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Browsing posts from August, 2012

What’s Next For Ryne Sandberg?

By bullpenbrian - August 31, 2012 - 2:00 am 2 comments.

I’m baffled as to why a major league club hasn’t plucked Ryne Sandberg away from the minor leagues with an opportunity to manage in the bigs?

You look at what Sandberg’s accomplished from his first season managing in Peoria (2007) to his latest season skippering the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and it’s hard to find any reason not to hire the guy.

Everything from his drawing power at the gate, which is largely responsible for Peoria’s single-season attendance record (2007), to his two Manager of the Year Awards (2010, 2011) screams to how ready Sandberg is to manage at the highest level.

Yet, Ryne sits in waiting, much like he did behind Lou Piniella in Chicago, supposedly next-in-line to take over for Charlie Manuel in Philadelphia following the 2013 season.

But having been in this position before, Ryno knows there are no guarantees, no gentlemen’s agreement, that insures he’s the next man writing out the lineup card at Citizen Bank Park.

However, what I don’t understand is why major league teams in need of a manager let the Phillies keep Sandberg on lay-a-way?

How bad of a manger could Sandberg possibly be given all his successes managing from Single-A to Triple-A? What’s not to like about a guy who’s been a winner every step of the way?

Why not take a chance on Sandberg, pluck him up from Lehigh Valley and watch him turn a losing organization into a winning one?

Keep in mind, Sandberg’s HOF career as a player was grounds enough for Ryno to bypass the entire minor league system altogether.

Instead, Sandberg chose to pay his managerial ‘dues’, succeeded in doing so, and yet, still hasn’t received the big promotion. What gives?

Is Sandberg no better than Robin Ventura, the likely American League Manager of the Year, who’s guided the White Sox to a first place standing in the AL Central despite zero time managing in the minor leagues? I think not.

No team, of course, was more foolish than the Cubs to pass on Ryno; not once, but twice, even though the aspiring manager was groomed from within their very own system. How’s that worked out?

I can’t say I’ll be shocked if Sandberg is passed over again this offseason–and that’s because I’m already shocked it’s taken this long. And that might not be the worst of it.

What’s really going to hurt is watching Sandberg succeed in the major’s once he does get his opportunity, and heaven help us if the Cubs are no better off than they are now when Sandberg’s time comes.

Either way, there’s no way of knowing what might have been with Ryne managing on the North Side. But chances are, it would’ve been special, just like his time spent in the minor leagues.

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Will Darwin Barney Win The Gold Glove?

By bullpenbrian - August 30, 2012 - 3:45 am 6 comments.

The hardest part of a player winning the Gold Glove Award seems to have less to do with his actual fielding statistics than it does convincing the voters he’s more deserving than the incumbent.

Historically, at least, that’s been the pattern of the voters, comprised of the league’s managers and coaches who, more often than not, are comfortable sticking with past award winners in favor of crowning a new one Gold Glove worthy.

That’s why Brandon Phillips, the 2011 NL Gold Glove Award winner at second base, is the only thing standing in the way of Darwin Barney winning his first, and much deserved, Rawlings Gold Glove Award this season (I’ll touch on the statistical comparison a bit later).

Now, that’s not to say Phillips or any Gold Glove winners of the past shouldn’t have won in consecutive seasons. But in researching the history of Gold Glove Award winners I confirmed it’s nearly a given that once a player wins gold, he’ll almost certainly win it again.

In Barney’s case, I researched the Gold Glove Award winners at second base dating back to 1973 when Joe Morgan won his first of five consecutive Gold Gloves.

Davey Lopes eventually snatched the award away from Morgan in 1978 only to be outdone by Manny Trillo the following season, who in turn won the award in three out of the next four seasons.

In 1983 it was Ryno’s turn. He won nine consecutive Gold Gloves before Jose Lind broke the streak in 1992.

Robby Thompson earned the honors in 1993, then Craig Biggio arrived to win four consecutive Gold Gloves.

Bret Boone stole the award away from Biggio in 1998, then relented to Pokey Reese in 1999, who won again in 2000.

In 2001 Fernando Vina won his first of two consecutive Gold Gloves. Louis Castillo followed by winning three straight.

Orlando Hudson earned the glove in 2006, and again in three out of the next four seasons. His run was interrupted by none other than, Brandon Phillips, who won in 2008.

Phillips has since won the Gold Glove in three out of the last four seasons, including the last two years. The only player to break his run? Not surprisingly, the O-Dog in 2009.

The repetitive pattern is obviously a concern in Barney’s case, even though statistically he’s outperformed all National League second baseman, and most notably, Brandon Phillips.

Darwin, when compared to Phillips, has played in five more games, has had 61 more total chances, made 51 more put-outs, has more assists and committed three fewer errors (1) than Phillips (4).

Barney’s .998 fielding percentage is also tops in the National League, as is his 4.67 Range Factor. Highlight-reel plays? He has those, too.

What more do the managers and coaches need to see? And what more could Barney possibly do statistically to win gold–other than having won the award last year?

It’s a crime if Barney doesn’t take home the award this season. He is, by all accounts, most deserving.

But, if he does win…well, chances are he’s likely on his way to winning the first of many more Gold Gloves to come.

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Darwin Barney Still Gold

By bullpenbrian - August 30, 2012 - 12:45 am Leave a comment.

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Paul Maholm Update

By bullpenbrian - August 29, 2012 - 4:30 pm Leave a comment.

Wins haven’t come any easier for Paul Maholm since he joined Atlanta. Similar to his Cubs tenure, the lefty’s been short on run support with the Braves plating just 2.6 runs behind him.

But that hasn’t stopped Maholm (2-3) from achieving a quality outing in four of his five starts, including a superb 2.45 ERA and a complete game shutout against the Mets on August 10.

Maholm has, however, been plagued by the long-ball, which has accounted for all 10 earned-runs against him. He’s served up six home runs with Atlanta: a stark contrast to the three home runs he issued over his final 12 starts with Chicago.

A CAREER YEAR FOR PREACHER PAUL

Maholm’s 11-wins this season are already a career-high (10), and it’s possible he could end the season with anywhere from 13-15 victories despite the lack of run support–an impressive improvement for a guy who entered the season with a career record 20-games below .500 (53-73).

Numbers aside, the best change for Maholm has been his place in the standings. For the first time in his career he’s in the thick of the postseason race with the Braves (74-56) who lead the NL wild card race and trail the division leading Nats by only 4.0 games.

So it seems Maholm will get his first taste of postseason baseball this October joining Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson as the top three starters in Atlanta’s rotation.

Late comer, Ben Sheets (4-4, 3.54) could challenge Maholm for the coveted third spot in the rotation. But he’s since fallen back to earth after beginning his comeback (4-1) by losing his last three games.

As disappointing as it was to see Maholm depart Chicago via trade, the returns were strong and much needed for the Cubs rebuilding efforts. Not to mention, I couldn’t be more pleased for a guy whose professionalism alone has always been deserving of a chance to play for a ring.

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What Starlin Castro Deal Means For Cubs

By bullpenbrian - August 29, 2012 - 12:15 am Leave a comment.

This is a Guest Post by John Guminski. He’s a Junior at the University of Missouri majoring in Journalism.

Theo and Jed got their man. The dynamic duo locked Starlin Castro up long-term with a reported 7-year, $60M deal representing the Cubs’ first major financial commitment to its rebuilding efforts.

Castro’s been a prized possession since joining the club in May of 2010. He’s made two All Star appearances, led the National League in hits last season (207) and is a veteran player at just 22-years-old.

The team-friendly deal buys out Castro’s remaining four arbitration years, and his three free-agents seasons. There’s also an option year that could keep Starlin in Cubbie blue into his 30s.

The deal averages out to $8.57M per season, and when included with the Cubs’ 2013 payroll, projects out to a very flexible team salary of $44.4M dollars.

Key guys remain unsigned for next season such as Jeff Samardziija, Matt Garza, and Darwin Barney. But it’s a far cry from the 2010 payroll of more than $144M that forced Theo to dump higher-priced talent in order to return the club from the stratosphere in terms of player salary, at least for the time being.

The long-term commitment to Castro shows how much the Cubs believe Starlin is worth building around. It seems obvious when looking at the overall quality of players on the current roster, but it is encouraging to see a dollar amount reinforce the belief Starlin will be a cornerstone piece for the foreseeable future.

If, of course, that opinion sours the Cubs will be well within their right to trade Castro. The deal is void of any partial or full no-trade clauses.

That wouldn’t appear to be part of the plan, but there’s no ignoring plenty of Starlin’s game needs further developing, beginning with nurturing the young shortstop’s maturity both on and off the field.

Otherwise, he’s hit the ball out of the park more this year despite his doubles being halved (36,18) while his OPS (.720) and OPS+ (97) have both sank to career lows. His overall fielding has improved with only 21 errors on the way to his personal best .966 fielding percentage.

Team Theo obviously believes Castro will keep trending upwards as he nears his peak years, which is all part of the long-term rebuilding plans on the North Side.

It’s a fresh approach for a team long overdue on developing its young talent from within. Starlin, we hope, is just the first of many building blocks yet to come.

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Ryan Dempster Update

By bullpenbrian - August 28, 2012 - 1:30 am 2 comments.

After a rough debut for the Texas Rangers, Ryan Dempster has settled in fairly well with the AL West division leaders.

Dempster is (3-1, 2.99 ERA) since the trade having won three of his last four starts. In five outings he’s lasted six or more innings on every occasion except one, and three have been quality efforts.

It took Dempster 10 starts to earn his first win with Chicago this season, and it wasn’t until June 15 that he won his third game, largely due to a lack of run support.

That, of course, isn’t an issue in Texas. The Rangers lead the major leagues in runs scored (665). The Cubs, meanwhile, rank second to last (470).

THE LONG BALL

What is of concern, however, are the six home runs Dempster’s allowed. Only once has he avoided allowing a long ball with Texas after serving up all of nine home runs with the Cubs through 14 starts.

This pattern might be explained with his unfamiliarity with the American League, or it could be a reaffirming notion Dempster is better suited as a National League starter–not that there’s any going back at this point.

Also of interest is that of Dempster’s two bad outings (Angels, Yankees) he allowed eight earned-runs on both occasions against two teams Texas could very well face this postseason.

WILL DEMPSTER PITCH THIS OCTOBER?

It’s unlikely Ron Washington would pencil Dempster in as one of his top three postseason starters, which would appear to be Matt Harrison (15-7), Yu Darvish (12-9) & Derek Holland (8-6).

That leaves Dempster to compete with Colby Lewis, Scott Feldman & Roy Oswalt as the swing man in a seven game series. And even by the current numbers Dempster wouldn’t top that list either.

But I wouldn’t completely rule Dempster out of Washington’s postseason plans. I speculate there may be a scenario where Dempster is used in a late-inning relief role.

Dempster did manage 87 career saves for the Cubs, and if he does have aspirations of pitching this October, the bullpen may be his best, if not only, option to do so.

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Cubs Von Count | Hinshaw HRs

By bullpenbrian - August 28, 2012 - 1:00 am Leave a comment.

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Mark Grace Arrested Again On DUI

By bullpenbrian - August 27, 2012 - 1:00 am 2 comments.

Mark Grace was arrested Thursday night for driving under the influence of alcohol and operating his vehicle with a suspended license.

It’s the second time in the last 15 months he’s been arrested for a DUI, and the former offense already requires him to have an interlock device on his vehicle.

Grace has remained in the good graces of Cubs fans since he was let go by the team in 2000. But despite his reputation as a lovable Wrigleyville playboy, there’s nothing comforting with what appears to be his personal battle with alcoholism.

The Diamondbacks announced Friday Grace had requested “an indefinite leave of absence” to seek personal assistance. It’s likely he won’t return to the broadcast booth this season.

Whether or not the D-Backs should invite Grace back next season, I don’t know. I personally take DUI offenses extremely seriously. And this obviously isn’t the first mistake Grace has made behind the wheel.

However, Arizona turning its back to Grace may not be beneficial to either party. Grace is a terrific broadcaster, and if he’s willing to seek help and remain open to treatment, why not work with him to get his life and his career back in order?

If, however, Grace succumbs to a third strike–sorry Gracie, yer’ out.

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Will Bob Brenly Return to Cubs Broadcast Booth?

By bullpenbrian - August 27, 2012 - 12:30 am 4 comments.

Cubs fans are wondering if Bob Brenly will be back in the broadcast both next season. His current deal is set to expire at the end of the regular season.

However, I’m wondering if Brenly wants to come back?

From the outside it seems broadcasting Cubs games is a wonderful gig, Brenly is certainly paid well, but does he want to sit through another three or four losing seasons on the North Side?

Brenly has always been keen to the idea of what it would mean to be part of a Cubs World Series championship–legendary for all parties involved. But the window that opened in 2007 and 2008 to cement Brenly’s place in Cubs championship lore has closed for the foreseeable future.

Watching the rebuild may not be worth it for a guy like Brenly whose on-air candidness and occasional humor would be welcomed with open arms in markets with competitive teams like Arizona or Los Angeles.

Of course, who’s to say Bob doesn’t want to manage again? Houston has an opening, and so too might the Rockies. Brenly’s hometown Indians could be another possibility.

Or is it the Cubs have someone else in mind to be the color commentator? Todd Hollandsworth, Kerry Wood? I’d recommend Doug Glanville.

Brenly has spent eight years covering the Cubs. He’s definitely grown on me as an analyst, and I would assume the rest of the viewing audience.

There are, without debate, far worse broadcasters in major league baseball, which explains why he and Len Kasper are often regarded as one of the best broadcasting duos in the game.

Personally, I’d enjoy if Brenly returns to the Cubs booth in 2013 and beyond. But I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised if he opts to move elsewhere.

Losing is hard to swallow, even when you’re being paid handsomely to watch.

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Dodgers, Red Sox & Theo Epstein

By bullpenbrian - August 26, 2012 - 8:30 pm 2 comments.

As crazy as the Dodgers and Red Sox deal is financially for Los Angeles, I like the fact Magic’s group is going all in.

The Dodgers are one game back in the NL Wild Card and two-games back of the NL West leading Giants. But they essentially became favorites to make the postseason overnight with the arrivals of Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto this weekend.

The expectation, of course, is for Los Angeles to make a deep run in the playoffs–if not appear in the World Series. Anything less would seem an embarrassment of riches.

However, this deal doesn’t just set the Dodgers up in the short-term. They’ll be in position to remain contenders for years to come, even if the financial effects are haunting down the road.

If there was a price tag on repairing the damage done by the Frank McCourt era, this deal was it. And although it hardly makes sense on the ledger, it doesn’t have to if the Dodgers win it all.

EPSTEIN’S FINGERPRINTS ALL OVER BOSTON TRADE

The Red Sox, meanwhile, hit the reset button on the mess partly created by none other than Cubs president Theo Epstein.

Had it not been for Epstein’s outlandish free agent contracts doled out prior to his departure, the Red Sox likely wouldn’t need to tap out of the choke hold that was the $262.5M dollars they just shipped to Chavez Ravine.

Epstein, presumably against better judgment, had succumbed to the win-now mentality in Boston, one that works in direct contrast to his build-from-within strategy that ultimately ended the Curse of the Bambino and landed the franchise a second title three seasons later.

That’s exactly the approach Boston aims to return too given its new found financial freedom: renew a homegrown spirit, develop from within and spend a season or two rebuilding in favor of spending lavishly on the free agent market as Epstein had done.

While I truly believe Epstein was all about accepting the challenge of rebuilding the Cubs franchise, I also have to believe Epstein was fully aware of the situation he created in Boston.

His careless ways had turned to quick sand–a pit he wouldn’t climb out of—not without a lifeline from Tom Ricketts. “You haven’t won in how many years? Okay, sure…pull me out!”

Fitting how quickly Epstein is to remind Cubs fans ‘there are no shortcuts to rebuilding’. He would know. The colossal Dodgers & Red Sox deal proves it.

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