"People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do, I stare out the window and wait for spring." - Rogers Hornsby

al yellon rants about the Cubs, the universe, and everything
:: welcome to 'and another thing!' - voted by readers as Best Cubs Blog 2004

:: Cubs' final 2004 record: 89-73, 3rd NL Central, -16. Last game: 10-8 win over Braves
:: Al's final 2004 record: 51-41, .554 (44-37 home, 7-4 road)
:: Cubs' 2004 record in all other games: 38-32, .543 (1-0 home, 37-32 road)
:: Next spring training game: Thursday, March 3, 2005, vs. A's at Phoenix, 2:05 pm CT
:: Next game: Monday, April 4, 2005, vs. Diamondbacks at Phoenix, 4:40 pm CT
If you had a Java-capable browser, you'd know how much time is left till the Cubs opener! If you had a Java-capable browser, you'd know how much time is left till the Cubs opener!

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:: Saturday, December 11, 2004 ::

Next!

The Cubs are looking for a closer, as we all know.

You can cross the Brewers' Dan Kolb off the wish list, as he is now the Atlanta Braves' Dan Kolb, in a one-for-one deal involving the Braves' top pitching prospect, Jose Capellan (who is not only Atlanta's best prospect but perhaps the best pitching prospect in the majors).

This will undoubtedly unleash a flood of "Jim Hendry's not doing anything!" whining, but people, RELAX!

Look at the countdown clock above. It is still (as of this writing) one hundred and thirteen days till Opening Day. Yes, the Cubs need a closer. They could trade for one on April 3 and it would be fine with me.

The Cubs could not have matched this offer -- they've got pitching prospects, but no one as good as Capellan. There have been rumors that Atlanta is interested in Kyle Farnsworth, and I suppose it's possible that the Cubs could offer him and a prospect or two to the Braves for Kolb, but don't count on that.

Do count on Hendry getting creative and coming up with something we haven't thought of.

And be patient.

:: posted by Al at 7:37 PM [+] ::
...
:: Friday, December 10, 2004 ::
Cubs Blog Army Updates

Thanks to Byron of The Cubdom for helping me re-format the list of CBA member sites on the left sidebar -- now sorted by categories, with new listings...

If you're a CBA member and you're not listed or you think I have you listed in the wrong category, please let me know.

Also check out Byron's new site, Goat Riders of the Apocalypse, which is now up and running again.

:: posted by Al at 2:48 PM [+] ::
...
:: Tuesday, December 07, 2004 ::
Garciaparra And Walker Signed

The Cubs signed Nomar Garciaparra to a one-year contract today, reported by Bruce Levine of ESPN Radio to be for $8 million with $3 million in incentives.

That's just about right, and I'd expect that if Nomar is healthy and performs up to career norms, that Jim Hendry will try to sign him to an extension before 2005 ends.

Before the arbitration-offer deadline tonight,the Cubs also signed Todd Walker to a $2.5 million deal for 2005 with a 2006 option, which will be based on plate appearances. The Cubs also offered arbitration to Matt Clement, which will accomplish the acquisition of draft picks when Clement signs elsewhere, and declined arbitration for all the other potential free agents except Todd Hollandsworth and Paul Bako, on whom a decision will be made later tonight (update to follow tomorrow morning).

Again, this is just about right, and I applaud all these moves, and now Hendry can go to the winter meetings later this week with one thing upmost in his mind -- completing a deal for Sammy Sosa.

Latest rumor: Sosa and a pitching prospect to Kansas City for Mike Sweeney and Scott Sullivan. The Cubs would then flip Sweeney to the Mets for Cliff Floyd.

I'd do this in a heartbeat, depending on how much money the Cubs would have to eat in the deal. It would also be good for Sosa, since he'd be reunited with Royals hitting coach Jeff Pentland, who helped him tremendously in his years with the Cubs -- and even with clouds surrounding Sosa, it'd surely help the Royals sell tickets.

:: posted by Al at 8:25 PM [+] ::
...
:: Monday, December 06, 2004 ::
Cub And Steroid News

And no, the two are likely not related, I just wanted to put together a bunch of stuff in one post.

The Cubs are apparently set to re-sign their sometime double-play combination from 2004, Nomar Garciaparra and Todd Walker, though the two of them didn't start many games together as Cubs after Nomar's acquisition on July 31, since by then Walker had inexplicably been demoted to second-string.

Now that Walker's one of Dusty's "proven veterans", his left-handed bat will be welcomed in the lineup, and the Cubs will try to replicate the success the two of them had as teammates for the 2003 Red Sox.

This is a good thing. Garciaparra, before his Achilles injury last winter, had consistently been one of the best hitters in baseball. He has a lifetime batting average of .322, and lifetime OPS of .919, and that's including his subpar 2004. I'd expect him to return to higher levels after an offseason of rest, which is about the only way to heal an Achilles injury. He used to steal 15-20 bases a year, and though I suspect those days might be over, his defense isn't nearly as bad as Red Sox fans and media would have you believe.

As for Walker, the Cubs surely would have been better off with him as the full-time starter in 2004, and no doubt he wouldn't be re-signing without some sort of guarantee that the job will be his in 2005. Walker has some pop in his bat (he hit 15 homers in 372 AB last year), draws walks, and gives some energy to the lineup.

Neifi Perez will back up both positions. I know many in the Cubs Blog Army can't stand Neifi, but there's something about him that transcends statistics, and his performance in September (.371/.400/.548 in 62 AB, granted, a small sample size) and his current good hitting in the Dominican winter league lead me to believe that he could be a good bench player.

One thing Perez definitely is -- a good clubhouse influence, something the Cubs could use.

The Sun-Times article quoted above also says the Cubs will continue to shop Sammy Sosa, even with the Mets' interest now dead, and also pursue Brewers closer Dan Kolb.

I applaud Jim Hendry for all these moves.

As for the steroid scandal, I can't say much that hasn't already been said or beaten to death here, other than to say that... well, we knew much of this already. Ostensibly, part of the reason for the Mets' lack of interest in Sammy Sosa are the whispers that he might have also been doing steroids, though there was never any suggestion that he was involved in the BALCO scandal that has enmeshed Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and others.

I don't believe Barry Bonds for one minute that he thought the "clear" and the "cream" he was using was "flaxseed oil". Come on, how stupid does the man think we are?

Part of this disbelief, of course, is that Bonds hasn't been a very likeable player for his entire career, and that's too bad, because even though his statistics are clearly enhanced by the illegal enhancers, he is and has been a tremendously talented player for nearly twenty years, and one thing enhancers cannot do is give you strike zone judgment, and that, Bonds has had for his entire career. It is one of the reasons he has been able to hit for average in recent years, and I don't think illegal steroids have anything to do with that.

Does this taint our game? Sure it does. Does it mean that players and owners MUST now sit down and work out a plan to clean it up? Sure it does, and it begins with players with integrity sitting down with the lawyers who run their union and telling the Don Fehrs and Gene Orzas of the world that they want this cleaned up.

The Cubs' player rep is Mark Prior. There would be a good place to start.

Finally, should Bonds not get into the Hall of Fame as a result? I say no. If you did that, then you'd have to throw out Gaylord Perry, who admitted throwing spitballs most of his career.

What Bonds did was illegal by the laws of the land. It should have been illegal in baseball terms, but it has not been up to now. Therefore, we must live with it, though all of us who follow the history and lore of the game will see whatever HR total Bonds winds up with, with some taint.

It will stand in the record books. Steve Gietscher, who is responsible for the authoritative Sporting News Record Book, says:

As the person responsible for compiling and editing the Sporting News Complete Baseball Record Book, I can say that we will not be adding asterisks to Barry Bonds' records or anyone else's. We did not put an asterisk next to Roger Maris's name for hitting his 61 home runs in a 162-game season, nor did we put an asterisk next to all the records made before 1947 to indicate that they had been achieved without the players having to test themselves against African American players.

I have discussed this question with our editor and my boss, John Rawlings, and we are in agreement. Baseball has had its highs and its lows. The records are the records. We will publish the numbers. Others can interpret them as they see fit.

And that is a sentiment with which I agree 100%.

And lest you think all of this is not done with humor, I give a word to Dan Heisman, who for many years compiled a list titled Baseball's Active Leaders:

I was listening to the local talk radio fans debate the legitimacy of Bonds' HR record and it struck me we could, semi-humorously, try to separate the HR records in accordance with their conditions. Now of course we could do this forever, so I tried to limit it to the most common major categories (major league record, LH/RH/SH together, etc). So - taking this all with a little humor - here is my list (yours may be slightly different according to what you believe...):

Most HR in a single season dead ball era: Ned Williamson 27, 1884
Most HR in a single season pre-color barrier: Babe Ruth 60, 1927
Most HR in a single season 154 game season, baseball open to anyone: Ralph Kiner 54, 1949 (this is an overlooked record!)
Most HR in a single season 162 game season, no questionable supplements: Roger Maris 61, 1961
Most HR in a single season 162 game season, no questionable supplements and not an expansion year: Alex Rodriguez 57, 2002 (another overlooked record)
Most HR in a single season, legal human growth hormones allowed: Mark McGwire 70, 1998
Most HR in a single season, any illegal or legal substance: Barry Bonds 73,
2002.

Finally, if the powers that be really want to know who's done illegal steroids and who hasn't, take the word of a nurse caller to Mike Murphy's show on the Score:

Get all the clubhouse people in MLB under oath and ask which players have increased their cap size in the last couple of years.

Because while you may be able to mask the steroids in drug tests, in addition to making your biceps, chest, etc. larger -- and you could excuse that away with the 'workout excuse' -- they also make your head get bigger. And you can't hide that.

Worth thinking about, anyway.

:: posted by Al at 2:10 PM [+] ::
...

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