Tag Archives: MLB

Anthony Rizzo Era Begins; Temper Your Excitement

Being a Chicago Cubs fan is a tough pill to swallow. After years of oppressive losing, we’ll get a ray of hope (in my lifetime those rays have been winning seasons like 2003, 2007, and 2008, and prospects like Corey Patterson and Felix Pie).  But none of those have yet brought us the baseball catharsis we all want: A World Series championship.  And who’da thunk it, shiny new beacon of light, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, will not singlehandedly bring that, either.

Rizzo’s first start for the Cubs is tonight at Wrigley Field against the New York Mets.  After lighting up scoreboards across Triple-A the last couple seasons, Rizzo has nothing left to prove in the minors.  Yes, he struggled last year while called up by the San Diego Padres, but since being sent back to their Triple-A affiliate and being traded to the Cubs, he’s been even better.  Those 23 home runs and 1.110 OPS are certainly exciting given how miserable the Cubs’ offense has been this year.

But don’t get too giddy.  After all, this is still the same Cubs team with a .342 winning percentage.  Even if he replicates his Triple-A production in the majors, Rizzo will only be worth a few extra wins from here until the end of the season.  He’ll also have to deal with crushing expectations from irrational fans and media.  I reiterate: The Cubs are going nowhere this year except the top of the 2013 Draft board.

Where Rizzo’s value lies is in how he fits into the changing organizational culture the Cubs — spearheaded by the new front office brain trust of Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Jason McCleod — have started this year.  For the first time I can remember, they have a stock of interesting offensive prospects — Brett Jackson, Matt Szczur, Junior Lake, Josh Vitters, 2011 first round pick Javier Baez, and the newly added Cuban prospect Jorge Soler and 2012 first rounder Albert Almora — but the Cubs’ pitching prospect cupboard is laughably barren.  Even if all these hitters develop the way the Cubs hope (they would be lucky if one or two realized their potential), and they create a formidable core with 22-year-old All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro (some might), the team would still need a windfall of pitching help to contend.

So remember, even if Anthony Rizzo reaches star status, something that is never assured even for the best prospects, the Cubs won’t be much better until their other young hitters ripen and they import some quality pitching into the organization.  Relax, lay off the Kool-Aid, and enjoy what the kid can do on a diamond.


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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.

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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.


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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.

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