Posted by sportsmaven on December 10, 2008
Chicago White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams has always been a man that plays his cards close to his vest. In the super secret sensitive world of Major League Baseball, that position is not necessarily a terrible proposition, as team are competitive in nature, from ownership right on down to the clubhouse management teams. Across town, Williams’ counterpart, Cubs GM Jim Hendry, is embroiled in the highest profile deal making at the Annual Baseball General Manager’s meetings in Las Vegas, courting perhaps the National League’s best pitcher this side of CC Sabathia in Padres P Jake Peavy.
Hendry has been open in his desire to acquire Peavy and is generally open in discussing his desires to continually improve the level of talent for the Chicago Cubs. Here is where he and Kenny Williams diverge, and that divergence may be misinterpreted as Williams not being cooperative and sleuth-like in managing his team. In a Chicago Sun-Times article on December 10th, Williams comments on his recent transactions and his potential transactions to date in this off-season certainly reinforces the “sleuthness” of his personality:
“I don’t have any timeframe, any timetable to do anything. We are in the fortunate position where we have good young players, we’ve acquired more depth. We’ve also not taken our eye off some of the veterans that could make themselves available to us in the marketplace. My guys are under instruction to listen to deals and potential deals whether they go along the prospect lines or the veteran lines.”
Kenny Williams is certainly underestimated as a baseball GM. His work has resulted in 2 division titles and a World Series Championship since 2005. He has hit big with the Carlos Quentin acquisition, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, A.J. Pierzynski, Jermaine Dye and a host of others that have kept the White Sox in playoff contention for most of his tenure. He has done it with limited budget and a very demanding ownership group looking over his shoulder.
He has done it in a city where the White Sox are the red headed stepchild to the more venable Chicago Cubs in a city deeply divided in it’s baseball loyalties. He has endured extreme criticism, risen to the top of the mountain in bringing the White Sox their first World Series title in 88 years in the Sox infamous 11-1 playoff run in 2005.
Williams was also a key figure in Michael Lewis’s bestselling book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game. In the book, Lewis details Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane’s dealings, more than a few with Kenny Williams. Williams is characterized in the book as a GM that is consistently outmanaged and outsmarted by efficient analysis of Beane and his team, almost looking foolish and overmatched. Lewis paints Billy Beane as a statistical mad scientist, brilliant in his management of efficiency in a market in which Beane must be creative to compete.
But with all the brilliance of a Billy Beane as portrayed in Moneyball, it is Williams that ultimately gets the last laugh, as he is the one with the World Series championship and not Beane.
Posted in Chicago White Sox | Tagged: AJ Pierzynski, Billy Beane, Carlos Quentin, CC Sabathia, Chicago White Sox, Gavin Floyd, Jake Peavy, Jermaine Dye, Jim Hendry, John Danks, Kenny Williams, Major League Baseball, Michael Lewis, MLB, Moneyball, Oakland Athletics | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sportsmaven on September 25, 2008
Hardly a day goes by before someone spouts an opinion about who our beloved Chicago Cubs should or should not want to play in the playoffs. Just this evening, I had a conversation with my wife, her cousin, and a couple of other well informed sports theorists on the merits of each team the Cubs may have to face in the upcoming playoffs.
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Like many others, I was initially caught up in the popular debate. I originally wanted the Cubs to face the New York Mets in the NLDS, as the Mets provide a very favorable matchup for the Cubs. Anyone, but the Philadelphia Phillies, I thought. After the Cubs, the Phillies were the most complete team in the NL this season and played the Cubs very tough this season. Then I jumped on the Los Angeles Dodgers bandwagon, Manny Ramirez included. The Dodgers were less imposing, offensively challenged, and in the weakest division in Major League Baseball, the good old National League West division. Ripe for the picking.
The Milwaukee Brewers? Won’t have to even think about facing the Brewers until the NLCS, that is if they secure the NL Wildcard. That bullpen, the streaky offense, did the Brewers ride CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets into the ground in their push to the playoffs?
Amidst the thinking of the various scenarios and how they would potentially play out, another scenario popped into my little head, like a great rush of fresh air. It seemed almost too simple to comprehend, as though simplicity eliminated the potential of this concept to be with merit.
Really, it doesn’t matter who the Cubs play in the playoffs. There are no Pittsburgh Pirates or Washington Nationals in the playoffs. Every team that makes the playoffs is an excellent quality team. Each playoff team has it’s flaws, some more than others. The playoffs are seldom about the best team during the season, but rather, the team playing the best when the playoffs happen to be played. It’s a crapshoot – the team with the hot hand has the best chance of going all the way, first to win 11games wins it all. It means that the Brewers or Dodgers have as good a chance as the Cubs in winning a World Series. It means that the Chicago White Sox or Minnesota Twins have as good a chance to win it all as the Tampa Bay Rays or the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Network analysts, newspaper sports columnists, Peter Gammons, Ken Rosenthal and other baseball talking heads get paid to spin their most favorable matchups for each playoff team, to analyze favorites and make predictions based on the results of a 162 game season. It’s even vogue to pick a dark horse, playing on past runs of underdog wildcard teams such as the St. Louis Cardinals, who won 83 games en route to a unlikely World Championship in 2006 over a 95 win Detroit Tigers team.
The team that will win the 2008 World Series will be the team that plays unified team baseball, puts it all together at the right time, catches lightning in a bottle to ride a hot streak that lasts for a month, a team that powers through the 11 wins necessary to be called World Champions. Destiny has already chosen the 2008 World Series Champion. The only question remaining is if destiny has chosen the Chicago Cubs, or do the Cubs have the balls and heart to go out and get their destiny? Come October 30th, we’ll all know the answer to that question.
Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: Ben Sheets, CC Sabathia, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, destiny, Detroit Tigers, Ken Rosenthal, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, Major League Baseball, Manny Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, National League, New York Mets, NLCS, NLDS, Peter Gammons, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays, Washington Nationals, World Series | 2 Comments »
Posted by sportsmaven on July 27, 2008
Somebody should have warned Rich Harden that life with the Chicago Cubs
was about to get maniacally interesting for the pitcher from Victoria, British Columbia. Western Canada is about as far away philosophically, as well as geographically, from the world of the Cubs, yet Rich Harden’s
performance in America’s Pastime has been nothing short of spectacular — with maddening results.
Cubs P Rich Harden
Harden was acquired on July 8th, along with P Chad Gaudin for Cubs P Sean Gallagher, OF Matt Murton, IF Eric Patterson, and C Josh Donaldson. Harden was Cubs GM Jim Hendry’s answer for the Milwaukee Brewers acquisition of P CC Sabathia the day before, and he was everything advertised and more.
After today’s start, Harden has been spectacular. Three starts, 17 1/3 innings pitched, 30K’s 8 hits, 2 ER, 1.04 ERA, 0-1 record. The Cubs are 1-2 in his 3 starts. Harden is 5-2 with a 2.04 ERA overall. The Chicago Cubs have wasted performances that have been absolutely dominant, so much so that they match up substantially to Sabathia’s performance as a Milwaukee Brewer.
Sabathia’s numbers are: 4 starts, 33 IP, 20 hits, 6 ER, 31K’s, 1.36 ERA, 4-0 record. Four wins for Sabathia, none for Harden. The Chicago Cubs have 59 games left in the season after today. Harden will likely have 12 more starts if he stays healthy. The Chicago Cubs badly need to take advantage of Harden’s dominance. Only in Chicago, could a pitcher post the numbers that Harden has put up and have no victories to show for it.
Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: CC Sabathia, Chad Gaudin, Chicago Cubs, Eric Patterson, Jim Hendry, Josh Donaldson, Matt Murton, Milwaukee Brewers, Rich Harden, Sean Gallagher | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sportsmaven on July 27, 2008
The Chicago Cubs magical first half of the 2008 season has quickly turned into a circus-like atmosphere for destiny’s team in the month of July. The Cubs began the season with few distractions, allowing the team to concentrate on playing very solid baseball, leading to the best record in baseball for much of the first half of the season.
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
As of late, a rash of off-field events have provided plenty of distraction for a team already bearing the weight of lofty explanations. Those events include:
- Injuries to OF Alfonso Soriano (twice), P Chad Fox, P Carlos Zambrano, OF Reed Johnson, OF Daryle Ward, P Scott Eyre (twice), P Jon Lieber and now, P Kerry Wood.
- The ownership issue recently picking up steam, with rumors that internet billionaire Mark Cuban is the first round high bidder.
- The Cubs answering the Milwaukee Brewers blockbuster acquisition of P CC Sabathia with their own high-profile deal for P Rich Harden, then the insuing media circus around how the Cubs plan to keep the injury-prone Harden healthy.
- Eight Chicago Cubs players elected to the National League All-Star team, the most in team history, but also preventing the 8 best Cubs players from getting well deserved and needed rest.
- The Cubs receiving a $500,000 fine from MLB for not reporting the signing of a draft pick, prompting Cubs GM Jim Hendry to respond “It was just a clerical error”.
- On July 10th, an 8-year old boy was hit in the head by a foul ball off the bat of Cubs P Ted Lilly, fracturing his skull and ultimately a 10 day stay in the hospital.
- On July 24th, the Cubs Class A minor league affiliate Peoria Chiefs were involved in a bench clearing brawl with the Cincinnati Reds Class A affiliate Dayton Dragons, with 17 total players suspended and the Peoria P Julio Castillo arrested for angrily throwing a baseball towards the Dragons dugout, but instead, hitting a fan in the forehead.
- Finally, the constant and persistent daily reminders from anyone surrounding the Cubs, media, and fans that 2008 marks the the 100 year anniversary of the Cubs last World Series victory.
On the field, the Cubs have been less than stellar, posting a 9-11 record since July 1st. The off-field issues may have played some role in that record, but on-field, the Cubs have been a different team as of late. Some of the on-field issues include:
- OF Kosuke Fukudome hitting .185 in July
- IF/OF Mark DeRosa hitting .188 in July
- IF Aramis Ramirez hitting .176 in July including an 0-28 stretch between July 12-22.
- P Bobby Howry sports a 6.97 ERA in July, giving up earned runs in 3 of his last 5 appearances.
- Scheduling: From June 10th, the Cubs played for 26 consecutive days, including a rained-out affair at the Hall of Fame on June 16th, their only “day off” in that span. On June 29th, the Cubs played the ESPN Sunday Night Game of the week and then had to board a plane to fly to San Francisco to play a game the next night.
- Since June 10th, the Cubs record is 20-21. Coming out of the All-Star break, the Cubs play 20 game in 20 days.
- NL loses to the AL in the All Star game for the 11th straight year, thus securing home field advantage for the AL team, not a good sign for NL contenders such as the Cubs who are substantially under .500 on the road (22-30).
The Cubs are certainly not playing with the same energy that they displayed in amassing the best record in baseball in the days leading to the All-Star break, looking game weary while grinding out a schedule with spans of 26 games in a row and now, 20 in a row.
The Cubs seem as thought they’ve forgotten that playing baseball is fun. The hitters look less patient at the plate, swinging at pitches they took for balls earlier in the season. The once-vaunted bullpen, considered a strength of the team, is in disarray, with the injury to Kerry Wood forcing nearly every other pitcher in the pen to new roles. Jim Hendry is unsure whether to make any moves when considering that considering that when healthy, there could be more players than positions. I don’t know if this is a one week slide or if it’s a longer term issue. I don’t know the cure to what ails the Cubs. I do know that as of today, the Cubs are tied with the Brewers for first in the NL Central and both teams appear to be moving in opposite directions.
Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, CC Sabathia, Chad Fox, Chicago Cubs, Daryle Ward, Dayton Dragons, Geovanny Soto, Jim Hendry, Jon Lieber, Julio Castillo, Kerry Wood, Kosuke Fukudome, Lou Piniella, Mark Cuban, Mark DeRosa, Milwaukee Brewers, Peoria Chiefs, Reed Johnson, Rich Harden, Scott Eyre, Ted Lilly | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sportsmaven on July 10, 2008
Who would have thought that Chicago Sun-Times sports columnist Jay Mariotti was a budding baseball GM? In his Tuesday column titled “CC This: After bid deal, all eyes turn to Hendry”, Mariotti wrote about the importance of a Chicago Cubs response to the Milwaukee Brewers pickup in reigning AL Cy Young Award winning pitcher CC Sabathia from the Cleveland Indians. Mariotti writes:
Job One should be Rich Harden, he of the 5-1 record, 2.34 ERA, 91 strikeouts and nine consecutive impressive starts until recent speed bumps. The Oakland righty is healthy, and while a hefty talent package will be extracted by A’s dictator Billy Beane, the Cubs should have enough youthful pieces to make a match.
Impressive? You would think that most anyone with baseball sense could have picked then Oakland A’s pitcher Rich Harden as the next logical target, if one truly believed that the Cubs were actually in the CC Sabathia sweepstakes. I believe they were in, but were not serious contenders because they lacked the necessary pieces that Cleveland desired for a difference maker with the stature of Sabathia, by far the best pitcher available in what is quickly appearing to be a bear market for impact players. The Cubs didn’t pursue Harden as openly as Brewers stalked Sabathia. Who even knew that Cubs GM Jim Hendry and A’s GM Billy “Moneyball” Beane were even seriously talking? But less than 24 hours later, the deal was complete, Harden was a Cub along with an important insurance policy,”throw-in” P Chad Gaudin. The inclusion of the 25-year old Gaudin is what makes a very, very good trade a great trade.
Jay Mariotti not only reveled his sound baseball logic, but he also predicted the huge amount of talent the Cubs would have to give up for Harden (although I thought the Cubs got off easy in that regard, with the only painful departure being RHP Sean Gallagher). Mariotti also nailed the timing, although that may have had more to do with being lucky than being good. But he was good with the rest of the story. You might not like Jay Mariotti, and believe me, there are many that don’t, but you can’t say that he wasn’t on top of his game on this one. Kudos. Jay. Maybe Jim Hendry does read your columns after all.
Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: Billy Beane, CC Sabathia, Chad Gaudin, Chicago, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, Jay Mariotti, Jim Hendry, Milwaukee Brewers, Rich Harden, Sean Gallagher, Sun-Times | 2 Comments »