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Throwing Praise Cubs’ Way

I’m not the only one pleased with the direction the “new” Cubs are taking. Former baseball GM Jim Bowden came out in favor of Theo and Jed’s winter moves on ESPN.

thumbnailWhile I still have cringe-inducing memories of Bowden as GM of my “other” team, the Nationals — namely his man-crush on toolsy, troubled outfielders — I still think he basically knows what he’s talking about. And he makes some good points in the ESPN piece.

Basically, Bowden said the new regime entered Phase 1 of the rebuilding project with the goals of adding more depth to the rotation, making the lineup more left-handed, improving the defense and beefing up the farm system, and the Cubs’ recent moves have accomplished these tasks.

There’s no doubting that the rotation is now over-run with arms, for lack of a more flattering word. Not pitchers, mind you, but arms. A pitcher is someone who is at least somewhat a master of his craft; an arm is a guy who can throw a baseball fairly well. Chris Volstad, Travis Wood and the more recent add-on, Paul Maholm, are arms. What they are today is what they will be tomorrow, next year and probably the rest of their careers. They are guys that expansion teams populate their rotations with.

But I’m not knocking them. I’d rather have experienced arms like this trio than baby arms like Casey Coleman who are more likely to give you 2 innings and 6 earned runs than a quality start, or geezer arms like Rodrigo Lopez who wouldn’t even make an expansion team. Keep in mind, this is a rebuilding project. It will take time to develop and acquire pitchers, so in the meantime, and for the sake of being at least mildly competitive, we need solid arms. And now the Cubs have more arms than Vishnu.

When it comes to restocking the farm system, I love the Anthony Rizzo acquisition. Yes, he flopped horribly with the Padres last year — I think he had like a negative 300 WAR, but he was actually a 0.1 WAHSC (Wins Above Hee-seop Choi) – but he probably wasn’t quite ready for the big stage and San Diego’s Petco Park is so huge it can sap the confidence of any young slugger. All Rizzo might need is to pop a couple of wind-aided taters over the ivy on a hot summer day in order to feel like he belongs in The Show, and from there the sky is the limit. All indications are that he has the maturity and drive to ultimately make it — it’s just a question of how good he will be.

So all in all, a promising start to The New Era. Now if we could only get rid of those damn blue alternate jerseys …

News and Notes From Spring Training

chi_u_lilly_576Sorry for the three-day delay with posts, there is just very little going on. With that in mind, I will try to squeeze out whatever stories are happening and give you some updates on the Cubs.

Here are a few stories that have happened over the past few days.

Aramis Ramirez returns to the diamond

Ramirez has missed some time this spring because of a sore right tricep, but he returned on Tuesday against the Royals as a DH and went 2-3 with an RBI. He hasn’t played since March 13th, but he looked like he hadn’t missed any time in his three at bats. Read the rest of this entry »

Come to Think of It…All of this Curse Talk Really Gets My Goat

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Hearing about the annual goat’s head on Harry Caray’s statue made me sick.

And to the guy who brought a goat to the game the other day, I have four words:

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE GOAT!

Look, folks, there is no curse. In fact, the only “curse” the Cubs have had is the curse of lousy management over the years.

Since Jim Hendry has become the GM, things have improved. Now, I’ve been a vocal critic of Mr. Hendry, but even I have to admit how much more of an intelligent baseball man he is than the other idiots that have generally mismanaged this club.

For those of you who believe in curses, let me remind you that the Boston Red Sox supposedly were cursed by the Bambino once. Well, how did that hold up, eh?

I’ll tell you how—two world championships in the past four years, that’s how.

Coincidentally, this curse-busting occurred concurrent with the hiring of a terrific front office, led by the equally terrific GM Theo Epstein.

I’ll admit some strange things seem to happen to our Cubbies when they do get into the postseason. In 1984, they won the first two games of a five-game series against the Padres, only to lose when the supposedly Gatorade-stained glove of Leon Durham couldn’t find the ball.

In 2003, there was the infamous Steve Bartman incident, of course.

Curses at work? Well, in both cases, there are equally plausible explanations.

Leon Durham simply made an error. Don’t forget he was a drug user. In 2003, Dusty Baker mismanaged that series, and Mark Prior lost his poise.

Last year, nothing weird happened, they just played three games of really bad baseball at the wrong time. And Lou Piniella didn’t have that team ready to play and made some questionable decisions.

So there you go, you conspiracy theorists. No curse.

I just hate it when fans do the kind of stupid stunts we’ve seen recently. It makes the national news, and creates more fodder for the people who believe this stuff.

Hopefully, all of that is behind us now. We have a very good baseball team and if we keep getting to the postseason, we will go the World Series eventually.

It’s gonna happen.

Meanwhile, the only curses are the expletives coming from my mouth when I hear about goats, come to think of it.

-Bob Warja

Come to Think of It…Cubs Need Creative Revenue to Maintain Competetive Balance

11Chicago Sun-Times columnist Carol Slezak wrote an article in Sunday’s newspaper titled Bad-neighbor Policy at Work. Her main premise is that the Chicago Cubs “disregard responsibility to the community (by hosting) concerts (and wanting) more night games.”

Well I say tough baseballs, Ms. Slezak. If you want the benefits of living around Wrigley Field, you have to accept the good with the bad.

Property values and rooftop revenues are the financial benefits of living near the Cubs ballpark. Yes, the night games and concerts come with increased traffic and the occasional drunk pissing on your lawn. But let’s face it, the ballpark was probably there before you were. And you can’t have your cake and eat it too—reaping the benefits while whining about the inconveniences.

Of course, Slezak used to live in the Lake View neighborhood, so she has a biased opinion. Plus she’s a White Sox fan. But Wrigley is old and lacks many of the revenue-generating amenities that the newer ballparks boast. So they must make money where they can.

And if that means being creative and squeezing out every dollar that the area will produce, then so be it. That’s what may be necessary to keep up with players salaries and remain competitive.

New owner Tom Ricketts will certainly want to move forward with plans to increase parking and build restaurants and bars inside Wrigley Field’s “inner circle,” to bring in some of the fans that have historically spent their money at other establishments surrounding the park.

Patterned after the Fenway Park model in Boston, Ricketts and Co. will look to maximize their revenue. After all, he is a businessman. Yes, he’s a fan, but I’m sure he doesn’t want to lose money. And I’m equally certain that part of the lure of owning the Cubs is all that untapped potential income.

Sure, if you’re Murphy’s Bleachers, for example, and you’ve been there through the lean times when the park was relatively empty, you may feel like this plan isn’t fair. But what the Cubs need to do is to tell the bar owners “Look, you can either go out of business or you can pay us a percentage of your profits, and if you can’t beat us, join us.”

The Cubs own land around the ballpark, so why should they let the neighborhood businesses make a profit off the Cubs success without the team taking its proper share?

It may seem harsh, but it’s business in a difficult economy, folks. You can’t scream for the Cubs to buy free agents and then oppose their attempts to make additional money.

It’s a choice, really. You can fight it to your detriment or you can accept the inevitable. No more Mr. Nice Guy. No more Friendly Confines. And hopefully no more Carol Sezak, come to think of it.

-Bob Warja