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Browsing posts from October, 2012

Darwin Barney ✔ Gold Glove

By bullpenbrian - October 31, 2012 - 3:30 pm 2 comments.

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Cubs Struck Out On Angel Pagan

By bullpenbrian - October 31, 2012 - 1:00 am 4 comments.

Angel Pagan

Two things crossed my mind while watching former-Cub Angel Pagan this postseason.

1. How many titanium necklaces does one need around the neck to feel comfortable playing a baseball game?

2. It’s a shame the Cubs ever parted ways with Pagan.

Let’s begin with No.2. To jog the memory, Pagan spent his first two major league seasons with the Cubs in 2006-07 as a fourth outfielder.

But a succession of nagging injuries greatly limited his playing time and ultimately lead Jim Hendry to trade the then 25-year to the Mets for two minor leaguers you’ve never heard of and who never reached the majors.

It’s still a wonder why Hendry didn’t hold on to the switch-hitter a little longer, especially considering the return in the trade was so negligible and Pagan was still a young man showing encouraging potential when healthy.

Instead Hendry put his chips down on outfielders Buck Coats, Matt Murton, Felix Pie and Sam Fold–each experiencing limited success with the Cubs, but none panning out as well as Pagan has.

By Angel’s second season with the Mets he posted the top WAR on the team (3.8) despite playing in only 88-games…partly limited by injuries and partly blocked by an outfield of Gary Sheffield, Carlos Beltran and Jeff Fancoeur.

In his third season, however, Pagan managed to play in 151-games and again had the highest WAR of any Mets player (5.1).

His offensive numbers didn’t jump off the page in either season, but he was proving to be an above average, all-around outfielder with plus-defense and the ability to steal bases, swiping 55-bags total in his first three season in New York.

His fourth and final season with the Mets was marked with more physical ailments, specifically a pesky oblique injury in early April, which limited Pagan’s season to 123-games, and saw a significant decline in his offensive production.

That likely led to New York’s decision to part way with Pagan in the offseason dealing him to San Francisco for reliever Ramon Ramirez and center fielder Andres Torres.

Pagan, now 30, responded with the best season of his career playing in a career-high 154-games, leading the majors with 15-triples, posting a solid 121 OPS+ and playing a sparkling center field on his way to winning a World Series ring.

All said, there’s no reason to believe Pagan wouldn’t have been just as good throughout his career with the Cubs had Hendry held onto him.

Meanwhile, from 2008 to present the Cubs have gone through outfielders: Buck Coats, Matt Murton, Felix Pie, Sam Fold, Jacque Jones, Cliff Floyd, Craig Monroe, Eric Patterson, Kosuke Fukudome, Milton Bradley, Jake Fox, Jim Edmonds, Reed Johnson, Bobby Scales, Ryan Freel, Joey Gathright, Tyler Colvin, So Taguchi, Marlon Byrd, Xavier Nady, Brad Snyder, Luis Montanez and Joe Mather.

Did I miss anybody?

What stands out is there’s not a single outfielder on that list who was significantly better while with the Cubs than Pagan has been during his career.

So it seems safe to say this was one (of many) deals Hendry would’ve liked to have had back, even if Pagan is, in fact, injury prone.

Better still, Pagan is also better than the centerfield options the Cubs presently have on its roster. I know there’s high hope for Brett Jackson, but it’s a near lock he won’t be on the 25-man roster come Opening Day 2013.

What’s next for Pagan? He’s a 31-year-old free agent primed to cash-in with a multi-year deal this winter.

It’s unclear if any team will risk Angel’s long history of injuries to pay him top-dollar over multiple seasons. I happen to like his chance of returning to the Giants…say in the 2-3 year range.

Angel Pagan Taco

As for those unsightly titanium necklaces, Pagan seems to prefer wearing two necklaces when playing.

I figure you could get 13 or 14 around his neck comfortably and let’s say 19 if you really forced the issue.

But when you’ve helped your team to a World Series title with leadoff home runs and sensational defense, not to mention winning free tacos for all of America, you get a free pass to wear as many necklaces as you wish.

The only thing I’d change is that Pagan was wearing his titanium rings with the Cubs.

*Look who steals third in the video below…

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Cubs Need To Quiet The Riot

By bullpenbrian - October 30, 2012 - 2:00 am 11 comments.

I could have done without Ryan Theriot winning one World Series ring, let alone two. And the second ring is only slightly more tolerable because it didn’t happen with the Cardinals.

Theriot does seem to have knack for finding himself on the right side of a rivalry, whether it’s Cubs-Cards or Giants-Dodgers. Maybe it’s because he’s the devil or maybe he’s simply lucky?

Whatever the case, he’ll always remain a whipping boy for Cubs fans after ripping the organization once he was out the door in Chicago.

Hardly a day had passed after Theriot signed with the Cardinals before he felt the need to air his dirty laundry on St. Louis sports radio questioning the Cubs commitment to winning a championship and the team’s loyalty towards him.

“I’m finally on the right side of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.” -Theriot.

Neither was an accurate assessment. Although the Cubs could have spent its money more wisely after a disastrous 2006 season, it’s a stretch to say Jim Hendry wasn’t committed to winning, especially after the Cubs won back-to-back division titles with Theriot on the team in 2007-08.

And as far as loyalty, well, what do you make of the Cubs fostering Theriot for the better part of a decade, grooming him for the majors, giving him his first shot in the bigs and sticking with him while better options at his position were available?

I always speculated Theriot’s arbitration case with the Cubs in the winter of 2010 was the undoing of the relationship. The Cubs had not gone to arbitration with any of its players since 1993 when Mark Grace lost his case. Theriot lost his case as well.

Looking back it appeared when Theriot missed out the raise he was seeking he fingered Jim Hendry as disloyal despite the fact the Cubs had a young, up-and-coming shortstop named Starlin Castro who was a far better version of the weak-armed, light-hitting, bad base-running Theriot. It just took Theriot a few months before saying so.

Anyway it’s no wonder why Hendry didn’t want to overpay to keep Theriot’s services–and why Hendry traded him to the Dodgers later that summer.

The irritating part of course is Theriot has won two championships in his two seasons post-Cubs. And given the slow turnaround we’re seeing on the North Side, Theriot may find himself with a third ring before the Cubs even reach the postseason.

It doesn’t seem fair the Cubs former Southern charmer turned outcast is enjoying so much success while the Cubs are busy muddling around in a lengthy rebuilding process.

But there’s no denying Theriot has a nose for winning. He won in college at LSU and he’s won with the both the Cardinals and Giants in addition to the success he had with the Cubs. That, however, doesn’t make Theriot any more likeable or give credit to his gutless jabs at the Cubs.

Unfortunately we’re stuck watching this joker leech his way to the postseason for the next several seasons while the Cubs climb out of the mud, which won’t be any more fun than it is already.

The good news is Theriot was exposed as a fraud and ousted from Chicago before going down in Cubs lore as a member of the first world championship team in 100-plus seasons.

Of course it came at the coast of allowing Theriot to reach the top for now, but that eventual Cubs championship will be the ultimate elixir for all the heartbreak and what-could-have-been from years past, including Theriot’s rightful place as just another Cub who failed to win a ring.

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Giants Don’t Cry Over PEDs Enhanced Milk

By bullpenbrian - October 29, 2012 - 5:30 am 4 comments.

I’m wondering if the Giants present Melky Cabrera with a World Series ring and a share of the championship winning spoils? I know I wouldn’t.

Why reward this bum for pumping his body full of PEDs and subsequently missing the stretch-run of the regular season while serving his 50-game suspension for a positive test? Some help that was in the Giants winning the pennant.

Oh, and that little prank Cabrera pulled with the fake website…that doesn’t earn a free pass, either. In fact, it only made matters worse, making his suspension a bigger distraction for the Giants and an even bigger joke of Melky himself. Seriously Milk Boy, grow up.

It’s no wonder the Giants left Cabrera off the postseason roster. San Fran knew they didn’t need him to win…and they were right.

But the fact remains Melky is still listed on the 40-man roster, and that’s often the players who receive the hardware.

Now, there’s no denying Cabrera was the Giants best player up until his suspension. He also played a key role helping San Francisco gain World Series home field advantage with his MVP performance in the All Star game, albeit as an unknown cheat at the time.

But ultimately it’s up to the Giants players on how the postseasons earnings are divvied up–and left up to the organization on who receives World Series rings. So it’s possible, unfortunately, one side could have a soft spot for the Milk Man. Although personally, I hope neither side does.

If bet if Melky has his fingers crossed for one of the two awards it’s most likely the paycheck over the ring. The Cardinals divided up its World Series earnings last year to a handsome share of $323,170 per player.

Cabrera, meanwhile, lost $1.6M while suspended…and will likely miss out on cashing in on what once appeared a huge contract opportunity for him this offseason.

But hey, that’s the price of cheating…and a pretty lenient one in my eyes.

To baseball’s credit, the league chose to eliminate Cabrera from consideration for the league’s batting title award following his suspension (please spare me on Melky’s publicity stunt to also ask for his removal) and my hope is the Giants will follow suit.

The last thing baseball needs is a known steroids user walking away with postseason earnings or a coveted world championship ring–or both.

So it’s up to the Giants organization and players to send the right message that a drug cheat deserves neither, whether he’s served his suspension or not.

No clean drug test. No rewards. And especially not for the tainted Milk Man.

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Ohio Bobcats Pull Total Cubs Move

By bullpenbrian - October 29, 2012 - 4:30 am 2 comments.

OUB

A collective facepalm for Ohio Bobcat fans this weekend, the likes of which include some recognizable sports names: Bob Brenly, Mike Schmidt, Thom Brennaman, Bulls radio man Chuck Swirsky and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King…and of course Bullpen Brian (Ha!)

More to the point, our Bobcats pulled a total Cubs move on Saturday losing to its long time rival Miami of Ohio 23-20.

Instead of playing for the tie with 9-seconds left in the fourth quarter, the heavily favored Bobcats made a risky decision to play for the win.

With the ball at the Rehawks 7-yard line, and facing one of the worst-ranked defenses in the nation, Ohio figured to have enough time for one last shot at paydirt before settling for a game-tying field goal.

The Bobcats, however, blew both chances in one snap.

On what turned out to be the game’s final play Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton lost track of the clock and took too much time trying to avoid a sack–he also forgot the Bobcats were without any timeouts.

By the time Tettleton was sacked there wasn’t enough time to spike the ball and kick the field goal. Game over, and with it Ohio’s undefeated season.

How Cubs.

Similar to the Cubbies’ woeful ways, the Bobcats have been long-time losers in its football department since the early 1970s. But the hiring of former Nebraska head coach Frank Solich brought a Theo Epstein-esque excitement to Athens in 2005.

The program slowly but surely turned around under Solich with the Bobcats winning a league-best 46-games since 2006, advancing to three-straight bowl appearances and winning its first ever bowl game by defeating Utah State 24-23 in the Idaho Potato Bowl last season.

In fact, the past five seasons have been the best run in the program’s history. And when Ohio jumped out to a (7-0) record this year (including its Week 1 win vs. Penn St.) they popped into the Top25 rankings (No.24) for the first time since 1968.

Then in true Cubs form, Saturday happened and reminded us the Bobcats are still not ready for the big-stage but remain susceptible to its old bumbling ways.

In some fashion it’s a good lesson to learn regarding the turnaround of the Cubs as they rebuild from its 101-loss season.

It’s very possible Cubs fans could witness a long stretch of regular season successes once this rebuild gathers steam. But the true measuring stick will be how the Cubs perform under the pressures of October, when they’re the heavy favorites with a championship on the line.

If the Cubs’ learning curve to reaching a World Series takes a similar path to Ohio football, it seems we’re in for more North Side heart-break. But no one ever said losing habits are easy to break. 

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World Series Tanks In TV Ratings

By bullpenbrian - October 28, 2012 - 1:15 am Leave a comment.

Baseball could’ve used a competitive World Series to put a bow on what’s been a very good postseason.

Instead, the Giants have jumped out a 3-0 series lead and look to close out the championship Sunday night or soon thereafter.

Television ratings for the series became a concern the moment the Tigers and Giants clinched its respected League Championship Series.

With little national interest in either team, the series’ television ratings tanked through the first two-games and only looks to worsen with the Giants headed towards a 4-game sweep.

No team, after all, has ever lost the World Series after winning the first three games, and the Tigers don’t exactly appear poised for a comeback given its struggles offensively.

Pablo Sandoval’s three-homer performance in Game 1 remains the signature moment of this Fall Classic, but Miguel Cabrera’s fifth inning pop out with the bases loaded in Game 3 was the pivotal turning point in the series.

If the Triple Crown winner manages a hit in that situation the Tigers likely tie the score 2-2, if not take a lead, and maybe win the game.

With a Game 3 victory Detroit would’ve been sitting pretty with Matt Scherzer pitching Game 4 and Justin Verlander taking the hill at home in Game 5. It could’ve been a whole different series, both on the field and in the ratings.

“Major League Baseball must privately long for the day when the Chicago Cubs win a National League pennant and participate in a World Series against the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox or Angels.”

-Wayne G. McDonnell, Jr., Clinical Associate Professor od Sports management at New York University

Now that it appears the Giants have the series in-hand and the series bumping up against the NFL on Sunday night, I wouldn’t be surprised if Game 4 is the least watched World Series game in the series’ ratings history.

Obviously, Major League Baseball can’t dictate the outcomes of its postseason to increase World Series viewership. But the league could hold the general fan’s interest longer by taking the necessary steps to increase competitive balance among its teams long before October baseball ensues.

Banking on the Yankees and Red Sox winning in October has made it far too easy on baseball to cash in on the television side and justify it’s gaudy payroll disparity throughout the league.

Give every market a financially competitive shot to win in April and baseball will win the television ratings come October.

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Royals Believe Pigs Fly, Claim Chris Volstad

By bullpenbrian - October 27, 2012 - 3:20 am 1 comment.

The Royals claiming Chris Volstad off waivers is just the latest reminder how coveted starting pitching is in the big leagues, and what ridiculous lengths teams will go to find it.

Sometimes it’s a trip down the road of denial, which Kansas City is speeding along while convincing themselves there’s still untapped potential in the 26-year-old Volstad.

I beg to differ of course but it’s not worth slinging more mud on Volstad’s name,which I’ve done plenty already.

“Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it.”

-Author George R.R. Martin

My best guess is the Royals fell victim to the same traits the Marlins fell in love with when they selected Volstad with its No.1 pick in 2005. His big 6’8” frame, a good hard fastball and quality breaking ‘stuff.’ 

Miami of course came to find out none of the above traits truly mattered, at least not when it came to getting big league hitters out. Volstad was more thrower than pitcher, a guy who doesn’t pitch to the game-plan, pitch out of trouble or pitch with confidence, none of which is made up for with physical size or ‘stuff’ alone.

The Cubs saw the same frustrating habits with Volstad as Miami did, but thankfully had enough sense to part ways with him after one season and 21 mostly embarrassing starts—a matter of circumstance on a rebuilding team void of better options.

If the Royals want to believe Volstad’s worth signing, fine by me. I’m just relieved Team Theo isn’t living in that world of denial, putting its head in the sand and ignoring the obvious…the Cubs are better off without Volstad than with him.

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World Series Humor!

By bullpenbrian - October 26, 2012 - 1:30 am Leave a comment.

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AT&T Park Another Wrigley Field

By bullpenbrian - October 26, 2012 - 1:15 am Leave a comment.

Pac Bell Park

I’ve been in love with AT&T park since I first laid eyes on it during its inaugural season in 2000, when it was first called Pac Bell Park.

The uniqueness of the park is what fuels my attraction. Its irregularly shaped outfield, the giant glove behind the left field bleachers, its location next to McCovey Cove. There’s no other major league park like it.

That’s why I believe, with time, this ball yard by the bay has all the potential to become one of the cherished cathedrals of major league baseball joining Fenway Park, Camden Yards, Jacob’s Field, Dodger Stadium and of course, Wrigley Field.

It took me six years before I was able to make my first trip in June of 2006 to see the Pirates play the Giants on an overcast and cool day, thanks to a strong bay breeze.

At the time Jose Bautista was batting leadoff for the Pirates. Sean Casey manned first base and Jason Bay played left field.

The Giants countered with Steve Finley in center, Ray Durham at second and former-Cub Moises Alou in left field. Manager Felipe Alou gave the 41-year-old Barry Bonds the the day off.

Bautista homered off Giants starter Noah Lowry (a sign of things to come for the young slugger) and the Pirates won 2-0. But that did little to damper the afternoon or the overbearing smell of San Francisco garlic fries.

It’s been noted this postseason how loud and enthusiastic the Giants fans are, giving their team something of a home field advantage we’re more use to associating with football stadiums.

It’s not surprising. The Giants are a World Series team playing in a jewel of a ballpark. What’s not to get excited about?

Luckily, as Cubs fans we understand the beauty and drawing power of a charming ballpark. And soon, I would hope, we’ll have a championship caliber team to go with it, much like they do in San Francisco.

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Big ‘Z’ Still A Big-Money Fish In A Polluted Pond

By bullpenbrian - October 25, 2012 - 1:00 am Leave a comment.

As poorly as the Ozzie Guillen hiring worked out in Miami, it did do the Cubs a favor.

Without Ozzie at the helm the Cubs probably don’t find a taker for Carlos Zambrano last winter, which would’ve meant enduring another season of Zambrano’s self implosions.

“Ozzie has a long and close relationship with Carlos.” “We went with Ozzie on this one. The bottom line was Ozzie just really, really felt confident about this deal.” -Marlins’ president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest

Ozzie, of course, was brought to Miami to revitalize the Marlins franchise and Zambrano’s career. Instead, the Fish floundered to a (69-93) record becoming an embarrassment of riches, including Big Z, who actually won fewer games with Miami (7) than he did with the Cubs a year prior (9).

So while it’s easy to gripe about the $15M the Cubs ate to send Carlos to south beach and the return they got for him in Chris Volstad, there’s still no question the Cubs were better off without El Toro’s selfishness on a young, rebuilding team.

“I talked to enough [players] in order to get an understanding of the history here.” “This isn’t a decision that players will make. But I think if you don’t listen to what happens in the clubhouse then you can’t develop a proper understanding of it.” -Theo Epstein on Zambrano trade

Meanwhile, Ozzie’s career as a manager may be over and Zambrano’s pitching career could soon follow him right out the door.

Neither, however, is a concern of the Cubs thanks to the Marlins’ foolishness to believe Ozzie and ‘Z were part of the answer and not part of the problem in south Florida.

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