Thursday, November 3

2006 -- Start Shitting your Pants Early

If Corey reacted to breaking balls the same way he reacted to hecklers and naysayers, maybe his OBP would be higher

The 2006 schedule has been tentatively announced, and like the Cubs' offseason so far, it shows that we're not here to fuck around. Despite all the talk I've seen from Harold Reynolds so far (his 3 NL teams to watch in 2006: the Pirates, the Brewers, and the Astros) about virtually everyone else in the NL Central, our schedule has put in place what we need: a good kick to the solar plexus in April.

2 series against the Cardinals, a home set against the Marlins and a trip to a probably-retooled Dodgers. Along with the usual showdowns with Milwaukee and Cincinnati, April is no bullshit any more.

There's 2 series with the Pale Hose in the mix before the All-Star Break, and the only other nasty stretch comes in the fortnight following the ASG: home and away to the Mets, the Astros at home, away to the Nationals and home to the Cardinals again. Pass me the Tums, that might be our death rattle if we're especially unlucky.

In fairness, Harold Reynolds is not the only one I've heard ramble about the rest of the NL Central. Lots of pontificators reckon that the young gun styles of the Brewers and Pirates might help them launch an attack on St. Louis, so here's hoping that if that's true, we're not left behind in the mix.

Why would people think that Milwaukee and Pittsburgh are more threatening now? Could it be that as soon as their postseason aspirations were cut short, they let themselves lose a few more games by playing a lot of prospects everyday? The Pirates let SPs Paul Maholm (3-1, 2.18 ERA) and Zach Duke (8-2, 1.81 ERA) loose on the league, while C Ryan Doumit (.255, 6 HR, 35 RBI in 75 games), 1B Brad Eldred (12 HR, 27 RBI in 55 games), and OF Nate McLouth (.257 in 41 games) got some much-needed experience before 2006 rolls around. Granted, these are not incendiary numbers, but at least they're all ready to form a nucleus in '06.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee is looking more ominous. Their pitching still suuucks (although Jorge De La Rosa and Jose Capellan are shaping into reasonable relievers), but 1B Prince Fielder and 2B Rickie Weeks, both of whom are YOUNGER THAN ME, are going to be nasty next season. They got their licks in 2005, but both performed well, and their success gives the Brewers a lot more freedom in this offeason. Now, guys like Lyle Overbay, a vet with some value, can be used as leverage to upgrade positions in-depth, and there's no cause for concern.

I wish the Cubs had been a little more like this towards the end of 2005. Dusty's comments about "putting a team on the field that gives us the best chance to win" was, in the context it was said, absolute bullshit. He misunderestimates the Wrigley fanbase, and that alone should have been enough to maybe show him the door. Fans would be turning up to see the stars of tomorrow whether we lose or not, and they certainly would be happier in doing that than showing up to watch us lose while putting shite like Macias and Grieve and Corey in the regular lineup. How that gives us the best chance to win is beyond me. It's short-sighted, and we lost a good month of letting prospects show us (and other MLB teams) just what they were capable of, all the while prepping them for a full season of battle in 2006.

After all, let's say that the approach we took, the narrow-minded decision to field below-average "vets" gave us 8, even 10 extra wins over the course of August and September. What, if anything, did those wins get us? Respect? Surely not. The postseason? Couldn't be more wrong.

So Murton and Cedeno are "ready". That is definitely a good thing, but if we'd had more balls in that last 6 weeks once A-Ram was hurt (and we chose not to rush him back because of our record, so if we're able to do that, why not go that extra yard and call up more guys?), we could be in a much better position now. The gaps we are making a priority to fill could be a lot more stable. We could be making trades/offers in the months to come that offer us depth, not an immediate, big-salary fix-it to hide a deeper problem.

Fingers fucking crossed, lads, fingers fucking crossed. Our problems are only just beginning. We could be talking about a full, solid lineup instead of having question marks every other position. Lead-off? Center Field? Right Field? Relief?

I bet we have 3 or 4 guys who could fill all those positions pronto, if we'd had more balls.

The schedule for 2006 is tentative, and so is our starting lineup. Let's see which gets set first.

2006 Tentative Schedule

PS. I did hear from credible sources that Nomar will not be returning in 2006. That is a good thing. Discuss.

PPS. What are we to do with our lineup?


At 6:04 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...


"misunderestimates"? The Pres. is not exactly the man from you should take vocabulary lessons.

Murton got playing time. Cedeno should have gotten more, but he broke his hand, so what are you going to do? Greenberg would have got playing time if it weren't for opposing pitching.

How is Nomar possibly leaving Chicago a good thing, when Rafael Furcal may be coming in his place? Safe drivers of Chicago beware. How are we preparing for the future by telling Cedeno that we'd rather sign a young short stop who will probably demaned a long contract than keep Nomar for another year, or just let Cedeno play? Furthermore, won't the neighborhood around Wrigley file a formal complaint against the team if the Cubs designed to menace the streets with Furcal?

I don't see how anyone could say that the Pirates or the Brewers are any more poised to attack the division than the Cubs. Where is the pitching? Where is the offense? Also, the Astros have never impressed me, even in the playoffs this year. The Cubs are in good shape as any team going into next year, provided we can find an outfielder.

At 6:45 PM, Blogger Jim said...

The Astros don't have the offense, and their starting pitching continues to age. The Cards have overplayed themesleves the past two years. They're due to tumble.

The Brewers showed promise this year, but Pittsburgh? I don't think so.

The thing about baseball, though, is come April everybody starts off with the same record.

At 8:45 PM, Blogger JT said...

Lazlo --

First off, haha, man I thought that didn't look right. Goddamn, what is wrong with me?

Second -- Nomar leaving Chicago is good because it forces our hand a little. I would love to keep his bat, to a point, but if we can get something more essential in exchange, then I'm all for striking while some kind of iron is hot. Also, you have forgotten that Ronny Cee can play second bag too, and it might not hurt to have two guys with that SS-type range shoring up the defense up the middle. Let's face it, we're not the only team with 2 shortstops playing SS & 2B up the middle (Mets, I could swear Belliard played short at some point, and there are others I'm forgetting). That also means Toddy, the best Red Sox in the 2003 postseason, could be used as leverage for some kind of clandestine maneuvering.

I'm not saying we change the entire team, but if Furcal is our priority, then he and Ronny can keep the MI nice and safe, and plus we have options and flexibility if we choose to wangle some kind of trade instead of paying more loony money in the FA market. Right now, we should be open to any possibility regarding any player outside our solid core of veteran batters (I consider A-Ram, D-Lee and Barrett to be the only safe ones) in order to make us a better team. After all, what do I have to write about until February or March?

Another name I've heard bandied about regarding the Cubs is Juan Pierre. I don't know what I'm mentioning that.

Also, let me throw out some stats, the numerical shield behind which I hide:

Milwaukee Offense 2005:
Runs - 726 (23 more than the Cubs)
RBI - 689 (more than the Cubs)
OBP - .331 (Cubs: .324)

Milwaukee Pitching 2005:
ERA - 3.97 (Cubs: 4.19)
WHIP - 1.36 (Cubs: 1.34)

Yeah, so the gaps ain't huge, but then again, it's still better. Over the course of a season, it translates to more wins, right? Therefore, they are poised to be more of a threat. They also won the season series against us by 9-7, outscoring us 72-65. Again, it's not much, but it's enough to consider them in the NL Central.

As for the Pirates, believe me, it's more speculation than anything else, but with all those young guys that have almost a full season of understudy/relief under their belts, they're equally poised. Plus, their pitching is pretty nasty. Zach Duke gives me nightmares.

Jim -

I agree, the Cards are due a down year. They were caught horribly short when their older guys all started playing like older guys and getting hurt (Rolen, Edmonds, Walker, Sanders), and their replacements -- J. Rodriguez, Mabry, Nunez, Seabol, Schumaker, Taguchi, Luna -- weren't much to scoff at. Perhaps they'll get their comeuppance for not having many quality prospect coming through. We can all dream.

At 12:24 AM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

I've gotta hope you guys are right, that the Cards are due for a down year. The other thing to look at is their list of guys who will have to be bargained with to come back next year. There is a startling number of 2005 Cards who could be with other teams, including Mark Grudzielanek, Reggie Sanders, Larry Walker, and John Mabry. Edmonds should have been benched for a week after he demolished Sanders in the outfield. The man is a jerk, to put it mildly.

Yeah, Pittsburgh has got some pitching, and sporadic offense, but that will all be gone come the trade deadline. Pittsburgh is the Major League AAAA team. They just raise those young guys for other teams that always think they can use their money to make their teams more competitive (Cubs, Mets). Lets face it, Pittsburgh is not a huge baseball market.

I still don't like the idea of Furcal coming to Chicago. After all, isn't Nomar just as good trade bate as Furcal or Walker? I like to think so. He may not be as young, but a team that will be trading mid-season to make themselves more competitive is looking for a rest of the year deal, not a rest of the decade contract. Also, Nomar and Walker's personalities are more conducive to Cinderella Story Championship teams than Furcal's Diva-ish character.

I really feel the Cubs are poised to battle with the Cards for the NL central, and I think Nomar can help us get there, and if not Nomar, then Cedeno should be the man to play short. Look no further, it is between these two men. I still think it's a bigger concern for us to go out and get an outfielder than it is to get another infielder. I really think Giles and Lofton both deserve a look, especially since the highly-touted Pie probably has only a year left to play in the minors.

ps. Why commit to a long term deal on Furcal and make Cedeno go to second when we've got Eric Patterson tearing up the minors? I know his brother has had his troubles, and like Jim has said before, there may be a father/coach at the root of those troubles, but there is no reason at this point to believe E. Patterson is not on his way. What do you guys think?

At 1:46 AM, Blogger Jim said...

We're Cub fans. We dream. That's what we do.

Arthur is waiting. The Lady of the Lake has his sword. The time has come.

"It is a dream I had." [Merlin, Excaliber]

At 1:54 AM, Blogger Jim said...

Lazlo, please keep in mind that traditionally the Cubs are a Republican team. The White Sox are the Democratic team. (Ugh!) [That's me, cringing in horror.]

After his retirement, Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, ran for city council in Chicago as a Republican. He lost. Yes, the same Mayor Daley who unleashed the Chicago police on the protesters in 1968 was in power at the time, a Democrat.

At 2:01 AM, Blogger Jim said...

2006: Zambrano, Prior, Wood all have 18+ victories. Rush and Maddux, 10+, and Williams as well, working partly out of the pen.

Dempster has 40+ saves and would have more, but the margin of victory is too high in too many games.

World Series is the highest rated in history. You know why!

At 8:34 AM, Blogger JT said...

Lazlo --

calling Furcal a diva and not Nomar is hilarious, first off. Nomar loves to have things his way. He hissy-fitted out of Boston eventually because he wasn't the star anymore.

E. Patterson is not ready. Lofton is a smart move, as I betcha Pie will be in the majors by September. We need that stopgap, and Lofton has always recognized his worth compared to his relative stature. He knows how to play the stopgap role, especially at this point in his career.

We commit to Furcal to shore up that position. Cedeno can play second, and we never let every prospect come up to the big leagues anyways. I think it's smart from a defensive standpoint, and maybe we should start playing a little of that small ball stuff that worked so well on the Southside instead of living by the big home run.

C Barrett
1B Lee
2B Cedeno
SS Furcal
3B Ramirez
LF Murton
CF Lofton/Murray
RF ?

Also, Vinny Castilla was traded from Washington to San Diego. This move means nothing to us, except it shows that attitude we need to have: trading the old hand to pave the way for the rookie to play everyday.

Jim --

I hope all of that is true. I can dream and be optimistic, but Kerry Wood will not win 18 games. Also, with all of those pitching stats, what will our record be? Who will be our power guys on offense? Give us prediction, part II as soon as possible.

Did not know that about Ernie either. Scary, really.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Jim said...

At the beginning of the season Walker shares second base with Cedeno, but Walk just hits too well, including left handers, and for the second season in a row, bats over three hundred, and replaces Lee as NL batting champion:

Walker wins batting title, hitting .348 for the season.

In the play-offs, common-pundits keep bringing up Walk's fielding as a weak spot in the Cubs' defense, but Walk makes game saving play in the World Serious, causing TV people to wonder if having experts jabbering at fans from the booth is really the right thing to do.

Lee slumps for the season and only hits .300, but his home runs keep comming along with RBIs:

Lee hits 40 homers and drives in 102 runs.

Aramis comes back and makes a fool out of Jim by winning the Gold Glove at third, drives in 125 runs, hits 42 long balls. Falls just short of three hundred at the plate by hitting .298, causing Lazlo to be disappointed — and the rest of us to wonder "just what kind of name is that anyway?"

Uh, Barrett hits .300 behind the plate, causing Dusty consternation, because he'd really like to give the catcher more days off but he's hitting so darn well. Twenty homers for the catcher this year too.

Nomar re-signs with Cubs because no one wants to pay him a fortune over three years at his age and with the injuries he's had the past two seasons. Nomar hits .342, leading the league most of the season until Walker passes him in late August.

This last one worries me. The old crystal ball was cloudy while I was trying to read it. Maybe it's my glasses. They could need to be cleaned.

At 10:04 AM, Blogger Jim said...

Here's another prediction:

Brewers make playoffs as Wild Card, giving pundits lots to talk about since they have the chance to become the first team in history to make the World Series from both leagues.

Atlanta sweeps Brewers in the playoffs, then fails to win the pennent for the umpteenth time, causing much discussion about what is wrong with this organization.

At 10:06 AM, Blogger Jim said...

One more for this morning. Cubs win pennent by defeating Atlanta in Atlanta. Wood makes behind back catch in third inning of final game there, causing everyone to giggle while proclaiming, "It's deja-vu all over again." The play is shown on ESPN all winter.

At 10:20 AM, Blogger Jim said...

Oh, yes, I forgot this one:

With the crowd at Wrigley chanting "Red, red, red!" Murton hits a line drive to right center, headed for the basket in the bottom of the ninth of the seventh inning of the World Series, with a drawn in outfield and only one out.

The ball just misses the basket and disappears into the ivy as the Yankees' outfielders stand and watch it. Patterson scores the winning run from third.

The World Ends!

At 1:58 PM, Blogger JT said...

Corey Patterson scoring the winning run in any game other than the late game in a day/night doubleheader in San Francisco will cause the world to end. Automatically. Finished. Kaput. Boom.

By my reckoning, yr predictions should figure the 2006 Cubs to be among the best single-season squads ever. Here's hoping.

At 1:59 PM, Blogger JT said...

Oops. That's my other login. But you still know it's me, the same JT, the same disaffected bastard, right?

At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...


I like your predictions. What will the Cubs be batting as a team for the season? .290? I mean, we can count on Z to bat about .300, Prior, Wood, and Maddux will all be between .200 and .260. Looks like a big year for the Cubs' bats.

On a slightly more serious note (emphasis on slightly, mind you), I received word from Carrie Muskat, mailbag-writer-lady, that Corey's swing is COMPLETELY revamped. No word specifically on how it is changed, just that it is a completely different swing. Me and Carrie are both against you, JT! Just kidding. But it would be nice if this turned out to be true. Here's to hoping. Z for Cy Young, Walker for Batting Champ, Aram for MVP, and three way tie Corey/Wood/Nomar for comeback player of the year in 2006. Gold gloves all around, on me.

At 4:06 PM, Blogger JT said...

Yeah, .290 would be nice considering I think the highest team BA in the majors in 2005 was .281. But hey, I would love to see that, of course.

As for Corey and Carrie, all that time in the desert must be drying out her brain, as I don't know what to think about Corey's swing. Come on, he made a bunch of changes in the minors, supposedly (his hitting coach down there in AAA sounds like the freakin' Horse Whisperer or something), and then he came back, fell into old ways and performed worse than he did before he was sent down.

I do like yr phrase though, "completely revamped." I remember the days when they completely revamped Coca Cola. People got mad, and they soon changed it back. Same with McDonald's fries, although I know CP don't like the fast food, no no.

At 4:39 PM, Blogger Jim said...

More guaranteed, absolutely the truth, no lying predictions:

In California, Gubernator Arnold calls his 214th, now daily, special election on July 4. Democrats complain that holding a special election on the holiday works against their chances of drawing significan voters to the polls as they will all be at baseball games.

At 4:53 PM, Blogger Jim said...


In January 2009, Bush grants Scooter Libby—currently serving a 30-year sentence at the governments country club, er, minimum security prison—a pardon.

Tribune company announces it has hired Libby as Cubs' GM. "He works very well behind the scenes," Tribune officials report. "There are occasional leaks to the press, but we are looking for someone who has rapport with the press in a GM. Plus, who can pass up a guy with a great sports moniker like "Scooter."

Rumors abound that Dick Cheney is spinning in his undisclosed location. Rumors further abound that Republican fund raisers are visiting Transylvania for purposes of bringing special dirt to line a wooden coffin kept in said undisclosed location.

An unaccountable number of wolves have been heard howling in and around D.C. during full moons.

Young women have been succumbing to a mysterious illness whose only signs are mysterious wounds on their knecks and a surprising and inexplicable loss of blood.

On the economic front, garlic is selling well in the nation's capitol.

At 5:09 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Oh, right! Baseball!

Wood and Prior pitch back to back no-hitters in late July. Zambrano is upset because he has gone deep three times, only to end up with one hitters on each occasion.

However, The Great Zambeastie sets a new all time record for home runs as a pitcher. The big debate is whether to count the two he hits while playing right field.

Dusty is convinced to let him play right after his .400 average and power numbers become so overwhelming that the manager has to cave to Z's daily complaints to the press that his boss just doesn't trust him.

Z signs a document promissing never to run back on fly balls while playing in right—the Cubs' officials are concerned what might happen to ticket sales if Z knocks that brick wall down and subsequently injures the bleacher bums out there.

However, in Z's only appearance in the sun field, and despite his hitting two long balls that day, the Cubs lose the game when Corey Patterson lets a fly ball roll to the wall when it's hit to right center.

Patterson inexplicable runs towards left field on the hit. Pundits speculate that Dusty has given him orders to run in the opposite direction on any balls hit between him and Zambrano.

Z might have caught the ball himself, but he became distracted by Patterson's erratic behavior, he explains after the game.

That night pundits explain there is no truth to the assertion that the Harlem Globetrotters are now performing their act while wearing Cubs' uniforms.


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