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Six Months Ago: The Nomar Trade

Monday, January 31, 2005

I can't believe I almost missed it. Six months ago today, all Cubdom was ecstatic. Jim Hendry, deity, had just pulled off a tremendous trade to bring Nomar Garciaparra to town.

Six months later, Jim Hendry, deity, just pulled off a... umm... trade to get rid of Sammy Sosa.

Unfortunately, I can't put the tremendous label on this trade. Moreover, if the figures and personnel who are rumored to be a part of this trade are correct, I think the label 'craptacularly bad' might be a bit more apt.

Anyhow, with a winter's worth of depression setting in on an incredibly stressed out student who just wants to experience sunshine again... I'm taking the easy way out and re-running the majority of what I wrote that beautiful July day when Nomar came to Chicago.

Excerpt from: Nomar Analysis
by: Byron Clarke, TheCubdom.com
"Just Sayin..." July 31, 2004

YEAH! WOOHOO!! YES! YES! YES! GOOD! GREAT! AWESOME! WOOHOO! TERRIFFIC! EXCELLENT! YEAH!

From time to time I have a little difficulty figuring out how to express myself eloquently, but today is one of those times when eloquence is not needed... its just too good to be true.

I have 37 million thoughts running through my head on this trade, but I am going to try and slow down long enough to make them coherent. Its been 4:44 minutes or so since I woke up, and checked ESPN.com to find that the Cubs had not done anything at the trade deadline... or so I thought.

My roommate was in town, helping to clean the carpet in our apartment, which we are moving out of in a 11 days, and he is only a half Cubs (casually interested, but also roots for the White Sox, not a huge baseball fan) fan. He was asking me what I thought about the Cubs lack of a trade, and I said dejectedly... "I was hoping they would do something, but unless they were going to trade for Nomar or Cabrera, any other trade they are gonna do can happen as a waiver deal. I don't really want Cabrera, because to get him the Cubs would have to overpay... and to get Nomar, I don't want to give up Clement, plus... its Nomar, he's not actually going anywhere."

Ten minutes later, my phone rings, and my best friend Chris yells something that sounded a little like

"Noooomaaaaaaaaahhhhh!!!!" a pause, "Nomar, Nomar, Nomar, the Cubs got Nomar!"

To which I reply, "Holy (Byron has developed a potty-mouth at college)! Are you kidding me? You're kidding me!"

"No, the Cubs got Nomar!"

"Did they give up Clement? They didn't give up Clement did they?" (pleading) "You're kidding me right?"

"No, I am not joking, they didn't have to give up Clement either!"

"Holy (Byron has really developed a potty-mouth at college)!"

"They sent Alex Gonzalez and some minor leaguers to Boston for Nomar! It was a four team deal!"

"!!!Uh-Oh, which minor leaguers... they're not all the same, was it Guzman, Brownlie, Pie? Not Sisco?" I worried.

"Uh, I think Brownlie was involved..."

Anyhow, the conversation went on like that for about 5 minutes before we started looking for the actual facts. When we did find out what happened, I was even happier. Bobby Brownlie remained a Cub, so did my other prized prospects, and Matt Clement was stickin around Chi-Town for a crack at the World Series.

There is a bit more to the original post if you want to check it out.

Posted by Byron at 9:51 PM | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Clarification and Rebuttal: Dubois

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Hot diggity! Did I blaspheme?

First, I went back and carefully reread what I wrote about Dubois because the comments in part seemed to disagree with me, while agreeing with the point I wanted to make. I REALLY REALLY REALLY like the rumored Huff trade. I want the Huff trade.

Secondly, of course I want to win this year. The reason I want to keep Dubois is I think he can help us win this year... and the next five. I am high on Dubois because I believe (blindly or stupidly maybe) that Dubois can translate his impressive minor league performances into a solid Major League outfielder. The real theme of my last post should have been: I would rather have Huff starting over Dubois, I would rather have Dubois starting over Hairston, and I think an outfield with only Hairston, Hollandsworth, Patterson, and Dubois will not be enough to win this year.

If I were 'Dusty Hendry', I would try to have my opening day outfield include Dubois, Patterson, and Huff. Give me this outfield, and I'll show you a Central Division Championship Banner.

OK, time for some rebuttal: The knock against Dusty Baker is that he is too loyal to his precious veterans... yet I suggest we try to give a starting spot to a deserving rookie and I get lombasted in the comments and on other folk's blogs.

People complain that the Cubs organization doesn't pay enough attention to OBP. I mention that a guy could easily put up a higher OBP than two other guys and I get run through by a long shiny spike.

We quibble about a million too much for Corey Patterson, overpaying Blanco, Perez, half the bullpen, etc... and yet I point out a three to four year cost advantage of using a young prospect and I get accused of being cheap.

Finally, there is the issue of patience and our 'window of good pitching.' I'll start my mentioning that I have been a die-hard Cubs fan since I moved to the Chicagoland area in 1989. I have 15 years invested in this team and I have seen the whole range of finishes. Two division championships, a wild-card bid, a few late season pushes that fell short, a few late season collapses, several midseason collapses, and some truly horrible teams. I also know that impatience gets your team a Matt Karchner, not a championship.

As for the pitching window, it is at least two years wide at this point. With the depth of pitching in our minor league system, I don't worry about the mound as much of the rest of the field. Furthermore, except in the context of defense, the success of the pitching staff is largely independent of the outfield situation.

My choice of the Marlins as a team I didn't want to resemble was a poor choice. Yes, they have won two championships and thats great for them. But, What I want is a run like the Braves, the Yankees, or even the late '90s Indians. The Cubs are developing a core of young talent to enable this. However, if we are too afraid to use our homegrown talent, we won't be able to afford the big free-agent when we need one.

The 1990's Yankees are an excellent example of a team which was able to field a team with a good mix of free agents and youth. The 2005 Yankees are an excellent example of a team with no youth. The $200 million price tag is probably just a bit out of the realistic range for the Cubs.

Building from within is the only way we will be able to afford Prior, Zambrano, Wood, Ramirez, Garciaparra, and Patterson when they come back up for contract renewals.

Blast Away

Posted by Byron at 5:33 PM | Comments (8) | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

In Defense of Jason Dubois

Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Sammy Sosa trade hasn't been finalized, and so I am going to wait to express my (dis)pleasure until the final details come out. However, with the likely inclusion of Jerry Hairston Jr. and the rumored subsequent trade for Aubrey Huff, I wanted to take this opportunity to defend Jason Dubois.

You see, in quite a few of the scenarios that I see playing out, Dubois could end up on the short end of this trade. Unless the Cubs want another ticked off player, Hairston won't be playing much second base as long as Todd Walker is healthy. This leaves Hairston in one of the corner outfield spots, most likely in a tri-ploon situation with Todd Hollandsworth and Jason Dubois.

Of course, this is a bad situation. The Cubs need another bat and have several options. One of those options would be to sign Magglio Ordonez, but since the Tigers have reportedly offered him $55 million over 5 years, it doesn't look too likely. A second option would be Jeromy Burnitz. I've been reading for two years about the Cubs desire to acquire Burnitz, and have consistently maintained that adding Burnitz to the roster would be the equivalent of bringing in Candy Maldonado. So, lets nix idea number two before we even consider it... too late I guess.

Which leaves us with option #3, Aubrey Huff. This idea seems to be a reasonably great idea. Trade the minor league proceeds of the Sosa trade along with a few Cubs prospects to the Devil Rays for Aubrey Huff. Now, I like this idea... but as usual, the Devil is in the details .

If the Cubs bring in Huff, or another established Major Leaguer, while retaining Jerry Hairston Jr. (JHJ), that leaves Jason Dubois (according to this month's vineline, it is pronounced Jason Du-Boyce) out of the mix for a starting position.

To see why this is a bad idea? Lets turn to the statistics. Courtesy of The Baseball Cube

Year Team Lg. Ag Lvl G AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO Avg OBP SLG OPS
2001 Lansing Midw 22 A 118 443 76 131 28 24 92 46 120 0.296 --- 0.562 ---
2002 Daytona FSL 23 A 99 361 64 116 25 20 85 57 95 0.321 0.422 0.562 .984
2003 West Tennessee Sou 24 AA 130 443 57 119 31 15 73 57 118 0.269 0.367 0.458 .825
2004 Iowa PCL 25 AAA 109 386 76 122 26 31 99 41 97 0.316 0.389 0.630 1.019
2004 Chicago Cubs NL 25 MLB 20 23 2 5 0 1 5 1 7 0.217 0.240 0.435 .675

Next there is Aubrey Huff, stats courtesy of ESPN

Season Team Age G AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
2000 TB 23 39 122 12 35 7 4 14 5 18 0.287 0.318 0.443 0.761
2001 TB 24 111 411 42 102 25 8 45 23 72 0.248 0.288 0.372 0.66
2002 TB 25 113 454 67 142 25 23 59 37 55 0.313 0.364 0.52 0.884
2003 TB 26 162 636 91 198 47 34 107 53 80 0.311 0.367 0.555 0.922
2004 TB 27 157 600 92 178 27 29 104 56 74 0.297 0.36 0.493 0.853
Total -- 28 582 2223 304 655 131 98 329 174 299 0.295 0.348 0.491 0.839

And finally, Jerry Hairston Jr. stats courtesy of ESPN

Season Team Age G AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
1998 Bal 22 6 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
1999 Bal 23 50 175 26 47 12 4 17 11 24 9 4 0.269 0.323 0.417 0.74
2000 Bal 24 49 180 27 46 5 5 19 21 22 8 5 0.256 0.353 0.367 0.72
2001 Bal 25 159 532 63 124 25 8 47 44 73 29 11 0.233 0.305 0.344 0.649
2002 Bal 26 122 426 55 114 25 5 32 34 55 21 6 0.268 0.329 0.376 0.705
2003 Bal 27 58 218 25 59 12 2 21 23 25 14 5 0.271 0.353 0.372 0.725
2004 Bal 28 86 287 43 87 19 2 24 29 29 13 8 0.303 0.378 0.397 0.775
Total --   530 1825 241 477 98 26 160 162 229 94 39 0.261 0.334 0.371 0.705

What do we have here? Three guys, all capable of playing a corner outfield position. One of them, JHJ is a utility player who feels most at home at second base. He is 28 with about 5 years of service time and will make $1.8 million in 2005. The next, Aubrey Huff is also 28 and is under contract for the next two years. He will make $4.75 million in 2005 and $6.75 million in 2006. Finally, there is Dubois. Jason is 26, has 20 games of Major League experience and will earn whatever the Cubs decide to pay him for the next 3 years, followed by another 3 years of arbitration eligibility. At this point, Dubois is Cubs property until after the 2011 season. He will likely earn the league minimum in '05, which is around $300,000.

So Dubois is two years younger and six times cheaper than JHJ... and he is 15.8 times cheaper than Huff.

Now money doesn't matter unless you are talking about players of similar caliber, and I think we are. While Dubois' numbers are from minor league action, I think he will be able to maintain a .360 OBP and a .500 SLG. Huff's career numbers are a .350 OBP and a .490 SLG, while Hairston comes in with a .340/.370 breakdown. Moreover, Hairston's speed isn't all that significant. He has stolen 94 bases while being caught 39 times in his career (about 1 SB every 5.6 games). His 70% success rate is decent, but nothing to write home about.

The point of this post is to make Cubs fans stop and think for a second before willy-nilly deciding the other guy is better than our own home grown talent. Sure, Dubois is a rookie and will go through some difficult periods. He probably wouldn't equal the production of Huff this year, and might not match Hairston, but we can have him for six years on the cheap, and possibly get a great ballplayer out of this.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it would be a real shame if one of the byproducts of the Sosa trade is that Dubois lost his chance to play for the Cubs for the next several years. However the outfield plays out this offseason, I just want to be assured that C-Pat and Dubois are penciled into the starting lineup on a regular basis.

Posted by Byron at 1:36 PM | Comments (9) | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Sammy So-Gone!

Excerpt from: SammyStock 2004! Day Three
December 18, 2004

... The Orioles

The Orioles are looking for more offense, and Sammy Sosa could be the one to start taking shots at the B&O warehouse in Baltimore. The dimensions down the line are 333 to left, and 318 to right. The power alleys are 364 in left center, and 373 to right center. So yes, small Sammy would probably have plenty of success playing in Camden Yards.

In a trade for Sammy, the Orioles would probably look to unload Sidney Ponson. From what I can ascertain, it looks like Ponson has two years and $19.5 million left on his contract. Provided Sammy nixes the 2006 option on his contract, this might be a straight up deal. However, the Cubs are likely to look for a little something more, and so I might suggest Larry Bigbie. Not only is his hometown, Hobart, Indiana, 25 minutes from my permahome, and an hour from Wrigley, Bigbie is a developing left fielder (15 homers) with a .280 Avg (.340 OBP) and lots of strikeouts (113 in 478 at-bats, 4.23 AB/K). In many ways, I think Bigbie could be the second coming of the 'Dandy Little Glove Man' Mickey Morandini himself!

Miss Fantastick alerted me via email that Sammy Sosa has (almost) been traded... to the Orioles.

The details are still leaking out, but it includes Jerry Hairston Jr. and a few minor leaguers. I am going to hold off on any analysis until after I find out who is actually involved, how much money is changing hands, and whether this trade actually comes off.

The ESPN story.

Posted by Byron at 12:32 AM | Comments (0) | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Handedness

Friday, January 28, 2005

I was reading Baseball Musings and saw this very interesting article on the lack of left handed latin American players.

The Baseball Musings article was in response to articles in Sabernomics, which by the way is being added to the list at left.
Opening Day Without A Mexican
Where are the Latin Lefties?

Read them all... What are you doing here... go read the articles.

Posted by Byron at 10:57 PM | Comments (0) | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Markie Franchise

Some more analysis through charts. Today's subject: Mark "The Franchise" Prior.

Mark Prior's ERA Progression 2002 - 2004

The first thing I notice looking at this chart is the shorter lines for 2002 and 2004. Prior is in his third season as a starter, but has failed to remain perfectly healthy in any of the three. His first start was May 22, 2002 and he started 19 more before being shut down for the season on August 31 with a strained left hamstring.

In 2003, he collided with Marcus Giles and was out of commission from July 11 through August 5. Whats suprising though, is even after taking a month off in the middle of the season, he still started 30 games in 2003.

In 2004, we all remember the achilles tendon injury and the daily Prior updates. He returned in early June and pitched for the rest of the season.

Tracking his ERA across the three seasons shows a fair amount of in-season fluctuation in all three years. However, unlike Zambrano who has an upward sloping ERA towards the end of all three seasons, Prior appears to be a strong beginner and finisher, but his seasonal ERA has peaked towards the middle of each season.

Mark Prior's K/9 Progression 2002 - 2004

Take a glance at the axis labels on this chart! Off the wall. I started the minimum at 8.5 K/9. Essentially, Prior has gone his entire career striking out at least one batter per inning, and often times a few extra during the game.

Aside from 2002 where Prior started off by striking out an astronomic number of hitters, he has been rather consistent throughout his three seasons. My guess is that Prior was getting several K's in his first few starts from batters who had never seen him, or video of his pitching. After the batters adjusted, and he re-adjusted he settled pretty consistently into his normal 10.5 K/9 IP.

Mark Prior's BB/9 Progression 2002 - 2004

This chart is troubling. Prior walked about 1.75 batters more per nine innings in 2004 than he did in 2003. In fact, Prior's 2004 chart is nearly identical to his 2002 line, until about the 12th start. After the 12th start, 2002 Mark Prior virtually stopped walking guys while the 2004 Mark Prior took 16 starts before he noticably improved his control.

Even more interesting, the 2003 Prior showed the same in-season progression as 2002 and 2004, but about a walk and a half lower. However, with two of the three seasons showing dangerously high levels of walks, I would suggest Mark move down the bench a couple of seats and sit nearer to Greg Maddux than Kerry Wood.

Mark Prior's WHIP Progression 2002 - 2004

The WHIP (Walks + Hits / Innings Pitched) lines for each three years are eerily similar. Again, Prior started all three seasons well, struggled a bit during the middle of the season and finished strong. His 2002 and 2004 seasons began almost identically, and the 2002 and 2003 seasons were similar in the way they ended. The worrisome issue of course is that Prior's 2004 season ended with a quarter of a man extra on base per inning than in 2002 and 2003.

Taken together, the four charts show us the same thing we already knew intuitively. Mark Prior has a ton of potential and looked like he was realizing it late in 2002 and throughout 2003. However, during the 2004 season, Prior struggled and looked much more pedestrian than a guy with the nickname: "The Franchise."

All that said, I told Miss Fantastick last week that I thought Prior had a great shot at winning the Cy Young award this year... if Carlos "Cy" Zambrano doesn't beat him to it.

Posted by Byron at 3:40 PM | Comments (0) | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Cy Zambrano

Thursday, January 27, 2005

I am so tired of Sammy Sosa rumors, I could... (this from the guy who dreamed up 28 trade scenarios... yeah, I know I'm part of the problem.)

Anyhow, with pitchers and catchers drinking their last off-season YooHoo's, its time to start reviewing some personnel profiles. For those of you breathlessly awaiting the final installment of my Cubs Convention reporting, I'll probably get to it this weekend.

In the mean time, I'll post some charts of Carlos Zambrano's rate stats over the past three years.

Carlos Zambrano's ERA Progression 2002 - 2004

Zambrano's ERA progression over the past three years is impressive and indicates a pretty good career path at this point. Even in his first season as a starter (Zambrano started 16 in 2002) he had an ERA below 4.00. In each season he has lowered that ERA and has been consistent throughout the year (i.e. not a great start and lousy finish or vice versa).

Carlos Zambrano's K/9 Progression 2002 - 2004

Again, Z's strikeouts per nine ratio is also indicative of good things. Although it declined in 2003, he lifted it nearly a full K/9 in 2004. Furthermore, Zambrano's ratio is so high that quibbling over a half point isn't worth your time.

Carlos Zambrano's K/BB Progression 2002 - 2004

Like the other rate stats, the K/BB shows improvment each year. Carlos is improving his control.

Carlos Zambrano's WHIP Progression 2002 - 2004

And finally, a quick peak at WHIP reveals the same steady progression over his three years as a starter.

Posted by Byron at 9:47 PM | Comments (0) | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Cubs Convention 2005: Unique Memorabilia

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

On Friday of the convention, I went strolling through the exhibition halls full of Cubs memorabilia. Of course, there was your standard fare, but there were also some truly unique pieces of memorabilia available for sale. So, I snapped some photos and took some notes, and now I present them here for your enjoyment.

cubs_convention_welcome.jpg

Item #1: The coolest thing I saw at the convention?

pelicans_jersey.jpg

Of course the Pelicans jersey wasn't for sale, but the display case was. Yeah, I know it looks like a Cardinals jersey, but I still think its awesome. The vendor selling the display case had a good selection of cases, most for baseballs. His store is called Lakeside Sports and he is located in Apple Valley, MN (952)-270-5591. If you call him up, ask him to give me that jersey!


Item #2: Some incredibly beautiful large format Cubs images.

mark_prior_photos.jpg

This is a picture of the Prior photograph that was on display. I talked to the gentleman running this booth and he explained that he had started taking photos at games as a hobby. After several friends told him he was really good, he applied to the MLBPA (players association) to get a license to sell the images. After a year, he got the paperwork cleared up and now travels around the bigs taking pictures and selling them. He currently does it part-time. You can find his website at: www.baseballphotos.com.

The images are taken with a digital camera and printed out using an Epson printer. It is unbelievable how clear and bright these photos are. Oh yeah, the prices were listed as: $85 for a 13x19 photo, and $125 for a 17x22.


Item #3: A bat and base chair.

bat_and_base_chair.jpg

This chair has a base for its seat, and bats for its legs. Aside from looking really cool, I thought it would be a bit more comfortable than your standard stool... but I didn't have enough courage to ask the guy if I could sit on it.

Although I chose the stool to feature, the booth was mainly selling some excellent Cubs photography. Check them out at www.willbyington.com


Item #4: Cubs mural type paintings.

cubs_painting.jpg

Melanie Moore, an artist from Chicago had several paintings on display. The one pictured above is a mural-type painting of fans and goings-on at Wrigley Field. I'm certainly no art critic, but I wouldn't have minded having one of these hang on my wall. This website is her 'virtual gallery'.


Item #5: An awesome Ryno Montage

ryno_mural.jpg

This montage of the greatest second baseman to ever play was done by an artist named John Hanley. Check out his website: www.johnhanleyartist.com. As for price, I couldn't believe the $100 'Cubs Convention Special Price.' When you consider a jersey will run you $120 or so, I would have plunked down the money for this picture if I weren't an impoverished college student.


Item #6: Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson Throwback Jerseys, and 1992 All-Star Game Flag

dawson_sandberg_throwbacks.jpg

The booth where these jerseys were for sale said their website was www.thebestofyesterday.com, but there is no site. Still, thats probably my favorite Ryno jersey, so although its not terribly unique, its still unique. Confused? Moving on...


Item #7: Chicago Cubs Bath Mat

cubs_bathroom_rug.jpg

I think the point of this photo is: Anything with a Cubs logo on it will sell. The bath mat is available at www.fascollectibles.com.


Item #8: Chicago Cubs Pez Dispenser

cubs_pez_dispenser.jpg

Again... anything with a Cubs logo will sell. This lovely Cubs Pez dispenser, and a foot-and-a-half porcelain Cubby bear are brought to you by David and Dads Sportscards Memorabilia out of Glencoe, IL. 847-835-1120.


Item #9: Chicago Cubs Magnets

Sorry, no picture, but I seriously thought about buying one of these. The company, www.premiermagnets.com, takes photos and sticks them on magnets. Its pretty cool, and they had a huge selection of Cubs stuff at the convention.


Item #10: Wrigley Field, the unauthorized biography

Again, no picture, but its a book. This book was written by a fellow named Stuart Shea and might be worth a look-see. He has a website at www.wrigleybook.com.

Posted by Byron at 1:59 AM | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Cubs Convention 2005: Pictorial

Monday, January 24, 2005

Warning: This post has lots of pictures and may take a while to load.

I traveled north to Chicago this past weekend with the intent of being a 'Cub Reporter' for the weekend... but the weekend didn't start all that well.

On Thursday night, I spent the evening at my parents with the intent of finishing up my Cubs convention memories. When I tried to dial up their ISP, I couldn't get online. My father had apparently decided to change providers and get DSL... only I needed an internet connection this weekend. So, the Cub Reporter in me took a hit.

FRIDAY

On Friday, I drove over to the Hilton in Chicago and got there about 2:40 p.m. I snapped this self-portrait to record the fact that I was quite happy to be at the Cubs convention.

Happy to be at my fifth Cubs Convention

I waited in line with several hundred folks to get a grab bag full of goodies from last year, but by the time I got within earshot of the front table, the grab bags were gone. I didn't feel any great loss as they were $20. With the grab bags gone, I went touring the exhibition halls full of Cubs memorabilia. Baseball cards, jerseys, posters, pictures, shot glasses, you name it. Plaster a Cubs logo on it, mark it up 250% and sell it at the Cubs Convention. Anyhow, tomorrow's post will be all about some of the more unique items I saw while shopping around.

Towards the end of my walk around the exhibition halls, I spotted my first ball-player. Sammy was standing in one of the shops, looking a bit lonely.

Sammy wanted to take pictures with the fans.

The post-it note says 'Take a picture with me $2, buy me $30.' When I went looking for sales on Sunday, Sammy was still standing out there.

So after running into Sammy, I started back upstairs for the opening ceremonies. On the way, I walked by Gary Pressy, the Cubs organist who was busily making music for the fans.

gary_pressy.jpg

I got up to the Grand Ballroom about thirty minutes before the opening ceremonies started, but the place was already packed. My rookie status as an opening ceremony attendee became evident when the ceremony started. I had taken a spot right at the front , but beneath the balcony on the side of the room. When everyone was announced, they all walked above my head and I couldn't see anything.

Anyhow, I'm getting ahead of myself. While waiting for the ceremony to start, Jim Hendry came strolling by on his cell phone, and I snapped this shot of his back.

Jim Hendry on his Cell Phone

After the opening ceremonies, I decided to wait in one line all weekend. I was looking to kill some time when, to my great amazement, the line to take a picture with Andre Dawson was rather short. So, I got in line to take a picture with my favorite Cubs right fielder. Unfortunately, the digital camera I was using didn't do so well on the resolution, but here I am with 'The Hawk.'

andre_dawson_byron_clarke.jpg

I finished the night up with a little Cubs B-I-N-G-O which was incredibly dumb, and with thousands of people playing, I didn't stand much of a chance of winning.

I left Cubs Bingo a little early and wandered over to the WGN Sports Central show they were broadcasting live. Unfortunately, while trying to get plastic bingo chips to line up in a row, I had missed the Jim Hendry and Dusty Baker interviews.

Furthering the disappointment, Ryno didn't show up for his segment, and I left 10 minutes early to make sure I beat the rush out the door.

At this point, I got to drive home through a driving snow-storm on unpaved highways at about 30 MPH.


SATURDAY

As convention attendees know, the real action happens on Saturday. I was especially excited to see Jim Hendry's session and ask a few questions. However, I hit the snooze button on the alarm clock and slept in.

Adding insult to injury, I got on the road about 8:15 for the convention (which started at 9:00 a.m.) and it took me 20 minutes to get five miles north. During that time, my car started sliding every which way on the still unpaved roads. When WGN informed me that travel times would be about four times as long as typical, and that all 6 lanes of I-65 were blocked due to an accident in the north-bound lane and emergency vehicles in the south-bound lane... I took the hint... stopped for a cup of hot-chocolate and returned home.

It was Saturday of the convention. I was supposed to meet several members of the Cubs Blog Army for lunch, and I was stuck at home. &%^*.

I ended up doing accounting homework. &%^*.


SUNDAY

I got up quite early on Sunday determined as heck that I would make it to the convention. The roads were better except for a five mile stretch of I-94 where traffic slowed to about 25 MPH.

I still got to the convention on time and sat in on the Cubs operations management panel.

The panel included John McDonough, the Cubs VP of marketing, Frank Maloney the director of ticket operations and Mark McGuire, the VP of business operations.

The presentation began with a quick slide show of some drawings and plans for Wrigley Field. I had seen most of these drawings at one point in the Tribune. Then there were questions and answers. I asked a few questions, but that post will come later this week.

After the operations panel, I waited around for the 'Down on the Farm' panel MC'ed by a very hoarse Dave Otto. This panel included Jason Dubois, Jon Leicester, Oneri Fleita (farm system director), and John Stockstill (scouting director). Most of the questions were directed at Fleita and Stockstill who were both impressive in my opinion. Fleita appears to have a very firm grasp on what is going on in the farm system.

Again, I asked some questions, but that will be covered later this week. After these two sessions, the organized events for the convention were over. I went strolling through the exhibition halls looking for good sales, but didn't find anything that picqued my interest for the $5 I had left in my pocket.

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Technical Difficulties

Saturday, January 22, 2005

My permahome email connection disappeared unbeknownst to me, and I won't be able to post til Monday evening.

I am at the Cubs Convention and will give you all the scoop when I get back to an internet connection that doesn't require a long-distance phone call.

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Cubs Convention Remembrances - Part Two

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Cubs Convention starts this Friday, and I will be attending for the first time in several years. As best I can remember, I think this will be my fifth convention.

What follows is the second in a four part series of my personal Cubs Convention recollections.

I attended my second Cubs convention in 1996. For me, this convention marked a high point in Cubs optimism. I was fourteen, the great strike of 1994 had finally finished, and the Cubs had played most of a season in 1995. Then, on October 31, 1995 Ryno made an announcement that he would be coming back to play in 1996. The announcement came days before my birthday, and days before tickets went on sale.

So, with my childhood idol coming back to play I was excited about the convention. I don't remember too much about the other things we did that year (I know we ate lunch at a hot-dog stand about three blocks from the Hilton, and it was bitterly cold outside.) However, what I remember crystal clear was the question and answer session with Ryno.

Since I'm no wallflower, I was about third in the line to ask Ryno questions, and I'd cooked up a good one. I had read his 'autobiography' and he had made some rather nasty remarks about how Sammy Sosa had received preferential treatment. And so when I got up to the mic, I said...

Mister Sandberg, I read your book, "The Second Coming..."

At this point in time the room erupted in laughter and I had no idea why, so I finished the question. "If you had problems with Sammy before you retired, are those problems going to continue being an issue? What has changed to make you decide to come back?"

I told you I had cooked up a good one, since most of the other kids were asking dumb questions like whats your favorite... ? Still, I might have lost a bit of credibility referring to Sandberg's 'second coming' rather than the real title of his book "Second to Home."

This evening: Cubs Convention Remembrances - Part Three: The Cubs windbreaker.

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Cubs Convention Remembrances - Part One

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Cubs Convention starts this Friday, and I will be attending for the first time in several years. As best I can remember, I think this will be my fifth convention.

What follows is the first in a four part series of my personal Cubs Convention recollections.

My first convention was in 1992... at least I think it was (I had to look back at baseballreference.com and match up players I remembered at the convention with the roster). My brother's best friend at the time was named Paul. Paul's step-dad was a cool Dad and took him to ball games, Cubs conventions, and the like. On a few occasions my older brother and I tagged along to a few games (including an old-timers game that I really enjoyed.)

Anyhow in 1992, Paul's step-dad couldn't make it to the convention so he gave the tickets to my family and I went on Sunday with my Dad. We rode the train (the SouthShore Line) into Chicago and wandered around the Hilton all day. On the return trip, we took the train back and I remember being extremely excited for awhile, and then falling asleep from exhaustion. My Dad took a picture of me on the train putting my newly acquired baseball cards into a binder, and that picture still hangs on their wall today. (I might try to scan it in later and share the love.) It includes one little kid smiling with about as wide a gap tooth grin as you can get.

In 1992, I would have just turned ten and was enthralled by the amount of memorabilia available at the convention. Prior to this trip, I just figured souvenirs included hats, pennants, uniforms, and those Dairy Queen ice cream batters helmets. Boy was I wrong.

Not my card, but one just like it Unlike later conventions, I made my Dad alternate between standing in long autograph lines and milling about the hundreds of vendor booths while I drooled over ever trinket for sale. One of my purchases was a complete team set of 1991 fleer baseball cards. After that, we stood in more autograph lines and I got signatures on the cards from Paul Assenmacher, Les Lancaster, and Chico Walker.

I also bought a baseball, which I subsequently had signed by Assenmacher. I still have the ball from that convention.

That year, I also got to see Ryne Sandberg and Rick Sutcliffe at the convention. Since these were two of my favorite players, I was thrilled. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to secure either of their autographs.

Although my first trip to the convention was only a day long, and I don't remember a ton, I have some very fond memories. As an impressionable young kid, that trip to the Hilton in Chicago went a long way to making me a life-long True Blue Cubs fan.

Tomorrow: Cubs Convention Remembrances - Part Two: The Second Coming of Ryne Sandberg.

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MoneyBall: Buddy Ball

Monday, January 17, 2005

Bud Selig bought the Brewers in 1970 for about $11 million. Last Thursday, he got the final authorization from MLB, to sell the team to Mark Attanasio for $223 million. The Brewers had been valued at $174 million by Forbes magazine going into 2004.

George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees in 1973 for about $10 million. Forbes Magazine valued the Yankees at $832 million before the 2004 season.

Bud's annualized rate of return? 13.4%

The Boss's annualized rate of return? (Assuming he sold the franchise for Forbes' estimate) 23.4%

For several reasons, Selig's sale of the Brewers is a rather momentous occasion for baseball. Primarily, it marks the end of one of the highest profile conflicts of interest in American business. As commissioner, Selig has oft been accused of making decisions that would benefit his team unfairly. Wrongly or rightly (in the case of contraction, I believe rightly), the appearance of impropriety has undermined the commish... if not among his fellow owners, then among fans.

Another reason this sale is important is that Selig is Baseball's longest tenured owner. He bought the team 35 years ago and has managed to turn it into one of the worst franchises in the game. Furthermore, he has developed an 'old boys club' of owners who are loyal to him, and have helped him push such 'great ideas' as the 1994 strike and contraction. As I see it, removing Selig from ownership is a positive step for MLB... now lets see if we can't get rid of Carl Pohlad (Twins), Vincent Naimoli (Devil Rays), Jerry Reinsdorf (White Sox), Peter Angelos (Orioles), Jeffrey Loria (Marlins), Carl Lindner (Reds), and of course Major League Baseball (Expos/Nationals).

And finally, perhaps the reason this is most momentous? Well, Selig is the first owner to take advantage of the tax depreciation law change that supposedly boosted every club's resale value by 5%. In November, I wrote:

Excerpt from: The Taxes... They are a Changing
by: Byron Clarke, Just Sayin... Nov. 5, 2004 TheCubdom.com

So, who will benefit the most from the changes in the tax law? Not suprisingly Major Leage Baseball's very own franchise, the Expos! (Wow, you mean Bud Selig finally gives Washington D.C. its own baseball team, and Congress changes the tax law increasing the resale value of all MLB teams by about 5%! Amazing! Who'da thunk it?)

The reason the Expos will benefit most from this change in tax laws is that they will be sold this winter to the highest bidder... who just got a gigantic tax break from the Federal Government... and will be expected to pass most of that along to Montreal Expos L.P.

Not only was I wrong, I was also naive. And here I thought the tax law change had been lobbied for in order to benefit all the clubs (which it may). Maybe, but this change likely put about $11 million extra in Bud's pocket. So now, I'm wondering whether Bud's work on the tax law was for himself or for the good of the game?

This sort of question is a perfect example of how Bud's dual role as commissioner and owner create potential conflicts of interest. So now, hopefully I won't have to write anymore about decisions in the commissioner's office being biased towards one team or another... until of course the Nationals budget gets cut again.

Interesting fact: If Forbes is to be believed, all thirty baseball teams have a value of $8.83 billion (yahoo!finance shows The Williams Company with an $8.82 B market cap.)

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MoneyBall: Data Dump

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Today's post is a data dump and is presented (nearly) without comment.

All Major League Baseball Forbes Franchise Values 2000 - 2004

All MLB Franchise Values

One of these is not like the other... one of these does not belong.

OK, OK, I know you can't see anything with all thirty teams together so we'll do it by division. The charts below are almost exactly proportional to each other, so you can compare the six below.


American League Eastern Division Forbes Franchise Values 2000 - 2004

American League East Franchise Values
American League East - Forbes Franchise Values 2000-2004
Team 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Yankees 619 635 730 849 832
Red Sox 319 339 426 488 533
Orioles 338 335 319 310 296
BlueJays 162 161 182 166 169
DevilRays 158 150 142 145 152

American League Central Division Forbes Franchise Values 2000 - 2004

American League Central Franchise Values
American League Central - Forbes Franchise Values 2000-2004
Team 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Indians 370 372 360 331 292
Tigers 245 290 262 237 235
White Sox 185 213 223 233 248
Royals 125 138 152 153 171
Twins 90 99 127 148 168

American League Western Division Forbes Franchise Values 2000 - 2004

American League West Franchise Values
American League West - Forbes Franchise Values 2000-2004
Team 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Rangers 326 342 356 332 306
Mariners 318 332 373 385 396
Angels 196 198 195 225 241
Athletics 138 149 157 172 186

National League Eastern Division Forbes Franchise Values 2000 - 2004

National League East Franchise Values
National League East - Forbes Franchise Values 2000-2004
Team 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Mets 410 454 482 498 442
Braves 402 407 424 423 374
Phillies 152 158 231 239 281
Marlins 125 128 137 136 172
Expos 89 92 108 113 145

National League Central Division Forbes Franchise Values 2000 - 2004

National League Central Franchise Values
National League Central - Forbes Franchise Values 2000-2004
Team 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Astros 304 318 337 327 320
Cubs 245 247 287 335 328
Cardinals 232 243 271 308 314
Pirates 180 211 242 224 217
Brewers 184 209 238 206 174
Reds 180 187 204 223 245

National League Western Division Forbes Franchise Values 2000 - 2004

National League West Franchise Values
National League West - Forbes Franchise Values 2000-2004
Team 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Dodgers 364 381 435 449 399
Rockies 325 334 347 304 285
Giants 293 333 355 382 368
DiamondBacks 253 245 280 269 276
Padres 187 176 207 226 265
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MoneyBall

Saturday, January 15, 2005

I'm working on an article about Bud Selig's sale of the Brewers to Mark Attanasio for $223 million... but it won't be done until Monday probably, and the site's looking a bit stale. So I have some suggested reading for you all to prepare for Monday's column. (School is already taking its toll.)

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Mariotti puts down the doughnut to...

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Credit goes to Andy Dolan's Desipio Media Ventures for the headline. He often links to Mariotti's articles in the above manner.

Frankly, the headline for this entry should be: The Pilfered Post. Not only is the headline a rip off, but so is the reason I wrote what I did.

While I did write the rambling text below, I wrote it in response to Joe Aiello's opinion solicitation at View From the Bleachers... which asked readers to opine about Mariotti's latest column. (The Cliff's note version of this entry was originally a comment responding to Joe's post.)

Excerpt from: Suddenly, Cubs can't live without Sosa
By Jay Mariotti, Chicago Sun-Times, Jan 11, 2005

It's hard to dump diapers, toxic waste and used-car batteries. But never, ever did I think the Cubs couldn't dump Sammy Sosa. They continue to try doggedly, only four weeks before pitchers and catchers report in Arizona, but chances are much better of the players inviting The Evil Stoney to their first Scottsdale drinking session.

This is an abject failure for Andy MacPhail and Jim Hendry, who couldn't scrub and polish the grime and pawn Sosa to the dumbest sucker available. Of course, if they hadn't made a monstrous public episode of his quit fit on the final day of the season and slapped him with an $87,400 fine, they wouldn't have had such difficulty answering the most common question in trade talks: Why is Sammy such a shammy?

How sad -- and symbolic of Sosa's demise -- that not one major-league team has been willing to gamble he'll stay healthy, avoid controversy and hit 40 home runs.

...

There was a time when I thought they'd be better off cutting him loose -- even at the $21.5 million walkaway price -- rather than retaining his pouting, sneezing, boom-boxing, swinging-and-missing puss in 2005. But that was contingent on the Tribune Co. noticing what the Boston Red Sox did last season, spending well over $100 million of their bloated baseball profits and chasing a quality hitter or two who would cushion Sosa's departure. Unless you're counting Henry Blanco, your backup catcher, the Cubs haven't acquired anyone.

So, Mariotti's column assumes the Cubs want to get rid of Sosa at all costs. But, what if you modify that assumption? Lets try: "The Cubs would like to move Sosa, but not if that deal requires them to receive significantly less return value and/or take on millions of additional dollars."

Now, I think Mariotti's article looks a little petty.

The Cubs haven't moved Sosa because the other team would need to take on $35 million for a fading, one-dimensional slugger. (The option year of his contract automatically vests if traded.)

In order for the Cubs to trade Sosa, they will have to take on $35 million of bad contract or they could keep him and possibly get a pissed off home run hitting Sammy for only $21.5 million ($17 million in 2005 plus a $4.5 million buyout in 2006).

So as Jim Hendry sees it, he can pay $21.5 million he doesn't want to, or $35 million he doesn't want to. Furthermore, if he chooses the $35 million option he may get significantly less output from the players he receives (think Todd Hundley trade, only with the Cubs getting the short end of the stick instead of a division title.)

Frankly, Sammy has got a better potential upside for next year than any of the players that I have seen mentioned in the rumors, and I applaud Hendry for refusing to make a knee jerk decision, potentially wasting Cubs dollars (and an opportunity to win) in the process.

Finally, something that is even more scarce than wins is starting position player slots. Trading Sosa for a player with a bad, long term, contract who will be around for several more years (read: Mike Cameron or Cliff Floyd) will hurt the team's ability to compete for more years than keeping Sosa will.

Personally? I would like to see the Sosa for Todd Helton trade. Sign Magglio Ordonez, and trade D-Lee for a closer.

Yes, I realize the last two paragraphs could be viewed as contradictory... but I think Helton's high OBP is what the Cubs need, and thats not going anywhere... I think

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203

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I went bowling tonight.

1/12/05 9:44 PM
Byron 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 203
  6 2   9 /   8 /   9 /   X     9 /   X     X     X   8 / X
8 26 45 65 85 105 135 163 183 203

Never did that before!

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A Chink in the Armor

Much has been written to chronicle the Cubs efforts to acquire a left fielder for next year, but I have a persistent concern about the pitching rotation.

Although I agreed mostheartedly with the decision to allow Matt Clement for leave to Boston (for budgetary considerations), I am worried about Glendon Rusch as the #5 starter. I believe the Cubs are putting too much faith in one year of excellent performance, rather than heeding a sizable body of mediocre to bad work.

Rusch is the definition of a journeyman, a good guy yes, but a journeyman nonetheless. Rusch' career ERA is 4.97 with a 48-78 record. Although he posted a 3.47 ERA in 2004, I have seen nothing to suggest that he will continue performing a point and a half below his career ERA. I think its much more likely Rusch will post a 4.50 ERA in 2005 and lose more games than he wins.

Glendon Rusch' ERA throughout his career

A look at Rusch' career stats also raises the question of durability. In the years when he was primarily a starting pitcher, Rusch averaged 5.2, 6.1, 6.1, 5.2, and 6.1 innings per appearance. This average is slightly below the 6.1 innings per appearance the rest of the Cubs starters logged in 2004. However, in only one year has Rusch pitched 200+ innings.

Is there a fix?

Not necessarily, but opportunities will present themselves. I would have loved to see the Cubs make a push for Wade Miller, but that ship has sailed, so I won't cry over spilt milk.

Some of the Prospects

  • Andy Ashby is available. Although he is 37 and will turn 38 in July, Ashby has had a good career and could probably be signed to a minor league deal. Ashby had an ERA of 3.86 in 2001, 3.91 in 2002, and 5.18 in limited action in 2003 before undergoing Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss the rest of '03, and all but 2 innings in 2004. The risk is minimal if you can sign him to a minor league deal, and the payoff could be excellent.
  • Omar Daal is another player who could possibly sign a 1 year or minor league deal. Daal had a 4.46 ERA in 2001, a 3.91 ERA in 2002, and a 6.34 ERA before being sidelined with shoulder problems midway through 2003. Like Ashby he is attempting a comeback. Unlike Ashby, he is only 32 and throws using his left arm... a career extender if there ever was one.

Anyhow, I'd like to see Hendry bring in another established veteran to camp and give Rusch a run for his money. I liked having Rusch come out of the pen as the long reliever/spot starter in 2004. I just don't think he's gonna do it as the #5 starter.

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SammyStock 2005! Day Six

Monday, January 10, 2005

I found a new blog I really like called Baseball Told the Right Way, go check it out.

Hey Hey, Cubs Fans! Welcome to SammyStock 2005! Where legitimacy isn't the concern... its just rumors, free, casual rumors, with whoever happens to be in the majors.

We've got a lot of great suitors out there, so lets get Rumor mongering! Yeah!

Lets Give it up for...

... The Pirates

Even with a brand-new, supposedly beautiful ballpark (I would love to visit), the Pirates are strugling to put fannies in the seats. PNC park opened in 2001 and now the 'new ballpark smell' is wearing off. Since the Pirates don't figure to be real competitive, they are looking for a big name draw to convince those 'burgers to take a trip across the Roberto Clemente bridge... and so the Pirates are interested in Sammy Sosa.

However, because salary is always a concern in Pittsburgh, the Pirates can't take on too much additional payroll. The package is shaping up to be this: Matt Lawton and his large salary (not sure if its $6.75, $7.25 or more) will be traded to the Cubs for Sammy Sosa and $6 million. The trade is being held up pending Sosa's decision of whether to void the 2006 vesting option on his contract if he is signed.

... The Brewers

The Brewers are being sold to Mark Attanasio, although the sale has hit a snag. However, when the sale finally goes through, Attanasio will want a big name bopper to fill some of the seats at Miller Park while the Cubs aren't there.

Who better than Sammy? Sammy has performed well over the years at Miller Park and wouldn't have to move. The trade however would involve a restructuring of Sammy's current contract for another two years so he could retire as a Brewer. The negotiations will also call for Sammy to be allowed to arrive an hour late and leave an hour early for home games, in order to compensate for his longer commute.

... The Reds sosa_flag.jpg

"I'll give you my washed up overpaid outfielder if you'll give me yours," says Jim Hendry to Reds GM Dan O'Brien.

"Sure" says Dan O'Brien to Cubs GM Jim Hendry.

Sammy likes the trade because "He always wanted to play at The Great American Ballpark!"

Griffey for Sosa it is.

... The Astros

After missing out on Carlos Beltran, the Astros conveniently have $17 million burning a hole in their pocket. Furthermore, Astros owner Drayton McLane desperately wants to keep the seats full at the JuiceBox. So, Sammy Sosa is a good fit.

However, there are a few hold-ups to the deal. While the Astros don't mind taking on Sammy's salary, they don't want to give up much in return, especially to a team within their division. Jim Hendry has asked for two ten-packs of Minute Maid Apple Juice, and a big bottle of Hi-C.

But, the Astros are only willing to include the Hi-C if Sammy will legally change his name to 'Bammy Bosa.'

However, Sammy is waiting to hear back from commissioner Selig on whether or not the home runs he hits as 'Bammy Bosa' will count towards his quest for #756.

If the commissioner won't approve it, the Astros might be taking the field with the likes of Lance Serkman, Craig Siggio, and Jeff Sagwell in 2005.

My sources tell me this trade is highly complex and might take as long as the Randy Johnson marathon trade talks between the Yanks and D-Backs.

... The Cardinals

I heard that Tony LaRussa likes salsa music. So, its just a matter of time until either Larry Walker or Jim Edmonds is sent to Chicago for Sammy's Boombox and the salsa maestro himself.


OK, thats the NL Central! Sammy Has Left the Building! Thanks for coming to SammyStock 2004-2005!

SammyStock 2004! Day One - AL West.
SammyStock 2004! Day Two - AL Central.
SammyStock 2004! Day Three - AL East.
SammyStock 2004! Day Four - NL West.
SammyStock 2005! Day Five - NL East.

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Mr. Met: Beltran to wear ugly blue pin-stripes

Sunday, January 9, 2005

ESPN has an article indicating that Carlos Beltran will indeed sign with the Mets.

"The New York Mets have reached an agreement in principle to sign center fielder Carlos Beltran for $119 million over seven years to make him their centerpiece player, ESPN.com has confirmed."

...

A source familiar with the negotiations told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney that the talks with Houston fell through Saturday night because the team would not give Beltran a full no-trade clause. Beltran and his agent, Scott Boras, were OK with the seven-year, $108 million deal from the Astros. But the offer included a "limited" no-trade clause -- a stipulation that turned out to be the fallout of those talks.

Updates to follow.

Update 10:16 P.M. EST

Sorry I didn't get back with anything more. I got busy. Anyhow, I agree with Al Yellon.

This is also a good time to revisit "The Ghost of Mike Hampton."

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Vine-Line Tid-bits, January 2005

The Vine-Line came while I was gone over Christmas, and I'm just getting around to reading it. There are some good tid-bits in this month's issue.

The cover has a black and white photograph of Phil Cavarretta. The hadline says '60 Years Later, 1945 MVP Phil Cavarretta recalls the Cubs' last World Series season.'

-->>> The Roster tracker on page 4 has a few changes. The 'signed' section now includes Nomar Garciappara, Todd Walker and Glendon Rusch for one year, and Henry Blanco for two years.

Signed
  • C, Henry Blanco, through 2006
  • RHP, Joe Borowski, through 2005
  • RHP, Ryan Dempster, through 2005
  • SS, Nomar Garciaparra, through 2005
  • RHP, LaTroy Hawkins, through 2005, club option '06
  • 1B, Derrek Lee, through 2006
  • RHP, Greg Maddux, through 2005, automatic vesting option for '06 if 187.1 IP in '05.
  • IF, Neifi Perez, through 2005
  • RHP, Mark Prior, through 2006
  • LHP, Mike Remlinger, through 2005
  • LHP, Glendon Rusch, through 2005, player option for '06.
  • OF, Sammy Sosa, through 2005, club option for '06.
  • 2B, Todd Walker, through 2005, club option for '06, which could become a player option if enough plate appearances in '05.
  • RHP, Kerry Wood, through 2006, mutual option 2007.

The rest of the categories are already out of date, but a quick run through.

Arbitration Eligible - The Cubs had until Dec. 20 to offer arbitration, (they offered arbitration to each player): Michael Barrett, Kyle Farnsworth, Jose Macias, Corey Patterson, Aramis Ramirez, and Carlos Zambrano.

0-3 Men - Players under Cubs control, who have to sign for what the Cubs give them. The deadline was also the Dec. 20th. To my knowledge, the Cubs contracts to all these players: Ronnie Cedeno, Angel Guzman, Jon Koronka, Richard Lewis, Will Ohman, Russ Rohlicek, Carlos Vasquez, Todd Wellemeyer, Jason Dubois, David Kelton, Jon Leicester, Sergio Mitre, Renyel Pinto, Geovany Soto, Michael Wuertz.

Free Agents: Moises Alou, Paul Bako, Matt Clement, Tom Goodwin, Ben Grieve, Mark Grudzielanek, Todd Hollandsworth, Ramon Martinez, Kent Mercker.

Updates: Alou signed with the Giants, Clement signed with Boston, Grudzielanek is now a Cardinal, Ramon Martinez has joined the Tigers, and Kent Mercker is back with the Reds.

Todd Hollandsworth has re-signed with the Cubs, while Bako, Goodwin, and Grieve remain unsigned.

-->>> The rest of page 4 is worth pinning up on your wall. There is a picture of Ryno looking pissed off in the dugout above a headline which reads: Will this be the year? It was, and I'm super thrilled. There is also a picture of Mia Hamm wearing a soccer jersey with Garciaparra across the back. The four paragraph blurb lets you know that Mia switched jersey at half time of her last game. "The second-half switch seemed appropriate as she begins a new chapter in her life."

-->>> On page 5, we are treated to Jose Cardenal's musings about his 1975 season. We also find out that the Cubs sold their television broadcast rights to WGN and WBKB for $60,000 in 1950.

-->>> On page 6, In an answer to a letter to the editor, the Cubs official capacity is now listed at 39,547. We also are told that "in 2004, the Cubs limited the number of standing room only tickets to approximately 1,000 per game, depending on the series".

-->>> On page 9, Michael Huang writes a column about his relationship with new Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper when they were both at Marquette University in 1990. The piece is pretty good, even though it leaves me with the feeling that its just a PR piece.

-->>> On pages 12-13, there is an article discussing Jim Hendry's efforts to sign Garciaparra, Walker, and Blanco. There is a couple of quotes from Hendry, and the conclusion that he doesn't have a lot more work to do this offseason.

-->>> On pages 16-17, Ted Cox of the Daily Herald has an article about the Cubs new broadcasting crew of Bob Brenly and Len Kasper. There are several photos of Brenly, and a younger than expected Kasper. "This is the best venue in sports. So for someone in my position, I don't think there is anything more you could ask." - Len Kasper.

-->>> On page 21, Bruce Levine and Joel Bierig continue to repeat the company line that 'Going to war for Hendry, Baker is selling point for Cubs.' In what is beginning to get tired (even if it is perhaps true) the lead paragraph says: "The Cubs' third-place finish in 2004 was a disappointment. To most major-leaguers, however, the grass still is greener at Wrigley Field than in most other venues. Credit the grounds crew, but don't forget master gardeners Dusty Baker and Jim Hendry." The rest of the article follows the same vein.

-->>> There are several more articles worth perusing in this issue of Vine-Line. Pages 22-23 carry the Phil Cavarretta piece, pages 30-31 have an article about the Cubs Convention turning 20. Pages 34-37 have the first of a three part series called 'Fade to Black' discussing the decrease in the number of black players in MLB. Finally, pages 42-43 have an article about Cubs prospects who played in the Arizona Fall League, including Brian Dopirak, Russ Rohlicek, and Adam Greenberg.

-->>> Page 31 has a list of celebrity attendees who will be at the Cubs Convention... hold on to your hats:
Dusty Baker, Ernie Banks, Michael Barrett, Glenn Beckert, Joe Borowski, Bob Brenly, Jose Cardenal, Ron Cey, Gene Clines, Andre Dawson, Ryan Dempster, Bob Dernier, Richie Hebner, Jim Hendry, Glenallen Hill, Burt Hooton, Pat Hughes, Fergie Jenkins, Len Kasper, Dave Kingman, Vance Law!!!, Juan Lopez, Andy MacPhail, Bill Madlock, Gary Matthews, Sergio Mitre, Mickey Morandini, Keith Moreland, Gene Oliver, Andy Pafko, Milt Pappas, Corey Patterson, Dick Pole, Paul Popovich, Mark Prior, Larry Rothschild, Glendon Rusch, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo, Dwight Smith, Lee Smith, Chris Speier, Tim Stoddard, Gary Varsho, Billy Williams, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, Don Zimmer.

The Convention will be Jan 21-23, 2005 at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave.

Exhibit Hours:
Friday, Jan 21: 3 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Saturday, Jan 22: 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Sunday, Jan 23: 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.


More Vine-Line Tid-bits Please!

Posted by Byron at 2:29 PM | Comments (1) | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Beltran Deadline Passes

The deadline for the Astros to re-sign Carlos Beltran just passed at 12:00 a.m. EST. None of the major news outlets are reporting that Beltran has signed, so unless the signing happened at the very last minute, it looks like Beltran will not be returning to Houston.

As far as I am concerned, this is great news. Unless the Yankees decide to enter the bidding, I think the Cubs might have an inside track if Beltran decides to go with a winning team. The three teams that have publicly made offers to Beltran are the 'stros, Mets, and Cubs... and if I'm Beltran, and I want to win, I'd pick the team with the best starting rotation and core of young players... and that would be the Cubs.

A word of caution: Beltran may have signed with the Astros, and just not announced it yet. Word of the Nomar trade took about 55 minutes to be announced, so the deadline passed without an announcement. However, I am guessing that an announcement would have been made right away, so my guess is that Beltran won't be an Astro next year!

Updates will follow if anything new happens.

Update: 12:15 A.M. EST

Sportsline.com has a short paragraph up stating that Beltran "declines to re-sign with the Astros by Saturday's midnight ET deadline, which is good news for the Mets and other suitors. Houston can still ink the All-Star outfielder, but not until May 1 ... nearly a month after the 2005 season starts."

Update: 12:32 A.M. EST

ESPN.com is running a story saying that Beltran has decided not to sign with the Astros.

"The Astros failed to reach an agreement with the All-Star center fielder before a midnight ET Saturday deadline, and now Beltran probably will leave the team he helped come within a win of its first World Series appearance."

What does this mean? It means either Beltran isn't happy with only $105 million from the Astros and thinks he can drive up the price signficantly more over the next month and a half... or the rumors that Beltran's wife didn't like Houston had a little substance.

Update 12:48 A.M. EST

ESPN news just announced that the Houston Chronicle is reporting that Beltran will be signing with the New York Mets. Hot Diggity!

Update 12:52 A.M. EST

Here is the link to the Houston Chronicle article announcing Beltran will sign with the Mets.

Excerpt from: He's gone: Astros fail to reach deal with Beltran
All-Star center fielder to sign with Mets

By Jose De Jesus Ortiz, Houston Chronicle, Jan 8, 2005

Despite a record contract offer from the Astros, free agent Carlos Beltran will not play for the team next season.

Beltran, the 27-year-old center fielder who helped the Astros to their first playoff series win and captivated the city's baseball fans with his amazing array of skills, chose not to accept the biggest contract in Astros history just a few minutes before an 11 p.m. deadline Saturday night.

Beltran will instead sign with the New York Mets.

"It slipped through our fingers in the last, last few minutes," Astros owner Drayton McLane said. "It was just some sticking point. It should never, never have gotten to this."

Update: 2:07 A.M. EST

One last update before bed. This article is compliments of 'Joel' who posted this link in the comments (#43) at TCR.

Excerpt from: Mets close in on Beltran
By Jon Heyman, Newsday.com, Jan 9, 2005

The Mets appeared to be closing in on a deal to sign star centerfielder Carlos Beltran early this morning to make him their centerpiece player.

The Mets and Beltran were said to be "only four or five million dollars part'' in discussions that could put Beltran in a Met uniform for seven years. It is believed the Mets deal could be worth between $115 million and $119 million.

...

The Astros bid where few thought they would go to try to beat the large-market teams that vied for Beltran's services. It is believed they bid at least $105 million over seven years.

Astros owner Drayton McLane aggressively pursued Beltran all winter. McLane made it a personal goal to keep Beltran, who excited Astros fans with a monster postseason performance that brought them within one game of their first World Series. Most people never believed Houston would surpass the $100-million mark but it did in the final days, giving itself a fighting chance.

Posted by Byron at 12:00 AM | Comments (1) | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

SammyStock 2005! Day Five

Friday, January 7, 2005

So, I have honestly thought of retiring, just to keep the headline below this up for all eternity. Ryne Sandberg, Hall of Fame Second Baseman... its just got a nice ring to it.

Well, since I'm not retiring (I said I thought about it, just not all that long), its time to get this show on the road. So where were we? Oh yeah, Day Five...

Hey Hey, Cubs Fans! Welcome to SammyStock 2005! Where legitimacy isn't the concern... its just rumors, free, casual rumors, with whoever happens to be in the majors.

We've got a lot of great suitors out there, so lets get Rumor mongering! Yeah!

Lets Give it up for...

... The Nationals/Expos

Eager to make a splash on the national scene, the new D.C. team needs a big name... and Sammy Sosa is just the man! Of course, there isn't much on the Expos roster. However after finishing off the tail end of the egg nog in his fridge, Jim Hendry gets a little woozy and sends Sammy and Todd Walker to D.C. in return for Jose Vidro, Termel Sledge, Francis Beltran, and Brendan Harris.

... The Mets

After failing to secure Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado, the Mets decide to get serious in the Sosa negotiations. They'll send Cliff Floyd and Steve Trachsel to the Cubs in return for Sosa and Sergio Mitre.

... The Phillies

The day after drinking the old egg-nog, Jim Hendry woke up to find that the bush in front of his house was burning, but not like most bushes. So, the burning bush told Hendry that he could only lead his people to the promised land if he shipped Sammy Sosa to Citizens Bank Ballpark.

Sammy is in favor of this deal, figuring a move to a bandbox like Citizen's bank will make reaching #756 a little easier.

While not enthralled with the idea, the Phillies agree that it is divine intention for Sammy to play in the city of Brotherly Love. All the Cubs have to do is ship Sosa, and Michael Barrett to the Phils who have decided to part ways with 32 year old catcher, Mike Lieberthal, with $15 million left on his contract over the next two years. (Also, Hendry insists the Phils throw in a middle infield prospect destined to be a Hall of Famer.)

... The Marlins

It appears the Twins deal, discussed on Day Two may fall through, so Jim Hendry brought an equivalent deal to the table with Jeffrey "The Devil Incarnate" Loria (Marlins principle owner).

The Marlins will send Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera to the White Sox. Mayor Daley will assure passage of a new publicly funded ballpark (to be built in Miami with Chicago tax dollars), and the Cubs will offload Sosa to the Marlins.

... The Braves

John Schuerholz, stupid enough to trade for Sammy Sosa? HA! Even I can't think of a possible (much less plausible) scenario.

(Here is a hint: He didn't win all those titles by trading for washed up, overpaid veterans)


OK, thats the NL East. Day Six, whenever it happens, will cover Jim Hendry's talks with the NL Central teams.

SammyStock 2004! Day One - AL West.
SammyStock 2004! Day Two - AL Central.
SammyStock 2004! Day Three - AL East.
SammyStock 2004! Day Four - NL West.

Posted by Byron at 2:00 PM | Comments (0) | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Ryne Sandberg, Hall of Fame Second Baseman

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

ESPNews is reporting that Ryno has received enough votes to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame! I am thrilled.

Updates to follow.


Update: 2:15 p.m. ET

From MLB.com: "The third time was the charm for Sandberg, who was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his third year on the ballot. He received 393 votes (76.2%) in the balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America, announced Tuesday. There were 516 votes cast, with 387 (75%) necessary for election."

Voting Results

(516 ballots, 387 to gain election, 26 to remain on ballot)

PlayerVotes%
Wade Boggs47491.9%
Ryne Sandberg39376.2%
Bruce Sutter34466.7%
Jim Rice30759.5%
"Goose" Gossage28555.2%
Andre Dawson27052.3%
Bert Blyleven21140.9%
Lee Smith20038.8%
Jack Morris17233.3%
Tommy John12323.8%

Update: 8:09 p.m. ET

Getting Personal

The news is starting to sink in, its been about six hours since the announcement was made, elevating Ryno to 'immortal baseball icon' rather than 'Byron's childhood idol.'

I am actually at work now, and have been for four hours, but it is still Christmas break at IU, and so the computer labs are very quiet. In the meantime, I have surfed the entire Cubs Blog Army and have found several tributes to Ryno. My favorite was over at Desipio:

Excerpt from: From now on it's "Hall of Famer, Ryne Sandberg"
Desipio.com - January 4, 2005
He had a Hall of Fame baseball career, and today, it all became official. I knew it when I saw it, and in July in Cooperstown, so will everybody else. Ryne Sandberg's a Hall of Famer.

Anyhow, rather than recapping Ryne Sandberg's career and his hall of fame qualifications, as I have already done rather voluminously, I just want to speak to what this means to me, personally.

When Ryno was first on the ballot in 2002 (for the class of 2003), I was a little disappointed and confused to hear talk of Eddie Murray as a sure-fire first-ballot inductee, without a general consensus that Sandberg was also worthy of being a first-ballot legend. After all, Ozzie Smith, a defensive wizard, but an offensive liability was easily elected in 2001. If Smith was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, then Sandberg ought to have been as well. I didn't see a ton of "The Wizard of Oz" growing up, but I saw enough games to know that the two players were roughly equivalent. Ozzie won his Hall of Fame credentials with excellent defense, Sandberg should have been in on his blend of defense, offense, and power.

When the voting came in for 2002, I was disturbed by his lack of support. Sandberg didn't even get 50%! How the hell did Ryne Sandberg fail to get named on over half of the hall of fame ballots?

This slight was hurtful. It made me question whether I was an objective fan at all. I saw Sandberg play (on TV or the Radio, and occasionally in person) roughly three fourths of his games from 1989 through the end of his career. I saw the stats, I could compare them to other Hall of Famer's and it just didn't add up to this outcome. How could half of the writers fail to see Sandberg's greatness?

Last year, I was a little bit more realistic. I believed he deserved election, but I also doubted he would pick up 25% in one year. Although I'm not experienced enough watching this process, I knew a fourth of the writers wouldn't decide they were wrong in one year, so I knew 2003 wasn't going to result in a Ryno coronation.

After a strong uptick in 2003, when Sandberg finished with 61% of the vote, jumping guys like Bruce Sutter, Andre Dawson, and Jim Rice, I was happy, but not overly optimistic. I can understand (but certainly not agree) if a number of writers had believed that Sandberg was worthy of induction, but not first-ballot status. If I were voting, I'd abstain from voting for some guys during their first year, but after you aren't a first-ballot honoree, its not like there is a lot of status as a 'second ballot inductee.' Pretty much, after the first time around, you should either be in or out.

Anyhow, after a sizable jump in 2003, I figured the media would toy with Sandberg for several years as he gradually gained or lost votes depending on whose toast got burnt the day they decided to send in their ballots. However, I was scared. I was afraid Sandberg would get jobbed like Santo, I was concerned that Sandberg might never make it. I never doubted his qualifications, but if a guy like Santo can't get in, then its possible that Sandberg could get a cosmic screwing too.

I really wasn't feeling optimistic about this year until I saw the Dale Bowman piece in the Sun-Times. His attack on Sandberg was so ill-informed (VFTB, Cubs Pundit, And Another Thing) and laughable that I just knew this moron had to be on the wrong side of the fence on this one. I was encouraged by the nine of nine Sandberg got at both the Tribune and ESPN.com, even if that includes double counting Phil Rogers.

So when ESPNews brought me the announcement that Sandberg was in, I was relieved. I am so happy for Ryno, but also happy for myself and all Cubdom. We knew he deserved it, but we also knew Santo deserved it. To me, this is a disaster averted, rather than a momentous occasion.

One of the 'knocks' against Sandberg I think is that he has fans disproportionate to his ability as a ball player. While certainly a Hall of Famer, Sandberg probably has a more devoted fan base than someone like, say Barry Bonds. His character, and his demeanor convinced fans that it was OK to make him your hero.

Growing up, I knew Ryno would never be like some sports stars who got in trouble with the law, or who might have 'bad character.' Even standouts like Andre Dawson occasionally had a bad day and would empty a bat rack onto the field. Thats part of the competitive nature of sport, but it also keeps kids from idolizing you. With Sandberg, you knew he would control himself, you knew your childhood idol wouldn't get pulled over with a prostitute in the car (Denny Neagle), or an illegal handgun (Scottie Pippen). He wasn't about to throw a chair at fans (Frankie Francisco), or choke his manager/coach (LaTrell Sprewell).

If Ryno ever came over to your house for dinner, he would be the greatest guy in the world... his demeanor said so, and so it was easy to embrace him as a fan.

Anyhow, I am just tickled pink to have my childhood idol be recognized as a baseball immortal. I am planning to finally take a trip to Cooperstown this year (a place I swore I would never visit until Sandberg was enshrined), and am looking forward to the last weekend of the season when the Cubs will undoubtably retire Sandberg's number. I'll be there, and so will 40,000 other die-hard fans of the greatest second basemen to ever walk the earth.

Congratulations Ryne Dee Sandberg - Byron's Childhood Idol, Immortal Baseball Icon, Hall of Famer.

Posted by Byron at 2:04 PM | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Ryno Anticipation

Twelve hours, and I think I'm going to be a happy man! I have a feeling in my bones, and I'm hoping I'm right.

The Hall of Fame voting results will be announced today at 1:00 p.m. eastern time, and I'll be eagerly waiting to hear whether or not Ryno gets in. In my opinion, Sandberg was one of the greatest second basemen ever, blending speed, defense, and offense into an ideal package.

Although I have no respect for Dave van Dyck (his stories often contain factual errors) I did agree with what he wrote for ChicagoSports.com

Excerpt from: Dave van Dyck: Yes, a write-in for Rose
ChicagoSports.com - December 30, 2004
Ryne Sandberg: The dominant second baseman of his era, he changed the way we think about middle infielders. He was tall and athletic, a record-setting fielder and an offensive powerhouse who set the mold for players like Alex Rodriguez.

So, while you wait to find out if Ryne Sandberg gets inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005, go ahead and peruse the (modesty aside) Ultimate Ryne Sandberg Fan Page.

Posted by Byron at 12:58 AM | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Happy New Year!!!

Monday, January 3, 2005

2005! Wow! Halfway through the '00s!

OK, I'm back from visiting the permahome, and with an internet connection no longer measured in baud, its time to get cracking on a new year.

I had a great two weeks of vacation, and have not been able to follow the Cubs, so today and tomorrow are catch-up, and then we'll be off to the races, finishing SammyStock, and critiquing the January Vine-Line.

VOTE FOR ME

Joe Aiello over at View From the Bleachers is running a competition for "best Cubs blog of 2004 not including the Cub Reporter." I have been nominated, and I want to win... so please go vote! (for me)!

Posted by Byron at 2:00 AM | Comments (0) | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

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