NL Central 2012 Season Preview Podcast

Looking ahead to this year’s Cubs baseball, last night I once again participated in a roundtable podcast discussion of the NL Central with Ivie League Production, hosted by Daniel Shoptaw. A Cardinals fan, he assembles a fan from each team making up the division every year and it’s always fun to share expectations of your own ballclub as well as field questions from the other fans and kick around division expectations among the group.

Included below is an embedded version of the podcast which you can play here. Highlights include the impact of Theo Epstein, the debate as to whether Pujols and Fielder’s absence will make the division grow tighter in 2012, my thoughts on Dempster as the Opening Day starter, expectations regarding the final standings of the Central and overall storylines to look forward to this coming season.

I see the bullpen as a weakness, I’m behind the ‘year of the Cubs’ numbers coming down despite the fact that it directly correlates to my URL, I believe Theo is going to make a huge difference (who doesn’t?) and I believe aside from the Astros, the rest of the division will be decided in a tight race with only 89 wins needed to claim the division title. Also, given the extra wild-card in each league, while I feel the Cubs have a lot of work left to do, I could see them coming away with that extra wild card spot.

Watch out for the Pirates in 2012 to be the surprise team of the division and potentially not in the way you would expect. We discuss how the Cubs are slowly getting younger and what to expect with Soriano and Ian Stewart this season among other subjects. The guys involved are fun to listen to and it was a blast to talk about the upcoming season with them.

Here is the podcast. Press play and check it out! (You don’t have to wait long to hear my thoughts on the 2012 Cubs as I am the first writer out of the gate.)

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ivieleagueproductions/2012/03/25/ucb-radio-hour-special-previewing-the-central

Go Cubs Go! Opening Day is only 10 days away!

New Year, New Home, New Prose.

January has been an absolutely crazy month. I’m punctuating it with a move this week that I’ll be able to tell you all about real soon. Let’s just say so far it has been a BEAST. Looking forward to sharing the news and talking baseball with you all in 2012. Pitchers and catchers will be here before you know it. I don’t know about you, but man, that sure does sound good to me.

Go Cubs Go!

So Far, Quade’s a Hit…But Too Much of a Good Thing?

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

Sometimes when people try too hard or try to be too cool, they fail miserably. That’s why Quade has to be careful not to be too much like Kraegen in the above video.

I like that Mike Quade is making this team his own by doing things a little differently, however, he needs to remember to keep the tough love leader as part of his game plan as well considering how well it was received by the team at the end of last season.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of the Cubs hiring Quade. I like that he’s enthusiastic to see his guys start putting on display what they can bring to the team. I like that he is looking to further evaluate guys he’s familiar with within the Cubs’ system. I even appreciate the fact that he listed lineups three games in advance. I believe it will help players prepare and learn their roles. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you can’t have a successful team without everyone knowing and embracing their role.

I think Quade has kicked off Spring Training the right way. Let the veterans know what is expected of them and let the youngsters know they are getting a fair look. That’s all any of them can ask for. But are the Cubs in danger of having too much of a good thing the way Quade has started off camp? Is he in trouble of setting a tone where there is too much of a good thing going here (loss to Oakland aside, that is)? Will the players get too used to feeling like they know what to expect and not ready to easily adapt when need be during the season? Like anything, I suppose it’s simply a matter of opinion. Many of you are still upset that Sandberg isn’t running the show. However, in answering the last question, I believe everything is going to be just fine and anyone who is freaking out over Quade’s system of three days heads-up being too soft needs to relax and enjoy having Cubs baseball back on the air. 

I understand that people like to pick at the bone for things to complain about, especially when we’re only one game in to Spring Training. Not a whole lot to get worried about but we’re sports fans and when nothing is there, sometimes we create things. I’m feeling pretty good about Quade’s leadership so far and don’t think you should be expecting or worried about any crazy flying basket locker room meetings out of Quade. He may have his own way of running the show that wasn’t done by Piniella or guys before him, but so far I think he’s taking this team in the right direction and has not discarded the Quade that got him the job late last season.  

It speaks volumes about Quade’s interest in respecting veterans and leaving windows open to surprises coming out of camp. He referenced Colvin the other day as a recent pleasant Spring Training surprise/success story. I’m glad that he is looking to fill in the roster spots around the guarantees with guys who earn the spot and want to play hard. Of course we’re going to see the guys you can wear. If you can buy a jersey with a player’s last name on it, it’s basically a guarantee you will see them play a major role, at least in the first month or so of the season. It’s the bench players that make a team great though. Stars make you ‘really good’. Depth makes you great.

When I was in Vegas for my honeymoon, I bet on the Cubs three times and won two out of three bets. It would be wild to log into a baseball spread site and predict which players made it out of camp. They very well may, I’m not sure. I know the regular season matters so as a fan of course those games are already fascinating. However, I wonder how many people buy the season previews or the annuals or the minor league prospect reports and try to bet on who will come out of camp. If they are then I’m sure these Spring games are taking on a whole new significance and importance to those particular fans. Imagine watching a Spring game and truly caring how long a player stays in the game. I love the fact that Quade left Garza in the game to hit instead of replacing him with a pinch-hitter. Quade’s right, he has to learn to hit sometime. Now is the time to do so.

I wonder what Zambrano had to say about it privately to Garza afterwards. I know it was reported that he didn’t see it but Z is one of the best hitting Cubs pitchers on the team. While Garza is working with Jaramillo to feel comfortable hitting after hardly doing so for the Rays, he must also be talking to the other guys on the staff and who better to ask than Zambrano? Of course, Garza did get shelled in his first appearance as a Cub in spring training including a grand slam to Coco Crisp. But (cue Fred Armisen’s Joy Behar) who cares, so what? It’s Spring Training. I’m sure the guy was nervous and worried about making a good impression. I’m sure it was just one pitch that got away that led to four runs. Do I want to see it during the regular season? No. Does Quade leave him in the game in a situation where he should replace him with a pinch-hitter when the game counts? No. So far Garza has a hit and the ball to place on his mantle. So far, Quade has been a hit with the Cubs and fans alike.

Is posting game lineups three games in advance too coddling? Is giving veterans reasonable expectations and laying all of your cards on the table too much? Is giving young players the feeling like they could possibly leave the minors behind and join the club for Opening Day or very soon into the season the wrong way to handle your business when it comes to prospects? No. No to all three.

I like what I’ve heard from Quade so far this Spring and I don’t think any of these things are a bad thing. This is Quade’s team now. It’s his time to put his stamp on it and run the show the way he thinks it should be run. At the end of last year he essentially had all of his players’ support that he should be hired as manager as well as mine.

I believe while it’s still early, Quade still has that support 100% and I can’t wait to see how the rest of the Spring plays out leading up to Opening Day. Go Cubs Go!

Bang for Your Buck

I want to know if your team gives you enough bang for your buck.  And by ‘buck’ I mean it in a number of different ways.  The financial investments: tickets, merchandise and maybe some of you like myself with the Cubs, a way to watch the games like MLB.tv.  The emotional investment: the time spent watching games, the energy put into rooting for your team, the mental effort put into analyzing the decisions your manager or general manager make with your club and the amount of heart put into celebrating your team’s victories/agonizing over defeats/arguing with fans of other teams, especially rivals over whose team is better.

Take the Cubs for instance.  You arguably can’t get more bang for your buck.  The moment a new title pennant flies at Wrigley, the Cubs would be the team that give its fans more bang for their buck than any other team in baseball.  The history: huge.  The drama: unmatched.  The stadium: historic.  The reputation their fans have with other fans: lovable losers…basically bottom of the barrel, respected yet bashed with glee (especially by their rivals’ fans).  The players…just to name a few: Soriano.  Ignites Cubs games on a regular basis with leadoff home runs.  Regular representative of the team come the All-Star game.  Raises the heat on debates on where in the order he should hit.  Carries himself like a professional and makes Cubs fans proud to root for him.  Bang for your buck?  Absolutely.  

Theriot.  Awesome nickname: The Riot.  Awesome first name: Ryan.  It is my name and sounds like Sandberg’s first name.  Hard to go wrong there.  Hustles on every hit ball and is among team leaders in all hitting categories.  Helping carry this team during a very tough stretch where extremely important keys to the team’s success have been injured.  Bang for your buck?  You bet.  

Bradley.  Controversial off the bat (pun intended) which is always entertaining providing lots of bang for the buck.  A huge threat when hitting well and finally in a long term deal, first of his career.  Love hate relationship with the fans….love hate relationship with the media…love hate relationship with…I’m guessing you name it.  Bang for your buck?  Possibly only Zambrano tops Bradley for most interesting character on this team.  

Lee.  Batting champ on the resume.  Team leader.  Scapegoat.  Absolutely dangerous when he hits his stride.  Hoffpauir hot on his trail causing fan debate as to whether it’s time to let Micah take the role full-time away from Lee.  Talented, hot topic, leader in the clubhouse and proven winner.  Bang for your buck?  Please, absolutely.  

Soto.  Rookie of the Year.  Sophomore slump.  First rookie catcher to start an all-star game in forever.  Handles one of the most talented starting rotations in all of baseball and from what I’ve read on several female Cubs fan blogger sites…apparently the ladies are big fans as well.  Bang for your buck?  YUP.  

Fukudome.  Please.  From the off-season where all we could talk about as Cubs fans was will he-won’t he up through opening day against the Brewers at Wrigley to the cool headbands, through the hot first half of his rookie season to the crash of his second half and a decent start to ’09.  Plus you know the club must be thrilled with what he does for the organization in overseas merch and interest in the club.  Bang for your buck?  Tons…and bang for your yen as well for that matter.
The bench. This is where you really tell if you’ve got a team that gives you bang for your buck, or just a few over-priced stars and everyone else who happens to dress the same as them everyday.  The Cubs’ bench has managed to step up and keep our team in the thick of the NL Central race and provided fans with quality guys to root for.  This bench as a whole has become the 2009 version of DeRosa when it comes to heart, versatility and ability to step  up and fill in in a crunch when injuries happen.  Without our talented bench, the Cubs would be in a lot of trouble right now heading into the the thick of Summer.  Bang for your buck?  Over and over again (thankfully). 

Zambrano, Harden, Lilly, Dempster, Marshall.  You bring your guys and we’ll bring ours.  I like our chances, injuries, ups and downs and all.  Bang for your buck?  No matter what day it is, you got it.  Especially Zambrano.  Bananas.  Cramps.  Tantrums.  Strikeouts.  Opening day starts.  No hitter.  Team Ace.  Beating up catchers in the dugout.  And a ton of heart.  Bang for your buck?  Maybe the definition of said phrase.  
Like I said…this club could arguably be the one team in the league that provides the most bang for your buck.  And I’ll go ahead and say it flat out, I believe they do just that…and there is no argument to be had come the day they raise a new World Series title pennant.
Cubs fans…think of a reason this is true that I forgot to list?  Tell me in the comments.  And fans of other teams who disagree and believe that their team in fact gives them and their team’s fans more bang for your buck…tell me their too.  Interested to hear your thoughts.
Great run lately for the Cubs.  Love the fight we’re seeing and loving that with even with all the injuries, we are right in the thick of this thing.  Harden’s turn tomorrow in Detroit.  And since I mentioned Ryne earlier…as a side note, I completely agree Ryno.  Completely agree. Go Cubs Go!

Are we there yet? YES!!!

Thankfully, yes…FINALLY.  Tomorrow is:
And the games finally count!!!
Huge changes this year.  No DeRo.  Milton Bradley’s bat balances the lineup.  Gregg as our closer.  A possibly recently disgruntled Marmol as our setup guy.  More playing time for Fontenot and a new guy named Miles.  Soto with a solid all-star season under his belt raring to go in an effort to avoid the sophomore slump.  All this and more equals a very interesting prospect that is the 2009 Chicago Cubs MLB season.  And I am ready.
I got my new gear:
I got my new Cubs Club card:
I got my MLB.TV:
I got my New York Chicago Cubs Fan Meetup group:
And the Opening Day roster is set:
I’m ready.
I decided at the end of 2008 I would no longer expect anything, simply enjoy the ride.  That’s exactly what I’m going to do in ’09.  I have no expectations.  Zero.  Simply go out and enjoy the season, all of it’s ups and downs and bumps and bruises and highs and lows.  Come October, we’ll see where that brought us.  It will be hard to maintain this mindset for sure, but it’s my new approach to being a Cubs fan.  I think we have a great chance and I wouldn’t devote as much time to the team if I didn’t always think this was the year.  However, after 101 years of it not, it’s time to stop expecting a change and simply enjoy the ride no matter the outcome.  That’s going to be tough like I said, but it’s definitely worth a shot.
That being said, here are my 2009 MLB Predictions.  Predictions that is.  Not expectations.
AL EAST
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Baltimore Orioles
4. Tampa Bay Rays
5. Toronto Blue Jays
AL CENTRAL
1. Cleveland Indians
2. Minnesota Twins (WC)
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Detroit Tigers
AL WEST
1. Los Angeles Angels
2. Oakland A’s
3. Seattle Mariners
4. Texas Rangers
NL EAST
1. New York Mets
2. Philadelphia Phillies
3. Atlanta Braves
4. Florida Marlins
5. Washington Nationals
NL CENTRAL
1. Chicago Cubs
2. Milwaukee Brewers
3. Cincinnati Reds
4. St. Louis Cardinals
5. Houston Astros
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
NL WEST
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. San Francisco Giants (WC)
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
4. Colorado Rockies
5. San Diego Padres
ALDS
Red Sox over Indians
Twins over Angels
NLDS
Cubs over Giants
Mets over Dodgers
LCS
Red Sox over Twins
Cubs over Mets
World Series
Cubs over Red Sox
And there you have it.  Your 2009 MLB World Series Champions, the Chicago Cubs.  Streak dead.  AC000000.  No expectations.  Simply a prediction.  Go Cubs Go!!!

Prose and Ivy Intro to New MLBlog Readers

As we are only about five hours away from flipping our baseball calendars to a whole new year and being that the MLB Network launches tomorrow in millions of fans’ homes across America (which could only bring more attention to the MLBlogs community), for any new visitors to MLBlogs.com or Prose and Ivy, I would like to wish you a happy new year! 

To kick things off heading into 2009, I thought I’d use a copy of the spheroid MLBlogs posted about Prose and Ivy earlier in the year to introduce myself to you and say welcome to my blog!  For everyone that enjoyed reading Prose and Ivy in 2008, thank you for continually stopping by and I look forward to talking Cubs baseball and baseball in general with you throughout 2009.  
Have a safe and happy new year,
Ryan
Prose and Ivy

Spheroid: Prose and Ivy

Wrigley 

MLBlogger: Ryan at Prose and Ivy
Signup date: Dec. 5, 2007

1. Why do you blog?

I live in New York City and there aren’t many Cubs fans that I’ve met here so far who are readily available to talk about the day’s Cub headlines or the most recent Cubs game.  It’s great to have access to a community of baseball fans in general, but especially to be able to reach out and communicate with other Cubs fans on a daily basis.  Until the Cubs hire me as a beat reporter/analyst, this is the closest I’ll come to either…and I love it!

2. What was your favorite post?

My favorite post would probably be the one titled “The Face, The Brace, The Pace, The Place and The Ace” or “The Poster Child”.  The first one was one of those blogs where you feel like you have so much to say it just flows once you sit down and start typing.  Those are exciting when they happen. The other one I just think is really funny…my own little parody of the Cubs upcoming ads for the 2008 team.  Good times.

3. Strangest blogging experience?

The first time I received a comment because I couldn’t believe people were actually reading my blog.  It’s made me post nearly daily lately with people responding and the feedback I’ve received regarding how many people are enjoying my page.

4. What is your favorite blog, including at least one MLBlog?

There are couple that I was really enjoying yet can’t seem to find any longer which is too bad.  I really like Crawly’s Cubs and Some Ballyard. A good mix of humor and analysis is what I really enjoy when reading someone else’s blog.  And anyone who enjoys my blog…I generally read there’s regularly too.

5. What would you be doing if you weren’t blogging?

Walking my dogs.  They REALLY should be outside on a walk right now.

6. Where do you think the blogosphere is going?

Blu-ray?  I don’t know you got me.

7. Favorite team and why?

Cubs.  Chicago Cubs.  Yes those Cubs.  Great characters on the team, great potential, great history, great fans, great stadium, the seventh inning stretch, the underdog status year in and year out, wondering if this will be the year and how many more years I’ll be wondering if this will be the year…and Ryne Sandberg.  He was the man.

Chevychase8. What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I have met two of my comedy heroes in rest rooms (BIZARRE but true).  I met Chevy Chase in rest room at a political fundraiser a few years back and was so excited I shook his hand to meet him before I had a chance to dry my hands after washing them.  After shaking my hand he looked at me and said “You gave me a wet shake.”  I didn’t know what to say…all I could come up with was “It’s all water I swear.”  The other was Bill Cosby in a Barnes and Noble bathroom in NY. I was waiting for the bathroom to become available and right behind me walk in two huge security guys…behind them, a man with sunglasses and a baseball cap.  Quickly that man became Bill Cosby.  SO COOL.  I didn’t want to bother him although inside I was freaking out as he is a stand up legend.  He then said to me “Are you waiting?”  I turned and looked at him and said “Yes, Mr. Cosby. I am waiting.” He just turned away, then turned back, smiled and said “We are waiting.”  He then left.  But for a brief moment there, Bill Cosby and I were doing the same exact thing at the same exact time.  Again…SO COOL.  (And yes, he was wearing ‘one of those sweaters’.)

9. Happiness is…

…champagne all over your team’s clubhouse at the end of the World Series.  I’d say that’s happiness indeed.

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The Talented Mr. Fukudome

Thumbnail image for fukudome and third base coach.pngAre there no limits to the talents of Kosuke Fukudome?!  People said he was fast, but he’s shown some great speed so far this season!  Today against the Brewers, Fukudome nearly became the first player in major league baseball history to get to first and third base at the exact same time.  Psyched the Cubs were successful in landing him in the offseason!  Check out these numbers:

1.  K Fukudome
OBP .667  SLG% 1.125 AVG .500

Whatever they’re whispering in Fukudome’s ear, keep it up!  Sure it’s only three games in but Prose and Ivy and Chicago are huge fans of Kosuke Fukudome!  Even if they don’t quite know how to express it.  Let’s see how Kosuke does against the Astros this weekend!  The Brewers couldn’t figure him out and I doubt the Astros will in their first series against him either!  FUKU-DOME!!  FUKU-DOME!!  Rich Hill on the mound tomorrow…let’s take this series and make it a great weekend!  Go Cubs Go!

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