Friday, February 17

Sweet Jesus, it's here!

Sports Extra!

Holy shit, I cannot believe it! Baseball has returned to us from the wilderness, gracing us all with its presence and once again affording us the chance to suckle from its statistical, hot dog-oozing teat. Delicious.

Dusty is undoubtedly happy - after all, it's not every day that you get another chance to fuck up a reasonably-talented team with good morale and high hopes. No sir, those chances are few and far between. But I digress.

These "just" in:--

- Sammy Sosa turned down the $500,000 1-year offer from the Washington Nationals.
Incredible. He rejected their non-roster, minor-league invitation, and they inexplicably offer him a better deal (albeit still pretty sour for a man not far from 600 career home runs) which he then rejects in disgust! Amazing! He has pride, and yet now he'll retire to wait for his Hall of Fame chance. It's sad how his career tailed off dramatically in the last 2 or 3 years; unable to hit for average or for any significant power (coincidentally around the time that steroid policies were changing and the muscular mashers of MLB were coming under more intense scrutiny), the corked bat incident coming in the midst of his batting woes, Sosa's been through the ringer lately. However, it seemes funny for him to bite the bullet now when only 12 HRs from the 600 HR plateau, but maybe it's best to leave now, instead of risking further trouble and embarrassment (i.e. the movie Mr. 3000). He does still remain the only man to have his 60 HRs in three consecutive seasons. That alone will get the vots.

- Kerry Wood might not be ready for Opening Day after all.
This is not surprising in the slightest. There are reports floating about saying he might need another 2 weeks or so until he's ready, thus cutting into the season, but it makes me wonder: while he was pitching in relief for a hopeless cause last August, would he be ready for Opening Day if they'd just let him end the season before the bullpen work to have extra rehab time in the spring?

So the guys have begun reporting. Jacque Jones showed up to practice early, presumably to get that "suck-up" tag:

"In Minnesota, we had everybody in camp early," said Jones, who signed with the Cubs as a free agent after spending his entire career with the Twins. "I don't know how things are over here, but I'm sure guys are excited, and I'm sure they'll come in here and try to do everything they can to turn it around."

Hey, if there's one way to endear yourself to your new teammates, it's to show them up and then talk loudly about how things were done at your old club. It's a sure-fire way to get people to love you. Seriously. But deep down, we all know he needs the practice after two extremely disappointing years.

Greg Maddux was also back on the mound in full force, working hard to get his career ERA back under 3.00, and providing the media with several juicy and obvious quotes:

"If you want to lower your ERA, you pitch better," Maddux said. "It's that simple. Don't make as many mistakes as I made last year. Hopefully, my stuff will be as good, if not a little better, than last year. If you pitch better, your ERA should be better."

That should do it.

Jerome Williams, the portly, Hawaiian BBQ franchise-ownin' 5th starter, has also been working hard this offseason, losing 15-20 pounds on a "steady diet of chicken". I would like to see him succeed in the rotation, but at this point, I don't see where he's going to fit in. Ideally, we would love to see a 5-man posse of Prior, Wood, Zambrano, Maddux and Rusch (we need to justify the contract extension by letting him get some serious innings, and after all, he was a pleasant surprise last season), but with the inevitable injuries and tweaks that will come, I'm sure Williams will get somewhere between 12-16 starts over the course of the year.

So yes, baseball has well and truly begun, as the guys slowly get back into action. More later.


At 3:32 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

Rusch wasn't that big a surprise last year, since he did basically the same thing in 2004, if I recall correctly.
Come June I think I'd rather have both Williams and Rusch in the bullpen, because that would mean we've got Wood and Miller both healthy.

Oh, but this is certainly a big month for speculation, as we won't even get to see spring training games until March 5. Personally, I'm kind of sick of speculating (if you can believe that). I really just want the season to start.

At 10:49 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Sosa hit 60+ homers three times over the course of four seasons, not in three straight. Still, no one else has ever done that, with or without the benefit of drugs, corked bats, or enlivened balls. And he was about half the size of big Mac. Remember that hug in St Louis? Big Mack picked Slammin Sammy up like a Teddy Bear. And everybody in the world, except the Cubs' pitcher, felt good for about five minutes. Baseball matched the first moon walk.

At 8:22 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

Thank you "Baseball Prospectus" for those riveting roomers. Prior had this to say in response to rumors that he was experiencing shoulder problems and looked "sick and weak":
"I don't tan well."
Now that's how you answer an injury rumor.

It'd be nice if Sammy was remembered for those years from 98-2003 (even if that includes the corked bat incident) because he helped the team to two playoff appearances and did his best playing in those times. Unfortunately, to most fans I think he will go down as a steroid guy who tried corked bats and eventually threw a fit and walked out when he was no longer the star. However, I for one will remember him as Slammin Sammy, rather than Strikeout Sosa or "say it ain't Sosa," which was an extremely poorly written headline.

At 5:30 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

Okay, being that February is a dull month (because the NBA sucks), I did a little math. Obviously, I can't wait for baseball to get here. But I'm also fed up with people sending Carry Muskat letters and posting messages on other blogs about how bad this Cubs offense looks to be. Here are some numbers, make of them what you will:

Career numbers
JP- .355/.375 226/211 OPS .730 BB/SO 1.071
TW- .348/.441 364/529 OPS .789 BB/SO .688
DL- .363/.501 525/995 OPS .864 BB/SO .528
AR- .329/.481 229/533 OPS .810 BB/SO .430
MB- .320/.420 217/361 OPS .740 BB/SO .601
JJ- .327/.455 231/737 OPS .782 BB/SO .313
MM- .386/.521 16/22 OPS .907 BB/SO .727
RC- .356/.375 5/11 OPS .731 BB/SO .455

Last Year's numbers
JP- .326/.354 41/45 OPS .680 BB/SO .911
TW- .355/.474 31/40 OPS .829 BB/SO .775
DL- .418/.662 85/109 OPS 1.080 BB/SO .780
AR- .358/.568 35/60 OPS .926 BB/SO .583
MB- .345/.479 40/61 OPS .824 BB/SO .656
JJ- .319/.438 51/120 OPS .757 BB/SO .425
MM- .386/.521 16/22 OPS .907 BB/SO .727
RC- .356/.375 5/11 OPS .731 BB/SO .455

Team Stats from 2005
OBP - .324
SLG- .440
OPS- .764
BB/SO- 419/920= .455

Admitedly, the numbers for Murton and Cedeno don't really signify much. Also, some of these guys are likeley to be more along career numbers or along last years numbers, so I provided both. In addition, a lot of at bats look to go to bench guys, but I don't think anyone is going to argue that our bench is not improved from last year. The lineup is just what I would have to start the season, without spring training performance taken into account.

It looks to me like we're improved, with almost everyone looking to improve on last year's important numbers. The obvious weak spots are Jacque Jones and maybe Cedeno, although I think that his low slugging would easilly be acceptable if that OBP stays around .350. JP's numbers also look a lot better when you consider stolen bases and runs scored. We don't have anyone in the lineup who for their career has an OPS under .700, and I think that's pretty good. I'd be interested to know what other team's numbers look like, but I simply don't care enough to go do the math. Right now I'm mostly just trying to generate some optimistic feelings in myself. I really do think we have a good team, and I think our pitching ought to be good enough to let us contend for the division title.

At 5:40 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

Also, note that Murton's numbers fall in line with what his AAA and AA numbers did (with some expected drop-off in the major leagues), but Cedeno slugged over .500 in AAA, not .375. Still, they are big question marks.


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