Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Blogs

The Awfulness known as Aaron Miles

As we all know Aaron Miles is one flop among a handful of off-season screw-ups from this past Cubs winter. However, there might be a good reason for his rapid descent into oblivion. When Miles initially joined the Cubs, he made a rather cryptic remark. He said, "I am ready to play baseball the right way."  It is a very odd thing to say. After all, what was he doing in St. Louis? He just came off a season where he hit .317. He did a decent job fielding for the Cardinals at 2nd and shortstop. Currently, to say he is floundering is a vast understatement. Yet, now he is playing baseball the right way. I think you all know where I am going with this. To claim that someone with such poor power numbers was using performance enhancement drugs seems ridiculous. Still, given the overall drop in performance, it makes one wonder what happened to him. If he did in fact use PEDs, why would he make a remark? Maybe, he wanted to put an end to all of that nonsense? Maybe, he was making a snarky comment about the PED culture at his former team, the St. Louis Cardinals. Who knows? All, I know is that this is not the same player as last season.

So crazy it just might work

One of the most tiring fan activities we come across from time to time is that, whenever a former superstar/future Hall of Famer is available, regardless the position he plays and his current level of ability, people will clamor for him.  I tend to respond to that by rolling my eyes, gnashing my teeth, and shooting it down with the fury of a thousand suns.

Still ... a former star closer is now available.  He's clearly done as a starter, going 2-5 with an 8.32 ERA, but I wonder if John Smoltz would be the right kind of low-risk high-reward move that Jim Hendry used to make from time to time.  Maybe he'd do a better job than Gregg, or maybe he'd flame out after two weeks, but at this point I doubt many people are expecting a whole lot from the Cubs and it would be an interesting move.

Just a thought.  I know it's crazy, but it's so crazy that ... well, you know. 

Edit: Adding to the debate
lostinthevines says
since the whole "the players we have need to play better" thing isn't happening - why not add a new piece? Our payroll sucks as it is - why not completely explode it?

An interesting reader comment that appears riddled with mistakes and assumptions.  In regards to the first comment "why not add a new piece" - I get that it's supposed to be sarcastic, but in regards to what?

As for "why not completely explode it" ... lostin appears to think that the Cubs are going to give Smoltz $5 million to finish out the year with a second year for even more money.  That's not the case.  Smoltz is already getting what the Red Sox owed him, and if teams are interested he's likely to sign on for the league minimum with the organization that fits his needs the best.  Also he is very unlikely to ask for -- or receive, or even want to play through -- a second year. 

Again, this is a low-cost high-reward opportunity.  Smoltz will not get big bucks or a long contract.  Also, considering that many of you agree that the team is already not playoff bound, the worst case scenario is you get exactly what you're expecting, while the best case scenario is that the Cubs gain a sudden advantage with 1.5 months left in the season.

About Last Night

I have to preface this comment by saying it is not positive. After last night’s win, it probably should be, but it is anything but.

I hate Alfonso Soriano.

In a city that idolizes the everyman and "grinders" and guys who just play the game, any game, the right way, Soriano is the antithesis. He cares not about his team or this city or sometimes, I don’t even think he cares about his own stats.

I went to the game last night, stayed all the way to the end and when he came up with the bases loaded, no outs, and an 0 for 5 with 3 strikeouts in his box score, I was almost upset. Not that he would screw it up. No, I was upset because I knew he was going to win it. I was upset because the guy who looked terrible for 4 at-bats and then just plain childish on one (the no run grounder), was going to be vindicated by being the de facto hero of the game. Anyone (with the obvious exception of little leaguer Mike Fontenot) could have won that game in that situation, yet it had to be the guy who mentally needed it the least.

You could make the argument that he did need it and it was helpful for him mentally, but I just don’t see that happening. I see him taking away 1 thing away from this game: Soriano can do whatever he wants. He can be god awful for 12 innings, but if he does just one thing right, he’s doing his job. It’s like dealing with a toddler. If you don’t explain the consequences of right and wrong, they’re just going to continue to do the same thing over and over. (And if you don’t think the analogy of Soriano being a toddler is accurate, then you haven’t seen this embarrassing video of his cluelessness.)

I hope I’m wrong, I’ve been positive about most things that have occurred this season, but when that ball landed way out in center and he did that stupid face swipe motion to everyone (including stiffing Quade on his high five request around third. Seriously, just pitiful) I couldn’t have been more annoyed that I stayed there for three hours to see him get mobbed at the plate by his more deserving teammates.

Alright, ranting finished. I’m not even sure this made sense; I didn’t have time to proofread it at work. Let’s stay in first. Go Cubs.

The "Night Stalker" and the long haul

Once upon a sunny dog-day dreary I pondered weak and weary over a Cubbie-related queary... Can it be as simple as" It's the day games stupid " !

Mike Royko wrote "It's not the damn Billy Goat" that was responsible for so many years of losing but cheap, stupid, rascist-like  policies of the chewing-gum magnate.

You would think 101 years would have at least produced one series victory. 1908 is a long-ass time ago Virginia !  Santa aint around to teach Soriano how to field or Bradley how to...field and hit and count.

Could it be the park ? Wrigley is what it is. Our shrine to afternoons and cutting classes ,frosty malts, old style , left field sucking or was it right field sucking and occassionally baseball that is worth watching.

Unfortunately look around at the new-old parks in Philly, Pittsburgh, San Diego etc...see how beautiful they are, how close you are and just imagine how nice the clubhouse is for the players.

Could it be the day games ? If Harden is affected by it how many others are in ways that can't be quantified ? I have sat near the dugout in the sun and at night and can tell you there is a big difference. it's hard work hefting the beer cup and cold hot dog just imagine playing.  Can it really be that simple ? Don't you think that 81 games the majority in the sun and heat can add up at season's end ? Is there a difference with the wind speed and direction at night ? If every other team is playing mostly at night or indoors and we are not could it really be one of the big factors in the 101 year drought? 

I was reminded of that last year on Sep 20th when my family rested their arms on the brick wall decked out in Cubbie Blue getting sprayed by Champagne -wielding Mark DeRosa watching our team celebrate like it was the world series instead of only a stinking Division crown. How beautiful the day was with bright blue sky.How horrible the playoffs against the Dodgers.

Could it be that simple that the last team to go to lights and occassional night games just needs more of them ? I know it's a tired old argument but one I think needs revisiting. Kurt are ther any stats to show wind speed and direction during the day and at night ? Should I just delete the previous rambling diatribe and continue to watch and wait and wonder and worry and watch and wait and wait......

The Window is closing, has closed?

Have the Cub's missed their chance to grab the brass ring?  This Cub's team was built to win now and I believe now has passed. It is time to look at the future.


The team is still up for sale with no end in sight. Ricketts has not been able to close the deal. As a matter of fact was/is looking for an additional 250 million from outside investers. Add that to the fact that he is going to have to invest a large amounts of money into improving Wrigley Field. He is not going to be the deep pockets owner we were hoping for.


Any rebuilding project is going to be handcuffed by the back loaded contracts we have. Also, is Jim Hendry the man we want to trust to do the rebuilding. Here are my suggestions as a possible direction we can go today.



The Ranger's are looking for starting pitching to make their run now. Work a 3 way deal with the Rangers and the Rockies, Trade them Lilly and Heilman for prospects and move the prospects, and Patton, to the Rockies for some combination of Ian Stewart, Ryan Spillboughs, and Seth Smith.



Fukudome has not totally sucked this year. Market him to a team that has a Japanese player and sell his lack production as being homesickness. Yes, we will need to eat part of the contract.



Play the heck out of Freel and market him as DeRosa lite. Keep starting Jake Fox hope he stays hot, there are teams looking for a righthanded bat.



Sit Bradley down. His stats do not justify his starting and if he misses enough starts he loses the option on the 3rd year of his contract. There will be whining, but who runs the team Lou and Hendry or the players.


The Giants are looking for a bat. Try and get D. Lee off of his no trade clause and ask for Matt Cain settle for J. Sanchez.



Kurt, I believe you have all the details on the sale of the team. Perhaps you could explain better why Rickett's does not have deep pockets.



Does anyone have better ideas of what the future holds?

the coaching dilemma

does a coach matter?  does he make a good team better, a bad team good, and simply babysit a great team?  Or is he a human relations guy, who's job is to put out fires, create line-ups, and do a few other jobs.  It is a difficult dilemma.  If we believe that a good coach matters then we have to determine if we feel that Lou is doing a good job.  If a coach does not matter then fire Lou and see if a different guy doing the human relations thing can motivate the boys.  Trouble is that there are examples of both options being a viable option.  The Bulls of the 90's under the zen master himself are a great example.  Phil merely steadied the ship while Michael and the crew went out and destroyed the rest of the NBA.  On the other hand, look at the job both of the coaches in LA are doing.  Joe Tore turned the Dodgers into a serious team that finds ways to win.  And Mike Sosha is a witch at making the absolute most out of what he is given every year.  There is also the case of Dusty a.k.a. wrist bands Baker who took a good team and a potential pitching staff to rival the Braves of the 90's and ran them both into the ground with approaches like "don't clog the bases with walks", or "pitch counts? we don't need no stinking pitch counts".                                                                                                                                                                                                                 The question here is, what should we do with Lou?  He is a manager who has a history of mismanaging bullpens (though that is a complant of many good managers), but he also has had great success.  Should we look to Colorado?  Many would say that Clent Hurdle wasn't the problem, however the turnaround is beyond question and more than a simple bump in 2 or 3 wins.  I don't think that anyone is prepared to say that Jim Tracy is that kind of genious as a manager.  How about the Marlins of 2003.  They fired a good coach and brought in a washed up has-been to keep the seat warm while they found a manager for the next season.  What happened, well they broke all of our collective hearts.                                                                                                                                                    I don't have a real answer, but here's a thought that has been kicking around in my mind.  Fire Lou and bring up Ryno.  Let's see if he's ready for prime time or if he needs a bit more seasoning.  You could give him the dreaded "interum" tag and say it's only until the season is over, but at least the rest of the season isn't a complete waist.  And who knows, maybe the team would respond to a no nonsense friggin' Hall of Famer and put together an improbable run of theirown.  Either way, cub fans would understand what was going on and we could sit back and watch the season with fresh eyes. 

Pinella DOES Know A Reefer

Lou Pinella admitted that he smoked pot.  Once.  

No big deal really, as a lot of people have tried it.  I did too in college...wasn't a fan.

But what cracks me up is that back when Sammy was linked to have tested positive for PED's back in 2003, which means steroids, Pinella said the following:  "I wouldn't know the difference between a reefer and a steroid."

Well, technically, since Lou has now admitted that he knew what a reefer is, shouldn't he know the difference between a reefer and a steroid?

When he said that comment last week, I told a friend, jokingly, that Lou had better not have tried pot, otherwise some smart aleck might bring this up one day.  I just didn't know I would be that smart aleck  ;)

Disappointing Year

Let's face it Cub's fans this season has been a disappointment thus far. There is a good chance the Cubs may need more than Aramis to get out of this funk. After last season, I thought the Cubs needed to add some pieces to prove they truly deserved the title of World Series contender.                                                   


Their most tradable player was Mark DeRosa. There was a huge belief that he peaked and it was very unlikely that he would not match last year's output. I agreed with that belief. A player who never hit more than 13 home runs in the season and before the age of 30 didn't hit double digit home runs in his career was probably would not to have season that matched '08. In hindsight, the reason why they traded DeRosa made some sense. The Cubbies also dumped Jason Marquis (somehow one of the leaders in wins.) Chicago was trying to gain the pieces to trade for Peavy. Given Zambrano's emotional and recent physical issues, it was understood that Hendry felt the Cubs needed a true ace. 


Another incredibly more important issue Hendry had to answer was the Cubs need for another bat.  His belief that the Cubs lineup was too right handed bought in Aaron Miles and the infamous Milton Bradley. Here is where things go really interested. In addition to these acquisitions, the Cubs let go of Jim Edmonds, Daryle Ward, and Hank White. Jim Edmonds was crucial for the Cubs last season. He had two clutch home runs against his former team; the hated St. Louis Cardinals. He also brought a number of exciting catches with him. However, he was at the end of the road, and there was no way the Cubs were going to resign him. Daryle Ward had a number clutch hits, but Micah Hoffpauir and Jake Fox more than replaced him. Henry Blanco on the other hand was the only man in history who could pull of a feathered mullet and tattoos. He was Big Z’s countryman. He gave guidance to Carlos. Unfortunately, he would have asked more money than the Cubs were willing to give him.



Essentially, Milton Bradley or “board game was brought into replace DeRosa’s bat in the lineup. Ideally, Fontenot would have replaced Edmonds production. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Fontenot instead of living up to the nickname of “Little Babe Ruth” has turned into “Mini Mickey Morandini” (or Mini Morandini for short). Kosuke Fukudome was expected to be much better than last year. So far, his fall has come sooner than last season. Based on last season, Milton Bradley was a great acquisition. He put up great numbers in Texas. He lead the AL in on base percentage and OPS. He even lead the majors in OPS+ which takes ballpark into consideration. One problem with Bradley was that he played more than 120 games in season only twice in nine seasons. Everyone knew about Milton being a head case. This season has only given further proof of his jackassery. In Zambrano’s own words, Milton is the living embodiment of a “screw.” Worst of all, this season he really stinks. To put things in perspective, Scott Podsednik was taken off the trash heap and he has a higher batting average, more RBIs, and only two less home runs. This is while playing fewer games than “Board Game”. I realize this is beating a dead horse, but if he played better we would probably forgive his idiocy.



Now, it is unfair to blame all of the Cubs problems on Milton and Hendry, but they have to take a huge chunk of the blame. The assumption was that the combo Bradley and Fontenot would make up 40 home runs and 136 RBIs. Fukudome was asked to bat 40 points higher than last season and produce more runs. Neither of these has happened. In my opinion only Fukudome’s hitting was the only thing that could be expected. One can say that the loss of Aramis was huge. Yes, his injury was huge loss, but it did not cause Soto bat around .220, it didn’t cause Fontenot to resemble former Cub Mickey Morandini. Soriano is a hacker that rarely thinks about pitches, so how would Aramis’ presence made any difference in his performance?



At the beginning of the season, I felt the Cubs would win 88 games and win the division. Hendry really didn’t improve the team. In fact, the team has taken a step back talent wise.


Sure, Edmonds was old and on a downslide, but it would have made more sense to find someone who could play in right field who could replace his power numbers. Everyone and their dog knew there was no way the Cubs could do anything but continue to play Fukudome. They had no choice but to platoon him with Reed Johnson.



Last season, there were a number of wins by the Cubs where they had problems against the starter but were able to light up the other teams relievers. That is what we saw against the Indians. This season starters have gone further against the Cubs. This team needed another bat, not a replacement for DeRosa. If Bradley was supposed to be a left-handed replacement for DeRosa, then he was a clearly more expensive one. If they wanted another leftie in the lineup, they could have started Fontenot and still moved DeRosa to right field. That would have been a cheaper alternative for the same result. You don’t have to overburden your lineup with lefties if they are mediocre or bad. The Phillies’ lineup is an anomaly. There is no point trying to emulate the Philadelphia lineup. The Cubs were a good team. Still, I wanted to see the Cubs sign either Ibanez or Abreu(I was leaning towards Abreu). If Hendry had more patience, he would have be able to snag either for a decent cost, but here we are overpaying for crap the next few years.

Lest We Forget, Rome Wasn’t Built In a Day

I’ve actually been thinking about this topic for about two weeks, and to be honest it would have probably been slightly more appropriate before the recent stretch of divine intervention, but I digress…

The 2008 Cubs were the best Cubs team I’ve ever seen. (Considering the amount of bickering that has been going on recently I’m sure this will be debated, but statistically speaking and seemingly intangibly speaking, they were one of the best.) They could beat any team and no matter the defecit, they were in every game. Almost straight through from April to September, the 2008 Cubs ran in to few glaring issues that ever threatened their chances of winning the division and they ended up clinching a week before the end of the season. That’s when the fun ended.

From one of the greatest offenses in club history to one of the biggest eggs laid in playoff history, that team took a nose dive. But that didn’t even seem to be the worst part. Nor was the worst part that they were so dominant all year and were being discussed as the easy National League representative in the World Series. The worst part wasn’t that pretty much the entire team, with a few notable exceptions, was expected to come back in 2009. The worst part wasn’t even the fact that I had accepted that we sh*t our pants in the playoffs, not even that mattered.

No, the worst part was that I was convinced that no matter how good the 2009 Cubs were, the entire season would just be one giant pressure cooker set to implode in October. I was sure that from April through September it wouldn’t matter how big our lead was, or how dominant our run differential was. The only thing that would matter would be 3 games in October.

Think about it this way: on June 22, 2008 the Cubs were 20 games over .500, had a 4.5 game lead and a +112 run differential! That team was unstoppable. I truly felt in my heart that last year was going to be the year. As we all know, it wasn’t.

Exactly 1 year later we are 3 games over .500 and only 2.5 out of first place. Oh, and our run differential? +12. Exactly 100 runs less than where we were last year at this time. That’s not going to last. This team is virtually the same lineup. They will hit. And the playoffs? No one’s talking about the playoffs; no one is saying this is a lost season unless we get out of the first round. All of the pressure right now is on having a successful season and making the first round. You could even almost make the argument that stumbling and sputtering through the first 2/5ths of the season could be the best thing to happen to this year's team. Now the pressure isn't about “Yeah, you’re winning, but what about in October? What you’re doing now doesn’t matter until you win a game in October.” The pressure is about now. It’s about a division race in the middle of the summer. Something the 0-for-October team from last year didn’t have to deal with.

I'm not being naive, either. This team is by no means perfect and currently has plenty of holes. They’ve frustrated and infuriated me all season, but this division is still there for the taking. They are the best team in the division, and I don’t think many would disagree that even in third place it is still theirs to lose. The two teams ahead of us whom we beat by 7.5 and 11 games last year? They got worse.

Look, (imagine Uncle Lou here) the point is there’s nothing wrong with a little adversity as long as you learn something from it. At this exact point last year The World Champion Phillies were coming off a 5 game losing streak (in the midst of a 1-7 stretch), only 7 games over .500 and a 1 game lead in the division. I bet anything they’d say the adversity and challenges they fought through the entire season are what propelled them to be the last team standing at the finish line. Let’s keep this in perspective.  It couldn’t hurt. Go Cubs.

My Project

I'd like to preface this by saying that this has little to nothing to do with the Cubs. If you're looking for a hardcore description of why I think Derrek Lee isn't over the hill yet, but that he can give the cubs 30 dingers, you're out of luck. This is, instead, a description of a project I began to undertake last October. <br> I want to visit every ballpark in the Majors. Generally, I take a picture at the ballpark, which I follow up by exploring the city.You may be asking yourself right now "Why is he telling us this?"<br><br> Simple, When I get to a new place that I've never seen before, I haven't the foggiest of what to do there. I'd love it if the various GoatReaders (And the Goat Riders if they can) to let me know what fun things there are to do in a city. If you've been there, please comment and let me know a nice restaraunt or a really cool thing to see.<br><br> I've been to Both Chicago parks, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Detroit, Kansas City, San Diego, San Francisco and Oakland. I'm also going to Boston in July. Please, if you can think of something, let me know

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award