The Qualm After The Storm

Oct 15th. That is my son’s due date.

About a week ago my wife and I finished up cleaning the entire apartment.  They call it ‘the nesting period’ according to our very expensive and nearly as informative child care/lamaze classes.  Talk about thorough, it wasn’t short of a visit to the ER to make sure my thumb was ok after cutting it while, none other than…scrubbing the tub.  After an hour in the ER, some hospital glue and a ‘have a nice day’, we were on our way home to finish up and situate the nest to a level classified: Ready For Baby. (I’m fine, thanks for asking).

Things were cleaned, arranged just so.  Nightlights were placed, sheets were laid down and curtains were put up.  All that needed to happen was the baby’s actual arrival.

AND THEN….the storm came.

It rained extremely hard last Thursday night here in NYC and apparently a drain on our terrace area was blocked.  By about six leaves mind you.  This was just enough to cause a flood in our bedroom and living room.  Classification now: Nowhere Near Ready for Baby.  All of a sudden there is a ton of work to do as all of the floors in our apartment need to be ripped up, gutted and replaced.   Joy.

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My employer was nice enough to allow me to work from home to supervise the activity.  This is more for my wife to feel OK about everything as I think she feels better with me here.  So, here I sit waiting for emails or calls from my boss, blogging about the Cubs, sitting in the middle of a flooring ripping whirlwind party all around me.  You know those construction sounds you can ‘kinda’ hear from across the avenue, on the building next door and it just ruins your day?  Now take that noise and put it fifteen feet away from you.  Nice, right?  Clink, clank, scrub, clink, clink, clink, hammer, clank, clink, clink, scrub, scrub, clink….all, day, long.
It did get me thinking though.  A) I can’t believe this is happening so close to when the baby’s due date is.  And I realize Oct 15th is still 11 days away, however, you know how babies can be.  It’s all up to them.  So, we can mark the 15th on the calendar all we want. Circle it, underline it, put stars all around it…it makes no difference.  He is coming whenever he wants to and we have no idea what to expect.  and B) If I think about the horrible timing of this all, I will go crazy so let’s compare the repairs going on here to the Cubs repairs necessary this off-season.
Considering the season ended just yesterday in disappointing fashion (losing to Houston resulting in a fifth place finish this year for the Cubs) I can only pinpoint so many needs.  A power-bat, preferably at first to replace Lee.  A stud in the starting rotation.  Another couple arms in the bullpen.  A quality second baseman (maybe not this guy as rumored in recent years) and maybe a young third baseman with some upside in the scouting to have around to compete for the third base job after Rami’s gone whether it be figuratively or literally.
Oh yeah….and a MANAGER.
Or a decision re: the manager anyway.  Quade has shown incredible skill with the youngsters (benching Starlin to make a point re: hustle/effort) and with the veterans (keeping them playing hard throughout the last 40 games of the season even though they were on the brink of or officially eliminated from post-season play).  Lou Piniella is not the easiest act to follow and even though his tenure ended poorly, he did deliver two divisional championships while he was with the Cubs.  Quade has one of the best records of a manager filling in as manager of the Cubs mid-season ever.  I have a lot of confidence in him and wouldn’t mind seeing if he could do the same thing in 2011 that he has in his final quarter of the season in 2010.
Then again, Sandberg is a guy learning and having some success in the minors and is a fan favorite.  A guy like Sandberg along with old successful vets like Torre, Girardi and LaRussa are the only other guys I think have a shot at this spot.  I don’t foresee Wedge being the guy (and I really don’t see LaRussa here either).  Who know if Torre wants to manage really.  We don’t want another Piniella situation, aside from his ailing mother.  And Girardi may stay with New York so it may be down to Sandberg and Quade.  Between the two, I take Quade yet I’d be happy to root for Sandberg (again).  Just not sure he has the experience it will take to be successful just yet (look how long it took Mattingly to learn under Torre before he got a shot) and Quade keeps saying ‘nothing replaces experience’ (and I don’t think that’s by accident either by the way).
I don’t think the Reds are going away anytime soon and I don’t think this season was a fluke. Their young pitching is a huge part of their success and if healthy they will be competing among the top teams in the Central for a while.  The Cardinals are of course going to be competitive.  Personnel wise, Hendry and Ricketts have a ton of decisions to make.  A ton of work to do to make this Cubs team successful.
Notice I didn’t say competitive.  We are competitive.  Think about how many one-run games we lost this year.  Think about how many games we lost to Houston and Pittsburgh.  We have to win the close games and we have to beat the teams we are expected to beat.  Where is it toughest to win, in theory?  On the road.  Quade’s road record was 17-5.  Just saying.
A lot of decisions to make.  A lot of work to be done.  Let’s just hope it’s quick and painless. Unlike the way this last minute, unexpected floor construction in my apartment feels right now.
Clink, clank, clink, clink, clink, scrub, scrub, hammer, bang, clink, clink, clank, clink, clink…
Go Cubs Go!

MLB Network 1, Cubs 0

So far this off-season the MLB Network has more key free-agent acquistions than the Cubs do. Patience will definitely be a virtue while we wait to find out what last names will be attached to Chicago’s favorite bags of laundry.

Hendry wasn’t able to do anything significant during the Winter Meetings but that doesn’t really surprise me.  The economy is horrible so everyone’s being careful about every move they make and the consequences those moves may have in the long term.  Also, there’s always those couple key free-agents that the dominos don’t get to fall until those pieces land where they may.  In the past couple years guys like Fukudome, Matszuaka and Johan Santana played the role. This year it’s Halladay, Lackey and arguably Bay.  We know that there are certain pieces we can expect to be there come Spring, but there are 266 free agents still out there looking for a new address.  Anything can happen and it’s going to keep the miserably cold winter extremely interesting this year.

Happy to see Miles and Heilman go.  Never was thrilled with Miles being a Cub, he had huge shoes to fill when he was the replacement piece for fan-favorite and capable utility man DeRosa.  Heilman is just a joke.  He came in with promise when he reached the Mets and then went on to contribute to the horrilbe state the Metropolitans have fallen to.  I live in NY and have seen a ton of Mets games and read a ton of Mets headlines.  Heilman is a disaster and we’re a better team without him.

That somewhat, in some round about way brings me to Castillo.  Luis Castillo is playing for the New York Mets.  I’d like to remind everyone of that.  IF a trade actually ends up going through, whether it’s for Bradley straight up or involving as many as twenty-something teams, IF the Cubs end up with Castillo, be disappointed.  This is not the Luis Castillo that played with Florida.  This is an older, slower, less effective Castillo and he will not do much in getting the Cubs to where they need to be.  Again, living in NY has given me plenty of opportunity to see Castillo let down Mets fans from all over and become the hot target of New York boo-birds.  The Mets last won the Series in ’86 and last appeared in it in 2000.  You think the Mets fans’ level of patience brought out a lot of boos and negative press?  Wait until the fans of the Cubs, waiting 100 years and counting in taking home the trophy, get their hands on an inempt second baseman like Castillo.  We’re far better off with the Fontenot-Baker tandem.  I would prefer to upgrade at second if we can, but Castillo is not the guy.

Love Ted Lilly but I’m a little concerned about how long it will take for him to be effective next year coming back from surgery.  I know we have more pressing needs than a back up plan to Lilly, but it would be great to see if Hendry could work out a deal somewhere that brings in a solid starter as insurance.  I like his confidence in the guys we have, but I’d feel more secure in our shot if we had one more quality guy with the experience and numbers to prove he can handle it. Even more so than Gorzelanny or Marshall can offer.

Congratulations to Peter Gammons, look forward to catching you on MLB Network.  Hoping the Cubs give us a few guys to look forward to catching as well.  Go Cubs Go!

A’s for Effort

Miles and Fox were traded for not a whole lot to the Oakland A’s.  Good.  SOO happy that we got rid of Miles.  I was never all that thrilled when he came over to begin with and he didn’t deliver any results his entire time (as short lived as it was) in a Cubs uniform.  And Fox, he never got a chance to really contribute on the major league level due to too much talent in front of him.  Basically we’re getting some young cats that MIGHT contribute in the future which is better than having guys that HAVEN’T contributed in the past.

Good bye and good riddance.  I wish them both the best but I don’t expect to see a whole lot more out of them and neither should Oakland.  A’s for effort is about all you’re going to end up with if their time in Oakland is anything like what it was with the Cubs.

Still have Bradley and still lack a great center field talent who might be able to lead off.  First snow fell in New York today. Winter is just beginning.  Lots more to come regarding both baseball moves and unfortunately, snow.

Go Cubs Go!

Not a Whole Lot Going On

Since I last posted, the Ricketts family took over ownership of our beloved Chicago Cubs.  Love their stance on looking at the Cubs from their owner seats the same way they would have if they still owned bleacher seats.  Someone like that will hopefully help convince them to put a little more money into a deal here and there than they may have done otherwise if they didn’t have an emotional attachment to the team.  On the flip side, hopefully they have plenty of people helping them deal with their heads when necessary and not always their hearts.  Need to make sure the deals they make are strategically sound business wise and baseball wise.

I mean think about how fans treat fantasy baseball drafts.  Most of us go after the big names and load our team the best way we can.  Often we take guys we enjoy rooting for and do so on the field in real life and in the fantasy fields.  We can’t have owners wanting the best for our Cubs but not thinking soundly the way we need those running the show to do.  People with a passion for the ball club and dreams of the team finally winning again is a plus and I’m happy we don’t have folks who are only in it for the dollars they can make in the long run.  And if you don’t know much about them, check out this interview with them here conducted by the Chicago Tribune:

 http://chicagotribune.vid.trb.com/player/PaperVideoTest.swf

That said, I think Wells got ripped off and should be the NL ROY.  (See what I mean about making decisions with your heart and not your head?)  Still, Wells had a great year, kept the Cubs in the thick of the NL Central and wild card berth races, longer than they could’ve hoped for without him.  No one expected to need such a contribution from Wells this year but we did.  With his help, we hung in there through the middle of September and kept things interesting.  Interesting doesn’t win you hardware though.  Numbers and results do.  That right there is the problem.  

Zambrano won the Silver Slugger award once again, but really, who is his competition?  Any other pitchers out there looking to go deep during BP?  I think not.  Zambrano can enjoy making more room on a mantle for all of his silver bats.  We need him to start a new wing for some pitching awards if we’re going to end up on top any time soon.
Bradley is still a Cub and I’m not sure how much longer that will remain as such.  If we can’t move him, I think he’ll be a sore spot on a team with a lot of potential once again and we can’t have that.  I think his numbers would be better but his head and mouth would remain the same.  My guess anyway.  And we can’t have that.  Have to trade him and see what we can get.  And Granderson?  I guess that’s cool, but I don’t know, it doesn’t really get my blogging juices flowing.  
Anyone else excited or upset about anything going on with the Cubs since the World Series ended?  Excited about any free-agent filings?  Have a Cubs holiday shopping list you’d like to share?  Does it involve Holliday?  Please feel free to share.  With Halloween over, Thanksgiving on it’s way….winter meetings will be here before you know it.  ‘Tis the season.
(Oh yeah…and ex-Cub Sammy Sosa’s getting lighter.  Ok.  I guess there have been some things going on).
Go Cubs Go!
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Hmmm…interesting

Cubs sign Rudy Jaramillo as their hitting coach for 2010.

His time in Texas was littered with experience guiding Soriano and Bradley through productive years at the plate.  You have to wonder if his time with them, plus the fact that Bradley trusts him so much, is a sign that regardless of whether a team out there is interested in Bradley, that perhaps Hendry is thinking of giving this Bradley experiment one more shot.

Jaramillo is known as being a guru.  Hendry says he’s the best hitting instructor in the game.  Really Jim?  You think so?  It’s a good thing he’s received such high praise from his peers as well, because really, what else is the guy that hired him supposed to say?  “Who, Jaramillo?  Yeah, he’s alright I guess”.  Not happening.  Of course Hendry is going to say he’s the best.

Jaramillo is known for being a great communicator in getting players to work hard and after seeing results, earn his trust.  The Cubs website has a story where Jaramillo speaks of a time where Sosa was in the batting cage with four other hitters.  Over 100 balls were hit and after the session, the four hitters picked up the balls and Sosa didn’t touch one.  Next round, same result.  Only this time when the hitters went to pick up the balls, Jaramillo told them to stop and let Sammy do it all.  Sammy, the diva, did just that.  Considering Sosa has selective bi-lingual ability communication resulting in Sammy Sosa doing a ball boy’s job that most major league hitters do without a second thought is definitely a great example of Jaramillo being a great communicator.  But he’s still a batting coach, not a shrink.  So, not sure how he helps in Bradley’s case.  If he’s even still around in 2010 that is.

Love the work ethic already though.  Jaramillo is planning on viewing tape of Cubs’ hitters from ’09 and then meeting with some of the younger talent in Arizona in November.  Taking this team from potential to reality is going to take someone willing to go the extra distance.  I love Piniella and think he’s a great baseball mind.  However, people think he’s sleeping a bit lately and not quite the fire plug he’s been in the past in motivating and getting results.  Maybe that’s where Jaramillo comes in to reinforce that fire and add a level of urgency and desire on the coaches’ level that’s been missing.  Jaramillo could help from his place on up in the organizational in that way potentially, as well as from 1 down to 8 in the Cubs’ order.  Wouldn’t that be nice.

And not for nothing, but in 2006, Cub fan fave Mark DeRosa hit nearly .300 with Jaramillo on the Rangers as well.  As far as working with former players goes…well, I’m just saying.  That would be a great reason to welcome Jaramillo as well.

Off-season has begun already for the Cubs regardless of the fact that game one of this year’s World Series hasn’t even kicked off yet.  And their first move comes on the coaching level.  Interesting first tweak in getting this team to the next level in 2010. 

Rudy, Rudy, Rudy!  (Great movie)  Go Cubs Go!

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Seven Ate Nine

There is an old children’s joke that reminds me of this Cubs season. 

“Why is six afraid of seven?”
“Because seven eight nine.”

As soon as we hit seven games back I felt that it was too much to overcome and that loss ate up any chances we had of winning this thing in ’09.  Add to it the fact that the Rockies keep winning and the rest of the pack keeps losing and they are separating themselves even farther in this wild card race.

Both the Cubs and the Rockies are 5-5 over their last 10 games.  However, the way those wins and losses fell, we’ve lost ground on the Rockies and are now eight games back in the wild card standings.  I can’t believe publications and outlets like ESPN even include them on their NL Wild Card standings/contenders lists any longer.  I mean, again, it would take a miracle.  So why not list the realistic chances only.  Anyone who hasn’t been mathematically eliminated would require a miracle to make it in, so in that case if you list the Cubs, might as well list everyone.

Our line up was sorely missing Lee as his return to the lineup included a couple of home runs and a victory against the Mets.  Putting all of that pressure and urgency on Wells’ starts in September is just too much for a rookie to realistically come through with so it’s no great surprise that Wells is proving to be unable to carry his weight through September.  Zambrano’s been touch and go, Demp hasn’t done anything special and there’s been no run support for Lilly or Wells.  So in that case we have to keep hoping Wells, a rookie, figures out a way to win and it’s just been too much.

Another Cubs loss today and a Rockies win.  An unfortunate pattern as of late.  I think I had the Dodgers winning the West and the Giants taking the wild card before the season began so if not the Rockies or Cubs, I suppose for my own record, the Giants are welcome to win the WC. 

The way this season is ending will raise lots of questions in the off-season.  Another starter needed?  A closer?  A new manager?  Use some of these class, talented youngsters to get a big name to win now with guys like Soriano, Lee, Ramirez and Bradley playing and getting up there in years?  Trade any of those guys in a blockbuster trade and perhaps that will make a difference?  I don’t know.  But the off-season will provide a ton of questions, predictions, analysis and trade proposals.  Hendry will have his work cut out for him in figuring out the last few moves necessary to mold this roster into a World Champion team. 

Until then, we still have 27 games left.  Eight games out.  Has seven ate ’09?  Probably.  But if the math works in our favor, then history may as well.  And if that’s the case, the off-season business may be a lot different, the chemistry may be okay and the language we hear will be something entirely unexpected.  First of the 27: Lilly against the Pirates.  We’ll always have Pittsburgh is a popular saying here at Prose and Ivy.  Tomorrow, we’ll see if that’s still true and if so, whether it makes any difference or not in the standings.  Go Cubs Go!

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Hard Not to Spend

Anyone else finding it difficult to be fiscally responsible this holiday season?  I am doing this year on a strict budget like never before and it has been tough to not go over budget on anyone on my list, and of course, hard not to ask for expensive things when others ask what may be on my list…especially since I don’t really make lists anymore.  Not like I used to anyway.

I find so many things on-line that I think would be cool to own.  Sandberg something here, Banks something there. Fukudome here, Cubs jacket there.  But most are so expensive, I don’t even suggest them when people ask if there’s anything I’d like for Christmas this year.  I know everyone is in the same boat with the economy and unless they won’t take no for an answer, I’ve decided to not ask for anything this year.  That is a hard thing to do! To simply grow up and understand that ’tis the season, but not for being greedy and asking for things you can’t afford yourself, mainly because chances are others can’t afford them either.  Ahh, to be a kid again.

I remember growing up and the big event that putting together ‘The List’ was.  Video games, jerseys, caps, entire sets of Topps baseball cards, dvd’s, autographed memorabilia, more video games.  I was game and wise to the whole Santa thing (looking forward to seeing what he puts in my stocking this year though) and I don’t think I ever really appreciated how much it took for my parents to have gifts under the tree.  I sure do now though.  Especially from my Mom those few Christmases when it was just she and my brother and I.  This economy we’re in now is making it amazingly complicated when it comes to shopping for people and affording nice things you know they’d like.  Probably not unlike what it is for a single parent to deliver a great Christmas for her two kids.  Only difference is, at that time I didn’t ‘get it’.  My list still included video games, jerseys, caps, entire sets of Topps baseball cards, dvd’s, autographed memorabilia, and more video games.  Many years later, I get it.  I haven’t asked for anything from anyone this year.  Some people just won’t take no for an answer though and nyone who demanded to get a couple ideas from me so they could make sure they got me something I like (even though I said no worries about 10 times), okay, sure, those things were Cubs things.  I’m only human and they were being really adamant about the whole thing.  Really the only thing I’m looking forward to this year is seeing my family, including my new born nephew enjoy his first Christmas.  Hard to believe my brother has a kid.  Soon he’ll be the one trying to figure out how to get those video games, jerseys, baseball card sets, etc. under the tree for his kid.  Good times.

All that being said…I’m not so concerned about St. Hendry’s pocketbook this holiday season. And I’m not going to ask for anything/anyone.  I’ve always found the best Christmas presents are either the one thing you wanted all year (that number one thing on your list growing up) or when someone gets really creative and delivers something you may have never even thought of and it makes your whole holiday.  I’m not giving a list to GM Hendry.  Time to get creative Jim.  We’re all going to go to bed knowing the economy is tough Christmas Eve, but we all hope you get creative and come through with the team that will provide the greatest gift of all.  (Hint: the organization has had 100 years to figure out what that would be).

One more day of editing this week and then its off to see the family.  Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday, no matter what it is you may be celebrating!  Happy holidays to you all!  And of course, Go Cubs Go!