Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Democracy On The March!

All-Star balloting closes out tomorrow. It's a sad sign of my enormous disinterest in a game that I used to look forward to as a highlight of the summer that I just got around to casting my votes tonight. "This time it counts!" just isn't working for me, Baron. The elimination of interleague play and the return of separate identities for the two leagues would help, but that's not about to happen, is it?

This in no way should be taken as a knock on the players, who once again make up as talented a group as has ever played the game. Here are my choices, paired with the current leader in the balloting.

American League
1B David Ortiz/David Ortiz. As much as I like Justin Morneau, I can't ignore an 86-point edge in on-base percentage, especially when Ortiz' slugging average is also better. I know that Ortiz isn't really a first baseman any more, but that works for him here too, as I look forward to the entertainment value of seeing him play in the field.

2B Brian Roberts/Placido Polanco. I've always liked Polanco; he has only one offensive skill, hitting singles, but he's done it consistently for many years now. But Roberts is only one point behind him in batting average (.324/.323) and way ahead in both OBP and SLG, besides being 24 for 28 as a base stealer. And yet Roberts isn't even in the top five in the voting. Robinson Cano has a .307 OBP, and is second in the voting. You go, Yankees fan!

3B Alex Rodriguez/Alex Rodriguez. The choker is slugging .700 so far this year. None of it in the clutch, I'm sure. Clearly the Yankees' dismal record is all his fault. Why can't he be more like that nice Derek Jeter? By the way, anyone who votes for ANYONE other than the guy slugging .700 should be disenfranchised, permanently.

SS Carlos Guillen/Derek Jeter. Jeter is way ahead in the voting, and his selection is certainly very defensible. Once again meaning no disrespect to Jeter, I have to go with Guillen's .577 slugging average. Guillen has been a great player for several years now (ever since the Mariners let him go so that they could sign Rich Aurilia), a fact which has almost completely eluded the media and most fans.

C Joe Mauer/Ivan Rodriguez. This is a tough call. It's so tough that the voters have completely blown it. Mauer, despite losing time to injury, is having another fine season, hitting .314 with a .400 OBP. Jorge Posada, establishing himself as a serious Hall of Fame candidate, is having one of his best seasons at age 35, slugging .540 with a .404 OBP. Victor Martinez is right there with them both, batting .313 with a .532 slugging average. So who do the fans want? The guy with the .298 OBP. Ivan Rodriguez has been a great player, but at this point he's roughly the eighth best catcher in the AL.

OF Carl Crawford/Vladimir Guerrero
Magglio Ordonez/Magglio Ordonez
Ichiro Suzuki/Ichiro Suzuki
I loves me some Vlad Guerrero, and I'd pick him, too, except that I have this silly rule of always voting one LF, one CF, and one RF.

National League
1B Albert Pujols/Prince Fielder. Prince Fielder is one of the rising stars in the game. Prince Fielder is fun to watch. Prince Fielder certainly belongs on the All-Star team. Albert Pujols is Albert Pujols.

2B Chase Utley/Chase Utley. The majority of fans have it right. My only question to the rest: why in the hell is Craig Biggio in third place? Or even in the top ten?

3B Miguel Cabrera/David Wright. Wright has more name recognition (lots more) and is a hell of a player; there is nothing really wrong with having him as number one. I do think that Cabrera is better, but it's close.

SS Jose Reyes/Jose Reyes. The mass of voters and I are in agreement, but, damn, what a great group here. Hanley Ramirez and Edgar Rentaria could both start this game, and Jimmy Rollins trails them only because his OBP isn't strong. J.J. Hardy has been sensational as well.

C Brian McCann/Russell Martin. Weakest position in either league. Martin is the better player so far this year; I go with McCann on his track record (which, granted, isn't a whole lot longer than Martin's). I'm willing to admit being wrong here.

OF Barry Bonds/Alfonso Soriano
Carlos Beltran/Carlos Beltran
Ken Griffey Jr./Ken Griffey Jr.
Soriano is playing well for the Cubs, no doubt about it. But when in doubt, I like to go with the guy with the 1.081 on-base plus slugging. Especially when he's about to pass one of the game's greatest records, and by earning it with his play, not because he's a team icon like some people I could name. I suppose I could make Soriano my CF, except that he's not a centerfielder. I suppose I could make Aaron Rowand my CF, except that he's a good player but not Carlos Beltran. It's so wonderful to be able to vote for Griffey because of his play and not as a sentimental choice.

I have to say that I am impressed with the fan voting. There is only one horribly misguided selection (Ivan Rodriguez) and even there (a) they are at least voting for a Hall-of-Famer and not a six-week wonder and (b) Posado could still catch him (no pun intended) at the very end. All of the other spots in which I don't agree with the voting mass are reasonable disagreements. If you're keeping score, that makes two elections in row that the voters have gotten right. Democracy rules! Kudos to you, good Thomas Jefferson and James Madison!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What, Indeed?

I'm glad that the Sox are playing Tampa Bay this week. At least there is one entertaining team on the field.

Bob asks, "what the heck has happened to the White Sox?" Good question. To summarize the 2007 White Sox at this point in the season, no one except Jim Thome is creating any offense, the defense is mediocre, the outfield is the worst in baseball, Jon Garland and Mark Buehrle are the only two consistent starters, and apart from Bobby Jenks the bullpen can be politely described as a complete disaster.

How did the Sox get from October 25, 2005, to this? Certainly they have had some bad luck, but as Branch Rickey said, "luck is the residue of design." Decisions made this past winter have come back to roost, and the team has laid an egg.

Following the White Sox World Series championship of 2005 (I still can't stop typing that phrase) Williams made some very good decisions. Rather than stand pat, gloss over some weaknesses, and figure, hey, we won it with these guys, we can do it with them again, Williams shook up the roster, getting Jim Thome, Javier Vazquez, and some supporting players like Matt Thornton. The Sox didn't repeat, and the Vazquez trade cost the Sox Chris Young (more about that later) but the Sox were arguably a better team in some ways in 2006 than in 2005, falling a bit short against strong divisional competition.

But following 2006, Williams did not address the needs of 2007. When Aaron Rowand went to the Phillies for Thome, a hole opened up in center. The Sox thought that they had a rookie to replace him with. They did, but it was Chris Young, and they traded him to Arizona. Brian Anderson was not up to the task. By the end of the season the left fielder was down with an injury, capping off a mediocre season pretty much in line with most of his career.

So Williams went into the winter with an excess of starting pitching, and two holes in the outfield. He made two trades, giving up a starting pitcher in both deals, and came back with...younger starting pitching. And no outfielders.

Now, looking at them in a vacuum, I think that Williams came out ahead on both trades. Having gotten John Danks for Brendan McCarthy, I sure as hell wouldn't give him back. Freddie Garcia has crashed and burned in Philadelphia while Gio Gonzalez and Gavin Floyd have pitched well at the minor league level. But what the Sox needed to compete in 2007 were outfielders who could hit, not pitching prospects.

Williams made one move to patch the outfield. He signed Darin Erstad.

Erstad has many admirers in the media and in the stands, so I hope that their feelings aren't hurt when I say that he is not a championship caliber outfielder. Here is Erstad's career record. Please point out to me any year since 2000 in which he has been a good player, much less a star. As an added bonus to his inability to hit, he also misses games with injuries. Lots of games.

So what happens? Erstad takes over center field, doesn't hit, and then gets hurt. Anyone surprised by this? If so, are you also surprised every morning when the sun comes up in the east?

Last night the Sox started an outfield of Scott Podsednik, Luis Terrero, and Andy Gonzalez. No matter who your infield is, you cannot win in the major leagues with an outfield like that.

I agree that the injuries to Joe Crede, Jermaine Dye, Podsednik, and Thome were unfortunate. But when your bench consists of no better hitter than Rob Mackowiak, I think that you deserve what you get.

The starting pitching hasn't been bad, although I think that Jose Contreras is done. The bullpen, on the other hand...only Jenks and Boone Logan have ERAs under 5.00. I am disappointed but can't say I'm terribly surprised, either. Mike MacDougal, Matt Thornton, Andy Sisko, and David Aardsema all have great arms but all came with plenty of risk attached. I think that the upside of the group was worth the gamble, but the dice roll came up snake eyes this time.

Remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Chicago media back this past winter when Baseball Prospectus predicted a losing record for the 2007 Sox? Maybe those numbers geeks weren't so dumb after all.

I think that there is a chance that Kenny Williams is smarter than we think. Is it possible that he looked over his roster after his last season and thought to himself, "there is no way in hell we are going to beat Detroit and Minnesota and Cleveland with this roster. Scott Podsednik? Juan Uribe? Brian Anderson? Are you kidding me? Time to reload!" That would go a long way towards explaining the Garcia and McCarthy trades. We shall see what actions he takes as the trading deadline approaches.

He's the Unitary Broadcaster!

As he so often does, Devil Rays color man Joe Magrane had the best line of the night last night. Discussing the strike zone of plate umpire James Hoye, Magrane decreed that the rule book strike zone "is like the Constitution. It's a living document."

"Attorney General" Alberto Gonzalez was unable to comment, as he could not recall what the Constitution is or ever having read it, but a Justice Department spokesperson later said that the rule book does not say that there is a strike zone, only that it cannot be taken away.

As If This Is Going To Happen

Fox Sports columnist Mark Kriegel has a nice column here about who, in fact, should be facing the music for the steroid era in baseball. Hint...he used to sell used cars.

The threats leveled against Giambi are simply part of the continual attempt by the Commissioner's office to place all of the blame on the players and none on the ownership and administration that enabled them. Giambi should have told Selig to go pound sand.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Who, Indeed?

Padres hurler Jake Peavy, discussing his new catcher:

Michael competes. That's the bottom line. He's a fierce competitor. He plays hard. I'm excited because this ballclub has gotten better by getting him. The thing he had with Zambrano – Zambrano took it to another level. As for the fight with A.J. Pierzynski, who doesn't fight with A.J. Pierzynski?

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Misery Loves Company

Saw this nugget of joy over at MLB.com:

Amidst constant media speculation of how Guillen has lost the team or how the White Sox would be better served with another manager, Guillen has received words of support from those in the know within the industry. Atlanta manager Bobby Cox sent Guillen a message to keep believing in himself, and before he left U.S. Cellular Field on Sunday, Cubs manager Lou Piniella exchanged pleasantries with Guillen and told him not to get too overwhelmed by the team's disastrous start.

Two immediate reactions:

1. How bad is your life that Lou Piniella feels compelled to give you the "keep your chin up" inspirational speech? Despite the Cubs' relatively improved play this month, there are a lot of folks out there who still consider Lou's team a disaster...

2. A cursory glance at the calendar reveals that today is 25 June. An elementary knowledge of mathematics reveals that the White Sox are playing their 72nd game of the year this evening. After their 49th game, their record stood at 24-25. Since then, it's 5-17.

By what stretch of the imagination does any of these facts lead anyone to believe that the Sox have had a "disastrous start?" The disaster struck in June, and that's not even early season on our local Little League's schedule...


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Things I Learned During the City Series

Well, thank God that's over. The crapulance that is inter-league play is done for the year, and only about twelve games too late.

Anyway, my heroes sweep the series from the White Sox. Huzzah. I'm sure the jackass segment of the Cub Fan population is full of itself this afternoon (and, judging from the reports of fights breaking out at the Cell this weekend, the jackass segment of the White Sox Fan population was also full of something, too).

To these Cub Fans, I can only repeat Crash Davis' classic line to Nuke LaLoosh -- "The moment's over." Yeah, we won. Tomorrow, we get to play the Rockies. And they don't care that we're on a three game win streak.

So enjoy the win, as every win should be enjoyed. But don't be jackasses about it. It's not like we're printing playoff tickets, after all.

Other random observations:
** Jim is definitely more equipped to answer this question, but what the heck happened to the White Sox? I didn't realize that their record was worse than ours until Wednesday. A cursory glimpse at the stat sheet reveals that they're not hitting, and from what I hear the bullpen is...ummm...to be polite about it...not good.

** I've heard grumblings about Ozzie Guillen's managing for the last month or so. Again, I don't follow the Sox closely, so I'm not the right guy to comment. But I can't tell if he's doing anything different this year than he did in 2005.

He took some grief Saturday for bringing in Jenks in the eighth inning. I heard Sox Fan on the radio saying that Guillen lost the game with that move. But, again, if the rest of the bullpen is bad, who else does he go with in a tie game? Hoyt Wilhelm and Kevin Hickey aren't around to help anymore, after all.

** The debate on the WGN radio sports show is whether this weekend shows that the Cubs are really that good or if the Sox are really that bad. I'd say a little of both, probably.

But while I didn't think we were as bad as we showed in April and May, there's no way we should be making plans for October based on this weekend. We're still eight games behind the Brewers, and they're the real deal. We'll have to go on a hellacious tear just to make it an interesting race.

And we had the good luck to hit the White Sox at the right time. These guys are going to start hitting soon (tomorrow is fine with me, fellas), and they just can't be this bad. Can they? Or am I just a typically naive and Pollyanna-ish Cub Fan?

** Yesterday, the guy on WGN sports radio was whining that the Brewers get to play the Royals, while we had to play the White Sox.

I've said it before, but evidently I need to repeat it -- stop whining about the schedule! The crapulance that is inter-league play and the unbalanced schedule makes for some inherent discrepancies in strengths of schedule. But nobody cares, and Baron Budhausen isn't going to give us a handicap because the Brewhas got to play KC and we didn't.

Besides, the Royals might be better than the Sox. Zing! Don't post angry comments, White Sox Fans. I kid because I love!

** Even with the White Sox offensive woes, I was happy with the performance of Zambrano, Hill, and Marshall this weekend. Zambrano looks like he's back on track, and the other two young guys are showing signs that they belong in the Show. Let's hope they can build on the experience and continue to develop. Having five respectable starters would be a good thing heading into 2008.

** Thursday last week, the Trib ran a story about the White Sox that hinted, to paraphrase Homer Simpson, they're just a little airborne, but they're still good. One wonders if the eds are still as sanguine about the Pale Hose's chances now...

** On a similar note, after today's game the Cubs' record in June is a respectable 13-10. The White Sox have posted a slightly less notable 5-17 June mark.

A search for the word "swoon" at Chicagosports.com finds no reference to the word in relation to the White Sox in the paper. The only hit on the search is in an "Ask Mark Gonzales" column from last week. Meanwhile, Sully dropped a "swoon" in a bit about Marquis' recent slump.

Funny how that famous anti-Sox media bias works...

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Rod Beck

The Trib's Mark Gonzales reported that former Cub, Giant, Padre, and Red Sox closer Rod Beck died today. No details were available.

Beck was one of my favorite Cubs. Not because he was terrific player, but he was a good player and better guy. Our condolences to his family and friends.

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Those Darn Stat Geeks

Just enjoying the Sandberg Game DVD today. NBC's Bob Costas said during his broadcast of the game that walks and on-base percentage are the two most overlooked stats in the game.

He's also noted how the park effects at Busch Stadium depress the Cardinals' home run numbers.

This may scandalize some folks who consider Costas as a defender of all that is traditional and pure in baseball. Who'd have thought that he'd be promulgating this kind of Moneyball stat-geekery way back in 1984?

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Happy Sandberg Day!

Twenty-three years ago today, Willie McGee hit for the cycle against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Unfortunately for Willie, his feat is nearly forgotten. That game is more famous for Ryne Sandberg's game-tying home runs in the ninth and tenth innings.

I didn't see the game, either in person or on TV. I was out and about that day, but I caught the last few innings on the radio. It was the first time that season that I started to believe that we really could win the division.

Fortunately for all us Cub Fans, this game is included in this DVD set. I'll be enjoying it again this weekend...

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Grin and Barrett

Today's trade of Michael Barrett to the Padres was not exactly a suprise. Even before the justly-infamous scuffle with Carlos Zambrano, there were indications that Barrett was not long for the club.

Barrett was never considered a defensive whiz behind the plate, but I didn't think he was truly horrible, as many other Cub Fans did. Plus, the guy could hit a little bit. Not like Johnny Bench, but after years of Damian Miller, Benito Santiago, Hank White, and Todd Hundley, it looked pretty good.

Unfortunately, Barrett's game took several steps backward this year. His defense was getting close to that truly horrible level, and he wasn't hitting enough to make up for it.

Was he pressing because of his impending free agency? Had he started the decline phase of his career? Or were the previous two years flukes?

I'm not smart enough to tell. But, as any critic could tell you, he wasn't playing well, and if we're going to have any chance to get back in contention we need an upgrade behind the plate.

Alas, we didn't get an upgrade. Forgive me for being underwhelmed by Rob Bowen. We've already got Koyie Hill on the roster, and Hank on the DL. So by my count, that gives us three back-up catchers. Which still leaves us one catcher short.

Maybe it will turn out to be addition by subtraction. I'm not holding my breath, though.

One more thing: if the Padres win the NL West, look for one of Chicago's finest pundits to craft a "Why did the Cubs trade this guy away for nothing" column. On second thought, keep an eye out for that column if Barrett has a good week in San Diego before the All-Star Break...

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It's Full of Bloggy Goodness

For those of us who can't get enough of Sully, Dr. Phil, Dave van Dyck, and the sadly under-utilized Mark Gonzales, the good folks at the Tower have set up Hardball -- the official blog of the Trib's baseball writers.

It's about as good as you'd think (i.e., good posts from Gonzales, drivel from the rest).

My favorite part of the blog is this disclaimer about the blog's comment policies:
Comments are not posted immediately. We review them first in an effort to remove foul language, commercial messages, irrelevancies and unfair attacks. Thank you for your patience.

Oh, if only the eds took the same care removing the irrelevancies and unfair attacks from the articles the mindlessly wave into print! Excepting Gonzales, of course. White Sox Fan like to wail and gnash their teeth over the alleged media bias against their heroes, but Gonzales is a keeper...


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

…And Boy, Are My Arms Tired!

Just got back from a fun-filled week in beautiful Toronto, Ontario. Did all the fun touristy things – saw the zoo, took a bus tour, went to the top of the CN Tower, visited the Hockey Hall of Fame. But from a blogging perspective, the highlight of the trip was walking down to SkyDome on Father’s Day to see the Blue Jays play the Expos…errrr…I mean, Nationals.

The Blue Jays showed all the Dads in attendance some love, as we all scored a kickin’ Blue Jays tie, complete with manager John Gibbons’ facsimile autograph. Is “kickin’” appropriate slang anymore? It’s hard for me to keep up with what the kids are saying nowadays.

Also in honor of Father’s Day, my beloved wife encouraged my to splurge on a fancy-shmancy Jays replica jersey. Wary of buyer’s remorse, I dithered over the decision for a while before settling on a very attractive black number, complete with “Halladay 32” on the back. The Younger Heir to the estate scored himself a spiffy Toronto cap, and a Vernon Wells t-shirt.

The Blue Jays provided one last Father’s Day surprise – this cornucopia of licensed apparel was enough to net me a complimentary hardcover edition of the Blue Jays’ 25th anniversary Commemorative Book. There’s nothing that says “Happy Father’s Day” than a free copy of a six-year old remaindered book.

The game itself was better than I could have expected from this clash of Titans. The Jays took a 1-0 lead in the first, only to lose it four batters into the Nats’ half of the second.

Frank Thomas tied it up in the home half of the third with a huge home run (which we had a great view of – our seats were down the left field line, four rows from the field). Unfortunately, that was the last Blue Jay hit of the game, as the hometown heroes spent the rest of the afternoon making Micah Bowie and the highly estimable Washington relief corps look like for-real Major League pitchers.

Cub Fans may remember Micah Bowie from his eleven starts for our team back in 1999. In forty-seven innings, he got slapped around for 9.96 ERA, a 2.19 WHIP, and a .358 BAA. I give him credit for hanging in there long enough to get another shot. This year, he’s 4-2, and pitched pretty well. It’s only a matter of time before Dr. Phil pens a column wondering why we ever got rid of this guy…

Josh Towers started for the Jays, and pitched better than I expected. He gave up four earned in seven innings, and aside from one mistake to Ryan Zimmerman (who hit a dinger even longer than Thomas’, also hit right past us) looked like a for-real Major League pitcher, too.

But even with the quality start, it’s hard to win when your offensive “support” consists of two walks over the last six innings of play. Final score: Washington 4, Toronto 2.

Looking especially ignominious was Vernon Wells. He singled and scored in the first, but then went down swinging his next three appearances. And he didn’t look particularly good doing that.

A few other random notes:
** With Lyle Overbay hurt and Wells not hitting very much, it’s a wonder that Thomas gets anything to hit. The Jays’ lineup with not very inspiring – their fifth and sixth hitters were Aaron Hill and Curtis Thigpen. Would you throw Thomas a strike with those two coming up?

** The bottom of the lineup wasn’t any better than the middle. The catching tandem of Jason Phillips and Greg Zaun, Adam Lind, and Royce Clayton could rival the Astros for the crummiest three hitters in the Major Leagues.

** Surprisingly, the Nationals looked OK. Not a good OK, but the kind of OK that means they won’t lose 120 games. As long as the pitching holds out. And they don’t suffer a lot of injuries.

I think Washington’s biggest issue right now is a lack of depth. They just don’t have the guys on the bench or on the farm to step in if someone gets hurt (or bombs). It will be a few years before the new regime there can rebuild the system after suffering the tender ministrations of MLB (and, before that, Loria the Destroyer).

** I did see quite a few people with Nationals gear wandering the ballpark. If Nats fans are willing to make the roadie up to Canada, perhaps they’ll be patient enough to stick with their team the next few years…

** The Jays have a chili pepper race (sort of like the Brewers’ sausage race, but not as good) between innings. I don’t understand it, either.

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This is our 700th post with Blogger. Wow. Who'd have ever thought we'd get past seven posts, let alone 700?

Thanks for sticking with us this far...


Guess Who’s Smart Again?

Set the Way-Back Machine for 2 October 2006. Here’s what Dr. Phil had to say the day Andy MacPhail resigned his gig as Cubs team president:

A club president impacts an organization two ways – by setting agendas and by hiring the personnel to carry them out.

[Cubs interim President John] McDonough is inheriting his biggest hire, as he does not appear inclined to abandon general manager Jim Hendry…That leaves the agenda, and McDonough again appears to be holding the current course – fix everything overnight, win tomorrow, if not sooner…

McDonough could be the person [to lead the team to the World Series]. But on Sunday, I didn’t hear him say anything MacPhail hasn’t said for the last twelve years.

And here’s Dr. Phil today, talking about MacPhail taking on the president’s job for the Baltimore Orioles:

You can argue that MacPhail—or MacFail, in the vernacular of Murphy's Bleachers—didn't fight hard enough for his budget, believing you can win without squeezing the profit margin. His resignation last September led to general manager Jim Hendry having access to new depths of the company vault.

But MacPhail kept both his bosses and his front-office staff happy, which is never happy. If Mark Prior and Kerry Wood had been healthy, he could have stuck around Wrigley Field forever—or at least until he succeeded Bud Selig as commissioner…

Instead of having hands-on control of the Cubs, he hired guys like Ed Lynch and Hendry to do the dirty work. But it was MacPhail who made the biggest decisions—the Sammy Sosa decisions, in particular—and set the organizational philosophy. It's amazing that his emphasis of player development and scouting didn't pay more dividends.

MacPhail knew what to do. It just didn't work out.

To sum up – Dr. Phil chided McDonough in October for holding the “win now” agenda that MacPhail set (the “current course,” as he puts it).

Today, Dr Phil is “amazed” that MacPhail’s “organizational philosophy” (the one about “fixing everything overnight”) “just didn’t work out.”

The lesson to be learned: players, managers, executives are idiots when they’re with the Cubs. As soon as they leave the team, they get smart again.

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Who Will Think of the Children?

Sully reported this while I was out of the country:

A group from the Brains and Baseball Camp at Chicago City Day School, which teaches kids reading and writing skills by having them read Cubs stories in the
Tribune, attended Thursday's game.

Those poor kids. What will they learn from reading Sully’s stuff, aside from smirks and snark? If the school really wanted them to learn writing skills, it should have them read White Sox beat writer Mark Gonzales’ reports…

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Good Guys Wear Grey Flannel Suits?

I’ll leave it to Jim to comment on the state of the White Sox. But White Sox Fan can rest assured that the team isn’t just standing pat during this small rough patch:

Having lost nine of their previous 11 games and coming off a 1-5 road trip that dropped them nine games below .500, the fourth-place White Sox had to do something going into Monday night's game.

So they're changing ad agencies, putting next season's account up for review.

Two by Four, the Chicago agency that complemented the team's 2005 run to a World Series title with the "Grinder Rules" campaign and that promoted this season behind "Back to the Grind" and "We Are Chicago Baseball," as well as a faux "Southside Chicago Board of Tourism," will decline White Sox marketing chief Brooks Boyer's
invitation to participate…

Boyer said the team has been pleased with Two by Four -- whose mock tourism pitch to satirically demystify the South Side for suburbanites referred to the White Sox's home as the "Southside" -- but that it was healthy to take stock every few years.

"We just felt it was a good time to take a step back and try to look at it from 5,000 feet," he said. "We've been grinding away, and we think now is as good a time as ever. ... This is not an indictment of them. It was just something we felt we had to do as
an organization."…

"We're a product that can change on a daily basis, and public perception of us can change very quickly," Boyer said. "Not only do we have to protect our retail messaging to get butts in the seats, we also have to protect the brand."


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Drafting Fool

Despite MLB and ESPN's best efforts, I failed to pay much attention to the amateur draft last week. Maybe I'm just short-sighted, but I can't get excited about the latest hot-shot high school kid or college grad. Since it's not my job to project which guys will develop into viable big leaguers, I can just sit back and see what happens over the next few years.

Although I am content to take a wait-and-see approach, some folks don't have that luxury. Folks like the esteemed Trib scribe Dr. Phil.

Read his take on the draft, if you dare. If you don't have the time, here's a recap: Why are the Cubs and White Sox so dumb? Why can't they be smart like the Tigers?

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Rant-dom Thoughts on Lou's Rant

Old news now, I know. But I would be remiss if I didn't make some mention of Lou Piniella's little hissy-fit from last weekend.

First, I found the Chicago media gaggle's reaction to Lou's antics darkly amusing and sadly predictible at the same time. These are the same guys who have been impatiently waiting for Lou's first Chicago meltdown since October -- so impatient that they speculated after every loss that the meltdown was just around the corner. And so breathlessly giddy over the prospect of Lou tossing bases they wasted time in April getting Ken Griffey Jr. to tell stories of Lou's Greatest Seattle Meltdowns.

And when Piniella finally blew his top, they had the gall to act shocked and scandalized.

I don't know why they were compelled to wag their fingers at Piniella. After all, Ozzie Guillen thought Piniella's dirt-kicking exhibition was "funny." And the Chicago gaggle has long held Ozzie as the epitome of managerial professionalism, so he must know of what he speaks.

While I didn't share Ozzie's laughter, I could understand Piniella's frustration. Too bad he had to vent it in such an idiotic way. I was OK with the hat-toss, but he lost me when he started kicking dirt on the umpire. That's just weak, even if the guy got the call wrong. Which he didn't.

And which Piniella also 'fessed up to. He also offered his apologies, and vowed to mind his errant ways. Too little, too late? Perhaps.

But i will give him some small credit for admitting he was in the wrong, rather than shrug off responsibility for his actions by claiming something ludicrous -- like kicking dirt on umpires means something different in Tampa...

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Good Luck with That

In the wake of Giambi's recent apology for "doing that stuff," Selig asked the New York Yankees star to cooperate with baseball's steroids investigator within two weeks.

But Selig deferred a decision on whether to discipline Giambi for his remarks, saying how the slugger deals with the former Senate Majority Leader will be taken into account.

Selig's statement might be interpreted by some players as a threat to punish Giambi and might make it harder for Mitchell's staff to persuade players to cooperate.


"I'm still trying to figure out what he's in trouble for -- freedom of speech?" outfielder Johnny Damon said. "You can always go back and get someone in trouble for what they did in the past, whether it's stealing a pack of gum or whatever."

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Did You Ever See This in Venezuela?

I give Ozzie Guillen a lot of grief for saying a lot of stupid things. But this time he just might be on to something.

Do you think this will spark a frank discussion of the issues involved? Or will it just be written off as "Ozzie being Ozzie?"

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007


The Sporting News’ Stan McNeal was looking for an easy way to kill 650 words last week, so he mailed in a column about which potential free agent you would want roaming center field for your team: Ichiro Suzuki, Andruw Jones, or Torii Hunter?

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this sort of thing. Like I said, it’s an easy way to fill column inches. And, as an added bonus, you can give some props to one of your favorites. What is wrong is when you have to stretch the bounds of logic to make your point.

McNeal’s fave out of this trio is Hunter. Some of his reasoning is a bit fuzzy, even for a rag like The Sporting News (such as McNeal’s preference for Torii even though Ichiro is halfway to a Hall of Fame career, or his assertion that Hunter’s athletic-but-31-year-old body figure to “make him an elite player for many years”). But this was the bit that made me laugh out loud:

What Hunter lacks in OBP, he makes up for in the clubhouse. Because I don't work for the A's or some other stathead organization, Hunter's leadership is my differentiating factor. This stat matters, too: The Twins have reached the postseason four of the past five years. Hunter's professionalism has had something to do with that.

"He's just got that thing that not very many people have. He's special," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire says.

So what do you prefer? Reaching base or reaching out to teammates? Running up pitch counts or running into walls? Walking or winning? One longtime talent evaluator who likes all three center fielders acknowledges, "You're going to win more championships with Torii."

Championships is a choice I'd take every day.

Long-time readers will know that I scoff at the notion of clubhouse chemistry. Maybe it’s because I don’t work for the punditocracy or some other toolhead organization.

[Just for the record, I feel compelled to point out that the A’s have reached the post season five of the last seven years. So perhaps reaching base and running up pitch counts have some merit, too.]

Snarkiness aside, I was floored that this flimsy bit of logic is really the best McNeal can come up with in support of Hunter. How do we know Hunter is a great clubhouse leader? The Twins have played in four of the last five Octobers. Oh, and his manager and some unnamed scout say he is. What more do you need?

And that’s one of the reasons why these “favorite toy” fluff pieces are ultimately silly. Unless you’re comparing one guy who’s obviously better than the rest (i.e., which center fielder would you rather have – Joe DiMaggio, Bob Dernier, or Chet Lemon?), it all comes down to your preference. And, as they say, there’s no accounting for taste.

But at the end of the day, you can’t just say, “I like Torii Hunter better than Jones or Ichiro, just because he’s a leader and stuff.” You’d have to crank that up to a 48 point font to fill a page.

The other reason these are silly – perhaps I’m just naïve, but I think the correct answer to the Ichiro, Jones, or Hunter question is really option (d): it depends.

As every pundit who’s milked a column out of a post-mortem of the 2007 Chicago Cubs have told you, you just can’t throw twenty-five guys together and expect to make a team out of them. [Although Hunter’s legendary leadership skills would help in that respect…]

My choice would depend on the make up of the rest of the roster. I lean toward Ichiro at about a sixty degree angle, because I like future Hall of Famers who get on base. But if I have a glaring need for a leadoff hitter, my lean becomes more of a topple.

If my lineup is such that my center fielder only has to be the sixth- or seventh-best hitter, then I might go with Hunter. How can anyone have a meaningful discussion of this sort of personnel decision in a vacuum?

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Fool Me Once, Shame on A-Rod

Of all the stupid, ginned-up "controversies" that have followed Alex Rodriguez around since he was traded to the Yankees, this just might be the stupidest.

This kind of stuff may strike some fans as not being cricket (to mix a sports metaphor). But smarter people than me (people who are actually involved in the game) have hinted that this kind of thing happens more than we think at the Major League level.

And this is the kind of gamesmanship that happened all the time back in the Golden Age of Baseball. Fans of a certain age who long for the days when the players were hard-nosed and smart instead of overpaid and soft should be loving this!

I'll even go out on a limb and read some minds: if Derek Jeter had done this, the same people who are tut-tutting at A-Rod would be praising Jeter's cleverness.

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Absolutely Crap-ulous

Jesus H. Christ in a Christmas tree! I couldn't believe the reports this afternoon that Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett started swinging at each other during the game.

To paraphrase the radio announcer from Bull Durham, I don't know what the hell those guys are thinking about, but it sure isn't baseball.

After a brief period earlier this month when we actually played decently, we've fallen apart. Frankly, we're playing like crap. I hesitate to echo Sully's line about the season "spiralling out of control," but if the spiral fits...

Zambrano and Barrett's behavior today was shameful. Just shameful.

The team said after the game that both players would be disciplined. Good. Suspend the pair of them for a week. It won't help get our season back on track, but if we're going to lose, we might as well lose with some sort of dignity, and not like a pack of jackasses.

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