Friday, January 26, 2007

Dayn Perry Strikes Out with Article

I’m in a bit of a bad mood. I’m tired and cranky, so I’ve decided to take it out on Dayn Perry from Perry wrote an article entitled “Cubs Only Have A Decent Shot to Win NL Central,” which to start with is a horrible headline. Even if the article itself proves the headline, it is still a horrible title for an article.

In the article, Perry makes some observations about the Cubs that are wrong, while others are just plain absurd. For instance:

“Long-term, the contracts doled out to Soriano (eight years), Lilly (four years), DeRosa (three years), and Marquis (three years) make little sense.”

Perry is correct that the contracts make little sense, unless you first consider that 1) the market demanded these contracts, so if Hendry didn’t offer the contracts, someone else would have, and 2) by league rules, the Cubs are required to field a team and without these contracts, the Cubs wouldn’t have had enough players.

“But Hendry’s in job-saving mode, and if that means mortgaging the long-term health of the organization, then so be it.”

Why does Perry feel the long-term health of the team is in danger because Hendry signed some players to multi-year contracts? True, Soriano’s contract is unusually long, but Hendry had no option if he was going to sign Soriano. Without the eighth year of the contract, Soriano would have likely been an LA Angel.

As for the other examples Perry used, how many players can he point to that were in demand this off-season that signed one-year contracts? This is especially true of starting pitchers. Considering the way the market operated this off-season, the contracts of DeRosa, Lilly, and Marquis are not unusual at all.

“The Cubs’ moves are of course noteworthy, but the biggest thing in the Cubs favor – at least in the here and now – is that they toil in baseball’s weakest division.”

This is one of those things that, if you say it enough, you actually start to believe it. I think a very compelling argument can be made that the NL West was actually a weaker division than the NL Central in 2006, but regardless, consider this fact: For the past three seasons, the NL Central has provided the NL’s entry in the World Series, with the Cardinals winning the Fall Classic last year. Somehow that doesn’t sound like the weakest division to me.

“However, if the Cubs are going to return to the postseason for the first time since 2003…[Derrick] Lee must stay healthy.”

Why even discuss this? Derrick Lee has not spent a lot of time on the DL. Last year’s injury to his wrist was a fluke and Lee claims that he is 100% healed.

“The annual refrain is that Mark Prior needs to work 200 or so innings, and this year is no different.”

Wrong. The Cubs pitching staff has been built with the thought that Prior will not be available all year. The starting five should be Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Rich Hill, Jason Marquis, and most likely Wade Miller. In the wings are Neal Cotts, Sean Marshall, and Juan Mateo. If Prior doesn’t throw a pitch all year, the rotation is set. If he’s available and effective, the rotation is even better.

“Manager Lou Pinella needs to resist the temptation to bat Soriano in the leadoff spot. Soriano is a great power source, but he’s not an on-base threat, which is what the table setter needs to be.”

In theory, Perry may be right. But in fact, he is wrong. Soriano has been more productive in his career as a leadoff hitter than he has been hitting in any other spot in the order. Plus, if Frank Robinson felt batting Soriano leadoff with the Nationals last year was a good idea, that’s good enough for me.

“Jacque Jones must be platooned. Religiously. Jones has never been able to hit lefties, and with Matt Murton on the roster (and now out of a starting job) there’s no need to run him out there against port-siders.”

First, Jacque Jones has never been platooned in his career and he has somehow put together a rather nice career. During a miserable 2006 for the Cubs, Jones was a bright spot, hitting .285 with 27 HR and 81 RBI. True, Jones does not hit lefties very well, but to say he must be platooned in order for the Cubs to have a chance of returning to the playoffs is a huge, unsupported overstatement.

By the way, when did Matt Murton lose his starting job? According to both Hendry and Piniella, Murton is the starting left fielder. According to the depth chart on, Murton is still the starting left fielder. Where does Perry get his information?

“The pitching staff needs to continue racking up the strikeouts. The Cubs’ team defense, particularly in the outfield, is lacking. So the pitching staff, which led the NL in whiffs last season, must keep the ball out of play as often as possible.”

Striking out opposing hitters is a good thing, but saying it is necessary for the Cubs to make the postseason is nonsensical.

If the Yankees or Red Sox had made the moves in the off-season that the Cubs have made, Perry likely would have praised the teams’ efforts to build a winner after a down year. But because it was the Cubs making the moves, Perry felt obligated to be negative about the team’s off-season. It’s an old story. The Cubs are an easy target. But Perry does a poor job of supporting his argument. Plus, did I mention the article has a horrible title?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cubs Say Goodbye to Glendon Rusch

The Cubs announced they have released pitcher Glendon Rusch to make room on the 40-man roster for Cliff Floyd and Jeff Samardzjia. Rusch was scheduled to earn $3.25 million in 2007.

Although you’re not going to get any tearful goodbyes from me, there was a time when I was very high on Rusch. I thought he was a guy who could really contribute for the Cubs. And although he did have some bright moments for the Northsiders, I don’t think there are many fans who are sad to seem him go.

During a miserable 2006 season, Rusch was diagnosed with a blood clot that ended his season and required him to take blood thinning medications. While on the meds, Rusch is prohibited from playing for fear he’ll get hit with the ball or otherwise cut. The earliest he could have come back to play is in August or September, and there was some speculation that he was contemplating retirement.

Assuming no other MLB team picks Rusch up during the 2007 campaign, the Cubs will be on the hook for the entire amount of Rusch’s contract. If he is picked up, the team signing him will pay the league minimum and the Cubs will be responsible for the balance of the contract.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Someday is Today

Cliff Floyd is a Cub…finally. The former Mets OF and the Cubs agreed to a one-year, $3 million contract that is full of incentives, vesting options, etc. Rather than trying to explain it myself, here is what Jason Stark had to say:

“Cliff Floyd’s contract with the Cubs is so flexible and creatively structured, it can turn into anything from a one-year, $3 million deal to a two-year, $17.5 million deal.

There is just a one-year guarantee, at $3 million. But it contains a player option, a club option and a vesting option for 2008. If the option vests (at 425 plate appearances or 100 games started), Floyd has the right to opt out next winter and become a free agent. Otherwise, the club holds the option.

Floyd can earn up to $7.5 million in 2007 if he's healthy enough to reach all of his plate-appearance, games-played and roster incentive levels.

He can make up to $17.5 million over two years if he has 550 plate appearances in each of the next two years. He would make $15.5 million if he gets 500 plate appearances in each of the next two years.”

The idea of signing Floyd doesn’t bother me. In fact, I think he will be a valuable player off the bench. But his contract leads me to believe that he (and maybe the Cubs) thinks he’s going to see a considerable amount of playing time. If he does, it will likely be at Matt Murton’s expense. That’s the part of the signing that I don’t like.

Last year, Murton proved that he is a capable major league LF. Murton led the Cubs in 2006 with a .297 batting average. He also had an OBP of .365 and SLG of .444. As a fielder, Murton proved that he is capable, if not spectacular.

If Murton has a weakness it is that he does not have the power you’d like to see from a corner outfielder. In 144 games in 2006, Murton hit 13 HR and a total of 38 extra base hits. However, he is still relatively young and his power numbers may increase as he matures as a ball player.

Matt Murton would seem to be the future for the Cubs in LF. It doesn’t make sense to bring in an injury prone veteran like Floyd to take a significant number of ABs away from him.

When Piniella calls me for advice on how to use Murton and Floyd (which he is sure to do), my suggestion will be to give Murton the majority of the playing time and just use Floyd against some of the league’s tougher right-handers and to give Murton some occasional rest. I’ll also suggest that Piniella use Floyd as the DH during away inter-league games. Piniella will probably chastise me for being so obvious with this last suggestion, but that’s just how Lou is.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Floyd to Sign with Cubs (Someday)

For the past month, media outlets from across the country have been reporting that the Cubs are on the verge of signing OF Cliff Floyd. Every few days a new story is published, but the deal is yet to get done.

The media is at it again today, reporting that a deal between the Cubs and Floyd is imminent. However, nothing in any of the stories is new. None of the stories explain why the signing has been put on hold until now, none predict what moves have to first be made in order for the Cubs to sign Floyd, and none give a good explanation as to why the Cubs are looking to add Floyd to their roster. It’s all the same story, and sooner or later it may prove to be true.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I don’t like knee jerk reactions. Knee jerk reactions are usually poorly thought out, over-reactive, and often plain wrong. That’s why I hated it when I had a knee jerk reaction to a report this morning that Alfonso Soriano had agreed to play CF next year.

Why put Soriano in CF? I thought Soriano was going to play RF and Jacque Jones (or another short term solution) was going to play CF until Felix Pie is ready. What happened to that plan?

Of course, if you take a second to think about it, this plan probably makes sense. It will likely be easier for Soriano to learn to play CF instead of the much more difficult RF at Wrigley. Jones is already accustomed to Wrigley Field’s RF, so why not just leave him there? When he’s ready, Felix Pie can play RF. He has a tremendous arm and is well suited to be a right fielder. If Jones is just going to hold a spot for Pie, it can just as easily be RF as CF. And if Jones ends up being traded (a possibility that becomes more distant every day), Cliff Floyd (assuming he signs with the Cubs) can hold down RF until Pie is ready.

I’m swearing off knee jerk reactions, at least until something else happens that triggers an illogical emotional outburst out of me.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Samardzija Chooses Cubs Over NFL

The Cubs announced today that pitcher Jeff Samardzija has committed to playing baseball in the future and has signed a five year, $10 million contract with the Cubs. The former Notre Dame WR was thought to be pursuing a two sport career, but he has opted instead to only play baseball.

Samardzija showed promise last year while pitching at single-A Boise and Peoria. He pitched a total of 30 innings, giving up nine earned runs and posting an ERA of 2.70. Samardzija also went 8-2 with a 4.33 ERA pitching in 2006 for Notre Dame.

I guess I don’t understand all of the hoopla surrounding this signing. Samardzija is a talented prospect with a lot of upside who also has a long way to go before he is ready to be a big league pitcher. As has happened to so many before, Samardzija could turn out to be run-of-the-mill or suffer from injury problems. There’s just a long way to go before the Cubs should get too excited about him.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to be negative. I just don’t think the signing is that big of a deal. Some people are talking about Samardzija being a top of the rotation starter as soon as 2008. That seems unlikely. The more likely scenario is that in 2009 or 2010, Samardzija makes a contribution to the big club.

I’m happy Samardzija has decided to concentrate on baseball. I definitely think it was the right decision. But I don’t think it is cause for celebration (unless you’re just looking for any old reason to celebrate).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Zambrano and Prior Go To Arbitration

After avoiding arbitration and agreeing to a 2-year/$2.5 million deal with Will Ohman, Jim Hendry and the Cubs will next deal with pitchers Carlos Zambrano and Mark Prior. Zambrano is asking for $15.5 million next year and the Cubs have offered him $11.025 million. Prior is asking for $3.875 million in 2007 while the Cubs are offering $3.4 million

Zambrano’s demand doesn’t sound outrageous considering what middle-of-the-road pitchers received as free agents this off-season. But Zambrano is not a free agent and probably shouldn’t expect to receive that much. The Cubs offer seems fair.

Having said that, it may be a moot point. The Cubs would like to sign Zambrano to a long term deal that would feature a lower salary in 2007 and perhaps a “hometown discount” for the life of the deal. Zambrano may like the long-term contract idea, but I wouldn’t expect him to leave too much money on the table. There are planty of teams that will be willing to pay Zambrano’s asking price if the Cubs can’t agree with the right-hander on a long-term deal.

Prior made $3.65 million in 2007. For that money, Prior went 1-6 with a 7.21 ERA. Doesn’t it seem weird that he would ask for a raise after a year like that. Well, that’s part of big-time baseball in America. So Prior asked for a modest pay increase of $225,000 and the Cubs offered Prior $250,000 less than he made in 2006.

I understand that Cubs fans have grown weary of Prior’s one-injury-after-another act, but I think the criticism is a bit unfair. It’s not like he hurt himself sneezing. Prior’s injuries have either been competition related (i.e. running into Marcus Giles) or congenital (i.e. being born with a loose shoulder). It doesn’t seem to me that he’s a slacker.

Prior has a ton of potential and could still end up being the superstar people thought he would be a few years ago. He just needs to stay off the DL. Now while he is still relatively inexpensive is no time to give up on Prior.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Jones Trade to Pittsburgh?

Is Jacque Jones heading to the Pirates? Maybe, but probably not.

The Pirates are desperately looking for a left-handed bat for their line-up and they have eagerly placed reliever Mike Gonzalez on the trading block in order to make it happen. During the majority of the off-season, the Bucs target has been Atlanta’s 1B Adam LaRoche. Atlanta is interested, but Braves GM John Schuerholz wants the Bucs to throw in another starter, a concession Pittsburgh has been unwilling to make.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s ownership group is putting a lot of pressure on GM Dave Littlefield to get a deal done before Spring Training. So Littlefield has expanded his search to include D-Back’s 3B Chad Tracy. If a deal could get done, the Pirates would move Tracy to 1B. However, Littlefield is running into the same problem with Arizona that he had with Atlanta; the D-Backs want more than just Mike Gonzalez.

The only potential FA left-handed power hitter who is available and of any interest, is former Red Sox OF Trot Nixon. But from Pittsburgh’s perspective, Nixon is too old. At 32, the Pirates would like someone younger than Nixon.

Other trade possibilities include Geoff Jenkins of the Brewers and the Cubs Jacque Jones. However, there are problems with both of these scenarios. For Jenkins, he is the same age as Nixon. However, the Brewers would likely make the deal if Pittsburgh showed an interest. The Brewers would be happy to be rid of Jenkins’ contract and one of their excess outfielders.

With Jones, my guess is that the Cubs would want more than Gonzalez (or at least they should), but Jones age is also a concern. He is only one year younger than Nixon and Jenkins at 31-years of age. However, Jones seems much younger. He still has speed, agility, and a career that hasn’t seen much DL time. Despite his age, Jones could be the type of player the Bucs are looking for.

Even so, a deal between the Cubs and Pirates is unlikely. The Pirates have other options and the Cubs would probably want more than Pittsburgh is willing to give up. But as Spring Training approaches, who knows what might happen?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Cubs Cafe Recognized by TCR

I was reading The Cub Reporter, the preeminent Cubs blog on the web, when I came across this little ditty:

“As I was poking around the web, there were a few members of the Cubs blog army that I found something worth reading, so I thought they deserved a shout out. So go check out Cubs Cafe, A Hundred Next Years, Wrigleyville23 and the (mostly) satirical Fire Lou Piniella! and say hi.”

Wow! The Cubs Café has been recognized as “something worth reading” by Rob G. at TCR. That is so cool!

Rob and the rest of the gang at TCR do a fantastic job of covering the world of all things Cubs related. It was a thrill to have them recognize Cubs Café in their Friday, January 12, 2007 post.

Thanks to Rob and everyone at TCR for the shout out. It is much appreciated.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Two Solutions for Center Field

Ken Rosenthal from Fox Sports is reporting that the Cubs are interested in adding either Steve Finley or Darin Erstad to play CF until prospect Felix Pie is ready to assume the position. He also suggested that the Cubs could sign Bernie Williams to play CF and mentor Pie.

Finley is 42-years old and played last year with the San Francisco Giants. He hit .246 in 139 games with 6 HR and 40 RBI. He is a career .272 hitter with 303 HR and 1165 RBI.

The 32-year old Erstad only had 95 at-bats last year with the LA Angels. He hit .221 with 0 HR and 5 RBI. For his career, Erstad is a .286 hitter with 114 HR and 625 RBI.

Although Finley is 10 years older that Erstad, he may be physically more able to handle the rigors of playing every day in CF. Finley has kept himself in excellent shape while Erstad has suffered from several injuries, including an ankle injury that required surgery and kept him on the sidelines for most of 2006.

The idea of having Williams mentor Felix Pie is Rosenthal’s idea, not Jim Hendry’s. It appears that Rosenthal was just making a suggestion and that the Cubs do not have an interest, at least not right now, in Williams.

There are two legitimate solutions to the Cubs CF situation in 2007 and neither of them involves Finley, Erstad, or Williams. The first option is playing Jacque Jones in CF. He may want to be traded, but the Cubs need to do what is in the team’s best interest. Jones is a cost-effective solution for CF and he can do a good job out there for the entire year in the event Pie isn’t ready for primetime in 2007.

The other solution is for the Cubs to trade for a CF that will play there every day and into the future. Pie is one of the Cubs top prospects, but he is not guaranteed to be a successful MLB player. Corey Patterson, Jerome Walton, and Tuffy Rhodes were all can’t miss outfielders who missed. If the Cubs have the opportunity to add someone like Carl Crawford (or even Andruw Jones), they should jump at the chance. I hope Pie turns out to be a great CF, but there are no guarantees. So why risk the future of the team on an unproven prospect?

These are the only two scenarios the Cubs should be pursuing. Adding Finley, Erstad or Williams to play CF is unnecessary and all three options have too much downside and not enough upside. There’s no reason to take the risk.

* * * * *
Okay, I'm not saying this is the solution for the Cubs CF opening. I'm not even saying it is a good idea. Here's what I know: The Braves are interested in trading Andruw Jones. Jones is in the final year of his contract and the Braves do not believe they will be able to afford to keep him past 2007.
I also know that the Braves have expressed interest in Rocco Baldelli, the D-Rays CF. The D-Rays are open to trading Baldelli, but it doesn't appear that the Braves have the young pitching that the D-Rays would want in exchange for him.
The Cubs do have young pitching. In fact, although the saying is that you can never have too much pitching, the Cubs currently have more pitchers than they have places to put them. What if the Cubs were to put together a package of young pitchers to go to the D-Rays. The D-Rays in turn would send Baldelli to Atlanta and the Braves would send Jones to the Cubs.
For the Cubs, they would get at least one year of Andruw Jones before he becomes a FA. They would also have the first shot at re-signing him. The Braves would get something of value for Jones before he goes off and signs with another team in 2008 and the D-Rays would get the young, inexpensive pitchers they want. Sounds great, doesn't it?
Well, maybe not great. If this deal would work, why wouldn't the Cubs just trade with Tampa Bay for Baldelli? He's not as good as Jones, but he's younger, less expensive, and he's signed through 2008 with two years of club options after that. Plus, even though he may not be as good as Jones, he's no slouch. In 92 games with TB last year he hit .302 with 16 HR and 57 RBI. His OBP was .339 and his SLG was .533. Hmm, maybe the Cubs should just work this deal with TB and cut Atlanta out of it.
The other reason not to do the deal for Jones is that the Cubs will be giving up two or three arms for what could turn into a one-year rental of Jones. That's what happened with Juan Pierre and I don't think anyone was too happy about that deal once it was over. Dealing directly for Baldelli would cost the same two or three young arms, but the return would be a CF that would be around for the foreseeable future.
Okay, I've actually talked myself out of including Andruw Jones in the deal. But I do like the idea of going after Baldelli. And the Baldelli trade idea supports another point I made earlier.
Who knows for sure what kind of player Felix Pie is going to be? Will he ever be as good as Rocco Baldelli is now? Does it make sense to look for ways to keep CF open for when Pie is ready or would it make more sense to get a guy like Baldelli who is already getting the job done. Sure, if you go with Baldelli you risk the chance that Felix Pie could really turn into something special. On the other hand, the Cubs thought Tuffy Rhodes, Jerome Walton and Corey Patterson were really going to be something special and none of them turned out to have the type of career they were projected to have. Personally, I've talked myself into Baldelli.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Improving the Hall of Fame Vote

Richard Justice is one of the best baseball writers in the country. Maybe the best. He is smart, witty, and he almost always gets the story right. And when he doesn’t, he admits it, which I like.

In an entry to his blog, Justice proposed an idea that I have had for a while. (NOTE: Isn’t that what makes other people smart; the fact that they agree with you?) Justice suggests that the Baseball Hall of Fame have someone other than sportswriters vote for the Hall.

Justice writes:

“I did cast my first vote four or five years ago and have done so every year since. I'm uncomfortable doing this and don't know if I'll fill out another. I'm just not sure this is the kind of thing newspaper reporters should be involved in. Our job should be to cover the news, not make it.”

That last line is the one that really caught my attention. Justice is completely right. Newspaper reporters should be reporting the story. They shouldn’t be in the middle of it. And the vote for the HOF isn’t just another story. Who does or doesn’t get into the HOF is a decision that has repercussions for years and years. Baseball writers, with the grudges and agendas they have developed over the years for and against certain ball players, should not be put in the position of making this important decision.

The HOF should establish a blue ribbon panel made up of baseball historians, academics, former players, members of the HOF, fans, and baseball writers. This panel should be by invitation only and should not be determined by how long a certain writer has covered the game. If the sportswriters want more control, they could appoint the baseball writers who sit on the panel.

Obviously, this proposal is not without its flaws, but it has merits that having only baseball writers vote does not. For instance, during the recent HOF vote, two baseball writers submitted blank ballots. One of them said it was because he didn’t have enough information on which to vote. To me, it sounds like the writer was shirking his responsibility and was just looking for his own 15 minutes of fame. If he doesn’t want to vote, then he should have refused the ballot. Members of the blue ribbon panel will be determined by invitation only. If they accept the invitation, then they accept the responsibility to actually vote.

If you don’t like my blue ribbon panel idea, then I’m sure there is another idea out there that would work and would be better than the current system. I’d be in favor of almost anything that gets the baseball writers out of the business of making news and back to the business of reporting it.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Ripken, Gwynn Welcomed to Hall

Only two guys made it into the HOF this year. As expected, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn were elected by the Baseball Writers of America. Those getting close this year were Rich “Goose” Gossage, Jim Rice and Andre Dawson. Mark McGwire only received a little over 23% of the vote.

Most of the coverage of this years HOF election has focused on Mark McGwire and the steroids era. What should have been a celebration of all of the positive aspects of the game turned into an argument about who did or didn’t use performance enhancing drugs. Unfortunately, what has been somewhat lost in the discussion is the class and integrity that both Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn brought to the game.

Both Ripken and Gwynn played their entire careers with one team. They both showed up ready and excited to play every day. They were both talented players, great teammates, and terrific ambassadors of the game. They played the game the right way. In other words, they were prototypical of what a HOFer should be.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Who Will Make the HOF This Year?

Tomorrow, the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce their class of 2007. Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr. are almost assured of being inducted on their first year on the ballot. I agree that these two should make it in, but there are others that are deserving as well.

If it were up to me (and I think there is an argument to be made that it should be), Goose Gossage, Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris would also be joining the HOF. ESPN’s Jayson Stark wrote an article detailing his votes. While I agree with almost everything Stark says, there are a couple of votes I can’t agree with.

First, Stark is voting for Dale Murphy. I used to be in favor of Murphy making the Hall. He was a very good player on some very bad Braves teams. He was a feared hitter at a time when feared hitter hit 30 HRs a year, not 73. And if any player ever deserved extra credit for being a “good character” guy, it would be Murphy. But after looking again at his stats and being brainwashed by all of the articles opposing his nomination, I’ve decided I don’t think Murphy is deserving of being in the Hall. Of course, now that I write this out, I feel dirty and cheap.

The other candidate that Stark voted for that I would not support is Jim Rice. I have to admit that I don’t know a great deal about Rice. I only saw him play a few times, so my knowledge of him is limited primarily to his stats. His stats are impressive, but not impressive enough for the Hall. Plus, Rice was a below average defender, a category that I admittedly probably put too much emphasis on.

While Murphy’s vote totals have been going down year after year, Rice’s vote totals have been increasing. In 2006 Rice received 64.8% of the vote. No one has ever received that many votes and not made it into the Hall.

Unfortunately for Rice and everyone else not named Ripken or Gwynn, it’s unlikely that any of them will be elected into the HOF this year. Voters rarely vote in more than a couple of candidates each year, and Gwynn and Ripkin are such obvious choices that it’s unlikely anyone else will make it in this year.

Of course, there is one other player that Stark voted for that I oppose and that is Mark McGwire. Since I wrote eloquently on this topic earlier, I won’t re-hash it here. You can read my wonderful analysis here. But there is one other thing I want to add that I didn’t cover previously.

A lot of allegations have been flying over the past five years concerning McGwire’s use of steroids. Some people have condemned McGuire while others have defended him. The one person that hasn’t had anything to say about it is McGwire. Even in front of Congress, McGwire refused to talk about whether he did or didn’t use steroids. He hasn’t had anything to say. And if he is not interested in defending his legacy, then why should I (or anyone else) defend it for him?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Cubs Interested in Free Agent Newhan

Man, things are slow in Cubsville. But I did find one somewhat, kind of interesting piece of news. It was buried in an article in the Newark Star-Ledger where is said that both the Mets and Cubs are interested in signing FA David Newhan.

Newhan is a 33-year old outfielder who played last season with the Orioles. In 39 games he hit .252 with 4 HR and 18 RBI. He has a career batting average of .256 with 20 HR and 102 RBI.

This is the first I have heard about the Cubs having interest in Newhan. In fact, it is the first time I have heard Newhan’s name mentioned all off-season. I’m not sure what interest the Cubs would have in the former Oriole. They already have Angel Pagan and Daryle Ward competing for the 4th outfielder spot. Cliff Floyd has long been rumored to be joining that mix. I’m not sure why the Cubs would want to add another name to that competition.

But when things are slow, I’m happy to learn anything new about the Cubs. So if they have an interest in David Newhan, then let the speculation begin.

In other big, exciting, off-season news, the Cubs avoided arbitration with P Neal Cotts by signing him to a 1-year/$825,000 contract. If the Cubs make it to the World Series and Cotts is named WS MVP, he will earn a $150,000 bonus. I truly hope this is something we all have to worry about.

The signing of Cotts is good for everyone involved. Cotts gets a fair deal, the Cubs avoid arbitration, and it happened early enough so it is not a distraction to anyone. Most importantly, it gives me something to write about. And after all, isn’t that what the Cubs are all about?

Monday, January 01, 2007

January is a Depressing Month

The Holidays are over, the New Year is here, and it’s almost time to go back to work. This time of year always depresses me. January is usually a pretty slow month for baseball. The Winter Meetings are a distant memory and pitchers and catchers don’t report for more than a month. I hope I can think of a few things to write about during the upcoming month.

One thing I can talk about is the Giants signing of Barry Zito. Wow, what a surprise. I thought the Mets were a virtual lock to sign the southpaw. I thought the Rangers might be a darkhorse, but I never figured the Giants would even get involved. I mean, they haven’t done much of anything this off-season to improve their team, so I didn’t think they’d be willing to spend $126 million over 7 years on one pitcher.

One article I read indicated that the Zito signing is more for the future than for 2007. In 2007 the Giants will be saddled with Barry Bonds and his contract. But once he is gone, the team will have much more flexibility to build a winner. There might be something to this argument, but that doesn’t explain why the team didn’t do a better job with the money they did spend this off-season. Zito should be good, but I’m not convinced that his signing by the Giants makes much sense.

Now that the Mets have lost out on Zito, where will they turn for pitching? They will have Tom Glavine back at the top of the rotation along with John Maine, Oliver Perez, and the ageless El Duque. Pedro Martinez should be back around the all-star break, but who know if he will be able to ever pitch effectively again. It will be interesting to see what the Mets do to address their pitching holes. They’ve spent a ton of money on position players. They’d be foolish to just stand pat.