Goatriders of the Apocalypse

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Reader Blog: Week 14 awards: Aramis Ramirez asks us to kindly stop hating him

Yesterday's turd of a game notwithstanding, the Cubs seemed to be playing a better brand of baseball this week. I speak mostly of the offense, which put up 39 runs in the week's first six games. They drew walks, came through with runners in scoring position and generally enabled us viewers to refrain from expecting the worst for at least a few days.

The pitching was middling, however, and cost them two losses including Friday's in which Ted Lilly took the Cubs out of the game early even though the Cubs would eventually score seven runs. Lilly has not exactly boosted his trade value in the last couple weeks, but the deadline remains nearly three weeks away. Speaking of a possible Lilly trade, word is that the Mets would hope to take on much of his remaining salary so that they could part with lesser talent. I hope Hendry wouldn't go this route--Lilly's salary comes off the payroll after this season anyways, so what good does a trade do if it doesn't net some decent prospects?

Ryno of the Week: Who was that man blasting home run after home run, looking generally comfortable at the plate and enjoying the long-overdue opportunity to look up at the scoreboard and see a batting average starting with a "2"? Aramis Ramirez had at least one hit and one run in every game this week except yesterday's, and clubbed at least one extra-base hit in five different games. He was 12-for-28 with four home runs and nine RBI. It was utterly fantastic.

Honorable mentions: Geovany Soto, Marlon Byrd

Goat of the Week: As happy as I am to write A-Ram's name above, I'm quite disappointed to be doling out the negative hardware to Tyler Colvin. His production has dipped noticeably in the last month or so, and he struggled to the tune of 2-for-17 this week with five strikeouts. Hopefully he can find his way through this slump and improve upon his .263 average.

Dishonorable mention: Ted Lilly

Reader Blog: Win now vs. Win later?

I've been advocating a "scorched earth" approach to dismantling this team since Mid April, so this post is not all that timely. That said, I read an interesting article on fangraphs this morning (Link Here: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/rentals-processes-and-flags-fly...). After reading the article, I jumped into the wayback machine and transported myself back to the high flying 2008 season, when the Cubs were kicking ass and cici Sabathia hadn't yet pulled on his beer helmet.

I wanted Sabathia that year. Bad. I was really pissed when the Crew landed him, although I was somewhat assuaged when the Cubs reeled in Harden for minor league flotsam. Milwaukee failed to win a postseason series that season, and Sabathia broke the bank with the Yankees that Winter. Here's the hypothetical I would like to pose to my fellow goatreaders: If the Cubs had a great major league roster but had the chance to trade for a superstar which might put them over the top, would you do it? What if it cost them Starlin Castro? Or Andrew Cashner? Or Brett Jackson? Basically, how do you value the chance to win it all today, vs. the likelihood of getting good to great value from your prospects tomorrow?

Reader Blog: Week 13 awards: I must be bad luck

I was unfortunate enough to have tickets to Friday's 12-0 blowout at the hands of the Reds, the second time in just over two weeks I attended a 12-0 loss. This means I've seen firsthand the Cubs' two worst losses of the season (didn't it feel great to lose by only 11 on Sunday, which you might recall matched the scoring disparity in their Opening Day 16-5 loss which, it turns out, was a harbinger of the season to come rather than a mere aberration?). The last two times I've been to Wrigley, the other teams have scored 24 runs on 24 hits while the Cubs managed zero runs on five hits. The Cubs sprinkled in three errors to their opponents' none just for good measure.

It's difficult to measure the depths of the Cubs' woes here at the halfway point of the season. Saturday's win put them on pace for a 70-win season. Sunday's 14-3 pounding was a fantastically appropriate way to finish another craptastically awful week in which they managed to lose another series to the Pirates and lose three of four to the first-place Reds while getting outscored by Dusty's squad by 22 runs.

You know, even after the Reds hit line drives and moonshots all over Wrigley, the Cubs' pitching remains the sixth-best in the NL. But their record can of course be traced to an offense that is 14th of 16 in the league, and to their .243 average with runners in scoring position. They left 17 guys on base Saturday in a nine-inning game. Except they didn't even bat in the ninth, so that's over two guys stranded per inning. Their ability to ruin scoring chances would be impressive if it weren't so soul-crushing and painfully boring to watch.

Ryno of the Week: While his average has dipped to .280 in June and July, Tyler Colvin continues to be one of the most productive members of the offense. If you extrapolate his stats to the standard 500 at-bats, he would have 33 home runs and 89 RBI. He needs to be more selective and learn to hit the breaking ball, but this kid's got raw talent and those skills come with time.

Oak Park native Brian Schlitter had a chance to get the award after his major league career began with two scoreless outings against the Pirates. But Schlitter, who was acquired for Scott Eyre back in 2008, allowed five earned runs in just a third of an inning in Friday's disastrous seventh inning, inflating his ERA to 15.00.

Goat of the Week: On Friday morning, Jeff Stevens' ERA was 2.76; now it's 5.71 and he's in the minors.

Dishonorable mentions: Derrek Lee, Andrew Cashner

Reader Blog: Out with Lou, in with Ryno

It's time for a change in the Cubs' dugout. It's not that they need to "inject life" into the clubhouse, as they always say; this team was DOA when the season began. It's also not a desire to see Lou Piniella punished or called out. In fact, I think Lou deserves the opportunity to resign. But the point is, he's not coming back next year, and the second half of the season will be as pointless as the first if he's still at the helm.

Wave the white flag, Jim Hendry. I know, it's embarrassing. The third highest payroll in the majors yet only a half game better than the Royals. It's bad. It's pathetic. But what's worse: yelling "Charge!" to your troops and sending them to certain defeat, or admitting that it's time to reorganize and regroup before the next battle?

I personally feel that Ryne Sandberg should get a chance to be the next Cubs' manager, whether it be today or starting in November. The organization gave him a chance to prove that he was serious about the whole managing thing back in 2007, and now he's in Iowa. He's going to get a shot with a major league team, and soon. While he certainly wasn't management material back in his playing days, he and those around him acknowledge that he's a much different person now. He knows how to communicate, how to lead, and how to work with young players. The Cubs' 2011 roster will include Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin, Geovany Soto, Andrew Cashner and other youngsters, making it the perfect time to give Ryno a shot.

By making the change now, Hendry can give Sandberg a chance to get his feet wet in a virtually pressure-free situation. This team's cooked, anyways. Will anyone care if he goes 30-50 the rest of the way? You could argue that hiring him in the offseason gives him a clean slate, a fresh start. But there's pressure with every new season, and high (if unjustified) hopes with each Opening Day.

And this way, Ryno will have a three-month head start on evaluating the Cubs' talent, their strengths and weaknesses. He can play an integral role in forming the team's offseason plan rather than stepping in in November with more knowledge about dining out in Des Moines than which trades or free agents the Cubs should pursue.

We knew back in March the sun could be setting on the current era. The sun shone through a window of opportunity over the past few years, but aging veterans and a decimated bullpen have brought the team to a turning point. Turn the corner, Jim Hendry. It's time for the native son to rise to his dream job. Give Ryno a chance, and do it now.

Reader Blog: Week 12 awards: aaaaand scene

Well, that's all she wrote. The curtain is closed on the 2010 Cubs season (or at least on its chances of involving a postseason). Little did we know on the morning of April 7 how dreadfully terrible "Year One" would be. If it were a play, I would give it zero stars. DO NOT WATCH THIS PLAY! Give the tickets to the nearest homeless person and apologize to him as you do so.

It's fitting that the Cubs lost the so-called "BP Cup" because they're the BP of baseball, and not just because Randy Wells and Carlos Zambrano are usually throwing batting practice to the opposing hitters. They are an absolute disaster, a failure that only William Shakespeare could give due description.

Hopefully a few of the players will be exiting stage right in the near future. Ted Lilly should bring a decent return, in my opinion. He has 46 wins as a Cub and could help a National League contender down the stretch. How Hendry will get anything for guys like Fukudome and Lee, I have no idea, but I don't see Lee returning and we have no need for the $12 million man next year with Colvin here to stay.

I'll tell you, with the Cardinals in first and the Sox on a tear, this is turning into an absolutely brutal season for me. I think I am now in a place mentally where I can start rooting for the Reds to win. No, I don't want to see Dusty Baker in the playoffs, but goddamn do I hate those redbirds.

Goat of the Week: Have to start with the Goat this week because it was just that kind of week. I think I have no choice but to go with the entire offense. The eight runs yesterday were nice, but they scored six runs in the five games before that. Six runs make for a decent game but a pretty bad week. It's really not worth singling any one player out--they're all pretty terrible. None of them can hit when it matters, and now everything after the All-Star break won't matter.

Dishonorable mention: Carlos Zambrano

For Big Z to have launched into an angry tirade within the confines of the clubhouse would have been bad, but to do it in front of the cameras--to have yet another immature explosion on camera--was unacceptable. The suspension was certainly warranted, and the Cubs might as well put him on waivers and see if another team wants to roll the dice on an overpaid hothead.

Ryno of the Week: Eight innings/two runs and seven innings/three runs for Ryan Dempster. His 11 quality starts this season tie him for 11th in the NL in that category.

Reader Blog: Blowing up the 2010 Chicago Cubs and Building the 2011 Chicago Cubs.

Since the destruction of the 2010
Chicago Cubs is imminent, I figured I'd go through and see who I
would and wouldn't want out of this organization if it were me,
starting from the top.

Jim Hendry Must Go. The man has an
inability to spend money the right way. Sure, he's pulled off some
monster trades (Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton, Rich
Harden) and he's had his fair share of great free agent signings
(Reed Johnson, Ted Lilly) But the vast majority of his signings and
extensions have left the team severely handicapped. In short, The
Chicago Cubs will NOT win a World Series under Hendry, and that's the
goal, isn't it?

The Replacement: I don't claim to know
a lot of front office guys in the MLB, but if it were my decision,
it'd make sense to draw guys from the organizations that build teams
the right way and are regularly competitive (Boston, either LA team,
Minnesota).

Lou Piniella is an old man. He doesn't
want to be in Chicago, he wants to be in Tampa with his grandkids. He
needs to be replaced immediately. His coaching staff, on the other
hand, is something I'd keep intact. Larry Rothschild and Lester
Strode can stay, as can Mike Quade, Ivan DeJesus, Alan Trammel and
Rudy Jaramillo. However, to me, Matt Sinatro seems more like
Piniella's little helper than a real coach, so I say he needs to exit
as well.

The Replacement: Bob Brenly is probably
my favorite candidate, as I get to listen to his opinions on the team
most days. Steve Stone could be an interesting choice. Bobby
Valentine isn't really doing much and he could be a good option.

Tim Wilken isn't going anywhere. After
all, under him, the Cubs have developed a wealth of young talent
(Starlin Castro, Andrew Cashner, Tyler Colvin) and the farm system
still has a decent amount to offer (Jay Jackson, possibly Darwin
Barney). Wilken has earned his pay, and there is no reason for him to
be fired

And now, to the roster

The Starting rotation needs to be blown
up. Zambrano needs to be put on waivers or traded. Lilly needs to be
shipped to Minnesota or somewhere. Wells needs to go back to Triple
A. And the Cubs need to sign Cliff Lee to be the Ace of the
Rotation. Jay Jackson is called up to start and Tom Gorzelanny is
used in the rotation. When everything is said and done, my rotation
reads Lee-Dempster-Silva-Gorzelanny-Jackson.

The relief corps was criticized early
in the season as the reason the Chicago Cubs had done so poorly.
However, don't look now, but which Chicago team's bullpen has an ERA
of 2.80 in June. Carlos Marmol, Andrew Cashner and Sean Marshall
shouldn't be going anywhere. All three are young guys who have really
excelled in their roles. Jeff Stevens has proven that he has the
ability to be a solid middle reliever for years to come. However that
leaves four spots open. Bob Howry is an old man and John Grabow can't
throw strikes on a regular enough basis to deserve his spot, but our
good buddy Jim Hendry decided to give him a pretty hefty contract,
basically forcing him onto the 2011 roster barring an injury. Those
five, Marmol, Cashner, Marshall, Stevens and Grabow are fairly solid
pieces in the pen. However, the other two spots can be fairly fluid
in 2011. John Gaub, James Russell and Blake Parker are all
interesting options and Jeff Samardzija is having a nice year in
Iowa, so he may finally be able to pull it all together and finally
be an effective major league pitcher again.

Onto the Position players, first
striking at catchers. There really isn't much to say about the Cubs'
catchers. Geovany Soto has largely done his job this year, and Koyie
Hill is an adequate back-up. If either goes down, Wellington Castillo
also has the ability to be a quality backstop.

First base is the most interesting
issue for the Cubs. Derrek Lee should not be re-signed. There are two
angles to go with this problem. The Cubs could sign Carlos Pena to
mash homers for them after this season, or they could sign a stopgap
for 2011 and wait until next year to sign a big first baseman. Prince
Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez and Albert Pujols are all available after
the 2011 season. Pujols probably won't hit free agency, but the other
three likely will. Personally, I'd like to see Pena in a Cubs
Uniform.

Second Base is arguably the biggest
dilemma. O-Dog and Felipe Lopez are available, But I'd personally
like to see the Cubs inquire upon the availability of Chone Figgins,
Jose Lopez, Aaron Hill or Dan Uggla. I personally like Figgins
because he fills the leadoff void which desperately needs to be
filled on the North Side, and he's underperformed exponentially in
regard to his contract, so Chicago may be able to pull off another
swap of bad contracts with the M's. Perhaps the M's are somewhat
interested in Fukudome?

Third Base is pretty obvious. Ramirez
isn't going anywhere after this year, and if he performs in 2011, he
isn't going anywhere until after 2012. Likewise with Shortstop and
Left Field, Starlin Castro and Alfonso Soriano are stationary, albeit
for different reasons.

A lot of people have been impressed
with Marlon Byrd's hustle and hitting prowess this year. However,
it's no secret that one always needs to sell high. Assuming Brett
Jackson is ready or close to being ready at the end of the year, I'd
trade Byrd during the offseason and install Jackson as the starting
centerfielder. If not, I keep Byrd until Jackson is ready.

Finally, Tyler Colvin has more than
proven that he can hit major league pitching. The kid has earned his
right to play, and it's the job of the manager, whether it be Lou
Piniella or anyone else, to give him the playing time he deserves.
Fukudome needs to be traded. The Red Sox are rumored to be looking
for a defensive out fielder, and eating half the money on Fuke's
contract could possibly get him to Boston for a half-way decent minor
leaguer.

On the bench, I like Hill or Castillo,
along with Ryan Theriot and Jeff Baker. Sam Fuld would be my fourth
outfielder, and I'd sign someone like Mike Jacobs as a backup first
baseman. He's got a fairly decent glove and massive pop in his bat.
Perfect as a guy to come off the bench and pinch hit.

In conclusion, I leave you, the
GoatReaders with how I'd love to see this roster built for the 2010
season. I personally doubt that any of the deals I'd make are deals
that Hendry or his successor would attempt to make, but regardless, I
think that the team I propose here could win.

Subtracting the Money owed to Derrek
Lee, Ted Lilly and Carlos Zambrano and perhaps half the money owed to
Fukudome (as we can't expect anyone to want to trade for the WHOLE
contract), and adding a 20 million per year contract for Cliff Lee, a
15 Million per year contract for Carlos Pena and the 9 Million per
year contract for Chone Figgins, the Cubs spend roughly 7-8 Million
less in 2011 according to my plan that they do in 2010 before
arbitration raises.

Starting Lineup

2B – Chone Figgins

CF – Brett Jackson/Marlon Byrd

3B – Aramis Ramirez

1B – Carlos Pena

RF – Tyler Colvin

LF – Alfonso Soriano

C – Geovany Soto

SS – Starlin Castro

Rotation: Lee, Dempster, Silva,
Gorzelanny, Jackson

Bullpen: Marmol – C, Marshall,
Cashner, Stevens, Grabow, Gaub, Gray/Samardzija/Parker

Bench: Hill/Castillo, Ryan Theriot, Sam
Fuld, Jeff Baker, Mike Jacobs

Reader Blog: Who's Next?

So there has been a lot of talk, some offhand comments, some full rants, about the managerial competence and questionable deservedness of Lou Piniella continuing to be the skipper for our beloved Cubs. A few of these people have suggested replacements, but it doesn't seem that this part of the equation has really been fully developed. While this is in no way a post saying "Lou Should Go"... it is suggesting that whether it be on his own terms or someone else's, he will no longer be here between now and November.

So, who's next?

Let me first start off by saying I like Lou. He's led the Cubs to back to back playoffs (albeit with 0 wins) and 3 consecutive winning seasons. He's shown fire when he needs to, and it seems he's been paitient and calm when he needs to. He's given hilarious interviews and given new meaning to starting a sentence with the word "Look". But his heart just isn't in it anymore. Really, none of the guys from the deflating 97-win, 0-playoff win 2008 juggernaut seem to have their hearts in it anymore. So besides the roster being overhauled (it needs to be) how can you remake the mindset and passion of this team? Well, before we answer that, let's look at a few things that are wrong with them. (These will be mostly mental things as a manager has more control on his ballclub's outlook than he does on their skills)

- The Cubs are 10-16 in one-run games, 0-37 in games when they enter the 9th trailing and have blown 17 leads this year. Those 3 things together suggest that this team is not mentally tough enough to stay in close ball games or pick up their balls and win when they're down.

- The Cubs have scored 195 runs in their 31 wins (6.29 runs/game) and have scored only 100 runs in the 40 games they've lost (2.5 runs/game!). This again suggests that this team clearly has the talent and ability to score, but only when things are going well. A motivating, positive leader is needed.

- The Cubs have 58 errors this season, good for 3rd worst in baseball. This is clearly slightly more slanted towards the actual skill of a team, but still, mentally tough, fundamentally managed teams do not lead leagues in errors

So, when Lou is gone, who can change these things for us? I'd like to throw out a few suggestions and pros/cons, but this post is really about everyone giving their input. I mean... who the hell knew who Tom Thibodeau was 2 months ago?

Ryne Sandberg - Apparently the "fan favorite". But why? Cause he's one of the few truly likeable, succesful Cubs of the last 2 decades? I guess he's been fairly successful as a minor league skip, but his fast track to the big seat scares me. Highly touted prospects and "saviors" do not fare well in this city (see: Patterson, Corey)

Joe Girardi - The "other guy" from the 2006-2007 off season. His dream job was managing the Yankees. And they won a championship last year. I've heard his name kicked around recently, but why would he leave New York until they force him out?

Mike Scioscia - Talk about a guy getting the most out of his players. Year in and year out some dark horse AL West team is discussed as taking down the Angels finally, but it never happens. Him leaving is very much a longshot also as they're currently in second, and playing good baseball. (Not to mention he's under contract through 2018??) But stranger things have happened

Ron Gardenhire - Another quality guy who gets the most out of seemingly less talented players. Minnesota has done very little in the playoffs under his tenure, so with another early exit, or if they miss the playoffs altogether, he could be available.

Joe Torre - Not much needs to be said here. Great with young kids, great with juggling egos, great track record of success and has already managed in the two markets bigger than Chicago. His contract is up at the end of this year.

Bobby Valentine - Seriously, he hasn't managed in the MLB since 2002? Between 1997 and 2001 he worked a record of 449-362 (.553) and took the Mets to The Series. I admittedly don't know what his coaching style is like, but he has managed succesfully in New York with some pretty big egos and pressure.

So that's what I have for now. Again, by no means definitive, but it's a start. If we're all mostly in agreement that this season is lost and Lou is even loster, who's next? Let's get some discussion going. Thoughts on these "options"? Who are your ideal candidates?

Go Cubs.

Reader Blog: A question

With the Cubs and Mariners doing battle until 11:30 and an early morning World Cup game for the U.S., I have just one question in light of Lou Piniella returning to Seattle, where he managed for 10 years, and Milton Bradley being back in the same ballpark as the Cubs.

Who is having a worse year?

  • Lou Piniella

Piniella is the lame duck manager of a team eight games under .500. He usually looks like a homeless person. He answers "What else can I do?" in response to 90 percent of reporters' questions, and yelled at a reporter and at Steve Stone for suggesting he should play Colvin more, and then promised to play Colvin more each time. He was also roundly criticized for moving his highest-paid pitcher to the bullpen (a move I agreed with, but I doubt he takes much solace in that).

  • Milton Bradley

He's batting .214 with a .301 OBP. He's earning $11 million and yet is owned in just 3.6 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues. He spent 13 days on the "restricted list" after admitting he's crazy. He has managed not only to make the Cubs' trade for oh-so-terrible Carlos Silva look good--he's made it look like one of the best trades they've ever made.

Last night's game was a perfect example of Lou and Milton's struggles--the Cubs lost with another meek performance while Bradley went 0-for-3.

Reader Blog: Blow it up.

I don't see any difference between finishing in third and finishing dead last.  No playoffs = failed season. With that in mind, I suggest the Cubs begin the process of razing the roster now, with the goal to be a threat to win the division again in 2012 or 13. Here's the plan:


IN SEASON: Trade Derrek Lee, Ted Lilly and Kosuke Fukudome. None of these players figure into the Cubs' future, and only Fukudome has a toxic contract. Eat as much of his contract as necessary and move him. Gorzellany moves back into the rotation and Tyler Colvin becomes the everyday RF.

POSTSEASON: Trade Carlos Silva, trade or non tender Ryan Theriot, sign a cheap southpaw power bat to be a warm body at 1B. Andrew Cashner moves into the rotation.


IN SEASON 2011: Call up Josh Vitters, Jay Jackson and Brett Jackson. Trade Marlon Byrd. Shift Aramis Ramirez to 1B.


If the Cubs follow this plan, they will probably be awful next year. I don't care. They will clear payroll allowing them to be aggressive in free agency in 2012, when they will have holes to fill on the roster. The players that remain will mostly be young, with some major league experience, and ready to be competitive again for years. The 2012 roster:


C: Geovany Soto

1B: Open ($12m option on Ramirez)


2B: Open (but Starlin Castro should shift over once Hak Ju Lee is ready to be the major league SS).

SS: Castro


3B: Vitters

LF: Soriano

CF: Jackson

RF: Colvin

SP1: Carlos Zambrano

SP2: Ryan Dempster

SP3: Tom Gorzellany

SP4: Andrew Cashner

SP5: Randy Wells/Jay Jackson.

Hopefully the veteran trades will have netted some nice pieces that can be used on the major league roster as well, or flipped to fill additional needs.


Reader Blog: Week 11 awards: Hard to defend Cubs' defense

The Cubs have had plenty of problems on offense this season, and they've struggled at times on the mound. But last week, their most prominent deficiency was in the field. After committing a rather unreasonable 12 errors in six games, they have now committed the third-most in the majors. Errors last week:


Lee: 3 (committed six all of last season)


Baker: 3


Colvin: 2


Soto: 2


Castro: 1


Lilly: 1


The Cubs allowed four unearned runs in a 9-5 loss Tuesday, four more in a 7-6 loss Friday, and had they not given the Angels four more on Saturday, they would have ... well, lost 8-0. But still.


I was "lucky" enough to see Saturday's demolition in person, and I guess we can't be surprised that this feast or famine team followed up that drubbing with a 12-1 pounding of their own. Here's hoping the offense can remain locked in as the Cubs will face two Seattle starters with sub-three ERAs, including Cliff Lee, and then Felix Hernandez.


Ryno of the Week: Colvin continued to rake, going 6-for-15 with two home runs, six RBI and three runs scored. He's now hitting .339 at home. But how nice was it to see Carlos Zambrano put together a couple good starts, especially yesterday's? His line--7 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 1 BB, 7 K--was his best of the season, and he added two hits and an RBI just for the heck of it.


Honorable mentions: Derrek Lee, Xavier Nady


Goat of the Week: Alfonso Soriano continues to look lost at the plate despite two hits yesterday, but being there live to see Ted Lilly get banged around leads me to give him this inglorious distinction. He needed 104 pitches to get through 5.1, giving up six earned runs on nine hits and three walks. He's been great this year, but Saturday just wasn't his day.

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