Word to the funky monkey my JTJ peeps! Whazzup wit yo bad selfs? Hope ya’ll had a bangin’ Steak & a BJ day!
Or as one young lassy put it in a purr, “Isn’t that everyday?”
Yeah, I probably should stop now.
The fun thing about language, I have learned, is figuring out what words weren’t said. For example, when someone says “That shirt makes you thin” what they mean is “You usually look so fat.” It is with that perception that I explore the various and sundry articles about sports. Especially the team sponsored stuff. It’s why I write so little about the Bears. Their idea of media relations boils down to “Shut the hell up and give us your money.”
The Bulls and Hawks are better but the former is some weird, continuing, Cinderella story I don’t know what to do with and the latter is in engaged in some odd free fall at the worst possible time. If anyone reading this wants to toss up an article about them just hit me up and I’ll make it happen.
Our new mobile app with DUDA has been working out well. The menu is completely random, the front page appears on the bottom and it doesn’t update regularly and yet people really seem to like it. We now have over 200 subscribers who get JTJ on their phones. Yes, I want to party with every single one of them. Maybe they can write an article for here. I bet it would be an interesting perspective.
The funny thing is that until I went with Duda no one really wanted to partner with us at all. Now I get an offer a day.
Anyway, while much baffles me as much as the J-Lo pic I tossed up here today is baffling you, there are some things that are clear as day.
Case in point, the Cubs are rebuilding. Even the most ardent non-sports fan has gotten that memo. Tracy Richardson takes a moment to toe the company line.
Older Cubs fans talk about The Curse of Billy Goat, which dates back to 1945 when then Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley had a man and his goat ushered out of Wrigley Field.
A younger generation will bemoan the Steve Bartman incident in the 2003 NLCS against the Florida Marlins for the struggles of the Cubs.
The Cubs, however, know better.
Getting things turned around on the North Side of Chicago is a lot more challenging than lifting curses and removing jinxes.
And it is not easy. It takes commitment to a plan, and most of all it takes patience.
“Patience is a difficult thing,” admitted general manager Jed Hoyer, hired shortly after Theo Epstein became the team’s president following the 2011 season. “Theo and I want to win in the worst way, and get back to the playoffs.
“We also know you only get one chance to build the right way. You don’t want to change a seven-to-10-year run by not doing things the right way. Short-term moves can make people feel good, but ultimately it takes you the wrong way.”
“If you look at the Cubs, there hasn’t been a long-term, successful run,” he said.
The Cubs have:
• Won one postseason series since 1908. They beat Atlanta in the 2003 NL Division Series, but it wasn’t all good that fall. After taking a 3-games-to-2 lead on Florida in the NLCS, they lost the last two games at home. The Marlins rallied for eight runs in the eighth inning of Game 6. All eight runs scored after Bartman, a fan, battled left fielder Moises Alou for a one-out foul ball that fell to the ground instead of becoming the second out of the inning. The Marlins won that game, 8-3, and would later go on to win the World Series.
• Enjoyed 20 winning records the last 69 years, and had multiple winning seasons in only four stretches in that time—2007-09, 2003-04, 1967-72, and 1945-46.
• Compiled the worst winning percentage among the 16 original Major League Baseball franchises since the onset of expansion in 1961. It’s even worse than five products of expansion—Toronto, Milwaukee, the New York Mets, Washington Nationals and Kansas City Royals.
“We’ve resisted some temptations because we are looking to create a new direction,” said Hoyer.
The challenge of reviving a franchise has become bigger in the last couple of years with baseball limiting the amount of money teams have to sign players in the June Draft, and also foreign players, and also with the limiting of Draft picks for free-agent players. If a player is traded in the midst of the season before he becomes a free agent, the team that signs him does not lose a draft pick.
The Cubs, however, feel they have made progress, even if it doesn’t show in the big league win-loss record.
“The hardest part for me has been the Trading Deadline deals,” said Hoyer. “Both years we were competitive at the time, and both times August and September were difficult. But we can’t look at short-term, we have to look at what the deals are going to mean, and we feel they can pay dividends down the road.”
Five of the top 15 prospects in the Cubs farm system, as ranked by MLB.com, did come in trades the last two Julys—third baseman Mike Olt (No. 5), and right-handed pitchers C.J. Edwards (No. 11) and Neil Ramirez (No. 12) were acquired last July from Texas for right-handed pitcher Matt Garza; third baseman Christian Villanueva (No. 14) came from the Rangers a year earlier in the Ryan Dempster deal, and right-hander Arodys Vizcaino (No. 6) was part of the package for Atlanta in the July 2012 deal for pitcher Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson.
Six of the top prospects were already in the organization when the leadership change was made—shortstops Javier Baez (No. 1) and Arismendy Alcantara (No. 8), outfielders Matt Szczur (No. 9),Brett Jackson (No. 13) and Jae-Hoon Ha (No. 15), and first baseman Dan Vogelbach (No. 10) were signed prior to 2012.
Thirteen of those 15 players are projected to appear in the big leagues by the end of next year.
That won’t mean instant success, but will provide hope.
“We’re excited with where the farm system is, but we have to continue to develop them in the Minors and in the Major Leagues—the challenge will be continuing the development at the big league level,” said Hoyer. “We have to do a good job of fitting the pieces around [veteran] guys who we can bring in to provide leadership.”
The development aspect is a big reason the Cubs hired Rick Renteria to be their manager this past offseason.
“Guys don’t come up often and ‘click, they are ready to be impact players,’” said Hoyer. “We realize we needed a manager who wants to teach and is patient.”
It is a necessity for the Cubs if they are going to exorcise the demons of their past.
All well and good. Here’s what’s missing.
The Cubs no longer even pretend to care about baseball. Their insane ticket prices and carnival atmosphere are designed for tourists. All of the proposed renovations, excluding the alleged training areas, are shopping based. Tom Ricketts, when he deigns to speak, harkens back to the halcyon days of the 80’s. That’s when the Trib truly started pimping the team to travel agencies. And it worked. Kind of. Yes there were more booties in the seats but actual fans got shoved aside. Ricketts just wants to complete that transition. As it stands now they might, as in maybe kind of sort of, have a real team on the field for my 60th birthday. That would be in September of 2021 in case you want to start shopping early.
I could spend hours showing you how the Cubs could have rebuilt without gutting the major league team but it doesn’t matter. Major market teams rebuild on the fly all the time. Where do you think all those good young players come from? Yet they, unlike the Lovable Losers, still manage to compete year in and year out. Of course, those teams have owners who are dedicated to baseball and not water parks.
The South Siders are also rebuilding. Yet their young team looks like it could give people fits. Earlier this week Andrew Eaton chased down a fly ball to center that looked like it was going to drop. He caught it while airborne and then picked the runner off at first. I haven’t seen a play like that outside of a video game. The next inning Alexis Ramirez made a similar double play off a screaming line drive. Simply put, this year’s model is not last year’s. How that will translate in the standings has yet to be determined but it will be fun to find out.
Our old pal Scott Merkin, actually he’s younger and better looking than me, catches us up on what going on down there.
There probably will be a time when Aaron Rowand wants to get back into Major League Baseball as a coach at some level.
Presently, the one-time White Sox center fielder, who represented the franchise’s famous “Grinder Rules” with his all-out style of play and made a major contribution to the 2005 World Series championship, is thoroughly enjoying life as a father to his two kids and as a husband. Rowand brought the Las Vegas Aces, his 10-and-under baseball team that includes his son, to Camelback Ranch on Friday between their weekend contests near Chandler.
As his young charges shagged fly balls deep in the outfield, Rowand had the chance to connect with old friends and talk for a few minutes about one new addition in particular. Adam Eaton has not played a single regular-season game for the White Sox, but flashes of his high energy already have drawn comparisons to Rowand and, in turn, earned Rowand’s seal of approval.
“He goes about his business the right way, works hard and, obviously, there’s a ton of talent,” said Rowand. “White Sox fans are going to be excited about watching him play every day. He’s going to be one of their own.”
That hard-nosed, run-through-the-wall effort exhibited by Rowand and Eaton plays very well on the South Side. Rowand understands the reasoning behind that favorite status.
“It’s a hard-working fan base,” Rowand said. “I wouldn’t expect them to think any different or want to see the guys that they pay good money to go out and watch not go out and play the game the right way.
“That’s one of the things that I always loved most about playing in Chicago, is the fans and the city itself. So you know they are going to enjoy watching [Eaton] out there playing.”
Eaton’s arm close to being full strength
There was no chance for Adam Eaton to show off his throwing arm during Friday’s 2-2 deadlock at Camelback Ranch with Cleveland. But it was just three days ago when Eaton fired a strike on the fly to first to double off Texas’ Mitch Moreland on a fly ball to center.
Eaton started the 2013 season on the disabled list for the D-backs with a strained left elbow, and had a setback during a May injury rehab assignment with Triple-A Reno. But the left-handed hitter and thrower finds himself almost at full strength.
“I’m still strengthening of course. It won’t be at the peak until the end of Spring Training, but it’s getting there,” Eaton said. “When I came back after the injury, it was just all strengthening.
“You don’t throw for a month and you throw for three weeks and I sat back down again for three weeks. So my arm was just kind of goofed up. Now that I’ve had the throwing program, getting everything strengthened, it feels great and ready to go.
Scouts have talked about Eaton having a surprisingly strong arm. But Eatons’ confidence in his overall game has never wavered.
“When I catch it at a certain depth, I’m going to let it go and hopefully it’s accurate, and that’s the most important thing,” Eaton said. “You can have a strong arm all day, but if it’s not accurate, you can’t do much with it. I’m confident in my arm, and I hope it gets the job done.”
Sale aims to make adjustments against Indians
Chris Sale probably didn’t mind missing the Indians on Friday at Camelback Ranch, even though it was just a Cactus League game.
Sale had a Cy Young-caliber season in 2013, posting an 11-10 record with a 2.40 ERA over 26 starts covering 191 innings. But the White Sox ace also had four starts against the Indians, during which he went 0-4 with an 8.61 ERA over 23 innings. Six of Sale’s 23 homers came against the Indians.
“Well, it went real well,” said Sale with a forced, sardonic smile. “For some reason, I don’t know if I was tipping my pitches or getting too sequential with my pitches in certain counts or to certain batters, but whatever it was, it seemed like they knew exactly what was coming, when it was coming and how it was going to be.
“I have to make some adjustments, look at video and study some charts, to see if I’m throwing too many 1-1 changeups to a certain person. Go from there and change accordingly.”
Sale certainly didn’t stand alone on the White Sox with this Cleveland futility. The White Sox lost their last 14 games against the Indians, and finished the ‘13 campaign with a dismal 2-17 head-to-head mark.
Abreu fighting ankle soreness
Jose Abreu had both angles wrapped for Friday’s 2-2 tie with the Indians at Camelback Ranch and has battled some ankle soreness, according to White Sox manager Robin Ventura.
“It’s nothing right now that we’re to be alarmed about,” Ventura said. “He had a couple of days there he took off, but he’s doing better. He’s still running.
“About four or five days ago, it looked like something was wrong. Now, he looks better, he’s running better. We just have to get the soreness out.”
Abreu finished 1-for-3 with a double to right-center off of Josh Tomlin.
“There’s probably a lot of things going on,” said Ventura of the soreness. “New shoes, wearing orthotics, and just trying that for the first time.”
Sanchez among three prospects sent to Minors
There wasn’t much chance of earning an Opening Day roster spot for Carlos Sanchez, who was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte on Friday, along with left-hander Frank De Los Santos and right-hander Nestor Molina. But his strong camp, during which the 21-year-old hit .538 over nine games, proved the young White Sox infielder is not too far away from the Majors.
“He’s a lot closer,” said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. “A few years ago, at 19, people were talking about it. He’s at the point now where he’s just gotten better. When you see him on the field, he does a lot of things that we like, and being able to follow him, you really notice kind of how he progresses.
“Compared to last year, he came in here and you can see that he just knows how to play. Swinging the bat, playing defense, he played a lot of different positions in the infield, but I just think he’s more mature as a player. Even as young as he is, he’s come a long way from last year to this year for the staff.”
The White Sox would have liked to keep Sanchez, ranked ninth in the organization last year by MLB.com, in camp longer. But with more at-bats going to their everyday players, they wanted him to have that same everyday opportunity on the Minor League side.
Third to first
• Saturday’s game against the Dodgers marks the lone 2014 Cactus League night game for the South Siders. Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale are the two starting pitchers, with the game close to being sold out.
• Erik Johnson, working in a Minor League game instead of against the Indians, allowed five earned runs on six hits over 4 1/3 innings. The most important part of the afternoon was getting his pitch count up to 78, with 49 of Johnson’s pitches going for strikes.
“I felt good. I thought I could have worked ahead a lot more,” Johnson said. “The curveball could have been thrown for more strikes. Like [White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper] says a lot, ‘We want more,’ and I want more as well, more strikes.”
Paul Konerko finished 1-for-3 during the Minor League game. Adrian Nieto added two hits, and Jared Mitchell went deep.
• After an uneven 2013 season as primarily a starter, Dylan Axelrod adjusted his mechanics during the offseason.
“Just a few things with my arm path, it’s a little shorter,” Axelrod said. “I’m trying to hide the ball better, staying closed a lot longer, some things with my front side where I’m not flying open.
“I’m just really trying to stay back to front as we say here. When I do it right, the ball comes out well. I’m excited about that.”
Axelrod, who worked three scoreless innings on Friday against Indians, had a 4.04 ERA over his first 11 starts in ‘13. But that ERA jumped to 5.88 in June and 11.32 in July, when he moved back to the bullpen.
• Matt Lindstrom remains on track to throw a bullpen Saturday after throwing one Thursday. Lindstrom is working his way back from a left oblique strain.
Yeah, a guy with two World Series rings is coaching a little league team. I wonder if the kids realize just how special that is?
Nevertheless, the Sox seem to have bought into what the coaches are selling. God knows that teams really need defense if they plan on winning anything. And the Sox seem to have realized that too. That’s why Flowers is behind the plate. He keeps runners off the bases. That’s just as important as hitting. Especially now that he’s no longer needed as an offensive threat. Let Abreu & Garcia and the gang worry about that.
Yeah, the Sox have that luxury now. They can carry a couple of defensive gems and not panic. That is even more true when you look at their pitching. I’ll show you what I mean. Recently the New York Times took a moment to stop giving blow jobs to the Steinbrenner family to look around the American League. what did they find worth writing about? Chris Sale.
Chris Sale stands 6 feet 6 inches and weighs only 180 pounds. In the history of baseball’s major leagues, only one pitcher at least that tall, weighing no more than Sale, has ever made more starts. His name was William Jennings Bryan Harriss, but he was known, naturally, as Slim. He pitched in the 1920s.
Sale, the ace left-hander of the Chicago White Sox, is a modern marvel. He does not have a widely known nickname, but his grandfather was called Streamline. The man was a swimmer, Sale explained, and that is how he looked in the water.
“I thought of Chris as a baby giraffe,” said Dan Roszel, who recruited Sale to Florida Gulf Coast University in 2007. “You looked at him and thought, ‘This guy looks like he just got born.’ The arms and legs and everything weren’t synced up. But it was going to get there. The competitive fire, my goodness.”
It got there so quickly that Sale would soon be on the fast track to the major leagues, throwing just 101/3 innings in the minors and never going back. This was by design, because the White Sox were contending in 2010 and wanted to draft a pitcher who could help right away. Their short-term vision has become their long-term gain.
Sale, 24, may be the most difficult pitcher for major league hitters to track, slowly unfolding his 81-inch wingspan as he leans toward first base, then unleashing a sidearm pitch from across his body after choosing from an array of advanced weapons. White Sox hitters wanted no part of him in their first session of live batting practice last week.
“A lot of good takes,” Manager Robin Ventura said dryly. “I don’t think anybody’s ready to start facing Chris.”
Seriously? Someone in New York noticed something not in New York? How the hell did that happen? Well, however it happened, if your a fan of Sale’s, as I am, it’s a great article. Go give it a read.
“A Shut Eye is what magicians call one of their own who gets so good that they begin to believe in their own magic and forget that it’s just a trick.”
- Ed - Shut Eye (2002 CCG)
“Sometimes, when you don’t ask questions, it’s not because you are afraid that someone will lie to your face. It’s because you’re afraid they’ll tell you the truth.”
- Jodi Picoult
When I was a much younger Big Bad I worked for a radio station. After the first year I thought I was the foschnizzle, as the kids would learn to say much later. Then I went to breakfast with, the late, Paul Harvey. How that came to be is a real long story but, suffice it to say, that it did. Anyway I was smart enough to keep my egotistical mouth shut and listen. Which earned me a life time of cool stories and a painting by a monkey.
Paul was very cool like that.
As in so cool that he’d met the monkey.
After that I screwed my head on a little tighter and made my show a lot more fun. People could say all the wonderful or negative things they wanted and I no longer cared. I focused on many more important things.
That life lesson has served me well.
Today Gordon Wittenmyer took a moment to interview Rick Renteria of the Cubs and share his work product with us. I’ll comment after you’ve had a chance to read it all.
The show is over. Elvis has left the building — not to mention Albert Almora, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler.
The Cubs turned out the brightest lights shining in camp when they included the three big-shot prospects among 10 players sent out Wednesday, the first day of major-league camp cuts.
“All players are always a little disappointed,” manager Rick Renteria said, “but they know there’s a purpose and a reason for everything we do.”
Almora and Bryant, the Cubs’ top draft picks the last two years, were in their first big-league camps; both were reassigned to minor-league camp. Soler, the $30 million Cuban free agent, was optioned from his second camp to Class AA Tennessee. The three are ranked among the Cubs’ top five prospects by Baseball America.
The Cubs’ seventh-ranked prospect, second baseman Arismendy Alcantara, also was optioned out of camp, to Class AAA Iowa.
The minor-league spring schedule starts Thursday.
“Obviously, we’re glad they’re Cubbies,” Renteria said of the highly ranked players sent out. “They’ve shown their ability to be professionals here, in terms of how they carried themselves, how they worked, some of the performances they had during the course of the spring.
“But now it’s time for them to get down there, start getting some more at-bats, start getting ready for the regular season for themselves and continue to develop and improve their skill sets.”
Meanwhile, it’s back to reality for the Cubs and their fans, who will watch a team that’s expected to have a fifth consecutive losing season.
Even the one remaining prospect in camp from the organization’s top nine — No. 1 prospect Javy Baez — is scheduled for an eventual Opening Day assignment as the Class AAA shortstop in Iowa.
Until then, the first-year manager and his staff plan to get an extended look at the slugging shortstop expected to make his big-league debut at some point this season — but presumably without his natural position available.
The Cubs have been adamant that moving Starlin Castro from short is “off the table,” as general manager Jed Hoyer put it last month.
“We want to still be able to see [Baez] work and play in different positions,” said Renteria, who plans to have Baez make his spring debut at second base Monday or Tuesday.
“And then we’ll go from there to maybe working him at third. It’s a work in progress.”
Baez said he hasn’t played second or third since high school. But he’s been taking infield at second base in early practices and says he’s comfortable enough to play either spot during a game.
Also among the cuts were infielder Logan Watkins and outfielder Matt Szczur, both of whom were optioned to Class AAA Iowa. Reassigned to minor-league camp were infielder Jeudy Valdez, left-hander Eric Jokisch and right-hander Carlos Pimentel.
Outfielder Aaron Cunningham, a minor-league free agent signed over the winter, was released.
Ahem. “ .... we’re glad they’re Cubbies ....”
That’s it. It’s all over. “Cubbies” is the term used by 10 year old girls and tourists. Both can be forgiven since they know no better. Even Lou Piniella saved the term for sarcasm. And Lou seemed to be drunk a lot.
No, Renteria’s use of the term means he’s bought into the Ricketts’ philosophy. More tourists, more family fun, less baseball. And it’s all going to be great because there are kids in 2A who may or may not make the team some day. Preferably after 2017 when the rooftop deal is dead. Renteria’s clearly all in for this. And that’s not a good thing. The kids who got sent down are where they’re supposed to be. The thing is that Baez should be with them. As it stands right now he projects to commit 55 to 65 errors in the bigs. I don’t care how many Clark dolls he sells thanks to his bat, that’s unacceptable.
Well, it would be unacceptable to anyone not named Cubbies.
On the South Side they have a more nuanced issue. One that I think bodes well for them but one which my buddy thought was odd.
He’s Californian by birth, most civilized cities are odd to him. He also does bad things to pizzas.
Anyway, Californian or not he’s very observant and very smart. He said the team may not have bought into the fact that they’re going to be better in 2014 but they are doing what they’re told and out hustling.
See Eaton doubling off a runner at first, from center, as example A. A play Ramirez repeated the next inning.
In other words, they’re headed in the right direction and belief will come from results.
I’m fine with that.
But, and he and I both noticed this, the pitching staff is all in with the Cult of Cooper. Since I’m not an invitee and I can’t comment on the rumors of vestal virgins and volcano sacrifices. How in are they? Felipe Paulino wants to throw fewer strikes. It’s not as nutty as it sounds. If he can start getting batters to chase some stuff instead of sitting on his fastball and slider he’s going to be a force of nature.
Trust me on that one.
And Mark Potash, a nice guy who doesn’t visit here often enough, tells the story of Mitchell Boggs. A pitcher the Cardinals took from All Star to has been in less than a year.
With plenty of live arms in his bullpen, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper figures someone will emerge as a closer to replace Addison Reed. A word of warning to Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom, Daniel Webb and the rest of the candidates, though: It’s not as easy as it looks.
Take it from one of those live arms, former Cardinals reliever Mitchell Boggs. Last March, Boggs was one of the best setup men in baseball, coming off a career year for the Cardinals’ vaunted pitching staff. But he was promoted to the closer’s role when Jason Motte suffered an elbow injury late in spring training, and the job ate him alive.
Boggs blew three of his first five save opportunities and was 0-3 with an 11.05 ERA in his first 18 appearances. By June 1, he was demoted to Class AAA. By the All-Star break, he had been traded to the Rockies and was pitching at Class AA Tulsa.
‘‘I’m not going to stand here and be a tough guy and say that [the closer’s role] didn’t affect me,’’ Boggs said Wednesday.
‘‘I put a lot of pressure on myself to be really good. I struggled early [and] put more pressure on myself, and I got into a spot where I was trying to do too much and wasn’t pitching the way I was capable. When you do that, you’re in trouble. I got in trouble and paid the price.’’
After that disastrous season, Boggs is hoping to resurrect his major-league career with the Sox. He’s a great candidate for a setup role. In 2012 with the Cardinals, he was 4-1 with a 2.21 ERA and 1.050 WHIP. He just turned 30. His demise was not the result of an injury. His arm is sound. But his mechanics need work.
‘‘Mechanically, I was all over the place early in the year,’’ Boggs said. ‘‘When you’re in the closer’s role and mechanically not comfortable, that’s a recipe for disaster, and things snowballed on me. I’m smart enough to realize that, and I take all responsibility for it.’’
Cooper knows what he has but isn’t making any promises.
‘‘We’re getting him fresh,’’ Cooper said. ‘‘I saw video from when he was really, really good, and I saw some video from last year. He was just out of whack more than anything.
‘‘Let’s face it, he had a rough year last year. He spent a lot of time in the minors after being one of the top setup guys. He went to the World Series. He pitched in the World Baseball Classic. That was a big workload. Maybe that workload worked on him last year.’’
It will be interesting to see what Cooper — one of the best pitching coaches in baseball — can do with a pitcher like Boggs, one of numerous pitchers who has done his best work under Dave Duncan. In fact, it might not be a coincidence that Boggs couldn’t snap out of it last year when Duncan wasn’t there.
‘‘He’s the best; there’s no doubt about it,’’ Boggs said.
But Cooper has his own impressive résumé of success stories.
‘‘I feel very comfortable,’’ Boggs said. ‘‘I can see some similarities. Coop’s a little more outgoing than Dunc was. But he knows what he’s talking about. [He’s] been focusing on small things, details that make the big picture come together. I’ve benefited from that early on, and I’m excited about it.’’
I’ve seen Boggs throw this year as a member of the Sox. His curve, oddly enough, is his best pitch right now. But the rest seem to be coming back bit by bit. All you need to do is keep repeating 2.21 ERA and 1.050 WHIP as your mantra to know why that is some great news for South Siders.
Oh, look, my invite just arrived!
Pies lesu Donaldum
Dona eis Requiem
Pies lesu Donaldum
Dona eis Requiem
Om mani padme Coop
Om mani padme Coop
Om mani padme Coop ...
I’m good either way.
So, if you’re in the land of Chi you’ve noticed that there is some weather out there today. Clearly God is punishing us for ..... wait, there’s a list .... women’s rights, booze, jazz, inter-racial dating, soccer, left handedness, gambling, rock and roll, free love, red heads, literature, marijuana, porn, the gays, tolerance (of any kind), science, gluten free anything, erotica, all social media, and, of course, our politicians. Well, I guess I can kind of see that last one.
Still, the response does seem a tad excessive.
Of course over the top responses kind of define the world we live n. Unless you can think of a better reason we walk barefoot through airports so that strangers can take pictures of our genitalia. It’s okay, They use silhouettes so it’s not really invasive.
In related moves, the Bears cut Julius Peppers and signed Lamar Houston in the hope that someone can get over the top of any offensive line and disrupt the opposing QB. In sadder news, Julius Peppers was cut before he could ever try an Orange Julius. Saddest of all, Lamar arrives just after Houston’s Steakhouse has closed.
They actually had some decent food if you’re weren’t from here and had the taste-buds of someone who thinks that Olive Garden serves Italian food. I can’t imagine why they went under. Usually places that set the bar that low get franchised.
Maybe there’s hope after all..
Speaking of hope, let’s turn our jaundiced eyes to the land where all such illusions long ago died. Yesterday the Cubs new manager wanted to try something. Unlike Edwin Jackson he let his team in on the secret. He wanted to do what real teams do. When he saw that the opposing rotation was mostly lefties he loaded up his lineup with left handed hitters to get them used to seeing those tight, inside, pitches. This is especially important for the Cubs since they do not have a left handed batting practice pitcher. Those things cost money you know. If you’d like to sponsor one I’m sure you could get your company logo on their warm up jacket for a nominal fee. Just call Tom Ricketts at (773) 404-CUBS for more information.
So Renteria went with what he had in left handed bats, quite possibly the most defensively challenged group in baseball, and watched the inevitable happen.
Carrie Muskat says it was certainly not pretty.
Kyle Parker hit a two-run homer as the Rockies hit for the cycle in a four-run third inning, while Nolan Arenado, Kent Matthes and Ryan Wheeler each added blasts to beat the Cubs, 13-0, on Tuesday in front of a Cactus League record crowd of 14,840 at Cubs Park.
The previous attendance high was 14,770, set Sunday at Cubs Park, where Chicago played host to Milwaukee.
The Cubs loaded the lineup with left-handed hitters against Rockies southpaw Jorge De La Rosabecause they wanted the at-bats.
“They need to see them, and they’d like to see them,” Chicago manager Rick Renteria said. “It’s been asked many times, ‘Is it conducive for a left-handed hitter to face left-handed pitching, to see if it helps?’ And this is one of those instances where we’ll have the opportunity to do that and will take advantage of it.”
Nate Schierholtz, Anthony Rizzo, Ryan Sweeney and Luis Valbuena were hitless against De La Rosa, although Valbuena did draw a walk in the third. The Rockies starter gave up two hits and struck out one over three innings.
“I’m still working on my fastball command, working both sides of the plate,” said De La Rosa, who will likely be the Rockies’ Opening Day starter. “My changeup was much better today than the last two games. ... I’m just trying to work on some things now, but when I’m in trouble, I pitch like it’s a game.”
With two outs in the Rockies’ third, Arenado was credited with a triple on a ball that center fielderJunior Lake lost in the sun. Parker followed with his first home run for a 3-0 lead, and Stubbs singled and scored on Michael McKenry‘s double. Josh Rutledge smacked an RBI single to open a 5-0 lead, and Wood gave up a single to Jordan Pacheco before he was lifted. Wood was charged with five runs on nine hits and one walk over 2 2/3 innings.
Jordan Lyles, who is competing for a spot in the Rockies’ rotation, gave up two hits and struck out four over three innings in relief.
Colorado had runners at second and third with two outs in the sixth against Hector Rondon and added another run on a passed ball by catcher Welington Castillo. Arenado then belted his first spring home run off a 2-2 pitch to left. Matthes added a three-run homer in the Rockies’ seventh off Rondon, and Wheeler clubbed a massive two-run blast in the eighth off reliever Chang-Yong Lim.
Up next: James McDonald will make his second spring start on Wednesday, when the Cubs travel to Peoria, Ariz., to face the Mariners in a rare night game (9:05 CT). McDonald, 29, had a tough time last season with the Pirates. He was limited to six games because of shoulder issues and posted a 2-2 record with a 5.76 ERA. Pittsburgh designated him for assignment in September and outrighted him to Triple-A Indianapolis, but McDonald refused the assignment and elected free agency. Fans canlisten to an exclusive webcast on cubs.com and watch on MLB.TV.
What has to kill Renteria is the lack of hustle this team showed yesterday. Ground balls past 2nd, ground balls past short and so on. You know, where players are standing. And waving at the little round white thing as it goes by. Then again, Renteria’s pretty laid back, maybe he didn’t notice.
Oh, he noticed, there’s just nothing he can do about it. That is the team he has to work with. I predict it will be Bourbon O’Clock by June for him.
On the South Side they have a plan too. It’s one they’ve been working on for a little over a week. They are trying to get their hitters, excluding Dunn of course, to use the whole field and not just swing for the fences.
Scott Merkin says it’s starting to pay dividends.
But an offensive effort such as the one Abreu had in Tuesday’s 7-6 victory over the Rangers at Camelback Ranch becomes just as impressive to the White Sox as any long ball, if not more so.
Abreu singled to center in the first to score Adam Eaton, who had doubled to left off of Texas starterJoe Saunders. In the fourth, Abreu singled to left off of Tommy Hanson to bring home Marcus Semien. Abreu followed with a single to center in the seventh for hit No. 3.
It’s Abreu’s professional approach of taking what is given to him at the plate and not consistently swinging for the fences that has impressed the White Sox.
While the White Sox were connecting for four runs (three earned) on six hits over three innings against Saunders, John Danks was shutting down the Rangers. Danks yielded four hits over five scoreless innings, striking out one and walking three.
There was a little luck involved, as shown in the Rangers’ second and fourth innings. Mitch Moreland was hit by a pitch to open the second but was doubled off of first on a perfect throw to first from Eaton when Moreland broke on Engel Beltre‘s line drive to center.
Moreland walked to open the fourth and once again was put in motion. Beltre hit another line drive, but this one found shortstop Alexei Ramirez and his throw to first doubled up Moreland.
“I’ll take that every time out. It’s true: Double plays are the pitchers best friend,” Danks said. “There were a couple of times an inning could have got ugly on me and you see the play Eaton made and the last inning Alexei. I get a pickoff or whatever.
“Getting outs, I’ve never gotten a bad out. It’s nice to know you got a defense behind you. You can stay aggressive and let these guys work for me.”
Robinson Chirinos singled twice and walked for Texas, driving in the Rangers’ first run in the seventh off of reliever Scott Downs. Gordon Beckham homered for the White Sox, also coming off of Saunders, who struck out four.
“I made a couple of mistakes that hurt me but my arm felt good and the ball was coming out of my hand good,” Saunders said. “My command was a little shaky at times but that will get better with more bullpens.”
Trailing 5-1 in the eighth, Texas scored five runs off of White Sox relievers Mitchell Boggs andDonnie Veal. Jim Adduci and Bryan Petersen doubled home runs against Boggs, while run-scoring singles from Rougned Odor and Michael Choice put the Rangers ahead.
That lead held up until Matt Davidson‘s two-out solo homer in the eighth evened the score at 6-6.
Up next: Felipe Paulino is solidifying his rotation spot with each Cactus League start, even though the actual results haven’t been perfect. But the White Sox are looking more at command and how the ball is coming out of his hand. Paulino gets his next start in Scottsdale against the Giants with a 3:05 p.m. CT first pitch. Abreu is scheduled to be in the White Sox lineup at first base, with Leury Garciagetting a look at shortstop.
Scott’s right. Watching the Sox push runners around the field - RUNNERS! JUST LIKE REAL TEAMS HAVE! - and show patience at the plate up and down the line up, excluding Dunn of course, is the kind of stuff that will bring fans off the ledges and into the seats.
Actual conversation I had with a guy I know over at the Rangers.
Actually, to be up front, I only know him because I used to date his sister in the 90’s. He and I aren’t tight. Okay, moving on.
Me: “Is Abreu ...”
Him “Oh fuck yes.”
So there you have it.
I accidentally Googled “naked baseball.” I will never unsee what I saw. There are people walking among us who probably shouldn’t. And it’s my fault. I got greedy. You see there are tons of sexy baseball fans out there. I figured I could whittle the results down a bit. I was right, but the results were very wrong. It seems that the type of people who like to get naked and play with bats and balls are mostly male. And I can assure you that the way they use the equipment has neither been approved nor endorsed by MLB.
Seriously, what the hell is wrong with people?
Oh well, since the ladies were so appreciative yesterday I’ll toss up one more gratuitous dude for today.
At this point I may as well. Not even a lap dance would erase those images for a while.
On the other hand it may have prepared me for the Cubs impending season. While new manager Rick Renteria says - with a straight face - that the Cubs will compete in 2014, he’s the only one doing so. Not even the front office has gone that far. And while part of me thinks it’s nice that he has hope, there’s another part of me that wonders how long his perpetual smile will last. At some point this has to take a toll. He’s worked with prospects who learned in the minors. Now he’s going to have to work with them as they get shelled, again and again, on the national stage. Make no mistake, they are going to get shelled. They only have two real starters in their rotation and both of those should be gone by July 31.
Granted the pen looks better this year but if they’re taking the mound in the 4th or 5th they’re not going to last a full season.
Chris Valaika was in New Orleans and healthy again, hitting as well as he had all year, when he got the spirit-crushing news that seems incomprehensible even 6 ½ months later.
The Marlins’ front office and field staff made the move to call him up from the minors to replace the injured Placido Polanco — only to have owner Jeffrey Loria veto the move over a grudge stemming from Loria-favorite Tino Martinez’s resignation as hitting coach a few weeks earlier.
“It was frustrating to hear that,” said Valaika, a versatile infielder trying to win a job with the Cubs this spring. “I was in Triple-A, so I don’t know all the behind-the-scenes things that go on with those decisions. After a lot of things that went on, I wanted to go somewhere else.”
Consider it the modern-day Cubs’ version of No-Money-ball, in which the franchise is starting to exploit market inefficiencies one team at a time.
In this case, they’ll take advantage of what’s widely considered the most dysfunctional ownership in baseball if they get decent value from Valaika or another guy caught up in the Martinez fiasco, Justin Ruggiano.
The Miami Herald reported that Loria overruled his baseball department on Valaika’s promotion because of the infielder’s role in the player-abuse complaints against Martinez that led to the resignation once the allegations were made public. Martinez, hired directly by Loria before the season, was involved in verbal and physical altercations with several players — including Ruggiano —according to Herald reports.
“It was unfortunate,” said Valaika, who made the big-league club out of spring training last season and stayed there until suffering a wrist injury in May. “I felt like I played well, and there were a lot of great people over there. It was just tough at the end of the year.
“Once the end of the year came I made the decision I wanted to be elsewhere, too. So my agent and I put a plan together, and I was really lucky to land here.”
Valaika, 28, who was signed as a minor-league free agent, is a natural middle infielder who also played parts of two seasons with the Reds. He has played all four infield spots.
Ruggiano, 31, an outfielder acquired in a December trade for Brian Bogusevic, has impressed so far, going 7-for-his-last-10, including 3-for-3 on Sunday with his second homer of the spring.
“I have no idea about whether that situation [with Martinez] played into the fact that we’re over here now,” Ruggiano said, “but I dealt with that situation last year. The awkwardness that it creates for the clubhouse, it’s something that can put a strain amongst the guys. That’s something I don’t really want to revisit.”
Ruggiano, who spoke to Miami media in defense of teammates, said he has since talked with Martinez and made peace.
“Tino and I, if we had our differences, we solved them,” Ruggiano said. “Tino and I, we’re fine, and I wish him nothing but the best.”
Maybe it’s no accident that Ruggiano has looked and felt unusually comfortable at the plate, compared to past springs. Looking to “erase last year” and start fresh with the Cubs, he said he hit more during the offseason than he has in 10 years.
And he’s found a strong rapport with new Cubs hitting coach Bill Mueller and assistant hitting coach Mike Brumley.
“There’s something about just me being on the same page with my hitting coach this year and establishing a good routine,” said Ruggiano, who hit .222 with 18 homers — and weathered an 0-for-42 skid that fell three short of the major-league record. “[Mueller’s] very positive and energetic. So far he’s created a great work environment. As a hitter, that’s all you could ask for from a hitting coach.”
Nobody figures to get more out of a fresh start than Valaika, who just wants to know he has a chance to earn a place.
“it wasn’t meant to be there,” said Valaika, who expects “added fire” if he gets to face the Marlins. “Hopefully, it’s meant to be here.”
While it’s fun to make fun of Loria and his hand picked band of loonies, I feel compelled to remind everyone that he’s helmed more World Series champions than both Chicago teams have won in the last 20 years.
That aside, he’s still a lunatic.
Still, if Rugggiano can find a groove and Valaika can be the fourth infielder it may keep Renteria from gargling Drano.
On the South Side they too have a player that came from elsewhere. His name is Avisial Garcia and Daryl van Schouwen says he’s exactly the kind of player you want if you’re considering winning stuff.
White Sox coach Daryl Boston got an eyeful of Avisail Garcia when the budding star joined the team for 42 games last season, and like everyone else with 20/20 baseball vision, he loved what he saw.
Boston was really looking forward to seeing Garcia, though, in spring training.
“During the season we just let him play to see what we had,’’ said Boston, the first-base coach who works closely with outfielders. “When you get him here one-on-one, in drills, and see him really working hard on stuff you get to see the potential he has. We like the way he goes about his business.
“We need him to have a big year offensively but some of the stuff he adds in the outfield — he’s constantly aware of positioning, where he is — you get an idea of what he’s about and what he can do.’’
You get the idea general manager Rick Hahn high-fived his staff when the Sox, whose season had blown up on them, were able to unload Jake Peavy’s salary in a three-team deal at the trade deadline that reeled in the 22-year-old right fielder from the Detroit Tigers. Here was a raw talent in a big body with a big future fitting perfectly in Hahn’s plan to build a young core aimed at sustainable success. The trade, which also brought a couple of pitching prospects, came together late, and it made all three teams happy. The Red Sox got Peavy for their pennant push and the Tigers got slick-fielding shortstop Jose Iglesias.
When first baseman Jose Abreu signed in the offseason, Hahn had two big rebuilding blocks in place. While the jury will be out on Abreu, 27, until after he sees a steady diet of major-league pitching for at least a half season, we’ve seen enough of Garcia to know that he’s got the goods.
“There isn’t a whole lot he can’t do on the baseball field, I can tell you that,’’ Boston said. “He has plus power to all fields, he has above-average speed for a big man, and an above-average throwing arm. It’s just a matter of him getting consistent at-bats. Everybody in the organization believes he has a chance to be an All-Star for a long time.’’
Abreu is big at 6-3, 245 but Garcia, even standing alongside Abreu at 6-4, 240 strikes more “just look at that guy” reactions with an imposing baseball frame.
“He’s big and strong, but you don’t notice how fast he is just running the bases,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s a big kid who could play center field. At-bat wise, he’s not just swinging as hard as he can. He can hit for average and there’s not that many people who are that big and can control that and still be able to have the kind of power he has. He’s a unique individual.’’
What’s more, Garcia doesn’t play like a prima donna. He runs hard on ground outs, even the routine ones.
“Yes, for a young kid , you like the energy he provides,’’ Boston said. “That’s one of the things we’re looking for. He plays the game hard. It remains to be seen what he can do till the games are played but the potential there is tremendous.’’
This year, Garcia has a greater comfort level in the clubhouse, which he says is now like a home, and in the city of Chicago.
“That’s very important for a baseball player,’’ he said.
In Detroit, he was a kid surrounded by stars. Here, he’s a guy the Sox the view as a centerpiece. The expectations, taken in stride, add no pressure, Garcia said.
“No. I know my game,’’ he said. “God gives you ability, so you have to work to get the most out of it and see what happens.’’
I caught a couple of games with Garcia in the line up last year. I can honestly say I understand why Prince Fielder and others bemoaned his loss. This kid’s the whole package. Above average defense, above average offense and below average ego.
And he’s just 22. This is the kind of kid who can have a long career here.
Add in Abreu and suddenly the middle of the line up doesn’t look so bad.
Several of our female stalkers have complained about my continuing use of gratuitous images of scantily clad female baseball fans. Since Jose Bautista was nice enough to pose nude for ESPN, allow me to to take the first baby steps to rectifying that problem. If you just read the blog you’d think that this site was dedicated to 10 white guys sitting around chatting. But, thanks to Facebook & Twitter, I know that our audience is pretty diverse. Astonishingly so for a Chicago based sports site. All you need to do is download our cookbook to get a better over view of our demographics. Granted we haven’t done very well in the smoking hot barely legal teen girl market but otherwise we’re pretty well represented
This site has become a destination for people to read and browse but not interact. I still have no idea why that is but last week I got another email about my cake thread. I posted that in October of 2009. So folks do seem to be paying attention. God knows why.
Of course God knows lots of stuff I don’t so I’ve learned to kind of go with the flow.
Another guy who’s going with the flow is Aaron Cunningham of the Cubs. He’s selling, Chicago themed, Strideline socks to teammates to make ends meet. No, I am not making this up. He’s planning on a life after baseball. Considering he’s been on 4 teams in 5 seasons that seems to be a good call on his part.
Or, to put it more bluntly, the Cubs were the only team interested in him so it isn’t like he’s giving up a Hall of Fame plaque or anything.
As long as we’re talking about the Cubs and the failures they’ve signed, let’s take a gander at Edwin Jackson. I’ll be the first to admit that I liked this signing. He was a an inning eating, decent ERA, guy who could shore up a rotation. “Was” being the operative word in that statement. Since coming to the Cubs he has completely forgotten how to pitch. Nevertheless, clearly inspired by Chris Sale’s attempt to throw nothing but sliders in a game, he decided to work on his fastball. I should note here that Sale’s slider got better over three innings and he had informed all of his coaches and his catcher what he was about to do.
None of those facts apply here.
As Gordon Wittenmyer reports, Jackson just went out and started hurling. And while, like Sale, he got shelled in the first inning, unlike Sale, he kept getting shelled. And no one had a clue what was going on.
Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson doesn’t exactly get the benefit of the doubt with management after recording a league-leading 18 losses, 4.94 ERA and his lowest innings total in six seasons.
Never mind that he’s the highest-paid player on the team, manager Rick Renteria plans to have a “conversation” with Jackson after the right-hander caught the staff off-guard by throwing nothing but fastballs in a command-challenged, three-inning start Friday.
How surprised was Renteria?
“Well, I saw a lot of fastballs being thrown,” he said, “and I’ll just say that I noticed it.”
Renteria speculated that Jackson might have taken the extreme approach to work on the fastball command Renteria and pitching coach Chris Bosio stress — though he noted the command wasn’t very good.
Jackson fell behind the first two batters, who singled and homered, respectively. He also hit two batters.
“I think you have to kind of allow some flexibility, I guess, in what he’s trying to do,” Renteria said. “In his mind’s eye, he had a particular idea of what he wanted to do, so he tried to go ahead and do it. He did it for three innings.”
At least there wasn’t a dugout altercation with the manager this time around (like Jackson had with then-manager Dale Sveum in Milwaukee last September over being taken out of a game).
But Renteria plans to address it.
“It’s something where I’ll probably talk to him and have a conversation about it and clarify what the process was,” Renteria said. “That doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t hurt anybody to just talk about it.”
Jackson made the decision sound like a last-minute idea.
“It’s nothing that I’d been planning on during the week. It was one of those things where we came out and I said, I’m going to throw all fastballs today and we’ll see how it turns out,” he said.
“Learning to pitch off the fastball, you kind of have to get through it, and sometimes when you know you have those other [pitches] in your back pocket, it just makes you lose your aggressiveness with the fastball. So today I really wasn’t worried about results. I really wasn’t worried about runs. It was just to see where I was with just throwing all fastballs and see what happens, stay aggressive on hitters and make them hit the ball.”
Problems with this story;
- After the 10th fastball why didn’t the catcher ask what the hell was going on?
- After the 10th fastball why didn’t the pitching coach ask what the hell was going on?
- After the 10th fastball why didn’t the manager ask what the hell was going on?
Answer to all 3? Because no one gives a damn.
I’m sorry Cubs fans, you real ones, but that’s the truth.
On the South Side they also got a guy they wanted. And Daryl van Schouwen says they’re well pleased with that fact.
Jose Abreu’s entry into the major leagues, albeit at the Cactus League level, couldn’t be going better. His work ethic, demeanor, professionalism and approach to hitting have impressed White Sox management, teammates and coaches.
Through the first week of Cactus League games, he took pitches, worked counts and flashed the power the Sox are paying him $68 million over the next six years to see. Give Abreu an ‘‘A’’ on his first-quarter report card of camp.
But the test is far from over, and Abreu knows it. Spring training is an exercise in getting fit and finding a feel for pitchers, who will be better, more diversified and more astute come April. They will have figured out the best way to pitch to the 27-year-old Cuban first baseman, and adjusting will become the name of the game.
‘‘[Adjusting] is huge,’’ said Sox slugger Adam Dunn, a 13-year veteran who discovered that early in a career that has seen him hit 440 home runs. ‘‘The league is going to learn him before he learns the league, so that will be the adjustment. It’s a lot easier for everyone to learn one guy than for one guy to learn everyone. He has to learn a ton. But that swing will play anywhere.’’
The 6-3, 255-pound Abreu has strength and a good swing going for him. And he already has more than a clue about what he’s about to face.
‘‘It’s a mouse-and-cat game,’’ Abreu said through translator Lino Diaz, the Sox’ manager of cultural development. ‘‘They will find a way to get me, and I will try to find a way to get them.’’
Abreu kept his hands inside a pitch in on him and above the belt and muscled it to right-center field for a two-run double Tuesday, and he homered to the opposite field Thursday. Good signs, no doubt, but his results in Arizona won’t mean a thing come Opening Day on March 31.
‘‘You can’t define what he’s going to do specifically by what he does in spring training,’’ hitting coach Todd Steverson said. ‘‘You do like to see the approach, mind-set and plan he goes up there with to execute. You like to see the recognition quality that he has.
‘‘The biggest thing for him is learning the league. It’s different than playing in Cuba or international competition. This is the highest of the high, so he has a learning curve.’’
Before long, pitchers will be spotting the ball to the four quadrants of the strike zone in search of a weakness and of material to formulate a scouting report, Steverson said.
‘‘I tell him, ‘Stick to your game plan,’ ’’ Steverson said. ‘‘All he should do is swing at good pitches.’’
So far, so good on that front. Through his first five games, Abreu hasn’t stuck out.
In addition to baseball, Abreu is dealing with living in a new place, apart from his family, including his young son. He and his wife, Yusmary, left Cuba in the middle of a summer night for Haiti, where the process of becoming a free agent began. The Sox were something of a surprise winner in the free-agent sweepstakes that made Abreu a rich man — but at the price of being separated from family members.
‘‘It’s hard,’’ Abreu said. ‘‘Like I always say, I am thankful to God for the opportunity to be here. I am concentrating on my job, knowing they will be happy if I do my job well and do good things for them. Hopefully. we will get together soon.’’
One reason that Abreu chose the Sox over everyone else is being inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. He wanted access to Frank Thomas’ brain. Not like a zombie would or anything but you get the idea.
Also he showed up in January for s hitting camp and stayed so he could take 4 hours of batting practice every day. And his teammates have noticed he doesn’t strike out. As in freaking ever. He’ll ground out or line out or what have you but he puts that ball in play every time. You’re looking at a guy who’ll hit 35 homers with a .300 average. He’s the anti-Dunn.
And he’s just what Sox fans need.
Although if they buy the socks noted above I can forgive them. They are kind of cool.