There’s going to be a Chicago Cubs Firesale perhaps

While perusing twitter today, I caught this nugget from USA TODAY baseball writer Bob Nightengale:

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/BNightengale/status/208251258530824194"]

Either Theo Epstein or someone very close to Theo Epstein a high-ranking Cubs official told the reliable USA TODAY writer this:

The Cubs are letting teams know that nearly everyone but starter Jeff Samardzija is available, two high-ranking team officials told USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because of competitive reasons.

Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster are veterans starters who can fill out the top of a rotation for a contender. Shortstop Starlin Castro already is a star at 22 but can be obtained for two impact prospects. First baseman Bryan LaHair, a surprise bright spot with 10 home runs, can be cleared to make room for top prospect Anthony Rizzo.

And the Cubs gladly will chip in cash for a team to take left fielder Alfonso Soriano and the more than $45 million left on his contract.

I figured the Cubs would try to capitalize on LaHair’s month of fun by way of trade, but dangling Castro? Then again, Castro has just five walks in 2012 and an OBP of .329, which isn’t going to jive with Theo Epstein’s rebuilding plan.

I still say the Cubs allow Castro to stay and become one of the better role-player suppliers around baseball in a short time. It’s too bad really.

Is it wrong that I have sympathy for the Cubs organization and their fans after spending time at the kingdom that is Wrigley Field and Wrigleyville and becoming enchanted?

Throwing it Around

It’s already Thursday. That’s the good thing about a holiday weekend: it succeeds in shortening the following week. We’ve got some good bits to come from now and throughout the weekend. Here’s some lunch-time type links:

-ESPN held it’s franchise player draft today. Jim Bowden had a pick and I didn’t. [ESPN]
-Bryce Harper overshadowing Mike Trout, maybe undeservedly. [HardballTalk]
-You had to see what the Mariners did in Texas last night, right? [Seattle Times]
-FanGraphs looks at the 2012 amateur draft. [FanGraphs]
-Kansas City is reviewing all of the All-Star Games in honor of having the game there this season. [Ball Star]
-The Reds haven’t gotten hot at the plate yet. And they might not get hot. [Cincinnati.com]
-Wish I was still a Mike Stanton owner. [Palm Beach Post]

More than meets the eye with latest Aroldis Chapman story

Something very strange, dark and mysterious is going on surrounding Aroldis Chapman.

It was just over a week ago that I declared him the lynchpin to the Cincinnati Reds 2012 uprising. A night later he gets in trouble for driving his car 101 miles an hour in Grove City. I thought little of it. Earlier this week, Chapman’s ‘girlfriend’ was found at a hotel in Pittsburgh bound by napkins.

It just didn’t add up. It doesn’t add up. Like a close friend suggested to me via text–that isn’t a run of the mill crime–that’s mafioso-style shit. That’s legit wiseguy message being sent. I let my mind drift a little but kept it from fully wandering. Then I started reading some rotoworld posts.

You’d have to think that this guy is involved in something illegal. No one just breaks into a hotel room and leaves a girl tied up for no reason. I think this was probably sending a message to Aroldis that it could be a lot worse next time.

WTF??? This guy’s life is filled with very strange things…..

lol wow…. wtf? I have been offering the world for this guy for awhile now… No one has been biting. I stopped trying to trade for him once I heard about the law suit / speeding thing… Now this, good lord. I need to hear the details on this one.

I don’t know man. I’m actually considering moving him now while his value is perceived to be high. Thought I locked onto a top closer when I picked him up, but this sh*t is too weird.

And then the insinuations got worse. And closer to the path I was thinking along.

My guess is that he got involved with some Cuban mobsters in order to defect from Cuba and he hasn’t paid them back or something. Someone’s trying to intimidate him.

Could be: drugs, gang, cuban, gambling, etc.

It may be a couple years out, but I have a feeling The Life of Aroldis Chapman is going to take a more interesting turn. Prediction – Movie out in 6 years…

I hate to jump to conclusions since none of us really know the guy, but it’s clear that even in the best case scenario, this guy has been involved in things that aren’t exactly good…all this happening so quickly is not a good sign. I don’t think it’s necessarily anything to trade him over yet, but if more creepy a** things like this keep coming out it might be time to consider it.

And then the final commend that rang home:

There’s something seriously bad going on around this guy.

I’ve got a theory about this. I won’t speculate too much, because it’s purely conjecture. But I think there is something that we don’t know about this guy, and that something would give us more details as to why that happened to Chapman’s lady friend at what was reported to be a secure hotel. This didn’t go down at the Days Inn. Oh, and by the way; the lady was married.

When you watch Chapman pitch, you probably get the same feelings that I do. That no one could ever stop this guy but himself. Nothing can derail stuff that good–and it’s the best I’ve seen in maybe 20 years–except something like this. That’s if it’s what I think it is.

There’s rooms in this temple we don’t know the location of. I think as time goes on we’re all going to find out a lot more about Chapman.

I think Chapman is into someone for money or something of some nature. I don’t really want to speculate beyond that. I hope that the stories are about All-Star appearances and Cy Young contention in the years to come, but I have a feeling we’ll be linking this story at a future date to something that connects the dots for us.

His Name is Dayan Viciedo and he Swallows Fastballs Whole

Dayan Viciedo: mi amor, mi vida, mi alegría.

For every Jimmy Rollins, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton who under performs and succeeds in embarrassing me; this guy makes up for it.

In yesterday’s White Sox win he collected three more knocks. On May 14th, ‘The Tank’ went on a league wide assault that’s seen him hit .444 with 8 bombs and 23 RBI. His slash line reads .453/.857/1.310 in that time.

I might not win every fantasy league that I’m in; but I am confident in my ability to each and every year find a guy like this who destroys the league on his way into the proverbial fantasy circle of trust. Last year it was Mike Morse. A few years ago Nelson Cruz. This year, I’ve once again got the gem on my squads.

Thank you Dayan, you fastball pulverizing monster; for being my fantasy baseball salvation.

New ESPN Radio App is a Rip Job

Just when you think you can start to like ESPN; wait, no. I’ll start over.

Just when you think you can tolerate ESPN, they get money hungry and kick you between your legs again. I’ll let Deadspin speak my feelings on the new $4.99 radio app, because they tear into ESPN more eloquently then I ever could.

Way to once again show the world that you are an evil empire of sorts, Bristol.

The Baseball Show: HardballTalk’s Craig Calcaterra

Tonight on The Baseball Show podcast, we were joined by special guest Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports’ HardballTalk.

It was a huge thrill for me because I’ve long been a fan of Craig’s baseball writing since his days at Shysterball and The Hardball Times. Now I spend my days waiting for his next take at HardballTalk. If you’re a baseball fan and you haven’t bookmarked HardballTalk yet, don’t tell anyone and do so now. It’s my one-stop shop for all things baseball. When something happens in the baseball world fraternity, I head there first. And it’s been that way for a while.

We talked to Craig about everything from his favorite pro wrestler, to his relationship with Fredi Gonzalez, the life of a baseball blogger, his path from becoming an attorney to writing for NBC sports and many things in between.

Thanks again to Craig for providing with us with a special edition of our podcast. If you are on twitter, we recommend giving him a follow (@craigcalcaterra). Ask him about Batman or something.

Reinvented Carlos Zambrano

As I sat and watched Carlos Zambrano string together inning after inning against the Washington Nationals yesterday, I couldn’t help but think about the guy who we heard had major mechanic troubles at the tail end in Chicago. He was left for dead, but I think the baseball society would officially declare him “back” as of right now.

I remember hearing tales of a bad delivery that was putting too much pressure on his elbow. That ‘Big Z’ was a candidate to break down at any moment. And then he got hit and threatened to retire. That seems like forgotten history now.

From the SweetSpot article I linked:

For Big Z, this has been equal parts reinvention and renewal. The beefy right-hander’s fastball has lost yet another tick, sitting around 89 instead of 90, and as much as you can place faith in Pitch F/X’s ability to properly pigeon-hole off-speed offering, it looks like he’s relying on his splitter more now than he did in his days in Wrigleyville.

Perhaps more significantly, his ratio of ground balls to fly balls is higher than it’s been since 2003, something a lot more important for his future than a nice dip in his ratio of home runs to fly balls: If he allows fewer fly balls in the first place, it’s going to be harder for more people to hit home runs at all. Regression monkeys will no doubt despair over an FIP or xFIP a run higher than his current ERA, fearing what that portends for the future, but I’d suggest that if, two months ago, you’d get an ERA anywhere between 3.80 and 4.00 from Zambrano every fifth day, the Fish would still be down with this deal.

So he isn’t the power pitcher he was back in his heyday, back when he was the best Venezuelan import among the Cubs’ highly-touted power arms in the early Aughties. But he is the guy who has actually delivered while the other, more famous guys like Mark Prior and Kerry Wood tried and failed and broke down. He’s the one who’s still here, having pitched 500 more innings than the now-retired Wood, or 1,200 more than Prior, the man with the so-called “perfect mechanics.” He’s the guy from the 2003 Cubs with the most career WAR, though that might be seen as a case of setting the bar low.

In layman’s baseball terms, a guy who was has thrown his fastball some 66.8% of the time over the course of his career is throwing it just 40.6% of the time right now. He’s living around 89 MPH rather than the 93 MPH that he became known for.

And suddenly I began thinking of what I read in Sunday morning’s Ne w York Times. It’s quite possible that Zambrano’s arm is a mess inside but he’s hanging on a little longer for more paychecks or more glory or whatever.

The Marlins held on for a 5-3 victory yesterday afternoon. For the moment, all is on the upswing for Zambrano for the time being, and my Memorial Day burgers turned out great (Trader Joe’s patties with a special touch of seasoning and sauce). The Bullish Zambrano lives to fight another day as a member of this large baseball world fraternity we’re all part of.

Throwing it Around

Welcome back to work everybody!

Who else spent their morning shaking off the cobwebs? Anyone besides me? Well the first day back from the holiday weekend is half over with, we’re a few hours from getting home to relax and watching some baseball. I’m going to watch a 7:05 game and then flip it back over to Netflix to finish up the Ken Burns series: Baseball. I fell asleep last night as they were talking about Bobby and Barry Bonds. I think I’m in the 10th inning of the series.

Lunch-time links aplenty:

-Our friend Taylor over at MLBeef took his first trip to Safeco Field recently. It’s going to be one of the last parks we get to on our list. Looks like we need to make it a priority though. [MLBeef]
-Phil Mickelson is part of a group of investors that want to buy the Padres. [HardballTalk]
-Paul Konerko and the White Sox, on fire. [Deadspin]
-Tater Trot Tracker times for this past Sunday. [Baseball Prospectus]
-Bryce Harper is making history, and ended up on a list with a guy named Buttercup Dickerson. Dave Cameron will tell you the rest. [FanGraphs]

Chris Sale, Matt Moore Match-up for Strikeout Showdown on Memorial Day

Around the time you were throwing your burgers and beer soaked brats on the grill to officially kick-off the summer, Chris Sale started summer for all of us by striking out 15 Tampa Bay Rays. Matt Moore countered with 10 of his own.

The reason this was special was it figures to be the first of several match-ups between two American League power pitchers that goes into the next decade. Both of these guys are young, and there will be more showdowns like this. Also, if you look at Sale closely; does he not resemble a young Randy Johnson? Just a little bit?

It also matched a season-high equaled by Max Scherzer (15 strikeouts of his own a few weeks back). When someone gets 15 K’s as a starting pitcher, it’s big news. It’s headline grabbing. You get ESPN alert texts about it.

The White Sox also won the game 2-1, which is good for all South Side fans.

Bryce Harper’s Sunday Night Baseball Home Run off Livan Hernandez

In last night’s 7-2 win that finished off a Nationals sweep, Bryce Harper hit what I think was the most impressive of his four career big league home runs.

In case you weren’t watching, in the at-bat prior Livan Hernandez struck out Harper with a breaking ball. When Livan came back with a breaking ball the following at-bat, it ended up deep in the Atlanta night.

Jamie Moyer took the senior citizen flight out of Cincinnati on Jay Bruce Day

Before the game began today, we told you to expect a Jay Bruce bomb and a Reds win.

Bruce took a hanging Jamie Moyer pitch into the seats in the right field Sun Deck for a bomb, giving the Reds a 2-1 lead. The first place buzzsaw continued to do their thing, winning by a final of 7-5.

Another Jay Bruce day has come and gone, and the Reds remain undefeated on this day. Jay Bruce remains like Babe Ruth on May 27th, and for another night; all is right with the baseball world.

Five years in the Show, 111 career big league bombs. We remember about every one of them.

Must Read Material: Bob Ojeda in the New York Times

So when I woke up this morning I decided I was going to continue to do things differently, or at least in one small part of my life. I read the New York Times for a whole 90 seconds, then went immediately to the sports page. I’m trying to buck what the rest of society does by picking up the fishwrap in the first place. I’ll continue to try and do it.

The lead story was a Sunday Times feature on former RBI Baseball hero Bobby Ojeda, memorable member of the 1986 Mets. It was a good read on his career, baseball in the 80’s, cigarettes between starts, being a big league pitcher and playing in pain, and the relationship that a hurler has with his pitching arm.

O.K., so I got traded to the Mets. I could not tell you one thing about them. I had been in the A.L. for five years. Their clubhouse vibe was edgy: Let’s do everything hard. Even Davey Johnson carried himself with the confidence of a man with a gun in a knife fight. It rubbed off on me quickly. I felt at home at last. We wanted to win at all costs. That team made playing hurt the rule, not the exception. Sore? Take this. Tired? Take this. Overserved last night? Take this. There was no “next year.” It was now or nothing. The speed we were running at would never last. We all knew it but didn’t give a damn.

[snip]

I told Steve that I took eight aspirin a day but that sometimes I needed a little more help. Anti-inflammatories, stuff like that. I started the season in the bullpen and got my first start April 22. Our routine was that after every start, I sunk my elbow in a bucket of ice (doubled as a beer cooler) for 20 to 30 minutes. A few cigarettes and beers later, no pain. Imagine. Not much other than that.

Overall it was a great read that I enjoyed about as much as you can enjoy a story in the newspaper these days. I am confident you’ll feel the same way. You’ll be able to smell the rosin bag and feel the ups and downs of a Major Leaguer as Ojeda abbreviates his journey for you.

Happy Jay Bruce Day 2012

Still our favorite player in the big leagues, all-time. It’s May 27th, and you know what that means. Or maybe you don’t.

This is the day that Jay Bruce came into the big leagues some four years ago–and this May 27th and every one to follow will be forever known as “Jay Bruce Day”. He might be in a little bit of a slide right now, but if anything can break him out of this funk it’s a game at Great American Ball Park on this date.

A few facts about Jay Bruce Day:

  1. All but one of these have occurred at home.
  2. Bruce has never went hitless in a May 27th contest.
  3. The Reds are 4-0 on Jay Bruce Day

Quick recount of Jay Bruce Days of the past:

2008 – 3 for 3, 2 walks, stolen base in MLB Debut
2009 – 3 for 4, 2 HR, 3B, 4 RBI
2010 -2 for 4, HR, 2B
2011 – 1 for 4, RBI in a Reds win in Atlanta

I would count on a Bruce home run leaving the park today and a Reds win. It’s a holiday, after all.