Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Aaron Miles

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Reader Blog: Cubs' 2009 castoffs: What are they doing now?

Milton Bradley
He's been slowed by a calf injury and, presumably, by the fact that he's certifiably insane. He's hitting .214 with two home runs and 12 RBI. He has a relatively poor .313 OBP. Oh, and he's mad again.

Aaron Miles
Miles disappointed the Cubs immensely in 2009, and did the same to the Reds in spring training. They designated him for assignment (i.e. released him) on April 5, and he signed a minor league contract with the Cardinals last Tuesday.

Reed Johnson
Jim Hendry let Johnson go in favor of free agent Xavier Nady. Johnson found a home with the Dodgers, and here's the comparison thus far:

Player-------AB-------Avg.------HR-----RBI-----OBP
Nady---------34-------.176----------1---------4-------.333
Johnson----48-------.271----------0--------4-------.286

So, basically, it's a big shoulder shrug of a move at this point. However, there's a $2.5 million difference in their salaries, so Nady needs to get it going to make Hendry's investment a good one.

Andres Blanco
He has only amassed 33 at-bats with the Rangers thus far--his slash line (average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) is an underwhelming .212/.278/.212.

Rich Harden
Rich Harden has been SO Rich Harden with the Rangers. He has not allowed more than four earned runs in any of his six starts this season, yet he's gone five innings or more just three times. His walk total in his first five starts: 5, 3, 6, 4, 5. Not good. He's had two pretty good starts in a row, however, including a dominant outing on Monday.

Aaron Heilman
You probably know what he's up to after having seen him pitch against the Cubs this weekend: six earned runs in just 10.2 innings on the season (5.06 ERA), plus five walks and two home runs.

Kevin Gregg
Gregg lost out on the closer role in spring training, but Jason Frasor's struggles have resulted in several save opportunities for him. He's 7-for-7 in those chances, has struck out 16 guys in 13 innings, and has a miniscule 0.69 ERA. Basically, he's been awesome. If we would have known he was going to do that, he would have fit real nicely in the eighth inning for the Cubs!

Read more of Brandon's work at his blog Wait 'til this Year!

Reader Blog: Trade Winds

Jim Hendry has been the Cubs GM since mid 2002, so we’ve got a lot of trades to look at. I’m going to highlight one or two from each season that strike me as particularly important or illuminating.

2002: Cubs trade Todd Hundley&Chad Hermansen for Mark Grudzeilanek&Eric Karros.

Hundley is my least favorite Cub of all time. He was shitty.  He was overpaid. And he was a mean son of a bitch. The Cubs handed him a 4 year, $23.5 million contract before the 2001 season. In his two years as a Cub, Hundley totaled 579 plate appearances and posted an OPS below 700. For those who prefer batting average, Todd hit .187 and .211 in 2001 and ’02. He’s most famous in Chicago for flipping off the home fans while rounding the bases after a home run. He was like Fukudome without the production, pleasant demeanor or sobriety.

Somehow, Jimbo convinced the Dodgers to take this sad sack off our hands, and send us something useful in return. Both Grudzeilanek and Karros contributed to the division winning squad in 2003. Grudz became our starting 2B, and he could inside out the ball to the opposite field as well as any hitter I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget watching Karros videotaping the playoffs from the Cubs dugout during the NLCS. It really felt like he was one of us. He wasn’t a bad platoon first baseman either.

Oh, and Hundley was pumped full of steroids for much of his career. So there’s that.

2003: Cubs trade Jose Hernandez, Matt Bruback&a PTBNL for Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton&Cash.

Cubs trade Ray Sadler for Randall Simon.

2003 was Hendry’s finest season. The Cubs would not have won their division that season were it not for Ramirez, Lofton and Simon. Lofton and Simon are long gone, while Aramis remains as the greatest Cubs 3B since Ron Santo. And Hendry gave up practically nothing to get them. Thanks, Pittsburgh!

2004: Cubs trade Hee Seop Choi for Derrek Lee.

Cubs trade Brendan Harris, Alex Gonzalez&Francis Beltran for Nomar Garciappara & Matt Murton.

The Choi for Lee deal rivals the Aramis Ramirez trade for the best of Hendry’s career. Clearly, Jim was on his game in the early nineties. Choi never realized his potential, and is probably best remembered for being carted off the field after an in game collision with Kerry Wood.  Derrek’s achievements speak for themselves. He is my favorite Cub, and I will be sad to see him go if this is truly his last season here.

As much as the Nomar trade did not work out, I believe now as I believed then that is was the right move to make. The Cubs SHOULD have won their division that season and were trying to add the missing piece for a postseason run. Obviously things didn’t work out. Mercker bitched, LaTroy imploded, Sammy stepped out, and the Cubs massively underachieved and missed the postseason altogether. The following April, Nomar suffered the most excruciating injury imaginable, and that was that. He was on the DL until August, and by that time the only interesting question left was whether DLee would win the 2005 NL MVP. The Cubs finished 21 games behind the Ratbirds, who won 100 times that year.

2005: Cubs trade Sammy Sosa & Cash for Jerry Hairston Jr., Mike Fontenot and David Crouthers.

Cubs trade Ricky Nolaso, Sergio Mitre & Renyel Pinto for Juan Pierre.

2005 was the first year that Hendry really pissed me off.  These two trades, which neatly wrap around a lost season, signal a real change in Jim’s ability to maximize value on the trade market. Let’s tackle the Sosa deal first. Sosa was a diva who didn’t mesh well with his teammates. He was getting older and was obviously on the decline. He still hit 35 HR in 2004. He should have brought more in return than he did. I believe he would have, if not for the systematic way the Cubs undermined any leverage they might have had in trading him. As you all undoubtedly remember, Sammy left the ballpark 15 minutes into the final game of the 2004 season. This became public, and it shortly became obvious that Sosa would never be welcomed back into the Cubs clubhouse. When 29 teams know you have to trade a guy, 29 teams will not give you good value in return. Fontenot was the only piece worth mentioning here, and he’s a platoon 2B who was nearly DFA’d by the club this past offseason.

Then there’s Juan Pierre. Hendry’s worst trade as the Cubs’GM. Full disclosure. I despised him then and I still do. Maybe it’s because, along with Josh Beckett and Pudge Rodriguez, I still associate him with the 2003 Marlins. Maybe it’s because he posted a crappy OBP with zero power. Or his limp dick outfield arm. Or maybe it’s because we lost 96 games and I needed a scapegoat. Here’s why this trade still pisses me off to this day: Ricky Nolasco is awesome. He’s exactly the kind of player the Cubs need to keep if they are going to be successful. And Jimbo traded him for one subpar year of a crappy player on a terrible team. GAHHHHHHHHHH.

2006: Cubs trade Greg Maddux for Cesar Izturis.

This one is more emotional than anything else. Hendry traded Maddux to the Dodgers to give him a shot at winning a championship. Respect.

2007: Cubs trade Rocky Cherry and Scott Moore for Steve Trachsel.

WTF? Cherry and Moore were no great shakes, but I can’t begin to fathom what Hendry was hoping to accomplish here. Trachsel was old and finished. Trachsel made a few starts, didn’t pitch well, and was left off the postseason roster.

2008: Cubs trade Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, Eric Patterson & Josh Donaldson for Rich Harden & Chad Gaudin.

Cubs trade Jose Ceda for Kevin Gregg.

Like the Nomar trade, the Harden deal was a well meaning, but ultimately failed attempt to improve the team for a deep postseason run. I saw Harden’s first Wrigley Field start in person. He was DOMINANT. If memory serves, he went 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 10 K. I was convinced he was the missing piece.  Two years later, the Cubs have no rings, and Harden struggles to get out of the third inning with fewer than 100 pitches thrown. At least it doesn’t look like those prospects amount to much.

Kevin Gregg was a disaster and I'm glad he's gone.

2009: Cubs trade Mark DeRosa for Jeff Stevens, John Gaub and Christopher Archer.

And the Trixies wept.

2010: Cubs trade Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva & cash.

Cubs trade Aaron Miles, Jake Fox & cash for Jeff Gray, Ronny Morla and Matt Spencer.

Two things are obvious to me about these most recent trades: First, it is far too early to say anything definitive about these deals.  Second, they were all about Hendry fixing his free agency mistakes from the previous offseason. That’s never a good thing for a GM. I was furious with Hendry for suspending Bradley for the last 15 games of the 2009 season, as it robbed him of any leverage he might have had in trade talks. I was furious all over again when the Cubs traded for Silva, who has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball for the last several years. Now I’m just sort of numb. I know Silva isn’t an ace, and his sub – 1.00 ERA is the product of small sample size. I’d be thrilled if he finished the year with an ERA under 4.50, and right now that looks like a possibility. As for Gray, at least he got AAron Miles out of here. Meh.

Conclusions:
Hendry made a number of brilliant trades early in his GM career. Since 2004, he’s been significantly less productive in the trade market. It’s not clear whether other teams simply got smarter, Jim lost his touch, or something else altogether, but Hendry hasn’t had an obvious win since the trade that brought Derrek Lee to Chicago. Hendry’s trades aren’t getting it done anymore. He should be fired.

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Game Recap: Cubs 6, Brewers 8 -- Scratching and clawing

Game RecapI listened to this game on the radio today, which was actually pretty fun. I like Ron and Pat. And really, who doesn't?

I forget the inning, and I forget who it was that said it, but at some point in the game one of our esteemed radio hosts pointed out that when these two teams meet, they often compete in a way that feels like they're scratching and clawing at each other.

I felt that was an apt description. Check the box score: one run top one, one run bottom one; one run top four, two runs bottom four; one run top six, one run bottom six; and so on and so forth. The game had the back-and-forth of a quality boxing match.

For the Cubs, Scratcher and Clawer Number One from today's game was Carlos Zambrano. He didn't have his best stuff, walking a batter in each of the first three innings, as well as giving up a double and a homer over the same stretch. And usually, walks plus extra base hits equals early exit.

But Z fought back, eventually throwing 123 pitches (!) over the course of five stressful innings. And when he finally reached the dugout, instead of assaulting the Gatorade, he drank it, presumably to ward off some cramps he may have been feeling (and who knows how early in the game they started).

(Indeed, Kurt has previously posed a question that goes something like: if I told you a Cub was continuing to pitch after having been stabbed in the shoulder with a knife, which Cub do you think that would be? Despite his occasional display of a lack of maturity, the young man is our toughest player.)

Opposing starter Jeff Suppan was also pulled after five innings, with the game tied at four, making this one a battle of the bullpens -- a battle that we would eventually lose, once Jeff Samardzija and John Grabow worked their magic on the scoreboard.

Let me throw a hypothetical situation out there for you: suppose our entire pitching staff, from top to bottom, from Peoria to Chicago, were healthy. Which twelve dudes would you want on the major league team?

There are several locks: Z, Demp, Lilly, and Wells in the rotation, and Marshall and Marmol in the 'pen. Beyond that, give me Tom Gorzelanny in the fifth spot, Carlos Silva in long relief (I don't see this guy throwing much more than 90 pitches in a game ever), Berg and Russell specializing against guys with the same handedness as they have, and Gray and Caridad doing their best to fend off Cashner from taking a spot on the roster.

Maybe that's an obvious discussion, but I hope you realize the consequences of it: Jim Hendry absolutely wasted $8 million on Aaron Mi -- I mean, John Grabow this offseason.

And a few thoughts on the offense today: kudos to Geovany Soto for getting on base three times, kudos to Tyler Colvin for coming up with two hits and scoring twice, and major kudos to Marlon Byrd for knocking the cover off the ball in the third inning. And how about Alfonso Soriano actually drawing a walk in one pinch hitting at-bat? Crazy, man.

Regardless, the series is won. Yippee skippe. Bring on the hapless Astros, who thankfully managed to win a game today. Lord knows a team like that can't possibly manage to win two in a row.

A late season post about middle infielders

What?  We have no tags for Jeff Baker&Andres Blanco?  We need to rectify that, because they are here for the long haul.


A very popular topic of conversation amongst Cub bloggers is the Mark DeRosa trade.  Over the months of this abortion of a season, two camps have sprung up - the "Mark DeRosa is not God" camp espoused by Desipio Andy, and, um, everyone else who tends to track the entire spiralsuck of 2009 on the New Years Eve trade.  Naturally, I tend to think the truth falls somewhere in the middle.


Mark DeRosa can be counted on to hit close to 20 homers, drive in close to 70 runs, hit around .260 and get on base 34% of the time.  He is not a great fielder, but not a liability, either.  His two main talents in life are that he is friendly, and that he leaves his ego in check well enough to allow himself to go play a corner outfield spot, third base, second base or first base.


The latter talent is vitally important to Lou Piniella, who if he had his way would expect every member of his 25-main to be able to play more than one position.  Except Z, he would pull his lazy fat core muscles playing in the field.  Lou loves DeRosa.  Which begs the question: where is all the Lou love for Jeff Baker?  Baker is essentially DeRosa, only younger, covers a tad more ground, hits for a better average (albeit less power), and can and will play all the positions Mark does?  Of course, I don't recall seeing Baker in a cute YouTube skit, or in the paper much commenting on the cartoon-watching proclivities of a Bobby Scales, or something cutesy like that.


My take on Mark DeRosa, on this 25th day of September, 2009?  I do not blame the entire fall of the 2009 Cubs on the loss of Mark.  I do think losing him took away one of Lou Piniella's safety blankets, and it would have been better having him around than giving 400 at bats to Mike Fontenot.  If you believe that DeRosa was traded, so that his salary could be leveraged to pay Milton Bradley, then you have every right in the world to be pissed off.  On the other hand, he was traded at the peak of his value (for once in Hendry's tenure), and although a popular meme in the papers these days is for Hendry to right the wrongs of 2009 by re-signing DeRosa this winter, it seems pointless to have a roster with DeRosa AND Baker AND Andres Blanco AND Ryan Theriot AND Mike Fontenot AND Aaron Miles.


Unless, of course, you do the following:

  • install Andres Blanco as the starting shortstop
  • sign DeRosa, and let him and Baker rotate between second base, spelling Ramirez at third, spelling Alfonso Soriano in left, and spelling whomever in right.
  • this leaves very little room for Fontenot.  Get rid of him.
  • But!  But!  What about The Riot?  He's our shortstop!  He's our starter!  He hits .300.  If you don't like his fielding at short, can't he play second?  Won't he be mad if we got rid of Fontenot?

Yeah, probably.  In my humble opinion, I am through with Ryan Theriot at shortstop.  I like his .300 batting average, but I don't like his baserunning and I don't like his lack of playmaking ability.  I forgot what a real shortstop looked like until Blanco came up from the minors.  Compared to him, The Riot looks really bad.  So could Theriot play second?  Sure. 


And here's where it gets complicated.  Who starts then?  Theriot or Baker?  And then, if you re-sign DeRosa, things really get jammed up at second.  Therefore, it makes no sense to me to bring back Marky Mark unless you get rid of Theriot, because then you have three starter-caliber guys wanting to play one position, and occassionally spell guys in a couple other positions.


Besides, if you got rid of Theriot, then who backs up Blanco at short?  We'd be forced to keep Aaron Miles.  Ew.  I just threw up a tad.


So, in my world, I start Blanco at short, with Theriot at second primarily, and against lefties, Theriot plays short, and Baker plays second, spelling Theriot once a week.  Baker also plays third for Ramirez once a week, plays left for Soriano once a week, plays right once a week, and second 2-3 times a week.  Theriot gets about 550 PA, Baker about 500.  Soriano and Ramirez get more rest in 2010.  The defense improves dramatically.  If you sign DeRosa, it would have to be based on the terms I just outlined for Baker.  Then you trade Baker, while HIS value his high.


Aaron Miles is allowed to start selling insurance, and Mike Fontenot can go back to Baton Rouge to run a combination batting cage/bar/laundromat.

The Awfulness known as Aaron Miles

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

UUUGGGGHHHH!!! Aaron Miles Returns. Also, Bye Bye Ry Ry.

In a craptastic roster move that took place this afternoon, the Cubs have sent Jeff Stevens back to Iowa to work on his schtuff.

Taking his place?

Aaron Bleeping Miles.

WHHHHYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This move upsets me for two reasons. First, why Stevens instead of Samardzija? The Cubs are seriously mishandling the Shark, and it's annoying. Consider his bullpen appearances thus far a sunk cost, do what's right, and send that kid back to Triple A, where he can work as a starting pitcher.

Second, Aaron Miles sucks. Every at-bat he receives will be a waste, and another small step preventing this team from winning the division. I hope to God he's cut before the end of the month.

(I'd also happily accept a breakout offensive performance in the last two months of the season, after which I will eat my own words and look like an idiot. But until then, UUUUUUGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!)

ALSO! According to reports, BJ Ryan has asked to be released by the Cubs. He will not be helping the major league team any time this year. So it's Grabow and Marshall, and maybe Gorzo after Lilly comes back, in the 'pen as far as lefties go.

Go Cubs.

These five guys are just KILLING the Cubs right now

I am not going to elaborate; I trust you all will do it for me.  But this team would be a lot better, instantly, if these five guys were either released or sent to Iowa, and replaced by the next best five guys we have in the farm system:


Geo Soto, Ryan Freel, Aaron Miles, Neal Cotts and David Patton.


Yeah, Soto.  His OPS+ is the LOWEST of all NL regulars.  He has grounded into nine double plays, which also leads the NL.  He is slugging below .300.  He could not be more fat, sassy, and entitled. 


Send Soto to Iowa,  Patton back to Colorado, release Freel and Cotts, and do what you can with Miles.  Replace them with any five names you wish - Jeff Stevens, Mitch Atkins, Jake Fox, Wellington Castillo, and Andres Blanco - and we'll be instantly better.  This cannot be argued, this is fact. 


Whether or not this would be best in the long term, I personally feel it would.  This portion, argue amongst yourselves (or agree amongst yourselves, if need be).  But short term, Soto, Freel, Miles, Cotts and Patton are just KILLING us, and we just can't carry them, along with everyone else not named Lilly, Fukudome and Hill, who are slumping right now.

Guess who's back..back again

NO, NO, NO, no, no!!  You're all doing it all wrong!!!

So, how are you all enjoying your Memorial Day weekend so far?  (For Canucks such as Kurt, the fourth weekend in May here in America is set aside for...)  Ok, Kurt is actually here somewhere in the lower 48, and of course he grew up in New York, and that's probably the last attempt at humor from me for the rest of this post, because this shit just ain't working.  I came out here after the first 20 games, I think we were 11-9, and I pointed out that Geo Soto was fat and sassy, that Milton Bradley completely had his head stuck up his ass, and that Derrek Lee's best days are absolutely behind him, and you all flamed me up one side and down the other, leaving me with a nice charred crust with very little pink in the middle, because by gawd, it's only TWENTY games, give guys a chance, for cripes sake!!

Now, it's forty games in, we're 21-19, which means we've played .500 ball since that last post.  I did what you said, I gave them a chance to work things out, and what's happened since? 

  • Geo Soto still ain't hit dick
  • Milton Bradley is still pressing
  • Derrek Lee is not only still struggling, but he's now doing it in the cleanup spot
  • and, now, we've exposed Mike Fontenot for what HE is, useful as a backup, but not capable of hitting on an everyday basis
  • and, as an added bonus, Ryan Theriot has gotten away from what HE does best (go to right field) and he's swinging for the fences, with the predictable result of a plummeting batting average, on-base percentage, and overall usefulness
  • and, of course, Aramis Ramirez' shoulder is still fusing itself back into one piece
  • and, we now have not one, but two useless utility men burning at-bats and butchering plays in the field.  Sometimes, the Orioles aren't stupid, and I know pretty much the Cardinals aren't.

    But what worries me the most is looking at Lou Piniella night after night.  There is a noticeable cognitive difference in him from 2007 to today.  His job is stressful - particularly when he has come so close twice, and have it all slip away so suddenly and completely.  This job turns people.  When Dusty Baker hit town, he was all California Cool.  By his last year, he spoke and acted like someone was spiking him in the groin.  When Don Baylor hit town, he was all New Age Enthusiasm.  By his last year, he spoke and acted like someone was spiking him in the groin.  When Jim Riggleman hit town, he acted like the slimy horndog he was.  By his last year, he spoke and acted like someone was spiking him in the groin, which was probably somewhat based in reality, considering his typical nighttime activities.  (When he and Mark Grace left town, it left a lot of dental hygenists and flight attendants in their mid-30s unfulfilled)

    Now, Lou don't talk like he's in pain, but I have talked to people trained in diagnosing dementia, and they notice how he can't seem to put a coherent sentence together when he is asked a question.  He is probably the most confused man in Chicago presently, and not only does that explain why Neal Cotts still has a job, it doesn't bode well for the immediate future of the Cubs.  I have backed this man since day one, but I can no longer. 

    Hendry ain't gonna fire him, no way.  But I don't believe Lou has an answer for 2009, and in the meantime, we are wasting some decent-to-good starting pitching.   Man, I still think getting Jake Peavy would send a message, but Adrian Gonzalez would look a HELL of a lot better in pinstripes.  Too bad he ain't available...

2009 Player Previews - Aaron Miles

Aaron Miles

You know what? I'd really like to see Aaron Miles on the bench during the 2009 season.

I'd really like to see him sitting while Mike Fontenot takes the field. You might say, I'd like Lou to bench Aaron Miles. If only there was a website to reflect this desire of mine.

...if only.

But seriously, folks, Miles isn't terribly good. He puts up a decent average (.289 for his career and .317 last year), but he's sort of a bit lacking in patience and power. He's averaged fewer than 30 walks a year, has a career OBP under .330, and has never managed more than a half dozen homers in a season. Miles, in short, is Jose Vizcaino without the wicked shades.

Over the last 5 years, Miles has posted OPS+'s of 72, 65, 74, 76, and 99. For the uninitiated, that includes zero years of league average baseball and a baseline right in line with a replacement player. He's what Ryan Theriot would be if he had peaked in 2007. Furthermore, the most similar batter for Miles according to Baseball Reference - among those who I've actually heard of - is Craig Counsel (and yes, I've heard of Jeff Treadway, but that's a terrible comp). The most similar batter for Mike Fontenot? No one. He's so damn good that there is not comparison.

Although if I had to pick one, it'd be Babe Ruth.

Well, maybe not quite Babe Ruth. Maybe Ruth's left thigh.

Or a buttock. Either buttock.

Miles? There is not one part of Babe Ruth that couldn't outhit Miles, and that includes his spleen. Yes, that's right, I said it. Babe Ruth's spleen could outhit Miles.

The important thing to remember in all this is that Lou's not an idiot. He knows that Miles is a backup and that Fontenot has the potential to be a huge contributor. Sure, Miles will get most starts again lefties (despite the fact that Fontenot was excellent against lefties in limited action last season), but that's cool. Miles will also likely get a few starts at short against righties and a little action at third.

I'm going to approach the middle infield of Miles/Fontenot/Theriot as a single unit. A three headed monster, if you will. But Fontenot will be the big head. The scary dragon head. Theriot's the slap hitting snake head who steals sloppily. And Miles? He's the shrunken head.

Go Cubs.

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