Today, I present to you, Mike Blowers via my new favorite blog at Baseball-Reference.com.
Meanwhile, Hawk wants to tell you a story about the time Carl Yastrzemski predicted a black guy would be elected president of the United States in 2008, and single-handedly delivered him to the White House by going 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a solo home run over the green monster in a 6-3 win over the Yankees.
By virtue of the Colorado Rockies' come-from-behind walk-off win against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Chicago Cubs' title-less drought has been officially extended to 101 years.
Ding-dong the Cubs are
So, how did Chicago's North Side Baseball Organization get here?
That's why the Cubs should re-sign Harden. If it was any other 9-9 starter with a 4.09 earned run average, I'd cut my losses right there. But Harden is no run-of-the-mill starter. He posted a 4-3 record, 1.119 WHIP, an 88-to-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 2.55 ERA in 12 second-half starts. His struggles at home (3-7, 5.99 ERA, 15 starts) seem to be way off base with what his career splits suggest. Lest we forget Harden was 2-0 with five (!) no decisions in seven starts at Wrigley Field in 2008. In those games, he posted a 0.75 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, a 61-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a ridiculous 13.7 K/9 ratio.
It's easy for fans to forget something like that, but it should not be lost on Lou Piniella or Jim Hendry. That dynamic duo cannot afford to make any mistakes after a disastrous offseason that led to the debacle that was the 2009 Cubs campaign.
In a free agent market that can be described simply as "weak as hell" the Cubs really should hold on to Harden by at least offering him arbitration just in case someone decides to unload a Brinks truck full of loot in front of his residence over the winter. And if he takes that loot, there is only one viable solution.
(Hint: It's not anyone I've named above.)
Bears Buzz is the new segment which provides insight, analysis and below-the-belt shots at Chicago's opponents throughout the year. Come on a journey, won't you...
Kyle Orton, your Broncos are 3-0 and I'm really happy for you (not) and I'm gonna let you finish. But Jay Cutler had one of the best game-winning drives of all time!
OK. Maybe not. And while it would be totally wrong to anoint the Chicago Bears as Super Bowl champions now, there are some facts that just need to be said aloud right here and right now.
There is no doubt in my mind that Rex Grossman would have thrown an interception during that fateful fourth quarter drive. Kyle Orton would have made several underthrown attempts to make pass completions only before fumbling away a game-winning opportunity like he had taken several shots of Jack Daniels while the Bears were on defense.
Make no mistake about it, Jay Cutler won this game. And to think, one brave NFL prognosticator said Cutler would throw three TD passes against Seattle in Week 3. Um, yeah. I'll be taking your praise in the form of cash, credit, check or full frontal-nudity.
If Orton or Grossman is under center, there is no way the Bears score their first touchdown because they would have sent Robbie Gould onto the field for the safe three points. Real NFL quarterbacks make those passes. Not average QBs like Orton. Not flashes-in-the-pan like Grossman.
Legit NFL signal callers make those kinds of plays.
And that is why I'm happy to be a Bears fan after the team's 25-17 win against the Seattle Seahawks.
Ohhhh snap it's another edition of your favorite snarky and sarcastic football segment. Catch it if you can ... after the jump.
Part of the reason the Chicago Bulls brought in Vinny Del Negro to coach this team was to instill the kind of offensive firepower he oversaw during his time as a front office member of the Phoenix Suns.
So, why all the talk about defense?
I'll block quote everything of interest a fellow blogger wrote recently and tear it down piece by piece. It's hard to pick out one specific thing wrong with his post but before I get into the meat of the root of the problem I'd like to point out how little I care about a stupid poll from David Kaplan.
Seriously who cares?
Unlike Jay-Z, Rihanna and Kanye West, I am NOT concerned with who is going to run this town tonight.
I really don't care as a White Sox fan that Chicago is not a Sox-Town. More tickets for me!
But I digress...
Let's start from the top...errr...middle of the post:
"Where are the outraged tweets about losing a starting pitcher who is 14-9 with a 2.91 earned run average in Atlanta? Or the ones about an outfielder with 27 homers and 79 ribbies? I'm not sure, but I'm still waiting for the Stone Pony to speak his "truth" via a Twitter update any minute now."
I cannot stress this fact enough: I DID NOT WANT JAVY ON THIS TEAM!
Javier Vazquez is what he always has been: A great pitcher on bad teams. He's shown time and time again that he can't perform for contenders such as the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox. Meanwhile, any fan should know that a pitcher switching leagues, particularly from the American to National League experiences a significant drop in ERA. Look no further than CC Sabathia in 2008 when he became damn near unhittable with the Milwaukee Brewers after an average first half with the Cleveland Indians.
"When the deal first happened, M.J. Hartwig noted that the White Sox sold Swisher too soon. Finding room for Dirty 30 would have been difficult, but because of his versatility, he could have been used all over the field, which would have benefited the team over the course of a 162 game season. He's seen his homers, ribbies and OPS skyrocket since joining the Yanks and a good chunk of that has to do with hitting in a ballpark that rivals the size of a little league field. But with Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome off the books starting in 2010, one would have to think the White Sox could have used Swisher somewhere in the order."
Ah, yes, our friend Dirty-30....Did the White Sox sell shockingly low on Nick Swisher? Yes. Did we have to sell? Yes.
First off, there was no room for Swisher on this club. His clown-act wore thin on the veteran core and his numbers didn't back up his complaints for playing time. Is it likely that Swisher, given the chance, would have put up the numbers he did for the Yankees? Yes. But I just didn't see how it was going to happen given his first season in Chicago. We didn't have openings and first base, designated hitter or right field. Thus, we had no place to play Swisher. Don't tell me he would fit in on the 2010 version of this team either. While I don't expect either Thome or Dye to return I have plenty of other ideas for those positions.
"As for Vazquez, he was the White Sox's version of Jason Marquis. Good, not great, but always reliable. Little Game Javy has thrown at least 200 innings in nine of his last 10 years. The one year in which he didn't reach the 200-inning plateau was in 2004 where he threw 198 innings. Vazquez has been a strikeout artist, reaching 200 punch outs in five different years, including each of the past three seasons. Has his game hit another level because he plays in the National League? Certainly. But it's not like the White Sox are going up against the 1975 Reds, 1927 Yankees or one of those vintage Colorado Rockies teams for a division crown. It's the American League Central, where the Royals and Indians battle it out for gagging rights."
Again, Javy is what he is. He's a good solid, innings eating, strikeout pitcher. But again, he had no chance to come back after getting pantsed down the stretch while making well over $10 million in 2008 and in 2009.
"Like it or not, Vazquez could have been an integral part of a winner. Proof of it is the fact that he has thrived under baseball's best manager
Tony La RussaBobby Cox."
Coulda, shoulda, woulda, but DIDN'T!
Just for fun, imagine this starting rotation in 2010:
- Posted by M.J. Hartwig at 2:05 PM
Can anyone get a hold of Larry Warner before Saturday's game between the Southern Illinois Salukis and North Dakota State Bison?
SIU opened up a 20-0 lead in the Fargo Dome, but NDSU rallied to pick up a 35-27 win over the Salukis*. It would be the only conference loss the Maroon & White would suffer in Dale Lennon's first season.
A lengthy winning streak began the next week against Indiana State and the good times rolled until SIU fell to New Hampshire in the playoffs. So, what keyed the Salukis run to success?
A speech by Larry Warner.
In an interview during Indiana State game week, Lennon mentioned that the team's star running back had addressed the team after the loss in the locker room ... but would not expand on what he said. I later approached Warner and asked him what he told his teammates and received the generic football speak of playing harder, increasing focus and flawless execution.
Warner was the most outspoken Saluki. And at the tender of 22, I had seen enough press conferences and conducted enough interviews to know that Warner wouldn't tell me exactly what he said. But the fact that he said something was enough. SIU would go on to outscore its opponents 235-104 in the team's ensuing 7-game winning streak.
In those games, Larry Lightning accumulated 879 rushing yards and 7 rushing touchdowns. It was clear that he was the heart and soul of the offense in the locker room and on the field. And it is even clearer that his teammates responded to whatever he said that Saturday afternoon after what could have been a soul-crushing loss.
Hell, he still won't tell me and I've asked him about it every time I've seen him on a football field since. I guess some things are better left unsaid.
For the 2009 Salukis to avenge last season's lone conference loss the following needs to happen.
- Chris Dieker can't throw interceptions.
- The running game must not only control the clock, but score as well.
- Saluki defenders can't allow NDSU to score 21 unanswered points at any point in the game -- let alone the fourth quarter.
That can't happen again.
That shouldn't happen again.
Hopefully, it doesn't happen again.
* If siuDE.com worked properly, I would have linked to the stories myself and BFeldt wrote. Um, someone might wanna get on that...
I think I might have to check in with a counselor if I find myself agreeing with one more Phil Rogers column. But only after Crazy Uncle Milton agrees to get himself some help first.
Rogers conveniently points out that Kenny Williams made some offseason deals that look questionable now. And while Williams' cross-town counterpart gets railroaded on a daily basis, Williams skates away untouched.
How? Why? Where is the outrage?
Simply stated: White Sox fans don't care about the White Sox.
Until Crazy Uncle Milton says his official goodbye, this will be the final time The Big Dead Sidebar writes about Milton Bradley.
I have defended Bradley, the baseball player, throughout this season. Honestly, if his name was not associated with a board game, Cubs fans would have been thrilled to add a guy who led the American League in OPS. However, there was no defending Milton Bradley, the person.
But this isn't about that. No. The upcoming post is about something bigger than that. Bigger than that, you ask? Follow me after the jump.
The Chicago Cubs are 3-0 since sending Milton Bradley to his bedroom without desert. Too bad the streak comes too little, too late as the season enters its final stretch of games.
Manager Lou Piniella and GM Jim Hendry are on the firing line because of the roles they've played in the downfall of a team that won 97 games last season. But it's unlikely both will be filing unemployment papers anytime soon. However, it might be time for one of these two to hit the road.
Which one should it be?
After acquiring Jay Cutler, it would have been safe to assume one of his favorite targets upon arrival to Chicago was going to be former Vanderbilt teammate Earl Bennett. According to billboard material, Devin Hester could have found himself as a likely candidate as well. Then, training camp came along and Greg Olson became Cutler's go-to-guy.
So, where the hell did Johnny Knox come from?
For the longest time, I thought Bobby Jenks would always be remembered as the guy who saved the 2005 Chicago White Sox.
Sure, the South Side championship squad's offense was led by the speedy Scott Podsednik and sluggers such as Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye and Joe Crede. And its pitching staff was led by Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Jose Contreras and Jon Garland. But it was Jenks' presence at the back end of the bullpen that saved the Pale Hose from having to use Dustin Hermanson or **gasp** Shingo Takatsu -- the guy who started that season in the closer's role before disappearing into the Chicago night -- in a pressure situation.
Fast forward to 2009 and Jenks is a shell of his former self. He's blown six saves this season , which is not a good thing for a team eight games out of a pennant race. Jenks owns a 3.71 earned run average in 2009, which is more than one run higher than his '08 ERA of 2.63.
The biggest decline, as far as Jenks is concerned, is in his power game. He struck out 50 batters in 39.1 innings as he exploded onto the scene in 2005. However, turn the clock forward four years and note Jenks has punched out only 49 batters in 53.1 innings of work. When he was dominant, he posted WHIPs of 0.892 and 1.103 in 2007 and 2008. And while a 1.275 WHIP is respectable, it is clear that the intimidation factor Jenks once held over opposing hitters has dissipated.
Jenks popped his calf muscle and the White Sox announced Tuesday that he would be shut down for the season.
It would not surprise me if the big boy was the subject of a lot of trade talks. Despite his struggles, Jenks could be in line for a raise if it goes to an arbitration hearing. According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, Jenks earned $5.6 million in 2009. And after adding Jake Peavy and Alex Rios, who will combine to earn $24.7 million in 2010, the South Side closer might have to be moved to make ends meet.
The problem with trading Jenks is the lack of an adequate replacement. The Sox sent several prospects to San Diego in exchange for Peavy, including Aaron Poreda, whose plus fastball would make him an ideal candidate to close if things didn't work out as a starter.
The gift and the curse for the White Sox is in the upcoming free agent market. Jose Valverde leads the bunch with Mike Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano, Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner possibly being more affordable options.
(And yes, I left Kevin Gregg out for a reason. But if the Sox wanted him, I'd pay for his CTA fare and send him on the next Red Line train headed south.)
The good news for the ChiSox is that they can replace Jenks through the free agent market. The bad news is that teams not willing to trade prospects for Jenks could go down that road as well.
In the end, Kenny Williams has quite a task ahead of him this winter as he will attempt to re-tool a team that is one season removed from an AL Central Division championship.
It was only a few weeks ago when things were looking bright for Saluki hoops.
Blessed with good timing, yours truly was able to sit down with Southern Illinois men's basketball head coach Chris Lowery a few weeks ago in Carrier Mills, Ill. Lowery was there to speak to youngsters and encourage them to strive to be their best and be on their best behavior for the upcoming school year.
Afterward, I caught up with Lowery and chatted about everything from old times on the Saluki beat, our favorite Michael Jordan memories ... and eventually the future of Saluki basketball.
The SIU front man seemed to express plenty of optimism in regard to the 2009-10 team. Sure, it lost senior leader Bryan Mullins. But the team was also rid of distractions, controversy and other in-house issues that plagued the team during a disappointing 13-18 season.
After a summer that saw improvements by players such as Kevin Dillard and Nick Evans on the court and in the weight room, you couldn't blame Lowery for feeling good about an upcoming season with a favorable schedule that will feature 17 home games on the docket.
And then guard Ryan Hare found himself in trouble with the law.
The Cubs have won back-to-back games and Milton Bradley is out of the picture. Screw it, let's hold a fire sale. Fumigate the whole thing. Back up the truck. Blow it up. Scorch the earth and start a-new.
Let's start it by trading a guy who does not exist. Or maybe he does and this is part of a grand plan to trade a guy named Derrick Lee to the Red Sox for arguably their most prized pitching prospect. Maybe Theo Epstein will think, "Wow, we're getting Derrek Lee, who's one helluva first baseman" when they're really getting Derrick Lee, a Chicagoland plumber. Better idea, let's trade Carlos Zambrano to the Rangers for not one, not two, not three but four(!) failed prospects. That's a wonderful idea.
Oh, and while we're at it, let's do it with shoddy spelling, grammar, punctuation and more run-on sentences than a novella by a third grader.
Congrats, kid. You'll probably be getting a job analyzing the Cubs before I do. You can't be worse than Dave Kaplan, right?
Mock Trade Analysis Derrick Lee. [The Cubs Analyst]
Man, what an opener for the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. They played an overtime game against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals (okay, Ovechkin didn't play, but the thought is nice!). There were 19,734 screaming fans at the United Center.
This all came after a rough offseason that included Patrick Kane's legal troubles, former Blackhawk Martin Havlat's weird verbal bashing of the organization, a demotion of a GM, a new free-agent that needed surgery, and a president getting booed at his own convention.
This was only a preseason game, but the capacity crowd showed that Blackhawks fans are still passionate about their team, and there are many Chicagoans that now call themselves fans of the Hawks. This was a franchise-record crowd for a preseason game.
The Blackhawks host Havlat's Minnesota Wild on Friday in the final home game during the preseason. Havlat scored a pair of goals in the Wild's 3-0 win over Chicago last Sunday. It may not have the same drama as Jay Cutler returning to Denver, but this will bring more passion to the United Center on Friday.
And this is just the preseason!
It is never fun when a team must deal with legal troubles on the outside. The Southern Illinois University men’s basketball team was known to be a young squad last year, and that was an excuse on the court.
Unfortunately, the youth took another turn over the weekend as sophomore guard Ryan Hare was arrested for aggravated battery and criminal trespassing.
Head Coach Chris Lowery announced today that Hare has been suspended indefinitely. Hare was a key performer last year, with 26 starts and appearances in every game during his freshman year.
Lowery's twitter update reads, "It is always tough when you have to discipline people in your family. The most important thing is that a lesson is learned from it."
Hare was a bigger guard, with the ability to get to the rim despite not being as quick as some people. He was also able to use his long arms on defense, and was one of the better Saluki defenders a year ago…something that is very important in Coach Lowery’s system.
Carbondale police said they responded to a fight at 9:20 am on Saturday. Hare was sent to Jackson County Jail. The victim, an acquaintance of Hare, was treated at Memorial Hospital of Carbondale and released.
Indefinitely can mean a lot of things. Right now, Hare has bigger troubles than just basketball. I wish him, his family and the team the best as they get through this. The 20-year-old Hare is still maturing, and unfortunately, this is a step backwards in the process.
Jamaal Tatum, a former star guard under Lowery, was once charged with a DUI. Tatum was very remorseful and learned from the mistake. He became one of SIU's leaders on and off the court.
Now, a young Hare brings another legal issue to the team. Again, basketball is not the top priority right now. We still do not have all the details, but there are enough there for Lowery to suspend his key performer indefinitely.
For once, Phil Rogers has written something that does not make me want to throw up.
I approached this subject with Dave Duncan and am ready to do so with Ryne Sandberg.
I've never been a fan of former star players becoming coaches and managers -- mostly because it rarely works out. But Ryno seems to be different. He holds several intangibles that make me think he might be the perfect successor once Lou Piniella hangs up his managerial thinking cap.
And here's why.
So much has been written about the Cubs' lack of hitting, that sometimes people overlook the guys on the bump. To the naked eye, it looks like the Cubs got waxed in their three-game set against the Cardinals. But to the wise observer, the Cubs starters should be showered with praise after handcuffing one of baseball's best offenses.
Cubs starters Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano combined to eat up 21.2 innings over the weekend. That's $37.75 million worth of starting pitching earning their respective paychecks. Lilly and Big Z each allowed two earned runs, while Dempster only allowed one -- on the Brendan Ryan home run with the assist from Bobby Scales' mitt. The trio's collective WHIP over the weekend was 1.037.
Those are the kinds of numbers that pitching coaches dream about seeing. Too bad Larry Rothschild won't get any credit for this. It's safe to assume that had Dave Duncan been working with this bunch, Teddy, Demp and Big Z would have thrown 27 innings of perfect ball.
More drool-inducing numbers after the jump.
St. Louis Might Not Be Big Enough For A Pro Hoops Team, But Is Apparently Big Enough To Bring The Brewers
With the Cardinals being an obscure American baseball team and all, it comes to no surprise that St. Louis imported itself a new baseball team according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Milton Bradley's career as a Chicago Cub was doomed from the get-go.
Disaster lurked around every corner as Bradley never could live up to the lofty expectations Jim Hendry set forth for him. Whether it was his ill-fated choice of the No. 21, the strikeout in his first AB in front of the home folks, the tirade on the South Side or any of the dozen or so other events that encapsulated Bradley's first -- and probably only -- season as a Cub.
Bradleygate erupted with his Daily Herald interview, then overflowed with the announcement that he had left the team after being suspended. Suspending Bradley might have been Hendry's best decision all year. The only way he could have done it better would have been had he put him on the disabled list to end the season, thus activating the buyout clause after year two. It doesn't matter though, Bradley won't even see year two in a Cubs uniform.
And if you thought trading Crazy Uncle Milton was going to be hard before, trying to deal him now will be harder than an advanced calculus final exam. If he has been bothered by the Chicago media, there is no way he would survive in New York, Boston or Philadelphia. He already wore out his welcome in Los Angeles with the Dodgers. That should eliminate all the big market teams, and his salary would be too much for a small market team to take on.
Oakland might take him back. So might Texas. Any way the Cubs could send him to the White Sox to see who will win a battle of nutjobs between he and Ozzie Guillen? In any case, the Cubs are going to have to eat salary.
If anything, the Cubs should just cut ties with Bradley. If I were Tom Ricketts, I'd foot the bill to Sam Zell. He's known for reviving failed projects.
Videos that capture the Milton Bradley Era in Chicago after the jump.
Judging by your texts, tweets and Facebook status updates, there is not anyone in Chicago regretting the Jay Cutler trade. Well, not this week, at least.
Did I call it or did I call it? Sometimes the media is so damn predictable.
Talking to Cubs fans about Mark DeRosa is like talking to your best friend about his ex-girlfriend who recently dumped him. But instead of going out and hearing, "I remember when Lisa and I used to go here, we used to order..." you hear something to the extent of, "Waaah! DeRo should have never left!" before said fan curls up in the fetal position and continues to cry the night away.
I really didn't have to write this, but I thought it would be a good start to help you guys get over your romance with DeRosa. Here are seven things no one has the heart or guts to tell you about this whole ordeal.
Let's cut to the gravy and check out what Crazy Uncle Milton said after being asked by the Daily Herald if he liked his stay in Chicago.
"Not really," he said. "It's just not a positive environment. I need a stable, healthy, enjoyable environment. There's too many people everywhere in your face with a microphone asking the same questions repeatedly. Everything is just bashing you. You got out there and you play harder than anybody on the field and never get credit for it. It's just negativity.
"And you understand why they haven't won in 100 years here, because it's negative. It's what it is."
An idea how the Cubs should handle the situation after the jump.
Dave Duncan is a man's man. He has cured the world of illness, brought global and universal peace, saved the United States economy and rescued kitties from trees.
OK, he hasn't done any of that. But by some of the things people are writing about him, you would be surprised to hear that he has yet to accomplish any of those things. For what it's worth, Duncan is an excellent pitching coach -- so much so that some say that he would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer if there was such a distinction for pitching coaches.
The much-maligned (and deservedly so) David Kaplan and the well-respected Bob Verdi have both made the pitch for the new Cubs regime to bring Duncan to cure what ails the Cubs' pitching staff.
But is it worth it?
Finally, a football post. I've made you wait this long. I might as well prolong it a little more. After the jump, of course.
- How much the Cubs miss Mark DeRosa and his .233/.303/.402/.705 line since joining the Cardinals.
- Why the Cubs should fire Larry Rothschild and replace him with Dave Duncan...
- ...and Tony La Russa should join him.
- Fantasy scenarios of how Duncan can cure cancer, save the economy and teach Rich Harden how to pitch past the 7th inning.
You know there is a fork in your favorite team's playoff chances when stories like this story come out.
Manager Lou Piniella wants to add a top-of-the-order speed guy and ideally take another shot at adding that middle-of-the-order run-producer role that Kosuke Fukudome and Milton Bradley couldn't fill.
Well, that makes sense. Fukudome and Bradley have combined to hit 23 home runs this season. Adam Dunn has hit 37.
Now, let's move down to the fifth bullet point of the section appropriately titled "This is what they know they're working with at this point."
''We haven't even had discussions about next year as an organization, or even myself and the staff and Jim and his staff upstairs,'' Piniella said. ''Right now we're still trying to win as many games and finish as strong as we can.''
I don't blame Piniella for not wanting to talk about next year as the Cubs ascend the NL Wild Card standings and are only 5 1/2 games out as of this post. So, what is on Lou Piniella's off-season shopping list? Oh, nothing that I haven't already suggested.
The gig is up on the North Side. For the 23 years of my existence, Cubs fans have been saddled with bad-to-mediocre baseball with a sprinkle of good. And for a good chunk of those years, part of the reason the Cubs have sucked like no other team in sports history is because of ownership's reluctance to put into the team what the fans put into them.
Remember when Andy MacPhail and Bud Selig tried telling baseball fans that the MLB and almost all of its franchises were getting by, if only by the skin of their teeth. Then, days later, a report came out that most baseball teams were profiting with he Cubs being among the top three? I do. It confirmed to me something that true Cubs fans (not that guy who goes out there and blatantly tries to make him the most hardcorediehardfanboyevar) knew all along. There's always been money in the safe, but no one knows the access code.
Yahoo! Sports found the access code and broke it down here. I will break it down further after the jump.
Maybe Rich Harden likes Chicago so much that he is pitching himself back into the Cubs' price range.
The right hander has $100 million stuff but the endurance of a 17-year-old. Harden is 9-9 with a 4.09 earned run average, rebounding from a 5-6 first half to go 4-3 thus far in the second stanza with a 2.55 ERA. But since the Cubs failed to trade him to Minnesota before the waiver-deal deadline, Harden has struggled. He is 1-2 allowing 13 runs (9 earned) in 17 innings.
Wrigley Field has been the un-friendly confines for Harden, who has a 3-7 record at home this season with a 5.99 ERA. On the road, he's 6-2 with a 2.00 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.
Between those mind-numbing splits and Harden's injury history, there is no wonder the Cubs have been cautious when dealing with a possible extension. And despite the Cubs' glaring needs of speed, power and a second baseman taller than your average circus midget, re-signing Harden might be the team's biggest offseason conundrum.
The free agent market is slimmer than Calista Flockhart on a diet. And since the Cubs' starting rotation is the furthest thing from being the team's Achilles heel, I would take issue if the rotation lost one of its more valuable members. Sure, Sean Marshall or Tom Gorzelanny could step in, but both are unproven and seeing them once every four days would probably send Cubs fans into convulsions.
The fact of the matter is as follows. Losing Harden and not replacing his production in the rotation would be kin to the Cubs trading Mark DeRosa and not replacing his production at second base. At this point, Harden ranks as a Type A free agent and would net a return of two draft picks if offered arbitration and signs with another team. But if he does accept arbitration, he could be looking at a raise to about $10 million next season.
It's a risk worth taking, but a road the Cubs would not have to be traveling down had they just sent Harden to the Twins for some prospects.
Through 4 2/3 innings, Carlos Zambrano showed why he would require quite a bounty of players/prospects if the Cubs ever traded him. But not making it through that final 1/3 of an inning was Exhibit A in the evidence tab of why Cubs fans are maddeningly trying to get rid of him. I touched that topic yesterday. Today, we discuss trying to dump another whipping boy, Alfonso Soriano.
Like Big Z, Soriano has had his moments of glory. No one wanted to trade him after he led the season off with a home run in Houston, sparking an April in which he posted a .284/.364/.591/.955 line with 7 homers and 14 ribbies. Then came May and June where he combined to hit .207. He rebounded with a .345/.409/.583/.992 line in July where he hit 5 dingers and drove in 16 runs. When the calendar turned to August, Soriano disappeared and knee surgery in September has put him out for the season.
Soriano's ups and downs spark many conversations about dumping him and his massive contract. If the Cubs are going to trade the seven-time All-Star while his stock is low, they won't get anything more than mental relief or marginal prospects unless they want to swap bad contracts with another team.
And I have just the candidate for the Cubs.
Probably has some thing to do with this.
Apparently he doesn't remember what happened the last time those two squared off in a winner-take-all match-up. It went something like this.
I'd like to start this off by saying I really enjoy Suzy Kolber's sideline work. She's insightful and entertaining, and hey, she's kind of attractive, too. In all honesty, you might have a shot at her as long as you don't come off as a drunken fool.
Kolber will always be remembered for dodging the unrequited love of Hall of Fame Jets QB Joe Namath, but she should get major props for chasing down Tom Brady -- who obviously did not want to do a post game interview.
Sometimes I wish BFeldt found time out of his busy schedule to write a post here once in a while, because he makes some great points via his Twitter account. In today's tweet, @BFeldt questions ESPN's search skills in finding the sports city of this decade.
"Boston wins best sports decade because of hair? Give me a break ESPN, how hard did you look for that advantage"
Answer: They looked down the hall, waved at Peter Gammons and penned up something real quickly.
So, who deserves it? Well, I'll leave the door for Mr. Feldt to return to TBDS and let him throw down his two cents. I'm more bothered why Chicago didn't get the sports city of the 1990s.
The argument for champion Dallas?
The Cowboys captured three Super Bowls, the Stars took the Cup in 1999 and the Rangers even won three division titles. But the Mavs were mostly a bad joke.
The argument for Chicago?
I thought you'd never ask.
The six championships by the Chicago Bulls trump the city of Dallas' accomplishments all by themselves. In the two seasons in which they didn't have the G.O.A.T. full-time, they still made the playoffs. Let's add some individual numbers with Michael Jordan's five MVPs and countless points scored, rebounds grabbed, steals snatched and assists dished.
In 1993 the White Sox won the AL West and the Cubs won the Wild Card in 1998. However, individual accomplishments drove fans (and media attention) to the ballpark. Sammy Sosa hit 332 homers in the 1990s, including 66 in '98 to win the MVP and help save baseball. Frank Thomas hit at least .305 in every year except one in the decade and hit 301 jacks in the decade. If not for The Big Hurt and his efforts, there would not be a team on the South Side. The Blackhawks made 8 playoff appearances in the 90s, including a Stanley Cup appearance.
The biggest joke of the decade in Chicago was the mismanagement of the Bears, who still found a way to make three playoff appearances in spite of the McCaskey family and Dave Wannstedt.
Apparently, the Cowboys, Lakers, Dodgers, Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots don't get enough coverage on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNNews, ESPNClassic or ESPN The Ocho. I guess that's why they've launched a hyperlocal site for Boston and will do so for Dallas and Los Angeles before the year is up.
The story of the day in Chicago baseball was the Cubs' 2-0 win against the Milwaukee Brewers. The win would have meant something a year ago at this time as the Cubs and Brew Crew were duking it out for NL Central supremacy. Right now, the Cubs' biggest battles are against themselves and mediocrity.
And now we bring you to the buried lead in the story brought to you by Chicago Tribune Cubs beat writer Paul Sullivan:
Now that Hendry is assured of returning in 2010, he'll have to decide which players to bring back. Dempster, who signed a four-year, $52 million deal last winter, is assured of returning. [Carlos] Zambrano, who signed a five-year, $91.5 million deal in August 2007, is not.
Despite the fact that Zambrano has a full no-trade clause, the Cubs plan on shopping him this off-season, sources said, believing he'll waive the clause to go to the right team, as Jake Peavy eventually did when the Padres consummated a deal this summer with the White Sox.
According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, Carlos Zambrano has $53.75 million coming his way from 2010-12, with a vesting option worth $19.25 million in 2014.
Let the record show that despite a mediocre season by Zambrano (8-6, 3.77 ERA), pitching has not been the Cubs' downfall. The North Side staff ranks in the top-5 in strikeouts, ERA+, WHIP, H/9 and K/9. But with a weak free agent market awaiting, now might be the best time to move Big Z.
Without a doubt, Bradley has been a disappointment in 2009. One season after leading the American League in OBP (.436) and OPS (.999), Bradley struggled in the first half, and if not for posting a .280/.380/429/.809 second half line, it would be a totally lost season. Part of the disappointment lies in the weight of expectations put on Bradley by GM Jim Hendry, who billed Bradley as the power-hitting left-handed bat the Cubs have been missing since the dawn of time. (Note to Hendry: billing someone who has never hit more than 22 homers or driven in more than 77 runs is a mistake. That's like promising a Cadillac and bringing in an Oldsmobile.)
Bradley has gotten his game together, posting a .280/.380/.429/.809 line since the All-Star break. Maybe that is why Stone hasn't tweeted about Bradley since Sept. 2. But where is the equal opportunity "truth" teller's tweets about Alex Rios.
Rios is an adequate defender, but since debuting with the White Sox on Aug. 12, he has posted a .140/.156/.215/.371 line. No, that is not a typo. And yes, that is a .371 OPS. And while Stoney spent a good chunk of this season ripping the three-year, $30 million deal signed by Bradley, not a peep has been said about the White Sox's acquisition of the remaining five years and $59.7 million guaranteed remaining on the deal.
To be fair, something Stone is clearly not doing as the "truth" teller he claims to be, the baseball sage has not peeped about Rios since Aug. 26. He's tweeted about Bradley three times since then. Even once mentioning how the great Casey McGehee and rookie Gordon Beckham are out performing Bradley this season. Yet Rios seems to be getting a free pass from Stoney.
Stone earned his stripes at the end of his Cubs tenure for saying what everyone else wanted to say but didn't have the guts to. It was easy because the 2004 Cubs were one of the most unlikeable 89-win teams in the history of Chicago baseball. But since departing after that season, Bob Brenly has done a better job of doing what Steve Stone does than Steve Stone.
Now that's what I call "truth."
Move over John Elway, Kyle Orton is coming through.
Orton's miraculous game-winning touchdown toss-tip-catch play, combined with Jay Cutler's struggles has got Broncos fans thinking about big things. News flash to Denver, you scored 12 points against the Cincinnati Bengals. In more breaking news, the Bengals suck, and if you're only getting 12 points against them, I'm not sure how you'll score against a real team.
There isn't a GM in any sport that wouldn't trade Orton and draft picks for Cutler.
So enjoy this week of triumph, Broncos fans. You'll only get this feeling three more times this season.
Michael Jordan and John Elway started their respective Hall of Fame careers by breaking the hearts of every basketball and football fan in the city. Whatever fandom survived those crushing blows eventually got theirs when Jose Mesa took the mound in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series.
Whoever survived that massacre might have to pony up all the strength left in their soul and save it for July 2010 when LeBron James bolts for greener pastures.
The Browns began what will be another disappointing season with a blowout loss at the hands of
The Cleveland Plain Dealer got a hold of a former Browns staffer who explains everything:
"In my mind, it was a no-brainer,'' the personnel man said. "Adrian Peterson was the best running back in high school football, the best running back in college football and now he's the best running back in the NFL. He was Rookie of the Year and led the NFL in rushing last season. We had a chance to draft the best player in the NFL outside of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and we blew it.''
Brady Quinn struggled against the Vikes, but do you think his troubles could have been eased with football's best running back lined up behind him. Heck, Peterson's presence could be enough to inspire Braylon Edwards to catch some passes. And had the Browns not dealt tight end Kellen Winslow, they would have the makings of a formidable offense.
Instead, Cleveland's football franchise is well on its way to securing another top-5 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Speaking of 2010, there's a certain Ohio native that happens to be a free agent that could save the franchise.
Michael Jordan, the greatest player to ever lace 'em up in the NBA, had himself quite a Hall of Fame speech on Friday. Was he cocky? Yeah. But can you blame him? He single-handedly kept Karl Malone, John Stockton, Reggie Miller, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley and Gary Payton without a NBA championship ring.
For those of you keeping score at home, don't adjust your computer screen, Michael Jordan's presence in the league stopped six future Hall of Famers from winning championships. Guys like Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, David Robinson and Shaquille O'Neal didn't win championship rings until after Jordan retired. In his career, Jordan broke more hearts of Cleveland sports fans than Art Modell. Think about it.
Anyway, the guys over at my old stomping grounds put forth a rather interesting banter question. Could Michael Jordan cut it in today's NBA? My answer is a resounding yes. But how?
Well, listening to my pitch would be a good start.
Brian Urlacher isn't the only Chicago athlete going under the knife. Alfonso Soriano's knee surgery on Tuesday means that the guy who swiped 41 bags in 2006 for the Washington Nationals and turned that into an 8-year, $136 million deal with the Cubs should be on his way back.
Not that this is breaking news to me, but the Chicago Bears have more pressing issues than Jay Cutler's impersonation of Rex Grossman on Sunday night.
Cue the limp wrist jokes star middle linebacker Brian Urlacher looks like he will be out for the season. That alone spells doom for a defense that has been inconsistent since being ridden to Super Bowl XLI. The six-time Pro Bowler was a beacon of light for the defense and was reportedly as healthy as he's ever been. Add the loss of linebacker Piso Tinoisamoa, it looks like Lance Briggs is the last man standing in the linebacker corps.
So, where do the Bears go from here? The Sun-Times suggests former Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks, who was cut before the season started. The former face of the Bucs 'Tampa 2' defense flourished under Lovie Smith and could be a quick fix. The CST article also suggests Zach Thomas.
Quite an opening week for Chicago, huh?
And to think, I was ready to write a blog in hopes of freeing Plaxico Burress or finding Marvin Harrison. But I guess the Bears have bigger fish to fry now.
If your initial reaction to Sunday night's loss was to find the receipt for your recently purchased Jay Cutler jersey and head to your local retailer for a refund, this blog is for you.
Cutler threw for 277 yards despite the four picks. Don't get me wrong, the four picks won't fly when the Bears host the defending world champs next week, but imagine what he will be capable of when Detroit comes rolling into town in Week 4.
Then there's your fantasy team. And by "your" fantasy team, I mean mine.
Marques Colston and Frank Gore were spared single-digit scoring games thanks to touchdown scores. Willie Parker might as well have been running backward for the Steelers, and Brett Favre needs to find Vinsanthe Schiancoe for some touchdowns. If it wasn't for Favre, no one would have even known Mark Chmura existed. Well, except for his babysitter. Then there was T.J.H.'s forgettable debut in Seattle. Matt Hasselbeck throws three touchdowns (in a win) and you don't catch one of them? That's what I call disappointment.
I really do not want to have to rely on Kevin Smith (not that guy), Vernon Davis, Felix Jones and Donald Driver to carry me to a fantasy championshp, so I'm hoping my fantasy (and reality) team get it together. And fast.
Pardon my snicker upon finding out that Kyle Orton threw a game-winning 87-yard touchdown pass to beat the Cincinnati Bengals.
OK, so he didn't throw it the length of the field, but hey, a win is a win, right?
Sources tell The Big Dead Sidebar that the Chicago baseball scene was found dead at approximately 12:01 p.m. today.
Despite all the Cubs' shortcomings, the one that stands out to me is one that won't stand out even if he stands up.
Ryan Theriot, who enters his third straight September sulking and slumping, has done a serviceable job as Chicago's everyday shortstop since coming out from behind the shadows of infielders such as Dusty Baker favorites such as Neifi Perez, Cesar Izturis and Jose Macias, who earned playing time in front of the upstart spark-plug.
Theriot shined in the No. 2 spot in the order in 2008, as hitting between Alfonso Soriano and Derrek Lee allowed the diminutive second sacker to get some good pitches to drive through holes in the infield. He hit .307 with a .387 OBP and .745 OPS. The Riot has already set career highs in home runs, runs batted in so far in 2009. That's the good news.
The bad news is that he has also set career highs in strikeouts while seeing the number of walks he's drawn tip from 73 to 36. And let the record show that the much-maligned Alfonso Soriano has drawn exactly four more walks than Theriot -- the guy that everyone in Cubbie blue seemingly wants to anoint as the team's lead-off man.
And I doubt Mark DeRosa's bat is going to help him any.
But if it was up to me, I'd hold off and see if the team could get a real shortstop. Once upon a time, you could get buy with a no-hit, all-glove shortstop. Not anymore. The Cubs could (and should) move Theriot to second base, a position the Cubs have received little-to-no offensive production from and a position that would be easier for him as a defender.
Miguel Tejada (.300/.331/.760, 10 HR, 72 RBI) help strengthen the middle of the Cubs' order, while Marco Scutaro (.280/.380/.787, 11 HR, 57 RBI, 12 SB) could provide a stable force at the very unstable lead-off spot. Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes could be trade bait, and would be welcome with open arms. But that's unlikely, especially if Jim Hendry is still in charge.
The only way I can justify Theriot's return to the team's starting shortstop is if the Cubs sign free-agent-to-be Chone Figgins to play second base.
But that's a different blog for a different day.