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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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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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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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Ricketts Writes Cubs STH

By bullpenbrian - October 13, 2012 - 12:30 am 2 comments.

Chairman Tom Ricketts wrote to Cubs Season Ticket Holders following the conclusion of the regular season. Here’s my interpretation of the letter in short form. Make of it what you will…(read the letter in its entirety below the jump)

-Many pleasantries.
-You’re important to us as fans.
-Our No.1 goal is to win a World Series.
-We’re spending a ton of money to achieve it.
-This won’t happen overnight.
-We’re trying to be honest about this message.
-Be excited about our unproven minor leaguers.
-We’ve grown the front office with smart people who are good with computers.
-Our new facilities in the Dominican Rep. & Arizona are pretty cool.
-We donated millions of dollars to various charities this past calendar year.
-Thanks for being supportive while we clean up this 101-loss mess.

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Bryan LaHair: All Star To Bench Warmer

By bullpenbrian - October 10, 2012 - 11:50 am 2 comments.

There were obviously a ton of disappointments this season. Bryan LaHair, unfortunately, may have been the biggest of them all.

If we didn’t have high hopes for LaHair when he broke spring camp as the starting first baseman, we certainly did after he hit .308/.396/.582, .979 OPS after the first two months of the season.

Despite his hot start, most fans, including myself, remained curious if LaHair could consistently hit for an entire season. Ultimately, he proved he could not.

Although LaHair earned a somewhat surprising selection to the Mid-Summer Classic, it quickly became a tale of two season afterwards.

LaHair hit–.286, 14 HR, 30 RBI before the All Star break…and .202, 2 HR, 10 RBI thereafter. He went from starter to role player…and eventually to bench warmer come August.

Whether or not the arrival of Anthony Rizzo negatively effected LaHair offensively, I don’t know. But I still suspect it did as LaHair’s transition from first base to right field coincided with his decline at the plate.

What’s certain is the league’s pitching adjusted quicker to LaHair than he could counter back. Additionally, his inability to hit left-handers (.063) and overall sharp decline offensively leaves LaHair hanging in the balance of the Cubs’ plans this offseason.

Can LaHair retool his plate approach again this winter? Is it worth keeping his left-handed swing as a pinch-hitting threat…or is it time to move on from LaHair?

If the Cubs can trade LaHair I suspect they will. Otherwise, due to the lack of overall talent on the roster, he may get one more shot next spring…with better results, I hope.

Honorable mention: Ian Stewart .201, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 55-games.

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Cubs Manager & Coaching Grades

By bullpenbrian - October 9, 2012 - 11:00 am Leave a comment.

-Dale Sveum: (B-): No good Cubs fan blames the first year manager for 101-losses. And had it not been for Sveum’s strong leadership, it’s probably an even worse record.

Remember, this Cubs team could’ve mailed it in on several occasions…a 12-game losing streak, the trade of veterans at the deadline or the horrific beating by the Nationals in Washington, just to name a few. They never did, and that’s about the most encouraging sign for this team, and its manager, moving forward.

That’s not to say Sveum isn’t without fault, he certainly made his share of mistakes, too. But given the youth, inexperience, and at times, inexplicable bone-headed plays from his players, Sveum handled it all with poise and professionalism. There couldn’t be a better quality for a manager skippering a team on the rebuild.

-Dave McKay (A+): He proved to be one of the best acquisitions last offseason. His instruction responsible for Soriano’s improved defense was invaluable on its own, as was his coaching of base runners at first. The Cubs are very lucky to have this guy.

-Chris Bosio (B): His arrival was a first step in the right direction for the pitching staff. The starters thrived before the All Star break and the deadline departures of Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm. More importantly, Bosio finely tuned Jeff Samardzija into a quality starter, oversaw the redevelopment of Manny Corpas, straightened out Carlos Marmol and survived the task of coaching a bullpen largely void of major league talent. Next season will test Bosio’s mettle even more, but it’s promising to think what he could actually do with an entire staff of major league quality talent.

-James Rowson (incomplete): Will he stay, will he go? We do know Rowson buys into the new regime’s patient plate philosophy, and it seemed the Cubs took kindly to Rowson after he replaced Rudy Jaramillo mid-season. You obviously can’t fault Rowson for the Cubs’ lackluster offensive production, but there’s a ton of work to be done between now and the end of spring training…and not much to work with. I imagine he won’t have the long leash Jaramillo did either.

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Ryan Dempster’s Bad Trade Karma

By bullpenbrian - October 4, 2012 - 5:15 am 2 comments.

I received some closure from the Ryan Dempster trade after watching the former-Cub blow his chance to pitch the Rangers to an AL West division title on Wednesday.

Despite an early 5-1 lead, Dempster couldn’t get out of the fourth inning. He departed with no outs, runners on first and second and the Rangers clinging to a 5-3 lead.

Derek Holland came on in relief but allowed both of Dempster’s base runners to score. The Athletics finished the inning having plated six-runs and never looked back winning 12-5 while capturing the AL West crown.

BBTIA.com “Ryan Dempster was bad, lasting just three innings in a must-win game (and, in the process, failing to generate much excitement about any additional post-season starts he may end up making).”

All totaled, Dempster was charged with 5-ER in 3.0 innings…a big-time disappointment in a big-time start.

I hardly had mix feelings about Dempster before he snubbed the Cubs on what appeared to be a lucrative trade with Atlanta this past July. Until then he was, unquestionably, one of my favorite players.

However, Dempster’s decision to veto the trade made it seem he had reneged on his word to help the Cubs out in the best way possible at the non-waiver trade deadline.

Ultimately, Dempster got what he wanted, the chance to play for a contender and pitch in meaningful games. But what was best for Dempster left Team Theo scrambling just minutes before the trade deadline with virtually zero leverage and fortunate they were even able to land two mid-level prospects in return from Texas.

If the way Dempster played matters at the trade deadline makes me bitter, so be it. A man’s only as good as his word…and from my perspective, Dempster sidestepped his promise to the Cubs.

Now, I wouldn’t go as far to say I was rooting against Dempster yesterday, but I didn’t feel badly for him, either. If anything, it feels as if I can close the door on the late July trade-drama and move on.

The Dempster trade will certainly have a longer lasting effect on the Cubs than Demps’ recovery from failing in the clutch with Texas, but while Dempster got what he wanted on July 31st…I felt like he got what he deserved on October 3rd.

How’s that for some trade karma.

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A Celebration of 100 Cubs Losses

By bullpenbrian - September 29, 2012 - 12:45 pm 1 comment.

The Dooley

This is a guest post by John Dooley who’s easily one of the most knowledgeable sports fans I have ever met. He’s a walking, talking encyclopedia of Cubs minutia, which explains his appearance on Comcast Sports Net’s ‘Batter’s Box’ trivia show. John’s true specialty, however, is crafting the lighter side of sports. See for yourself by visiting his blog Chicago Tough. Hilarious! @chicagotough

The Cubs are inching closer towards their first 100 loss season since 1966.

46 years.

That doesn’t seem right, does it?  For most Cubs fans, it’s hard to believe that after all of the managerial flops, prospect flare-outs, and ill-fated trades that this magical number has evaded us for so long.

We all know that numerous teams (see: 1980, 1981, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006, and 2010 Cubs) have had more than enough inept play to reach the mark.  However, only this Cubs team has had the gumption to stick it to number 100!

If any hope exists for Cubs fans, maybe a comparison of the two teams could bring some light to a depressing season. There are some big similarities…

Both seasons were ‘culture shock’ years for the Cubs.  In 1966, Wrigley had brought in Leo Durocher to bring in a winning attitude to the north side.  Durocher was highly respected in baseball circles for his winning ways as a player in St. Louis, and in Brooklyn/New York as a manager.

In 2012, the Cubs’ move towards a ‘culture shock’ came through the hiring of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.  Both were forced to make tough moves on the field and off the field to bring a new attitude into the organization.

Under Durocher’s notorious tongue lashings, the Cubs limped through the ’66 schedule going 59-103.  Durocher believed in ‘tough love’, and wasn’t one for sitting players for a day of rest.  Durocher used 1966 as a training camp; a camp to find out who he could stand by in the years to come.

Durocher found out quickly that he had a team filled with potential.  However, if the Cubs were ever to contend, some dead weight would have to go.  It was obvious that Dick Ellsworth (who would lead the NL in losses) was past his prime.  It was easily seen that Byron Browne (who led the NL in K’s) was never going to fulfill his duties in the outfield.  It was also painfully obvious that the Cubs lacked depth on the bench, and even more severely in the bullpen.

Durocher’s Cubs had four future Hall of Fame players: Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Ron Santo, and Billy Williams (Well, five if you count the elder version of Robin Roberts in the pen).  The foundation had been set prior to his arrival in ’66…but that didn’t stop the growing pains.

The Cubs were coming off the bizarre year of Bob Kennedy and Lou Klein.  They were only years removed from the memorable gaffe that was the ‘College of Coaches’.  Nobody in the Cubs organization knew anything about…well…organization.  Durocher’s arrival would provide that organization…but at a price.

The Cubs would start 31-69 after 110 games…but as the players got used to Leo’s ways, they’d finish at a semi-respectable 38-44 to round out the season.  Durocher had found ample arms in the rotation with Bill Hands and Ken Holtzman; plus, he made a big switch by moving Jenkins from the pen into the rotation. Talk about accomplishing a lot in one season.

For the 2012 Cubs, it’s hard to project four possible Hall of Fame players in this group.  Nor can you compare the career accomplishments of Leo Durocher to Dale Sveum.

What you can compare is the level of change that was needed at both times in the franchise’s history.

The Cubs were a carnival act for the 1950’s and early 60’s and an over-priced act with little results during the 2000s, prior to Epstein’s arrival.  1966 and 2012 both stand as years to turn the tide.

While Durocher had to change the Cubs’ attitude in ’66, Epstein has had to change the Cubs’ way of doing business.

Epstein has started by being willing to deal players for prospects.  In just one season, the Cubs have parted ways with Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, and Geo Soto.  In return, they’ve upgraded for their future.  He also finally laid down the law in refusing to negotiate contracts that feature the dreaded ‘no-trade clauses’.

However, in today’s baseball, the future you buy doesn’t come to fruition for another 2-3 years.  Cubs fans in ’66 who were frustrated by the team’s consistent failure were quickly rewarded with a strong first half in 1967 that put the Cubs in first place by early July.  While the Cubs faded down the stretch, it was obvious for many that the team would be a consistent contender for the next five years.

What Durocher was able to gain quickly, will take Theo & Co. much longer.  As much as we might love Castro/Rizzo/Samardzija, it’s tough to compare them to Banks/Jenkins/Santo/Williams.

1966 had hope around the corner. 2012 has hope around the corner, too…just be prepared to also go left, through some trees, and maybe under a tunnel before reaching your destination.

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Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm Update

By bullpenbrian - September 27, 2012 - 3:15 am Leave a comment.

Ryan Dempster allowed 16-earned runs in his first 17.1 innings with the Rangers. Since then, however, he’s won six of his last seven starts improving to (7-2) with a 4.48 ERA with Texas.

In 10 starts with the Rangers Dempster’s allowed two or fewer earned-runs six times. He’s also pitched into the sixth-inning six times, reaching seven-innings once, and once more in an eight-inning effort. Only twice has he failed to reach the six-innings mark (4.3 & 3.1).

Including 16 starts with the Cubs this season, Dempster is (12-7) overall with a 3.07 ERA. He’s scheduled for two more regular season starts–at home against the Angels on Friday and at Oakland next Wednesday in the season finale.

Bottom Line: Dempster hasn’t dominated AL lineups the way he had in the NL, which was expected, but all things considered he’s been as good as advertised since Texas acquired him at the trade deadline.

PAUL MAHOLM: The former Cubs lefty evened his record with the Braves to (4-4) after tossing 6.2 shutout innings in a 3-0 win vs. Miami last night.

In 10 starts with Atlanta Maholm has allowed two or fewer earned-runs six times. He’s pitched six or more innings seven times, three times managed at least seven-innings and recorded one complete-game shutout.

Including his 20-starts with the Cubs this season, Maholm is (13-10) overall with a 3.71 ERA. His win-total is a career-high surpassing his 10-win season with Pittsburgh in 2007. He can be expected to make one final start this regular season coming at Pittsburgh on Monday.

Bottom Line: Maholm has pitched better than his record in Atlanta while adding solid rotation depth for the Braves’ postseason run. It’s turned out to be a career-year for the southpaw.

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Reed Johnson, Geovany Soto Update

By bullpenbrian - September 27, 2012 - 3:05 am Leave a comment.

Reed Johnson has seen plenty of playing time since joining the Braves along with Paul Maholm on July 30th.

He’s appeared in 36-games, mainly as a late-inning defensive replacement, but has started 19-games while batting .278/.309/.333 with seven runs scored, five doubles and four RBI in 90 at-bats.

Including his 76-games spent with Chicago this year, Johnson is hitting .293,    3 HR, 20 RBI and a .745 OPS overall. His 17 pinch-hits leads the majors.

GEOVANY SOTO: A change of scenery hasn’t done much to help Soto offensively since joining the Rangers. He’s had plenty of opportunity, too. Regular backstop, Mike Napoli, was shelved for 33-games with a strained quad since early August.

In Soto’s 41-games with Texas, 36-starts, he’s batting a paltry .211 with six doubles, 5 HR, 24 RBI and a .641 OPS.

Although Soto’s experienced somewhat of a surge at the plate recently, 2 HR & 7 RBI over his last six starts, he’s batting .170 over his last 17-games.

To make matters worse, Soto’s already below-average 17.1-percent of runners caught stealing with the Cubs is down to 13.3-percent with Texas, having gunned-down just 4 of 30 base stealers.

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