to fill.

You would think that the Red Sox would need to do "something big" in the offseason to right the ship. But the Yankees are in a tailspin, with the lowly Orioles making a run for the divisional lead. The Blue Jays are in transition and the Rays are unpredictable. It is possible that the rest of the AL East ma, on paper, fall back this winter towards the Red Sox. After winning championships, any lovable loser persona was lost. Fans expect more championships, a dynasty like the dreaded Yankees, not more losing steaks.

The Red Sox have a unique situation drop in their laps. They can quickly rebuild their club by imploding the existing roster in another horrible losing season.


In last night's Cubs loss, Sveum used 7 rookie pitchers. The Cubs have now matched a team record of using 51 different players this season. Both facts are not good signs for the future.

The box score tells the tale of woe:

Pitchers             IP     H     R    ER    BB    SO    HR    PC-ST    ERA
C Rusin
(L, 0-2)             1.0    8       5     5        1      1         2    43-27      9.00
J Chapman        1.0    0      0     0        1       1         0    15-9        0.00
B Parker            1.0    2      0     0        0       1         0    17-13      1.59
R Dolis              1.0    3     3     3         0       1         2    22-14      7.12
M Socolovich    2.0    2     1     1         0       1         1    29-18      4.50
A Cabrera          1.0    2     1     1         0       2         0    14-10       8.44
J Beliveau          1.0    2     1     1         0       1         1    28-17       4.05
Totals                 8.0    19   11   11        2       8         6   168-108

It took the rookie corps 5.75 pitches per out.  64.2 percent were for strikes. At least
36 strike zone pitches resulted in contact by the Nats hitters, or about a third of the time.

The rookies gave up almost as many home runs as strike outs. The Nationals set
a team record for number of home homers in D.C. 

It looked like spring training batting practice.

It is September, and a team needs to test its prospects to see what they may have going into next season. From this box score, we can see Chapman was rushed up the system. He was part of the Maholm-Johnson trade from Atlanta. Socolovich is another recent pick-up. Call their initial impressions incomplete.

But as a group, it looks like this is a bunch of one inning middle relievers. 

September 4, 2012


Most objective observers will now conclude that the Epstein-Hoyer deal for Ian Stewart was a bust. Stewart, who was in the minors last season and had nagging injuries, was the guy to replace departing Aramis Ramirez at third. As a result, the Cubs shipped off Tyler Colvin, who lost any chance of being the Cubs right fielder to the new front office's first signee, David DeJesus.

Here is the stat lines from before the weekend:

Colvin 104 G 319 AB 93 H .292 BA 15 HR 58 RBI .334 OBP 7 SB

DeJesus 121 G 410 AB 108 H .263 BA 6 HR 39 RBI .352 OBP 6 SB

Colvin, in less games with the Rockies, has had significantly move offensive production than DeJesus.

DeJesus is waffling around Koskie Fukudome numbers. For a corner outfielder, those weak offensive and non-existence power stats (home runs and RBI) are line up killers.

It brings to mind the question of how well Esptein and Hoyer are at in evaluating talent to assemble rosters. A majority of the rosters for the Red Sox championships had roots with the former GM and his staff.

Was Stewart and adequate replacement at third? No.
Was the mid-season replacement Luis Valbuena any better? No.

Was DeJesus in RF the player people expected? No.
Was DeJesus better RF than Colvin? No.