America, F@#k Yeah

Happy 4th. You'll have to excuse the potentially light postings over this holiday weekend. The Towel Drills's staff is going to be venturing out of their caves in the parents basements to attend various happenings in this "real world" we keep hearing about. Should be scary. I'm going to assume that most of you will be doing the same-but if you want to sit by your computer all day clicking, refresh, hey-go for it. It is, after all, a free country. And I think you should celebrate it like that.

Couple things to get up for you quick though:
  • As expected, Aramis Ramirez made his way back from the Dominican in time to help the Cubs lose, again, yesterday. And Reed Johnson was activated from the DL. To make room, Eric Patterson was optioned back to Iowa. I think Murton should have been the one to go-but Patterson's shoddy fielding in left the other day reminded Lou that he was, in fact, a rookie. The writing was on the wall there.
  • To look into my crystal ball-expect Carlos Zambrano to be activated in time to make the start tonight against St. Louis , and Jose Ascanio to likely be sent back to Iowa in the corresponding move.
  • Also-looks like Sean Gallagher is heading to the bullpen. Sean Marshall will make the start Sunday against the Cardinals and looks to continue every 5th day thereafter. Not sure I like this one-Gallagher has been pretty decent all year.

Tennessee Smokies Mid-Season Review

Standings

First Half, 27-43, 5th place (of 5 teams), 14 games back
Second Half, 11-4, 1st place

It's good to see the Smokies start off the second half of the season strong, after a terrible first half of their campaign. With a steady flow of callups from the recent draft classes (which are generally better than a few years ago), they have the ability to continue their winning ways.

All Stars

Donnie Veal

Veal is the long representative from the Smokies in the All Star game, scheduled for July 14th. Having the worst record in the Southern League for the first half will do that.

Positional Player of the 1st Half

This was difficult, because there wasn't much to choose from. But 1-sack/OF Doug Deeds stood out above the rest. Deeds was the PTBNL in the Craig Monroe deal, and many Cubs fans (including those at TD) were not pleased with JH for acquiring a 27 year old who had yet to crack the Bigs after being drafted in '02. But Deeds has impressed, at least for AA. He is hitting .335, good for 3rd in the Southern League, with an OBP of .402. His 7 HR's are tied for the team lead (with Tyler Colvin). His 36 RBI's and 6 SB's both rank second among the Smokies.
Pitcher of the 1st Half

This one comes down to a numbers game. Do you take the guy with the better ERA, or the guy who has some better numbers once you move past ERA? It was a hard choice, but I went with the latter and picked Mitch Atkins (7th round, 2004) over Donnie Veal. I should start off with the statement that this was difficult. It was difficult for me to pick Atkins with a 4.03 ERA over Veal, whose ERA is 3.43. But hear's why I did. Atkins has record an 8-6 record, doubling the win total of Veal. Atkins averages over 6 innings per start, while Veal is less than 5 and 1/3. Atkins has 17 more K's than Veal, despite one fewer start and has a 3.27 K/W ratio to Veal's 1.37. Atkin's WHIP is over 2 tenths of a point lower. What does this all mean? It means that Veal has the inate ability to work himself out of jams, while Atkins doesn't. But Atkins has produced more Smokie W's (mmm....Smokie W's) and has gone deeper into the games.

Chicago Cubs Trade Rumors - Randy Wolf & Greg Maddux

We've already covered in detail prospective Cubs deals for CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett, as well as for Rich Harden and Gil Meche. Let's continue our Towel Drills coverage of the latest Chicago Cubs trade rumors by taking a look at a couple San Diego Padres pitchers, Randy Wolf and Greg Maddux. Be sure to continue checking back to Towel Drills for the absolute latest on the Chicago Cubs trade rumors as we approach the July 31st trade deadline:

Randy Wolf: I'll be honest-I didn't know a whole lot about Wolf before starting this post. I knew he was old (he's 31), that he used to pitch for the Phillies, and that he currently pitches for the Fathers, and that's about it.

Current Team: At 33-52 the San Diego Padres are in last place, 9.5 back of the Arizona Diamondbacks for the lead in the NL West, and 15 back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the wild card. They just went 3-15 in interleague play, are 12-26 away from Petco on the year, and have won just 1 of their last 9 games. BP's Postseason Odds Report (see sidebar, at left) gives the Pads a can't-get-much-worse 0.32% chance of making the playoffs. Yeah, they're sellers.

Contract Situation: Wolf signed a 1 year deal in December with the Padres that takes him through '08 at a relatively cheap $4.75 million. This is after Wolf played '07 on a 1 year deal for $7.5 M with a $9 M club option that was declined by the Dodgers. Wolf missed most of 2007 season with left shoulder problems that required "exploratory" arthroscopic surgery. He reportedly has a 14 team no-trade clause (strange for a small deal like this isn't it?) that "includes many Midwestern clubs."

The Numbers: Through 17 GS and 98 IPs, Wolf is 5-7 with a 4.13 ERA and 89 Ks to 37 BBs. Wolf's efforts thus far have given him an 11.5 VORP. Largely due to his injury history (Wolf only threw 80 IP in '05, 56.2 in '06, and 102.2 in '07) BP only projected Wolf for 16 GS and 90 IP in '08 to the tune of 4.46 Ernie, 65 Ks to 34 BBs, and a VORP of 7. Having stayed healthy thus far this year, Wolf is already exceeding his BP projection.

The Competition: Per San Diego beat writer Tim Sullivan, Wolf is "almost certainly gone" from the Pads. Not a lot of word on who may have the most interest in Wolf, but it seems like a done deal that the aging, injury riddled, 1 year deal starter will be dealt somewhere...anywhere, for something...anything.

The Cost: The Padres seem to be willing to dump Wolf in sort of a "or best offer" sort of deal. They've got no use for this guy in their position, he's got no history or future with the team-they'll just be looking to get a prospect or two in return. This could be good for the Cubs in that he wouldn't cost too much. I don't think the Cubs would give up any of our big time prospects for Wolf. More likely a package to acquire him would involve one or two of our "major league ready" guys-Matt Murton has been linked to the Padres in the past.

Thoughts: Boorrrrrrrrrriiiinnnnggggg. Why would we want Randy Wolf? He's just not a difference maker. The Cubs don't need 1 or 2 average starters before the trade deadline. They need 1 big time impact SP. Wolf isn't it. His numbers on the year are average and his last time out was both his shortest and worst of the season. Wolf isn't going to get any better down the stretch, either. His low IP totals dating back to 2005, the fact that he's coming off shoulder surgery, and his turning 32 in August aren't going to help. I just don't see how Randy Wolf gets the Cubs any closer to a World Series title than Sean Marshall or Sean Gallagher. Let's pass here.



Greg Maddux: Some dude with the name Greg Maddux keeps popping up linked to the Cubs. Everyone remembers, and recalls fondly, Maddux's days with the Cubs from 1986-1992 and then again from 2004-2006 (if you don't, get off this interweb site immediatley-I mean it). Could the Madd Dog make a third appearance on the Northside? Let's see:

Current Team: Greg Maddux is in his 2nd year with the San Diego Padres. As we reviewed above, they're awful. Maddux and Wolf are both very likely to be moved by the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline.

Contract Situation: Maddux is on a 1 year, $10 million dollar deal this year. Maddux enjoys full no-trade protection. He's also got some pretty sweet perks worked into his deal: he gets a suite on the road and a membership at Del Mar Country Club. Also, were Maddux to win the Cy Young, he'd get a bonus of $100,000. So let's get this straight-Maddux has been a major league baseball player since 1986. He's made untold millions of dollars while being one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game. He's making $10 mil this year alone. And he still makes the team pop for his hotel rooms and get him a country club membership? What would your boss say if you were like "Hey, pay me a bunch of money to work for your company, and then pay for me to go play golf so I don't have to ever actually do work."? Also-don't you think a Cy Young award for a 42 year old should be worth a little more than $100,000? Why wouldn't the Padres just make that number like a Billion dollars-he never had a shot at that. Anyway...

The Numbers: On the year, Maddux is 3-6 with a 4.04 ERA across 18 GS and 107 IPs. Maddux has 53 Ks to 21 BBs over that span. Those numbers include his now infamous April 18th start where Maddux just stayed on the mound getting absolutely shelled for 9 earned runs simply to protect his taxed bullpen. Classy move, but bad for the stats. Maddux's VORP is currently clocking in at 8.3. Pre-season, Baseball Prospectus projected Maddux to go 31 GS and 180 IPs with a 87:33 K:BB ratio and a 15.7 VORP. Decent.

The Competition: Due to Maddux's full no-trade clause, probably not much. Maddux makes his home in Vegas. With no team in town, Maddux has made it a point the last few years to play somewhere near there, ie Southern California. The competition here, really, is Maddux himself. Will he waive his no-trade clause for another chance at a postseason run? If he will-for whom will he? Smart money is that outside of the Southwest the Cubs and the Braves, Maddux's former teams, have the best shot. But the Braves don't seem to be going anywhere so that pretty much leaves the Cubs. Other than that-Maddux is being linked with any number of teams that can use some pitching help, but I just can't see him going to, say, a Philidelphia just to do it.

The Cost: Not much. The last, and only, time Maddux was traded all he brought the Padres in return was a terrible SS in Cesar Izturis from the Cubs. If the Cubs were to trade back for Maddux, we won't pay much. The Padres would do well for themselves if the Cubs were willing to dump Matt Murton, a player with pretty decent value to them, to acquire Maddux. The Cubs might require the Padres to eat some of Maddux's remaining money as well.

Thoughts: Great story, and I love Greg Maddux, but I just don't see this one going down. Again, the Cubs need an impact SP here, not just another SP. As great as Maddux has been in his career, his best days are increasingly further and further behind him. Maddux's numbers are decent on the year, but he's now allowed 14 earned runs over his last 10 1/3 innings and is coming off a bad start. Maddux, though up there in years and increasingly spotty in his performances is an absolute gamer, however. I can't think of any team that wouldn't want a tough as nails guy like him in their clubhouse come this fall. He's relatively cheap and he does bring value, but unless the Cubs add another impact along with Maddux, I'm not too excited about this one. That said-if we can get him on the cheap (ie, Murton) why not? At this point in his career, he may even be willing to come out of the bullpen down the stretch or in the playoffs, if necessary.

TD Recommends: SI's Tom Verducci

A bit off topic here, but I had to pass this along. This article by SI's Tom Verducci is absolutely one of the most interesting things I've read, on any topic, in a long while. It's an article about San Francisco SP Tim Lincecum and his unusual, but highly effective, pitching mechanics. For some visual evidence of what the article is discussing, check out this "Mechanics of Baseball" video-it's one of a series that Baseball Prospectus's Will Carroll did for MLB.com last year. The video gives a very detailed breakdown of Lincecum's mechanics and shows video comparisons to Roy Oswalt and Sandy Kofax.

If ya need me to tie this back into the Cubs, then check out the 4th page of the article, beginning in the 4th paragraph. TD namesake Mark Prior gets some play in the article-but, um, it's not exactly glowing praise of his so-called "perfect mechanics." There's also a nice bit in there about how the Cubs passed up on Lincecum, as well as Matt Cain, Joe Blanton, Jon Lester and Jonathon Broxton, in the Cubs absolutely terrible 2002 draft to take friggin' Bobbie Brownlie.

I'm going to go ahead and call this article a must read. It's a bit long, but really, take a few minutes and give it a read. You'll be glad you did.

Minor League Movers

Iowa
Micah Hoffpauir made is return to Iowa upon D-Ward's return to the Bigs, and Hoff has hit .343 with 4 HR's in the past week. The flurry of moves over the past 3 weeks left the I-Cubs were two men short. That prompted the callups of SS Joe Simokaitis (10th round, 2005) from Tennessee and P Blake Parker (16th round, 2006) from Peoria. When Jose Ascanio returned to Iowa, the Cubs took Kevin Hart off the D.L., a positive sign that he is feeling no lingering effects of the concussion he suffered. Parker's stay at Iowa was short-lived, as he was sent down 3 days later, this time to Daytona, having only yielded one hit at Iowa (which, unfortunately was a two run HR) in 3 innings. In his place, Dumas Garcia (signed from an Independent League) was called up from Tennessee.
Tennessee
As mentioned in the mid season review of the Daytona Cubs, the Smokies have received callups from most of the better D-Cubs players. Alex Maestri was called up last Thursday. Recently selected Future Star catcher Welington Castillo may be unable to participate, as the Smokies placed him on the D.L. over the weekend with a hand injury. He may be able to return when the required 7 day stint is over, but the issue then becomes whether the Cubs want him to play. In his place, Mark Reed was called up and has gone 4 for 11 since joining the Smokies.
Daytona
In addition to adding Alex Maestri from Iowa, the Cubs called up catcher Robinson Chirinos to replace Mark Reed. Chirinos was signed as a NDFA back in 2000 as a 16 year old kid and has never made it above AA. The D-Cubs also received the Tawainese pitcher Hung-Wen Chen from Peoria. Chen had bounced between the 'pen and the rotation, but still managed to have a 3.15 ERA in Peoria.
Peoria
The Chiefs added a whole crop of players from Boise over the past week. First, they added Jake Muyco (8th round, 2005) and OF Drew Rundle (14th round, 2006). Muyco is a catcher-turned-pitcher and didn't allow a run over 5 innings in his brief stint at Boise. The Rundle moved corresponded with the Chiefs placing OF Dylan Johnston (4th round, 2005) on the D.L. with a hamstring injury. Over the weekend, the dipped into the Hawks roster again, taking pitchers Jose Pina (FA) and recently drafted Jay Jackson (9th round).
Boise
With all the promotions, the Hawks have only made one replacement; adding recent 32nd round pick Kurt Calvert. The diminutive OF had spent some time playing at Arizona.

Rich Hill, Injury updates, Sean Marshall and Ted Lilly's new hat

Couple notes here for your Wednesday AM:
  • An average start for Rich Hill in 2007 with the Chicago Cubs: 6+IP, 2.66 earned runs allowed, 5.72 Ks, 1.97 BBs. Rich Hill's start on Tuesday, in Arizona, pitching for the Arizona Cubs of the Rookie League: 1/3 IP, 4 earned runs allowed, 0 Ks, 3 BBs, 1 HBP. It is unbelievable to me how far Rich Hill has fallen in such a short time. The guy's got a major case of the yips. His struggles are causing the Cubs to likely make a move for a SP that they may not have had to do otherwise and is destroying any trade value he might have had. If you can't get through more than 1 out in Rookie Ball after having the MLB experience he has, I'm thinking no MLB team is going to see you as an option for its rotation. Now the Cubs are looking like they're going to shut him down for an indeterminate amount of time, basically, so he can get his head out of his ass. Somebody send an entire gaggle of sports psychiatrists for this guy. Quick.
  • The Cubs went 17-9 in April. Then 18-11 in May. And now 15-12 in June. We're now 4-6 in the last 10, and 2-6 in our last 8. Yeah, you can say we're cooling off. But no Soriano, no Zambrano, no Reed Johnson, and now now Aramis Ramirez is certainly making a difference.
  • But help is on the way. Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to make a start in St. Louis on Friday. Alfonso Soriano is on track to be back for the All-Star Game (he's flying from San Francisco to Chicago on Thursday for x-rays and is expected to begin taking BP this weekend in St. Louis). And ReJo will come off the DL tomorrow, just in time to spell an ailing Jim Edmonds.
  • Sean Marshall will in fact be getting a start this weekend against the Cardinals. Lou now says he'll throw Marshall and Ted Lilly, in either order, on Saturday or Sunday after originally indicating Marshall wouldn't start until after Monday's off day. Lou says the Cards are better against righties so he wanted to go with another lefty. This move will push Jason Marquis' start back. With how good Marquis has pitched on the road, I'm not sure plugging Marshall in here is the bst idea. Just another example of managers overplying handedness matchups in baseball today.

Chicago Cubs Trade Rumors - July 1st

Peter Gammons was in the house today, working over time on the Cubs rumor mill. Not sure about you, but I'm a huge Peter Gammons fan. Love the guy's stuff. For my money, he's among the best and most reliable baseball writers in the game. That's why he's in the Hall of Fame. If I were running baseball, this guy would have been named Commissioner years ago. Let's get to what Petey had to say today, along with a few other rumors from around the Internets:
  • Gammons has talked ($) to some sources in the Cubs front office and reveals that the Cubs have some self-esteem issues regarding the perception of their farm system: "They doubt they have enough to get Sabathia, although Hendry constantly touches base with Indians GM Mark Shapiro." Just a guess here-but with only 30 MLB GMs, 29 of whom aren't Jim Hendry, he probably touches base with most of them pretty frequently. I think it's his job or something.
  • In the same article, Gammons says he spoke with a "Cubs official" re: the Cubs position as we head towards the July 31st trade deadline as well as on Cubs SP Sean Gallagher, "We almost certainly will do something. But we really don't want to give up Sean Gallagher at this point."
  • Courtesy of MLBTradeRumors.com, here are the primary candidates that could be involved in a Cubs trade, per the Gammons article linked above:
  • C.C. Sabathia - Cubs don't believe they have enough to get him.
  • Rich Harden - Gammons doesn't specifically say the Cubs are interested, just that they're monitoring Oakland.
  • Randy Wolf - The Cubs have interest, and Gammons says Wolf would waive his no-trade to go to a contender. Plus, Wolf treated the Cubs well when they courted him in the 2006-07 offseason. Gammons adds that the Padres still like Matt Murton. History has shown that Jim Hendry and Kevin Towers work well together on trades.
  • A.J. Burnett - The Cubs "also keep looking" at him. Last Thursday, Gammons' colleague Jayson Stark hadn't found "any indication that the Cubs have even batted his name around."
  • Aaron Cook - Gammons says the Cubs would love him, but Rockies' GM Dan O'Dowd said earlier this month, "We're not doing anything with Cookie."
  • Bronson Arroyo, Kevin Millwood - Gammons says the Cubs have "kicked around" these names.
  • In a final note from Gammons' latest blog effort, the HOFer says the Tampa Rays are looking to acquire a right-handed bat and may look to Cubs sometimes OFer Matt Murton. This deal wouldn't do much for us, I'd imagine. If, and a big if, the best team in the NL (the Cubs) would make a deal with potential playoff opponent and best team in the AL (the Rays) it's not going to be a blockbuster. If we moved Murton here, I'd guess we'd probably be taking a dip into the Rays uber-deep farm system rather than getting a player that will help immediately.
  • Baseball Prospectus's Will Carroll and Kevin Goldstein weigh in ($) on a potential CC Sabathia to the Cubs deal. Goldstein, BPs prospect guy, stated: "The Cubs don't have a good minor league system, at all. So for them to do something, it might have to be a quantity over quality scenario. Maybe Cleveland would be a good landing spot for Ronny Cedeno, who I still believe in, but after that, it's kind of hard to find things that might appeal to the Indians. Maybe you could start off with power arms like Donald Veal and Jose Ceda, but after that, what else do you want?"
  • Finally, I'll go ahead and throw this one in, even though I don't think it has a shot of actually happening. The Cubs may or may not be interested in Rockies closer Brian Fuentes. Ken Rosenthal had originally stated the Cubs were interested. But he later retracted that report. However, today, Tracy Ringolsby of the Rocky Mountain News revived the rumor, listing the Cubs, Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Phillies, Rays, and Cardinals as possible trade partners. I gotta be honest-this one doesn't make much sense to me. The Cubs already have a tremendous back end to their 'pen with Wood, Marmol, and Howry. Adding Fuentes would simply push back a guy like Wuertz or Eyre or Cotts, it wouldn't really help out that much. Definitely not worth the cost.

Daytona Cubs Mid-Season Review

Record:

First Half, 3rd place (of 6 in division), 35-35, 7 games back
Second Half, 5th place, 4-6, 3.5 games back

Daytona managed to actually have a better road record (18-17) than home record (17-18) in the first half.

All Stars:

Tony Thomas (2B)
Jim Adduci (OF)
Mark Reed (C)
Alex Maestri (P)
Casey Lambert (P)

The Daytona Cubs had an impressive 5 representatives at the All Star Game. Both Jim Adduci and Tony Thomas started the game. Adduci went 2 for 4 with a double and a walk, while Thomas went 0 for 4. Catcher Mark Reed was selected to fill in for teammate Welington Castillo, who had been selected but was promoted to AA before the All Star game. Pitchers Casey Lambert and Alex Maestri both worked an inning in relief. Lambert giving up 3 runs (only 1 earned) on 3 hits and a walk. Maestri struck out 2 and yielded only a walk in his inning of relief.

Position Player of the 1st Half:

As with my positional pick for the Chiefs, the Daytona Cubs best position player was not an All Star. Blake Lalli, the D-Cubs first baseman, has had an impressive run at Daytona since being promoted from Peoria 2 weeks into the season. His .319 batting average is best on the team and 5th in the league. He is second on the team in HR's (7) and total bases (111), despite not playing for the team the entire season. He has only 26 K's in 210 AB's, the fewest of any D-Cubs with more than 125 AB's. In addition, he's been called into duty twice as a reliever, pitching two innings without yielding a hit or a walk, and striking out 3.

Pitcher of the 1st Half:

All Star Alex Maestri edged out All Casey Lambert for my pick of pitcher of the first half. The teammates will have a tough time winning it for the second half of the year, as both have been promoted to Tennessee. Maestri made 14 starts and one relief appearance for Daytona, going 5-3 with a 3.69 ERA, leading the team in wins. His 66 K's remain tops on the team by over 15, but in all fairness, he had started more games and thrown more innings than anyone else. His WHIP was 1.26 and he only yielded a home run every 15.6 innings.

Sox Fight 6/22 Wrigley Field #1

Well this says it all. Wasting beer and swings on a fight. Even looks like the ladies got involved in this one.

I can't wait until October when the fighting actually counts...

Sox Fans Fight 6/28 Crosstown Classic #2

Gotta love this video. A sox fan on sox fan crime. The key here...The Cubs fan that sneaks in and helps his buddy out. That is loyalty!

Chicago Cubs Trade Rumors - June 3oth

The baseball world, and the starting pitching trade market, continues to await word on whether Cleveland Indian ace CC Sabathia will be made available for trade. Towel Drills gave our thoughts on a Cubs acquisition of the big lefty right here. Though the stove is starting to heat up, not much is happening as teams play the wait and see game to determine 1) if their team is still in the playoff hunt and, if so, just how "in" they are, and 2) if Sabathia will be made available, what the cost will be, what team will acquire him, and how that move must be countered.

As an update on the Indians, they're still in last place, and are now 10.5 back at 37-46. They're a good 12 back of the wild card. It's only a matter of time before Indians GM Mark Shapiro opens the flood gates to a Sabathia trade-and Towel Drills will be here when he does to keep you up to date on all the rumors involving Sabathia and other players who may be coming to Chicago. You want 'em. We gots 'em. Here's latest from the Chicago Cubs trade rumor mill:
  • Ken Rosenthal made his regular Monday appearance on XM radio's Baseball This Morning. Talking with hosts Mark Patrick and Buck Martinez, Rosenthal stated: "The Cubs want a starter. There's no question about that. They will be in on every starter: Sabathia; they've even made an inquiry on Harden."
  • The Buster Olney ($) is staying strong on his Cubs/Brewers call for CC Sabathia and states he doesn't see the Angels as contenders in the sweepstakes for the hefty lefty.
  • Rosenthal seems to think the Brewers, Red Sox, or even the Rays are more likely contenders for CC's services. KR says the Brewers are cooler than most with acquiring Sabathia as a rental and subsequently losing him to free agency as they'll happily take the draft pick compensation they'd receive if Sabathia were to sign elsewhere after the season as the club has performed extremely well of late in the draft. KR says the Sox just straight have the prospects to get it done. And the Rays aren't afraid to deal from their ridonkulous minor league prospect depth to acquire a player That is, unless the bidding gets crazy stupid.
  • Rosenthal also had this nugget on a new one to me-David DeJesus: "The Cubs talked to the Royals about David DeJesus when they were searching for a left-handed hitting outfielder. But DeJesus, too, fits the Royals' long-term plan; he runs well, gets on base and plays above-average defense at all three outfield positions. The success of Jim Edmonds has ended, at least temporarily, the Cubs' quest for a left-handed bat. Rival executives are impressed by the way the Cubs put together their center-field platoon of Edmonds and Reed Johnson — signing both players off the scrap heap ..." Nobody effs with DeJesus. (Sorry...had to do it.)
  • Jayson Stark says the AJ Burnett to the Cubs rumors are unfounded. Per Stark, "We haven't found any indication that the Cubs have even batted his name around." Stark says the Cubs aren't looking for just another arm in trade, but rather for a true impact pitcher. He questions whether the Cubs have the prospect depth to land CC Sabathia, but believes they'll give it a go.
  • Jim Molony of MLB.com cites "industry types" and believes that Sabathia will head to either the Cubs or the Angels. Molony also mentions that the Cubs have scouted San Francisco OFer Fred Lewis. Yawn.
  • Dick Kaegel, Kansas City's Carrie Muskrat counterpart, says don't look for Gil Meche to be traded. Meche, Kaegel, and KC GM Dayton Moore are all delusional if they really believe Meche would rather be wasting his time in Kansas City than fighting for a World Series.
  • MLB.com's "Trade Deadline 2008" (doesn't that sound like a Fox News headline or something?) section offers several names to be used as a "Plan B" for any team that tries, but fails, to acquire Sabathia. Here they are, sorted by my personal belief of their likelihood of coming to Chicago: Randy Wolf, Greg Maddux, AJ Burnett, Erik Bedard, Bronson Arroyo, and Roy Oswalt.
  • SI's John Heyman has a list of 11 SPs and 8 RPs that could be available at the trade deadline. Some names we haven't discussed much yet here (a few of whom I owe you guys some words on) are Freddy Garcia, Greg Maddux, Randy Wolf, Kevin Millwood, Joe Blanton, and Jarrod Washburn. Be sure to check out that link if only to see the great picture of Rich Harden they have up.

So my best friend is a Sox fan...

Afer the last 10 days, I have decided that I need to start choosing my close friends a little better. Not because of my concern with drug addiction, alcohol abuse or disease and filth…but because I really cannot stand unintelligible comments about their team or the game. You know what I am talking about.

Perfect example of this distaste in fandom was the great 2008 Crosstown Classic Summer Series (I’ve emphasized the word summer because I strongly believe that there will be a fall classic). After the Cubs swept the Sox at Wrigley last weekend, I received countless emails of lists of why they hate Wrigley Field, Wrigleyville and Cubs fans. My response: Yea you are right, I hate going to Wrigley field and wrigleyville to watch a game…who doesn’t? I can stand enjoying a cold beverage whilst staring at beautiful babies right outside the park. I hate leaving the park and walking straight to a watering hole…I mean taking the redline / greenline to the nearest bar sounds so much better. COME ON!!! Really? we are going to keep arguing about this?

My other distaste (of many but I will only be discussing the ones that are a top my list), when they argue the calls or are so confident in the call…so long as it is in their favor. Last night I had to hear how he WAS out at first and how he DIDN’T take a swing and that there was no rule on the books about check swings…COME ON!!! Really? How come sox fans never admit there is a good play on the other side of the ball or when there is a blown call? I am the first to admit that the other team had a good hit, pitch or when there was a blown call that benefits my team…

Now I don’t use these reason to not hang out or to speak against why I hate traveling south to view a baseball game but here are a few other things I just can’t stand:
- I have attended games every year on the SS...none of which where the Cubs were playing. However, every fan there cheered "CUBS SUCK"...but wait you are playing the royals.
- Again whilst in attendance at a Sox game where the opposition was someone other than the Cubs...someone in the stands is wearing a Cubs hat and is barraged with Beer, Nuts, Insults etc.
- White sox fan beats up fellow white sox fan because he requested the other guy to stop swearing in front of his 4 year old child.
- Fan versus umpire...need I say more.
- You have mullet nights.
With that being said…my best is my best friend and he is here. I’ll deal and we’ll move on. I just don’t need anymore!
VIEWS EXPRESSED IN THIS ARTICLE ARE STRICTLY THOSE OF ARTHUR AND DO NOT RESEMBLE THOSE OF TOWEL DRILLS OR ITS STAFF…except for days that end in Y

Aramis Ramirez on Three Day Family Leave

The Cubs announced today that ARam will miss the next three games, all against the Giants, to attend to a family matter back in the Dominican Republic. The good news? The Cubs are playing the Giants. The bad news? I don't know if the timing could be worse. The Cubs are already thin with Sori out and ReJo hurt, plus The Riot still nursing his hurt, well, somewhere around his hand. I guess Lou will be earning his money this week, as we could see the 4-5-6 positions filled with lil' Mikey, the Hurt The Riot, and Ronny C.

Peoria Chiefs Mid-Season Review

With most leagues about that their midway point, I thought it was a good time to review all the Cubs minor league affiliates who are playing a full season. Today, we start with the Peoria Chiefs.

Record:

First Half, 7th place (of 8 in division), 30-38, 11.5 games back
Second Half, 4th place (tied), 6-5, 2 games back

The Chiefs only finished a half game ahead of the last place Burlington Bees. They started the second half with 5 straight losses, but are in the midst of a 6 game winning streak.

All Stars:

Jovan Rosa (1B/DH)
Blake Parker (P)

Rosa started at DH, going 2-3 with a souble and 2 runs scored. Parker actually recorded the win, striking out 4 over 1 and 2/3 innings to close the game, yielding only a walk.

Position Player of the 1st Half:

While not making the All Star team, third baseman Marquez Smith (8th round, 2007) has been the Chiefs best offensive force. In 76 games, Smith has a .291 batting average and is slugging almost .500. He leads the team in HR's (11), RBI (42), total bases (140), and is second in runs (42). He hasn't mastered the art of the steal (1 SB in 4 chances) but does have 4 triples (which also leads the team). He has struggled defensively (13 errors), but unfortunately, that is only 3rd worst on the team.

Pitcher of the 1st Half:

There were three candidates for this "award": Blake Parker, Dae-Eun Rhee, and Dustin Sasser. While Sasser had a 1.53 ERA before being promoted to Daytona, he was 1-4 in relief at Peoria. Rhee is 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA in 10 starts, but has missed time on the D.L. and has given up 5 unearned runs. So, the choice was relatively easy: Blake Parker. Parker (16th round, 2006) isn't on the Chiefs anymore, he was promoted to Iowa this past week. That's right, he was promoted from Mid A ball to AAA. Before being sent to the I-Cubs, Parker had thrown 47 and 1/3 innings in 23 appearances (in other words, averaging more than 2 innings per appearance). He saved 3 games and was 3-0. But those pale in comparison to his other impressive numbers: 1.33 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 9.7 K's per 9 innings, 2.8 K/W ratio.

Welington Castillo in Futures Game

Congratulations to Welington Castillo, catcher for the Tennessee Smokies, on his selection to the World Team in the Futures Game. Castillo, the only representative from the Cubs system, actually began the year in Daytona. While he hit a respectable .273 for Daytona, his productivity seemed to take off after the promotion. In 18 games at AA, Castillo is hitting .333 with 4 HR's (he didn't have a HR at Daytona). In half as many AB's, he already has more RBI's than he did at Daytona. He was named a Florida State League All-Star prior to being sent to Tennessee.

We're Halfway Home

The All-Star break is still a few weeks away (July 15th), but yesterday the Cubs unceremoniously reached the halfway point of the 2008 season. Let's take a quick look at where we've been, where we are, and where we're heading.

Last year at this time, the Cubs were an even .500 at 39-39. And they had just won 8 of 10 and 7 straight to get there. They were sitting 6.5 back of the Milwaukee Brewers and 3 game up on the St. Louis Cardinals. Derrek Lee was leading the offensive regulars with a .343 BA in 243 ABs. (Lil Mikey was hitting .408 in 76 ABs.) Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano were leading the team in HRs with 15 each and ARam's 44 Ribs were leading the way. Michael Barrett had just been traded to the Padres for Rob Bowen, Jacque Jones and Cliff Floyd made up 2/3 of the OF, Cesar Izturis had split half time with Ryan Theriot, and Matt Murton, Felix Pie, and Koyie Hill had all seen significant ABs.

(Using pre-All Star game stats for pitchers since I can't get the stats page to cooperate) Carlos Marmol had just started his reign of terror on major league hitters and through 23 games and 28 IPs had amassed 40 Ks and an ERA of 0.96. Sean Marshall was leading the way with the SPs with an Ernie of 3.48 across only 9 GS. Amongst the full-time SPs, Ted Lilly had a staff best 3.67 ERA. Carlos Zambrano had bounced back from a rough start to lead the team in Ws with 10 against his 7 Ls. Angel Guzman, Will Ohman, Wade Miller, Rocky Cherry, Billy Petrick and Clay Rapada had all thrown pitches for the club.

Fast forward to 2008. The Cubs just dropped their 3rd game in a row for the first time all season and came up just short of 50 first half wins. At 49-32 and 17 games over .500, though, who can complain? The Cubs sit atop the NL Central, 3.5 games clear of the Cardinals and 4.5 up on the surging Brew Crew. Ryan Theriot's .317 BA in 290 AB leads the regulars. DLee and Sori's 15 bombs lead the way over ARam's 14. And Ramirez's 55 Ribs best Lee's 51 for the team lead.

Kerry Wood's 2.50 ERA in 39.2 IP is leading the team (discounting Jose Ascanio's 1.8 in only 5 IP). Z's 3.13 in 106.1 IP is good enough for the team lead in ERA for starters. Ryan Dempster leads the way with 9 Ws to only 3 Ls. For the sabermetrically inclined, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee share the team lead in VORP ($?) at 22.8. Big Z leads the way among pitchers at 29.1.

The Cubs 49 wins is 2nd best in MLB and 1st best in the NL. Their 32 losses is tied for best in MLB. The Cubs 5.46 RS/G is 2nd in MLB and 1st in the NL. Their 4.25 RA/G is 11th best in MLB and 4th best in the NL. Our 1.21 run differential per game is 1st in MLB. The Cubs batters 172 combined VORP is best in MLB and the 104.8 combined pitcher VORP is 9th best in MLB and 2nd in the NL.

Now, let's look ahead towards the 2nd half. The Cubs have 49-32 actual record. With 442 runs scored (2nd in MLB to TEX's 451) to 344 runs allowed (10th best, OAK leads with 287), the Cubs have an expected (Pythagorean) W/L record of 50-31. Baseball Prospectus's Postseason Odds Report (see free link here and always up on our left side bar) projects that the Cubs will finish the year at about 96-66. With 49 wins already, BP is projecting that the Cubs will fare a bit less well in the W column over the course of the 2nd half. At that mark, the Cubs would be tied for best record in MLB with BOS, a game ahead of TAM's 95, and a full 8 games ahead of the predicted 2nd best in the NL PHI's 88. BP projects the Brewers to finish 2nd in the NL Central at 88-74 and the Cardinals to finish 3rd at 87-75.

BP gives the Cubs a 90.79% chance of making the playoffs, best in MLB ahead of BOS's 86.07%. BP puts the Cubs chances at winning the NL Central at 74.85%. If the season were to play out per these calculations, the Cubs would win the NL Central and be headed to the playoffs with home field advantage throughout the NL series. The Cubs would face the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 1st round (not being able to face predicted wild card winner MIL as they're in our division), and then take on the winner of a PHI/MIL series.

The most recent predictions at the interesting blog Baseball Playoffs Now have the Cubs losing in the 7th game of the World Series to the Tampa Rays. (I swear to Harry Caray-if that happens, someone is going to have to yank me off the ledge quick).

Who knows what this all really means, but interesting stuff to look at. All I know is this: heading in to the season, if you would have told me the kind of year the Cubs would have had to this point, and that they would have won 49 games at the halfway point, I would have been estatic. 2008 continues to look like a very special season. Granted, it's only June. But as Cubs fans, without hope, what the hell do we have? On to the 2nd half today-let's beat those bastards from the Soufside.

Lou Piniella and Ozzie Guillen rap

If you haven't caught this gem yet, give it a watch. They've been playing these commercials for the past couple weeks during the Cubs/Sox games. This is probably one of the most simultaneously funny yet terrifying things I have ever seen. It's like watching a huge train wreck-if the train were full of some creepy ass circus clowns.