Latest on Possible Big Trade

Just a bit ago, George Offman was on WSCR and he narrowed down the speculation about the Cubs trading for an OF to a “corner outfielder” indicating that the Cubs wanted to trade a current OF for another team’s OF with a swap of middle relievers as well as the Cubs giving up some prospects as well. Offman said that he did not have any names yet and also said that Dempster will remain the closer for the rest of the season. He also said that the Cubs have no intention of trading Corey Patterson either this year or next year.

This would eliminate any chance of Ken Griffey, Jr. coming to the Windy City. More likely, it would mean the Cubs trading off either Dubois, Hollandsworth or Macias. If this is the case, then one players that the Cubs should go for most is are Cubs Killers Carlos Lee or Austin Kearns. Either one would be an exciting addition to the Cubs lineup and would be worth the price.

However, it would mean that the Cubs would remain stuck with the OBA-challenged Patterson in CF for the forseeable future. One would think that one of the goals of a trade would be Addition by Subtraction combined with getting a player who would make a better fit. Then again, the Cubs have been OBA-challenged for years which is why this club has consistently fielded such poor teams over the years.

Even worse is the fact that a proven starting pitcher, Ryan Dempster, is being to relegated to pitching only a few innings a week. The main problem for the team is the lack of quality starting pitching, the current stretch of weak teams notwithstanding. Maddux is more less done and Mitre is not much better. Rusch is only filling in for Wood even though Rusch is the better pitcher so much so that the Cubs should place Wood in the bullpen once he returns.

Finally, Todd (8 for 37 at Iowa) Walker will be playing for the Cubs tonight. This despite both Hairston’s fine performance at 2nd Base and the fact that Frank Thomas is spending a 100-AB spell in Triple-A to get back up to best condition. Truly, the Cubs are both more clueless and desperate than the White Sox are.

Impending Big Trade Rumored

The following is a trade rumor :

Bruce, on am 1000 says a 4 player deal involving a middle reliever and a power hitting OF could be coming in the next 2 days. In exchange, we would send an OF and a reliever of our own, as well as 2 prospects.

I wonder what this could possibly be.

Now, Bruce Levine is not the most accurate reporter in the sports news business. However, the Cubs’ general situation is such that this report is pretty believable. Hendry does seem like the kind of guy who’d panic and agree to such a lopsided deal that would benefit the other team more than the Cubs. As to what the other team and the individuals involved would be, consider Hendry’s record to date. The big trades that he’s pulled off have either involved deals with teams that need to dump salary big time or involve Big Name Players.

Given this track record, it seems reasonable to assume that the Cincinnati Reds are quite possibly the team in question. The Reds’ pitching situation is such that they would almost certainly be willing to take on LaTroy Hawkins and as for the Cubs outfielder, its no secret that the team is not terribly happy with Corey Patterson’s spotty performance. As for the Reds, they have some good middle relievers in Kent Mercker & Ryan Wagner either of whom would be a marked upgrade over Hawkins. As for the outfielder, it could be Cub Killer Austin Kearns or Wily Mo Pena. However, given the fact that he is a Proven Clubhouse Leader, its quite possible that Center Fielder Ken Griffey Jr. might be Hendry’s wanted man. Remember: last year Hendry traded for Big Name Player Nomar despite his injury history, so Hendry might be willing to overlook Jr.’s problems. Also, the Reds are deficient in top prospects, so its believable that they would hold out for some Cubs minor leaguers.

At first glance, the above speculation might strike you as being pretty spacy. However, compared with the goofy trade ideas of Phil Rogers (Trade a starter like Kerry Wood or Carlos Zambrano for some guy like Eric Gagne who pitches only a couple innings or so a week?) or some of the other local sports writers, it has a much firmer grounding in reality and does fit Levine’s scenario.

Remember, you read it here first.

Can the Cubs Benefit From the Reds’s Stupid Mistakes?

In just the last few days, the Cincinnati Reds have made some stupid personnel moves. Question is, can the Cubs benefit?

Specifically, versatile Reds infielder D’Angelo Jimenez who is an above average 2nd Baseman, was Designated For Assignment as was Reliever Danny Graves who has successfully converted 10 out of 12 Save Opportunities. Both of these players have talent and were dropped apparently because of their relationship to Reds manager Dave Miley as well as their relations with other players. Both were also off to slow starts this year, although Jimenez was batting .321 in his last 10 games with the Reds.

What the Cubs need to do is get a hold of these 2 players and bring them on board. The Cubs need better infield/bench depth as well as a veteran closer who can allow Dempster to return to the starting rotation where he is needed. Even if the Cubs don’t add them to the team roster right away, they could be sent down to Iowa for additional coaching before coming to Wrigley to replace injured or released players.

In a related matter, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays released OF Chris Singleton even though his avg. was .271 and had an OBA of .348. If the Cubs are to make a challenge to St. Louis for the division title, then they need to bring on proven players and not tired old retreads like Enrique Wilson.

If Cubs GM Hendry can’t or won’t make these personnel additions, then he should explain why especially since the traditional trading season is at least a month away.

The Rickey Henderson Option

Once again, Cubs GM Jim Hendry has shown his failure to learn to learn from his mistakes. In 2003, he signed on a reliever named Dave Veres who was just about completely spent. Last year, he signed a washed up shortstop named Rey Ordonez. Now, he has just signed a guy named Enrique Wilson whose past prowess was such that even several baseball trivia enthusiasts of this writer’s acquaintance as well as Internet forum posters and sports talk radio hosts had never heard of him. There was a common denominator in all of these signings: they were willing to play cheap.

What’s really strange about all this is that there is a 46 year old Chicago native by name of Rickey Henderson who is both still actively playing the game of baseball and who would bring more to the Cubs’ table than any of the 3 above “veterans.” Consider the following stats from Henderson’s 2004 season with the Newark Bears:

91 Games
303 At Bats
85 Hits
.281 BA
.462 OBA
.436 SLG
898 OPS
16 Doubles
9 Home Runs
96 Walks
37 Stolen Bases
2 Caught Stealing

That he compiled these stats in a league (the independent Atlantic League) comprised mainly of college age kids is remarkable, especially the 37 SB’s & only 2 CS’s. That shows that he still has remarkable speed. Those stats are superior to those of many of the players in the Cubs minor league system despite the age difference.

Following is an excerpt from a 2004 interview with then Newark Bears Manager Bill “Mad-Dog” Madlock (remember him, Cub fans?):

Madlock has crossed paths in an unusual way with fellow former All-Star Rickey Henderson, who currently is playing for Madlock’s minor-league Newark Bears, trying to get back to the majors at age 45. Henderson, MLB’s all-time steals leader, played in 10 All-Star Games himself.

“When he first came here, I was like – Rickey’s gotta go home,” said Madlock of Henderson, who struggled initially. “Then, all of a sudden, he’s the best player in the league. The one thing about Rickey is his conditioning. I wouldn’t be surpised if he made the big leagues again.”

You would think that a manager would feel funny trying to help a former All-Star and future Hall of Famer back to the bigs, but for Madlock, it’s same story – different day.

“I’ve had major league players here before, so that’s never a problem. I had Jose Lima and some other guys. Rickey came in here with a great attitude. He really wasn’t looking for anything from me.”

Now, here’s a tried and true professional who still has great speed and is both willing and able to take walks, talents that are rare on the 2005 Cubs. Next time Hendry wants to add another MLB minimum wage player to the Cubs roster, he ought to sign Henderson right up.

Cub Fans Catching on to Tribune Company’s Ripping Off the Fans

Cub fans are beginning to catch on to the fact that the Tribune Company treats the Cubs like a cash cow fit only to be milked and never improved for future greatness. Here’s the initial post in a discussion forum thread entitled “Record attendance 2004 = higher ticket prices, no bullpen!” that kicks off a great discussion of the issues involved in this
subject:

Say what you will about Baker and the Cubs players underachieving this year, but I am still peeved about the way this organization continues to screw over its fan base.

Last year, damn near every game was sold out before the season started. No game two or more seats togther. Fans showed up in record numbers, payed out good money, and cheered this team up until it’s dismal collapse at the end of the year.

And how do the tribune execs. repay us? By increasing ticket prices again, and not adding to the payroll. Pathetic.
It’s one thing to believe that Burnitz and Hollandsworth could make up for the loss of Alou, and Sosa. But, our bullpen looks like the friggin’ Iowa Cubs.

Gone are the likes of Merker, and Farnsworth, and Clement. Say what you will about them, but they were major league pitchers.

Now we have names such as: Bartosh, Wellemeyer, Wuertz, Ohman. What the hell did Hendry do all offseason? It’s one thing to give the closer’s role to Hawkins, Borowski, or Dempster. It’s another to not sign or trade for any reliable bullpen help when the whole baseball world knows that the Cubs needed it.

Your 2005 Chicago Cubs are looking more and more like the 2004 Iowa Cubs. It looks like all the revenue from last year has ended up and stayed at Tribune tower. Makes me want to puke.

Jay Mariotti Hits a Grand Slam

There is an old saying that even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then. The same applies to cheap hack sports columnists. One such hack writer is Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times. Normally, he writes only the purest dreck however, his latest effort is a doozy and is right on target. The subject? Dusty Baker’s unwitting destruction of the Cubs’ starting rotation.

Never one to mince words, Mariotti writes the following in regards to Carlos Zambrano’s latest pitching injury:

Until this disturbing development, I hadn’t been quick to join the Dusty Baker Abuses His Pitchers chorus, understanding Cubbie karma and realizing he was trying to win a pennant the last two seasons with too much bullpen junk.

After reviewing the history of Baker’s torturous overuse of his starting pitchers during his painful tenure as Cubs manager, Mariotti observes:

The health of the staff has been fragile ever since, with the golden trio of Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Zambrano repeatedly experiencing arm trouble that has turned the best young rotation in baseball into an MRI procession.

Finally, Mariotti adds this interesting idea on how, if Cubs management persist with sticking with the moronic Baker through the end of his contract next year, the team can avoid future pitching injuries:

Tell you what: How about installing a pitch-count meter at Wrigley? When it reaches 100, Baker is jolted out of his seat by an electrical shock.

Too bad Mariotti does not write at this high level all the time…..

Why is Hairston Being Benched?

Why is Jerry Hairston Being Benched? That’s what inquiring minds want to know in light of the fact that Hairston is one of the most consistent, not to mention better players on the team.

Consider the On Base Averages (OBA) for the following players:

.447 D. Lee
.357 J. Hairston
.333 J. Burnitz
.324 A. Ramirez
.321 J. Dubois
.312 N. Perez
.297 C. Patterson
.295 M. Barrett
.272 T. Hollandsworth
.228 N. Garciaparra

What this tells you is that Hairston is one of the most valuable offensive players on the team. It also tells you that Hairston should be the leadoff hitter. However, Baker has chosen to bench Hairston. What this shows you is Baker’s ignorance of fundamental baseball.

Remember last year when Baker defended the team’s shockingly low number of walks taken by saying that you can’t walk to victory, instead you achieve victory by hitting your way there? This is more of the same nonsense.

Baker needs to be fired and fired now. However, GM Hendry won’t do that since he clearly agrees with Baker on this. A look at the Cubs minor league system reveals an organization loaded from top to bottom with all sorts of OBA deficient batters who seem to regard taking walks as being unmanly or something.

Whats needed is a wholesale housecleaning of the moribund Chicago Cubs organization. However, that’s most unlikely to happen since all the Tribune Corp. cares about is huge profit margins and it has made it perfectly clear, in deeds not words, that it could hardly care less if the Cubs ever reached the World Series much less won it.

The Importance of the Upcoming Cubs/White Sox Series

The importance of the upcoming weekend series between the Cubs & White Sox cannot be overstated. Back in 1999, the Cubs were playing well with both a winning record and were in contention for a playoff spot. Then, Mike Caruso of the Sox hit a dramatic home run and with the Sox taking 2 out of a 3 game series, that was enough to send the Cubs into a headlong tailspin. The end result was that the Cubs wound up with a losing record.

Given all the problems with the Cubs this season coupled with the fact that it has been reported that there is a dearth of leadership inside the team clubhouse now that Sosa has left, it would appear that the Cubs are in a fragile condition so much so that a defeat at Wrigley next weekend could have results similar to that of 1999.

In order to prevent this from happening, the Cubs need to take a look at how the Baltimore Orioles took 2 out of 4 games from the previously high-flying Sox. They did so by working the count and having quality starting pitching. In other words, no Corey Patterson-like swinging at the first pitch and other such nonsense.

The Cubs lost 2 out of 3 games to a mediocre Washington Nationals team. They are currently sinking towards last place in the NL Central. Dusty Baker simply has to change the way that he manages his team and emphasize plate discipline and the importance of taking walks. He also has to get his pitchers, especially Prior, out of their obsession with getting as many strikeouts as possible and more oriented towards getting as many hitters out with throwing as few pitches as possible.

In other words, the Cubs need to adapt their style of play to accommodate the fact that their lineup no longer has the firepower of Alou & Sosa and stop doing things the way that they have for years or else face catastrophe.

Interesting Cubs-Related Blog Posts

Recently, there have been several interesting Cubs-related posts on blogs that are worth commenting on here.

From Camden Chat :

“Well just who in the hell is Jon Garland? He is pitching like a man possessed. Please believe it.”

Comments:

The ill-fated trade the Cubs made for reliever Matt Karchner that sent recent 1st round draft pick Garland to the White Sox was also the subject of a stupid article in yesterdays Tribune. Basically, the article said that this trade was not a really bad deal of Brock for Broglio dimensions until this year now that Garland was 6-0 and that the trade would look even worse if he went 7-0. Actually, the Garland/Karchner trade was a disaster for the Cubs from the moment that Karchner’s MLB career ended in 2000. A warm body, even one who was a mostly .500 level pitcher, is better than no pitcher at all. Had the Cubs had Garland instead of such mediocrities as Juan Cruz and Shawn Estes and possibly even Matt Clement (although judging from his performance in Boston this year, it appears that Clement has greatly improved), their record would likely have been significantly better that what it really was. A Garland-enhanced Cubs almost certainly would have made the playoffs last year.

From the Transaction Guy :

Pirates-Rockies Trade
by The Transaction Guy

Pittsburgh Pirates acquire OF Michael Restovich from the Colorado Rockies for a PTBNL.

Not a bad pickup for Pittsburgh. If it gets Tike Redman back out of the lineup (a Restovich-Bay-Lawton outfield, for instance), it’ll be a great pickup.

Comments:

Contrary to the optimistic belief of many Cubs fans, the 2005 Pittsburgh Pirates are for real. Before they went on a 10-game road trip, they were dead last in the NL Central with one of the worst records in all of MLB. They went 7-3 on that trip and are now tied for 3rd in the division with the Cubs. According to the mlb.com writer for the Pirates, that was the team’s “best road trip in 15 years.” That’s the kind of success that leads to momentum and further success. If they can keep that performance up, attendance should swell with the result that the team will have that much more revenue to work with come next year and perhaps even to make a trade for this year’s stretch run. In any event, the possiblity of the Cubs being able to trade for Pirates closer Jose Mesa are pretty much dead.

From
Baseball Diamond News
:

Dempster- What are the Cubs thinking?

Well I still don’t understand putting Dempster in the pen. My philosophy is that if your starters can’t keep you in the game why do you need a closer? What really gets me is that Dempster was suppose to start on Monday and it wasn’t until Sunday that the Cubs decided to drop him from the start and put him in pen. This would be ok, but they had no one to start for them and in the minors the only guy ready to start was Leceister. Wouldn’t it have been smarter to let Dempster start Monday and then with the day off on Wednesday he might have been ready on Thursday as long as Baker kept the pitch count down on Monday (but that would make too much sense). Well we know the results of what happened in that game, he gave up some early runs and the Cubs never got back into it. Then in mop-up duty Dempster got hid hard. Then the next day Dempster goes in for the save opportunity and blows it. I have a feeling we will see a lot more of that from Dempster also. I know teams would love to find the next Eckersley or Gagne, but Ryan Dempster will become neither of them.
Now I don’t know who to blame for this decision, Dusty Baker or the wonderful (sarcastic) GM Hendry. I am thinking that Hendry had some say in the matter, but I also have the feeling Dusty had no objections.

Comments:

This is the best piece of writing that I’ve seen on the decision to try Dempster out as Cubs closer. Only bad thing about it is that I wish that I came up with some of his points.

Movie Review: Purgatory Flats (2002)

One of the more unfortunate tendencies of Hollywood is the fact that when a movie does well at the box office, there are numerous rip offs by hacks. When Oliver Stone’s 1997 flick U Turn proved successful both critically and financially, it was inevitable that there would be a number of rop offs of it made. One of these hack jobs is 2002’s Purgatory Flats.

Purgatory Flats begins when one Doctor Thomas Reed (Vincent Ventresca) is released from prison after serving five years for the accidental death of his wife due to his drunken driving. Since he does not think that he can get a job in medicine, he becomes a hitchhiker and winds up in the small, fictitious town of Purgatory Flats that is supposed to be in the middle of the desert in Southern California.

Purgatory Flats is really more of a down home Deep South town that seems to have been magically transported to the desert or something. All of the inhabitants there have the same thick southern accent and act like Hollywood caricatures of mountain folk of either the Appalachians or the Ozarks. One suspects that this movie was originally planned to be shot in Arkansas or the Appalachians area, but had to be done instead in California for purely budgetary reasons.

In any event, Dr. Reed winds up becoming a bartender in the small town’s only bar. Through a series of contrived sequences he winds up becoming the medic for a criminal gang bent on controlling the drug trade. Among other things, he does emergency surgery on gang members who get shot, so that they do not have to go to hospitals where the police would be able to turn them against their gang lord. Dr. Reed and the gangsters break into drugstores and other medical supply outlets all over the area to get the right stuff. The mentally addled county sheriff and his deputies are quite perplexed by these robberies and you can see just why it is that the bad guys are able to run amok in the area. The only competition for Dr. Reed’s gang are some black and hispanic drug dealers who appear to have been lifted straight from an inner city of a major metropolitan area and dropped in the rural area. Once again, more Hollywood stereotypes from the producers.

Of course, as is the case with so many alleged crime thrillers, Dr. Reed remains a thoroughly decent person despite his profitable dealings with the gangsters and his willful participation in their criminal acts. Of course, the daughter of the crime lord is attracted to the good doctor and attempts to seduce him. And, her psychotic brother resents the doctor’s attentions to his sister and attempts to kill him since he secretly harbors incestous designs on his sister. The only unique thing to this movie is that the brother has been the recipient of Dr. Reed’s medical services and he attempts to repay the doctor by trying to murder him once he has fully recuperated. As executed in the movie, the above events are as patently unbelievable as they sound. You can tell that the producers have a low opinion of the audience’s intelligence.

Purgatory Flats is a predictable formula flick. Except for Ventresca, all of the actors are talentless hacks who could not even act their way out of a paper bag. Except for Ventresca’s performance, there is nothing in this movie that is exemplary. Basically, its just another lame crime movie of which there are already way too many.

Director: Harris Done

Script: 2
Acting: 4
Cinematography: 3
Originality: 1
Tilt: 1
Overall: 2.2

More on Hollandsworthless

Todd is most certainly Hollandsworthless. I have no idea what he does off Wrigley in terms of charity work, etc. In any event, he could go to Baker and volunteer to ride the bench more so Dubois could get some more playing time. If you’ve ever read the book The Bad Guys Won!, you should be familiar with the fact that Mookie Wilson volunteered to be on the bench in favor of a younger, better player. That was an example of the kind of team spirit that led to the 1986 New York Mets winning the World Championship. Another example is the allegedly selfish Sammy Sosa last year volunteering to be lowered in the lineup.

Send Hollandsworth Down & Bring Kelton Up!

Todd Hollandsworth has been a regular bonehead thus far this season. The Cubs should send him down to Triple-A Iowa before he inflicts more damage on the cause. He might get a clue and apply himself to self-improvement.

Hollandsworth simply does not produce RBI’s like a clutch hitter should. That’s because he’s an anti-clutch hitter. Ego and selfishness are his trademarks. If there is ever a World Series at Wrigley, it will only occur after Hollandsworth is either no longer disgracing the Cubs uniform, or he has gotten his act together and is hitting like the Hollandsworth of old.

Having said that, there is a quality Outfielder at Iowa named David Kelton who has been the clutch hitter that Hollandsworth has not been this season. Thus far in 113 At Bats, Kelton is batting .319 with power. Out of his 36 hits, 12 are doubles and 3 Home Runs. His efforts have resulted in 24 Runs Batted In. These stats compare quite favorably with Hollandsworth’s .207, 5 doubles and 1 HR resulting in 7 RBI.

Perhaps the best reason for making these moves is Dusty Baker’s insane preference for laggard veterans over energetic rookies. If one of his veteran outfielders is removed from the team in favor of a rookie, it will be much harder to keep rookies out of playing in the outfield.

Overlooked Cubs Stud: Reliever Will Ohman

Lost in all the fear & paranoia amongst Cubs fans concerning the shipwrecked bullpen is the fact that there is a genuine quality arm there. This is Will Ohman who today pitched a solid 8th Inning. Thus far this season, Ohman has pitched 3 2/3rds Innings with an ERA of 0.00.

Unfortunately, Ohman’s talents have been severely underutilized by Manager Dusty Baker. His appearances on the mound have been few and far between. Thus far, he has only been in 6 games starting on April 26th and his average appearance has lasted just under 2/3rds of an Inning.

The reason for Ohman’s lack of playing time has nothing to do with his ability and everything to do with Baker’s pathological refusal to let quality rookies have ample playing time so that his preferred veterans can have all the time that they want to mess things up. As long as Baker has the helm of the Cubs ship, it does not appear likely that Ohman’s playing time will increase. And that’s a shame since after 97 years of going without a World Championship, Cubs fans deserve better.

RX For the Cubs

Problem with Dubois is that he’s a regular butcher in the field. My preference would be to send him down to Iowa and bring Dave Kelton up. Kelton’s hitting over .300 in AAA & is fielding very well. Kelton seems like the best option for LF. Of course, Dusty’s man love for Macias & Hollandsworthless will continue regardless of how well the youngsters play.

Fire Dusty if you want, but remember the genius who’s responsible for the current selection of players whose base is at Wrigley Field is named Jim Hendry and there’s little reason to believe that he’s up to the task of turning this season around. If Dusty goes, Hendry should go too so the Cubs can start over with a completely clean slate.

Mets Bloggers on Monday Night’s Game

Following Monday Night’s debacle, some Mets bloggers had some interesting observations.

From Metstradamus :

Bartman lives: The Cubs disappointing 2004 and their shaky 2005 start has made sure that Cub fans remember the Steve Bartman debacle from the 2003 NLCS. The Wrigley faithful booed any and all foul balls that were remotely near that row, including one line drive caught by a fan who sat near the spot of the Bartman incident. No Cubs player was remotely near the foul ball, but that was of no importance to an increasingly bitter Cub fan base. It was bad enough the offending ball was blown up…then it was eaten. But now every foul ball in a certain section gets booed, and somehow Alex S. Gonzalez gets off without a scratch. Interesting…

From
Archie Bunker’s Army
:

Cubs Bullpen Lifts Mets 7-4

For the first time since April 2002 season, the Mets beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Two Mets with .238 batting averages knocked in six of the Mets seven runs including all three runs over the final two innings against a rancid Cubbie bullpen to lead the Mets back to the path of righteous twice-rain-delayed victory.

Baptism of Fire: Jon Leicester’s MLB Debut Start

Well, Jon Leicester came, saw and got kicked around by the New York Mets on Monday night on his 1st ever start in a MLB game. He made 59 pitches of which only 37 were strikes. He gave up a walk and 5 hits, 2 of which were Home Runs. This could have been worse if it were not for the rain delays allowing Leicester to settle down on the bench. Then again, its possible that Mets manager Willie Randolph told his hitters to have mercy on Leicester’s soul since doing so would strengthen his candidacy for the Nobel Peace Prize. Seriously, if the Cubs’s opponents this game had been either the Pirates or the White Sox, you would have seen hitters running up the pitch counts and knocking Leicester out of the game well before the end of the 3rd Inning with more than just 4 lousy runs scored off him.

The Cubs did manage to tie the game and that led to the Mets getting serious about winning the game again. They were helped in their newfound resolve by Dusty Baker who opted to play LaTrocious Hawkins in the 8th Inning. Bad move for Hawkins’s psyche has been damaged and really needs a change of scenery to restart his career. Then, in the 9th Inning, the Closer Dempster Experiment was on and the Mets offense really boomed so much so that the Cubs were lucky to escape with only 2 runs scored. Except for a Macias double, the bottom of the 9th was just more of the same old, same old and now the Mets look poised for a sweep especially since the Cubs played 5 relievers Monday night. Also, Dusty’s man love for Hollandsworthless remains as strong as ever while Neifi’s decline continues and the likes of Hairston, Patterson & Ramirez continue to wallow in mediocrity. All this & a worthless bullpen & more of the same for a payroll said to be tops in the National League. And you thought that the Yankees were wasteful spenders.

Hopefully, now that Leicester is being sent down to Iowa, he can recuperate from his ordeal and regain his confidence. Whoever in the Cubs organization thought that starting him was a good idea needs to have his head examined. Last place in the NL Central here we come.

Further Thoughts About the Impending Disaster at Wrigley Field on Monday Night

What’s really weird is the fact that although Todd Wellemeyer sports a 4.40 ERA in 14 1/3rd innings at Iowa, the Cubs opted to put him in the bullpen and have Leicester start. Having Wellemeyer start would make a whole lot more sense than Leicester.

In any event, unless the Mets smoke some of the same stuff that whoever made the decision to start Leicester on Monday did, the Cubs & their fans could be in for a repeat of 2004’s Opening Day at Wrigley Field disaster at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Look for the boo birds to be out in full force at Wrigley tomorrow night.

Ordeal by Fire: Jon Leicester (0-2, 7.50 ERA) to Start Monday

In what appears at first glance to be sheer madness, the Cubs have decided to have Jon Leicester start Monday vs. the New York Mets aka the team that initiated the Cubs’ tailspin in September of last year. This year’s Mets team is much improved from last year so much so that after a 0-5 start, they have gone 17-10 since then and are not a team to be trifled with. Aaron Heilman 3-2, 4.19 ERA, who pitched a complete game against Florida earlier this year, will start for the Mets vs. Leicester.

Leicester, you may recall, was literally lights out for much of 2004 for the Cubs before eventually coming back to Earth, posting a decent 5-1 W-L record with a 3.89 ERA in 41 2/3rds Innings. This was an especially impressive performance given that his average ERA over 5 years in the minors was 4.54 and the fact that in his final year at the University of Memphis in 2000, he posted a horrendous 0-11 record with a 6.78 ERA.

However, toil under the clueless regime of Dusty Baker and his much overrrated Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild has taken its toll on Leicester. Even though he is to start, he has pitched only 6 innings this season. Is his arm really stretched out enough to handle pitching for a quality start? Given the fact that his longest pitching term this year was 2 1/3rd innings vs. Milwaukee in which he threw 53 pitches of which only 24 were for strikes, it hardly seems like he’s really up for the challenge. Thus far this year, he has walked 8 batters while only striking out 4.

One wonders just why Leicester is being fed to the lions. Do the Cubs think Leicester can rise to the challenge? Or have they given up on him and are trying to mark time until Borowski returns? One would think that the Cubs would try to build up Leicester’s confidence by having him pitch garbage innings.

When you get right down to it, what this decision really shows is the sad, decreipt state in which the Cubs pitching staff, which was so widely ballyhooed just 2 years ago, have fallen into. Needless to say, Chicago White Sox fans are going to have a hard decision to make on Monday night on whether or not to watch their 24-7 team take on the ever-horrible Tampa Bay Devil Rays or tune into WCIU-TV to watch the Mets steamroller both Leicester and the increasingly pathetic Cubs offense. In any event, there should be lots of fun and frivolity on the South Side of Chicago on Monday night.

Real Men of Genius Internet Sports Fan

Over the years, I have increasingly lost interest in both reading and posting on Internet message boards and forums concerning pro sports. In fact, its been about 9 months since I last registered at an Internet message board and have thus far this year posted less than a dozen times on a sports-related forum. And, unlike most Internet posters, I always use variations on my name such as “crector” and “C. Rector” since I’ve always tried to both get my facts straight and come up with something intelligent before posting. This spoof of the Budweiser “Real Men of Genius” ads that’s been circulating on the Internet basically sums things up for this writer:

Reeeeal men of geeeeeniuuuus!

Today we salute YOU, Mr. Really Mad Internet Sports Fan

“Mr. Really Mad Internet Spo-orts Fan!”

Only YOU can fully appreciate the mind-blowing tragedy of a bunch of 18-22 year old athletes you’ll never meet, losing a game.

“Don’t you TAAAAALK to me about perspective!!”

While others are too preoccupied with things like real life, you take your anger directly to the place where it will make the absolute least possible impact: An Internet discussion forum.

“Loggin’ on now!”

Your unique eye for logic allows you to sling turds of doom every which way, and then brag about how you were RIGHT as soon as one of the pieces sticks to the wall regardless of how many dozens fell limply to the floor before that.

“See I told you sooooooo!!”

And if some idiot newspaper columnist has the gall to not be as incensed as you are, you unleash your fury down upon him with all the tenacity and mercilessness of a rabid pit bull with a tender buttock locked in its jaws.

“Total anonymity!”

So keep clicking away, oh Marauder of the Mousepad. Because when the results you so desire finally come about years from now, you can say it was because YOU demanded it.”

“How come they haven’t fired that dumb coach yet?”

Speaking of firing a “dumb coach,” remember how last year the various Cubs boards & blogs were loaded with posts calling for the firing of the team’s hitting coach, claiming that he was an incompetent even though practically none of the posters had ever seen the man coach the hitters or even had any idea just what he was trying to teach the hitters in the first place? Well, at the end of the season they got their wish as Sarge was reassigned to 1st base coach. Now, the Cubs offense is well off last year’s mark even if the stats show the team to be at or near the top in the NL in several categories. Those stats are primarily because Neifi Perez was enjoying what must have been his best hitting month ever and Derrek Lee was hitting like Ted Williams. Now that Neifi has returned to Earth and Lee looks like he’s in a slow decline, the Cubs offense has lost much of its steam. Interestingly enough, hardly any of Sarge’s critics last year have dumped on his successor for this year’s problems. Could it be that they don’t want to admit that they made a mistake in judgment?

Speaking of poorly thought out posts, here’s a thread starting post from the InsideTheIvy.com Forums:

Hendry Ready To Ruin This Franchise
Under the tremendous pressure of the lousy start and the false belief that this team should be a contender, Hendry will apparently trade prospects for more of the type of talent that comprises this team.

Our 2005 team is made up of mediocity in the every day eight. And nothing in the bullpen—-long or short. Yes, we do have 3 POTENTIALLY great pitchers, who aren’t quite yet.

The 2005 version will never beat the real contenders. With or without the likes that Hendry can reel in through trades.

On the other hand, with the real talent we do have in the minors, we can and should be top contenders soon. Maybe in 2007. Perhaps even 2006.

So, when you fans urge the trading of our real talent for more of……Barret, Walker, Nelfi, Nomore, Holly, Burnitz, and even perhaps Corey………… and Hawkins, Mercker, Welly, Wurtz, Fox, Glendon, and soon JoBo in the pen……you do your ownselves a disservice.

This is a common fallacy found on Internet boards. Prospects get over valued by fans who think that they will all prove out even though many of the top-rated prospects fail to make the grade at the MLB level. Also, anyone who’s aware of Hendry’s real record as team GM knows that, if anything, he’s very cautious with dealing prospects to the point that he’s basically ruled out trading either Angel Guzman or Felix Pie under any circumstances. God help him if they both go bust on the MLB level.

Having said that, posts like this were common on Houston Astros fan forums last year when that team had a bad start. Now they are proliferating on Cubs forums. Perhaps this is a harbinger of great things to come for the Cubs later this season.

The Decline & Fall of Mark Buehrle

Following is the the three year decline of Chicago White Sox starter Mark Buehrle as evidenced by his stats from 2001, 2002 and 2003 (in order):

ERA: 3.29, 3.58, 4.14
K/BB: 2.63, 2.20, 1.95
K/9IP: 5.12, 5.05, 4.65
BAA: .230, .260, .278

In 2004, there was a slight improvement in his stats as his ERA dropped to 3.89. However, in 2005 his stats are slipping after a strong 4-1 start.

Given Buehrle’s problems, you would think that the Sox would opt to place a strict pitch limit of say, 100 pitches on him. This is especially the case since Buehrle last year signed a 3-yr. $18 Mil. in guraranteed money contract with the Sox. However, the Sox have not evinced any awareness of Buehrle’s decline and appear to have their problematic pitcher on course towards lengthened stays on the mound.

In the 6 games that he has pitched thus far, Buehrle has thrown 617 pitches for an average of 100(+) pitches per game. He leads the team with 45.0 Innings Pitched. Folks, this is Dusty Baker territory.

The Sox’s handling of Buehrle is especially stupid in light of the fact that pitching is the reason why their current offensively deprived team is off to a 20-7 start. As any Yankee fan can tell you, both Sox starters Jose Contreras & Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez have health problems that in the past have seen them sidelined at some point in seasons past. Due to the trades of minor league pitching talent that Sox GM Kenneth Williams made to build the current team, there is hardly any quality pitching talent in the Sox minor league system save for Jon Adkins, Brandon McCarthy and a precious few others. Given this fact, you would think that the Sox would at least try to preserve the health of their longest-serving starting pitcher.

The 2005 Chicago White Sox have an Achilles Heel called starting pitcher health. If they don’t get their act together, it could prove to be the team’s downfall even in the talent-deprived AL Central.