Category Archives: Sports

Quade Named Cubs Manager; Sorry, Ryno

New Cubs manager, Mike Quade.

The Cubs announced today that Mike Quade is no longer the interim manager, as he signed a deal to manage the big league club for the next two years.  This decision was made at the expense of denying the job to former Cubs second baseman, Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, and while most longtime Cubs fans are probably very disappointed in the decision, I’d be willing to bet large amounts of money that the team will do just as well with Quade at the helm as they’d be with Sandberg.

Why is that? It’s simple.  The team went 24-13 after Quade took over for the retired Lou Piniella in August, and they were a completely different club.  They played with energy, didn’t make nearly as many dimwitted mistakes, either defensively or on the basepaths, and the pitching was phenomenal, particularly Piniella whipping boy, Carlos Zambrano (8-0 with a sub-2.00 ERA in his last 14 starts, looking like the player he was before Piniella was hired).  In short, they became fun to watch for the first time all season, and a lot of it stemmed from having a manager who wasn’t distracted by family issues and lame duck status (or maybe it was just the psychological warfare Quade’s frightening face provides) like Sweet Lou was.

Now, I’m sure Sandberg would do a great job managing in the big leagues, and he probably will be hired somewhere very soon — think of the poetic justice if he were hired, and won, in Milwaukee — but the fact remains that Quade spent even longer in the Cubs’ system, lorded over the third base coaching postion like some sort of Universal monster since 2007, and then took a team that traded away most of its productive veterans and made them into a winner for the last month and a half of the year.  He’s paid his dues and is just as worthy of a shot as Sandberg.

So now the work of turning the Cubs into a winner for a full year begins.  Quade will have his work cut out for him, as most of the truly productive minor league players from the last couple years — Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin, and Andrew Cashner — are on the big league team.  They’re still pretty raw but will be good in time, and there are a few other players in the system who will be calling Wrigley home very soon, like outfielder Brett Jackson.  But the fact remains that the team is still without a true first baseman/middle-of-the-order power threat, and the budget will be lowered next year.  Maybe they will sign Adam Dunn, watch him strike out 8,000 times a year and be a liability at first in order to get some left-handed run production, but that is not a guarantee.  Either way, my optimistic prediction for next year remains: the Cubs will be a third- or fourth-place team, hovering around .500 as they develop their young players for a shot at winning in 2012 and 2013. And for those of you still smarting from the Sandberg snub, remember, the plan would be the same if he were hired.

So as a frustrated Cubs fan who would have loved to see Sandberg in the dugout, I still think GM Jim Hendry and the Ricketts family made the right choice.  Now, for the love of all that is holy, go win for once.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports

Rob’s Interest Round-Up! Manny Ramirez and AMC’s Emmy Wins.

School is back in session, so my days of pretending like this website is my job are over.  However, I’d like to still do a couple posts a week and they’ll probably have fewer words but more subjects.  Sorry about the lack of depth, but I’ll work on honing it and making it awesome in coming weeks.

Ramirez begins his fourth Major League stop in Chicago

First up on the agenda is the White Sox’ waiver claim of Major League Baseball’s oddest customer, outfielder and designated hitter Manny Ramirez, showing their affinity for aging members of those great ’90s Cleveland teams, having let go of Jim Thome before this season.  If Manny feels like playing up to his abilities — and his numbers this year say otherwise, with his paltry eight homers and 40 RBI — the team could get the boost they need to get to the playoffs.

That said, it’s not going to happen.  Ramirez, 38, has been a shell of his former self this year, whether it’s from lack of effort — always a possibility with him — regular aging, or removing banned substances from his diet after his 50-game suspension last year.  Plus, the Twins, who picked up the rejuvenated Thome prior to this year, just acquired reliever Brian Fuentes from the Angels and he solidifies an already solid bullpen, complementing the rest of Minnesota’s all-around fundamentally solid club.  With a handful of games to make up in the next month, it doesn’t appear likely the Sox are heading to meaningful October games.

AMC shows won the majority of drama Emmy's on Sunday's telecast.

In other news, it was great to see Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul win his first Emmy for his performance as Jesse Pinkman, meth cook.  In fact, it was great to see all the Emmy love for the AMC shows I fell in love with over the summer, with Paul’s always amazing costar, Bryan Cranston, winning his third consecutive award for being the best lead actor on a drama, and Mad Men winning the best drama category again.

I didn’t really watch the ceremony beyond flipping through channels during the commercials of Sunday’s new Mad Men episode — I’d much rather watch the show that’s being awarded than the show that’s doing the awarding, after all — but I did see Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s acceptance speech and can only congratulate him on a job well done.


Filed under Sports, TV

Dear Washington, Strasburg Fans, I’m Sorry I was Right.

Strasburg: Tommy John-bound.

Now that the Washington Nationals’ ace starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg has a “significant tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow” that requires Tommy John Surgery (I’m not going to explain it, so read here), it appears I was right all along in my prediction that Strasburg will be the second coming of Mark Prior, and I wish that wasn’t the case.

When I wrote this article last summer after Strasburg signed his record $15 million deal, a few people thought I was crazy, but the fact is, even at 21, I have already seen enough of these “can’t miss” pitchers blow up their arms very early in their careers, including the two cogs of the mid-2000s Cubs rotation, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, and Strasburg’s own Washington teammate, Jordan Zimmermann.

The key culprit in these injury-plagued pitchers appears to be the same thing every time: the pitching motion known as the Inverted W (why it’s not called the M, I don’t know), where the pitching elbow is raised above the shoulder during the pitcher’s delivery.  As you can see in this article, which I used in my previous post about Strasburg, every pitcher except the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright — and look out, Redbird fans, because his turn will probably come soon — has spent significant time on the disabled list, with the most notable being Prior, who will probably never pitch again, Wood, who’s been relegated to a bullpen role, and A.J. Burnett, who is always an injury waiting to happen.

See Strasburg's elbow? It shouldn't go that high.

So what should be done about this?  I suggest, starting as early as little league, park managers and coaches should have training sessions about how to keep the kids healthy, and that should include a preseason seminar about the correct pitching motion, like Greg Maddux or Justin Verlander, whose pitching hands are always placed higher than their elbows, which promotes less torque on the elbow and shoulder.  It’s a minor tweak, especially for a young kid, and if those correct pitching mechanics are hammered into these players’ heads from an early age, the amount of elbow and shoulder surgeries in Major League Baseball could be diminished significantly.

Maddux displays the correct way for a pitcher to wind up.

As for Nationals fans, I’m sorry, because Strasburg is less than a year older than me and, while he could still have a bright future, it’s a lot cloudier than it was before he felt that snap in his arm during his last start.  I’m also mad that I wasn’t able to see him pitch before this happened.  Oh, well, bring on the next soon-to-be superstar pitcher.

1 Comment

Filed under Sports

Sweet Lou Rides Off Into The Sunset: The Aftermath.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella hastily announced yesterday morning that he was stepping down sooner than expected from his post immediately following yesterday’s 16-5 drubbing by the Atlanta Braves to deal with family issues, and despite the team’s infuriating mediocre 2009 and bottom-of-the-barrel 2010, it’s clear this man deserves all the accolades being tossed around.

Lou tipping his cap during one of many standing ovations yesterday.

And, of course, I have to look ahead at the floundering team’s future, which could be bright, given a few good breaks and a couple of years of player development.

But first, I want to thank Piniella for his almost four years managing Chicago’s National League ball club.  His first two years, 2007 and 2008, were excitement at its finest and despite the team’s poor playoff showings, it’s clear Piniella — and in some ways, his predecessor, Dusty Baker — changed the culture of the team.  Losing is no longer tolerated by the fans or front office.  Look at all the players jettisoned in recent weeks: Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot, Ted Lilly, and last week, Derrek Lee, and you get the idea that nobody in the organization will put up with the underperforming team and everyone wants to reload the minor league system to start from scratch.

And nearly all of that can be attributed to Piniella’s influence.  The man has always been a winner, with the exception of his tenure managing the once-awful Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays (and honestly, that was a no-win situation, no matter how you looked at it), and it showed while he was in Chicago.  He expected the most out of his players and punished them when they weren’t performing, like his demotion of opening day starter Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen at a couple different times this season.  Despite the team’s floundering throughout this season, I felt a tinge of sadness when Piniella announced last month his plans to retire following this season, but yesterday’s announcement shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given his two leaves of absence in the last month to  be with his ailing mother.

However, Lou is gone and he’s not coming back — and who could blame him?  Taking over for him is former third base coach Mike Quade, who has the dubious role of ushering this rookie-laden, offensively mismatched monstrosity into a very important offseason, during which the team will find his own replacement.

The team does have some interesting storylines to finish this lame-duck season.  Besides the ongoing managerial search (does anyone truly believe it’s going to be someone other than Ryne Sandberg?), we Cubs fans can look forward to seeing the possible first baseman of the future, rookie Tyler Colvin, transition from his roving position in a crowded outfield as he attempts to reclaim his grasp on a position he hasn’t played since his teens.  Rookie shortstop Starlin Castro could conceivably be the first rookie since Ichiro Suzuki to win a batting title — it won’t happen, but he’s definitely in the conversation for the Rookie of the Year award.  And, with September callups looming, prospects like starting pitcher Jay Jackson and outfielder Brett Jackson (trust me, no relation) could be on the field in coming weeks.

After the season’s over and Sandberg is installed as the next manager, some interesting things could happen.  The team has made no bones about the fact they’d like to be rid of the head case known as Carlos Zambrano, as well as light-hitting right fielder Kosuke Fukudome.  If the former is dealt, even in a desperation “if you take him, we’ll pay for everything” kind of deal, Jay Jackson might get his shot in the rotation next season, and if Fukudome’s out the door, Colvin could go back to his natural position and open the door for a lefty-swinging free agent first baseman like power hitters Adam Dunn and Carlos Pena.

No matter how you slice it, change is afoot for the Northsiders.  With their soon-to-be Hall of Fame manager, Piniella, out the door, it just goes to show how much different this team will be in the coming years.

1 Comment

Filed under Sports

So Long, D-Lee. Thanks.

Derrek, you will be missed.

The increasingly hapless Chicago Cubs traded first baseman Derrek Lee to the Atlanta Braves for three prospects yesterday, and while it’s nice to know his middling-to-bad statistics and large contract are off the books, it’s sad to see one of my favorite players of the last decade leave, because until this year, he’s put up some big numbers and been one of the most likable Cubs since being traded to the team before the 2004 season.

I understand baseball — hell, all of sports — is a “what have you done for me lately” business, and Lee’s .251 average, .335 on-base percentage, and .751 OPS have all been substandard this year.  However, I can’t stop thinking about the 2004 season when he started the year slumping horribly, then lit up scoreboards from June on, or the entire 2005 season when his MVP-like numbers were the only entertaining part of an incomprehensibly bad team.  Those types of seasons continued through the playoff runs of 2007 and 2008 and he was the best player on the team even a year ago.

But that’s over, and I want to thank Lee for his years on the North Side and all the fun, among other things, he’s provided this Cubs fan, and wish him luck playing for the NL East-leading Braves, while also taking a look into the future.

The Cubs got three young right-handed pitchers in the deal, and while none of them are ready for the majors just yet, they could be serviceable in the future.

The youngest and rawest is 19-year-old Robinson Lopez, a starter-reliever swingman who’s been roughed up a bit in Single-A ball, with a 4.37 ERA, but he has an ability to keep the ball in the park, as he’s only surrendered five homers all year.  If he can cut down on his walks (4.2 per nine innings, yikes), he could get to the bigs in a few years.

22-year-old reliever Jeffrey Lorick is moving quickly through the minors.  Picked by the Braves in the 20th round of last year’s draft, he’s already in his third stop in their system, but he, too, needs to cut down on his walks allowed.

Tyrelle Harris, a 23-year-old also picked in last June’s draft, is the clear centerpiece of the deal.  He’s moved with lightning quickness through the Braves’ system, currently pitching in Double-A, with an eye-popping 60 strikeouts in 49.2 innings pitched.  If he continues dominating batters, he could be in Chicago by next summer.

With this deal, the Cubs wrung the most out of the Braves that they were going to get, given Lee’s contract, age (he’ll be 35 next month), and underwhelming 2010 numbers.  I applaud GM Jim Hendry for being able to get even this much, and again, thank Derrek Lee for nearly seven years of being a reason to watch this miserable team I can’t pry my eyes from.  Seriously, this train wreck season can’t get much worse, right?

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports

Cubs Trade Lilly, Theriot, for DeWitt, Two Minor Leaguers.

Good luck, Teddy.

The Chicago Cubs have traded their best starting pitcher, Ted Lilly, and starting second baseman Ryan Theriot to the Los Angeles Dodgers for second baseman Blake DeWitt and minor league pitchers Kyle Smit and Brett Wallach, according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark.

The deal earns an “amen” from this baseball business junkie/desperate Cubs fan who only want to see the team improve.  It is a little bittersweet, though, as Lilly’s been one of the best Cubs players in my lifetime, and Theriot, uh, had a cool name.  I could honestly take him or leave him, but I know female Cubs fans everywhere will be pissed.

You, too, Theriot.

However, it’s a good deal for all involved, because Lilly, who will be a free agent after the season, certainly wasn’t going to have a shot at the playoffs with the awful, awful Cubs, who are 11 games under .500 after last night’s 17-2 drubbing by the Rockies.  Lilly’s 3-8 record could easily be reversed if the team scored any runs for him, but he has the second-worst run support in all of baseball, but with his taste for big games and level-headed approach to pitching, the Dodgers should get their money’s worth out of him.

As for Theriot, 30, he’s contributed — seriously, would it hurt to take a walk? — to the yearlong offensive swoon the Northsiders have been dealing with, but he is fast on the basepaths and provides depth at the middle infield spots, so L.A. looks to have a serviceable player in him.

The new Cubs second baseman, Blake DeWitt.

The haul for the Cubs looks moderatly promising, as the 24-year-old, lefty-swinging DeWitt replaces Theriot as the starting second baseman and provides depth at third base for Aramis Ramirez, as he’s split his time in the majors at those positions.  He’s having a modestly good year with a .270 batting average, but his .352 on-base percentage shows the guy knows how to work the count and will gladly take a walk, something the Cubs do not do well.  And he’s a lefty, another thing Chicago needs in the lineup.

The minor league pitchers, 21-year-old Brett Wallach and 22-year-old Kyle Smit, are both enjoying good years in the Dodgers’ minor league system, with starter Wallach posting a 6-0 record while striking out more than a batter an inning in Single-A, and Smit, a reliever, having a good year with a 2.35 ERA at two levels.  They’re still at least a couple years away but could certainly help the major league team at some point in the future.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports

Smith, Bears Report to Camp, Will Be “A Good Football Team.”

Here we go again... Unless Lovie's right, for once.

The Chicago Bears 2010 training camp begins today, and I’m not too enthused by their prospects, although beleaguered head coach Lovie Smith sure thinks they’ll be the feared “Monsters of the Midway” of old (although I’d gladly take the 2005-’06 version), according to this Chicago Sun-Times article.

The author of the piece, Rick Morrissey, has a lot of fun talking about Lovie’s well-known optimism, a trait that, at this point in the coach’s Chicago career, most Bears fans have grown sick of, myself included.

Let's hope Cutler has a better time this year.

The optimism was tolerable when Rex Grossman was stinking up the field, as long as the defense was swallowing up opponents’ offenses, but since their 2006 Super Bowl loss to the Colts, that defense hasn’t exactly been top-notch, and the offense slid from mediocre to poor, even with the addition of the team’s new “savior,” quarterback Jay Cutler.

If the team stands a chance of smelling the playoffs this year, it will be because of Cutler’s improvement upon his awful 26-interception 2009 season.  This was a man who went from preseason MVP talk to a week one performance in which he took a big, steamy (although aided by poorly run routes) dump, and in Green Bay, no less.

Despite last year’s woes, in the picture to the right, Cutler looks as though he’s bulked up a bit in the offseason to withstand the hits his piss-poor offensive line will subject him to.  A bounce back year from Matt Forte and the addition of Chester Taylor could make the running game a little better, too.  If only those receivers looked in any way like NFL-caliber players…

Anyway, I digress.

On the defensive side, at least one thing has improved, as the team signed free agent defensive end Julius Peppers to shore up a pass rush that hasn’t been anything special in the last three years.  His presence should help take the pressure off the clearly aging — and arthritic — Brian Urlacher and the perpetually injured Tommie Harris.

So, yes, coach Lovie does have a little reason for hope, but I, like the rest of Chicago, feel this team is set for another year of mediocrity.  This time, though, the ending will be different and we won’t be hearing the positivity from Lovie’s mouth next year.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports