The Dust Settles & Rich Harden Remains A Cub

MLB Chicago Cubs vs Washington Nationals in Washington

Rich Harden will be making his scheduled start against Roy Oswalt and the Houston Astros after all.

Harden, who was placed on waivers and claimed by the Minnesota Twins, will remain a Cub for the rest of the season as the two teams were unable to strike a deal.  Somehow, the Cubs are only 5 1/2 games out of the NL Wild Card spot, which would require a miracle for the North Siders to capture.

Long story, short: There's nothing to see here until November, when the Cubs will have 15 days of exclusive negotiating rights to re-up with the very talented righty.

The Cubs' options are simple:
  • Re-sign Harden to a multi-year deal.
  • Offer him salary arbitration, collect two picks when he signs elsewhere
  • Decline arbitration, collect nothing when he signs elsewhere.
In a year muddled by Milton Bradley's lunacy injuries, Harden has stayed relatively healthy.  Despite a stint on the DL early in the season, Harden has really turned it on in the second half with a 3-1 record, 1.80 earned run average, a 0.82 WHIP and 60 strikeouts in 50 innings of work.

Kinda makes you forget about his 5-6 start to the season, in which he posted a 5.47 ERA and 1.541 WHIP.

Overall, Harden is 13-8 with a 3.18 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 232 strikeouts in 195 innings.

Based on those numbers, and the fact that it is a very shallow market when it comes to free-agent starting pitchers, the Cubs should pull out all the stops to re-sign Harden.  This is a franchise that threw $52 million at Ryan Dempster after one good year as a starter, why wouldn't they re-sign someone with a good track record despite a past that has (at times) been plagued by injury.

In a somewhat related story, Aaron Heilman wasn't traded either.  As if you really cared about Aaron Heilman.

Jay Cutler, Bears Prevail In Denver

Chicago Bears v Denver Broncos
Cutler: I caaaaan't heeeaaar yooouuu!!!!

If you asked any football fan who they would prefer as their starting quarterback if their choices were Jay Cutler and Kyle Orton, I'd predict that 90 percent of the poll's respondents would pick Jay Cutler.

No wonder Denver Broncos fans booed so lustily last night.

Oh well.

Denver, you're stuck with Kyle Orton, he of pedestrian career numbers which eerily resemble the dearly departed Rex Grossman.  Brandon Marshall is suspended and Knoshown Moreno is injured.  Orton claims he's got weapons he's never had in Chicago -- but it's looking now like he's a few bullets short of a full chamber.

Then there's Cutler, who bitched, babied and bullied his way out of Denver and into Chicago.  Signs are pointing upward for the Bears, and not just because their quarterback doesn't suck anymore.

Cutler saw his touchdowns and passing yards go up after his first year as a full-time starting quarterback.  And with a schedule that will include games against Detroit (twice), Cleveland, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Seattle and St. Louis, the sky might be the just the beginning (not the limit) for Cutler.

The Bears have two solid tight ends (no homo), a star-in-the-making at running back and an up-and-coming speed-burning wide receiver.  No, the Bears offense will never be confused with one of those mid-90s Dallas Cowboys squads or the Patriots from a few years back, but Chicago might actually have its offense outscore its defense once in a while.

In the end, if the Bears go on to win the Super Bowl, there is one question that desperately needs to be asked.

How much credit does Josh McDaniels deserve ... and what's his ring size?

Saluki Football Fever: Catch It If You Can

Saluki Football Fever (better known as Maroon Fever) is sweeping the nation.  OK, well, it's not sweeping the entire nation just yet.  But the defending MVFC champs have Saluki Nation buzzing.

SIU returns nine defensive starters, and in last night's scrimmage, looked to be dominant again.  As good as Jerry Kill's defenses were, the switch to the 3-4 package has added roster flexibility while getting the most out of the talented athletes current head coach Dale Lennon has at his disposal.

And while the offense gets no love, and people are fearing the loss of Larry Warner with every snap that goes by, I'd like to be the voice of reason that says "Hey, what about Deji Karim?"

Sure, he missed the entire 2008 season because of injury, but it shouldn't diminish the fact that he led the team in rushing touchdowns with eight scores in 2007.  The highly touted, very talented and often injured Richard White is hurt (again) as the season starts -- sidelined with a turf toe injury.  Last year, White was hurt in the Salukis' opening game against Hampton.

His injury opened the door for Larry Warner to scamper for more than 1,000 yards and become the most electrifying rusher I saw in my five years at SIU -- and that includes seeing Brandon Jacobs my freshman year.

Will this year's injury lead to the showcase of Deji Karim?

Alright enough of my observation, here are some quotes I gathered:

Deji Karim, senior, running back: (On being back on the playing field): "I can't even express the words. I'm really looking forward to getting out there and just playing the game again. This scrimmage felt like a game to me because I haven't been in a game in about a year-and-a-half."

(On facing the vaunted Saluki defense: "That is the best defense in the country, by far, to me. We go up against them everyday and it makes the offense better as a whole."

(On how the offense can match said defense): "Limit mistakes and everything will take care of itself."

Brandin Jordan, linebacker, senior: (On the ultimate goal, winning a national title): "Every time we start the season, we've got that in mind. This year is the best chance we've got at it in the years that I've been here."

(On how the defense looks compared to last year): "We're looking real good right now. Last year at this time everybody was running around like a chicken with their head cut off, basically. But this time around, it's all recall.

(On how he envisions his senior year): "We're going out with a bang."

(On trying to be the first Saluki road team to beat UNI in a very, very long time): "Hopefully we can change history and re-write history.

Dale Lennon, head coach:  "Last year we were very elementary with what we were doing, and now we have a lot of variations and combinations we can use to be effective."

"We're ahead of where we were last year. But what I told the team is, 'We don't have any wins yet. Last year they had nine wins. We've just got to take it one week at a time."

Overall, I had a good return to McAndrew Stadium.  It was nice to see a lot of the people I worked with at the Daily Egyptian, along with SIU administrators and such.  I'd try to name you all, but then I'd forget one and feel really bad about it.  But you know who you are ... and I appreciate your support.



Colby Rasmus Has Fans? What Is Wrong With Today's Youth?

Because apparently, nothing turns a girl on like a .251/.308/.418/.726 line.  Maybe it's the flat-bill cap.



And every time I feel embarrassed to be a Cubs fan, I should turn to this video and remind myself that things could be much, much worse.  If you watch this video with the volume on it means you are doing a terrible disservice to your ears.  Even Hellen Keller doesn't mind being deaf for this one.

(via Deadspin)

Is ESPN Killing The Sports Page?

ESPN is killing off the local sports page.  There, I said it.  Someone had to say it.

When ESPN launched its Chicago site in the spring, it was met with mixed emotions.  It starts with good intentions as the site features a bunch of Chicago content that I wouldn't usually be able to catch on SportsCenter.  On the other hand, the launch just up-and-stole the all-important readers and the one thing that is apparently more important than readers: Ad revenue.

So, while newspaper honchos spent all that energy fighting bloggers and trying to figure out how non-newspaper people are running the newspaper industry, ESPN comes through the back door, takes what it wants and makes you like it.

The World Wide Leader in sports will be launching ESPNBoston.com in September, along with hyperlocal sites in Dallas, Los Angeles and New York in the coming future.

Which, of course begs the following question.

Don't we have ESPNBostodallangelyork already in the form of good ol' ESPN?

It won't be long until ESPN is pillaging your village and taking your women swaggerjackin' your favorite writers from your local paper.

While The Cubs Continue Their Collapse, Matt Holliday Thinks He Just Might Stay Awhile

Houston Astros vs St. Louis Cardinals
Matt Holliday could become a permanent fixture behind Albert Pujols. No homo(?)

I'm not sure why anyone would want to stay in St. Louis for an extended amount of time.  The city itself is really nothing to write home about after you get outside of the Arch, the riverboat and the sport complexes.  Unless, of course, you're writing home in search of an escape route.

But here's Matt Holliday in St. Louis, turning into the MVP candidate Billy Beane thought he'd be in Oakland.

Since becoming Albert Pujols' muscle man (pause), Holliday has been nothing short of spectacular.  He's posted a .386/.448/.667/1.114 line across the board.  Those are classic Holliday-in-Colorado numbers.  So, I guess there's no surprise that No. 15 wants to return to bat behind No. 5.

Via St. Louis radio station The Team:

"That would be really exciting for me to get a chance to be here and play next to Albert (Pujols) along with the rest of these guys and to do some special things over the next however many years. Hopefully this will be a long-term relationship."

Remember when Jim Hendry said he didn't need to make a counter move.  He was wrong.  I knew it then.  And hopefully, he knows it now.

If Hendry doesn't re-tool this mess, I won't be alone in bypassing the 2010 Cubs.

And if all else fails, at least this true Chicagoan can take solace that his city has a professional basketball team and a downtown area it can be proud of.

H/T: MLBTR

A Hard-en Decision To Make? Not Really. Cubs Should Bring Back Rich Harden

Phillies-Cubs
Not bringing back Rich Harden could be a disaster for the 2010 Cubs.

Whoever is calling the shots for the Chicago Cubs this offseason has a lot of decisions to make as they attempt to right the ship of a disastrous season.

Some of those decisions will be easy.  The only thing that would make me happier than saying goodbye to Kevin Gregg, Aaron Heilman and Aaron Miles would have been not having to say "hello" to them in the first place.

But one of the most daunting questins for the 2010 Cubs will be whether or not to bring back starter Rich Harden.

The Cubs fleeced Oakland A's GM Billy Beane for a year-and-a-half of Harden's services in exchange for Sean Gallagher, Eric Patterson and Matt Murton.  Not a steal?  Take into consideration that Gallagher is now property of the San Diego Padres (via the Scott Hairston deal), Murton was recently DFA'd in Colorado and Patterson is looking more like his brother while playing in Oakland.

Since joining the Cubs, Harden owns a 13-8 record in 34 starts.  Not all too impressive, but that's where the peripherals come into play.  Since coming to the NL, Harden has posted a 3.18 earned run average, 1.149 WHIP, averages 10.7 Ks per nine innings and has racked up 232 strikeouts in 195 innings.

When healthy, Harden is a top-of-the-rotation starter who has some of the most electric stuff in all of baseball.  At the ripe-ol'-age of 27, Harden is just beginning to reach his peak.  And that is why he will be the most sought-after free agent starter on the market this offseason.

It's a class that is headlined by John Lackey, Jason Marquis and a back of back-end guys -- unless starters like Josh Beckett, Cliff Lee, Tim Hudson or Brandon Webb have club options waved and buyouts exercised.

Seriously, Jason Marquis heading any class that doesn't involve safety scissors is not a bright class at all.

Tribune scribe Paul Sullivan thinks Harden can get $60 million in the open market, while ESPN's Buster Olney doesn't believe (subscription required) the oft-injured starter will make more than $20 million this offseason.

Either way, seems like a hefty sum for a player some would consider a better version of Mark Prior.  But before you write off Harden's return, think about this.

Harden has been the Cubs' best starter in the second half.  He's got a 3-1 record in eight starts, but has whiffed 60 batters in 50 innings and limited opponents to a .151 batting average.  And despite his own health issues, he has made one more start than Ted Lilly and Carlos Zambrano this season.

If that doesn't tip the scales in Harden's favor, this should.

Take into consideration what the Cubs could bring back next year if they make the right decision.  Harden, Zambrano and Lilly at the top of the rotation is as good as any rotation in the National League.  

But if Harden doesn't return.

The Cubs will be relying heavily on Ryan Dempster to return to the form that helped fool Jim Hendry into inking him to an extension that will pay Demp $40 million over the next three seasons.  Next in line is Randy Wells (9-6, 2.84 ERA), who has shown that he can be a competitive starter when he's not facing the Washington Nationals, and is an excellent candidate for a sophomore slump as he approaches career highs in innings pitched.  If all else fails, the Cubs will round out the rotation with Tom Gorzelanny and/or Sean Marshall.

Not necessarily the kind of staff primed for a championship run.

If the Cubs decide to not bring back Harden, it will be eerily similar to a decision that past regimes have made.  And the last thing the Ricketts clan wants to do is awaken the echoes of failed Tribune lore.

Unless, of course, they're trying to make the team less appealing so they can move them to Florida.

Hey, has anyone seen Rachel Phelps recently?

Operation Shut Down: Seven Steps The Cubs Need To Take As The 2009 Season Winds Down

So, how long until Lou Piniella gets the memo that the Cubs are done?  THere is no sign like being blasted by the Washington Frickin' Nationals, that's for sure.

When the Cubs were out of it under Dusty Baker, the Cubs continued to trot out Prior, Wood and the rest of the regulars for the sake of a "fair" pennant race for everyone else.  For the record, I don't give two turds about anyone else's playoff races.  The Cubs' season is already spoiled, so I don't understand the point of endangering a key member for the 2010 team for the sake of competition.

So here is an idiot's guide of how to approach the next 39 games.

1. Shut down Big Z, Lilly, Harden & Wells.  Yeah, that's four-fifths of the starting rotation, but they did their jobs this year and there is no point wasting next year's bullets on this year's squad.  Wells is approaching a career-high in innings pitched and Lilly, Harden & Zambrano have each seen some time on the DL this year.  Those are your horses, give them some rest and restart them once February rolls around.

Trot out Dempster, Gorzelanny, Marshall and ...

2. Free Jeff Samardzija.  Let him start.  There's your fourth starter.  $10 million guaranteed and a no-trade clause, let's see what this guy is all about.  Let's see what he has.  If he's got something worth a damn, put him somewhere he can succeed or trade him to a place where he won't invoke that stupid clause.  If all else fails, ship 'em off to Halas Hall.  Jay Cutler might want a new play toy.

3. Rest Ramirez.  While we're on the topic of shutting people down, might as well do that to Aramis.  See if he needs surgery, if so, get it done.  If not, tell him to stay away from cock-fighting this summer before Roger Goodell spanks him.  Let Jake Fox play third every day from here on out.

4.  Send an edict to Alfonso Soriano.  I want at least two stolen bases from you every week from here on out until the season is over.  Also, I want you to play second base.  I want you to take infield practice like Roger Dorn at second base.  That will be your new position because the Cubs need to open up an outfield spot to get a more athletic player to play in those carnivorous cavernous west coast ball parks.

Let's be honest, signing Chone Figgins makes too much sense for the Cubs to do.

5.  Let's see if Carlos Marmol can close.  Lou: "Carlos, you pitch the ninth inning and the ninth inning only, got it?"  Carlos: "Yes sir, Mr. Piniella."  Lou: "Good you (expletive deleted), now get some outs."  That's it.  No need to waste Marmolade in an extra-inning affair -- it's not like you're going to win it anyway.

6. Set up the rest of 2009 bullpen.  One last shut down victim: Angel Guzman.  Shut him down before his arm flies off.  He had a good year, but has been injury prone in the past.  As for the rest of the pen, Piniella should let Justin Berg, Esmailin Caridad, Jeff Stevens and any other youngster who thinks they can pitch at this level do their damn thing and be done with it.  If the Cubs can avoid spending a ton of money on over-the-hill bullpen pitchers, it would be greatly appreciated.

7. Send Aaron Miles & Aaron Heilman away.  Send 'em far away.  Don't let them come back.  Ever.

Soon enough, I'll have an offseason guide that will be more detailed than the irresponsibly early guide.  This one will be chock-full of the similar sarcastic B.S. you get from me any how.  But with real, heart-touching advice.

Milton Bradley & Haterade

 "What are you putting in my Haterade?"

I'm getting sick and tired of defending Milton Bradley.  I do it partially because I feel he has yet to get a fair shake from Cubs fans and the media.  And for probably the first time in this blog's history, I'm linking the media and the fans as Bradley's united front.

Fans belly-ached about the loss of Mark DeRosa so much, the Chicago media hopped on it and made the deal its own crusade in which to fight against Bradley.  Yet, until recently, no blame has gone to the guy who recruited and signed the outfielder to a three-year deal.

It's not like Bradley put a gun to Hendry's head and forced him to sign.

Then there's this in today's Tribune online edition, via Paul Sullivan:

Milton Bradley said after Tuesday's loss he's "never" comfortable playing at Wrigley Field. 
"It's hard to be comfortable when you don't get a hit and get booed every time," he said. "When I go home and look in the mirror, I like what I see. My family is there I have people I can talk to who are very supportive, in spite of everything and all the adversity and the hatred you face on a daily basis. But I'll be alright. I always have."


Of course, Bradley's harshest critic, Steve Stone Dave Kaplan chimed in with his blog as well.

Milton, you don't face hatred. You face a fan base that is frustrated with your play this season and the fact that you were brought here to be a run producer and you have the grand total of  32 RBI's and are hitting just .259. Cubs fans want production and effort but when they see a guy who isn't producing he becomes a target of their frustrations.

Expecting Bradley, whose career high 77 RBIs last year, to be a run producer was a major mistake on Hendry's behalf.  And yes, he does face hatred Kap.  All day every day, he gets to hear from bleacher bums who whack it to posters on their ceilings of Mark DeRosa.  Their disenchantment with Bradley stems from Hendry's wild, unattainable expectations of a lefty-swinging run producer that history has shown is not a lefty-swinging run producer.

Kap should imagine going to work each day and having to hear from his friends and co-workers that he'll never be as good of a baseball writer/analyst as Buster Olney.  Or that he'll never have as good of a radio show as Jim Rome.  All day.  Every day.

That's what it has got to be like for Bradley.

Yes, Cubs fans, you have a right to voice your displeasure toward Crazy Uncle Milton for his .259 batting average, nine homers and 32 runs batted in.  But don't forget to channel some of that anger toward the guy who brought him here and mislabeled him in the first place.

Geez, from the looks of things, Jim Hendry has done nothing but mislabel his entire outfield.

Sounds like a fireable offense to me.  Go get 'em Tom Ricketts.

Follow The Sox? I'd Rather Follow The Blind

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Chicago White Sox
If following the Reinsdorfian Model of Success includes making out with Mark Buehrle and jizzing on his head, then you can count me out!

South Siders got it right? Well, not quite.

Chicago Sun-Times columnist is no P.J. Franklin, by any means. So I guess maybe I should take it easy on her in regards to her latest column fodder in which she suggests new Cubs owner Tom Ricketts follows the game plan of the South Side White Sox.

The column reads as if the White Sox were run like a well-oiled machine drowning in a sea of championship trophies.  A little bit of research shows that Carol Slezak obviously didn't do hers.

Let's take a look at the White Sox since 1986, which is a fair point to start from in my case because it marks the first year of my existence.  The South Siders have notched four playoff appearances since the result of my mother and father's mistake I was born.  The first coming in 1993 and the most recent coming in 2008.  From 1987 (my first full year of birth) to 1993, the Sox averaged a little more than 80 wins per year, thanks in part to 267 wins from 1990-92, which helped balance out a .448 winning percentage from 1987-89the.  And unless you're breeding mediocrity, this is not how you want a franchise to be won.

Slezak suggests following the Reinsdorfian model?  Really?  Why would Ricketts want to follow a management group that hired Ken "The Hawk" Harrelson as its general manager, who ended up firing Tony LaRussa?  Sounds almost as silly as handing LaRussa your keys after a night on the town.

Truth be told, the Cubs haven't been much better, making five playoff appearances since being born as they clinched four division titles and a Wild Card spot, too.  As Sleezebag Slezak points out, the Cubs have built an outfield full of losers with Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome and Milton Bradley.

Again, it's easy to ride on Soriano this year, but not a peep was heard from April through September the last two years.  Then, adding Bradley, who led the American league with a .999 OPS last season, should have made the outfield better based on stats alone.  But it's easier to take blinded swipes than it is to log onto baseball-reference.com, I guess.

The only thing the White Sox have on the Cubs, of course, is the most important thing in baseball: A World Series ring.  I could go the route of ignorance and note that the White Sox still play jealous little brother with a snotty (yet, ballsy) GM who pokes more jabs at the Cubs than he does at teams in his own division, a broadcast booth that feeds into a fan-base that acts like a jilted former lover by spewing Cub-flavored Haterade on a daily basis and a Twittering fool (account protected) who had more posts about a team he used to cover than the team he currently covers. This, of course, the same Twittering fool that Steve Rosenbloom wants to anoint as team president despite the fact that he has as much experience in that role as, say, the other celebs he names in his blogcolumn.

All that despite the team's 2005 championship.

Heck, if Ricketts wanted to follow a Reinsdorfian model of success, it should be the Chicago Bulls from 1987 to 1998.  Yes, Reinsdorf and the Bulls lucked into Michael Jordan, but it was what Reinsdorf and the organization's ability to draft and build around His Airness with role players such as Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, among others.

Acquire. Develop. Win. Profit.

That was the recipe when the Yankees were winning their championships. The Braves used that same methodology to win a bazillion straight division titles. It's the same recipe Ricketts should use when he finally digs into the mess left behind by Sam Zell, Jim Hendry and the preceding ownership group.

However, that looks doubtful amidst this report.  So, how long until Cubs fans will be clamoring for a new owner?

Better yet.

How long until Cubs fans again start clamoring for Mark Cuban?

Whatever happened to Mitch Mustain?

Almost any serious college football fan recognizes the name Mitch Mustain. But whatever happened to him?

Mustain, buried under Aaron Corp and Matt Barkley on the Southern California QB depth chart, is a former high school All-American who take a road less traveled to Los Angeles.

He started at Arkansas, where he elected to stay in-state for college. He followed his high school football coach there under the circumstances that said coach would call the plays and Mustain would take the reins right away.

Former-Razorbacks coach Houston Nutt would have none of this. Mustain's coach, Gus Malzahn, was never given full control of the offense and Mustain was benched after an 8-0 start.

Needless to say, everything went to hell.

After the undefeated start the Razorbacks lost their final three games and Malzahn, Mustain and a host of other recruits were gone. Nutt would soon follow everyone out the door.

Malzahn made a pitstop at Tulsa before taking over the offensive coordinator job at Auburn while Mustain sat out a year to become the heir apparent to Mark Sanchez.

Whoops.

Currently, Mustain finds himself third on the USC depth chart behind two underclassmen in Matt Barkley and Aaron Corp. Mustain is essentially buried alive for the remainder of his college career there unless two catostrophic injuries occur soon.

Corp is actually hurt but Matt Barkley, a freshman, has been taking the majority of the snaps.

Things don't look good for the former-five-star prospect.

Why hasn't he transferred yet is the real question. Is a FCS school on the horizon?

D-Wade Is One Step Closer To Coming To Chicago Because...

2008 NBA Draft
Michael Beasley's tweet's of doom and recent trip to rehab make Derrick Rose's summer look like a walk in the park.

Michael Beasley ... welcome to rehab:


Miami Heat forward Michael Beasley checked into an unidentified Houston rehabilitation hospital over the weekend, multiple sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Sources said the Heat encouraged Beasley to check into the facility to address possible substance and psychological issues. He is expected to spend time with former NBA player and coach John Lucas, who is renown for his success in working with troubled players.

Bulls fans, you can also thank a Twitter account (that is now closed) for bringing Beasley's life struggles, well, to life.  As the Yahoo! report indicates.  SuperCoolBeas and his recent troubles make Derrick Rose's summer look like the greatest summer evar ever!

All signs are pointing North for Chicago native Dwyane Wade to come home to play in The House That Jordan Built, Reinsdorf Paid For & Rose Currently Resides.


Heat's Beasley Admitted Into Rehab Center [Yahoo! Sports]

Buck Showalter's Crazy Realignment


A brief outline:
  • Four divisions, seven teams
  • DH for all
  • Bye-bye to both of Florida's teams
  • Each team plays each other once in three game sets; one at home and the other on the road
  • Four division winners are guaranteed playoff spots. Wild cards are questionable
Analysis:

This is probably why Buck Showalter is no longer managing a major league baseball team. This is the most batsh*t crazy idea since -- maybe ever.

He abolishes the two leagues while implementing the designated hitter for all. I'll get to the DH in a moment, but these division races are somewhat of a joke.

This idea feeds into the idea of more ESPN slurping of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry as it sends the Cubs and Cardinals into separate divisions. Why? There's no explanation. Had he done it for the Yanks & Sawks, there would have been an addendum with a full explanation.

Seriously, if Showalter had the idea of breaking up the Red Sox and Yankees cross his mind, he would have likely been fired on the spot and escorted away by bulky men in black suits and banished from baseball like his name was Pete Rose. There would be mob rule outside of the studios in Bristol, Conn., and my hope is that Chris Berman is used as a sacrificial lamb to appease the angered masses.

As for the DH, my feelings have been made clear for quite some time: Anyone who likes the designated hitter is foolish. These are the same people who complain about players unable to perform the game's fundamentals. Guess what, part of those fundamentals that you learn starting in Little League are hitting and bunting.

I've said it once, I'll say it again: "Having someone hit for the pitcher is like having someone take Shaq's free throws for him."

I agree that 18 times for some of these division rivals is way too much. But seeing some of the best rivalries in baseball only six times in a year is a drastic cut for no damn reason.

Among baseball's biggest problems, realignment should be the least of Bud Selig's concerns. And while a NFL-like realignment seems like a really intriguing idea in principal, Showalter leaves out a very important aspect of the game.

The NBA has two conferences. So does the NFL. If baseball has no conferences, how do we select two finalists?

H/T: MLB Daily Dish

Jacobs 1 Urlacher 0

Long before this web log existed, I suggested that the Bears should select Brandon Jacobs to help assist a running game that was sorely lacking.  The SIU product (by way of Auburn and Coffeyville Community College) ran past, around and through opposing defenses at the Division I-AA level (now known as the FCS) en route to a 1,000 yard season.

The Bears did take care of their running back problem ... by drafting Cedric Benson in the first round of that draft.  And before the Giants swooped in and took Jacobs, the Bears selected Kyle Orton.

Gag.

I'm still convinced that was the best Saluki football team I've ever seen ... and still hold to this day that had then-head coach Jerry Kill let Jacobs control the ball rather than splitting the duties evenly, I would have witnessed a national championship during my time in Carbondale.

Jacobs, nor the Salukis, got that football championship.  But the mountain of a running back did win a Super Bowl ring with the Giants.  I guess that is somewhat of a consolation prize.

On Saturday night, Jacobs conquered another challenge.  Brian Urlacher.


I'll take that pat on the back now.  Thanks.

Power Rankings For Tom Ricketts

Every week I do Power Rankings as a filler post for a week full of Kevin Gregg bashing and Jim Hendry fat jokes. This week's Power Rankings should be used as a guide by new Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, who's got a lot of work to do if he wants to make this franchise not suck.

1. Clean house in the front office. It's time to take out the trash at Tribune Tower. The Cubs have only four division titles and a Wild Card berth to show for about 28 years of TribCo. ownership, so needless to say it is time for a change.

If you want to go out and "re-assign" guys like Crane Kenney, Jim Hendry and others, that's fine. But some new faces and ideas need to accompany a new ownership. Unless you want the next 30 years to resemble the last 30 years.

2. Set the following ultimatum. Make a memo to whoever follows Jim Hendry as your GM, assuming you "re-assign" him to the local Dunkin' Donuts over on Addison & Lincoln. Tell the GM that anyone is tradeable. Anyone. Prospects. Big leaguers. Anyone. Everyone.

There are no untouchables. Looking at the Cubs' recent past of those deemed untouchable, none of them have lived up to the hype. Mark Prior was great until Dusty Baker threw his arm out. Kerry Wood was too, and if not for a stint in the bullpen, he would be out of the league too. Felix Pie and Corey Patterson were basically the same guy.

So it's simple: if someone calls and asks for this year's hot prospect, listen.

3. Develop a minor league system. Sign scouts. Lots of them. Send 'em throughout the country. Send them throughout the world. There is no reason for a major market team to ignore the fact that it needs a reputable farm system to be a successful ball club.

4. Get Pat & Ron a third wheel. Pat Hughes is one of radio's best play-by-play voices, don't you think it's time to get him an analyst whose analyzation of the game goes beyond screaming "Yeeeaaah!" when something goes well and "Nooooo!" when it doesn't. Keep Ron Santo in the booth, bring back Keith Moreland -- he was great as a fill in and I have no doubt he can do it over a 162 game season.

5. Hire a team shrink. There are more head cases on the Cubs roster than in most mental wards. We know you've got money Mr. Ricketts, let's get Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley and others the help they so desperately need.

6. Lower ticket prices. I shouldn't have to sell my first born son and a child to be named later to get a pair of good seats at the ball park.

7. Lower beer prices. I shouldn't have to take out an additional loan to have a brew or two (or 10) at the ball park.

8. Do not buy a jumbotron. Unless you like wasting money, of course. It would be an eye sore ... and real fans do not need animated buffoonery to tell them when to chant, clap and cheer.

9. Do not listen to Steve Stone. There's a reason the Stone Pony is spending his season sitting next to Hawk Harrelson and listening to his tales of Carl Yastrzemski and how unlucky you have to be to get a ticket in Caracas, Venezuela rather than being a general manager out there.

10. Read this blog. It's entertaining. Witty. And real. Some Cubs blogs think everything is hunky-dory. Others like to use cuss words to grab the attention their parents didn't give them as a child. This blog, at least when I write, is an independent thought that refuses to succumb to the pressures from the Cardinals & White Sox bloggers throughout this site -- and others.

Brad Lidge Needs A Miracle To Pick Up The Save. And Gets It

Brad Lidge makes Kevin Gregg look like Mariano Rivera.

He needs to buy Eric Bruntlett a watch, a steak dinner and a brand-new Cadillac Escalade on 28-inch rims for that play.



via The Fightins

Your Irresponsibly Early Guide To Free Agent Saviors For The Cubs

The Cubs are done. Sorry, kiddies. It's time to go back to school, also known as the daily six-hour distraction from not thinking about ways to dismantle Kevin Gregg limb-by-limb before feeding him to Hannibal Lecter. And if you're lucky enough to go to school with Cardinals fans, then you really need to work hard to get out of the slow class.

Speaking of the slow class, I'm hoping Jim Hendry gets greeted with an axe upon seasons end, unless of course he wises up and decides that he doesn't want to make bad baseball decisions this offseason. And that's as doubtful as Milton Bradley's mental health. Thankfully, Jim has a friend in me.

And while I did read a 1,900 word piece on what the Cubs should do this offseason, I've condensed it and made it better.

1. Sign Chone Figgins. He's proven he can play everyday and he's proven he can be versatile. He switch hits, steals bases and plays second base. Top of the order guy? You betcha!

2. Sign Jose Valverde. Prior to this injury-plagued season, Valverde converted 91 saves. He throws hard and his name is not Kevin Gregg. Need another reason? He owns the Cubs (13 saves, 0.77 ERA) over his career.

3. Bring back Rich Harden. Dick Hardon is 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA, 0.773 WHIP and 55 strikeouts in 44 innings. Once his time comes and Valverde's contract expires, the Cubs can turn him into Trevor Hoffman Part II.

4. Bring bullpen help. Needs include two lefty specialst (Billy Wagner?) and a guy not named Kevin Gregg who can get righties out. Angel Guzman and Carlos Marmol are fine set-up guys. Middle relief has not lived up to its name this season.

5. Give Brandon Webb a chance. There is a possibility that Webb gets bought out from his contract, since he won't be pitching for a good chunk of next year. This is when the Cubs take a flier on him, let him rehab at his own pace. Then bring him out and allow him to torture NL hitters for a long term deal. In the meantime, Sean Marshall or Tom Gorzelanny can have that fifth-starter role.

Other "needs" include: Back-up catcher, fourth outfielder that spends more time on the field than on the DL, a GM that understands how to develop a strong minor league system, a manager who hasn't let the game pass him by.

There, that wasn't painful. All in less than 500 words.

Mythbusting: The 2009 Chicago Cubs

Cubs Pitcher Zorzelanny Dives for Ball Against Rockies in Denver
The Cubs have fallen and can't get up!

Contrary to popular belief ... a blog about disproving theories floating around Wrigleyville and the blogosphere.

Adding Milton didn't have to mean saying bye to DeRosa, Marquis

The Cubs did not have to get rid of Mark DeRosa and Jason Marquis to make room for Milton Bradley. DeRosa and Marquis made a total of $15.375 million this year. The first year of Bradley's contract was only worth $5 million. And with DeRosa and Marquis coming off the books after the '09 season, the two remaining years at $10 million each for Bradley would make sense.

Bradley = Edmonds, not DeRosa

The most polarizing right fielder since the last No. 21 to roam around the ivy-colored walls didn't replace Mark DeRosa at second, in fact, he hasn't played infield all year. Bradley, in essence replaced Jim Edmonds.

In fact, Hendry failed as soon as he targeted Bradley as a run-producing lefty stick. Bradley posted career highs in home runs (22), runs batted in (77) and OPS (.999) last season in Texas. His previous career highs in those categories came in 2004 with the Dodgers (19 HR, 67 RBI) and a .923 OPS in 2003 with Cleveland.

Despite the Raul Ibanez and Bobby Abreu love, the right choice was (and always has been) Adam Dunn. Hendry couldn't even put the blame on Dunn's defense, seeing that Crazy Uncle Milt touched the outfield as often as Mel Rojas converted saves for the Cubs in 1997. Jim Hendry takes responsibility for the suckfest that has been the 2009 Cubs. For most fans that means he's taking responsibility for Milton Bradley's slow start and lack of power.

Dunn has averaged 40 homers and nearly 100 ribbies in his big league career. At Wrigley, he owns a career 1.003 OPS and .286 batting average. Signing Dunn would have saved Hendry a few precious breaths of air when he laid this lollipop B.S. answer for the media about Milt's slow start, "'For whatever reason, we've had a history of guys who've come in the first year of their deals and it takes awhile."

Replacing DeRosa at second base was Mike Fontenot, who was coming off a season in which he hit .305 with 9 home runs and a .909 OPS in only 284 plate appearances and was scheduled to make $5,070,000 less than DeRosa in 209. But unlinke middle-infield partner Ryan Theriot, Fontenot had not yet seen the rigors of a full season. Aaron Miles was signed to a two-year deal to play second, short and third in a pinch. He was coming from a division rival, but also coming off a career-year. Hendry should have been wary of those factors before replacing DeRosa with the unknown.

There is, nor was there ever justification for the Kevin Gregg trade

The Kevin Gregg trade is even more puzzling than not replacing DeRosa with a proven major leaguer or signing Bradley. Trading away years of controlled Jose Ceda (a prospect once deemed untouchable enough to hold back in a trade for Brian Roberts) for one year (and $4.2 million) of a closer who faltered in a pitchers ballpark without much pressure. In a hitters park and the monumental weight of replacing a fan-favorite, Gregg absolutely collapsed. The Cubs had their closer-of-the-future waiting in the wings in Carlos Marmol and an up-and-coming Angel Guzman. Hendry's bullpen really faltered when they acquired Aaron Heilman ($1.625 million) while not being able to find LOOGY help in the process.

And really, it's not like Kerry Wood (15 saves, 1.381 WHIP, 4.71 ERA) is tearing up the world in Cleveland. Still would have been nice to get some compensation out of losing him to free agency.

Breaking up Blanco stunted Geo's growth

Letting Henry Blanco go sucked, but he hasn't come close to duplicating last years numbers. Neither has Geovany Soto, come to think of it. Maybe separating those two was like breaking up a group with two strong voices in unison, but two "meh" voices when apart. Bringing in Paul Bako is like asking your line-up to have an automatic out in it.

Demp dump

The biggest money-mistake was bringing back Ryan Dempster to the tune of $8 million in '09 and up to $40 million in the next three years. Want to know why there's no Jake Peavy on the North Side? There's part of the answer. There is no way to justify handing $52 million to Dempster who hadn't made at least 30 starts since 2003, while posting his most wins since 2001, most strikeouts since 2002 and lowest WHIP since 2000. Long story short, Dempster hadn't been a legit starter since the early part of this decade. Yes, Dempster had a great 2008 regular season, but when the pressure was on in October, Dempster's carriage turned into a pumpkin. So did the Cubs.

So, are Cubs fans right to call for Hendry's head? Of course. He spearheaded the dismantling of a 97-win team for the sake of change. (At least he manned up and took the blame for it.) Still, that kind of ignorance is a fireable offense. Here's hoping that Tom Ricketts sees it that way, too. If not, get ready for a rebuilding process at Wrigley that doesn't involve falling debris.

Though, in essence, it might as well.

The One Shining Moment Of The 2009 Season: The Cubs (Finally) Have An Owner

Tribune Company Reaches Deal To Sell Chicago Cubs And Wrigley Field

For the first time in my lifetime, the Chicago Cubs have an owner that is not a nameless, faceless organization that also happens to be running a newspaper.

Welcome Tom Ricketts, to an organization that hasn't won a World Series in 100 years and is trying real hard to make it 101.

Tribune scribe Paul Sullivan has 10 suggestions for the new guy, and here are my five.

  1. Don't listen to the weirdos. If someone begs you to not change the name of Wrigley Field, tell 'em to Plax themselves. Or if you want to be a nice guy, ask them if they would still care about the stadium's name if it meant the Cubs won a championship in 2010. If they say yes, then you can ignore them. They don't care about winning.
  2. Bring in a real GM. Call up Oakland and write Billy Beane a blank check and tell him that he can actually work with a big boy budget. If he doesn't call back, maybe you can get in contact with Paul DePodesta in San Diego. And if you're really interested in a GM that loves to blog, contact me at bigdeadsidebar@gmail.com and we can talk business.
  3. Lower beer prices. I'm jumping on Paul's bandwagon. Hopefully one day, I'll be in the press box (which should be expanded somehow if possible) and I won't need to buy beer at Wrigley. Until then, beer prices matter to me.
  4. Lower ticket prices. It shouldn't cost me Mark Prior's bum arm, Alfonso Soriano's shoddy legs and Kyle Farnsworth's illegitimate baby to see the Cubs get smoked by an inferior team.
  5. Fire Carrie Muskat. There is a young, hungry sports writer who's one goal in life is to be the Chicago Cubs beat writer. Hire me. Now.

Other suggestions include anything on this list (then applying it to Aaron Miles too), saying goodbye to Jim Hendry, bleacher-babe cheerleaders, and bringing in Greg Maddux as pitching coach and Mark Grace as pimping hitting coach. Oh, and there's this Albert Pujols guy who becomes a free agent in 2011 ... hand him a blank check too, while you're at it.

Alright, kiddies. Go celebrate a new day in Cubs lore!

Time To Put Mark Prior Out Of His Misery

Rangers v Cubs
Mark Prior should have been great. Thank Dusty Baker for ruining another talented arm.

Mark Prior was a machine generated in a distant future, sent back into time to deliver the Chicago Cubs from evil to a World Series championship. Unfortunately, after starting his career 30-16 with a 3.26 earned run average, Prior fell off the face of the earth thanks to injuries that are no doubt the direct result of being mis-managed by Dusty Baker.

Prior, who was recently released by the San Diego Padres, still has an itch to pitch. Some of the peripherals on the man once nicknamed The Franchise make me think he could be still be productive. Once he is healthy, of course.

When he had his command in 2003, he owned a 4.90 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Despite only making 21 starts in 2004, Prior racked up an average of a little more than 10 strikeouts for every nine innings of work. His career WHIP is 1.225, but if you ignore the 1.695 of 2006, it drops to an eye-catching 1.207.

If I was a general manager, I would try to find a spot in my bullpen for Prior. When he was on, he butchered batters with a blazing mid-90s fastball and a knee-buckling bender. He was poised and primed for a great career.

And that is why I don't want him to come back. Priorwas supposed to be the cornerstone of a rotation for 10-15 years. If he regains the magic elsewhere, it wouldn't be just another "Cubbie Occurrence." It would go down in Cubs lore next to trading Mark DeRosa to the Indians Brock-for-Broglio one of the biggest mistakes in franchise history.

If Prior returns to the bigs, it will be under one of the following circumstances:
  • Big market team willing to spend plenty on doctor's bills.
  • Small market team looking for a buzz and a cheap, rehab player.
  • Dave Duncan finds something he can fix.
Baseball fans who have read Three Nights In August by Buzz Bissinger (yes, that Buzz Bissinger) know that Tony LaRussa seemed quite fond of Prior's upside and potential -- despite not liking parts of his character.

Excerpt via Avenging Jack Murphy:

Prior can rank right up there with Schilling and Maddux and Johnson by the time he's through. With his rare mix of stuff and smarts, he is that dominant. But he's also that young. He has the swagger that is the hubris of youth, taking his invincibility for granted when nobody ever should, receiving too much early attention and slathering in it.

Throwing Prior's name in with two 300-game winners and a guy who owns an 11-2 mark in postseason games is kind of a big deal. Knowing Duncan's past success with failed projects and scrap-heap guys, Cardinals fans should be foaming at the mouth just to tell Duncan that a former prodigy is begging for a fresh start.

And at the age of 28, Prior has no further to look than Duncan & LaRussa's ace, Chris Carpenter, or the newly re-minted Pedro Martinez of the Phillies for hope that he could once again be a more-than-serviceable major league pitcher.

Excerpt via MLB.com's Fred Claire:

"I see how Pedro and Chris have battled back from injuries and I respect what they have done," Prior said. "It also gives me hope."

The last thing I want is a motivated Mark Prior. A motivated Mark Prior went 7-2 with a 2.22 ERA, piled up 103 strikeouts (only 19 walks) in 80 1/3 innings in the months of September and October of 2003 and 2004. Not to mention being one helpless fan, one hopeless shortstop and one thoughtless manager away from clinching a franchise's first World Series title since 1908.

A motivated Mark Prior is absolutely useless to me. Unless he is on my team, of course.

Razor Shines Is My New Life Coach

Visit Razor Shines, my life coach, here.

I've been struggling with some things of late, but when Deadspin and The Sports Hernia picked this up, I had to put it to the test.

Here are a sampling of questions and answers.

  • When I asked if he used steroids, he pulls out his phone and said "Sorry, I've got to update my Facebook status. Ask again later."
  • When I asked whether or not Mike Vick should play he said, "No, absolutely not." and pumped his fist.
  • When I asked if Brett Favre should be thrown off a cliff, he says he's getting a signal from the dugout ... and it said no. I take this with a grain of salt, seeing that the Mets miss signals (and bases) all the time.
  • When I asked if I should pursue(name retracted) as my love interest, Shines responded, "No, quit chasing bad pitches."
  • When I asked if I should pursue (different name retracted) as my love interest he said, "Woah, you're all over that pitch." I think that's a good thing.
  • When I asked if I should pursue (third name retracted) as my love interest he said, "It's a fastball. Swing for the fences."
  • When I asked if I should "Dirty 30" any one of the aforementioned girls he said "Absolutely" then waved his hand in the home run motion and said "It's outta here."

And, by the way, Razor Shines predicts SIU will win 20 games this year. Go Salukis!

Ten Ways To Exile Kevin Gregg

Last night's game-losing blast actually did land on the moon. Say, is that Albert Pujols' ball off Brad Lidge from the NLCS???

In a move that has "too little, too late" written all over it, Kevin Gregg has been exiled from the ninth inning and has been reassigned to blow games in the sixth, seventh or eighth innings rather than the ninth.

But for me, and most Cubs fans with half a brain, that's not enough. Gregg has got to go. For good. Yes, his contract expires at the end of the year, but at this point of the season, year end can't come soon enough.

In the meantime, here are 10 ways we can get Gregg gone from Chicago.

10. Implications of steroid use. Manny Ramirez caught a 50 game suspension earlier in the season, and one of those suspensions would serve the Cubs' bullpen well right now. If someone can throw a syringe or two in Gregg's locker, have a package marked 'HGH' sent to his home or inject him while under the cover of night, he'd be as good as gone.

It's too bad he doesn't take performance enhancers. After this season's performance, maybe he should.

9. Tie him to Mike Vick's dogfighting ring. As I said last night via Twitter, "Kevin Gregg is to Cub fans what Mike Vick was to dogs: Cruel & Inhumane." He's blown six saves, given up three game-winning home runs and leads NL relievers with 12 home runs allowed -- which is two more than he's allowed in the last two seasons.

If someone can link between Gregg's cruel and unreasonable treatment of Cubs fans with Bad Newz Kennels, Roger Goodell would bitch-slap Bud Selig and suspend Gregg himself.

8. One night with Dirty 30. Here's the plan: 1. Hit Gregg with frying pan, make sure he is knocked out. 2. Put blonde wig and eye-liner on passed out Gregg. 3. Send him to a New York area bar with Dirty 30. Watch the sparks fly. Opposing hitters might only be hitting .229 this year against Gregg, but everyone knows Dirty 30 is always batting 1.000!

7. One night as R. Kelly's wing man. Yeah, Kellz beat his case, but someone who sings the lyric, "Shorty if you're thirsty, I got the good, good lemonade" in a song is disturbed. If Kellz can get Gregg on a remix (not sure why, but hang with me here), it won't be long until a blurry video surfaces alleging Kevin Gregg of giving and 14-year-old girl some of his lemonade.

6. One night with Donte Stallworth. Seriously, how does a man who gets behind the wheel of a car drunk, kill a man and only get 24 days in jail. Yet, Mike Vick, who ponies up some money for a dogfighting ring gets thrown to the wolves. This is what's wrong with the American punishment system. There is no way I can justify giving money for a dog-fighting ring as a worse offense than killing an innocent bystander while driving drunk.

5. A Plaxification. Picture this: Kevin Gregg goes to the club wearing sweatpants and accidentally shoots himself with the thing that was supposed to protect him.

4. Take him on the Maury show. Kevin Gregg has screwed the Cubs and their fans all year. So, who's to say he hasn't done the same with some hoochies looking to get a few dozen free paternity tests because they don't know which of these 27 guys is her baby's daddy.

A few trips to the Maury Show in New York should tie up some of his time.

3. Use a time travel device (part one). Go back in time. Bring the crazy Lou Piniella into 2009. Let him attack Kevin Gregg like he attacked Rob Dibble. Make sure all evidence points to Aaron Miles. Ensure Miles gets charged for murder.

It's too bad we know Aaron Miles' defense attorneys will bring up the very valid point that Miles can't hit anything.

2. Use a time travel device (part two). Warn Jim Hendry of a future of Kevin Gregg allowing game-losing gopher balls. And with each run Gregg allows that season, tell Hendry that 1,000 donut shops are closed in each city baseball is played in.

Then, there's no way Hendry makes this trade.

1. Use a time travel device (part three). One word: Abortion.

A Message To Jim Hendry

Ryan Dempster sucks. Kevin Gregg sucks. Aaron Heilman sucks.

Carlos Zambrano is on the DL. Rich Harden is behind schedule in joining him. Randy Wells is approaching the innings pitched danger zone as a rookie.


The Cubs have holes in the rotation and in the bullpen. Yet, there is apparently no interest from the Chicago Cubs in free-agent John Smoltz. But the Cardinals do.

All they would have to do is pay the pro-rated minimum.

That's it.

If they can't do that done because of "impending ownership change" then let's fold the tents over at Clark & Addison and contract the damn team.

Jim Hendry, you suck harder than all of the losers I mentioned in line one. If I was Tom Ricketts, I'd have a nice message waiting on your voicemail for you....


Here's One For Chris Lowery's Bulletin Board: SIU Ranked No. 117


Not sure what to say here other than this preview couldn't be more off if it tried. It makes the NFL Previews at this blog look like they weren't written in jest and for fun.

Yes, I'll admit the Southern Illinois University men's basketball team isn't what it once was, especially when compared to the most recent Sweet Sixteen squad. Head coach Chris Lowery doesn't have a pair of seniors anchoring the backcourt, or two juniors up front that thrived when being fed by the little guys. Instead, Lowery has another young group of hungry kids looking to make their mark on Floorburn U.

I'll be brief with this because I do have a very premature and misguided post previewing the Saluki basketball season in the works. Instead, here is why this post should be balled up and shot like a basketball into your nearest trash bin.

If only you could do such a thing with the Internet:

If the Salukis could bring back the Tony Boyle that averaged 13.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in his last four games, I'm sure they would do so without asking twice.

Southern Illinois Basketball Preview [Collegehoops.net]

Kane Says He is Sorry, Now What?

Detroit Red Wings v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Three

The cab driver incident earlier this month involving Chicago Blackhawks' young star Patrick Kane has taken a few interesting turns since it was first reported. The 20-year-old Kane, and his cousin, allegedly punched the driver and took back money after he didn't have 20 cents change to give them. Kane was arrested and charged with robbery and other counts.

Well, both sides have said the incident was overblown. We don't know what more will come out of this on the legal side. Yet, what I know, is that this will remain on the minds of Kane fans across the country. Kane gave a public apology today as he begins the U.S. Olympic training camp. He is an upcoming star in the NHL, on a Blackhawks team that is one of the better stories this league has seen in a long time.

Chicago was one of the worst teams a few years ago, and now they are a talented team poised for another postseason berth following last season's semifinal appearance. Yet, this offseason has been far from a solid story. The Hawks' have dealt with all sorts of issues, and the Kane incident tops them all. This should not get Kane in too much legal trouble, I wouldn't think, but this cannot be overlooked.

Kane is sorry, but what does that mean? The idea of being in the "wrong place at the wrong time" has come up, but what does that mean? Both these things seem like childish responses to an immature act. That fits well because he is only 20 years old.

He will remain a top player in the NHL for years to come, he may become a U.S. Olympian, and he will still help lead the Blackhawks to more playoff appearances. Yet, he is not a captain like fellow young Chicago star Jonathan Toews is, that is for sure.

Kane is still learning what it takes to be a top athlete under the spotlight. This incident, even if nothing happens with it, is something that hurts his image very early in his career. No, he did not kill somebody or take part in a dog fighting ring, but this is still another example of an athlete that needs to grow up.

There are plenty of Chicago Blackhawks fans nowadays, young and old. Kane better understand that, and make sure he watches himself before being in "the wrong place at the wrong time."

Power Rankings: Ranking The 2009 Cubs

Cubs Piniella Waits Against the Rockies in Denver
Come grab some bench next to Sweet Uncle Lou...if you feel lucky. Punk.

After a weekend in Chicago, I thought today would be a good day to premier a special edition of Power Rankings. It is likely I will do this for the other Chicago teams I write about (Bears, Bulls) once their respective seasons roll around.

We'll work our way from the bottom up, shall we?

The Bottom 10

1. Kevin Gregg - I tried to be nice, but never again. The next time I write something nice about you will be if/when you deliver the final out that clinches a playoff spot, playoff game win, playoff series win, pennant-clinching or World Series-clinching win. Or whenever Luke over at Breakfast For The Block tells me you're no longer stinking up the joint.

2. Carlos Marmol - Throw f*cking strikes. I'm sick of this act. The 3.56 ERA is decent, but the 1.49 WHIP has got to go. So do the 11 hit batsmen. So do the 52 walks in just over 55.2 innings. I wouldn't mind if the Marmolade got a tweak of flavoring in Iowa ... or force feed him Greg Maddux footage of not walking people. Or both.

3. Ryan Dempster - You've been nothing but a disappointment since signing a four-year, $52 million deal in the offseason. You might have roofied fooled Jim Hendry, but you're not fooling me or my fellow Cubs fans. Your WHIP, H/9, HR/9 and ERA are all significantly higher. Your K/9, K/BB and likability are all down. Long story short, pitch like last year or go back to Canada.

4. Aaron Heilman - Can you believe Jim Hendry traded two guys to acquire Heilman from Seattle? Sure, Garrett Olson isn't lighting the world on fire and Ronnie Cedeno is still Ronnie Cedeno. But giving up two warm bodies for Aaron Frickin' Heilman is a fireable offense in my book.

5. Aaron Miles - You should go on the disabled list not because you're hurt, but because your inability to play baseball at a level that is worth a damn makes you a liability for this team. Go back to St. Louis, I'm sure Tony LaRussa needs a designated driver. Too bad you don't meet height requirements.

6. Jeff Samardzija - $10 million guaranteed (guaranteed!!!) for a guy who isn't even playing the sport he's actually good at. Is there a way the Cubs can trade him to the Bears? That's not a joke or a punchline. Get Jeff Spellcheck some pads, a helmet and a jersey with a number in the 80s and send him out to Bourbonnais.

7. Mike Fontenot - The other half of the Cajun Connection has either forgotten how to hit or has forgotten to eat his Wheaties in the morning. There's only room for one little person to do well, and your LSU buddy Ryan Theriot has that covered. Now, go get me some Cajun food goodness and a couple of those drop-dead gorgeous Southern Belle's I covet.

Now!

8. Sean Marshall - I have nothing against Marshall outside of the fact that he has absolutely been torched in August. A 2.667 WHIP is higher than the WHIPs he posted in the last two months combined. Sean, I like you, a lot. No homo. Just hide for the rest of the month and I'm sure you'll get your act together.

9. Neal Cotts - I don't care that you're not on the Cubs anymore. Your DL stint is without a doubt one of this season's highlights as far as I'm concerned. You need to find a new way to make an honest living, because pitchin' ain't easy.

10. Koyovany Sohill - Yeah, I combined the two scrub catchers we got on this team. Each is hitting .225 and have combined for 12 homers and 44 RBIs. That sucks. Plain and simple. I'd feel a lot better if certain members of the pitching staff could be handled a lot better than they have been.

Honorable Mention: Carlos Zambrano - Seriously, Big Z, get it together. Now. Not now, but right now. You're in the second year of a $91.5 million extension and you admit to not working hard. I'm not sure how to feel about that.

You've got a 3.35 ERA and a 7-4 record despite leading the starting rotation in walks allowed (57). Your WHIP shouldn't be 1.350. Should not. Go back to the 2004, 2005, or 2006 Big Z. The Big Z that wanted to pile-drive Jim Edmonds as he admired a popout to right field. The Big Z that used Michael Barrett as a punching bag and made him like it.

Allow me to speak for Cubs fans when I say, will the Real Big Z please stand up!

Here are the guys that aren't royally screwing the pooch. For the most part.

1. Derrek Lee - After a slow start, the slugging first baseman has done just that. In the season's first month, he OPSed .537, but has seen it rise in each month and currently stands at .910 thanks in large part to a steaming hot July in which he hit 9 HRs and 6 doubles en route to a 1.028 OPS in July.

2. Ryan Theriot - Early in the season, Theriot experimented with a power stroke that was reminiscent of the music career of a one-hit wonder. Since being lambasted constantly for abandoning his natural opposite-field swing by Bob Brenly, Theriot has re-gained his stroke and his eye at the plate.

3. Randy Wells - Sad, but true, Wells has been the Cubs' most consistent starting pitcher this year. His 1.196 WHIP ranks second among starters (behind Ted Lilly's 1.154) and third on the team. His 9-5 record and 3.01 earned run average make him a darkhorse candidate for NL Rookie of the Year.

4. Kosuke Fukudome - Saying K-Fuk has emerged as the teams' lead-off man is like saying Drake has a bright future in hip-hop. Fukudome's stats when leading off a game (.438/.571/.875/1.446) with five walks and seven hits. He's also silenced critics who said his offensive stats would fall off as he has shifted to center, thanks to a .283 batting average, .889 OPS and a .330 BAbip when playing center.

5. Rich Harden - Just look at his last 28 days, shall we? Record be damned (1-1), Harden can boast a 2.32 ERA, 40-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio, 0.871 WHIP in 31 innings. He might make for a fine closer one day, but right now, it is Harden who is pitching like a front-of-the-rotation starter.

6. Angel Guzman - The Goose has been the most reliable reliever for Lou Piniella, which makes him something like the valedictorian of summer school. He sports the best WHIP on the team (0.981) and makes wearing goggles cool. Unlike some jackasses...

7. Jake Fox - Cubs fans, you want Mark DeRosa? Here he is. Fox owns an .896 OPS and eight homers as a starter. He's played first, third, left, right and even caught in a pinch. If Larry Rothschild was Dave Duncan, he would have taught the kid a slider and a splitter and would be toiling in middle relief. If Ivan DeJesus could teach him how to play second base, he might actually be savior worthy.

8. Tom Gorzelanny - In his two wins as a Cubs starting pitcher, he's tossed 12.1 innings, struck out 14 batters while only walking four, and has a 0.826 WHIP. As we head into September, he's the wild-card and could lead the Cubs into the postseason if he keeps this up.

9. Jeff Baker - Who? How? Just check out what he did last week with his slash stats: .526/.571/.737/1.308. His lone homer as a Cub came as a 21st birthday gift to friend-of-the-program, Barton Lorimor. Big ups to a Baker I might come around to liking if he keeps this up.

10. Milton Bradley - The last month or so have been mighty fine for Crazy Uncle Milton. Public Enemy No. 1 has hit .414, on-based .469 and OPSed .986 since settling into the two-hole. His batsh*t crazy personality might be able to distract some teams as the Cubs try to sneak into a playoff spot.

Cutler Era Has Begun (sort of!), But Funny That It Comes Day After Orton's Debacle

Chicago Bears Training Camp

Has there been a more exciting start to the Chicago Bears preseason? Granted, the Cubs and Sox are still barely hanging on to solid playoff hopes, so the focus in Chicago should still be on the diamond. Yet, with all the talk surrounding the Bears' trade for Cutler, there must be plenty of focus on their first game tonight in Buffalo.

Plus, things are falling into the Bears' laps right now. Terrell Owens is out for this game with a toe injury, so the attention of the NFL is going to be on Cutler. Thank goodness...isn't a reality t.v. show for Owens enough?

Also, look at Kyle Orton's game last night with Denver. Orton, traded for Cutler in the offseason, threw three interceptions in four series. He has already received boos from the crowd during training camp, and if the game was in the Mile High City as opposed to San Francisco, there would have been plenty more hateful remarks coming his way during the game .

That horrible start sets up Cutler and the Bears pretty well. For one weekend, at least, a good Cutler performance in the first quarter will make everybody feel the trade was in Chicago's favor.

There are a few things that may get in Cutler's way. Does he have someone to throw the ball to? Apparently, guys like Earl Bennett have performed well and Devin Hester has developed. We will see how that goes tonight in Buffalo. Is the O-line ready to improve? Plus, the Bears remain a running team. I would hope that the offense does not revolve solely around Cutler because someone named Matt Forte may have a breakout year in the backfield.

Either way, this should be fun. Maybe the name Sid Luckman will go away, as the Bears finally have another QB that everybody loves and admires. We'll see how it turns out, but one thing is for sure. Yes, it is preseason and it will always be preseason, yet the excitement is still there going into tonight's game.

There may have also been some excitement in Denver, but after last night, it may not be for Orton anymore. Chris Simms is waiting for the starting job with the Broncos. Jay Cutler certainly has that job in Chicago.

Mike Vick + Philly = Bad Newz

Pro Bowl - AFC-NFC Practice

Check my college transcripts, I'm no mathematician, but Mike Vick signing with the Philadelphia Eagles cannot equal a happy ending.

Or can it?

Sure, Vick does give the Eagles a viable back-up quarterback once Week 10 rolls around when Donovan McNabb, who lobbied for the signing (video below via With Leather), hits the injured list with a bruised ego. But that's if (and only if) Vick hasn't put on 50 pounds of prison weight or that his prison time hasn't helped him hone his skills as a wide receiver.

(Yeah, I went there)

If McNabb is healthy for an entire season (fat chance) then head coach Andy Reid could really earn his paycheck by implementing some sort of Wildcat offense hybrid with McNabb, Vick and DeSean Jackson in the backfield. Defenses would be more confused than Lindsay Lohan after she leaves rehab.

On the other hand, Vick is going to Philly. And Philly fans make drunk, stupid Cubs fans look like saints with their behavior.

They've booed Santa. They throw batteries like the Black Sox threw ball games. They carry laser pointers to baseball games. The were pissed at last year's World Series result because the Phillies won it in five games rather than four.

One Mike Vick miscue, a silly drunk and one righteous animal activist could start a fan war that would pale in comparison to anything Cubs-Cardinals, Red Sox-Yankees, Duke-Carolina and Michigan-Ohio State could put on. Realize the PETA people are the same ones that shook their heads when President Obama swatted a fly.

Vick might need more help than Derrick Rose on an entrance exam.

And that is why I won't turn my eye away from this soon-to-be trainwreck.


And The 2009 Cubs Season Is Ova



So this mean's it's Jay Cutler season, right?

Finding The Culprit

Much has been made of the Chicago Police Department's effort to find The Culprit. No, not Crazy Uncle Milton. The guy who threw that beer cup at Shane Victorino. Now, the swift, switch-hitting center fielder is filing a formal complaint and all of a sudden, Steve Bartman is no longer the most hated Cubs fan in team history.

And from the comfort of being in front of a computer screen, I think I found the guy.

Doesn't this guy (via Deadspin)



... look a lot like this guy .... (via HJE)



Even Hire Jim Essian agrees, no matter the case, Mend My Heart guy should definitely get locked up.

Cub Notes: Because Analysis Ain't Overrated

Something to ponder before you go hunting for fans that deserve to be hunted down.

Wood, Gregg among baseball's worst closers. Kevin Gregg has taken a lot of heat from Cubs fans, especially the one at this blog, for his inability to get three outs in the ninth without giving up eight runs in the process. And while many Cub fans yearned for Kerry Wood's return -- things wouldn't necessarily have been better off.

RotoAuthority.com ranks baseball's worst ninth inning options, and you won't believe who you'll find there.

Wood ranks in the bottom five among closers in earned run average (4.23), WHIP (1.38), highest home run rate (1.58) and save percentage (75 percent). Gregg ranks among the worst in save percentage (81.5 percent) and HR rate (1.84).

And while I owe Jim Hendry somewhat of an apology for letting go of Wood, it would have been somewhat of a consolation to get draft picks for him rather than to let him go for nothing by not offering him arbitration. As for Gregg, who has given up more home runs this year (11) than he did the last two years combined (10), he had no place on this roster to begin with.

Hendry: I don't expect to make this team any better

Chicago Sun-Times beat writer Gordon Wittenmyer caught up with the Cubs GM (presumably at a donut shop ... where else are you gonna find GM Jim?) recently, only to find out that it looks like the Cubs are standing pat.

Hendry said he's checked the waiver wires for available players daily, ''and there was nothing that made any sense. And I'm not anticipating that it probably would. Hopefully, we're going to survive the injuries.''

Maybe if Hendry checked this blog, he might find some players that do make sense.

No changes? I don't understand why not. This team hasn't won a series from an opponent with a record above the .500 since May and has gaping holes in its rotation, bullpen and general bench depth. I can't fathom why the Cubs wouldn't need to make any additions to a team that currently sits four games behind the first place St. Louis Cardinals.

I recently read that Christian Guzman cleared waivers, and even though Washington doesn't want to trade him right now, I would at least entertain the idea of adding Guzman and moving Theriot to second base.

But that might make too much sense.

Editorial: Cubs fans need to re-route their anger

As an avid baseball fan, it's a rare occurrence when I admit openly that I cannot wait for the season to be over. But here I am doing so, if only to save my sanity from Cubs fans because their anger toward this ball club is misguided.

You can hate Alfonso Soriano as much as you want, but if not for his April (.955 OPS, 7 HRs) and July (.992 OPS, 5 HRs) performances, the Cubs would be Brooks & Dunn without the Brooks. Milton Bradley gets hit with the "you cost us Mark DeRosa" blame, yet it was Aaron Miles and Mike Fontenot that replaced DeRosa at second. Not Bradley. Bradley, did replace Jim Edmonds.

Say, what is Jimmy Baseball doing these days?

Anyway, if you really want someone to be angry with then direct it toward Jim Hendry, Lou Piniella and Sam Zell.