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Browsing posts from August, 2011

The Cubs’ Next GM

By bullpenbrian - August 22, 2011 - 2:01 pm 1 comment.

Below is MLBTR’s list of the top 20 GM candidates in MLB. Other names that popped up over the weekend include Josh Byrnes, Andrew Friedman and Boston’s Theo Epstein.

    Jerry DiPoto, Senior VP, Scouting & Player Development, Diamondbacks
    Rick Hahn, VP, AGM, White Sox
    Thad Levine, AGM, Rangers
    Ben Cherington, Senior VP, AGM, Red Sox
    David Forst, AGM, Athletics
    Tony LaCava, VP Baseball Operations and AGM, Blue Jays
    Mike Chernoff, AGM, Indians
    Bryan Minniti, AGM, Nationals
    A.J. Preller, Senior Director, Player Personnel, Rangers
    Kim Ng, MLB
    DeJon Watson, AGM, Player Development, Dodgers
    Al Avila, VP, AGM, Tigers
    Damon Oppenheimer, Scouting Director, Yankees
    Mike Radcliff, Vice President of Player Personnel, Twins
    Bill Geivett, Sr. VP Scouting & Player Development, AGM, Rockies
    John Ricco, VP, AGM, Mets
    Jeff Kingston, AGM, Mariners
    Logan White, AGM, Amateur & International Scouting, Dodgers
    Peter Woodfork, MLB
    Matt Klentak, Director of Baseball Operations, Orioles

Honorable mentions in alphabetical order: Matt Arnold, Director, Pro Scouting (Rays), Jeff Bridich, Senior Director of Baseball Operations (Rockies), John Coppolella, Director of Baseball Administration (Braves), Dan Jennings, VP Player Personnel & AGM (Marlins), Jason McLeod, VP, AGM (Padres), J.J. Picollo, AGM, Scouting & Player Development (Royals), Shiraz Rehman, Director of Player Personnel (Diamondbacks) and Josh Stein, Director of Baseball Operations (Padres).

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Cubs Good At Playing Spoiler

By bullpenbrian - August 21, 2011 - 1:04 am Leave a comment.

The Cubs are doing a terrific job at playing spoiler.

Consecutive wins against St. Louis is a crucial blow to the Cardinals’ chances of catching Milwaukee, who’s opened up its largest-ever division lead this late in a season, now 8.5 games up.

Even with the big-three of Pujols, Holliday and Berkman healthy, the Cards pitching, in particular its bullpen, can’t keep up. A Major League leading 136 double plays hasn’t been much help from the offense, either.

St. Louis is 1-4 on its current road trip. Berkman has yet to homer in August and Friday’s walk-off loss to the Cubs gave St. Louis its 12th walk-off loss of the season–the most in the majors. Take that Ryan Theriot!

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Chicago has several more chances to play the spoiler’s role. The Cubs wrap up its seven-game homstand with four against Wild Card leading Atlanta this week.

That’s followed by a six-game road trip against division leading Milwaukee and three games against San Francisco, who’s trailing Arizona by 2.5 games in the West.

Two weeks playing against has-beens Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and New York precludes two late September series on the road at Milwaukee and St. Louis.

However, baring a historic collapse by Milwaukee should render both series meaningless as far as the division title is concerned.

That said, it’s worth noting the Cubs only trail Pittsburgh and Cincinnati by four and fives games, respectively.

If Chicago continues to play as well as it has during the season’s second half (19-15) a third place finish in the Central isn’t out of the question. Who would’ve guessed?

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Ricketts Sending The Right Message

By bullpenbrian - August 20, 2011 - 2:58 am Leave a comment.

Got to be honest. I had my doubts Tom Ricketts had it in him to fire Jim Hendry.

But it’s the bold move I talked about yesterday, sending the message all Cubs fans want to hear–losing is no longer acceptable.

Ricketts has done well spreading the good cheer, which is commendable for any owner, but losing can never be overlooked.

Firing Hendry let’s us know the ownership is listening, they’re committed, they’re keeping their word about bringing winning baseball, in particular a World Championship, back to Chicago.

Handing out coffee, meeting with fans and offering encouraging words for his players is all a nice gesture, but it doesn’t win games.

If the Ricketts family wants to be loved, the way Yankees fans loved George, winning comes first above all else.

In this case that means starting over with a new GM, and likely, a new manager.

Hendry and Mike Quade are two of baseball’s good guys. I’m certain both will land on their feet with another big league organization.

The direction of the Cubs under Hendry is of much debate. But I suspect Jim will not be viewed in the same light years from now that he is today.

It wasn’t always this bad on the North Side, and Hendry deserves some credit. But with Cubs fans frustrated to no end, in part by some of Hendry’s questionable moves, he’s being run out of town on a rail.

Quade might still be a good big league manager. Chicago, however, hasn’t been a good fit for him. The mish-mash of overpaid veterans and budding youngsters has been an unsolvable puzzle for Quade all year.

Building a winning team takes time, a good plan and patience. Quade didn’t have the privilege of any of those things–only the support of his boss Hendry, who of course, is no longer his boss. 

This moment, however, is not one of celebration. In fact, it’s a reminder just how far the Cubs are from any celebration at all.

There’s still a lot of work to be done, starting with the hiring of a new GM, and soon to be, his new manager. The offseason will be the Cubs most important one in years, setting the foundation for what we hope to be a championship caliber team–sooner rather than later.

If winning starts at the top down, it’s a relief knowing the Cubs finally have an ownership that gives a damn. For that we can all agree on.

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Mr. Cubs Race!

By bullpenbrian - August 20, 2011 - 12:02 am Leave a comment.

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D-Backs Show Cubs The Way

By bullpenbrian - August 19, 2011 - 1:05 am 2 comments.

I look at the Arizona Diamondbacks this year and think ‘why not the Cubs?’

After two straight seasons of finishing last in the NL West, the organization made swift changes in 2010 firing manager A.J. Hinch and GM Josh Byrnes in favor of a gritty Kirk Gibson and savvy GM Kevin Towers.

The cost of doing such business was extremely high: both Hinch and Byrnes were under multi-year contracts. But the turn-a-round, again notably expensive, has quickly paid dividends in 2011.

Perhaps most importantly was the revamping of the Snakes coaching staff. Gibson surrounded himself with former All Stars and well respected baseball minds.

Former Cubs coach, Alan Trammell, joined as Gibson’s bench coach. Don Baylor the hitting coach. Charles Nagy the pitching coach. Eric Young and Matt Williams man the baselines.

No question the coaching has strongly contributed to the D-Backs surge atop the NL West where they currently lead the Giants by 2.5 games.

Their 69 wins already surpass last season’s mark of 65. And wouldn’t you know, attendance at Chase Field is on the rise.

So why couldn’t the same formula work in Wrigleyville?

Ditching Mike Quade and Jim Hendry wouldn’t come at the expense it cost Arizona to make management changes.

A Hall of Famer like Ryno could lure the experience and expertise of some of baseball’s best coaches. Add a GM the likes of Pat Gillick and the Cubs could win again—and soon–packing Wrigley Field from the bleachers to the rooftops.

This offseason presents a perfect opportunity for Tom Ricketts to make his first bold move as owner of the Cubs.

Following Arizona’s lead would send the Cubs organization and its fans a clear message that enough-is-enough, losing is no longer tolerable on the North Side.

If the D-Backs can do it, so can the Cubs. Right?

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Wrigley’s Best Weekend

By bullpenbrian - August 19, 2011 - 1:01 am Leave a comment.

This is always a good weekend to be at Wrigley because of the Chicago Air & Water Show.

The planes inevitably fly by the field providing more entertainment in addition to the game.

If you can join us at the Skybox on Sheffield you get a particularly good vantage point of downtown from the upper seating area at the rooftop.

I’ll be there for Sunday night’s game. Come by and say hello.

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The Cubs are also hosting another block party Friday to Sunday along Clark St. from Addison to Waveland. Lots of vendors, music, food and booze.

The only thing left to enjoy is a series win against the Cardinals!

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Aramis A Quiet Distraction?

By bullpenbrian - August 18, 2011 - 2:48 am Leave a comment.

Two reasons my ears perked up last week when Todd Hollandsworth ripped Aramis for a lack of effort this season.

1.) Aramis has been a long time favorite player of mine.
2.) Aramis has been one of the few bright spots, on the field anyway, during a dismal season in Chicago.

But according to Hollandsworth, a Comcast SportsNet analyst, Ramirez’s veteran leadership isn’t living up to the expectations of his contract paying him a handsome $14.6M.

“…then you bring into question effort and that’s one thing in the game of baseball that really is inexcusable.  One hundred percent effort all the time, there’s really no reason for you not to have 100 percent effort,” Hollandsworth said. 

“He’s got impressionable kids around him right now: Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, these kids are growing up, they’re watching it and you know what, they’re not getting any better…It’s lasting, it’s long-term. I mean, that’s the way that it works.”

I’ve grown to respect Hollandsworth’s opinions. He’s been fair, candid, and observant analyzing the Cubs. When he talks, I listen.

So if Hollandsworth’s criticism of Aramis is true, which I suspect it is, then the Cubs have an easy decision this off season not to bring Ramirez back, especially not at his club option of $16M.

The troubling part is the Cubs certainly had offers to deal Aramis at the trade deadline. He was, after all, one of the majors hottest hitters in July.

Ramirez, however, chose to enforce his no-trade clause, which now knowing Hollandsworth’s view point, that decision seems a bit strange on Aramis’ part.

Make no mistake, Ramirez has earned the right to decline a trade, and I respect that right. But if Ramirez isn’t happy, isn’t giving his best, isn’t making the Cubs a better team…why pass on an opportunity to join a contender?

Family reasons, as Ramirez stated, is the much overused politically correct answer, but as usual, I figure money was the real issue at stake.

With a $16M dollar club option in place for 2012 vs. a $1M dollar clause for getting traded, Ramirez stands to earn more money playing out the string with Chicago. And if the Cubs are enabling him to play at his own pace and by his own rules, why bother moving?

Ramirez has it good with Chicago…and according to Hollandsworth, maybe too good.

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What the hell’s happened to advanced scouting?

Why would any respectable pitcher in the Major Leagues throw Aramis a first pitch strike?

He leads all of baseball with 11 first-pitch home runs, including his 2-run blast against Bud Norris Wednesday afternoon.

If there was ever an exception to getting ahead in the count, throwing a first pitch ball in the dirt to Aramis would be it.

Seriously, how many first-pitch home runs does the man need to hit before advanced scouts take notice, and pitchers execute it?

No wonder the Astros stink.

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Aramis hit two more HR at Houston this week giving him 40 career dingers at Minute Maid Park– the most among Houston’s opponents.

I’d love to know what it is he loves so much about hitting in the heart of Texas?

It can’t simply be Houston’s poor pitching, the Stros have only recently slumped to the league’s worst club. And of course the Cubs play at Houston several times throughout the season, but 40 home runs is still a lot.

I guess as long as Ramirez keeps swinging it there, who cares? I don’t need to know how a microwave works to understand it cooks my morning coffee. Home run, fresh perk…whatever, I’ll take it!

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Marmol, We have A Problem

By bullpenbrian - August 17, 2011 - 1:50 am Leave a comment.

I’ve always said I like Marmol more as a setup man than a closer.

His bouts of wildness have grown worse with time. And his ability to both create and escapes his self made jams in the ninth inning have grown wider apart as well.

The walk-off grand slam Tuesday night is just another example of many that tell us Marmol isn’t the solid closer many believe him to be.

Marmol is 28/36 in save opportunities this season. That’s 77%, nearly 10 points below where you want your closer to be.

Yes, he’s been dominate again since returning to the closer’s role, but let’s not forget why he lost his job temporarily in the first place–Inconsistency.

That doesn’t mean I believe Marmol is of no use to the Cubs. Rather, I believe he could again return to being the most dominate setup man in baseball, if the Cubs would only put him there.

Problem is, I’m certain Marmol would never go for it. Not now, and not with a contract that’s paying him to save games.

The main advantage of Marmol setting up is the ability to change pitchers before the game is lost. If that nasty slider of his isn’t working, you simply go to the bullpen.

But when you live and die with a pitcher as maddening as Marmol, spectacular one night and disastrous the next, you come to expect the unknown. And that’s not the making of a top-notch closer.

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The Houston Astros are closing in on 100-losses for the first time in its franchise history, which dates back 50 years.

The team posted consecutive losing records in 2009-10 for the first time in two decades.

This season is sure to be a third, and possibly the record setter for the club’s worst season ever.

And by definition, when you struggle against this Cubs team, you know times are tough. Very tough.

At (39-84) the Astros are far from simply being a bad baseball team. More like the worst team in the Major Leagues. Even the lowly Orioles, with the majors second worst record, are eight games better than Houston.

By contrast, Philadelphia, arguably the best team in baseball, has lost a mere 42 games all season. That’s nearly 40 more wins better than the ‘Stros.

But what’s eerily similar to the Cubs is Houston’s belief that they’re headed in the right direction.

A (59-52) record after June 1 last year convinced the club manager Brad Mills was worthy of a contract extension, despite a (17-34) start to the season.

Now like Quade, another manager who sparkled late in 2010, Mills finds himself on the hot seat heading towards the off season, which begs the question: should a manager whose team reaches triple digits in the loss column return, especially for a club that’s never sank to such depths before?

I wouldn’t think so.

On two occasions the Astros have neared 100-losses, both times totaling 97 defeats. And in both situations the manager was replaced following the season. So don’t think the Cubs are the only organization eyeing Ryne Sandberg.

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Cubs And The Bunny Hutch

By bullpenbrian - August 16, 2011 - 2:47 am Leave a comment.

Go Cubs Go

When I first heard of the ‘Bunny Hutch’ I thought what a great place for a bachelor party!

Turns out it’s not that kind of Bunny Hutch, but a rather family oriented place of batting cages and miniature golf. Still not a bad way to spend a Monday afternoon.

I took a couple rounds of BP from both side of the plate then shot eight-over par for the course. Finished the day off with some Lou Malnati’s–deep dish pepperoni. Yum!

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I was home in time to catch Big Z’s exclusive interview on Comcast SportsNet. Wasn’t much to it. Zambrano apologized, denied throwing at Chipper Jones and stated he wants to remain a Chicago Cub. Blah, blah, blah

Carlos likely followed the script of his agent making his apology less sincere than usual. But it’s all too little, too late.

Zambrano might recover some of his pay that the Cubs are withholding, but there’s no undoing Friday night.

The guy’s gotta go…don’t know where, don’t care how. But he simply can’t return to the Cubs.

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Would you believe the Cubs have the second best record in baseball since July 31? They’re (12-3) with only Philly and Milwaukee playing better.

Go back to the All Star break and the Cubs are (17-13). And if they win one more game in Houston this week that’ll be five straight series victories.

As I’ve said before, with the pressure off the Cubs perform as we expected. But what does it say for Quade that his guys don’t play up to standard when they’re still in the hunt?

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Dan Uggla

The Cubs ended Uggls’s terrific hitting streak  at 33-games Sunday afternoon. Here’s a quick wrap of his streak.

-The streak marked the longest in the majors this year.
-It’s the second longest in Atlanta’s franchise history–Tommy Holmes (37).
-It started on July 5th and lasted five weeks.
-He batted .377 during the march (49-for-130).
-11 were multi-hit games, with 9 infield hits.
-That also including 5 doubles, 15 HR & 32 RBI.
-His 15 HR ties the MLB record during a streak–DiMaggio, McCovey, A-Rod.

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Less Z, More Cubbie Occurrence

By bullpenbrian - August 15, 2011 - 2:33 am Leave a comment.

You have to believe there’s a smile on the faces of Jim Edmonds, Michael Barrett and Derrek Lee–all of whom have had nasty encounters with Big Z.

Until Hendry slapped Zambrano on the 30-day disqualified list on Saturday, the pitcher had basically escape those confrontations scot-free–despite the fact Carlos was the guilty party on each occasion.

Now that Carlos has dug a hole he can’t climb out of, at least in the short-term, his rivals can whaler in the pleasure of seeing him swim in his self created mud bath.

But I figure the three former Cubs probably share our feelings about Zambrano more so than feelings of revenge against him. No one is surprised, just saddened and exhausted by Zambrano’s continuous antics.

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Is this the end of Derrek Lee’s career?

The Pirates placed Lee on the 15-day DL with a fractured left wrist on Saturday.

Leave it to Carlos Marmol to end Lee’s season, and possible his career, when he struck Derrek on the wrist with a pitch on August 3.

Lee played just five games with Pittsburgh since being acquired during the July 31 trade deadline. He managed five hits, two of which were HRs in his debut, and 3 RBI.

Where the 35-year-old ends up next season is anyone’s guess.

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In another Cubbie occurrence. Former Cub Jason Marquis was knocked out of his Sunday start, literally, by another former Cub and now Met, Angel Pagan, who smashed a come-backer off Marquis’ right fibula.

Marquis is out a minimum of 4-6 weeks, although it doesn’t appear a huge loss to Arizona’s hopes of winning the west division. Marquis is (0-2) with a 12.38 ERA since joining the D-Backs via trade from Washington.

What it does prove, however, is an opening in Arizona’s starting rotation. Hmmm…could  Big Z be the next Big Cactus?

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Anyone notice the Brewers have the second best record in the NL, tied with Atlanta’s (70-51) record?

Milwaukee is 25-9 since July 6, which is the best record in the Major Leagues, and have a solid 5.0 games cushion over St. Louis in the Central.

The next four series for the Brewers are against teams with below .500 records, including the Cubs. And if Milwaukee can improve its lead by one or two more games heading into September, the likelihood of St. Louis catching them is slim to none.

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