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Goat Riders of the Apocalypse
A Hundred Next Years
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Scott Miller - Sportsline.com
|"After batting .261 and doing whatever the Red Sox asked of him last season -- he played seven different positions, mostly the two middle infield spots and all three outfield slots -- (Damian) Jackson was hoping to return to the Red Sox. And they invited him back, too -- but not at the $625,000 he made last year.
Now, he's back on the market.
"With Boston, I'd rather have heard, 'You did good, but not good enough.'" Jackson said before getting his release papers Sunday. "I was told that (Curt) Schilling wouldn't take less than $12 million and that (Keith) Foulke wouldn't take less than $10.5 million.
"I was like, 'Excuse me if I don't feel sorry for those guys.' Here I am making table scraps. Colorado didn't make me feel like that.""
TABLE SCRAPS? Since when is $625,000 dollars table scraps? Damian Jackson must have a huge set if he is willing to tell the media that $625,000 is table scraps. For a guy with a .246 career batting average, .325 career OBP, and 22 career home runs during an eight year career I say: "Try and find a real job paying $625K!" This guy gives baseball players a bad name.
Remember, past performance does not ensure future results. This sentence is a staple in the financial disclaimer world, and is equally applicable in the world of baseball. Will the Cubs win it all in 2004? I don’t know but I sure hope so.
To predict the future, we study the past, and thus the simple answer is this: the NL Central race is too close to call. Last year, the Cubs won the NL Central with a record of 88-74. The Astros finished one game behind the Cubs with an 87-75 record, and the Cardinals finished three games back with 85 wins. The rest of the division was below .500, but the Pirates finished only 7 games below .500 and the Reds were completely decimated by injuries.
In fact, with opening day a little less than two weeks away, the only team which has no chance of winning the NL Central is the Milwaukee Brewers. A case can be made for any of the other five teams to win the division. Granted, the Reds and the Pirates are most likely at least two years away from serious contention, but both teams appear to be on the upswing.
Of the big three teams in the Central, the Astros, Cardinals, and Cubs, any one could win the division, and two are likely to make the playoffs. With the offseason acquisitions made by the Cubs, and Astros, as well as St. Louis’ strong team and the building strength of Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, I believe the NL Central is the strongest division in the National League. Across the landscape of baseball, I see the Mets rebounding strongly this season as last season’s bust resume their typical outputs. I also see an extremely strong Philadelphia team. The NL West appears to be wide open with the apparent decline of the Giants and modest improvements in San Diego.
Although the landscape of baseball has shifted again this year, as it does every year. It is mostly irrelevant to the Cubs chances of winning the NL Central as the same landscape affects all teams in the division equally. Within the division, the intelligent baseball fan must focus on the new acquisitions for each team and the effects of age and injury.
The Cubs tremendous season was both a product of, and in spite of its injuries. The most significant injury for the 2003 Chicago Cubs was Corey Patterson missing 81 games due to torn knee ligaments. If he had duplicated his first half numbers in the second half of the year, Patterson would have finished with 98 runs, 196 hits, 26 home runs, 110 RBI, and 32 stolen bases. Assuming those numbers for a full year in 2004, and the Cubs will improve significantly. However, on the flip side of this argument is the affect of Kenny Lofton on the Cubs last year. His attitude, excitement, experience, and leadership were invaluable to the stretch run Cubs of 2003.
The Cubs also suffered injuries to Sammy Sosa and Mark Prior. Between toe surgery, and Corked bat syndrome, Sosa was largely AWOL between mid-May and Mid-June. Because of Sammy’s customary good health, I expect Sosa will be productive for 160 games this year, as is usual.
Furthermore, Cubs nation is watching in quiet horror as Mark Prior sits out spring training innings with an inflamed Achilles tendon. Will Prior be injury prone his entire career? Last year, Prior collided with Marcus Giles of the Atlanta Braves and fell on his elbow. A missed start soon became a stay on the DL and almost a full month of inactivity. This spring, the sore heel was supposed to last three days, and is now an issue three weeks later. My growing concern for Prior is that he will be similar to David Cone is his hey-day. An excellent pitcher, who is prone to physical problems, and a slow healer. The jury is still out on Prior.
The 2003 Cubs also had to deal with injuries to Mark Grudzielanek, and Hee Seop Choi, as well as Dave Veres, and Tony Womack. Looking forward to 2004, I cannot predict injuries, but this team is deep enough to withstand a single injury at any position. However, put two or three starting players on the DL for any significant time, and these Cubs may not be able to overcome a healthy Houston, or St. Louis.
Saw this is a sportsline.com wire report on Sunday (March 21st, 2004) in regard to Juan Pierre who slid headfirst and dislocated his pinkey finger.(I can't find the sportsline page anymore, so the link is to the same article from Yahoo). It reminded me of this quote from Ryne Sandberg's autobiography “Second to Home.”
We were having fun and playing good ball and there was a lot of energy coming from Jimmy (Lefebvre).
And that's when it happened.
Himes made a comment on the radio in Chicago that he expected us to be 10 games over the .500 mark by the All-Star break.
And that's when the stuff really hit the fan.
That was all anyone talked about for the next two months. We couldn't figure out why he would say that.
What did it mean? What if we didn't get there? Was everybody gone?
There was a lot of speculation and the guys thought maybe Jimmy would be fired immediately.
The manager, coaches, players and trainers sat around wondering what the guy upstairs was thinking.
And we had a game to play!
I just never understood why every time it seemed like we were getting on track he would rip the team in the papers or on a radio show. It was never anything positive. And all that did was anger the players and turn them against Larry. I don't know what his purpose was but that was the moment the players really turned against him for good.
I just wonder if Loria's quote won't spark the same kind of backlash?
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