Before we begin today I’d like to share some of the emails I get from people who wander through. Just in case you wonder why I drink bourbon for breakfast.
(1): You should write for a blog, your pretty gud.
(2): Your an idiot. Kenny Williams firiing hendry was the smartest thing he ever did!!!!!!!!!!!
(3): HAVING CONSULTED WITH MY COLLEAGUES AND BASED ON THE INFORMATION GATHERED FROM THE NIGERIAN CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY, I HAVE THE PRIVILEGE TO REQUEST FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE TO TRANSFER THE SUM OF $47,500,000.00 (FORTY SEVEN MILLION, FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND UNITED STATES DOLLARS) INTO YOUR ACCOUNTS.
I get that one a lot.
(4): I think you should leave Lovie Smith alone. He’s a good Christian and that should be all that matters. People who like football, as you claim to do, should know better than that.
(5): Jesus will eat your spleen for making fun of Tebow!
I actually still laugh at that one.
(6): YOU HAVE A MORAL OBLIGATION TO SEE TO IT THAT THE JEWISH CABAL IS EXPOSED FOR WHAT THEY ARE. CUBS FANS WILL SOON LEARN THE COST OF DEALING WITH MUD PEOPLE .....
That one would have printed out to about 7 pages single spaced.
(7): You’re kind of cute. I saw your picture on a web site. Click this link to see mine.
I get that one a lot too.
Anyway, you get the idea. I get a nice mix of spam and lunatics. I also get some very insightful and thoughtful emails so this gig doesn’t totally suck. Plus, with people hanging with me on Facebook and Twitter now, I get a nice variety of opinions from those who just don’t want to join another blog.
Can’t argue with that.
So, what fun can we have today? David Haugh reports that the anal retentive, conservative Christian, McCaskey family is about to hire a guy who’s nickname is Satan.
By the end of their poky search to find the right general manager to get back to the Super Bowl, the Bears might find it necessary to make a deal with the devil.
Not really, but it is fun to note that GM finalist Phil Emery once went by the nickname “Satan.’’ I wonder if Virginia McCaskey knows.
The demonic moniker came from Emery’s days as strength coach at the Naval Academy when players called him that because of his hellish conditioning workouts. The ability to make Midshipmen puke doesn’t mean Emery can make the Bears NFC North champions again or automatically makes him a better choice than Patriots director of pro personnel Jason Licht. But it speaks to an indefatigable, unrelenting approach Emery would instill throughout the organization.
One former colleague suggested Emery could outwork the four other candidates the Bears interviewed combined. Another recalled how Emery impressed Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff in 2008 so much with his work ethic after a demotion that Dimitroff eventually recommended him to Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli.
A former Bears scout the McCaskeys employed from 1998-2004, Emery represents a solid, unexciting hire typical of the Bears. A team president who feels strongly enough about the status quo to make chemistry with coach Lovie Smith a priority for the next GM would seem to favor a known commodity over an unknown. The devil Ted Phillips knows, if you will.
The Bears hiring a 53-year-old with a background in college scouting would seem a little deja vu-ish. Some might wonder if they were hiring Jerry Angelo’s replacement or his younger brother. But given the stability Emery offers and the job requirements as Phillips defines them, I will be surprised if the Bears hire anybody else.
Licht would have the edge in a total reboot of the organization. Just 40, Licht already knows from experience how the Patriots, Eagles and Cardinals got to Super Bowls. For what it’s worth, it has been easier to find people around the league who, based on reputation, doubt Licht’s ability to lead a front office more than Emery’s. But if Phillips sought to shake up the organization with a young, dynamic personality who initially might make Halas Hall holdovers uneasy, Licht fits the profile.
I can hear you in the Dick Butkus jersey saying, hey, dat’s exactly what dey need. A valid point, but don’t forget Da Bears aren’t undergoing a culture change. This isn’t the Cubs replacing Jim Hendry. Like it or not, this is a team admittedly looking for a GM who complements more than contrasts the head coach.
I still wonder if prioritizing short-term interests regarding compatibility with Smith benefits the Bears’ long-term success. The most overlooked aspect of this search has been the need to find which candidate arrives most-equipped to hire the next coach. Talent evaluation matters when it comes to draft picks and free-agents, sure, but even more so when it comes to potential head coaches.
Perhaps Angelo’s greatest achievement, the one that defined his tenure more than any other move, was choosing Smith after firing Dick Jauron — the coach he inherited and coexisted awkwardly with for three seasons. If the Bears don’t ask Emery and Licht to spell out a succession plan for when Smith is fired — as early as next January — then they are ignoring the biggest decision the next GM will make. That’s not taking a pessimistic view of the future for a team forcing a coach on a new GM as much as a realistic one.
The best GM choice? I would lean slightly toward Emery but strongly endorsing either man without hearing him articulate his plan would be baseless. I could make a case for none of the above easier than I could pick one over the other based on what we currently know.
This is what the Bears should do to create a more complete picture of Emery and Licht for everybody, including themselves: Make the final phase of the interview process a news conference the way they did when hiring a head coach in 2004.
How a Bears GM deals with the Chicago media can make his job easier or harder and affect other decisions too. Ask Angelo, an earnest man who never grasped the nuances of how perception affected his reality. If the Bears value public relations enough to designate their director of corporate communications one of three men in the organization to interview candidates — interestingly, Chairman George McCaskey is not — then including a news conference makes sense.
My first question for the man once called Satan: Will it really be a cold day in hell before a Bears GM signs or drafts a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver?
I have already weighed in on what a travesty the Bears GM search is. So let’s move on and talk about how easy it is to find a pro quality wideout in today’s market.
Or, as Mark Potash says, you really need a psychic and a divining rod.
I have no idea if Appalachian State wide receiver Brian Quick has soft hands or an exceptional ‘‘get-off.’’ I don’t know if he’s sudden in and out of his breaks or whether he’s a long-strider with a wide catching radius or a burner who accelerates toward space and has high-end speed.
He’s 6-5, 220, claims he has a 39-inch vertical, says he’ll run a 4.4 40 — and he can catch the ball and run with it. That makes him a candidate to help the Bears.
Quick isn’t the best wide receiver at the Senior Bowl. He’s tall and athletic but raw and inexperienced against top-flight competition. And he admitted he didn’t learn the nuances of the position at Appalachian State.
‘‘I had a receiving coach, but he was basically a quarterback,’’ said Quick, who had 71 receptions for 1,096 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. ‘‘[I was] not really getting coached on being a receiver, just going out there and using my talent.’’
But even with uneven performances at Senior Bowl practices, Quick had been intriguing enough to attract above-average attention from NFL talent evaluators. Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Gene Smith talked to him before I did Monday, and even more NFL reps were lined up to talk to him after practice Tuesday.
Because you never know. Mike Wallace from Ole Miss was a raw — though very fast — wide receiver at the Senior Bowl in 2009. And even after catching a 39-yard touchdown pass in the game and running a 4.33 40 at the scouting combine, he still wasn’t drafted until the third round by the Steelers — with the 84th pick that originally belonged to the Bears, by the way.
And if it’s not Quick, it could be somebody else. California’s 6-2, 194-pound Marvin Jones has more polish and played against better competition. He believes he has what NFL teams are looking for in a wide receiver.
‘‘Getting separation,’’ Jones said. ‘‘Being very sudden with my routes. I can drop and get out as well as being aggressive when the ball’s in the air. And just catching the ball consistently. Even plays that I’m not supposed to catch, I catch anyway.’’
North Carolina’s 6-4, 226-pound Dwight Jones is another candidate He comes from a pro-style college offense under coach Butch Davis that produced the Giants’ Hakeem Nicks and the Browns’ Greg Little. Like Floyd he has the potential to physically dominate defenders and catch the ball in traffic, but isn’t a disciplined route runner — there’s always something. But he’s considered a potential first-round pick.
His strongest suit?
‘‘That I just know how to play football,’’ said Jones, who had 85 receptions fro 1,196 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. ‘‘I know how to get open and I’m coachable. I’m trying to pick up the playbook as quickly as possible to show teams that I’ve only been here two days and I can come out there and run routes as clean as possible. I’m trying to show teams that I love playing football and I’m a quick learner.’’
Jones and Iowa’s 6-3, 216-pound Marvin McNutt are the highest-rated wide receivers at the Senior Bowl. But whether it’s here or at the combine or in any draft room, finding a difference-making wide receiver is tricky.
‘‘A lot of times the skill guys will stand out and you have to be careful,’’ said Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, the former Super Bowl Bear whose staff is coaching the North team. ‘‘When you’re trying to measure, can they translate that to the next level, where the best of the best play. That’s one of the reasons why the wide receiver position is misguided. Teams miss on first-round wide receivers for a reason.’’
I know absolutely nothing about that kid. And I understand the reticence some might have signing him. But, and it seems salient to point this out, that kid didn’t grade in the top 30 wideouts who are available this year. That’s one for every team, in case you’re playing along at home.
If the kid’s there and you’re interested, take him in the fourth round. But it isn’t like there aren’t any others available who could make an immediate impact.
Follow us on Twitter!
The reason the Tigers signed Prince Fielder was because the guy to the right was already gobbled up by the Dodgers. Or, maybe that should read the other way around.
Sometime over the weekend Dave Dombrowski and Kenny Williams traded places, probably as the result of a stupid bar bet, and now Dombrowski is forced to put a smiley face on the fact that his team just signed the dumbest contract in the history of baseball. See kids? This is why you shouldn’t drink and gamble.
“But, but, but,” your inner Kenny Williams is saying, “he can knock the snot out of the ball.”
Yes he can and, assuming he doesn’t fall prey to the same problems that have riddled other young hitters when they went from the National League to DH .... oh, wait, Prince ain’t no DH. So do you play him at first?
Well, you could. That being the only position that wouldn’t require him to take oxygen every inning. And that could provide hours of blooper reels for ESPN. After all Detroit’s defense is built around ground ball pitchers and quick defense. Prince is to agile and quick what an atomic bomb is to subtle.
So, if you put him at first you still have a hole at DH and you have to move around pieces that were successful not being moved around.
Let’s face it, you can cut this cake six ways to Sunday and Prince is going to eat it all anyway and still have to be the DH.
Which is a position he’s never played before. And, as Chicago’s South Side fans have come to painfully realize, yes, DH is an actual position.
Daryl van Schouwen takes a look at the shattered mindset of the last young hitter to try to move to the DH spot.
Adam Dunn vowed he wouldn’t talk about last season once it was over. He wanted to go home to his new house near Houston and put the unfathomable .159 average and 177 strikeouts in his rearview mirror as quickly as possible.
It wasn’t that easy.
“At the end of the season, my deal was to remove myself completely from it,’’ Dunn said by telephone Tuesday, “but I found that I couldn’t. For a week and a half, I removed myself from everything, but it’s hard to remove yourself from your job. That’s your job. I didn’t do it like I thought I would do, but that’s good. I feel great. I’m fine. It’s over.’’
As painful as it was for Sox fans to watch, believe Dunn when he tells you it was worse for him. To his credit, he took the public beatings like a pro. No excuses, no hiding from the media, no finger-pointing.
As the Sox’ high hopes coincided with Dunn’s failures, there was no escaping the stunning results for one of the most prolific power hitters of all time. In 2010, Dunn batted .260 with 38 home runs, a career-high 36 doubles and 103 RBI for the Washington Nationals. Only Albert Pujols, Eddie Mathews and Ralph Kiner hit more home runs in their first 10 seasons than Dunn.
“Everything I’ve done my entire life has been discredited by one stupid year,’’ said Dunn, 32, who hit only 11 homers and drove in 42 runs in 2011. “Maybe discredited is not the word, but that’s kind of how I feel.
“I don’t want to make excuses. There are a few things that I probably look back on and say, ‘I shouldn’t have done this or that,’ a few things I probably would have done a little differently, but it’s over with. I can’t take it back. I don’t want to say anything that would sound like excuses. That’s the last thing I want because there are no excuses. I should have been able to get out of it, and I couldn’t.’’
Dunn, who had never hit during the offseason before this one, said he’s hitting four times a week.
But there’s no truth to a rumor making the rounds that Dunn will show up at SoxFest this weekend 30 pounds lighter. Dunn’s offseason workout routine hasn’t changed drastically, although he has worked out more because his new home is closer to a facility.
“I don’t stand on the scale in front of the mirror or anything like that,’’ Dunn said.
“I’ve been swinging the bat a little bit and doing things [working out] I’ve always done, just a little more. One of my buddies is a former minor-league guy who likes to go over there and see if he can still throw. I wouldn’t say I’m hitting five days a week. Some weeks we’ll go four times; some weeks we won’t go at all.
“I just know that my body feels good. I feel healthy. I feel great. I’m ready to get back. I’m just ready to get going.’’
Dunn hasn’t spoken with new manager Robin Ventura, who figures to have the more conventional style Dunn was used to before he came to the Sox last offseason.
“I’ve never had a manager like Ozzie [Guillen],’’ Dunn said. ‘‘No one has ever had a manager like Ozzie. It’s going to be different. I don’t know how Robin is going to be, but I would imagine he’ll probably be more of a traditional manager. Not to say it was bad; it was just different. This will be something I’m more accustomed to as opposed to somebody like Ozzie, you know. There’s only one Ozzie.’’
Ventura has hinted that Dunn, who made the transition to designated hitter last season, will see more games in the field, perhaps at first base and left field. Defense is not Dunn’s strong suit, but he’ll do whatever he’s asked.
“I’m fine with whatever,’’ he said. “I’ll be ready.’’
A few items of note about the above; (1) my buddy, who saw Dunn recently, says he’s a few pounds lighter but in much better shape (I’ll take that); (2) what did Ozzie do that was so different that it traumatized him so? Were there Satanic rituals involved? Enquiring minds want to know. Anyway, (3); my buddy, mentioned in note #1, also got to see him hit for about 10 minutes and reported that several of the balls required stewardesses and an in-flight movie. So, that’s all good news for Sox fans.
But, Detroit fans should note that, while Dunn’s train wreck last year was extraordinary, the basic idea of what happens to a young hitter moved to the DH is about the same.
Before we continue, let’s get the whole anointing of the next World Series Champions out of the way.
The floor is yours Phil Rogers.
Forget retooling. The Tigers struck a blow Tuesday that suggests they might do what no team has done since the Albert Belle/Manny Ramirez/Jim Thome-era Indians. They are in position to dominate the Central and scare everyone else in the American League in the process.
General manager Dave Dombrowski was clear about his goal before the Tigers won their last title in the balanced Central.
“Your goal is to become the behemoth,’’ Dombrowski said. “You hope the competition drives you up to where you’re winning 95 games every year. That’s what you’re trying to win.’’
Ninety-five victories a year? That was the annual target of the Red Sox during Theo Epstein’s years there. It was what they felt they needed to be assured of winning a wild-card spot, if not finishing ahead of the Yankees. It’s an awful lot of victories to plan for, but it’s become a reasonable goal for at least four AL teams entering 2012.
With Prince Fielder hitting next to Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers have joined the Angels, Rangers and Yankees as the cream of baseball’s deepest league, with the Rays, Red Sox and Blue Jays hoping a fifth team is added to the playoffs.
Fielder and Cabrera combined for 68 home runs, 84 doubles, 215 walks, 206 runs scored and 225 runs driven in last season. With them joining a team that is headlined by Cy Young winner/MVP Justin Verlander, the door into October would seem to have slammed shut for the White Sox and everyone else in the AL Central, which has been a land of opportunity.
The Tigers seem almost certain to win 90-plus games in 2012, and 100 is well within sight with a regular diet of the Twins, Royals, Indians and White Sox.
Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf already has lowered both ticket prices and the payroll. Carlos Quentin, Sergio Santos and Jason Frasor already have been traded. You wonder if there’s any point in holding onto veteran players who might have value elsewhere, such as Gavin Floyd, Matt Thornton and even shortstop Alexei Ramirez, as the Sox head into a challenging season under rookie manager Robin Ventura.
With Eduardo Escobar already on the fringes of the big-league roster and Tyler Saladino on the horizon, why wouldn’t Ken Williams consider sending Ramirez and Floyd to Boston in a package for as much 25-and-under talent as possible?
One rumor bouncing around says Ramirez isn’t the White Sox regular the Red Sox are eyeing for the shortstop opening they created when they traded Marco Scutaro to the Rockies. It says they think Gordon Beckham is capable of regaining his ability as a run-producer and returning to the position he played at the University of Georgia.
Few saw the Tigers coming in the Fielder sweepstakes. But Mike Ilitch might be as aggressive as any owner in baseball, and his interest in Fielder spiked after the Tigers lost Victor Martinez to knee surgery last week.
Luckily for the Tigers, Scott Boras still was trying to find a mega-deal for Fielder when Martinez was lost. Tigers owner Mike Ilitch stepped into the void to land Fielder with a nine-year deal worth $214 million.
Score another one for Boras. But, of more importance to Detroit’s baseball fans and demanding manager Jim Leyland, the Tigers are in it to win it.
“We have a unique owner,’’ Dombrowski said. “… He is driven to win. … A (few) years ago I never thought we were going to acquire Miguel Cabrera. That wasn’t in my budget. He said to me, ‘I think Miguel Cabrera would look good in a Tiger uniform.’ I said, ‘I do too, but we don’t have the finances.’ He said, ‘Let’s see if we can make it work.’’’
Substitute Fielder for Cabrera — something Leyland won’t have to do — and that same dynamic played out again, four years after Dombrowski landed Cabrera in a trade that stunned Williams and the Sox, who were chasing him at the time.
The Tigers will have a glut of talent when Martinez returns, whether it’s late in 2012 or the following spring. With Alex Avila as one of the best young catchers in the game, filling out a lineup card will be awkward if Cabrera can’t handle a return to third base, where he last was a regular in 2007. Martinez could try the outfield or the Tigers could trade one of the four.
Dombrowski and Ilitch don’t give no-trade clauses, and aren’t afraid to trade talented, popular players (Curtis Granderson, for instance). Cabrera, signed through 2015, has 10-and-5 no-trade rights after ‘13. Martinez is signed through ‘14. How long can a team carry three first basemen-DHs?
Cabrera and Fielder probably will play together only four years, tops. But for the White Sox and their AL Central brethren, this period may be considered the Tigers’ reign of terror.
The Albert Belle/Manny Ramirez/Jim Thome-era Indians = 0 World Series rings.
Too much hitting not enough pitching or fielding.
Detroit’s team average minus Verlander? .500.
Number of pitchers Detroit picked up this off-season? 0.
Number needed? 2. Minimum.
Number of years Detroit has just guaranteed it won’t win a ring? 9. Hell, they might be like the ‘83 Cubs and lead the league in home runs and losses. Won’t that be fun?
It will be for this White Sox fan.
Follow us on Twitter!
Yeah, that’s a pic of the new Supergirl to the right. I have got to get to the comic book stores more often.
Actually, Googling for “sexy lightning” was mildly enlightening. You have no idea how many female comic book heroines are involved with lightning. And then there’s the whole Lightning Lad (Justice League) soft porn - that’s tastefully done - with him and a bevy of hot blonds. But you can skip past that. There’s not a lot of it.
“Okay, Dr. Disturbing,” I hear you muttering, “why the hell were you Googling for “sexy lightning” in the first place?”
I’ll tell you.
Every year, about this time, Phil Rogers over at the Trib releases his “Power Rankings.” It didn’t take me too long to realize that the Cubs and the Sox were going to be near the bottom so that meant I could wait for them both to come out and then stick them in one column. In other words, I could write about two teams that are going to be trying to catch lightning in a bottle this year and make it to the playoffs.
One moment of good news for our very own Big Star, both teams are ranked above the Padres.
Obviously these are not meant to be the “Be-All, End-All” of any conversation. Far from it, they are just a a nice framework for the beginnings of one.
So, with that in mind, #26, the Larch.
Oh, sorry, channeled my inner Monty Python. Let’s try that again.
En route to 91 losses last season and a radical regime change, the Cubs were outscored by 102 runs. As it happens, half of those can be put down to talent and half of them to playing the game well.
Bill James tracks manufactured runs, both created and allowed. He defines manufactured runs as those on which two of the four bases result from something other than station-to-station baseball.
The key to manufacturing runs is good baserunning and situational hitting, and nobody does it better than the Rangers’ combination of Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus. They’re like the guy in the auto insurance commercials. They epitomize mayhem.
The Cubs? Not so much.
They have been consistently inefficient — a Lou Piniella issue that Mike Quade inherited and could not solve.
In 2009, Piniella’s last full season, the Cubs manufactured 123 runs, the second-lowest total in the majors. They allowed 163, 11th-most in the majors. That manufactured-run sum of minus-40 matched the Nationals for the sixth-worst figure in the majors — and it’s worth noting that four of the five with worse figures finished last in their divisions, and the other ended next-to-last.
Rudy Jaramillo joined Piniella’s staff as hitting coach after the 2009 season, but despite a reputation as one of the great instructors of all time, he hasn’t gotten improved results.
In Quade’s one full season, 2011, the Cubs manufactured 118 runs, again the second-lowest total in the majors. They allowed opponents to score 169 such runs. This time, the sum of minus-51 matched the A’s for the worst figure in the majors.
These results won’t shock anyone who has watched the Cubs play since the Jim Hendry bubble burst in the 2008 division series against the Dodgers. That series featured a seven-walk game by Ryan Dempster and a game in which all four infielders committed errors. It’s that kind of self-destruction that eventually led to the hiring of Theo Epstein and the offseason housecleaning.
Even by the franchise’s standards, the Cubs have played abysmal fundamental baseball. That must change if they’re going to build a team that can grind out 3-2 and 7-6 victories.
Manager Dale Sveum, the former Brewers shortstop and hitting coach, bears much of the responsibility to get his team to do more of the basics: move runners over, hit cutoff men, execute rundown plays and play solid bunt defense.
He will have a more athletic roster than Quade did a year ago, with guys such as Ian Stewart and David DeJesus meeting Epstein’s desire to have players with no big flaws, even something as seemingly insignificant as baserunning ability. But it’s Jaramillo who really will be under the gun.
Epstein and Chairman Tom Ricketts are big believers in the value of a deep at-bat, of hitters who can lay off borderline pitches and get a bat on wicked ones, prolonging an at-bat with multiple foul balls. The only two primary Cubs last season skilled at producing those at-bats were Kosuke Fukudome (4.29 pitches per plate appearance) and Carlos Pena (4.13), and they’re not around anymore.
Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro, who figure to have the most shelf life of the returning players, were at 3.82 and 3.67, respectively. Among major leaguers with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, Castro ranked 111th of 120. Alfonso Soriano was 114th at 3.65.
Can Sveum and Jaramillo make the 2012 lineup more productive? Can Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio find a way to make opposing hitters less productive? The return to competitiveness largely depends on their abilities to manufacture good baseball.
•Epstein’s tendency toward complete players showed in his including D.J. LeMahieu in the trade for Stewart. The Rockies believe LeMahieu can make a run at Rookie of the Year as their second baseman, but the Cubs devalued his ability to hit for average because of a lack of power, average speed and questionable fielding.
•Jed Hoyer, the general manager who is the No. 2 man to Epstein, says the Cubs should have been better than 71-91 last season. The team unraveled after early April injuries to Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells, which started a spiral in which Quade used 10 starting pitchers. Epstein and Hoyer have added four potential starters (Paul Maholm, Chris Volstad, Travis Wood and Andy Sonnanstine) to make the inventory eight deep, with Casey Coleman (17 starts last year) the least of the choices.
•Epstein’s big moves are still to come. DeJesus’ two-year, $10 million contract makes him the most expensive newcomer on a remodeled roster, although it’s clear the Cubs will be among the biggest bidders for Cuban center fielder Yoennis Cespedes.
•Top prospect Brett Jackson is likely to spend most of 2012 at Triple-A Iowa unless Soriano or Marlon Byrd is traded to clear a spot.
Since we are enjoying the fruits of Google today, I plugged in “rudy jaramillo steroids” and got this gem;
During most of Rudy Jaramillo’s 15 years with the Rangers, the Ballpark at Arlington was Steroid Central.
Among those in the Texas Juicers Hall of Fame during Jaramillo’s time: Alex Rodriguez, Pudge Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, Ruben Sierra.
Now the Cubs are saying that Darwin Barney put on “18lbs of pure muscle” this off-season. I would hope that Bud Selig himself, since he’s the one who forced the Ricketts on Chicago, will be Mesa holding a little plastic cup.
That being said, I have no idea how many games they are going to win this year but I do think fans, the real ones - not the Ohio tourists who get their pic taken with Ronny Woo Woo and then pee on a lawn, are going to see a better brand of baseball than they’ve been used to.
Moving on. #23 - The Sox.
Ozzieball was always a misnomer.
Taking their lead from the guy in the manager’s office, White Sox marketing types and some of their more casual fans romanticized the Ozzie Guillen era as one of in-your-face baseball — aggressive baserunning, hard slides and pitchers knocking back batters.
That was never how Guillen’s teams won. Nor was it why Guillen was generally a very solid manager during his eight seasons on the South Side.
Truth be told, Guillen was more like old-school American League managers — men like Earl Weaver and Cito Gaston. He won because, well, his hitters were better than your hitters, and he had a pretty good idea when to ride his starting pitcher and when to call the bullpen.
Guillen’s teams generally beat you with home runs, not small ball, and now that he and longtime ace Mark Buehrle have moved on to Miami, the challenge for rookie manager Robin Ventura and general manager Ken Williams is to survive without the power hitters and predictable pitching that allowed Guillen to thrive.
Guillen’s eight White Sox teams outhomered the opposition every year, by an average of 202-172. That’s as easy an explanation as any as to how Guillen compiled a .524 winning percentage.
The White Sox haven’t hit as many homers in recent years, which is largely why things became so stressful aroundU.S. Cellular Field.
When the Sox outlasted the Twins over 163 games in 2008, they banged out 235 home runs — the third time in the Guillen era they led the AL. But the total has dropped every year since then — to 184, 177 and only 154 last year, when Adam Dunn was imported to stop the trend.
The Dunn signing continued a pattern that portends difficulty ahead for Ventura and Williams.
The Sox have outhomered the opposition in 12 straight seasons. But while that trend was started largely with home-grown power hitters — with Paul Konerko the exception among a cast that included Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Lee, Ray Durham, Aaron Rowand and Joe Crede — most of the recent bombers came in trades or free-agent signings.
Williams has benefited hugely from the strong scouting and player development operation he took over from Ron Schueler, but all that’s left from his inheritance is Konerko, who will be 36 when the 2012 season begins. There’s a shortage of power hitters in the farm system, with the top prospects, first baseman Andy Wilkins and outfielder Tracye Thompson, two or three years away.
There’s an onus on 22-year-old Cuban Dayan Viciedo to hit the ground slugging in April. Ventura and his hitting coach, Jeff Manto, like Ventura in his first season as a coach in a big-league dugout, will try to get more power from Brent Morel, Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez, while evaluating whether catcher Tyler Flowers can handle pitchers well enough for them to get his powerful bat in the lineup on a regular basis.
The key, of course, is a return to form by Dunn and Alex Rios, who combined for 59 home runs in 2010 but only 24 last season. Along with Beckham’s stalled development, this is likely the reason respected hitting coach Greg Walker did not get an offer to join Ventura’s staff.
Everything ends at some point, however. You wonder if Guillen is getting out at just the right time in terms of the home-run winds, which have been at the Sox’s backs almost the entire time Ventura was away.
•Guillen may be missed more than Sox fans would like. According to the Pythagorean standings, his teams won fewer games than they should have only twice (2004, 2009) and were a highly successful plus-19 in wins over his tenure, including plus-8 in 2005, when a 35-19 record in one-run games allowed them to win the division title over Eric Wedge’s Indians, who were numerically superior.
Buehrle will definitely be missed. He carried the biggest workload for a pitching staff that gave up the fewest home runs in the AL in 2010 (136) and ranked fourth last season (147).
Chris Sale moves into Buehrle’s spot in the rotation. Some think the White Sox handicapped his development by using him as a setup reliever last season rather than sending him to the minors to start. He worked only 103 innings as a junior at Florida Gulf Coast University in 2010, the year the Sox drafted him.
The Sox hope they can land another Cuban power hitter soon. They’re expected to bid for Yoenis Cespedes and 19-year-old Jorge Soler when they reach free agency.
Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has remained loyal to Williams despite his heavy spending producing only a 440-445 record since the 2006 All-Star break. He wouldn’t have to look far if he wanted to make a change during 2012. Assistant GM Rick Hahn stayed put last winter rather than allowing himself to become a leading candidate in job searches in Baltimore and Houston, and Tony La Russa continues to say he would like a front-office job with significant responsibilities.
Here’s where Phil and I have a minor, and it really is nitpicking, disagreement. Yes, Ozzie’s teams had lots of homers. But, and this is salient, they also had aggressive baserunning, hard slides and pitchers knocking back batters. More than that, they won a lot of those 1-0 games he was talking about earlier when discussing the Cubs. Ozzie likes power hitting just fine. What he doesn’t like is power hitters who can’t play the field. Quentin and Konerko make Ozzie happy. Thome and Dunn, not so much. The reason behind that is simple; to Ozzie the DH actually means “Designated Hitter” not “Designated Basher.”
So let’s lay out the questions that will enliven this year’s baseball soap opera; As The Diamond Cracks.
- Will Rudy Jaramillo revert to form and have hitters knocking back more juice than Anita Bryant?
- Can Dale Sveum (rhymes with FAME: I’m going to live forever ... sorry) actually get this team to play defense and run out grounders?
- Will Theo Epstein be talking to a sock puppet named Orville while gargling bourbon in July?
- Will Don Cooper finally admit that he brings more drama to the room than a Kardashian marriage?
- Will Robin Ventura be able to take Kenny William’s hand out of his (ahem) butt and be his own man and not a puppet?
- Will Jerry Reinsdorf (all around good guy and winningest owner in city history) finally see the light and send Rap Master K-Dub packing?
You’ll have to tune in to find out.
Follow us on Twitter!
- First base – mouth to mouth kissing, especially open mouth ("French") kissing involving the tongue.
- Second base – aggressive stimulation between the neck and waist, usually shirtless or under the shirt.
- Third base – manual or oral stimulation of the genitalia.
- Fourth base (Home run) – the act of penetrative intercourse.
Who knew that when Melissa gave me that back rub in 8th grade she was really reaching second base? I wish I’d been paying better attention.
Okay, silliness aside, I thought I’d take a minute to talk about talent assessment.
NO! NOT THAT KIND YOU FREAKING PERVERT!
Alex Smith, QB for the 49ers, was widely hailed as a bust of epic proportions. Then Jim Harbaugh took over and made two minor adjustments. One to his delivery and the other to the offensive scheme. The epic bust took them to within one game of the Super Bowl. Might have gotten there too had the 49ers not discovered that you can’t be three players deep at every position and were forced to start an inexperienced punt returner. Don’t blame the kid for not being able to do something he’d never really done before. Certainly not in that type of setting. That crowd was so hyped they were cheering the rain.
But the point is that successful coaches work with what they have, not what they want. They figure out to make things work.
That applies to any sport.
And, oddly enough, thanks to that being true, I am about to become the unlikely source of sunshine for Cubs fans.
Toni Ginetti, a writer I happen to admire, talks about how the Cubs are going to start Bryan LaHair at first base.
Something I think they should have done last year instead of wasting a season on Pena who did nothing but salvage his stats.
The Cubs are set to give Bryan LaHair a chance to be their next first baseman. Meanwhile, Carlos Pena moved back to his former team.
Pena agreed to terms on a one-year, $7.25 million deal Friday with the Tampa Bay Rays, pending a physical. The salary is less than the $10 million Pena made in his one season with the Cubs.
Pena, 33, hit .225 with 28 home runs and 80 RBI for the Cubs. That was similar to his season with the Rays in 2010, when he had 28 homers and 84 RBI but hit .196.
Pena also drew interest from the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees but chose to return to the team where he had his best success and where he was a popular player. He played four seasons with the Rays (2007-10) and was a member of two playoff teams (2008, when he won a Gold Glove and was voted American League comeback player of the year, and 2010). His best offensive season came in 2008, when he hit .282 with 46 homers and 121 RBI.
President Theo Epstein has said the Cubs will give LaHair a chance at first after he had his best minor-league season before being called up late in 2011. LaHair, 28, hit .288 with two homers and six RBI in 20 games for the Cubs after hitting a record 38 homers at Class AAA Iowa, where he was named Pacific Coast League player of the year.
‘‘I don’t believe in 4A players,’’ Epstein said in a conference call with season-ticket holders in December, referring to the term given to players who excel in the minors but not in the majors. ‘‘Guys who can hit will hit when they’re given a chance. He [LaHair] continued to rake in winter ball [in Venezuela].’’
But newly acquired Anthony Rizzo, whom Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer drafted when they were with the Boston Red Sox in 2007, has been pegged as the Cubs’ first baseman of the future. The Cubs sent pitcher Andrew Cashner and minor-league outfielder Kyung Min-Na to the San Diego Padres three weeks ago to get Rizzo, whom Hoyer had acquired from the Red Sox in December 2010, when he was the Padres’ general manager.
Off the field, the Cubs continue to modify internal operations with an eye toward belt-tightening in areas besides team payroll, including reducing the daily meal allowance for scouts from $50 to $30.
All of this means that the Cubs now have options that include being able to compete now, and I can’t believe I just typed that, while still setting themselves up as a legitimate team for the future. If Rizzo is ready to come up in late July and LaHair does about what I expect him to by that time - .285 / 10 homers / 40 rbi - then the Cubs have a valuable piece to trade to a contender and they have the talent to fill the void.
Just FYI, I too think Rizzo is the future.
The Cubs have not played LaHair for one simple reason. He spent two more years in the minors than Pinella and, later, Quade liked. That is almost the most random thing I have ever heard. Yes, after a while you can say “Gee, he’s 36, still in the minors and not impressing anyone” but to write a guy off when he’s barely over 25 seems insane. That’s how old he was when the Cubs did just that. Now he’s bumping 30. But, one half a good season and he’s trade bait and wealthy.
I wish him nothing but the best.
So why does he merit a start now? I mean besides the obvious reason that I said so? Because, worst case scenario, the guy’s an incredible defensive player and you are going to see some bad pitching this year. Guys like him can make pitchers look good and keep teams in games. Which is exactly what Sveum and Epstein want out of a player. They don’t have to change anything other than fans’ perceptions. And they are doing a pretty decent job at that.
But what about the vaunted farm system? You know, that thing that other people have but Cubs fans merely read about? Well, all of the moving and shaking seems to have left some lint that’s worth noting. Jonathan Mayo, of MLB.com, takes a look at the top ten prospects at first base.
1. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs: Rizzo’s big league debut in 2011 may not have gone very well, but that didn’t mean his left-handed bat wasn’t still in high demand. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, who helped draft Rizzo in Boston and then traded for him while the GM in San Diego, acquired him in Chicago during the offseason. A solid defender at first, it’s Rizzo’s power bat (51 homers and 200-plus RBIs over the past two seasons in the Minors) that is his calling card. Look for him to make some adjustments and be ready for the big leagues in 2012, even if he starts the year in Triple-A behind Bryan LaHair.
2. Yonder Alonso, Padres: Alonso wasn’t going to play first base in Cincinnati because of Joey Votto, and even with a valiant effort, left field really wasn’t for him. So no one was surprised when Alonso was a part of the trade with San Diego that brought Mat Latos to the Reds. With Rizzo now in Chicago, first base in San Diego should be Alonso’s for the taking. He brings to the table an advanced approach at the plate, with the ability to hit for average and power to all fields—even if that will largely be doubles at Petco. No longer a stuck prospect, Alonso should take off and perhaps be a National League Rookie of the Year Award candidate in 2012.
3. Jonathan Singleton, Astros: The Phillies moved Singleton to left field to start 2011 in an effort to avoid the Ryan Howard roadblock, but after a couple of months, they moved Singleton back to first, where he is much better defensively. The Howard issue became moot when Singleton was shipped to Houston as part of the Hunter Pence deal. He has a special bat, regardless of where he plays, with the ability to hit for average and excellent on-base skills. The power will continue to come as Singleton matures. He’ll make the big step up to Double-A in 2012.
4. C.J. Cron, Angels: Cron was high on Draft boards last June as one of the better advanced college hitters in the class. The son of Chris Cron, now a manager in the Tigers’ Minor League system, his pitch recognition and plate discipline should allow him to hit for average, and his strength will bring power as well, as was on display during his summer debut. A former catcher, a torn labrum will limit Cron to first base, and an injured knee required surgery. He should be just fine for Spring Training and has the kind of hitting skills that should enable him to move quickly through the Angels’ farm system.
5. Chris Parmelee, Twins: When he was a high school player in 2006, teams coveted Parmelee’s bat at first base. He hasn’t exactly taken a quick route to the big leagues, spending at least parts of two seasons at each level. In 2011, though, Parmelee jumped from Double-A to Minnesota and performed even better than expected. He has a good approach at the plate, with good on-base skills, and he doesn’t hurt himself too much with strikeouts. The power hasn’t shown up on a consistent basis, though it did during Parmelee’s big league debut. If Justin Morneau isn’t ready to play, Parmelee could be an option, though he could get some Triple-A time first.
6. Matt Adams, Cardinals: Simply put, Adams can flat-out hit. With a career .316/.365/.552 line, he’s produced wherever he’s been. The big jump came in 2011, when Adams moved up to Double-A and was named the Texas League Player of the Year. Few doubt now that he’ll hit for average and power at the highest level. Adams is fine defensively at first, and now with Albert Pujols in Anaheim, the Cards don’t have to experiment with Adams in an outfield corner. Give him some time in Triple-A and he’ll be ready to contribute in St. Louis soon.
7. Neftali Soto, Reds: For three years in a row, Soto’s overall production has increased, with upticks in homers, RBIs and slugging percentage. Last year was his breakout, with a 30-homer season in Double-A. Soto doesn’t draw many walks, but he also doesn’t strike out much for a guy with that kind of power. With Alonso now in San Diego, Soto becomes the organization’s best first-base prospect. Now it’s his turn to be stuck in Triple-A behind Votto.
8. Chris Marrero, Nationals: After five-plus seasons in the Minors, Marrero finally made his way to the big leagues, playing first for the Nats for much of the final month of the season. He’s always had a decent bat with good power, though it hasn’t always shown up consistently in games. Marrero has worked hard to become an adequate first baseman, and he might have received an opportunity to play there in Washington in 2012 if it weren’t for a torn hamstring he suffered in winter ball. When Marrero gets back, he’ll probably have to head to Triple-A and wait for an opportunity.
9. Alex Dickerson, Pirates: Dickerson had a very solid career offensively at Indiana, though his power numbers went down a bit with the switch to the new college bats in 2011. That, and a lack of a true defensive home, led him to be available in the third round for Pittsburgh. He’s settled in nicely at first base and showed his advanced hitting skills during his debut last summer. Dickerson can hit for average and has some legitimate power, maximizing it all with excellent plate discipline. His left-handed bat should allow him to move pretty quickly up the ladder.
10. Dan Vogelbach, Cubs: Coming out of high school, Vogelbach was on radars because of his light-tower power from the left side. It’s legitimately plus-plus, and he can hit it out to all fields. Vogelbach is not an all-or-nothing swinger, either, and his advanced approach should allow him to be a fairly complete hitter. Non-athletic would be a kind way to describe Vogelbach’s body type in high school, but he’s already trimmed down as he prepares for his first season of pro ball.
To be eligible for the list, a player must have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.
No, you haven’t lost your mind. The Cubs have two of the top ten prospects in the nation able to play first base. And Voglebach, according to those who’ve seen him, could also be the right fielder of the future. Wouldn’t it be fun to have two home grown guys on the team who could give you 40 home runs a year without any drama?
Other teams can do that and there’s no reason the Cubs can’t join them.
Follow us on Twitter!
Yesterday I toddled out of the house and went to visit my buddies at the bar. When I got there I was introduced to a new group of people. We ended up talking for a couple of hours and then I decided to call it a day. I came home, made dinner and finished reading Julia Navarro’s Bible of Clay. A great read if you’re looking for something new. I was just getting ready for bed when the phone rang.
“You wanna come over?”
There are three questions you always answer yes; (1) do you wish to continue breathing? (2) do you like to eat food? – and (3) the above question when asked by her.
So I caught the two busses needed to get from here to there and then took the stairs two at a time. I have not been able to do that for over a decade but since I quit smoking I find I am much more energetic.
She saw me cover the last bit of the distance as she opened the door and laughed.
“Well, you seem healthy enough. Let’s take those training wheels off and give that baby a ride.”
I’ll leave out the cootie inducing stuff.
Two hours later I was laying on my back with her draped across my chest – placement will be important in a moment – when her bedroom door opened and there was a beautiful woman standing there, about my age. Maybe a little younger.
Somewhere in the toy store I call a mind she seemed familiar.
“Bill, what are you doing with _________?
And that is how I found out _________’s real name.
“Mom, what are you doing here at all?”
And that is how I found out the relationship of the two women. It was also at that moment that the Legos snapped together to form a complete memory and I laughed.
“Well, like mother like daughter I guess. I met you both on New Year’s Eve, you both made it clear that I was just a hobby until something real came along and you both treated me pretty well.”
I was very pleased that I was able to defuse what could have been an ugly situation until the pocket calculator I also keep in my head started doing some arithmetic. I had dated mom before I met my first wife which would be (cough) years ago. The young lady in the bed on top of me was about (cough) years old. It seemed she was coming to the same conclusion I was and she started to lift herself off of me.
Mom was kind enough to point out that the father of the young lady was well known to her and was certainly not me.
That brought a wave of relief people felt in Taipei.
Mom announced that she was going to make tea and not-mom helped me find my pants. Oddly enough I remembered that mom liked Earl Gray. I have no idea why I remembered that.
When I got to the door I was gifted with a kiss that would have set off Richter scales had any been around. I figured that was the goodbye kiss and smiled as I left. If that was the end it had still been one hell of a ride. I was about half way down the stairs when I heard mom say “He’s not a bad guy…” and then the door closed.
Smiling, it suddenly occurred to me that I was walking very funny. It took my toy store brain a minute to assemble all the Legos it needed to inform me that I had severely wrenched my knee and probably pulled a couple of muscles in my thigh as well.
So I am sitting here with my leg up on an ottoman, wrapped in ice and typing your Sunday blog. I know what you’re thinking; “Dude, that knee’s gotta hurt.”
Don’t worry, I don’t mind taking one for the team every now and then.
Anyway, I told you that story so I could tell you this one.
No matter what happened to me yesterday nobody’s getting more screwed than Bears fans right now. In the cartoon world known as Halas Hall they just finished interviewing the only candidates on their list. There were five of them. They have floated several press releases about what a skippy wonderful guy Tim Ruskell is. Those press releases focus on the fact that in his first two years as GM for the Seahawks they went to the Super Bowl. They neglect the fact that he inherited a strong team and a Super Bowl winning coach. Smart people look at his last two years where the team was in disarray, he was loathed by players and coaches alike and even the Seattle media widely lampooned him as a useless buffoon.
I should now point out that Ruskell was the most experienced candidate on the Bears’ list.
Way to set the bar low there kids.
However, even Virginia McCaskey doesn’t need glasses to see what fan reaction would be if Ruskell got promoted. The Bears message boards are filled with comments that often start with “Who wants my season tickets?” But since they’re keeping Lovie they may as well keep Ruskell too. After all he’s been such an asset answering phones and getting people coffee. But how to do it?
Sean Jensen reports that the Bears have figured out a way to get what they want. They are going to hire the one guy who has never handled a draft, never negotiated a contract and never worked on the pro side of any organization.
What are his qualifications? He plays nice with Ruskell.
The Bears wrapped up their fifth interview in five days Friday with general- manager candidates.
And they felt strongly enough about the pool that they won’t expand it.
So Jason Licht of the New England Patriots, Jimmy Raye of the San Diego Chargers, Marc Ross of the New York Giants, Tim Ruskell of the Bears or Phil Emery of the Kansas City Chiefs will replace Jerry Angelo.
If the hunches of three league sources are correct, Emery is the leader in the clubhouse.
Emery is the Chiefs’ college scouting director, and he served in the same capacity under Ruskell in Atlanta. Before that, Emery worked as an area scout for the Bears from 1998 to 2004.
He’s considered a “grinder,” a college scout who’s on the road constantly, searching for the next wave of NFL stars.
Emery’s appeal, one source said, might be that his profile is similar to Ted Thompson, the respected general manager of the Green Bay Packers. Like Thompson, Emery has a background deeply rooted on the college side, and he’s matter-of-fact and low-key. They’re aggressive in traveling to scout college players.
In addition, because of his familiarity with many of the Bears’ scouts, Emery wouldn’t be overhauling the staff, and he’d be able to quickly transition and get them headed in the direction he sets forth.
And, like Thompson, Emery may play information close to the vest, as it relates to the media. Emery, after all, survived the arrival of Scott Pioli, the former Patriots executive who closely worked with coach Bill Belichick to establish that team as a consistent championship contender.
Pioli became the Chiefs’ general manager in 2009, and he dramatically turned over the staff, not only in scouting but other departments.
Last week, the Kansas City Star reported that many staffers — including ousted coach Todd Haley — suspected that Pioli might have bugged the Chiefs’ headquarters.
One source who has worked with Emery highlighted his organization and intelligence.
His approach will have him on the road, so Emery will need a strong director to oversee the scouting department, particularly as it relates to the pro side.
Ruskell, then the assistant general manager of the Falcons, gave Emery his big scouting break when he named him college scouting director.
And with Ruskell believed to be under contract through 2013, Emery might be encouraged to retain the former president and general manager of the Seattle Seahawks.
Either way, Bears president Ted Phillips could process the interviews over the weekend, then decide the next steps early next week to determine if additional interviews are necessary. Another consideration is the fact that the Patriots (Licht) and Giants (Ross) are still alive.
The Bears couldn’t announce either of them as their hire until his season was over. That decision, though, is up to the team. For instance, the Packers allowed Reggie McKenzie to leave the team early and begin his new job as the general manager of the Oakland Raiders.
All five candidates have strong reputations, but the Bears didn’t interview several other strong GM candidates.
Most of them, however, had pro backgrounds.
Yeah, God forbid they hire someone who knows what the ***k they’re doing. Oh wait, anyone who knows what the ***k they’re doing wouldn’t answer a call from a 312, 773 or 847 area code unless they were sure it was a relative. And maybe not even then, just to be safe.
Follow us on Twitter!