Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Kurt's blog

The lineup as it stands today

Just thought I'd throw this up on the site ... as this will be a short article, I'm writing it as a "blog post" and since I own the keys to the kingdom, I'm promoting it to the front page, as well.

If I'm building the Cubs lineup, this is what I'd do with the players the Cubs have at this moment:

1. Kosuke Fukudome RF
2. Mark DeRosa 2B
3. Aramis Ramirez 3B
4. Alfonso Soriano LF
5. Geovany Soto C
6. Derrek Lee 1B
7. Ryan Theriot SS
8. Felix Pie CF

If Reed Johnson starts over Pie, I place him 7th and bat Theriot 8th.

While I think we'd all agree that the Cubs should pursue another bat, all things being equal this is by no means a bad lineup.  The only problem is the fact that it goes L-R-R-R-R-R-R-L or, if Reed starts, L-R-R-R-R-R-L-R, which just won't cut it.


A nail in Cuban's coffin

Reports from the SEC have Mark Cuban accused of insider trading.  Cuban supposedly saved $750,000 back in 2004 by dumping stock shortly before a transaction.

Cuban lives in a country where people are innocent until proven guilty, but he's walking shaky ground here.  It's way too early to speculate on what will happen, but if he's convicted then he's at risk of losing control of his company, he's at risk of going to jail, and obviously he'll probably be officially out of the running to buy the Cubs.

I've said all along that Cuban is a sexy choice to own the Cubs because he represents something the team hasn't had in decades - a face for the team.  People know him, they know what he represents, and that flies in contrast with the Tribune, a company of people whose names I do not know and faces I would not recognize.  He also has the kind of competitor's spirit and pride that Cubs ownership has lacked since the time of the Depression.

But if Cuban fails to purchase the Cubs - something that is becoming more likely with every passing day now - then I can only hope that whoever buys the team shares his pride and desire to win.  The Cubs need - and Cub fans deserve - a guy like that.  But who knows if we'll ever see one?

I called it

Colin reported yesterday that Ryan Dempster will be testing the waters shortly, as he is looking for a 4 year deal or more while the Cubs are only going to offer him 3.

About a month back, when the season ended, I wrote the following: This is the biggest area of interest this off season.  I'm sure there are some people who think that Dempster will be an elite pitcher next season.  I'm not one of them.  However, I do think he'll have a good 2009, and maybe even a good '10 and '11.  If Jim Hendry can negotiate a reasonable deal with Dempster - say, 3 years for 30-36 million with an option for a 4th year - then I support his return.  But if Dempster demands 4 or 5 years for 14 million or more, the Cubs will need to wish him the best and let him go.

It looks now as though Dempster is asking for just that, while the Cubs appear interested in offering the kind of deal I speculated on.

Consequently, Jim Hendry will have a busy week or two.  He'll be trying to negotiate with Dempster while blowing up the phone lines of the San Diego Padres in order to land Peavy.  Peavy would be costly, but let's remember two things - 1) he's the same age as Carlos, and 2) He's locked up for 4 years for barely more money than what Jason Marquis is making.  If I'm the GM, Peavy is a must-have, as he is that rare ace pitcher with an affordable contract.

There is one other factor that will play out interestingly this off season for Dempster - most seasons, he'd be the top free agent pitcher on the market.  This year, he's one of a bunch.  While there is always a need for starting pitchers, there are also only so many dollars able to be spent and the market may be saturated to the point where the only guy to get what he "deserves" will be Sabathia.  But even if Dempster goes, and even if Peavy's price is too costly, the Cubs will have the ability to replace Dempster with somebody for less-or-equal money who actually may outproduce Clownsevelt next season.

Those options look to include the following:

Jon Garland - 29, 14-8, 4.90 ERA
Braden Looper - 34, 12-14, 4.16 ERA
Derek Lowe - 35, 14-11, 3.24 ERA
Oliver Perez - 27, 10-7, 4.22 ERA
CC Sabathia - 28, 17-10, 2.70 ERA
Ben Sheets - 30, 13-9, 3.09 ERA
AJ Burnett - possible free agent - 31, 18-10, 4.07 ERA

And there are other good pitchers who could file but haven't yet.  My current theory is also that one of the teams that loses out on some of the pitchers above might be willing to accept a trade for Jason Marquis rather than go home empty-handed.

Regardless, I'll end it by saying this - if Ryan Dempster can get 4 or 5 years elsewhere, then I believe the Cubs should wish him the best and send him on his way.  At his age, after a career year, and without knowing if he can pitch consistently for another half decade, anything more than 3 years would be too much.  There are other options out there, and the Cubs should pursue them.

Blanco an agent of freedom

As was reported here in the shout box and elsewhere, Venezuelan legend Henry Blanco saw his option declined by the Cubs yesterday.  This doesn't mean that he's done as a Cub or a Major Leaguer, it just means that the Cubs want to bring him back for less than the 3 million he would have made had his option been exercised.

Blanco has earned the reputation of being a good teammate and coach material.  The Cubs would probably like to keep him around one way or the other, although with Geovany Soto growing into the role of a great catcher, Blanco isn't as needed as he was back in the days of Michael Barrett.

In other news, Rich Hill is pitching in Venezuela and has done well there in his first 2 starts, allowing 4 walks in 9 innings.  You never know, Hill very well might "figure out" what he was doing wrong, and he could have the best winter ball season ever, but we won't know if he's got even the slightest chance of making it back until he's pitching in front of scrutinous crowds and questioning media.  The pressure in that case would be all mental, but that's just the point - the inability to locate the strike zone is very much a mental deal.

Anyway, I'm off to eat at the best Jewish Deli in Toronto.  Have a good Saturday.

There sure are a lot of Cub blogs out there - post 'em if you've got 'em

When we redesigned the blog, we came up with a theoretically fun/interesting way to make our blog roll more interactive and informative.  Kevin asked Byron to give him an updated list of the blogs that we'd include in our roll, but Byron didn't get back to him in a timely fashion - although our good friend and GROTA co-creator has been blogging semi-regularly back at The Cubdom, in case ya didn't know.

I decided this morning to finally compile that long overdue list, and I was shocked to realize that there are close to four dozen active Cubs blogs out there right now.  Four dozen! That's crazy!

Taking a look at many of those blogs for the first time, I have to say I'm impressed by our passion.  A lot of people have put a lot of hard work into talking about the Cubs in an open forum.

However, while I pulled my list from the Cubs Blog Army, don't assume I caught your blog.  If you have a Cubs blog that you'd like to be a part of our blog roll, post a link in the comments of this article.

If I can pull aside an hour later today, I might do a quick Goat Cast, as well about the Year in Review for Goat Riders.  It will be a can't-miss if you enjoy gossip.

Grumpy old man to remain in Chicago until 2010

Crazy Lou
Image from the Daily Illini

The news out of Chicago tonight is actually surprising to some degree.  Jim Hendry has picked up Lou Piniella's contract options, extending everybody's favorite Cubs skipper through the 2010 season.

This is predominantly surprising because Lou has given hints that he may retire if the Cubs win the Series this year.

Now, I personally think that Lou has turned out to be a tremendous surprise in the dugout.  I expected him to be all kinds of wrong for the organization, but the Cubs have played exceptionally well for Piniella in his first 2 years at the helm.  I'm tentatively supportive of this extension, although at 65 years of age, Lou runs the risk of losing his effectiveness in the dugout if he sticks around for too long.  I'm sure some of our older Goat Readers (and perhaps even our Goat Riders) remember what it was like in Chicago in the early 1970's when Leo the Lip began to let things slip through the cracks.

Anyway, it's great that Piniella has been rewarded for his success.  However, if he truly is going to retire upon winning a championship here, let's hope it happens soon - not because I want to see him go, mind you, but because I really, really want to see them win.

Just a little bit of perspective for you

Before they won their first title in a long, long, loooooong time, the Boston Red Sox had six consecutive 2nd place finishes behind the Yankees.  They also reached the playoffs 4 times in 10 years before overcoming unbelievable odds in 2004.  The Red Sox spent hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars, they went through five managers, and they won an awful lot of games.

The Cubs have finished better than .500 5 times this decade.  This will have been their 4th post season trip since 1998.  They've gone through 5 managers this decade, although 2 of those 5 were basically interim skippers once Don Baylor got the well-deserving axe.

In terms of the little successes that come before the big one, I think the Cubs haven't come as close as often as the Red Sox did before they won it all.  But that doesn't matter.  World Championships aren't built on the backs of last year's team.  They're built on the strength of this one and this one only, and while there are some parallels, it doesn't ultimately matter.  But essentially I'm only pointing out the comparison between the two for a simple reason - to keep us grounded and reminded that anything can happen, including a bunch of years of coming close.

Why We Cheer: We All Need Professional Help


Why We Cheer: Derek Smart

The line I use about being a Cub fan is that, above all else, it requires a deep commitment to overwhelming institutional mediocrity.  Of course, this is meant as a joke, but the sad part is that, like any attempt at humor, when it works, it's because there's truth behind it.  In this case, about 100 years worth. 

Which raises, I suppose, the perfectly logical question of "why?" Why follow a team that so consistently fails expectations? Why be a fan of a club that at various points in its history can be legitimately accused of not trying very hard to get better? Why torture yourself year after year when realistic assessments tell you time and again that your hope is a fool's hope?

The answer for me, and for many of you, I'd guess, is love.  Somewhere along the line, against your better judgment, you fell in love with the Chicago Cubs.  The method doesn't matter.  Whether you came into it because of your father, or the teevee, or seeing a special player strut their stuff on the cool, green grass, we're all in the same boat.  This isn't shiny-happy, picket-fence-two-kids-and-a-dog love.  This is messy, nasty, dish-breaking, knife-throwing, toss-your-stuff-on-the-lawn, make-up-sex, five-breakup, late-night-stalking, restraining-order-love.  It's an "I wish I knew how to quit you" thing that none of us has the answer to, much as we wish we might.

The thing is, though, I don't want to get rid of this, and I doubt any of you do either.  See, I know how bad a mess this team I love has been.  I'm under no illusions.  But just like that person who gets under your skin, who won't get out of your head, even though you know they're no good, even though you know they'll never get it right, what we're hoping for is to see that screwed-up loser who's the object of our affection get their life in order and make something of themselves.  We want to see it because we love them so much.  We want to see it because we're sure we've seen that glimmer of potential beneath the layers of filth.  And we want to see it because we want to believe we haven't wasted all this time, all this precious, single life we have on a terrible misjudgment.

But you know what?  Even if they never get it done, even if I spend my entire life rooting for the Cubs, never seeing them reach the promised land, it won't have been a waste.  Although they've given much pain over the years, they've also given buckets of joy and enjoyment.  Love hurts sometimes, and expecting otherwise is Pollyannatude in the highest.  I am nothing if not realistic, so I know my love could break my heart at any moment, but isn't love about a certain amount of hope and faith?  It may be a fool's hope, and it may be faith misplaced, but it's all I've got, and I don't know about you, but I think it's going to pay off any day now.


Editor's Note: Derek Smart is a long-time Cub blogger who hangs his hat these days at Cub Town, a part of the awesomely-named Baseball Toaster

Go, Mets, Go!

Ron Santo would punch me in the face if he read this, but I am strongly advocating for the Mets to pull it together and reach the post season over the Phillies.  Mostly, I think this would be a good thing for one simple, essential reason - the following key Met players are on the DL:

Billy Wagner - 2.30 ERA, 27 saves
Orlando Hernandez - 24 starts, 9-5, 3.72 ERA
John Maine - 25 starts, 10-8, 4.18 ERA
Moises Alou - .347 AVG in what little playtime he had this season
Fernando Tatis - .297 AVG, 11 HR, 47 RBI

At the rate they're dropping, it'll be a miracle if they make it.  And if they make it ... soft prey.

Cubs release '09 schedule

Major League Baseball released the aught nine schedules today.  Highlights include a 162 game season, in which half are played at home and the other half are played on the road.

The Cubs will open the season in Houston, and will finish the year at home against Arizona.  To see the full schedule, follow this link to the Cubs.com website.

Of course, while this is all informational, I think the only schedule you, I, or anybody else is really interested in starts in a few weeks and will include home field advantage for the Cubs.  Nudge nudge, wink wink.

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award