Well as if you hadn’t heard already, Ryan Braun has won his appeal against MLB and his 50 game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy has been vacated.
According to published reports and based on the statements that Braun made at his press conference this morning, it appears that Braun won his case by casting doubt on the chain of custody of his sample and for a violation of the procedures regarding his sample that were agreed to by the players and MLB.
I don’t know if Braun took an illegal substance or not, and it doesn’t matter. He has rights, and he used those rights to invalidate the sample. The testing system is set up and agreed to by both parties in advance, specifically to protect both parties. Every step of the procedure must be followed to the exact letter as it was written, or the sample MUST be declared invalid. It appears that that procedure was not followed 100% accurately in this case.
The biggest blunder in this case though is the fact that we know any of this ever happened. I don’t know how the initial positive test results were leaked; but it’s a black mark for MLB, it’s a black mark for the testing system in general, and it will forever be a black mark on Ryan Braun’s career.
I don’t know if people read the reports last week that the Chicago Cubs were thinking about playing the 2013 season at U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox. According to the reports, the Cubs would move for one year so that Wrigley Field could be completely renovated during their absence. A spokesman for the Cubs has denied that the report is accurate, although there is little doubt that the Cubs have been seeking public funds to help renovate/restore Wrigley Field.
As a season ticket holder, I hate the idea of having to watch a season’s worth of games at “The Cell”. It’s not that I don’t like the White Sox home field, its ok and I usually see 4 or 5 games there each year, it’s just that I love Wrigley Field. I’d also have selfish reasons for not wanting to go, mainly, what kind of seats would they give me? The two fields aren’t designed the same and the seats I have now wouldn’t convert as nice as I would like.
But even a greater concern to me would be, what would the “new” Wrigley Field look like? Would they change the configuration of the seats? Would they add premium seating behind home plate? Would the changes be mostly cosmetic and/or just be limited to the clubhouse and concession areas? I have no problem with change, it’s just not knowing what the changes will be (if any) that are troubling. Not that I expect Mr. Ricketts to give me a call and ask for my permission. (But he can if he wants ).
All of this is a year away though. Players have started reporting to spring training and the season opener is coming. The one thing I do know for sure, 6 weeks from today I’m be sitting in Wrigley Field and the 2012 season will have started.
Spring Training Edition
- Last spring Jake Fox lead all players with 10 spring training Home Runs. He hit 2 during the regular season.
- Alfonso Soriano hits well in spring training. Over the past 5 seasons with the Cubs, Soriano has hit .281 with 19 HR’s
- In 2011, Erik Almonte of the Brewers led all players in hits with 32. He finished the spring with a .416 batting average. During the regular season he was 3 for 29 (.103)
- I’ve watched the first two episodes of HBO’s Luck, maybe it will take some time to grow on me, but so far…… I’m not impressed.
Bonus. Last year’s World Series winning St Louis Cardinals were 14-16 in the spring. The best record belonged to Kansas City at 20-10. The Royals finished the regular season at 71-91.
In January the Cubs traded Andrew Cashner and another minor leaguer to San Diego for 22 year old first baseman Anthony Rizzo. It’s the third time that Chicago GM Jed Hoyer has acquired Rizzo. Hoyer was part of the Red Sox organization in 2007 when Rizzo was originally drafted in the June amateur draft. Then as GM of the Padres he received Rizzo as part of the trade package that sent Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego to Boston. And now of course he traded with the Padres to bring Rizzo to Chicago. I think it would be fair to say that Hoyer and the Cubs believe Rizzo is Chicago’s first baseman of the future. The question is however; Is the Cubs first baseman of the future already here?
In January of 2010, Jim Hendry made a little noticed signing of minor leaguer Bryan LaHair. LaHair had played 6 seasons in the Seattle Mariners system and was granted free agency after only making it up to the major league club once (2008) during his career. Bryan was sent to Iowa where he would play with the AAA Cubs for the 2010 season. Although LaHair had some previous minor league success, 2010 was his best season to date when he hit .308 with 25 HR’s.
I don’t know what hopes Bryan had of starting for the Cubs as their first baseman in 2011 after Derrek Lee was traded to Atlanta in August of 2010, but those hopes were dashed after the Cubs signed Carlos Pena to a 1yr/$10M contract in December that fall.
Last season LaHair was sent back to AAA Iowa where he again feasted on Pacific Coast League pitching. Bryan hit .331 with 38 HR’s and 109 RBI in 129 games. That performance won LaHair the PCL Most Valuable Player Award and a September call-up with the Cubs. In 16 starts, 14 of which were in the outfield, LaHair hit .288 with 2 HR’s. It wasn’t a headline grabbing debut, but with the Cubs 25 games out of first place, no one on the Cubs was making headlines.
Now comes 2012. Derrek Lee is long gone, Carlos Pena was not resigned and has left for Tampa, and Tyler Colvin was traded away to Colorado. So first base looks to be wide open for LaHair this year. This summer will be his best shot at a fulltime starting job. And at age 29, it could be his last shot.
Read my other positional reviews here……..
One is my prediction for LA outfielder Matt Kemp, the other is my prediction for the Cubs outfield trio of Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, and David DeJesus. I’ll let you guess which is which. Ouch!!!
Rice, Lynn, and Evans…this outfield is not……………
I know the Cubs have a new manager to go along with new management, but other than DeJesus, they have the same players. Not that that is Epstein and Hoyer’s fault.
No one is gonna take Soriano and the $56M he is owed off the Cubs hands. And if they aren’t going to contend this year, which they won’t; there is no reason to get rid of Byrd now on the last year of a very reasonable $6.5M contract. I don’t expect Byrd to be around all year though. His play, his contract, and most importantly his leadership almost demand that a team in contention come calling for his services around July 1st. And I expect Hoyer to make that trade and free up center field for the last three months of the season to Brett Jackson.
David DeJesus was a fine signing for the price (2yr/$8.5M), just don’t expect the stats he had with KC. At the age of 32, his speed has dropped off (just 7 total SB’s in ‘10-’11) and his average against left-handed pitchers took a nose dive last year (.174). I think you can expect to see Reed Johnson (.305 vs LHP) start in place of DeJesus every time there is a lefty on the mound.
Barring an injury, you can expect to see Soriano start 140 games in left for the Cubs. I know the thought of that turns some people’s stomach, but the truth is……..he’s your best hitting outfielder folks. The last two seasons he has hit an average of 25HR’s and 84RBI’s with a respectable .251 average. He’s not Billy Williams, but he’s not Gene Clines either.
So as I said, don’t think Rice/Lynn/Evans with this crew.
It’s a rare case when the baseball writers vote unanimously to give one player the Cy Young or MVP awards. An example of this happened in 2011 when Justin Verlander deservedly received all 28 first place votes for the AL Cy Young. However most years the writers split their first place votes; and while most times the majority makes the correct pick, sometimes they don’t. This is one of those times.
For years there has been a debate about whether the MVP Award should go to the best player in the league or the most “valuable” player on a post-season reaching team. That debate rarely applies to the Cy Young Award though. Almost always the award goes to the best pitcher that season regardless of his teams overall success. 2005 seemed to be different though when Bartolo Colon (17 first place votes) won the award over Johan Santana (3 firsts).
During the ’05 season the Twins were never in the division race and finished 16 games behind the eventual World Series Champion Chicago White Sox. The Angels on the other hand were in a tight race all year before finally pulling away from the Oakland Athletics and winning the AL West. It was this sprint to the finish and Bartolo Colon’s key role in that finish that probably won him the award. Over his final 14 starts, Colon was 10-2. The award shouldn’t be given for a third of a season’s performance though. Especially when that performance wasn’t as dominating as people think.
First let’s look at those final 14 starts. Yes Colon was 10-2, but his ERA was 3.26 and he only pitched more than 7 innings 3 times during that stretch. In fact, Colon only pitched 5 innings in four of his last five starts. The credit for Colon’s great season ending run should probably go to the Angels offense. During those last 14 games Bartolo was supported by 88 runs, that’s 6.29 per game.
You can’t just take the award away from one pitcher however, another has to win it, and Johan Santana did.
Here are each pitchers season totals.
Pitcher G Record ERA Inn K WHiP ERA+
Colon 33 21-8 3.48 222.2 157 1.159 122
Santana 33 16-7 2.87 231.2 238 0.971 155
Santana easily beats Colon in each stat other than wins. Colon picked up 21 wins in his 33 starts and had 29 decisions overall. Santana on the other hand had “just” 16 wins and 23 decisions. So what happened in the other 10 games? The Twins were 8-2 in those games. Santana threw 71 innings (7.1/gm) with a 3.04 era. Clearly Santana was keeping his team in these games, but for one reason or another he just didn’t collect the win. In four of his 7 loses, the Twins scored 2 runs or less.
It seems to me that the writers were blinded by Colon’s 21 wins, which did lead the league, and his “great” stretch run. The real winner though should have been Johan Santana.
So Congratulations Johan Santana! You are……
Wrigley Regulars 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner
I used to buy every fantasy/preview baseball magazine that came out each spring. Over the years however I’ve slowly but steadily cut back. This year I’ve only purchased one magazine, Athlon Sports Baseball Preview, and that was last night.
I actually haven’t read it yet other than to flip through a few pages, but I did do what I always do with any magazine. I held it by the binder and shook out all the subscription cards. Usually I just scoop them up and throw them out, but one caught my eye.
It’s not really a subscription card, it’s a “4 page pullout” sponsored by Geico. The subject of the pullout is “Who’s On Your Team’s Mt. Rushmore?”
For all 30 Major League teams it lists the four players that would represent that team on a Mt Rushmore-like monument.
The four Cubs listed are…
Ernie Banks……Cap Anson…..Ron Santo…..Billy Williams
I don’t think anyone could argue with Banks, Anson, and Williams. And I don’t have a problem with Santo, but I think an argument could be made for Ryne Sandberg or Fergie Jenkins or Phil Cavarretta.
Looking through all the other teams really had me scratching my head on some picks.
For the Mets they had Davey Johnson, Manager, 1984-90; to go along with Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, and David Wright. Sure Johnson was a good manager and led them to a WS title, but come on. No Keith Hernandez, no Darryl Strawberry, no Ed Kranepool, or even David Cone……….
St Louis Cardinals: They were represented by Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, and Ozzie Smith. All four are definitely worthy and it really tells you something about the quality of the franchise when Albert Pujols and Rogers Hornsby and Red Schoendienst can’t make the list.
LA Angels: No Bobby Grich??? They do have Nolan Ryan, Mike Scioscia, Gene Autry, and Jim Fregosi.
Speaking of Ryan, he’s on the list for the Angels and the Texas Rangers, but the team he actually pitched more games for than any other, Houston, well…..he wasn’t good enough to make that list. Instead they went will Larry Dierker. Hey Dierker was a decent pitcher, but he wasn’t a Nolan Ryan, or even a Mike Scott or Roy Oswalt or JR Richard.
There are others that I question, but I’ll let you look for yourself.
Here is a picture……you can find your favorite team and see if you agree with the list.
The last four seasons have seen Geovany Soto’s batting average bounce back and forth…..
History would suggest that Soto is in store for a bounce-back .280ish type of 2012 season. Well I hate to say it, but don’t count on it.
Soto’s peripheral numbers suggest that he is on a downward plane and I don’t see it moving back up.
His walk rate has steadily decreased from a high of 16% down to a mere 8% during the second half of last season, and his contact rate has also slowly declined down to 71%. When you pair those two numbers together you can calculate an expected batting average (xBA). Soto’s xBA in the second half of the season last year was .219. He actually hit .231, which means he was hitting into good luck. Good luck usually doesn’t last long, and it especially doesn’t last long for catchers over the age of 29.
What’s worse is his batting average against right-handed pitchers. Last year he hit just .207 against righties. Even in 2010 when his overall average was .280, he hit just .235 vs righties.
So here is a name that I think is going to come up a lot during spring training, Steve Clevenger.
Clevenger was the Cubs 7th round pick in the 2006 draft. Last year he hit .319 combined between AA and AAA and is a career .308 hitter in the minors. Oh, and the most important part, he hits left-handed.
I expect to hear a lot of talk about sitting Soto against tough right-handers this year, if not a straight out left-right platoon situation with Clevenger.
So when you start those fantasy baseball drafts, don’t be a Homer……..take a pass on Soto and get your catcher someplace else.
1. David DeJesus was drafted by the Royals with the 4th pick in the 4th round (104th overall) of the June 2000 draft. The Cubs had the 103rd pick; they choose Todd Wellemeyer who last pitched in the majors in 2010 with the Giants. The 105th pick just behind DeJesus was Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee.
2. In 1985 Ryne Sandberg (54) and Davey Lopes (47) combined to steal 101 bases for the Cubs. During the past 14 seasons, the Cubs as an entire team have only stolen 100+ bases once (2006).
3. Over the past 93 years, the Cubs have had the same Opening Day lineup (not including pitcher) just twice. They did in 1972 and 1973. Their combined record those two years was 162-154.
4. I thought Madonna was good during the halftime show of the Superbowl®, but I would have liked to have heard her sing Boderline and Holiday
Bonus. In 1971 the Cubs drafted Burt “Happy” Hooton with the second pick in the first round of the June secondary draft. Burt was born 62 years ago today in 1950. Happy Birthday Burt!