Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Kerry Wood

warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/managed/grota/drupal/modules/taxonomy/taxonomy.pages.inc on line 33.

Z wuz robbed

A couple of brief pitching-related thoughts for today:

- We need to go back to the days where the Official Scorer is given more leeway as to the determination of the winning pitcher.  Much has been said about how hard it is to win 20 games anymore, and certainly the five-man rotation is the biggest culprit.  (Now that I am writing this, I should have tried to find an article on how the five-man came to be - I suspect it came from Earl Weaver - and I bet it was probably because he HAD five quality starters, and wanted to use them all, and the rest of the league, as it always does, simply mimics the successful teams without considering whether or not they had five pitchers worth the consideration).

And we have seen plenty of games like yesterday's, where the bullpen blows a lead, and in fact the man responsible for coughing up the lead ends up being "rewarded" with the W when his own team comes back. 

Although coming out of a game after 5 innings and 82 pitches is the antithesis of what a warrior should be, fact is that Zambrano, not Gaudin, deserved the win yesterday.  If Zambrano ends up with 18 or 19 wins this year, I am going to remember the August 3rd game.  I know in the past, the official scorer had the ability to deny the win that automatically went to Gaudin, in favor of rewarding the pitcher who "was most effective".  I don't remember if this applied just to relievers, or if starters were ever part of the equation, but Z got screwed out of a win here.

I understand we're just talking baseball card stats, but it just seems so unfair.

- Mr. Wood got on the radio today and proclaimed himself ready for action, tonight, if need be.  He also reveals that he has declined the opportunity to rehab in the minors, which in the past was something he readily accepted.  Peoria and Des Moines know him well.

Part of his new attitude may be due to his new role - since he is now responsible for only one inning, he feels he can get back in touch as a middle-inning guy for a few days.  Part may also be due to the recent showing by Alfonso Soriano - with very minimal minor league rehab, and a few initial days of struggle, he has come back hotter than ever.

I'm not sure, though, that this is going to be as easy as Kerry thinks.  First of all, the move will require that someone else either moves down, or out.  I'm not sure what purpose in life Scott Eyre serves on this team, and I think Mr. Bob Howry could use some downtime.  But either one MAY be more effective at this point than Bandaid Kerry.  Regardless, someone will have to go, which when taken into consideration with the imminent return of Jon Lieber, is going to require some tough choices, which you'd like to hold off on until everyone involed is completely ready.

Second, and in my mind most importantly is I do not believe that Carlos Marmol will be able to function in the closer role if Wood is on the roster.  Even if Wood has already pitched or is otherwise made unavailable on a particular game, I can see this flying apart badly.  So much of Marmol's game is necessitated on his intense concentration on EACH pitch he throws, and I can see Wood's mere presence as a distraction as Marmol tries to get the three biggest outs of each game. 

It's illogical as hell, I know.  I can't throw up any stats or cite too many examples where this has happened.  Let's just stick this idea in the back of your mind; and if Wood comes back for the StL series as a middle reliever, and Marmol comes in for a save but is not focused, let's just chalk this up to another example of the Big League Athletes and Their Dependence on Knowing Their Roles theorem. 

Friday Morning Odds And Ends, Few Odds And No Ends

The Cubs, apparently looking to fill Chicago’s hole at wide receiver, are calling up Jeff Samardzija. Kerry Wood is on the DL with – yeah – a blister. Apparently he could start Saturday. Which is… odd.

(By the way, impress your friends: it's pronounced suh-MARR-zhuh.)

Jim Edmonds, however, will stay off the DL – an MRI on his knee was negative.

Also, the Cubs don’t think they deserved their recent half-million fine from MLB regarding their conduct in the recent draft:

The Cubs plan to argue against an expected $500,000 fine from Major League Baseball for a pair of what MLB says are violations regarding the amateur draft. The decision is still under review, but the Cubs consider it nothing more than a couple of "clerical errors" in the filing of paperwork on two signees.

"There's no dollars that we've spent, or hidden, or things like that," general manager Jim Hendry said. "Two of our entire draft choices were signed to above-the-slot figures, which is perfectly legal."

Meanwhile, the Cubs A-ball affiliate the Peoria Chiefs have an absolute battle royal.


Thursday Morning Odds and Ends, Long Time No See Edition

Some quick notes.

Ted Lilly got a quality start tonight, which probably would have warmed the heart of Jerome Holtzman, who invented the stat. Holtzman, a long-time fixture in the Chicago baseball press, died over the weekend. Bruce Miles has a touching tribute.

Wood could go onto the DL soon, and his replacement might bee Jeff Samardzija. Shark’s on a very odd developmental path right now:

Year   Team G W L IP TBF H 2B 3B HR R ER BB K ERA
2006 A- Boise 5 1 1 19.0 84 18 1 1 1 5 5 6 13 2.37
2006 A Peoria 2 0 1 11.0 43 6 2 0 1 5 4 6 4 3.27
2007 A+ Daytona 24 3 8 107.1 479 142 22 4 8 69 59 35 45 4.95
2007 AA Tennessee 6 3 3 34.1 145 33 7 0 8 15 13 9 20 3.41
2008 AA Tennessee 16 3 5 76.0 332 71 14 1 6 43 41 42 44 4.86
2008 AAA Iowa 6 4 1 37.1 152 32 6 0 5 13 13 16 40 3.13

Yeah, a lot of guys raise their strikeout rate and cut their walk rate when they get promoted to AAA. Happens ALL the time.

An interesting thing happened on the way to buying the Cubs:

A group led by John Canning, chairman of Chicago private-equity firm Madison Dearborn, valued the Cubs, Wrigley and the team's stake in Comcast SportsNet at far less than the $1 billion or more that the four or five groups team owner Tribune Co. deemed satisfactory to continue, a source with knowledge of the process said.

But Tribune Co., which also owns the Chicago Tribune, appeared to be serving notice in shooting down the lowball offer. The source indicated that the most important figures connected with any offer will be the ones with dollar signs, in order to maintain the integrity of the process and the media concern's fiduciary responsibilities.

Of the five to 10 offers fielded for just Wrigley Field, the source said three were deemed promising enough to be asked to continue in the process.

Expect to hear more on this in the coming days. Meanwhile, MLB doesn’t seem to be happy with the Cubs’ draft:

The Cubs' fine for violations related to the June draft of first-year players was a whopping $500,000, SI.com has learned. Major League Baseball ruled that the Cubs violated a couple of baseball rules, including failing to report a signing to MLB's New York offices and putting the player on the field before receiving approval for the signing from MLB offices. The Cubs were said by people familiar with the case to have exacerbated the situation by how they responded to MLB's concerns.

This is the sort of thing that just wouldn’t have happened under the watch of Andy MacPhail, who came from a long line of distinguished baseball statesmen and who played ball with the commissioner. I personally am comforted by the thought of a front office who cares more about what’s best for the team and less about what’s best for the league.

In Defense of Sweet Lou - as if he needs it

Kurtis, Kurtis....how could you have forsaken thee?

I love Uncle Lou with every fiber of my body, except maybe my pee pee.  I have agreed with everything he has done in his tenure, INCLUDING his Game 1 decision with Zambrano, INCLUDING his decision to leave Marmol in there last week, and especially including his decision to bring him out there yesterday in the ninth.

Kurt is convinced that Marmol's problems are fatigue-related, which explains his stance that Lou is running him into the ground, which explains why he would drop an (edited) f-bomb in his name.  For shame!!  Que cosa!  As my high school Spanish teacher would say.  Ya lo crea!  The idea of swearing at Uncle Lou..

..lookee here.  Kerry Wood is going on the disabled list, backdated a week, so we will not have him around for the next two series.  We are playing probably the "best" performers of the "rest" of the National League, the D-backs and the Fighting Fish.  We have traditionally needed all hands on deck against these two foes - these will be tough series, in which a closer will be necessary.

The short term answer is to bring in Howry - which is what most of us so-called internet GMs would advocate.  I guarantee you that Lou is fully aware that Bob Howry has closing experience, and that he is available.   He isn't the greatest closer ever, either, you know.  Plus, he's 37 or so...is he the Future of the Cubs Bullpen? 

No.  Marmol is.  And contrary to Kurt, I am as convinced as he is about what might be wrong with Marmol, and in my view, it ain't fatigue.  It's all about Confidence, and the man that SHOULD know the most about it, Lou Pinella, seems to agree with me.

Eventually, Lou knows that the kid is going to be the closer, sooner or later.  It would be nice for all of us to imagine the 31-year-old Wood settling in for a nice 8-year-run as the Cubs closer, ala Eckersley, Hoffman, Percival, and some other guys you can name who closed close to their 40's.  It ain't gonna happen.  If it isn't blistered fingers, sore shoulders or gamey elbow ligaments, it will be something else with Wood (who I love), but is more of a emotional, "dealing with adversity with class" hero than a "performing physical feats on the field of play" hero.

Smart baseball men do not count on Kerry Wood to hold positions of grave importance on their rosters.

Thus, we need to groom Marmol sooner or later.  But which one is it, sooner or later?  Do we throw him out there this week in ninth inning save situations?  Is he ready?  Will he succeed, and close out vital games in this 2008 pennant run, bolster his confidence, and gain vital experience for 2009, 2010, or whenever he becomes the full-time closer?  Or does he blow the games for us, dropping us out of the NL Central lead, and shred whatever confidence he has left?  How do we know?  How COULD we know?

Welllll.....we could hook him up to a simulator on a PS3, let him take the controls for a ninth inning save.  OR, we could send him down to Iowa to let him save a game there?  OR, maybe we run him out in the ninth inning yesterday.  I understand that none of these situations are ideal, but which one of the three will most closely simulate the type of action he should expect in a major league save situation, while at the same time be logistically feasible, and, oh incidentally, helps us close out a win we desperately needed to salvage an otherwise depressing series coming out of the All-Star Break?

If Marmol went out yesterday and crapped himself in a Hawkins-esque fashion, then all Lou has to do is send in Cotts or Howry to clean up, and he pretty much has his answer as to: 1) whether Marmol is ready to close this next week, and 2) how close is he to becoming the full-time Closer of the Future.  Because if you have some tissue attached to your brain stem, and if you read this here blog, you must know by now that Closing is about 10% physical and 90% mental, and if you doubt that, then tell me how the hell Rod Beck was able to log 53 saves in 1998 with a piece of raw fish hanging from his right shoulder joint?

Lou isn't just paid to win in 2008 - he has to know how he is going to do it next year, too.  He needs to know exactly what he has in Marmol.  He KNOWS he can throw caked-on-dirty sliders...but he needs to find out once and for all what he has between his huge Mickey Mouse ears, and also what he has hanging in his jock.

One other, final thought

Just a little second guessing before I go to bed tonight...

With 2 men on in the 9th, after having surrendered a run, Lou chose for Woody to walk the bases loaded after LaRussa sent in Duncan.  Chris Duncan is hitting .239 this season and he'd only faced Kerry Wood once before in his career.  

By walking Duncan and loading the bases with 0 outs, Piniella was ensuring that, barring a double play, Wood would have to face Ankiel; a high strikeout batter but with some pop.  Lou was also running the risk of Kerry walking home a run - an obvious possibility, considering that, up til then, he'd been having control issues.  On top of that, while he was having control issues, in 2008 Wood has become one of the best closers in the league.  He started out rocky, and he certainly blew it tonight, but he's been pretty damned good since the beginning of June.  If I have a closer with as much talent and stuff as Kerry Wood, I'm never, ever intentionally walking a pinch hitter, especially one with the numbers of Chris Duncan.  

In other words, upon reflection it didn't make a ton of sense for Kerry Wood to intentionally walk Chris Duncan.  Maybe there were some additional factors that I'm not taking into consideration, but at a glance, I'd call it a mistake.  Not to pile on Lou, who's done a good job so far in his career as Cubs skipper, but he came to Chicago with a reputation for mismanaging his bullpens, and while this might not be a direct example of that, in time it may become concerning.

I'm still not panicking, though. 

In wake of Soriano's injury, we must not lose sight of the bigger picture

owww...that's gotta sting a liddle...From Jump Street, let me state that I do not think losing Soriano is a good thing at all.  Colin whips out the numbers that clearly state that there will be a short term dropoff while Soriano heals.  Obviously Murton/Hoffpower don't produce what he does on an annual basis - if they did, then it would be they making thee eight-figure salaries!  What really sucks is that he just got his legs back.  And Kurt ventures that in the long run, Cubs players of late have not had much luck recovering their power from broken hands, particularly from Soriano, whose main gift from God is his wrists, and this particular fracture metacarpal is closely adjacent to said Wrists of God.

I knew, sitting here watching my guys, Our Cubs, run off the best record in baseball, that it was too good to be true.  Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Sammy Sosa...all too good to be true.  Several times I thought and mentioned that the only thing that could stop us in 2008 is injuries.  When you saw Pujols get hurt and Yovanni Gallardo get hurt, as a hypersensitive, oversuperstitious Cubs fan, you had to wonder...Where's Ours?

Hopefully, this is it.

I honestly think, though, that it could be worse.  I have stated on here time after time that I think Alfonso Soriano is nothing more than a backup generator - a failover system that occassionally - nay, frequently - can carry a team for weeks at a time while everyone else struggles.  There is NO 2007 Division Crown without his September.  And yes, when taken on an annual basis as Colin has, the man produces abundantly.

Thing is, though, is that his contributions are not consistent.  He differs from, say, Ramirez, who pretty much produces at the same rate every day.  You know that, if you write him in the lineup for a week, that he will give you hits three times out of ten, probably a homer, about four RBIs, and he'll walk a few times.  Managers and teams tend to LEAN on people like Ramirez, they count on him, and when players like him lose time, the loss is quantifiable.

With Soriano, on the other hand, you just don't know.  He HAS been giving us more consistent production the past couple of weeks, yes.  But you honestly don't know what we're going to miss out on the next six weeks.  Might he hit 12 bombs and drive in 30?  Or might he hit .150 and chase every pitch thrown at him?  He isn't going to be there, probably the rest of the year, to pick us up when we need it...that's the great loss with Soriano.  Our Plan B is gone for 2008.  However, it isn't the end of the world if Murton plays there the next six weeks.  We could still play winning ball, if...

.Dempster's big blue Cubs balls..we don't forget about the pitching!  Sure, Dempster whipped out his big brass nutts last night and went the distance, and for the moment, you have to feel confident that Wood and Marmol are rested enough.  For now. 

Lemme ax u a question - consider Z's last two starts, do YOU feel confident that he is going to go out there today and mow them down? Do you feel confident that the offense is going to keep bailing Lilly out from under his early-inning catastrophes?  July is only three weeks away, do YOU know where your Marquis de Suck is?  Still with US, that's where he is.

They're talking up Sean Marshall as the next  callup, saying that he has made the most progress in Iowa.  His last start?  Five runs in six innings.  But hey, he only walked one.

We can't lose sight of the fact that we still need a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy, to minimize the amount of time we have to see Wuertz and Lieber and Hart and yeah, even Marmol and Wood.   

Pestilence v. Comcast SportsNet Chicago







(Jury Trial Demanded)

Plaintiffs, by and through their undersigned attorneys, for the Complaint in this action, hereby allege as follows:


1. This action is filed by the victims of unnecessarily dramatic coverage of the final out of the Chicago Cubs game started on June 2, 2008 and finishing shortly after midnight on June 3, 2008. Plaintiffs are the loyalest of Cubs fans, brave enough to stay up after their bed time in hopes of witnessing the Cubs' eighth consecutive victory. The defendants together conspired to perpetrate unnecessary drama at the end of said game.

2. Pestilence is a Chicago Cubs fan who suffered heart failure immediately before the final out of the game was recorded. Pestilence is filing this action on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of viewers who are likely to have suffered similarly. Pestilence and the undersigned attorneys will seek to elevate this matter as a class-action complaint.

3. Comcast Sports Net Chicago is the broadcast outlet that aired the game in the greater metropolitan Chicago area, and select households subscribing to MLB EXTRA INNINGS.

4. Carlos Marmol is the Chicago Cubs pitcher who set the table for the unneccessary drama by allowing two runners to reach base before grooving a pitch over the heart of the plate.

5. Adrian Gonzales is the San Diego batter who crushed said grooved pitch into the seats closing the 4 run lead to 1 run.

6. Michael Barrett is the San Diego Padres catcher who is primarily responsible for the underlying action that caused the unnecessary drama. Barrett is a former Chicago Cub who left the team under dubious circumstances. Had his warning track flyball been a home run, the emotional scarring of this home run would have been more significant than if another Padre, who had not been a former Cub, had tied the game. Barrett has a propensity for hitting dramatic home runs.

7. Kerry Wood is the Chicago Cubs closer who relieved Carlos Marmol. Wood also hung the slider that Michael Barrett hit for a warning track flyball.

8. The Unnamed Comcast Cameraman filmed the 9th inning of said game. This cameraman willfully filmed a much higher trajectory of the flyball than was necessary. Due to this high trajectory camera angle, hundreds of thousands of Cubs fans were momentarily led to panic as they assumed Michael Barrett's warning track flyball was indeed of home run distance sufficient to reach the Western Metal Supply Co. warehouse far beyond the left field fence.

9. The Unnamed Comcast producer chose to use the unnamed cameraman's feed of the flyball. This decision contributed to the heart attack suffered by Cubs fans everywhere.

10. Len Kasper and Bob Brenly are the Comcast announcers who emphasized the unnecessary drama by not reassuring viewers early enough that the baseball would remain within the confines of the playing field.

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award