Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Sun-Times

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Long day, no content

I've had one of the busiest work days in recent memory, which consisted of me working through my lunch and not taking any breaks during the day - oh, and I stayed half an hour later than I was supposed to, too.  Consequently, no GROTA updates.  But cheer up, good news, I'm here now!

Since I'm mentally exhausted, it'll just be some quick links with brief commentary.  Later tonight I'll write the Mike Stanton Player Preview, since Rob apparently forgot.

First, to the shock of every overthinker who owns Cubs swag, Carlos Marmol insists that the WBC blown save won't have an effect on him.  I'm actually amazed that this possibility has gained any amount of traction, and I'd rather think that it's a case of the media creating a story rather than reporting on one.  Should Yankees fans have worried about Mariano Rivera after he blew the World Series in 2001?  I think not.

Carlos Zambrano showed his marbles in a recent game against Team Japan.  He faced Kosuke Fukudome twice, and having told him what pitches he'd be throwing was still able to get him out both times.  Unfortunately the Cubs lost the game 3-2, so they will not be advancing to the next round of the WBC. 

Speaking of Fukudome, the Sun-Times has an article about how, scarred from the failure to perform last year, Kosuke left America for a Japanese monastery this past winter.  He apparently spent the cold months meditating over his losses while perfecting the physical discipline necessary to kill his father's murderer and to become ... the Kung Fu baseball master.  Or something like that.  I didn't actually read the article.  The Sun-Times sucks.

Ownership troubles look to prevent the Cubs from acquiring Peavy any time soon.  Not only are the Cubs likely to have a new owner in the Ricketts clan within the next month or so, but the Padres are also in the process of selling the team.  Only it turns out that the next theoretical owner might be short on factual cash.  But chin up, Cub fans.  On top of already rooting for the best team in the NL, a lot of things can happen between now and August 1st.  Even if the Padres ownership issues aren't resolved, there'll be plenty of teams fallen from competition whose top stars might look good in a Cubs uniform.

In an entirely un-Prior like experience, Prior-like Cubs ace Rich Harden threw in a game for the first time this Spring.  There was no towel in sight and his fastball topped out at 92 MPH. 

Goat Friend Bruce Miles breaks my heart by writing a fear-mongering article about the Cardinals.  Miles also reports that if Guatemala and Belize go communist, then Mexico will be the next domino to fall and we must sacrifice all of our freedoms because if we don't then Bin Laden's terrorist network will get us.  How could you, Bruce?

Up later tonight: Mike Stanton's someday-soon pointless Player Preview!

Update: Screw it.  We'll do a Player Preview Double Shot tomorrow.  I'm going to bed.

The Beat Report: Cubs lose, Rich Harden, and Cuts

Sorry about the lack of posts recently, but it was a crazy week at work. Well, lets get to the links.

A few of the newspapers talk about handling Rich Harden with care. The Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmeyer rehashes all the stuff we heard about Harden sine he came over. By now we know that he has a shoulder problems, and had to be handled with care.

This has to be the 100th story about Harden’s problems. We all know that Harden is at best 50/50 to make 20 or more starts, but I’m sick of hearing about it. I think the Cubs have done the best they can by bringing in a guy like Aaron Heilman to go along with Sean Marshall.

Wittenmeyer also points out in the notebook that the Cubs made their first three cuts. Gone are Rocky Roquet, Ed Campusano and Andrew Cashner. Nothing really surprising here, and the Cubs need to get all the guys competing more time in game action.

Over at the Daily Herald, Bruce Miles does another Q and A on the Cub bullpen. Nothing shocking here, because of course Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol are the keys to the pen. Really? That like saying the key to the Yankee pen is who works with Mariano Rivera. For the most part, unless Marshall doesn’t win a rotation spot, Neal Cotts will be the only lefty in the pen. I’m not too concerned about the lefty/righty matchup unless Cotts totally blows right out of spring.

In game action, the Cubs lost 4-3 yesterday to the Dodgers. Ryan Dempster gave up 2 runs in 3 innings, while Randy Wolf and Jeff Weaver shut the Cubs out for 5 innings. The one concerning trend is Derrek Lee still doesn’t have an extra base hit. I’m too worried yet, since there are still 30 days until opening day. It is just a trend that needed to be pointed out.

The Tribune’s Paul Sullivan tells us that Dempster likes what he sees from Marshall, Heilman, and Jeff Samardzija. Most likely two of these guys will end up starting at some point this year when Harden goes down for a few weeks, unless the Cubs pull the trigger on Jake Peavy, which doesn’t seem likely.

Those are all the links for today.

An Open Letter to the Sun-Times Neil Hayes

Dear Mr. Hayes,

The Sun-Times has recently hired you as their dot-com columnist, and they describe you as an "award-winning" journalist.  I have read a couple of your articles so far, and it is true that, syntatically, you do know how to put a sentence together.  I see you have written books and obviously your latest Chicago sports beat is not your first rodeo.

Your logical clarity can serve, like today, to fail you.  Mr. Hayes, today's article very clearly shows that you know absolutely nothing about one of the biggest teams on your new beat, the only team on your beat that matters to me, and us, the Chicago National League Ball Club, aka "The Cubs". 

Perhaps your intent was to ingratiate yourself to the new Mr. Moneybags in Charge, one Mr. Tom Ricketts.   That is the only possible intention you may have had that has any chance of success.  I do not hold a Journalism degree, although I have had graduate-level coursework in effective written communications.  Maybe part of your problem today was trying to kill two birds with one stone.  One thesis you advanced today is that Mr. Ricketts and his family are committed to Cubs success, merely by their inent to spend 9-tenths of a billion dollars to buy them from the Tribune.

Frankly, I am not qualified to judge the validity of this particular thesis.  Certainly, 900 million dollars can symbolize a lot of commitment.  Of course, back in 1981, we (who were alive and cognizant then) thought that 21 million dollars symbolized a lot of commitment from the Tribune Corporation.  That august body then proceeded to use the Cubs as a profit center and cheap form of programming for the next 27 years.  Personally, this Ricketts buy tells me absolutely NOTHING about their will to win a World Series.  In a recessionary economy, the smart money gravitates towards the blue chips, and in the sports world, chips don't come bluer than Cubs Blue.  Ricketts may or may not truly want to win, I really don't know, so I'll shut the hell up about it for now.

Your second point, Mr. Hayes, was that the Cubs, as a competitive enterprise, would be better off buying a true "fifth-starter" than overspending for Jake Peavy, and this is the notion that tells me, a nearly forty-year fan of the team, that you know absolutely SQUAT about the Cubs.

As stated in your article, we HAVE fifth starters, by the names of Marshall, Samardjia, and Garrett Olson, recently of Baltimore.  Briefly, why in God's name would we want to bring in a Braden Looper-esque figure for a few million when any of the above three gentlemen would do the same job?  

You have missed the point, you did not obviously watch this team the past two years, and you must not understand what makes a baseball team WIN, in particular a team that not only has to overcome the same 29 obstacles that every other MLB team has to overcome, but also the crushing expectations of its fanbase, media, and karma itself in reversing over 100 years of failure!! 

The Cubs did not lose the 2007 and 2008 NLDS because they were untalented.  They were talented enough to win their division both years.  They did not lose because they ran into two "teams of destiny" - both teams proceeded to lose the NLCS.  They did not lose because of poor field management, or bad luck, or even outside intervention (yeah, you, Bartman!) 

Basically, not to put a fine point on it, they choked.  The Cubs stopped doing nearly everything good that they did to get to this point.  Fielders kicked balls around, clutch hitters flailed at pitches, hurlers lost command of the plate.  They did not execute, and during the proceedings, when someone needed to step up and rise above the fray, nobody could, and after all was said and done, when someone needed to step up, take blame, and vow things would change, nobody did.  In other words, nobody LED!

The leaders of the 2007-8 Cubs were: Kerry Lee Wood, a former phenom turned closer with more surgeries than Kathy Griffin; and Derrek Leon Lee, a ultra-quiet guy who plays the least active position on the diamond, and whose best days have long since passed.  The Cubs managed to win 182 games in two years without a staff Ace - a human lightning rod through which all pressures flow, and from who expectations of execution trickle down to the lesser beings on the staff.

We do pay Carlos Zambrano to be that Man, yes.  But he cannot, as long as his emotions get the better of him.  We pay Ryan Dempster to be the ultimate Second Banana - he's funny, caring, and talented.  Ted Lilly has the talent and the cold-blooded demeanor to be a stopper, and many times the past two years, he has.  But just as you would never want to follow Lilly over a hill under heavy enemy gunfire, nor would you want to take a swing at your manager, let's just say that if Lilly was in charge of a platoon in Afghanistan, he might be voted "most like to be court-martialed".  Rich Harden, the fourth Musketeer, is like the perfect spring day - beautiful, but not to be counted on.

Jake Peavy is not being touted to be just another arm, not just another gear in the transmission.  He is being pursued not for his innings-eating or any other fifth-starter type task.  He is going to be asked to win nearly 20 games, stop losing streaks, get Zambrano to think with his BIG head rather than the other one, keep Lilly from eating children, pull Dempster away from the Xbox and maybe push Harden into becoming the 20-game winner everyone seems to think he can be.

Can Peavy do all that?  I don't know, but he has a better chance than anyone else available out there, and unless we get ALL these guys to take that next step, the Cubs aren't going to win any World Series.  That's the only goal that matters these days, and your article today does not appear to lead towards that end.  Any Jake Peavy trade will be costly and a tremendous risk.  We all understand that, and we do not expect that he will come here for merely our spare parts.  But there is a very tight window of winning, and only over-compensation will allow the Cubs to break the 101-year-inertia of Cubdom. 

Anybody who does not realize this doesn't realize the true notion of this team, and I am afraid that you do not.  I encourage you to read our blog, and some of the others we link to, if you want to take a true gauge as to the State of the Cub Fan.  Good enough isn't good enough anymore here, big guy.  I hope you accept my opinion, and approach the Cubs with a higher level of expectation when you write about them for now on.

Sincerely

Rob Letterly, Mendota, IL

www.goatriders.org 

Twitter serves Cubs fans nothing but goodness...

...in this morning's Cubs hit.  There must have been some understandings made with the prospective buyers.  Payroll CAN increase some, approval from the buyers won't be such a huge deal, and they can therefore get the lefthanded bat AND my Manlust object for 2008-9, Proven Staff Ace Jake Peavy.

Of course, the article concludes by saying that prices on the big shooter seats will go up by 33%, but wtf, if yer dumb enough to pay $300 for a front row seat, what's another benji?

Gordon, if you're lying to us, here, I don't live that far away, and I can find you and punish you in ways that'll make you wish your mama had one spare coathanger.

Stay Classy, White Sox

Memo to Sun-Times headline writers – when your headline is:

Hotter fans? The results are in!

You leave me, the reader, expecting… well, results, not to put too fine a point on it. So when you say:

The response to our Hottest Fans contest has been so overwhelming --nearly 7 million online page views and nearly 40,000 votes (Cubs fans leading with 61 percent) that we've decided to extend the voting through the end of the season.

Do you know what you’ve just done? That’s right, you’ve lied to me. Me and thousands of others like me. Also, by the way…

…this guy is not “hot.” This guy looks like he’s auditioning for the direct-to-video Sean Of The Dead sequel. And I really want to tell you, Goat Reader, that I had to go digging for this sort of entry. But unlike Sun-Times headline writers, I will not lie to you; that’s pretty representative of the quality of this whole enterprise.

Well, as you by now are aware, the White Sox are in town, if by town you mean Chicago. Which, I guess they’re in town as often as the Cubs are, but normally I’m not required to care. And, to be frank, I’m still not sure I care. Okay, sure, the White Sox are six games on the schedule that I’d rather win than lose, but that’s true of pretty much every game on the schedule. And even if they sometimes sound like they’re run by the winners of the Idiot Triathlon, they seem to have a competitive club on the field.

But not living in Chicago, I don’t feel about this series the way a lot of others do; I get a lot more excited about Cubs-Cards and Cubs-Brewers. So the hype far surpasses the reality for me.

But I just have to say, the crosstown series (Bruce Miles implores you not to refer to it as a “Classic") does provide one more reminder that the Sox may well be one of the least classy organizations in baseball. To wit:

''We'll all be bringing our nose plugs, try not to smell all the urine over there,'' [pitcher John] Danks said Thursday. ''Nah, we're looking to have fun over there, but that place is a [bleep] hole.''

And that’s just one example. I’ll concede that the facilities at Wrigley are antiquated and in need of repairs, but as a grown man, talking to the press about your job, do you really need to talk like that? I'm far from a Puritan when it comes to how I talk, but seriously, how can you figure that's the right way to represent yourself in a very public forum? (I guess it doesn't hurt to have Ozzie Guillen as your boss.)

Speaking of Guillen, Mariotti has this to say about Ozzie's in-game strategy:

Normally, it's his mouth that gets him into trouble, but on this day, it was his thought process. With the Cubs looking half-asleep after arriving in the wee hours from Tampa Bay, where they were swept by the emerging Rays, Guillen should have let Danks bat to lead off the seventh. Instead, he pinch-hit for the pitcher and got nothing out of the inning anyway.

...

Well, the Blizzard yanked Danks anyway and inserted the sporadically reliable Octavio Dotel. You could hear the licking of chops and high-fives from the third-base dugout. Before anyone could utter ``dumb move,'' Derrek Lee and Ramirez had crushed back-to-back homers off Dotel, tying the score and turning all heads toward Ozzie in this meticulously analyzed, scrutinized series. Why go to your bullpen so soon when Danks was performing so well? Why not let Danks find a smidgen of trouble before making a move? Hadn't he retired the Cubs in order in the third, fourth and fifth innings and on one single in the sixth?

...

This was a case of Guillen, the attention hog, imposing his strategic ego on a game when it wasn't necessary. It would cost him tremendously in the bottom of the ninth, when Scott Linebrink, in relief of Matt Thornton, allowed a game-winning blast by Ramirez that dropped into the thatch of ivy in front of the Batter's Eye Restaurant in center field.

Mariotti is as big a yapper (to use Tango's phrase for it) as you can find in the sporting press, and he seems to know surprisingly little about just about any topic he chooses to comment on. Pitchers get worse the more pitches they throw, to the point where Dotel could well be expected to be more effective than Danks going into the seventh. And Danks, like most other pitchers, especially AL pitchers, is a horrible hitter.

The funny thing about baseball is that it's a game of failures; even the best hitters make outs more often than not, and even the best pitchers give up runs. The only thing you can do as a manager is try to put the odds in your favor - and he did that, by giving his team the best chance he could on offense and defense. Sometimes things don't work out; you have to judge a move in isolation of the short-term results.

When Mariotti asks, "Why not let Danks find a smidgen of trouble before making a move?", what he's really asking is, "Why not wait until it's too late?" The hardest thing to do is to cash in while you're ahead, to sell high. And tell me - if Ozzie leaves Danks in and he ends up giving up those runs instead of Dotel, do you think that there's no chance that Mariotti writes this instead?

Isn't it refreshing to have a manager in this town that can do more than run his mouth? The Blizzard of Oz is obviously outmatched strategically by Sweet Lou.

In the seventh inning, with a chance to spark his team's aenemic offense and put the Cubs away for good, he let the pitcher, Danks, bat for himself. Maybe he forgot what league he was in. The Sox failed to score that inning, and the rest is history.

Mariotti is truly a man without allegiance to anything, up to and including the truth. I really fail to understand how he has his job.

Expect Zambrano to go on the DL soon, in exchange for "outfielder" Eric Patterson - surprisingly enough Edmonds and Johnson are both banged up, and the Cubs are running short on outfielders - they're so desperate that they're even letting Matt Murton play! The good news is that no serious damage was found in Zambrano's shoulder.

Cart before horse, but Ronnie delivers regardless

The Sun-Times ran the 'World Series Speculation' piece instead of the usual crosstown buildup drivel. Aside from a feint sense of doom, (I'm seriously trying to put that aside. It's all about confidence. We'll never win the Series if we're afraid of our own shadows), I actually enjoyed the trip down imagination lane.

But better than imagination lane is Ron Santo's quote.

I've been here since I was 20 years old," former Cubs third baseman and current broadcaster Ron Santo said. "There's no doubt in my mind that there are Cubs fans, White Sox fans and hardly any in-between fans. I'm afraid somebody would get shot."

I don't know why, but I can't help but laugh when reading that.

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