Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Bullpen

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In the News

It's been quite some time when I didn't have graduate school  to worry about all the time. Hopefully, I will be able to provide more commentary on things going on in the Cub world. One segment that I wanted to start was, In the News. Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far way (Arkansas), I was a sports writer for four years. I'm drawn to the media, because I was so heavily involved with writing and newspapers. Well, now that I'm just a teacher, and somewhat of a career student, it will be easier to produce a little more regular content other than the Gameday stuff, which gets boring somewhat.



Today in the News:
Headline: Milton Bradley arrested in L.A.
Quote from story:

Police in Los Angeles have arrested Seattle Mariners outfielder Milton Bradley for allegedly making threats against a woman, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

Bradley, 32, was taken into custody at 10 a.m. local time Tuesday and was taken to the Van Nuys, Calif., jail, where he was booked for suspicion of making criminal threats, a Los Angeles Police Department officer told the Times.

Reaction:

Sadly this comes with little surprise with many of the Cubs fans here at this site and probably Ranger, A's, Indians, Dodgers and Padre fans either. Bradley is troubled, and probably should have stayed in Texas where he played well a couple years ago. Crazy just looks better in Texas. Come on, their Manager kept his job after getting busted for cocaine. Bradley's antics, until now, were never close to that. Well, other than that TV announcer thing, but that guy had it coming. In all seriousness, I hope Bradley can find peace one day, because that's just no way to go through life.

Headline: Cubs Sign Marshall to two-year deal, while agreeing to terms with Tom Gorzelanny.

Quote from story:

Gorzelanny, who will take a physical exam Wednesday in Washington, received $2.1 million, a raise from the $800,000 he made with the Cubs last year.If Gorzelanny passes the physical, the two teams will make official a deal that will send the left-hander to the Nationals for three minor-league prospects. Washington would then pay the pitcher's salary.

Garza, whom the Cubs obtained in a trade with Tampa Bay earlier this month, agreed to a one-year deal worth $5.95 million, up from the $$3.35 million he made last year.Marshall, who has a home in the north suburbs, gets a two-year contract worth $4.7 million. He'll earn $1.6 million this year and $3.1 million in 2012.

Reaction:

Wait a minute here. Didn't the Cubs trade Gorzellany yesterday or the day before? I guess that trade is not quite done. One or two things are holding it up. First, it is possible that the Nationals forgot they were trading for the lefty and found a way to back out of the deal once they realized the Cubs would have to release him before the start of the season. So, why give up three guys. Bruce Miles did have a nugget saying that Tom would take his physical today.

One last thing:

Does anybody have any good references to help the understanding of advanced metrics for baseball? I dabble in some of them, but I didn't know if there was a good site that really breaks each one of them down. I would like to to start using more of those figures in my analysis on this site, and I wanted a good starting off point. Please leave any comments about this in the comments section.

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.

Sweeps are hard. (Game Recap: Cubs 3, Cardinals 4)

Last night's game was the quintessential example of why it's so hard to sweep a three-game series against a major league team.

The Cubs managed to score three runs against Cardinal starter Chris Carpenter, which is at least two more runs than I expected them to get. And Cub starter Ryan Dempster was equally effective at keeping the Cardinal offense at bay -- even though Albert Pujols went yard again (third time in his last, like, four at-bats against Demp).

This one came down to the bullpens, and when you've won two games in a row, you probably have fewer relief options than you did two days earlier. That was indeed the case for the Cubs last night, as Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol were each limited to one inning, while Andrew Cashner was completely unavailable.

Let me tell ya -- Cashner/Marshall/Marmol is a super end-game trio (and their last names are eerily similar; should we call them Carshol?). But beyond those three, the Cubs don't have many options. Of course, it'd be a different story if Angel Guzman were healthy, and likewise if Jim Hendry had signed Matt Capps instead of John Grabow. But instead, we have Bob Howry and Brian Schlitter, who took the loss last night, allowing the home run to Felipe Lopez in the 11th that would decide the game.

Anybody wanna try and guess what my favorite moment from last night's game was?

Reader's Blog: The Bullpen

It's no secret that the Cubs' bullpen is hurt. Their biggest need is for someone other than Marshall to step up in the 7-8th innings. Prefferably a right hander. So lets see if we can find some of the late inning right handers for Big Jim Hendry to target.

  • Jason Frasor's name has been floated around for a while. However, he's not going to be on the trading block until the Jays fall out of competition. Some of us are wary about Frasor's rather large numbers, especially the 4.74 ERA. This is, however, not as huge deal as it would seem in my opinion. After a dismal April to the tune of an 8.38 ERA, Frasor has buckled down in May to wonderful ERA just under one.
  • JJ Putz is currently laboring on the South Side of Chicago. He currently has an ERA just under four, which is nice, but one also has to keep in Mind that Putz pitches in an extremely hitter friendly park. A move to Wrigley could potentially drop his ERA a bit further.
  • I personally hate Bobby Jenks. But I think he could be a huge help to the bullpen on the North Side. Jenks sports an ERA of 4.20, but that is a bit misleading. They must be playing some awfully bad defense on the South Side, because Jenks BABIP is at an astronomical .460. Thus, expect Jenks to improve quite a bit, especially with a move out of The Cell
  • Chad Qualls, like Jenks, has been suffering from a case of Bad luck. A BABIP of .457 simply will not last in this game. Expect Qualls to return to his usual self. In fact, he could be even better if his K/9 rating continues to stay so high (10.34) in comparison to his career norms (8.43)
  • I had heard rumblings about other players such as the Padres' duo of Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson, but unless the Friars start dropping games left and right, I wouldn't expect these two to be traded.

Game Recap: Cubs 4, Nationals 3

recap
Seems like four was a magic number tonight.  Cubs win their fourth straight by scoring their fourth run of the game on a four pitch walk.  Should ESPN ever decide to go with an ESPN4, the highlight of A-Ram taking the walk should clearly be the centerpiece of the commercial.

The game itself wasn't pretty by any means, but it was finally a relief to have one of "those" games tilt in the Cubs' favor.  The Cubs opened the scoring in the second by stringing together doubles by Byrd and A-Ram.  Later that inning, Silva the (quality start) Hutt got an RBI on a bases loaded walk.  For the record, Silva has 2 RBI in 10 plate appearances while Milton Bradley has 10 RBI in 52 plate apperances.  Just saying, if you project it out, the production is about the same...

The second inning rally ended with a "here we go again" moment when Theriot flew out to right and watched Willy Taveres gun Soto at home.  Even the most optimistic Cub fan tends to get a little nervous when a momentum-changing moment such as that play occurs, and I am no exception.  The Cubs tacked on another run in the third on a Byrd infield single, driving in Baker who had tripled two batters earlier.  The Cubs didn't score after that until the bottom of the tenth, when Ramirez drew the bases loaded walk.

The real story was once again the starting pitching staff.  Carlos Silva turned in another quality start with a final line of 7 IP, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K.  Silva sent down the first nine batters he faced in the game.  He hit a bit of a rocky patch in the fourth inning when he allowed two runs on three hits.  Even more interesting than the fact that Silva turned in a quality start is the fact that today's start was the first start that Silva allowed more than one earned run.  Moreover, over his first four starts he has a 1.73 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP.  Because Silva has only walked three batters in over 26 innings, it's not like he's pitching on a mound surrounded by four leaf clovers while hiding a horsehoe in his jock.  However, because he is currently holding batters to a .173 BABIP, his numbers are due to regress as the season goes on.  Despite all of that, color me impressed so far with Silva's start to the season.  I didn't think he'd cut our rotation out of Spring Training, much less be one of our most productive starters.

The bullpen was near flawless tonight as well.  Marshall, Marmol and Zambrano combined for 3 scoreless innings.  The latter, Zambrano, made his Wrigley Field debut out of the 'pen and only gave up a hit over 1 2/3 innings.  While I was only able to watch on Gamecast when Z was in the game, it seemed like he was relying a little bit too much on his fastball.  To be honest, it felt like his Opening Day pitch sequence but with better results.  I know that he is still re-learning the process of coming out of the bullpen, and that part of that process is understanding what pitches are "on" on any given night.  However, out of the 27 pitches Z threw over the 1 2/3 innings he was in, 22 of them were fastballs.  Again, he was effective, but I'd like to see him mix it up a bit more in the future.

Regardless of those criticisms, winning does solve a lot of things.  The bats are awake, the pitching staff has been solid, and the Cubs have won four straight and made the jump into second place in the division standings.  I'd love to see the momentum continue for the ballclub and watch the Cubs run the streak to five tomorrow.

In other horrible, stupid news: Zambrano to the bullpen

Look folks, it's a trivia question!

Q: What team had the highest-paid relief pitcher in history?
A: GAAAAAAH! 

Just thinking here.  Sure, Zambrano's been tossing a lot of pitches, but he's been pretty effective minus that horrendous opening day start.  The Cubs have him in a no-trade contract, locked up until 2012, and they are paying him something like 17 million or more this season.

They also have on their team Carlos Silva, a pitcher who has been performing well above his ability in the rotation, who's a short-timer with the Cubs.  Not to mention Tom Gorzelanny.

So why -- why?!? - does Lou Piniella and the Cubs pick Carlos Zambrano to be the new set-up guy?  How -- how?!?! -- does this make the Cubs better? 

It's not just a trivia question -- it's a mystery.  It is a nonsensical riddle that will frustrate fans, enrage Zambrano, and possibly result in his eventual waiving of the no-trade clause so he can be sent to the Red Sox at far below his real value.  (After all -- who gives up a lot for a 16 million plus starter who's been delegated to the bullpen?  How does this drive up his value?)

Feel free to express your rage in the comments section. 

Groundhog Day (Game Recap: Mets 6, Cubs 1)

Recap
Sweet Lou unveiled the "new look" Cubs lineup today in an effort to ignite a stagnant Cubs offense.  The new look yielded the same results and two all too familiar culprits.

Randy Wells churned out another quality start by allowing an earned run on six hits and two walks over six innings.  It looked like things were about to fall apart in the fifth inning when Wells loaded the bases with two outs and subsequently allowed a run-scoring infield single to Luis Castillo.  However, Wells was able to strike out an over-eager David Wright on three pitches to end the threat and the inning.

Lou went to the bullpen in the seventh inning, and like a match to a powderkeg, the fireworks promptly began for the Mets.  Feeling left out from the rest of the pen, the previously unscored upon James Russell served up a home run to Angel Pagan immediately after beaning Jose Reyes on an 0-2 pitch.  And the fun didn't stop there.  With two outs in the inning, Lou brought in implosion specialist Jeff Samardzija who promptly issued a walk to David Wright and a double off of the wall by Jason Bay.  Even Sean Marshall got in on the fun in the seventh by allowing an RBI single to future Hall of Famer Ike Davis (he has a career batting average of .500!) and allowed a run to score on a wild pitch to the next batter.

There isn't much to say that hasn't already been said about the bullpen woes of the Cubs.  It's thirteen games into the season and the roles in the bullpen are about as defined as they were coming into Spring Training.  The Shark looks like he has no idea where his release point is at and really needs to be put on the first bus down to Iowa to get some substantive instruction (like: how a sinker is supposed to sink).  With Andrew Cashner dominating hitters in Double A (3 GS, 17.1 IP, 5 ER, 25:4 K:BB) and the instability of the club's MLB bullpen, I think it is safe to begin the "Cashner Watch" (in spite of this) He was a very good closer for TCU, and I believe he could be useful at the major league level.

Then again it's not like the offense helped Wells out tonight, either.  On a positive note, the new leadoff hitter Marlon Byrd went 3-4 with an RBI and the oft-criticized Alfonso Soriano went 2-4 (albiet, with a double that could have been streched out if he hustled).  Byrd's comfort in the leadoff spot may have something to do with the fact that he spent a fair amount of time in that spot during his time with the Phils.  It seems that some Chicago sports personalities are against the move, as they believe Byrd is more valuable in a lower lineup spot because he is 'clutch'.  Considering the Cubs could use any spark possible at the top of the lineup, I think Byrd did a fine job of working the count and setting the table; both qualities I attribute to a successful leadoff hitter.

Aside from Byrd and Soriano, all the other offensive statistics are appaling.  The team went 1-10 with runners in scoring position.  The 3-4-5 hitters went 1-11 with two walks.  Aramis Ramirez continued his frigid start to the season with an 0-4 showing which dropped his average to .157.  Even more troubling, Ramirez only saw a total of 14 pitches in his 4 AB's.  It seems like Ramirez is pressing right now and the Cubs as a whole are suffering because of it.

On a positive note, Theodore Roosevelt Lilly allowed only one run over seven innings in his final rehab start for Class A Peoria.  He threw 88 pitches in the outing and stuck out nine batters while only walking one.  Theodore, well aware of the offensive struggles in his absence and always the consummate team player, even attempted a stolen base.  It looks like he will make his first start with the big club on Sunday against the Brewers.

Tomorrow the Cubs look to even the series against right hander Mike Pelfrey.  Lou may not trot out the new look lineup tomorrow, but hopefully the end result will be different.

Game Recap: Cubs 1, Reds 3 -- The blame game

Game Recap
Plenty of mistakes in this one. Let's see if we can identify all of them, starting chronologically from the start of the game.

In the top of the first, the first three Cub hitters reached base, giving our so-called "RBI guys" a golden opportunity to stake the team to an early lead.

Mistakes #1 and #2 - Aramis Ramirez and Marlon Byrd each fail to plate the runner from third with less than two outs.

I'm not expecting a grand slam every time we load the bases. Heck, I understand that even the best hitters fail to get a hit 60% of the time. But when you're as talented a hitter as Aramis Ramirez, facing a rookie pitcher in Mike Leake, you've got to find a way to get the ball to the outfield and score your leadoff man from first. The exact same notion applies for Marlon Byrd, as well -- woulda loved a base hit, but failing to generate a productive out is unprofessional, and inexcusable.

We'll talk more later about the collective failings of the middle-of-the-order guys eventually, but for now let's fast forward to the bottom of the seventh, with the Cubs leading 1-0 and Tom Gorzelanny having just allowed a couple of base runners.

Mistake #3 - Alfonso Soriano fails to catch a fly ball to left field with runners on first and second.

What makes the error worse is that I know a guy who could've made that play, so if Soriano's gonna strikeout twice a game and fail to register a hit anyway, why not put Colvin in left after the sixth inning of every close game? Maybe we'll see that happen soon. Fortunately, after Miguel Cairo got lucky and knocked in one run, this happened:

Mistake #4 - Dusty Baker decides to put in Jay Bruce to pinch hit against lefty Sean Marshall.

Okay, not a Cub mistake. But had to be noted. In Dusty we trusty!!!!!

Marshall would take advantage, striking Bruce out. He'd then strike out the right-handed Drew Stubbs, making an EXTREMELY STRONG CASE for his being named the primary set-up man in the Cub bullpen.

To the bottom of the eighth we go. After allowing a couple of singles,

Mistake #5 - John Grabow issues a four pitch walk to Scott Rolen.

A walk would be one thing (admittedly still the type of thing you would call "bad"). But you don't even have one good strike in you to throw to a .235-hitting old guy? Furthermore, there are good balls and there are bad balls (that's what she said), and nothing John Grabow threw was anywhere close to the plate. As a result, Grabow himself made an EXTREMELY STRONG CASE for being removed from high leverage situations.

This next one is debatable, but I'm gonna go ahead and give it its own bold-faced numerical entry:

Mistake #6 - With the bases loaded and one out, Lou Piniella brings in the young Esmailin Caridad to try to get two outs.

Yes, Grabow had given some indication that he had lost control of the strike zone in the previous at-bat. But I'd still consider him to have a better handle on throwing strikes than the kid who just got up from the bench in the 'pen. I say, Grabow created the mess, why not give him a chance to get out of it? And with Jeff Samardzija warming up in the 'pen at the time, it wasn't like Lou was expecting to come out of the inning with a tie anyway.

As it happened, Caridad walked a run in, and then allowed a sacrifice fly, giving the Reds their second and third runs on the day. The rest was history.

Any lessons learned? I suppose so.

First,I'd advocate to have Soriano pulled after the sixth inning of any low-scoring, close game. Let him swing away early on, but if the pitchers are on Soriano is a sure out anyway (this just in: the Fonz swings at misses at low-and-away breaking pitches that are outside the zone).

Second: I realize we're only six games in, but I can already tell you who I want pitching in the eighth inning when the Cubs have a lead of three or fewer runs. Hint: his name starts with S and rhymes with Sean. Maybe he's at a disadvantage against righties, but I can tell you that as of today, Caridad and Grabow aren't ready to set Marmol up.

(Furthermore, I'm convinced that Grabow never will be. I'm sure he'll be able to get plenty of outs in low-leverage situations this season, but when he needs a strikeout late in the game I just don't know what pitch he has in his repertoire that he can throw to get it.)

And finally, for the final lesson of the weekend, let's give credit where it's due. The Cubs' starting pitching has been pretty darn solid so far, including today's K-tastic outing from Tom Gorzelanny. Seven strikeouts, two walks, four hits -- control like that is going to keep runs off the board, as it did today, with zero earned runs allowed by Gorzo.

It's impossible to justify ignoring Z's opening day masterpiece, but suppose you could do so, just for fun, and you'd have five real good performances from five different starters. So that's nice.

The Cubs head home with a 2-4 record to host the Milwaukee Brewers. Let's hope the fourth, fifth, and sixth hitters (hitting .130, .105, and .143 respectively) get going, and that Marshall gets a chance to set Marmol up in our next close game.

Go Cubs!

Regrabbing for the bullpen

Today's re-grabbers - Jason Frasor and Kiko Calero

The case for additional bullpen help: starting from the top: Our closer, Mr. Marmol, is capable of paralyzing hitters.  The problem is, it could be temporary paralysis due to slider, or permanent paralysis due to fastball in temple.  Our set up man, Mr. Guzman, is fragile, currently injured, and relatively stupid.  Our lefties, Mr. Marshall and Mr. Grabow, aren't really anything special, outside of being lefties.  Every one else I can name has less than one year experience in the majors.

The case for Mr. Calero: he may not pass a physical on his shoulder.  However, he has a superior ERA, strikeout/walk ratio, and every other relief indicator the last two plus seasons.  Training camps have started, and this man, who finished last year with an ERA under 2, is still on the outside looking in.  In a way, it appears this guy is a throwback to a simpler time.  His shoulder hurts, dammit, but he still takes the ball and pitches well.  Before the Age of Scrutiny, someone would just sign the guy to a contract and let him pitch.

Yes, this is a franchise who has been burned lately by lame pitchers.  It appears though that we are not the only team to suffer this misfortune.  Mr. Calero seemed to think that his past two years entitled him to a similar two-year commitment by his new team, for mucho dolores.  But, he has overestimated his worth.  At this point, he is likely to accept a decent one-year deal.  His new team will have to pay a few million dollars for one year, for a man whose arm may or may not fall off his shoulder.  But when you consider we are paying Silva the Hutt 14 million dollars American for the next two years, is what Calero wants really that big of a deal?

The case for Mr. Frasor: Jason Frasor has performed in, to the casual fan, anonymity for 5+ years in Toronto, and performed well, if not spectacularly.  This is his 'contract year', and he would probably command a lot of money in the open market for his somewhat above average performance.  Toronto does not appear to be willing anymore to overpay for relievers.

Mr. Frasor is a local boy who would look good in pinstripes.  But I must admit, my interest in him isn't so much based on his own prowess, as it is based on the fact that Frasor would have to be acquired in trade, and that trade could and should include one of our young relievers, and one of my favorite players, Micah (first you get the moneey, then you get the) Hoffpauir.  The Hoff really doesn't fit for us anymore, now that we have Nady, apparently keeping Fontenot (??), and most likely keeping either Chad Tracy and/or Cowboy Millar.  (My money is on Millar, since he might be the only person on the team who may have seen Uncle Lou actually play, and those two can sit around in their tightie whities and reminisce about the old days).  Meanwhile, for some reason, the Hoff seems like a Blue Jay to me, he always did.  He may thrive there.

Prognosis: you will see a trade before you see Hendry roll dice on Calero.  Hopefully that trade includes the Hoff and does not include too many real prospects.

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.

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