Archive | January, 2009

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Former Cubs Denied Access To Baseball Hall of Fame

Posted on 13 January 2009 by Lou

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The Chicago Cubs did not get the Baseball Hall of Fame news that they were hoping for on Monday. Former Cubs right fielder Andre Dawson received only 361 votes – good for only 67% of the voting. One needs 75% of the vote in order to gain access to the Hall of Fame. Dawson got a small bump in voting from 2008 when he only received 65.9% of the vote. Former Cubs closer Lee Smith received only 240 votes – good for only 44.5% of the voting. Smith and Dawson will both be back on the ballot again in 2010.

The Baseball Writers Association of America only voted 2 players into the Hall of Fame in 2009 – Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice. Of all votes cast, after Henderson and Rice, Dawson and Bert Blyleven were the only 2 players listed on more than half of the ballots. Here’s hoping that Dawson can make it in next year – especially since his numbers are eerily similar to Rice’s career numbers. While Rice has a higher career batting average and on-base percentage than Dawson, Dawson has more RBI’s than Rice and only 33 players in MLB history have more RBI’s than Dawson. Along with Willie Mays and Barry Bonds, Dawson is one of 3 players to have 400 home runs and 300 steals – pretty impressive numbers.

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Cubs Close to Signing Japanese Lefty Takahashi

Posted on 12 January 2009 by Lou

The Chicago Cubs are close to signing a left handed reliever – Ken Takahashi from Japan. The deal would be for 1-year. Takahashi is a 40-year old left-handed reliever. Takahashi amassed a 3.50 ERA with an 8-5 record for Hiroshima in Japan.

The Cubs are likely making the move for 2 reasons. Takahashi would add a veteran left-handed arm in the Cubs bullpen. Currently, the Cubs only have 2 lefties on the roster – Sean Marshall and Neal Cotts. If the Cubs do sign Takahashi, that would allow Marshall to move into the rotation as the 5th starter with the departure of Jason Marquis.

The signing of Takahashi could also be related to Kosuke Fukodome’s 2nd half collapse during the 2008 MLB season. After starting the season hitting well over .300 with a high on-base percentage, Fukodome struggled in the 2nd half – hitting only .217 during the final 3 months of the season. The addition of another Japanese player like Takahashi could help Kosuke continue his adjustment to baseball in the United States. Stay tuned – we’ll keep you posted here at www.mycubstoday.com.

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Former Cubs Lefty Dave Roberts Dies at Age 64

Posted on 11 January 2009 by Lou

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Former Cubs left-handed pitcher Dave Roberts dies of lung cancer at the age of 64. In his 13-year MLB career, Roberts played for the San Diego Padres, Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners and New York Mets. Roberts retired from major league baseball in 1981. Roberts made 445 appearances, splitting time as a reliever and starter. He won 103 games and also saved 15 games. He accumulated an impressive 3.78 ERA during those 13 years.

Roberts won a World Series Championship with the Pirates in 1979. His best year came in 1973 as a starter for the Astros. That year he won 17 games with a sparkling 2.85 ERA. He also pitched 12 complete games – unheard of these days – including 6 shutouts. In 1971, while with the Padres, Roberts finished 2nd in the National League with an amazing 2.10 ERA.

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Bradley Ready to Rock N’ Roll in 2009

Posted on 10 January 2009 by Lou

The health of Milton Bradley should not concern you Cubs fans!

All throughout the Bradley pursuit, critics have questioned 2 things about the 30-year old veteran – his ability to stay healthy and his affinity towards being a “hot-head”. Today, I’ll focus on the latter – his health.

Bradley has played in over 100 games in only 3 of his 9 MLB seasons. 2 of those came in back-to-back years in 2003 and 2004 for the Cleveland Indians (his next best year to his 2008 career year) and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (when he only hit .267 with 19 home runs and 123 strikeouts). He has reached the 500 at-bat plateau only once – in that 2004 MLB season. During the 2007 MLB season, his season was cut short after only 61 games after a bizarre incident in which he tore his ACL in an altercation with an umpire and a cooler in the dugout. And while he was ready to go for the 2008 MLB season, he played in 126 games amassing 414 at-bats. His numbers were phenomenal – .321 batting average, .436 on-base percentage, 22 home runs, 77 RBI’s and 80 walks. He credits Frank Thomas with teaching him patience at the plate during the 2006 MLB season. That has helped Bradley increase his on-base percentage in each of the last 4 baseball seasons. The only concern from 2008 was that he only played 20 games in the outfield, with the rest of his playing time coming at DH.

In the National League, there is no designated hitter. So if Bradley wants to get at-bats (obviously), then he needs to play the outfield. How many games will he play? That is a great question. The Cubs say they have done their due diligence on his health. Cubs athletic trainer Mark O’Neal examined and tested Bradley over a 2-day period in California. He passed all those tests with flying colors. The Cubs have gotten assurances from both Bradley and the Rangers (his former team) that his knee injury was a think of the past by the middle of the 2008 MLB season.

Bradley has undertaken a rigorous off-season regimen that is focused on mimicking the stresses and actions a player goes through on a daily basis during a competitive baseball game. Bradley has lost 15 pounds in the process and has strengthened his entire body. The Cubs also have depth in the outfield. Bradley will primarily play in right field, but can also play all 3 outfield positions. Kosuke Fukodome and Joey Gathright will be able to spell Bradley from time to time. And it won’t be a surprise to see Pinella go with a Fukodome / Bradley combo every once in a while to get 2 left-handed bats in the lineup against a righty. From all indications, Bradley is already ready to go for 2009. I know we’ve all heard that before, but I guess we should give him the benefit of the doubt – – at least until that first injury sidelines Bradley for a game or 2.

Let’s hope he limits his extracurricular activities (like the one shown below) too – we’d hate to see another freak Bradley injury all because he didn’t like the strike called against him in the 3rd inning of a cold game in April…

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Cubs Sign Milton Bradley To 3-Year Deal

Posted on 09 January 2009 by Lou

The Cubs have filled a big void in the middle of their lineup – finally.

Milton Bradley completed a successful physical this week to make it official. He signed a 3-year, $30 million deal, which is believed to include incentives for number of games played during the contract. As a switch-hitter, Bradley will split up the Cubs predominantly right-handed hitting lineup and will fit in just fine right in the middle of the lineup as either the 4th, 5th or 6th hitter. Bradley will also wear the “lucky #21″ – previously worn by another right fielder who left on poor terms with Cubs management, players and fans alike – the infamous Sammy Sosa.

After an injury-riddled 2007 MLB season in which Bradley only played in 61 games, Bradley out up career numbers. In 126 games and 414 plate appearances, Bradley hit .321 with 22 home runs and 77 RBI’s. More importantly, Bradley led the major leagues in on-base percentage with a whopping .436. He drew 80 walks with 112 strikeouts. One negative – he played only 20 games in the outfield, with the majority of his at-bats coming as the Rangers’ designated hitter.

How many games will Bradley play during the 2009 MLB season? It is unclear. With depth in the outfield with Kosuke Fukodome and Joey Gathright, Manager Lou Pinella may elect to rest Bradley in the late innings to keep him fresh during the long MLB season. That should allow Bradley to avoid the risk of injury that seems to follow him around.

The Bradley signing should wrap up most of the moves for the Cubs heading into spring training. There is the possibility that the Cubs look for another starter in the rotation, and that could also lead to more Jake Peavy trade rumors, but for now, the Cubs look ready to defend their NL Central Division title for the second straight year, and hope to fare better in the 2009 playoffs this fall.

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It’s Official – Cubs Deal Marquis for Vizcaino

Posted on 08 January 2009 by Lou

The Cubs made it official the other day – completing a trade with the Colorado Rockies that sent Jason Marquis to Coors Field in exchange for veteran reliever Luis Vizcaino. The move was done primarily to free up salary room to sign left-handed hitting outfielder Milton Bradley – who is expected to sign a 3-year, $30 million deal later this week.

Marquis won 23 games during his 2 MLB seasons with the Cubs, but his high ERA – 4.57 – ended up making the move inevitable. The Cubs will pay $875,000 of the $9,875,000 owed to Marquis during the 2009 MLB season.

On the flip side, the Cubs only have to pay Vizcaino $4 million for the 2009 season, creating a savings of approximately $5 million for the Cubs. Vizcaino made 43 relief appearances for the Rockies in 2008. He was 1-2 with a dismal 5.28 ERA. In 10 MLB seasons, Vizcaino has a career 4.34 ERA. Cubs scouts have indicated that Vizcaino still has legitimate major league velocity left on his fastball, and if he can avoid injuries, he will likely get ample work in the 6th and 7th innings for the Cubs in 2009.

With the trade of Marquis, the Cubs now had a void to fill for the 5th spot in the starting rotation. Sean Marshall is probably the front-runner to land the spot (he started 24 games in 2006, 19 games in 2007 and 7 games in 2008). Angel Guzman, Kevin Hart and Chad Gaudin could also be possible replacements. Jeff Samardzija pitched so well in the bullpen during the 2008 MLB season that he will likely be considered for the set-up role in front of Carlos Marmol, instead of for a spot in the starting rotation.

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Interesting Dialogue From Mark Cuban Regarding Cubs Sale

Posted on 07 January 2009 by Lou

With the recent announcement that the Cubs will name the winning bidder for the Cubs with the next few weeks, Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and early bidder for the purchase of the Chicago Cubs, made some interesting statements in his blog – Blog Maverick on Tuesday. Check out the article for yourself – it is a great read.

I loved his comic relief regarding asking the government for a bailout. I bet if he did write that letter, some politician would have taken up “Cuban’s cause for a bailout” and gotten him a billion or so dollars for his efforts.

The stuff about the Cubs – White Sox relationship in baseball circles is classic. If it’s true that the Cubs don’t enter certain agreements or make certain moves in order to keep the Cubs and White Sox on par, that is a total joke. Why would the Cubs not want to take advantage of it’s larger popularity, bigger fan base and broader exposure in order to make more money and put a better team on the field to win that elusive World Series Championship? It doesn’t make much sense to me, but wouldn’t surprise me if previous Cubs management had “tacit agreements” with Jerry Reinsdorf so that there would be parity between the Cubs and White Sox.

I also found it interesting that Cuban now thinks the $1 billion price tag for the Cubs is too much. Cuban originally bid over $1 billion for the Cubs, but failed to submit a final bid in December 2008 when the Cubs required the minimum bid to be at least $1 billion. Cuban claims that the declining world economy adversely affected the Cubs valuation as well, and that by paying that much, it might become too hard to continue to increase payroll each season if gate receipts decline – as they are expected to do so in 2009.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see on that one. Cubs fans love to drink the cool-aid, so I’m sure we’ll be hitting the Friendly Confines as much as we’ve done in the past. Maybe we pay ticket scalpers as much to get seats during the hot summer months, but I’m sure we’ll still pack the house each and every game.

I’d love to hear Jerry Reinsdorf’s take on all of this.

In any event, let’s just get the Cubs sale behind us. Once we get new ownership in place, hopefully we’ll get a better idea of how committed they are to winning and how much they are willing to spend to win. Then we can get a better idea of whether the Peavy trade will happen – whether it be during spring training or before the trading deadline in July. And then we can focus on play on the field – getting off to a fast start and keeping the momentum going through the hot summer months. Go Cubs!

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And the Winning Bid Is???

Posted on 06 January 2009 by Lou

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Well it looks like we could have an answer soon.

No – – – it won’t be Mark Cuban, but the Cubs have announced that they will likely name the winning bid for the Cubs within the next 2 weeks. As we discussed in a previous December blog post, 3 bidders submitted final bids to purchase the Chicago Cubs back on December 1st. The plan is for the sale to be finalized by Spring Training and the new ownership team to be in place by Opening Day 2009. This has been a long process – Chicago real estate mogul Sam Zell purchased the Tribune Co. for $8.2 billion back in April 2007. The sale of the Cubs was announced shortly thereafter, but it has taken a longtime for bidders to analyze the product and the economic crisis facing the nation hasn’t helped matters.

Once the winning bidder is announced, the ownership group will need to be approved by 75% of the current MLB owners. But at that point, I would imagine it’s just a mere formality. I doubt Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney and Zell would select a bidder who they thought might not be approved by the MLB powers that be. Stay tuned – we should have some answers soon and then maybe we can resume the Peavy-to-Cubs-trade-talks again for the 100th time…

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Cubs Still Looking to Complete Moves by Week End

Posted on 05 January 2009 by Lou

After a year-end flurry of moves with the trade of Mark DeRosa and the signing of utility infielder Aaron Miles, the Chicago Cubs still plan to complete a few deals over the next few days. Both Cubs GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella have been extremely focused on bringing in a left-handed power bat to break up all the right-handed hitters in the middle of the Cubs lineup. It looks like the Cubs have set their sights on free agent Milton Bradley – a switch-hitter who played a little bit of right field and a lot of “Designated Hitter” for the Texas rangers in 2008. His high on-base percentage and his ability to hit from both sides of the plate are attractive to the Cubs. On the other hand, he has played 100 games in the field only twice in his career and his on-field and off-field tirades give pause for concern that he could be a negative factor in the Cubs locker room. The last thing we need is another Sammy Sosa-type to bring tension to one of the best locker rooms in the major leagues. Apparently, Cubs management and players are comfortable with bringing in the fiery Bradley – as one former manager put it – Bradley’s biggest issue is that he cares too much”.

In addition to the Bradley deal, the Cubs are still shopping starting pitcher Jason Marquis. While the Dodgers have recently entered the mix to trade for Marquis, the Rockies still remain the favorites to land Marquis.

Stay tuned Cubs fans – we should have a little more information for you over the next few days…

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Red Wings Defeat Blackhawks 6-4 in Winter Classic @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 04 January 2009 by Lou

The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 6-4 in the NHL’s 2nd annual Winter Classic played at Wrigley Field on January 1st. The Blackhawks took a 3-1 lead in the 1st period on goals from Kris Versteeg, Martin Havlat and Ben Eager. The Blackhawks were poised to avenge 3 consecutive losses to the Red Wings in 2008-9, the most recent of which occurred just 2 days earlier in Detroit (a 4-0 shutout for the Red Wings).

The promising start didn’t last for long, as the Red Wings exploded for 5 unanswered goals in a 22-minute stretch spanning the 2nd and 3rd periods. The Red Wings took a commanding 6-3 lead that they would not relinquish. Duncan Keith’s power play goal with 10 seconds left in the game was too little too late.

After winning 9 straight games, the Blackhawks dropped their last 2 games – both to the Red Wings. The Blackhawks fell 8 points behind the Central Division leading Red Wings, but stayed in 4th place in the Western Conference standings with 47 points – just 1 point ahead of the Vancouver Canucks. The Red Wings improved their record to 25-7-5 and have 55 points – good for 3rd best in the NHL.

The Blackhawks resume play against the Calgary Flames on Sunday, January 4th at the United Center. Let’s hope the disappointing play the last 2 games against the Red Wings doesn’t continue into the weekend.

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