The Chicago Cubs are NOT GOOD at baseball

Hello, good day, hope you are all doing fantastic. It is Friday, and as well all know, that means it is time for some ramblings. It is time to just throw some thoughts out there, see what sticks, then ask some hopefully intriguing questions and create some debate. That is what we do here, so let’s get it on. The trade deadline is Sunday, and a certain third baseman might be changing his tune.

So, without further ado …

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Three moves to hassle the Hoff and shake up the Milwaukee Brewers

Trevor Hoffman

Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio was willing to can manager Ned Yost with 15 games left in the 2008 Wild Card race. Last August, he fired pitching coach Bill Castro, options the struggling JJ Hardy to Triple A, and showed Bill Hall the door. If Attanasio wants to keep a consistent message, he needs to make at least one of these three moves. [Read more…]

Cubs-Brewers Exchange

By: David K. and Melissa S. Wollering

Thesportsbank.net’s inaugural Cubs-Brewers exchange!  After taking two of three from the depleted Cubs, the Brewers have leapfrogged Chicago in what is shaping up to be a competitive NL Central Division.  TSB’s Brewers expert Melissa S. Wollering and our resident Cubs fool, David K. share their thoughts on this weekend’s series.

DK: Well, at least we saved face by winning Sunday and avoiding an embarrassing sweep to your Brewers.  After Saturday’s game, I was ready to quit the Cubs for about the 214,736th time.  Somehow whenever I threaten to do that, they manage to get a win and just suck me back in.

Kudos to the Crew though.  Ryan Braun’s game-winning home run Friday night was baller.  Saturday, you guys treated our bullpen like they were Eric Gagne and Derrick Turnbow.  You have the best record in baseball since April 19th, winning 15 of your last 20.  Enough with the compliments though.  It’s time to make some excuses.

We played this series without Carlos Zambrano, Derrek Lee, and with Aramis Ramirez separating his shoulder in the first game.  That would be like the Crew being without Yovanni Gallardo, Prince Fielder, and Ryan Braun.  Doesn’t sound fun does it?

By the way, can we get Craig Counsell to take a drug test?  He has to be on the juice after going yard Saturday night.

MW: I firmly believe I stood up during his home run and shouted, “that was just worth more than we paid you for your entire 2009 season contract.”  When looking directly at Craig’s face I always think it has been frozen in time since he’s all of 12 ½ years old.  Perhaps his going yard was more of sudden burst of youth circa 1987. But yes, you can test him for banned substances, by all means.

What has surprised me even more than the Brewers recent stellar offensive display is its pitching. The Crew is either tied with the Cubs or is now leading the league in quality starts with at least 18.  Considering all 5 members of your Cubs starting rotation were said to be better than the best starter we had at the beginning of this season, how do you feel about that, David?

DK: I hate it because I was a big basher of the Crew’s rotation at the beginning of the season.  Yo is living up to his stud potential and Dave Bush has been solid.  As of late, Suppan has been more crafty veteran than washed-up junk-baller.  As for that supposedly sweet Cubbies rotation; Zambrano, Rich Harden, and Ryan Dempster all have ERA’s in the upper-four’s.  But that’s not the major issue.  It’s our bullpen which I trust as much as I would trust Ron Santo not to scream after a Cubs walk-off home run.  I mean, Chad Fox’s ERA is 135.00 in his two games.  Granted, his arm is pretty much dead, but still, a 135.00 ERA?  Even Gagne and Turnbow are laughing at that.

By the way, did you notice Braun’s home run Saturday night when he stared down Dempster after he knew it was gone.  Granted, Dempster had beaned Braun in the helmet the at-bat before, but still, it seems like Braun is getting a little cocky these days which I am usually all about, just not against by Cubs.  K?  Thanks.  For the record Braun is batting .619 against left-handed pitchers this season.  That is shocking.  Not 135.00 ERA shocking, but nonetheless shocking.

MW: That staredown you speak of consisted of steel-tipped darts protruding from Braun’s eyes, yes.  Good thing Dempster was looking back at the ball in awe instead of at Braun or you would have had two pitchers go down in agony that night.  Fox’s arm looked as though it fell off right then and there.  That’s gotta be tough to rehab all that time and throw it out during one of your first outings back.

Surprisingly, our starting rotation is playing to its potential.  Prior to Sunday, Suppan had 4 quality starts in a row.  That’s a shocking as Paula’s song-and-dance return to the stage on last week’s American Idol. But our bullpen isn’t all that much better than yours with the exception of Trevor Hoffman.  When you have someone like Jorge Julio, who’s given up 7 hits and 10 runs (9 earned) in the last 7 days, you tend to want to throw things at the television before the man even finishes running to the mound.



On a bright note, Fukudome’s on base-percentage when he comes to Miller Park is ridonkulous.  Even with three of your stars MIA you might be able to win even if you skipped the other 8 men in the starting lineup and just sent him out to bat for you every third inning.

DK: A) Somehow I just picked up Trevor Hoffman in fantasy baseball league.  B) I think we should call him George Julio, just like it was Bill Mota last year.  C) We can say five of the Cubs stars are MIA.  The aforementioned Big Z, D-Lee, and A-Ram, but don’t forget Milton Bradley and Geovany Soto who are both hitting well below the Mendoza line.

Besides about thirty pounds, what has gotten into Rickie Weeks this year?  He is finally playing like an All-Star second baseman, no longer looks completely incompetent in the field, and doesn’t talk like he has marbles in his mouth during post-game interviews anymore.

Well a tip of the cap to you and the Brewers.  You got us this time around evening the season series at 3-3.  Finally, the Crew travel south to Wrigley in early July for a four-game series so we will get home field advantage.  Hopefully by then our big guns will be healthy and our bullpen situation figured out.  ‘Til then…

MW: …’til then get on the Rickie bandwagon. What’s gotten into him is aggressive swinging early in the pitch count combined with patience at the plate for more hits, more BB’s, and fewer K’s.  Finally the leadoff hitter we’ve been waiting for. Too bad we almost gnawed our arms off it took so long. Braun and our pitching staff need to stay healthy for the Independence Week showdown in Chi.  We may be even now, but we know your baby bears have every intention of setting off some fireworks on the field before the real thing lights up the skies above Lake Michigan. It’s always a superb matchup during which we’ll have to do this again.

What’s Brewing in ’09: Injury Woes & Brewers Worth Fantasizing About

By: Melissa S. Wollering

Let’s recognize the man who’s seeing the most action during Brewers Spring Training this year: Dr. William Raasch. I have resorted to channeling my anger and frustration over a left oblique, a lower back and three shoulders into something positive and achieving mental clarity. Thank you, Dalai Lama. And thank you team MD Bill Raasch.

This week in Spring Training, Braden Looper was held from the rotation for tightness in his left oblique. Lil’ TG, Tony Gwynn, wants to believe his shoulder doesn’t hurt but is a horrible liar. Might be more than an impingement – might be his rotator cuff. And Gagme’s ailing shoulder is only proving my point that he won’t make the team after all. Yesssss. Eric may need to consider exile in Montana, where he can build himself a cabin, take up goose hunting and whittle bird whistles for the rest of his life.

Bill Hall’s calf progress has slowed. Mat Gamel is still a week away from being allowed to play. C Mike Rivera says his hammy hurts while C prospect Angel Salome is having back trouble. Finally, we are going to see reliever David Riske pitch for the first time off the mound next week after rehabbing from elbow surgery. When have you ever heard of so many injuries during the second week of Spring Training?

Seth McClung is getting Looper’s starts for now, but Seth hasn’t been doing anything spectacular with them. Chris Duffy’s seeing playing time with Braun in the WBC. JJ has been going yard and is apparently smoking both on and off the field. Casey McGehee’s actually bonding with 3B and produced a grand slam already. McGehee, Duffy, Mike Rivera and Trot Nixon have all jacked homers against the Rockies. Now that’s rocky mountain refreshment.

Cain is finally ABEL to play with the big boys after coming over from the minor league side. Readers already know: future CF Lorenzo Cain is m’boy. I stopped contributing to my 401K and invested in stock in this guy a long time ago. With a shortage of healthy outfielders, he’s getting some playing time. To prove my point: he tripled into the left-field corner as a right-handed hitter this past Tuesday. Sick good, just sick.

In a new feature, “Brewers Worth Fantasizing About,” we break down some early Fantasy Baseball projections. I’ll have more on this closer to the first week of April, but here’s a taste for those of you chomping at the bit.

Ryan Braun. Expect a first-round pick, taken most likely in the 6th-8th positions. If he falls further than that, scoop him up with no regrets.

Prince Fielder. Think late second or early third-round.

Corey Hart. Next to go after Fielder, may be able to snatch at a good value after disappointing owners last season. Consider round 6 excellent, probably won’t last that long.

JJ Hardy. He’s been my shortstop because he’s great value in rounds 6-9 and his numbers do the trick depending on how you stack your lineup. It always depends on the highly volatile pool of SS each year, too.

Yovani Gallardo. If you want him, he’d be a great #3 starter for your roster and is another mid-rounder. But be aware: he only pitched 24 innings throughout the entirety of last season. Who is everyday Yovani? We have really yet to find out.

Wickie Reeks. You know for all the grief I give him, I have a secret to share with you. He’s rarely failed me at 2B and I have drafted him two years in a row. Why? Because even when he sucks, he miraculously puts up fantasy numbers. When he’s injured, well, that doesn’t work. But when he’s healthy, he’s like gold in the bank, backing a bad line of credit.

Other potential fantasy notables: Trevor Hoffman, Dave Bush, Manny Parra, Mike Cameron.

In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” this just in: the Cubs will now win the World Series. They’ve signed Corey Koskie.

Remember Randall Simon? Of course you do. The once-a-douche-always-a-douche wiener-whacker was recently quoted, since he’s in the WBC. Who says they’re proud to be remembered for abusing sausages?

“I think it’s something that’s going to be good for me because it keeps memories of me,” joked Simon, who was a member of the Pirates when the sausage race incident occurred. “As long as people don’t take it in the wrong way, I don’t have a problem with it.”

The guys over at Miller Park Drunk, (what a website name) wrote a letter in first-person to a tavern jukebox. The writer blames Corey Hart’s scary September on his choice of batting song, “International Harvester.” They also shiver at Jason Kendall’s Mudvayne batting song.

As you know, I have lifelong respect for the FS Wisconsin Crew. Brian and Bill do a great job and B. Anderson writes his own blog. During Spring Training webcasts, they have developed a new interactive feature for questions/comments.  Send yours to askthetruck@brewers.com.  Love it.

On a not-so-great note, former FSN WI play-by-play Mattie Vasgersian flubbed up by saying the real thing on the MLB Network. Way to christen your network, Matt. I feel bad, he’s a really quality guy. He’s probably feels so bad that he’s on his 458th Hail Mary and 677th Our Father as we speak.

If you’d rather seek a steady income as a lifer in Vegas, sportsbook.com recommends you put your cash on the Brewers, who are 50:1 to win it all this season. That’s not as good as the Devil Rays, but we may never see those odds again.

This week in “Just A Bit Outside”, comedian Artie Lange spent his entire time on David Letterman reminiscing about his time with Uecker. Artie and Norm MacDonald in the same room as Ueck – no wonder Artie said it was the funniest 24-hour period of his life. Ueck shared a great Harry Caray story with Artie as well.

On a heartbreaking note, I bring you my second quote from Bob Uecker during pre-season radio:

“We wish everyone good luck to start this season…except Jim Powell.” He then proceeded to talk about Powell for the rest of the inning. Aww…he’s so lost. So alone. So sad…

Ryan Braun was also on Letterman this past week with some Team USA players to countdown the Top 10 Reasons to Watch the WBC. Too bad no one cares about the WBC, which stands for Why Bother/Care. Or We Bad at Catching.

We can’t go a week without checking in on CC. Picture this: Sabathia, Joba Chamberlain, Woody and Buzz. That’s right CC & Joba checked out the new Toy Story ride at Disney. Headline next day: “First Titanium Amusement Ride Thrills, Withstands One-Ton Loads.”

And finally, in “Chart Magnificence,” America’s favorite pie chart debuts in the What’s Brewing column. These two graphs represent the upcoming strength of the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals Farm Systems. Translation = Cubs had better win now before talent moves up the pipeline.

Stay tuned for the Injury Update & 5 Things You Never Knew About Ryan Braun next week…

What’s Brewing in ’09: The Gag Rule & Spring Training

By Melissa S. Wollering

It’s time to redeem yourself, GagMe. A gag rule forbids discussion of a particular topic.  I instituted the gag rule when Eric Gagne ruined my life, namely when he used a plunger to push $10M down the drain while compiling a 5.44 ERA in 50 appearances.

Now he has a minor-league offer with big-league camp invite attached. If he makes the team, he gets $1.5M, possibly $3M in incentives. If that’s not enough to make you choke, here’s the arrogant son-of-a-jackal’s response:

“You look at your paycheck every two weeks and it’s like, ‘Man, that’s crazy what I get paid for,’ and you put pressure on yourself,” Gagne said. “I knew [Doug Melvin] took a chance on me last year…and it didn’t work out with me.”

You think?  You pitch 6.98 for two months, go on the DL for your shoulder, then give up two homers and four runs against the Reds on July 12th and you’re shocked at fans’ boos?  You’re the first EIGHT FIGURE reliever in the club’s history and still in utter befuddlement as to why we screamed like you murdered our mother?

There are only two open bullpen slots, so go duke it out with Jorge Julio, Todd Coffey, Eddie Morlan, Mark DiFelice and Tim Dillard.  See if I care whether they tear you up. Gagne says he’s looking forward to playing with Trevor Hoffman.  Funny, bet Hoffman’s not looking forward to playing with you. When Gagne retires, I’m throwing a gag party. That’s the new gag rule.

Darn, no more goggles jokes. Gagne and Bill Hall both got LASIK eye surgery in the off-season.  He says the goggles gave him a headache all the time. Welcome to my world, Eric.  Welcome to my world.

In a new update called “Ace’s Corner,” Yovani Gallardo will not be #1 in the rotation after all. Ken Macha wants him the middle of the rotation, which is fine with me. Dave Bush or Braden Looper in the #1 spot would be my wager, in that order.  Although, my buddy Jason Craig (nicknamed because his roommates found him on Craigslist) thinks the Soup’s On in Numero Uno. 

Manny Parra must sing Stevie Wonder in the shower. He changed his number from 43 to 26 this season because he’s very superstitious. He wore 26 in HS, was drafted in the 26th round, signed on the 26th day of the month and is 26 years old right now. Wow. At least he did it the right way, making it to the big leagues first Alshon Jeffrey, cough, Steve Spurrier. The number could pay off: our friends at Razzball think lucky 26 is a fantasy sleeper.

Last week Macha confirmed what I called three weeks ago; which was Wickie Reeks will top the batting order, J.J. Hardy will bat #2. As for our OF Corey Hart, he got more than he’s worth AND avoided arbitration, finally netting $3.25M for one year.

In Spring Training, 3B prospect Mat Gamel’s shoulder hurts. He didn’t tell anyone prior to camp because he thought it wasn’t serious enough. Yeah, right.  He was also a bit “late” to warm-up the first day because his wife is expecting, so his teammates gave him the Bronx cheer and told him they were none too happy. Then Macha and Gord Ash had a stern talking to the young man last Thursday. Tough crowd in Maryvale these days.

Gamel has the same shoulder problem as Lil’ TG (Tony Gwynn, Jr.), so no throwing for now.  This is coming at a time when he could have seen more action due to Bill Hall’s calf injury. Billy should be back in action in a little more than week.

In other ST news, the once-porky Prince is slimmer! He says he beefed up his cardio regimen, no pun intended.  You’ll also notice Prince has a new tat on the right side of his neck – angel wings to complement the Asian character on the other side. Sweet. Also sweet: fat kid pictures of Prince from the 80’s on this week’s Two Fisted Slopper Blog, courtesy of a Cecil interview.

You have too much time on your hands if you’re the group of Brewers fans who set up shop last Friday to wait for single-game tickets that go on sale this Saturday. Sales managers sent them home and told them they should come back to Saturday’s Arctic Tailgate after they’ve put down their crackpipes.

In another new update “What A-Rod’s Done For Me,” Ryan Braun is standing by A-Rod. He says no one’s perfect. Braun met A-Rod in 2001 on a recruiting trip to U of Miami, allegedly the same year Alex started taking banned substances. Alex later helped #8 transition from 3B to LF and Ryan still considers Alex a mentor. Btw, Braun started his own clothing line called Remetee and he’s the cover boy of this season’s media guide.

In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” former-Cub, now-Brewer Casey McGehee is prominently featured on the Cubs’ pocket schedule. Really? Who’s your Director of Marketing/Promotions?  That’s like featuring Gabe Kapler on Miller Park’s $2 Scorecard, which they only print once a year.

In “Just a Bit Outside,” it’s official.  Ueck will omit the word ‘Jimmy’ and insert the word ‘Cory’ into his two-bit comedy routine. Cory Provus of Cubs Radio replaces Jim Powell. FSWI’s Brian Anderson says Cory is low-maintenance, humble and a solid journalist. Good, because I would not categorize Bob Uecker as low-maintenance.

Meantime, blonde bombshell-lovers everywhere are mourning the loss of Trenni Kusnierek with the announcement that Telly Hughes is to replace her. Hughes is a DUDE, yes that’s right, a MAN who’s made some cameos as a studio host on FSWI. At least they didn’t promote Jeff Cirillo.  Dave, I’m convinced your interview would have impressed beyond Telly’s. The name reminds me of four dancing PBS characters.

Trying to redeem themselves, FOX Sports Wisconsin is making it up to me by televising 136 regular-season games in 2009 with WMLW also broadcasting 151 games over-the-air! When I worked for WMLW in 2003, we hired Pat McCurdy to write and sing our commercial jingle “WMLW means Milwaukee” and it’s still around. Thank you Pat and WMLW for helping me live life to the fullest between April and October.

And finally by request, more “Chart Magnificence.” Let us examine spray charts for Alcides Escobar’s ground balls, courtesy of a new feature at the Minor League Splits database. Here are all the balls Escobar hit that were classified as ground balls by minor league scorers. Green is a hit and red is an out.

Compare that to Huntsville 2B Mike Bell, who played in the same park, had about the same number of at-bats, and racked up a .220 BABIP on ground balls, though he hit far fewer of them overall than Alcides.

Look for more on spring training and Attanasio’s fear of reaching $90M with his payroll next week…

What’s Brewing in ’09: Milwaukee’s Bullpen & Prospects

By Melissa S. Wollering

Is it just me or are you as baffled as I to see the Brewers now have 39 players on their 40-man roster?  It sure doesn’t feel like we’ve made that much progress in the off-season.

We’ve previously discussed the starting rotation situation in length. This month, Brian Anderson weighed in on whether the Crew needs another starter in his blog. Either way, Yovani Gallardo may step into the top spot in the rotation. Meantime, here’s a preview of what the Brewers’ bullpen may look like come spring

Closer: RHP Trevor Hoffman      RHP Carlos Villanueva       RHP David Riske
RHP Jorge Julio                        RHP Todd Coffey             LHP Mitch Stetter
RHP Eduardo Morlan (Rule 5 Pick)

Don’t count out Tim Dillard, Mark DiFelice, R.J. Swindle or Luis Pena.  They’re still in the running.

If you’ve seen the latest edition of Baseball in America , then you know some of the Brewers’ prospects are getting as much attention as the American Idol bikini girl; namely their cover boy Alcides Escobar. Tom Hardricourt is behind the Top 10 Prospects list each year for BA and he’s listing SS Escobar, 3B Mat Gamel and C Brett Lawrie as his top three within the Brewers organization.

Canadian prep player Lawrie was the Crew’s first-round pick in ’08.  He insisted on converting to that position full-time. The last time the Crew nurtured a catcher that made it to the big leagues may have been Mike Matheny…AGES ago.

Personally, I’ll be on the edge of my seat for another year until RHP Jeremy Jeffress is ready (at the earliest). He’s approached the 100 mph mark, but is nowhere near ready for this season.

Someone who may not have to wait that long is OF Lorenzo Cain, 22.  “The Toastman” didn’t start playing baseball until high school, but by age 20 he had won the short-season Arizona League batting crown. The reason “Lo-Cain” has got a shot at the bigs this season: in ‘08 he combined for 11 homers, 61 RBIs and 25 steals in the minors.


In the “Arbitration Update,” RHP Seth McClung avoids it by signing for more than $1.6M. Prince Fielder is King after snagging a two-year $18M deal. It’s no surprise Agent Satan ‘figure-dropped’ Ryan Howard’s $10 million from last winter (this year Howard filed for $18M for one year).

For anyone who’s counting, $18 million buys you approximately 29,032,258 veggie burgers. All 5’11’’ and 270 pounds of Fielder would also equal out to $253,521 per inch or $66,667 per pound. Really, he’s as tall as Michelle Obama and only 270?  Which scale were you using?

Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks are still working on coming to terms with Bernie Brewer.  Speaking of, you ever notice Bernie could be anyone one of the following men: Phil Garner, Robin Yount or Doug Melvin?  Rollie Fingers says mustaches are the new black.

The Texas Rangers and New York Mets are still eying free agent Ben Sheets. Signing with either would give the Brewers another second-round pick in June. I wager this with Sheets’ future team now: the man will suffer a hangnail, sore elbow, groin pull, ear infection and come down with the stomach flu before he obtains five wins for you next season.  He’ll be on the DL by the All-Star break. But if you want him, take him.  Read NY Daily News John Harper’s case for signing him.

Meanwhile, Doug Melvin may still have a go of it with Braden Looper, according to Ken Rosenthal.
Craig Counsell is back However, word is wiener-whacker Randall Simon did not impress Melvin at last week’s open tryout. Sausages everywhere are rejoicing.

Former Brewer Eric Gagne may be able to choke on a Twinkie this season. Star Tribune’s La Velle E. Neal III says the Twins would use him in a setup role. Texas has also been mentioned in association with Gag Me.

This week in “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” Rich Harden’s shoulder joint tear is making Ben Sheets’ bill of health look clean. The Baby Bears also traded OF Felix Pie to B-more for pitchers Garrett Olson and Henry Williamson, probably giving up too soon and, in my opinion, getting a less-than-acceptable return for him. The Cubs also inked So Taguchi to a minor-league deal.  He’s 39, over the hill and TERRIBLE at baseball.  I recommend he take up ping pong, chess or underwater basket weaving.

And finally, in “Just a Bit Outside,” farewell to Brewers’ announcer Jim Powell. Since 1996, he’s been bringing Bob Uecker back to the play-by-play at hand and providing much needed Usinger Sausage back-and-forth banter. Powell will announce for the Atlanta Braves who are also trying to bring back former Brewer Don Sutton. This is where I shamelessly plug his wonderful son Darren Sutton, whom I had the pleasure of tabulating stats for in the FSN booth for from 2000-2003.

Also, I sweat our comrades at Right Field Bleachers who outlined the history behind the trade of former Brewer Richie Sexson in flow chart magnificence.  Do not miss this one: