"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
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:: Wednesday, February 09, 2005 ::

Murphy Strikes Again

So I've been working on my spiffy new site Bleed Cubbie Blue all day. Finally got it ready, launched it, balloons, fireworks...

Well, if you click there now, you'll get ... well, you'll get nothing. There are server problems. The tech experts are working on it. Keep trying.

Why do I think Kyle Farnsworth is behind this, somehow?

UPDATE 7:55 pm CT: The new site is back up. Hie yourself on over and check it out!

:: posted by Al at 7:22 PM [+] ::
Movin' On Up...

Well we're Movin' on Up!
Movin' on Up!
To the east side!
Movin' on Up!
To a dee-luxe apartment in the sky, We're movin' on up!
Movin' on Up!
To the east side!
Movin' on Up!
We've finally got a piece of the pie!

--"The Jeffersons", CBS-TV, 1975-85

I feel like George Jefferson today.

I know, that's pretty weird. And you're scratching your head, saying, "Huh? Has Yellon gone off the deep end?"

Well, no. Let me explain.

About two weeks ago I got, out of the blue, e-mail from Tyler Bleszinski, who runs the terrific Oakland Athletics blog "Athletics Nation" -- which you really should check out, A's fan or not -- offering me the opportunity to join him and some other team bloggers in a new network of sports blogs.

I was exceptionally flattered by this offer, particularly when I learned that Markos Moulitsas, proprietor of "The Daily Kos" political blog (and, I learned, a HUGE Cubs fan), one of the most influential blogs on the planet, was one of the founders of this new company.

The bottom line is that I've joined, and "moved on up", as the song goes.

I'm going to be posting my Cubs baseball at Bleed Cubbie Blue.

It's still me. It's still going to be the same game posts, the stories about our community in the bleachers, stuff like running Ronnie Woo Woo out of town, the Tomato Inning, the travel I'm still going to make to road games, just in a different location. I kind of like the new layout and logo and when you go there, you'll see the ways in which you can participate, become part of the blog itself.

Yes, there are ads. Grant, who runs the Giants blog McCovey Chronicles, said as he was doing exactly what I'm doing here, moving from his personal site Waiting For Boof (and what a great name that is!) to his new one:

You will have an uncontrollable urge to click on the ads. It's okay. Run with that feeling. I'm sure (product or service offered by advertiser) will be of great use to you.

Seriously, I'm not for sale. What I write is not subject to any editing or editorial control other than my own.

This blog will stay here, for now -- I may post some non-baseball stuff here, and the archives will also stay here, until I can figure out how to move them, or maybe I'll just keep them here permanently. And you can still e-mail me at the "contact/comment" link above, and the e-mail addy will also be on the new blog.

I thank every single one of you for coming here for the last two years, and I've heard from many of you, and join me at Bleed Cubbie Blue.

Same me, different channel. See you there.

:: posted by Al at 4:10 PM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, February 08, 2005 ::
Save Yourself Some Money

Don't go to eBay for the "Cubs Believe" blue wristband bracelet and pay $8 or $10. (As of the time I looked, there were 141 auctions for the wristbands.)

You can now buy them direct from the Cubs; this news release on the Cubs website tells you how.

Or, you can just call 1-800-248-9467. You have to buy at least five of them and there will be the dreaded "shipping and handling" charges in addition to the $2-per-wristband cost.

I'm wearing mine. It's for a good cause. Go for it.

:: posted by Al at 10:42 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, February 07, 2005 ::
Found In Translation

Received an e-mail today from Greg Harper, a reader who has a Korean friend who sends the following translations of the cartoons posted below:

hehe, dude where'd u get this? It's kinda year end review of Cubs for 2004 season. Basically it's saying that they have great talents (the numbers show), but somehow they're missing that "+a".

and the reason is...

#38 Carlos Zambrano (calling him super-size sniper! 20 Hit by pitch (no. 1) see that red 'laser beams'?

#18 Moises Alou (showing die-hard actions to get better price at FA market)

#31 Greg Maddux (Unbeknownst to most people, he had 16-11 for the season. And it's the difference between 'A' class and Super 'A' class.

#16 Aramis Ramirez (had 'Ramirez-like' performance for the season. though he doesn't look like Ramirez)

#34 Kerry Wood & #22 Mark Prior. (sharing the pain & injury for the season. and the coach's saying "Don't share that kinda stuff!!!")

#5 Nomar Garciaparra (acting as a show model for the team)

#21 Sammy Sosa (living his own world with his bat...wants to share his snack with the bat(?))

I think this is exactly right -- especially the comment that they're missing that "+a".

Let's hope they find that before Opening Day.

:: posted by Al at 1:40 PM [+] ::
:: Saturday, February 05, 2005 ::
Anybody Understand Korean?

If you do, you'll find these cartoons hilarious.

Me, I just looked at the pictures. I particularly liked the Prior & Wood scene, whatever it means.

:: posted by Al at 5:19 AM [+] ::
:: Friday, February 04, 2005 ::

The Cubs signed Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano to one-year deals today, avoiding arbitration.

Ramirez' deal is rumored to be in the $9 million range; no figures were available for Z. UPDATED 7:30 PM: Z's contract is for $3.76 million.

It goes without saying that the Cubs will try to sign both of these players to long-term contracts, perhaps before the season even begins.

The above article also notes an intriguing signing -- 36-year-old pinch-hitter extraordinaire Dave Hansen, who had a good year as a part-time 3B and PH for the Cubs in 1997 and then was inexplicably let go afterwards.

Hansen doesn't really play the field much any more -- he only played fourteen games (of 86 played) in the field splitting time between the Padres and Mariners in 2004, but his offense is almost rock-solid consistent from year to year.

I'd like to see him make the club; perhaps then the Cubs can dump Jose Macias. Jerry Hairston Jr. can do all the things Macias can, only better.

:: posted by Al at 3:33 PM [+] ::
Pitchers And Catchers Report In Twelve Days

Wrigley Field, Friday, February 4, 2005

:: posted by Al at 11:16 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, February 03, 2005 ::
This Time, He Didn't Sneak Out

Sammy Sosa, a la Eric Karros, took out a full-page ad in today's Chicago papers thanking Cub fans:

It's been an honor to play for the best fans in baseball. I was proud to be a Cub. My heartfelt thanks to the Cubs organization, my teammates and the fans of Chicago. Thank you for 13 wonderful years. Thank you Chicago - I love you. - Sammy Sosa #21.

Chuck over at Ivy Chat wonders:

... what the cost is for a full page ad? I'm going to guess around $85,000? Isn't that the same amount that Sammy owes the Cubs in fines for his day off last October?

Good point.

And didn't Sammy say yesterday that he was looking forward to playing for those great fans in Baltimore?

How disingenuous can you get?

Also, welcome Chris Troha, newest member of the CBA, with his Death, Taxes and Fifth Place blog.

That's a little bit too pessimistic a title for me, Chris, but welcome.

:: posted by Al at 11:51 AM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, February 02, 2005 ::
It's Official

There really isn't that much more to say that I haven't already said, but today, Sammy Sosa became a Baltimore Oriole -- and let me tell you, he looks odd in that orange and black cap with the little birdie on it, and further, seeing him at the press conference, he really does look smaller -- and Jeromy Burnitz became a Cub, signing a one-year deal with an option year for 2006.

The Cubs acquire Jerry Hairston Jr. and two minor leaguers who will only see a major league park if they buy a ticket like the rest of us -- though someone at the Associated Press threw Jorge Julio into the deal, something that would have been great if it could have been done without giving up Kyle Farnsworth, but Jim Hendry mentioned nothing about Julio at the press conference.

Hendry's news conference and Sosa's were on nearly head-to-head this early evening, and frankly, watching live sports press conferences is an exercise in futility. The microphones on whatever network you are watching are never turned so you can hear any of the questions, and it took the assembled multitudes at Wrigley Field about twenty minutes before anyone asked Hendry the obvious question:

"You done dealing?"

Of course, Hendry said no, and frankly, what else is he going to say? For now, he probably is, and the screamers will say that the Cubs got nothing player-wise in this deal and signed an over-the-hill replacement, and they are, well, pretty much right.

As I have written before, this trade wasn't made for player personnel reasons. It was made because the Cubs could no longer live with Sosa and he could no longer live with them. The Tribune called it a divorce over the weekend, and oddly, so did Sammy in his Baltimore press conference, and that's exactly what it was: irreconcilable differences.

Sosa was, of course, all sweetness and light, all "team" in his pronouncements, saying it's Miguel Tejada's house at Camden Yards... and he's right, but I wonder how long that'll last. People have said he can DH... but there's a problem already there, because in order for Sammy to patrol right field in Baltimore, Jay Gibbons may move to 1B, which will force Rafael Palmeiro to DH, and then there are the days when they'll want to rest Javy Lopez and DH him, and...

Well, who cares? It's Baltimore's problem now.

This is a sea change in what the Cubs franchise is all about. The beloved players of the late 60's stuck around for years beyond their usefulness on the field, because they were loved, and they failed to win. Only after it got hopeless (and after Fergie Jenkins threw bats onto the field) were they all, one by one, dealt away, and because management then had no plan, and no clue, the team dropped out of sight for several years.

This is different. Fans loved Sammy, but the tastes of postseason play we had in the 80's and 90's, and particularly 2003, got us into the mood to WIN.

Sammy Sosa's not a winner, and the final straw was the walkout on his teammates. His Cub career really ended that day, October 3, 2004.

The screamers will say that the Cubs lost too many homers and RBI by losing Alou and Sosa. My take on that is -- well, they didn't win with that, now did they? The team was way too one-dimensional, and though Jeromy Burnitz is no savior, he will hit some home runs, and Jerry Hairston can play several positions and actually get on base, something most Cub leadoff men failed to do in 2004.

One thing Jim Hendry has done over his Cub career is go out and get exactly what the club needs. What it did not need is to spend over $100 million on Carlos Beltran, or $50+ million on Magglio Ordonez without knowing if he can play or not.

I have said this before and I will repeat it again:

There are things that win baseball games that cannot be measured by numbers on paper or a computer screen.

And Jim Hendry has, by eliminating a negative influence or three in the Cub clubhouse from 2004, given the Chicago Cubs a better chance of finding the winning atmosphere in 2005.

Let's play ball already.

:: posted by Al at 6:55 PM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, February 01, 2005 ::
Five Years Too Late...

On June 23, 1980, in the midst of what was to become a 98-loss season, the Cubs traded a PTBNL (turned out to be Karl Pagel -- think of him as the David Kelton of his time) to Cleveland for a thirty-two year-old player named Cliff Johnson.

I say "player" for a reason, because Johnson, well, really couldn't field. He could hit like hell. He came up with Houston as a catcher, and he was brutal. So the Astros tried him at first base and he was worse, and so he never had an everyday job for the first few years of his career.

But oh, how he could hit; in 1975, at age 27, he hit 20 HR with an .876 OPS in only 340 AB. Bill James once wrote of Johnson (and I'm paraphrasing because I can't find the James book I remember reading this in right now) that if he'd found a team that could have installed him at first base as a young man, he'd have had a 20-year career and hit 500 home runs and made the Hall of Fame.

The 1980 Cubs tried to capture some of this magic and failed -- Johnson hit .235 in 68 games as a Cub, with ten home runs, and I still remember the hilarity of watching him attempt to play left field at Wrigley Field. Suffice to say he made Dave Kingman look like an all-star outfielder.

Johnson later had a decent end-of-career as a DH.

It is in this mold that the Cubs are apparently going to sign Jeromy Burnitz as soon as the ink is dry on the Sammy Sosa trade, which could come as early as tomorrow.

Five years ago, when Burnitz was putting up consistent .850 OPS numbers and occasionally flashing .900+ stats, and not coincidentally, wearing out Cub pitching as a member of the Brewers, this would have been a fabulous deal.

Now? I mean, for heaven's sake -- Burnitz is only five months younger than Sosa, and though he put up good numbers last year, I think you can almost totally discount them as they were attained in the otherworldly air of Coors Field in Denver. Whatever it is they do in Denver -- well, it's fun, but it ain't baseball.

Burnitz does hit lefthanded and has 14 career homers and 38 RBI in 47 career games at Wrigley Field. He's always played hard and is, even though he turns 36 just after Opening Day, a decent outfielder.

I'd like to hope that Jim Hendry is still after Aubrey Huff, because with Huff, an outfield of Huff, Corey Patterson and a Burnitz/Jason Dubois platoon would be solid offensively, with Todd Hollandsworth and Jerry Hairston as backup at all three positions.

Critics will wail about the lost offense of Sosa and Moises Alou.

Me, I cheer because these two, who were a big part of the negative atmosphere around the 2004 Cubs, are gone.

There are things about playing baseball that cannot be measured on a stat sheet. Jim Hendry has done something about that, and for that, I applaud him.

:: posted by Al at 7:55 PM [+] ::
We'll Huff And We'll Puff...

If the Cubs do manage to trade for Aubrey Huff, get ready for these sorts of groaners.

I don't normally do this sort of thing, so I figured I'd get my obligatory one out of the way now.

Speaking of huffing and puffing, Phil Rogers weighed in on the Huff trade possibility today:

To pry Huff away, general manager Jim Hendry would probably have to send the Devil Rays one of his two best prospects, first baseman Brian Dopirak and outfielder Ryan Harvey—who are both from the Tampa area—and a truckload of pitching. Call it two or three from a list that excludes only the four primary starters.

It's possible Tampa Bay wouldn't do a deal without Carlos Zambrano being in it. If that's the case, there probably won't be a trade. But if the Rays will do it for Dopirak or Harvey and two or three other pitchers from a list including Kyle Farnsworth, Sergio Mitre, Jon Leicester, Angel Guzman, Renyel Pinto, Billy Petrick and Bobby Brownlie, then Hendry should do it.

OK, take this with about 1,000 grains of salt. Usually Rogers is idly speculating, much as the rest of us do.

This time I hope he's on to something. Dopirak is a major talent -- but he is only 20 years old and has not played above A ball. He's three or four years away, and I am not worried about the 2008 or 2009 Cubs, I want to win NOW.

Aubrey Huff isn't the one missing piece, but he would at least partially replace the offense lost with Sosa and Alou no longer in the lineup.

If he could be acquired for, say, Farnsworth, Dopirak and one of the other pitchers mentioned, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

My feeling is that Jim Hendry is trying to work out some sort of deal so that a major acquisition -- apart from Jerry Hairston, Jr. -- can be announced when the Sosa deal is made official, which could be Wednesday or Thursday. The article linked right there also says the Cubs are "close" to signing a deal with Jeromy Burnitz, and that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing IF another power hitting outfielder can be acquired.

Also today, I have, thanks to Kasey Ignarski, a mostly-complete list of 2005 Cub spring camp uniform numbers:
 1-Jose Macias 
2-Gene Clines (coach)
4-Jason Dubois
5-Nomar Garciaparra
7-Todd Walker
8-Michael Barrett
9-Henry Blanco
11-Cody Ransom (nonroster)
12-Dusty Baker (manager)
13-Neifi Perez
15-Sonny Jackson (coach)
16-Aramis Ramirez
17-Calvin Murray
19-Angel Echevarria (nonroster)
20-Corey Patterson
22-Mark Prior
25-Derrek Lee
27-David Kelton
28-Todd Hollandsworth
29-Danny Klassen (nonroster)
31-Greg Maddux
32-LaTroy Hawkins
33-Glendon Rusch
34-Kerry Wood
35-Chris Speier (coach)
36-Gary Matthews (coach)
37-Mike Remlinger
38-Carlos Zambrano
39-Dick Pole (coach)
40-Todd Wellemeyer
41-Larry Rothschild (coach)
43-Mike Wuertz
44-Kyle Farnsworth
45-Stephen Randolph
46-Ryan Dempster
48-Joe Borowski
49-Jimmy Anderson (nonroster)
50-Will Ohman
51-Jon Leicester
52-Sergio Mitre
53-Geovany Soto
54-Renyel Pinto
57-Eddie Oropesa (nonroster)
59-Juan Lopez (coach)
60-Carlos Vasquez
61-Peter Bergeron (nonroster)
62-Richard Lewis
64-John Koronka
65-Rene Reyes (nonroster)
66-Adam Greenberg (nonroster)
67-Angel Guzman
68-Ronny Cedeno
71-Russ Rohlicek
72-Raul Valdez (nonroster)
74-Jose Reyes (nonroster)
76-Jermaine Van Buren( nonroster)
88-Casey Kopitzke (nonroster)
??-Chad Fox (nonroster)
??-Scott Williamson (nonroster)
??-Jerry Hairston Jr. (soon!)

:: posted by Al at 2:05 PM [+] ::

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