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.
Who knew Aramis Ramirez could still hit?
Three RBI for the day, including a deep shot "into the night," as Lenny Kasper called it, ending this one in the bottom of the 11th inning. I actually thought he skied it when he hit it, but apparently he really REALLY skied it -- enough to get it out of the park.
Starlin Castro had three hits -- all singles -- and a stolen base against Miguel Olivo, who is apparently quite good at picking off base runners.
But about those singles: I think it's likely that the home run Castro blasted in his debut was the last homer we'll see from him for a long while. The kid doesn't have an extra-base knock since his first game. I think he'll hit plenty of doubles this year -- his first inning liner almost gave him a two-bagger -- but he's got a ways to go before he can afford to start swinging for the fences again.
Tyler Colvin had a hit and a walk, and also struck out once. He now has 17 strikeouts on the season to go against his seven walks; in contrast, Castro has five walks, against two strikeouts.
Derrek Lee had a rough night. These things happen I guess.
Most folks were fairly outstanding on the pitching side for the Cubs. Kudos to Lou for using Marmol in the high leverage situation -- bases loaded, one out -- instead of saving his "closer" for a "save situation." I suppose that's kind of an easy decision, but not every manager would have gone that way. Which is sad. Also, Marmol was nasty again. Surprise surprise.
You know who else was nasty? Sean freakin' Marshall. I'd encourage any and all fans arguing that we trade Marsh to stop what they're doing and re-evaluate their positions. Marshall is a control guy, not a flame-thrower, so he could have a really long career of throwing junk all over the corners of the plate.
In 20.1 innings pitched this season, Sean Marshall has allowed 11 hits, and given up just three unintentional walks, to go with 27 (!!!) strikeouts. DAMN.
Kudos also to Randy Wells, for another solid start. Also John Grabow sucks.
And now Z is eventually headed back to the rotation? Whatever that means. I suppose we'll see what happens.
Cubs win, oh yeah, get excited.
Well, that's as bad as it gets. At least, I hope that's as bad as it gets. A 1-5 road trip against the Pirates and Reds in which the Cubs got outscored by 20 runs despite winning a game by seven. Looking at the current standings, the best team the Cubs have played all year is the Washington Nationals, who are 17-14 (same record as the Mets). And yet the Cubs are just 14-18 and have been outscored by their opponents overall. The ship is sailing in the wrong direction, to put it mildly, and Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez (hitting a combined .184) are at the helm.
Ryno of the Week: Perhaps I'm just caught up in his first-ever major league game fireworks, but then again, Starlin Castro did drive in six runs in one game while the Cubs scored 10 runs in the other five games on the road trip combined. Castro committed an error as well, but that's the kind of week it was--even the good players weren't that good.
Goat of the Week: It's nice to have options, I guess. I'll go with Randy Wells, who lasted just two horrific innings against the second-worst offense in the National League and raised his ERA from 3.45 to 4.86. It was not a good week for Cubs pitching in general, but Wells' game was over before it started.
Lou Piniella gets a special dishonorable mention for leaving Ryan Dempster in yesterday instead of going to Sean Marshall with Joey Votto coming up. Lou warmed Marshall up, Dempster got into a first-and-third situation, a power-hitting lefty came up, Lou went to the mound, and ... Marshall stayed in the bullpen. While Dempster served up a three-run bomb. Nice call, Lou.
Dishonorable mentions: Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Justin Berg, John Grabow
Brandon also writes at Wait 'til this year! Check him out over there!
I couldn't have scripted that any better.
Most recaps and articles on the game last night involve some cool play on Starlin's name, like "A Star-lin in the Making" or "Castro Brings the Revolution" or "Hey, that Starlin Kid is Pretty Good." However, I am not that creative at the moment and figured you loyal readers had already been inundated with aforemnetioned pun-filled headlines.
It's also the trendy thing to mention that most "can't miss" prospects, in fact, miss. It seems the name du jour is Ben Grieve, who drove in 5 RBI in his first game, went on to a Rookie of the Year award, and then promptly faded into a career of obscurity, eventually hitting his final HR with the Cubs (118 in total, for those counting). I could mention Corey Patterson, Hee Seop Choi, and countless others that were supposed to be the saviors of our organization. But that would just be far too cynical, even for a Cubs fan, after last night's performance.
The big takeaway point from last night is this: Starlin Castro has the ability to be an impact player. Before his first at bat, everyone wanted to know whether he could adjust to the majors and if he'd be intimidated in the box. What we learned last night is he wasn't too over-eager at the plate and could punish the mistakes of an opposing pitcher. In the second inning, Castro saw one of the nastiest curves Homer Bailey could throw get called for a strike on the inside corner. He then deposited the next pitch, a hanging curve, to the right field stands for a 3-run homer. Three innings later, Castro hit a gapper to left field with the bases loaded for a triple to drive in three more runs. At least in the small sample size we have so far, it's nice to see the "uses all fields" portion of the scouting report hold true. Castro ended the night 2-for-5, HR, 6 RBI.
Lost in the hype of the Castro debut, Marlon Byrd added a home run of his own in the third inning, his sixth on the season. Byrd just keeps on hitting and is off to a ridiculous start. If he stays on the current pace, he's projected to have a career high 33 home runs by the end of the season.
Fontenot added added a pinch-hit grand slam in the 8th to cap the Cubs scoring.
The pitching for the Cubs was less than impressive. Silva only lasted five innings and gave up four runs on ten hits. In a game where your team is up by 9 after five innings, most pitchers say it is hard to keep focus and stay as sharp as you are in a tight game. I am hoping this was the case for Silva. However, based on his track record, there are going to be nights where hits just happen to drop against Silva. What matters is whether he is able to scatter those hits or whether they come all at once.
John Grabow continued his terrible excuse for pitching in the 9th inning and allowed the Reds to score 3 runs. It is nice to see Lou trying to get Grabow some experience in non-pressure situations. What isn't nice to see is Grabow hanging pitches constantly. I'm no pitching coach, so I don't know what he is doing wrong, but I do know that it needs to stop.
My complaints aside, the Cubs offense woke up once again, our top prospect gave Cubs fans a taste of his potential with a historic performance, and most importantly the Cubs can add another one to the "W" column.
I rushed on out here yesterday, first to bemoan the fact that there was nothing compelling about the 2010 Cubs, then to rip on the braintrust for ditching their original plan and rushing recent 20 year old Starlin Castro to the big leagues.
Well, how did things turn out? I'd say it can be expressed in an algebraic equation:
Starlin Castro's debut > Jason Heyward's + Ike Davis's combined
So, just like the Zambrano Banishment, it appears that Donut Jim and Sweet Lou pulled a plum out of their asses. So here I am to praise Starlin Castro, and the Cubs organization, for the incredible record-setting evening in Ohio.
I suppose if you look back, some of the great success stories in sports history stem from a move which, at the time, seemed desperate and foolish. Problem is, there aren't too many that immediately come to mind, at least in baseball. The 1999 St. Louis Rams put a grocery-bagging Arena League QB in, and all Kurt Warner did was win the MVP. It can happen. I don't remember the circumstances in 2003 when the Marlins brought up 20 year old (skinny) Miguel Cabrera. Seems to me, back then, the Marlins brought in anyone who was cheap. So, it COULD happen. Maybe Castro will be the spark.
Of course, me being me, I can't just sit back and enjoy the unexpected RBI orgy. I look back now to his fourth AB, when there were two more RISP, and he got too anxious and fouled out to first. He was even more anxious in his last AB. Imagine it is very easy for some kid born in 1990 to collect 6 RBI in his first three big-league at bats and decide that they are, in fact, Superman and can do no wrong. I think we are seeing that in Atlanta with their 20 year old, and I hope that Castro can get back within himself and do what he's done all fall, all Spring Training, and all season so far.
The ball jumps off his bat, he doesn't need to overswing. I hope he realizes that. If he does, folks, here's your Shortstop of the Decade. And, hey, the decade just started! But, if not, then we can all get red-faced and mutter that the Cubs ruined yet another kid.
C'mon, Starlin. You're not very good looking - hopefully you got the brains in your family. Stay within yourself, control your swing, buddy? For once, let us get away with something.
Last time I did the Gamecast, I noted that the Cubs had the decided advantage in the pitching matchup, and we lost...as Charlie Morton had the best game of his season. So..this time I'm not going to disparage Mr. Bailey, only noting that he's got 4 ND in 5, and that he had the best start of his season last time out against STL. We'll see what we get with Silva, who struggled some last Saturday against the Snakes (in a game we came back and won - I was there...good times). However there have been some reports of Silva having a sore hand. Hopefully he's ready to give us at least 6 good innings tonight.
Also for tonight, you might have heard..the Cubs have promoted Starlin Castro. Since everyone has an opinion on this, I'll editorialize some more, and give you mine... I think this is the right move at the right time. I don't care that Castro is only 20, I don't care that he only has 250 plate appearances in AA, and I especially don't care that he's skipping AAA since fewer and fewer elite prospects are spending serious time there these days. Its becoming more and more than AAA is for players on the way down and guys that couldnt quite hack it in the bigs...guys like Micah Hoffpauir, Sam Fuld, Bryan LaHair, etc. This team needs a shot in the arm, and hopefully Castro can do that. I don't think that this situation is anything like what's happened in the past with other highly touted prospects in Patterson and Pie. Castro has a LOT better plate discipline and control of his bat. Give him time Cubs fans - I assure you it will be worth the wait.
Starlin Castro baby! - He was 9 for his last 17 in AA, finishing his tenure there with a .376 average. And now he's here, upgrading the defense and 2 positions. I'm excited, can you tell?
Everytime I write one of these, I mention Rami's name. So there's him. Apparently Jeff Baker lit his ass on fire, so he's not doing so well..(or should I have put him in the "Hot" column?). And of course Jeff Gray's not doing well either.
Big night tonight. Everyone tune in, and if the way this season's gone is any indication, we'll follow up those 3 Pirate losses with 3 wins in Cincy.
The Cubs hit a rough skid (well, they didn't really hit anything) in Pittsburgh and are looking to right the ship against the Reds at Great American Ballpark. In an attempt to provide a spark to what has been a lackluster offense, the Cubs called up uber prospect Starlin Castro to take his rightful place at shortstop. Accordingly, the Cubs demoted the Ginger One, Chad Tracy, to AAA. Castro had a .376/.421/.569 line in AA Tennessee and had 4 SB (5 CS) on the year.
In short, this move seems pretty desperate. At this day, May 7, the Cubs are 3 games under .500 at 13-16. It feels worse because the team just got swept by the Pirates at PNC. The team is looking for a "kick start" to get them out of the slump. This really isn't the first time the Cubs have made this play. You only have to look back to 2007 when the Cubs were in a very similar situation: a middling team that lacked drive and inspiration. In June of that year, the Cubs made a drastic move and traded what most of us thought was the franchise catcher in an attempt to bring on some chemistry and light a fire under everyone.
Similarly, in 2007 lots of fans were ready to write the team off by the end of May. The team was seven games under .500 and weren't playing up to the talent level most fans expected of them. Eventually, the team got hot in the Dog Days of Summer and went on to win the division.
Ladies and Gents, so far the season hasn't gone the way we'd all hoped, but the situation isn't dire. There's a lot of ball to play, and hopefully this move can work as the spark the front office believes it could be.
Now, onto the matchups.
Friday, May 7: Carlos Silva (2-0, 2.90) vs. Homer Bailey (0-1, 6.04)
Bailey and the Cubs are familiar with each other as they met in the first Cubs/Reds series of the season. In that game, Bailey went five innings and struck out five while giving up 3 earned runs. Perhaps fitting to his name, Homer is a flyball pitcher that relies on a plus fastball and a very nice 12-to-6 curve. When he is able to keep the ball down in the zone, he can be at times unhittable. However, he has struggled with consistency and frequently leaves his curveball and mediocre changeup up in the zone, which can lead to some long home run balls. The best way to get to Bailey is to wait him out and not fall behind in a count so he can utilize his curve.
Silva is coming off the worst start of his Cubs career. Speaking of keeping the ball down, Carlos left his sinker in the middle of the zone in his last start and allowed Arizona's lineup to take advantage of the gale force wind blowing out to the tune of 3 HR. Silva's start was supposed to be pushed back because of a barking right wrist, but the trainer reports came back and he seems to be feeling well enough to toe the rubber tonight. Which Silva will show up will be the main thing to watch for.
Saturday, May 8: Tom Gorzelanny (1-3, 2.48) vs. Aaron Harang (1-4, 6.68)
I know this point has been brought up countless times, but ever since Dusty made Harang run out in an extra innings game on minimal rest a few seasons ago, Harang really hasn't been right. Regardless, he still always seems to have the Cubs' number. In his last start against the Cubs, Harang went seven innings and only allowed three earned runs while striking out seven. His most recent start was a quality start against the Cardinals, but he took the loss in a duel against Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals. He's going to try hard to get ahead in the count by being aggresive with his fastball and then use his junker stuff to get hitters to chase out of the zone. Sadly, this is a pretty good plan of success against an aggressive Cubs team.
Gorz got his first win of the season in his last outing against the Dbacks and set a career high 10 strikeouts in the game. Posting three quality starts in his last five starts, Gorz has been a great asset to the Cubs pitching staff. Another note of interest is that Gorz and Maddux constantly text/call each other to break down each start Gorz makes and how he can improve upon it. Hopefully Maddux gave Tommy some good advice this time around and he continues to build upon his strong start.
Sunday, May 9: Ryan Dempster (2-2, 2.95) vs. Mike Leake (2-0, 2.94)
Leake has turned in four quality starts in his last five outings. He turned in a decent performance the first time around against the Cubs where he only gave up one run in 6.2 innings. The big knock on him was the seven walks he gave up in that game as well. After giving up five walks in his start after facing the Cubs, Leake has limited his walks in his last 3 starts (2 being the max number). Leake really doesn't have dominant stuff, but has above average command of all of his pitches. He will go as far as his control lets him.
Dempster was the latest casualty of no run support in Pittsburgh in his last outing. Clownsevelt went seven innings and allowed only 3 ER, two of those runs coming by way of the homerun ball. The Cubs stranded 11 men on base in his last start, so hopefully that trend can change in the fortuitous hitters paradise that is Great American Ballpark.
The Cubs should take 2/3 in this series. I expect the team to wake up from it's haze with the moves made today and show some signs of life and rededication. If they turn in another performance like in Pittsburgh, then this team may have a longer and harder road to recovery than I imagined.
The Cubs have promoted top prospect Starlin Castro. I'm sure this means the Cubs intend to turn over the keys to SS to him full time. I really can't stand this decision. Castro is Twenty years old, and he has played only 32 (albeit dominant) games at the AA level. A promotion is warranted, but to Iowa.
I fear that the Cubs are rushing Castro.What's worse, I think they are doing so out of a misguided sense of self preservation. Calling up Castro buys Cruller Jim some time because it will pacify parts of the fanbase. This is a dangerous situation. A lot of those same fans will now give Castro the 2010 "savior" label. He can't live up to that label because no one can. There are simply too many holes on this squad. So if Castro doesn't explode out of the gate, the drunks WILL get on him.
Then there's Lou. I like Lou Piniella a lot, but his handling of Felix Pie was indefensible. Pie never had a fair shot because Lou didn't give him one. If Castro is with the big league squad, he should be starting, at SS, almost every single game. Anything less and he's better off getting full time AB's in Des Moines. I don't trust Piniella to give him those AB's if he struggles initially.
Finally there's the 'future' of the franchise. 2010 is sunk. This is not a playoff team. Adding Castro doesn't make it a playoff team. So why are we playing games with his service time? Give him a full year to split between Tenn and Iowa. Call him up in September when rosters expand and start him with Theriot at 2B. Give him another month in AAA in 2011, and then he gets the call, to stay, right around May 1st.
This team is not built to win this season. I'd like them to do everything possible to ensure that they will be built to win in the future. Right now, the Cubs are wrongly focused on the short term. Bad move.
Let the Starlin Castro Era begin!
In a sheer raw naked desperation move, the Future is now, arbitration-eligibility be damned. Starlin Castro has been called up and will take his place at shortstop, and Theriot will take his rightful place at second.
If you were amongst those who thought he should have broken camp with us in the first place, I will not argue. The plan was for Castro to get some reps above A-ball, and oh yeah, conveniently, push back his MLB debut, so he wouldn't become a "Super Two" after the 2012 season. Personally, I thought that to be wise. If you disagree and think it cynical, you are entitled.
Point is, the plan has been chucked. He's here, now, and while there are no explicit references to him as a "savior", there will be a few of us who will jump to this conclusion. "Watch us go now..."
If that's you, please. Go do yourself a favor, get a board, a hammer, and a nail. Got it? Good. Now close your eyes, and hammer the nail in the board....I'll wait....huh? Damn, you missed? And smacked your thumb? Ouch, I bet it hurts. And you're mad...at me? Good. Goddammit!
Now. For those of you now biting your nails, worrying that we brought the kid up too soon, and we're just gonna ruin him. Well, yeah, maybe. Them's the breaks. Hope that isn't the case. I hope he IS the savior. I hope he hits .300, covers twice the ground Theriot ever did, and lights a spark under our dead asses! I hope so. It could happen.
I could also become the new Nutrisystem spokesman, now that LT has been canned.
This is a somewhat strange move, given that the Cubs could have potentially saved a truckload of money by waiting just a few weeks to bring him up. And with Theriot playing so well (leading the league in hits), it's also an odd time to move him to second base.
It sounds like Chad Tracy will be moved to the minors to make room for Castro on the roster.
I'm not entirely sure what to make of this yet, but the positive view is that it's pretty exciting to finally have the Cubs' hottest prospect joining the big club. After a miserable set against the Pirates, it's clear the Cubs could use a boost. While it's unfair to expect phenomenal production from Kid Castro, perhaps he can inject some life into the team.
Brandon also writes at Wait 'til this year! Check him out over there!