Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Carlos Marmol

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Marmol is the only arb-eligible not signed, and he made $2,125,000 last year. How much does he make this year?

under $4 million
17% (1 vote)
$4 to 6 million
50% (3 votes)
$6 to 8 million
0% (0 votes)
over $8 million
33% (2 votes)
Trade Him!! We can't afford him!!
0% (0 votes)
Marmol is already rich...the Sox already suck!
0% (0 votes)
Total votes: 6

Kid K? Well, A Middle Aged Version Close to Return

This is news I can get behind, and it really made my morning as I read that Kerry Wood, AKA Kid K, might be returning to the Chicago Cubs. Wood has always been one of my favorite Cub players and it hurt a little when we let him walk two years ago to Cleveland. while the Cubs turned to Kevin Gregg. 

Gregg pitched well at times, but a terrible weekend in Florida doomed him and the Cubs slim playoff hopes. Wood and the Indians struggled and it was evident that both sides had made a bad choice. This season, Wood was finally shipped to the Yankees, where he turned in two really solid months of pitching.

If Wood has turned the corner and can avoid long stints on the DL, the Cubs get a perfect pitcher to help secure the back end of the bullpen. With Carlos Marmol closing, Wood and Sean Marshall take over the 7th and 8th inning duties. The Cubs never found a Right-handed counterpart to Wood last year, and now the Cubs have a few opitions. Andrew Cashner will likely be be used in the 6th and 7th innings, which might be perfect for his development in low-pressure situations. The Cubs will likely trot out the ghost of John Grabow some, until they finally waive him or find a DL spot for him.


Now, the Cubs will likely be forced to trade or release somebody, because the Cubs have 40 players on the 40-man roster.


Here is just some quick speculation on the 40-man:


Starters


Carlos Zambrano


Ryan Dempster


Carlos Silva


Tom Gorzelanny


Jeff Smardzjia


Randy Wells


Andrew Cashner?


Dempster, Zambrano, and Silva are probably going to start. Other signings pending, that leaves the Cubs with four guys with two spots. Wells probably has a leg up, but I would think that someone is going to get dealt before the Wood signing is made offical.


Relievers


Marmol - Closer


Marshall - 7th/8th


Wood - 7th'/8th


Cashner - RH


Grabow - LH


That leaves two spots for the likes of James Russell, Casey Coleman, Brian Schlitter, Jeff Stevens, Esmailin Caridad, Thomas Diamond and Macos Mateo. Not to mention the Biobic Arm of Angel Guzman.

My guess is that Cubs at least try and give Grabow a chance since they are paying him four million dollars this year.


What do you guys think? I love the Wood idea, so I hope it is finalized.

Pitching will tell the tale for the Cubs in 2011

The only "impact" hitter the Cubs possess, past, present, or future, is Alfonso Soriano, and his category is, of course, "past".  So, even if he has his current "typical" .800 OPS year, and even if every other member of the offense has an above-average statistical year, the Cubs will still finish in the middle of the pack offensively in the NL.   Considering the salaries being paid, that's not OK, but otherwise, that would be acceptable if we had solid pitching and defense to back that up.

AJ pointed out the other day that, except for third base, the defense isn't going to lose us any games.  The past year or so, an effort was made to replace Soriano in left during late innings.  It might be time to, instead, consider doing that for Ramirez.  It was different when ARam was our most consistent late-inning run producer.  It was also different in his younger days when he was characterized as 'lazy'.  At this point in his life, he may honestly just be this slow.  It is the manager's job to address this situation, and hopefully Quade has these types of late-inning defensive thoughts.

Which leaves the pitching, and well, damn.  I consider myself to know more about hitting than pitching, but I don't think we are very well equipped going forward. 

I think we have Dempster, a #2 starter.  If we are to go with his last 10 starts last year, Zambrano is a nice #3 starter (the slot he held during the "glory" years mid-decade), but there's a catch, and it isn't just that he makes Ace Money.  Personally, I love to watch the man play, but if we are talking about winning, we need consistency and excellence that can be relied on.  You cannot rely on this Toro.  If your lawnmower crapped out as often as Z does, you'd push him to the curb. 

I thought Hendry was going to do just that last month.  The right whispers were there.  Nothing has happened on that front.  Maybe, though, now that Cliff Lee is now with Philly, the Yankees will need to do something big, because that is what they do.  Maybe we'll hear some new rumors soon. (UPDATED)

What else do we have?  One more year of Silva the Hutt, who reverted to his true blobular self in the 2nd half.  There's mediocre lefty Gorzellany, who is being shopped.  There's noted nightlife lover Randy Wells, who early this year I compared to Greg Maddux because he doesn't have a 'big arm', but seems to know how to pitch when all is right.  Wells can be part of a staff if he prioritizes.  To me, he is worth more in a trade than on our staff.

There has been word lately of efforts to get Matt Garza from the Rays.  This would be more exciting if there was, like, any chance in hell it could happen.  The question came up - why would the Rays make this deal?  If it could make their team better!  If somehow the Rays and Jim Hendry could hammer out a good old-fashioned "value" trade, where we sent them something of roughly equal value to what we would receive.

The problem is, to my knowledge, the last time Hendry was involved in a true "value" trade was the big Nomar deal in 2004.  All of Hendry's trades since have either been: desperation dumps of Sammy Sosa and Milton Bradley; favors to players like Ted Lilly and Greg Maddux; or the occasional fire-sale swap with the Pirates.  I doubt Hendry has the ability or the stones to make a straight value-for-value trade, where he gives up, say, Wells and/or Gorzellany, along with top prospects, or something that involves one of our young players with experience, like Colvin or Castro.  At least, I don't trust him to do it right.

I fail to see what is so special about Casey Coleman.  I have never seen why the Shark was worth the money he has been paid, although I grasp the concept it had to do with the eventuality that he might have opted to play football instead, it doesn't justify why it was given to HIM.  It is a hope of mine, though, that the new pitching coach has a rapport with him that Rothschild never had.

In the best of situations, we need two of the afore-mentioned starters to step up.  However, we are going to need three, because we don't have a staff Ace.  Therefore everyone steps up a rung.  And, if sometime between now and spring training, Zambrano opens up his ugly mouth and says something unforgivable, which COULD happen at any given moment that he is awake, then Hendry will be forced into another of his patented 'addition by subtraction' dumps, and all we'll have is Dempster and dumpster.

Bullpen?  Thank God for Sean Marshall.  This is about the time of year, typically, when the "Marshall is a good soldier, he deserves a chance to start" refrain is sung.  This year, though, nobody dares.  He has to stay in the pen.  Otherwise, we rely on surgi-zombies Grabow, Caridad, and Guzman, along with Andrew Cashner and Rafael Dolis, two guys with huge arms and absolutely no idea about how to pitch. 

Then of course we have our closer, the Harry Potter of the majors.  Carlos Marmol set records last year for both percentage of pitches swung at and missed as well as strikeouts per nine innings.  Honestly, I thought the 1977-79 Bruce Sutter was the most unhittable force of all time - Marmol crushed his stats, simply crushed them.  Thing is, though, both Sutter and Marmol pitched for fifth place teams.  I have always maintained that the secret of his success is how hard he concentrates on his task.  Can he keep up that level of concentration to close games that matter?  Nobody knows, do we?

So that brings us to the point where we go get some pitching help.  I will come back soon with some possible candidates, but one of them is not Kerry Lee Wood.  Now, I love me some Wood.  Great guy, historical guy, diabolical stuff, cute, perky wife.  Great in the community, loves the Cubs and Chicago.  But he also represents something we need to get away from: unrequited Cub Hope. 

The Ricketts need to pull a 180 in terms of historic direction.  I am afraid Wood represents the way things used to be done here: work hard, not smart.  When at first you don't succeed, throw harder; tear yourself apart, go on the DL.  Suffer the crush of over 100 years of Cubs karma; resign yourself to your fate.  I feel that happened to Wood, as it happened to Grace, Sandberg, Banks, Williams, and on and on. 

If the Cubs are ever going to win it all, it will need to be with new blood.  Could it be Castro?  Soto?  Marmol?  The Korean kids in Peoria?  I dunno, but it won't be with Kerry Wood, God bless him and his 20 Ks and his Game 7 loss and his tattered shoulder and the burden of 102 years on top of him.  We need to find some help elsewhere.

Final Week awards: Will Quade still be in the dugout in 2011?

It was another strong week for the Cubs as they finished the season by taking three of four in San Diego followed by two of three against the Astros in Houston. It was the pitching that carried them this week: they allowed just 12 runs in the seven games. The Cubs finished the season 24-13 under Quade, and the strong finish left them just one game shy of fourth place in the Central (so close!).

Did the team's sudden turnaround earn Quade the nod as 2011 Cubs manager? What about Sandberg as manager and Quade as his bench coach? With the season officially in the books, we've got lots of time to discuss Hendry's offseason plans and the future of the franchise. But for now, the final awards of 2010:

Ryno of the Week: Take a look at this line: 14.2 IP, o ER, 2 H, 25 K

That's Carlos Marmol's September. Oh, and he was 13/13 in saves during the month as well. Just to make sure you took that all in: He allowed two hits in September, struck out 25, did not allow a run, and converted 13 straight saves. That's not fair. It ain't right. National League hitters could sue on the grounds that Marmol's pitching is a form of cruel and unusual punishment. He was 4/4 in the season's final week and converted his last 17 straight to finish the season.

Honorable mentions: Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Casey Coleman, Andrew Cashner, Marlon Byrd, Blake DeWitt

Goat of the Week: It was a bad year all around and a bad final week for Xavier Nady. He went 6-for-23 last week with seven strikeouts, and batted just .256 (.306 OBP) with six home runs and 33 RBI in 317 AB this season. 

Dishonorable mention: Kosuke Fukudome

Week 23 awards: It's all about divisional play (and guys named Carlos)

The Cubs are 5-10 against Houston this season with three games remaining against them. As you might painfully recall, they are also 5-10 against the lowly Pirates. Divisional play has killed the Cubs all year--they're 28-42 against the Central, just two games better than those Pirates. The first-place Reds have dominated divisional foes, going 42-25 including a 12-4 mark against the Cubs.

Granted, the Cubs' real problem is that they suck against, you know, everyone, but you absolutely have to take care of business in your own division if you want to have a successful season. On the bright side, the Cubs are 9-6 against the Brewers.

Ryno of the Week: Carlos Zambrano, you are one confusing son of a bitch. Not only did he post another good start this week, he went 8.2 innings. My eternal quibble with Zambrano is his high pitch counts and short outings, so I was amazed to see him come one out from a complete game. But since he couldn't get that final out, Carlos Marmol mopped up for one of his three saves this week. He's saved nine straight without a blown save, is 30/35 overall on the season, and still has a ridiculous K/9 inning rate of 15.83. You think he might get a raise on his $2.125 million salary in arbitration this winter? The Cubs may want to consider inking him to a long-term deal, says the Bleacher Report.

Honorable mentions: Ryan Dempster, Jeff Baker, Darwin Barney

Goat of the Week: He hadn't pitched in over a month, so this probably isn't real fair. But taking out the shortened start in which he had to leave due to injury, Carlos Silva has had four straight starts of five innings or less, and has allowed five runs or more in three of them. Five starts ago, his ERA was 2.96; now it's 4.22. In fairness, 10-6 with a 4.22 ERA is better than most of us would have predicted before the season.

Dishonorable mentions: Blake DeWitt, Alfonso Soriano

Top Ten Lessons Learned in 2010

Goat Riders of the Apocalypse is not going so strong, lately.  But, GOOD LORD?  Can you blame us?

Even the most optimistic, blue sky Cub fans could not possibly enjoy what they are seeing on a daily basis?  Losers of 13 of the last 16?  As it happens, Hendry and Piniella are pretty much doing what I asked them to do earlier this week - treat the rest of this year as if it is Spring Training 2011.  It began when Derrek Lee and Lou himself removed themselves from the proceedings - neither of them are going to Mesa next spring.  We have brought up the freshest produce from the farm.

But, once again, it goes sour, because pretty much everyone we brought up has sucked so far.  It would have been nice to see Micah the Hoff hit a few quick welcome-back dongs, or a Marcos Mateo pitch lights-out.  It is early in our extended Spring Training, but it doesn't appear that any of our recent call-ups are going to help us anytime soon.  So, as was the case going into this season, it appears that most of the heavy lifting in 2011 will be done by the men currently on the roster, a roster, once again, that is last in the majors in one-run losses.

So what have we learned thus far in 2010?

10) Alfonso Soriano may not be the most overpriced sixth hitter in major league history - but then again, he might just be. 

As a longtime student of the intangible and the psychological, I understand why Hendry signed #12 back in 2007.  The interim owner gave him permission to spend whatever it took, and Alf was the premier free agent that winter.  Jim was convinced that the Cubs would win a World Series that year or next, and figured if we had, that people wouldn't care that the club would then owe Soriano $18 million a year for all perpetuity.  It was a crap shoot, and the first two years, Jim shot eights, but then last year, the dice came up seven, and now we're stuck with a number six hitter with degenerative legs, a miserable glove, and absolutely no knowledge of situational baseball.  For the next three years.

9) Carlos Zambrano and Carlos Silva are the yin and yang of miserable free agent pitching judgement

A few years back, officials at two separate organizations took a look at two big, strong, tough Venezuelan guys named Carlos and decided that yes, these guys were Quality, they would eat innings, win games, and lead men.  It would be the wisest thing to sign them to long term contracts worth nearly 8 figures, because everyone knows the work ethic of South Americans is second to none.

Ahem.  So it was inevitable that a few years later, los dos Carloses would both be Cubs, serving as twin anchors, keeping us firmly tethered to the bottom, representing the main sunk costs to the most miserable team contract picture in MLB history.

The difference is: Silva the Hutt is a follower, and Z is a leader.  There is no way to reign in #38 with the Cubs, none.  He appears to respect nobody but himself, which is the very reason why it is going to be so painful when he inevitably moves on to the Yankees a couple of years from now and starts winning games again (hey, Kerry Wood?  How YOU doin'?)  #52, on the other hand, is a follower, and I honestly feel that in the right situation, with the right guidance from the right pitching coach and staff, that Silva could be poked, prodded, and coaxed in a useful direction.  However...

Cool 2010 is the death knell of the Larry Rothschild Era

Several of my knowledgeable friends, like the boys over at HJE have called for the head of Rothschild for years now.  I personally was torn.  For every Wood and Prior who caved in, a Dempster or Marmol seemed to rise up.  Maybe, I have always thought, Rothschild wasn't part of the problem.

But lately?  Outside of Dempster, Marmol, Marshall, the first three months of Silva and the occasional Gorzellany outing, Cubs pitching 2010 has been beyond dreadful.  Walks, mistakes, walks, mistakes.  A conveyor belt of arms have made their way back and forth between here and Des Moines. 

Here's my problem with Rothschild - these guys pitch well in Iowa, come here, get blasted, go back to Iowa, pitch well, come back, get blasted.  And it isn't just a function of the quality of the hitters.  It is the command that they seem to lose here.  Is it the pressure?  Shouldn't be any pressure, throwing for a fifth-place team.  And if it is, whose job is it to help these guys acclimate?  As I see it, he is taking good arms and turning them bad once they get here.

When the new manager arrives, he should be allowed to pick his own pitching coach.

7) Marmol is a major league closer

Speaking of Marmol, he hasn't had a lot of opportunities in 2010.  Yes, the team has the worst one-run record in baseball, but curiously enough, it isn't really the closer's fault.  Most of the games have gone the way yesterday's game went - we fall far behind, and either come back to within a run and fall short, or tie it up only to let one of our "middle" guys, usually Cashner, go blow it. 

The few saves Marmol has blown, his defense helped blow.  Which, speaking of:

6) Our defense utterly sucks

Our catcher is "offensive-minded", a euphemism for a guy who isn't Yadier Molina.  Our third baseman is getting old, frail, and losing what little utility he ever had.  Our shortstop is better than the man he replaced, yes, but is young and may or may not be a major league shortstop.  Our second basemen define 'suck', We got DeWitt because we thought he is better than Theriot, of course, the Dodgers think just the opposite.  Uh oh.  Our fancy hood ornament, DLee has had his worst fielding year.  Soriano has had an Epic Fail year in left.  Our slick fielding right fielder can't hit enough to play, and the guy who can hit in RF should be playing left field. 

5) Marlon Byrd is a nice player

Byrd does everything pretty well.  He is not and will never be an impact major league ballplayer, and his CF play is very average at best.  He is the beneficiary of the "Robbie Gould Syndrome", in which he is surrounded by badness, so his relative competence shines brighter in comparison.  He is a fourth outfielder on a championship team, and although he actually tries to provide the leadership this team so woefully lacks, he really doesn't have the oomph in his game to back it up.

Starlin Castro gets one of his 4 hits4) Starlin Castro is a major league hitter

The storybooks are full of great men who started off as middle
infielders who committed a ton of errors in the field, and were
converted to other positions so their teams would not lose their bat. 
Mickey Mantle comes immediately to mind, and Alf Soriano is a recent,
close-to-home example.  With Hak-Ju Lee in the low minors, there are
discussions that Lee will eventually be the SS, and Castro will play
2nd.  Or maybe 3rd, since the 24 year old DeWitt is on board, except
that DeWitt has 'utility guy' written all over him, and don't 3rd
basemen usually hit with more power?

It is easy to forget that Castro was born in 1990, and that he will gain
most of his strength in the next seven years.  He will never have
A-Roid power, but maybe Jeter power.  The most pleasant development of
2010 has been that, for once, we can believe the hype.  Starlin Castro
seems to be for real.

3) Here comes Adam Dunn

A couple of years ago, when it was late in the free-agent season
(this was the year we signed Milton Bradley early, remember) and Adam
Dunn still did not have a team.  The only substantial offer for a man
who had averaged 40 homers a year the previous five years was from the
godforesaken Nats, and human nature being what it is, there rose an
effort to find out what, if anything, was wrong with Dunn.

Rumors arose that Dunn did not like playing baseball much, that much of
the conversations that would arise when opposing players would stand on
first base next to the Big Donkey revolved around offseason hunting. 
Growing up, Dunn was a football player first, and teams perhaps
questioned his character when formulating contract offers for a
one-dimensional guy.

So, he has played nearly every day in Washington, has continued to hit
his 40 homers a year, and has weathered two trade deadlines.  You know
what?  The man would rather play football and shoot pheasants.  But he still hits and we are going to sign a first baseman this winter.

And just
our luck, watch us sign the guy and watch him age faster than the Nazi
mope in "Raiders of the Lost Ark".  In my gut, I see us going after
Adrian Gonzalez his off season, and ending up with Adam Dunn.  Because
Dunn has always been one of "Hendry's Guys", like the Marquis Du Suck
and Kosuke Fukudome, and we always seem to end up with Hendry's guys.

2) Since nobody seems to know what is going on, Hendry is staying, I guess

The inmates run the asylum at Wrigley Field.  As bad as the Cubs have performed, and for as much pressure that the General Manager of a team such as ours ought to be under, compounded by the fact that he has a known history of heart trouble, Jim Hendry looks pretty damn healthy.

Is he taking his statins and his red krill oil?  Maybe, but hey, why shouldn't he look healthy?  He has the greatest job in the world.  Where else in American business can you mess up, again and again, and nobody calls you on it?  Wall Street?  Well, yeah, but those guys always have the specter of the SEC (Securities Exchange Commission, not the high-falutin college football conference) breathing down their necks.  Lots of those guys jump off bridges, lock themselves in their garages with their Bentleys running, but not Jim Hendry.  His boss is a failed corporate attorney who doesn't know spit from shinola, who in turn works for a owner who is more concerned with piss troughs and gaudy neon signs than a winning ballclub.

There is only one man on earth who gets to play fantasy baseball for real, and lose all the time, and not get called on the carpet for it.  Until there is some accountability established in the Cubs' organization, what you see this year is what you will continue to get in the future.

1) 2011 is going to look a lot like 2010.

Soriano will play for the Cubs next year.  Ramirez will play for the Cubs next year.  Fukudome will sit on the bench and take the Cubs' money next year.  Byrd and Colvin and Castro and DeWitt and Soto will play for the Cubs next year.  Jim Hendry has no ability and no gumption to make a blockbuster trade involving young major league talent for impact major leaguers in return.  Could you see him somehow packaging Castro and Colvin in a trade for, say, Albert Pujols?  Maybe not Pujols, because a Cubs-Cardinals trade will NEVER happen, but something of that magnitude?  How about for Miggy Cabrera or Joe Mauer?  Young stars for a superstar?  Never happen.

As for the pitching, good lord.  While the positional outlook seems stale yet static, the pitching outlook is totally fluid, and utterly without direction.  We have a #2 starter, maybe a #4, a closer and a utility guy, a LOOGY who isn't really a LOOGY with a torn knee ligament, and about 20 other guys who have walked a lot of batters and given up a lot of late-game home runs.  You can't fix that.  The only thing you can do is throw a ton of money at it, and HOPE the guys you sign don't get injured or fat-and-sassy. 

And Ricketts is NOT going to spend a lot of money in the offseasons.  So forget about the Ol' Free Agent Injection.

Fans of the Chicago National League Ballclub have survived the past 102 years on one glorious element: hope.  Yep, the same hope that got our president elected, the same hope that is being frittered away by this same president each day.  Hope is perishable.

I ate whole platterfuls of Cubs hope as a kid, and into my early adulthood.  I confess to have spent good money on the all-you-can-eat hope buffet as recently as fall of 2008.  Nowadays, there is very little fresh hope in the steamer, most of it is discolored and spoiled, like the bananas Soriano and the Fukudome skirt steak.

Our third base prospect, Josh Vitters, is rehabbing.  The next great Korean hope is still years away.  Andrew Cashner was supposed to be the next big thing, but I can't figure out what that thing is supposed to be, unless he is supposed to be a Matt Karchner impersonator.  That's something he does quite well.

But hey, Castro went 4-for-5 yesterday.  Rookie of the Year, gotta be?  Right?

Why Lou's retirement announcement is such a non-story

The current state of the Cubs:

All you really need to know is that Aramis Ramirez is hitting mistakes again.

At the beginning of the year, he wasn't.  He wasn't hitting anything.  Neither was Derrek Lee.  And outside of the couple of times our bullpen blew leads early in the season, and the other night with Marmol, this was pretty much the story of the year.  Guys would get on base and Lee and Ramirez would strand them.  Over and over again.

Now Ramirez has healed, and is hitting like he always has, and a few days after that, so has Lee and Soto.  The word is that Lee is the clubhouse leader on the Cubs, and that is unfortunate because not only does he not have the personality to truly lead, he is also largely irrelevant offensively.

He has had two monster years with us, 2005 and 2009.  The Cubs finished below .500 both years.  Ramirez has had big years in 2004, 2007 and 2008, all winning years.  As Ramirez goes, so does the Cubs offense.  There is a greater statistical correlation as well as a practical correlation between what Ramirez contributes and what Lee contributes in terms of offense-to-wins.  This is what makes teammates sit up and listen, and only if Aramis could back up his practical relevance with words.

But he chooses to defer, like he did after each of the playoff sweeps, and this is why I went bat feces when he did.  Ramirez SHOULD lead the Chicago Cubs.  When he hits, we win.  As long as he keeps it up, we should have a winning second half, even though the decent starting pitching is beginning to falter.

Lou's retirement announcement, and why we are yawning

This was the biggest non-announcement ever.  Of course Lou is retiring.  Some say he retired 2 years ago.  He did it so people will quit asking him.  Some say he has earned the right to finish this year on his terms, and he will.  I'm not one of them, but there is the sentimental side of me who will give the man his respect.

Besides, Crane Kenney and Jim Hendry aren't going anywhere, so even if they got to choose a new man this afternoon, he would be no better than the last two guys they hired.

There seems to be no accountability in this organization.  Lou has the freedom to do one wild, crazy move after another, and when he is asked to explain himself, he either stutters and/or gets testy.  Jim has developed a decent drafting mechanism, and he is the king of the desperation trade and the fire-sale steals, but he has never made a good value-for-value straight trade in his whole tenure.  Not to mention, of course, his poor free-agent record, as well as his aversion to conflict, which has resulted in avoidance of arbitration - and overpaying players.

But, neither one of these guys can say they have done their job as badly as the Tribune holdover, Crane Kenney.  What exactly DOES he do?  How is the Triangle building doing?  How about the Great Wrigley Field reclamation?  What great marketing angles have we exploited lately?  When can we expect to watch the Cubs Network?  When Jim Hendry sucks, who calls him on it?  And if Hendry were to get fired, who would pick the next guy?

A corporate lawyer with no baseball background?

I want a baseball man put in Kenney's place.  Someone who can evaluate Hendry fairly, and determine if he is the man or not.  A new manager needs to be found.  Do we do the popular thing and stick Ryno in there?  Is Joe Girardi the guy?  How about Bob Brenly or Alan Trammel?  I heard Joe Torre mentioned?  Who do you choose?  They all have their own qualities.

There needs to be a organizational direction, which is developed and regulated by the President (the Kenney position), communicated throughout the competitive organization by the GM, and implemented on the field by the manager.  Depending on that direction, it could be Brenly, Torre, Ryno, Girardi, the frozen head of Ted Williams...but we need a direction first, and Kenney is not the guy to set it.

The President needs to see the middling-to-slightly above average health of the farm system, as well as the capabilities of what I am calling the Core of the 2011 Cubs, the guys who will definitely be here.

Soriano, Byrd, Marmol, Dempster, Soto, Ramirez, Castro.  Everyone else, even Zambrano, I could see a scenario where they may not be here next year.  These seven individuals will be, and the direction starts with what we are going to surround these seven guys with.

I don't know if Hendry is or isn't that guy.  I'd really like a real baseball man to evaluate what he has done.  I don't like his results, myself, but then again, he hasn't had much to work with from above.  That's the biggest question going forward for us.

Marmol temporarily blows (Game Recap: Cubs 1, Phillies 4)

Once again: Cub starter great, Cub offense bad, Cub bullpen not good enough to make up for the difference.

For the sake of naming names, Randy Wells and Sean Marshall combined to pitch eight shutout innings in yesterday's contest, and in the bottom of the seventh, Starlin Castro scored the Cubs' lone run, coming home on a squeeze bunt laid down perfectly by Ryan Theriot.

The team had a one-run lead in the top of the ninth inning when the ball was handed to Carlos Marmol, who would quickly demonstrate that he didn't have his best stuff. Actually, that's not true -- it takes a while to walk five guys, doesn't it? By the time the half-inning was over, the Phillies had scored four runs, despite Marmol's allowing just one hit.

And now, for today's "Just Saying" moment:

Carlos Marmol, thru 43 games in 2010:
2-2, 17 SV, 4 BS, 2.91 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 82 K

Guess Who, thru 42 games in 2009:
3-2, 16 SV, 3 BS, 3.32 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 41 K

That's all, just saying. Go Cubs!

Game Recap July 3: Randy Wells is not a one year wonder

With apologies to my fellow goat rider Kurt, who is a great writer and a fantastic Cubs' fan, Randy Wells proved him wrong today and all of those people who have said, incorrectly, that Wells is having a worse year this year than last year. The results have been bad. I mean, coming into today's game, he had an ERA over 4.90 but the truth is, he has done his job better this year than he did last year and probably should have an ERA that is around 1.5 lower than where it is. He was great today against the best hitting team in the NL this year (though like Wells, I think there is a bit of a mirage there also but the Reds are pretty good). He took a no hitter into the 7th and ended up pulled in the 8th for Carlos Marmol.

Marmol is falling off of his historic K pace unfortunately and could use the time off during the all star break. Of course, he won't get it, he will deservedly be selected for the All Star game but he could use the time off. Oh yeah, what about the offense? They were great today but the timing was off. The final was 3-1 Cubs but the Cubs kept cranking out baserunners like Kate Goselin cranking out reality shows only to see them die over and over on the bases.

Finally, Geo came through with a bases loaded double in the 6th. Soto continues to be one of the best hitting catchers in baseball as well as being one of (if not the) most productive hitter on the Cubs. I hope his hit today will result in more playing time.

Anyway, I leave with the following information:

Randy Wells 2009: 5.66K/9 2.50BB/9 76% LOB .294 BABIP
Randy Wells 2010: 7.05K/9 2.58BB/9 67% LOB .354 BABIP

There is no reason to think he won't produce an ERA of around 3.50 or so the second half barring an injury or a sudden collapse in his K rate. Young pitchers with that strikeout to walk rate are NOT to be giving up on by a good organization.

The levels of regret - not all regret is as bad as others

In this weekend's Tribune, there was an article about the "Third founder of Apple".  Really?  There was a third founder of Apple, just like there was a fifth Beatle?  Seems that there was; he was the 'business guru' part of the deal, along with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.  You know the Steves; this third guy was in the garage, too, but he got sick of the Steves always turning on and letting their minds wander into fancy thoughts.  This third guy even designed the first Apple logo; but finally he got sick of all the talk about mice and pointing and clicking and let the Steves buy him out for $800.  Now, this guy lives simply, on Social Security, and he says sure, he has 'regrets' because of course, the Steves are now richer than God.  But, as the article explained, not all regrets have to be negative.  He did what he thought was right at the time; all the knowledge he had at his disposal was that the Steves were a couple of burnouts, and that they were just gonna run through whatever little they had, and that would be the end of it.


If he had to do it over again, he'd make the same decision, because he went with what his gut said was right, and that is all he could do.  For every Apple success story, there are thousands of other guys who get together for a few weeks, burn through their savings, and have nothing to show for it but a sack of empty beercans.  So he doesn't let his 'regret' eat him up.


A couple of things got me thinking: the first being that we may now possibly have the oxymoron for 2010 - "Positive Regret", to go along with "negative success", one of my favorites (/eyes roll) from the past decade.


The second thing has to do with decisions; specifically sports decisions; even more specifically baseball decisions; well, let's get down to it - trading decisions, particularly those involving the Cubs.  Those of you that know me know that I do exist somewhere on the near side of the ol' Autistic Spectrum, and that I love me some categorizations.  Some kids played with Hot Wheels; I sorted them in boxes by color; then make and model. 


Today I am going to sort some of the Cubs' trades over the years, in terms of regret levels, from positive regret (yo, don't let the door hitcha where the good Lord splitcha) to total Brock-for-Broglio-esque misery.


LEVEL 0: No Regret Whatsoever - total lopsided trades in our favor; ones that might be considered Level 4 or 5 by the other guys.  DeJesus-for-Bowa, with Sandberg thrown in.  Bobby Hill-for-Aramis Ramirez. 


LEVEL 1: Regret as a form of blessed release - Turd Hundley-for-Grudz&Karros in 2003; Sosa-for-Hairston&Font in 2004; Bradley-for-Silva last winter. God help me, these are the trades that feel like curing cancer - chemo that works!


LEVEL 2: Meh-gret: most trades fall into meh-gret: a recent example would be Kevin Hart-for-Grabow and Gorzellany.  What-ever...(NOTE: please do not confuse the trade for Grabow with the subsequent 2-year-contract for Grabow.  That's a whole 'nother topic).  This includes the vast majority of trades that don't work out well for either side.


LEVEL 3: Regret for some; Meh-gret for others: the DeRosa trade falls into this category.  We give up something of value, and whether or not we get like value back, there will be some who will be disappointed for a long time.  In the case of DeRosa, some 'fans' are still pointing to his departure as the crack in the windshield that broke up the 2008 juggernaut, as it were.  Others, such as myself, while admitting that we gave up some measure of value, aren't going to lose a nugget of sleep over it.  There haven't been many other recent Level 3's, unless of course you're one of the ten people left on Earth who still feel Jake Fox can play ball. 


LEVEL 4: Now we're starting to feel the sting; giving up on a major league impact player.  Garland-for-Karchner.  Raffy Palmiero (AND Jamie Moyer!)-for-Wild Thing.  Bill Madlock-for-Steve Ontiveros. Dontrelle Willis (as a throw-in!)-for-Clement & Alfonseca.  You might even throw in Joe Carter-for-Sutcliffe.  I would, you might not.  Carter-for-Sut might be a Level 3 in your world, because 1984 simply does not happen without Sut.  I understand that, and 1984 Chicago might mean more to any franchise than any other season in MLB history where a pennant was NOT won.


But it was pretty clear that Carter was the real deal, he did not immediately impress upon his first callup, we traded him off, and he then spent the next 12 years or so just KILLING fools.


But even considering the regretful nature of Level 4, there is:


LEVEL 5: Brock-for-Broglio.  Letting Maddux walk in 1993, which is not in itself a trade, except in effect, it was when the "Maddux Money" was then given to Jose Guzman and Candy Maldonado.  Letting a Hall-Of-Fame talent go is inexcusible under any circumstances.  These are trades that just kill a franchise, and just EAT into your sleep.


Now then.  Take a good hard look at your team today.  I have recently come out here, myself and others, to accurately note that the offense for the Cubs sucks on toast, and what's more, outside of a couple of guys with large expiring contracts, and of course our "beloved prospects", we had nothing to offer in trade to improve matters any. 


Now and again, someone like Phil Rogers will wonder out loud (in the paper) if there was any possibilities about someone like Fukudome being sent in a 3-way trade with Boston and perhaps Texas.  You may think that Phil Rogers realizes what he does for a living, that if he publishes his idle thoughts, that there will be people who make the implication that there may be some substance behind them. I actually do not think so; I don't think Phil thinks that far ahead.


But back to our trade prospects now in 2010.  I don't think we are going to be able to get rid of Fukudome, or Ramirez, or Lee, or Soriano, or Zambrano.  Someone may try Lilly (especially after last night) or perhaps Nady.  Neither one will bring much.  Neither will the rest of the rabble: the Cajun boys; Tracy and Baker; the 10 or so feeble bullpen arms we've shuffled in and out so far this year; Three-Finger Hill.  Any trades containing any of them falls under Meh-gret.


But what about Castro?  Cashner?  Colvin?  Josh Vitters?  What about Marmol and Soto?  Could we possibly bring in a decent-hitting infielder, at any position, for one or more of them?  Is it as easy as that?


This is the main point of today's column: any trade has risk.  We could, hypothetically, trade Castro, Colvin, and Cashner for Albert Pujols today, and quite possibly once he puts on a Cub uniform, Pujols forgets how to swing a bat for the rest of his natural life.  If that happened, there would be regret.  The question is, how much?


Look at each one of our prospects.  Are they certain future Hall-of-Famers?  Are they certain impact big-leaguers?  Are they even certain major-league contributors?  How much regret would we feel if one or more of our so-called top prospects were dealt, in an attempt to make something out of this offense the next couple of years?


My take?  I don't feel I am watching certain Greatness when I see Colvin, Castro, Cashner and Soto play.  Marmol?  Heh heh, God only knows.  He has a unique gift - it may stay with him 10 more years, or it may leave him tomorrow.  I wouldn't mess with him right now. 


The rest of them?  Aren't going to cost me any sleep, ever.

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