Saying Goodbye: Marlon Byrd

The first farewell of this 2012 season has come early, as Marlon Byrd was dealt to Boston for relief pitcher Michael Bowden and a player to be named later on Saturday.

I’m not sure what the initial reaction to this deal was like among Cubs fans, as I was off the map, so to speak, over the weekend. If I had to make an educated guess, though, I’d say there was plenty of snarkasm involved. The fact that we all knew a deal involving Marlon was imminent combined with his having had a very poor start to 2012 lead me to conclude that few fans will have been sad to see him go.

To these, I simply say “pooh-pooh”.

I, myself, am not in tears or any such thing. But you know me. I must insist on showering all departing Cubs with love, respect, and well-wishes. Marlon Byrd is no exception. Why should he be? He was a wholely likable fellow. He entertained us with several years of above-average play. He was an all-star (remember that?) And the web-gems! Oh, the web gems…

For the services he rendered us, and for his winning personality, I feel obliged to say thanks to Mr. Byrd, to wish him all the best with the Red Sox, and to serenade him with the traditional Muppety song.

So long, Marlon.

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Rhyme-o-rama 2012! Part One

For the past year or so, I have done a series of pre-season posts under the moniker of “Predictorama!”, in which I tried my hand at forecasting the future year in baseball. Results were usually somewhat strange, and required more than a modicum of brainpower to dream up. Bottom line: lots of work for comparatively puny results.

I was ready to trudge through another year of wringing the psychic juices from my wet rag of a mind, but then I had another idea…

Instead of boring old humor and time consuming photo-shop projects (image doctoring is really not my gift) what if I did this year’s prognostics in poetic form? A rhyming couplet for each player on the Cubs 25-man roster. Because that wouldn’t be more complicated at all.

And that is how this year’s “rama” came to be “rhyme-o” as opposed to “predict-o”.

This is the first installment. Please laugh with me and not at me.

~

Before looking to the future, let’s take a very quick look glance back…

A limerick to summarize 2011
There once was a team called the Cubs
With players that mostly were scrubs
They did what they could
But they weren’t very good
And the fans long bemoaned all their flubs.

For the team as a whole in 2012, I predict the same thing I do every year. I’m the non-commital sort, you know.

Some folks believe the Cubs will stink;
I say we’re better than they think.
Still others hold the Cubs are dope;
I fear we’re stinkier than they hope.

And before we get to the players, an itsy bitsy ode to Dale Sveum.

For Our New Manager
At the helm’s our new skipper
His name is Dale Sveum
Should the Cubs hit the cellar
He’ll shoulder the blame!

To wrap up the first installment of Rhyme-o-rama 2012, here are a few for the players.

Sir Ian Stewart inherits third base,
We hope that he will not fall flat on his face.

Matt Garza is super, and rare are his blunders,
But is he Man Or Muppet, is what I still wonders.

Will Carlos Marmol get any scarier?
Or might he defeat that mental barrier?

He may well be traded, from what I have heard,
But there’s still no denying it: Byrd is the Wyrd.

Christopher Volstad is very tall
I’ve nothing else to say at all.

~

Tune in next week for more exciting rhyming action!

GM For a Day

It had reached that time of year when fans the nation over begin to put their GM caps on and think/talk about what moves they would make if they were in charge. GM caps aren’t nearly as fun to play with when your team is mired in sub .500 mediocrity, but it is something to do nonetheless.

The following is a just-for-fun looksee at what I would consider doing if I were the Cubs GM for a day. You will see that, even as sentimental as I am, I do not share real GM Jim Hendry’s somewhat alarming stance on fire-sales and rebuilding.

This may be the most heartless post I’ve ever written.

***

Dempster, Ryan: While I am trying not to let my heart interfere with my head in my pretend 1-day tenure as Cubs general manager, I can’t help it with Dempsty. I couldn’t possibly let him go anywhere. (See also: Wood, Kerry.)

Garza, Matt: I never would have traded for Matt in the first place. Unless some other team was daft enough willing to part with 3 of its top ten prospects, I wouldn’t let go of him this year. It just seems pointless.

Grabow, John: Free to a good home.

Marmol, Carlos: There was a time when I would have considered Carlos #2 as untouchable. I don’t any longer. I suppose all that 9th inning stress has gotten to my head. I am not saying that I would trade Carlos, only that I wouldn’t rule it out. And I would demand a LOT in any possible trade situation (more than he is worth.)

Marshall, Sean: Sigh. It would be difficult for me to pull the trigger on any deal involving Sean, but I hope that in the end I would be able to do what was right for him and the Cubs.

Russell, James: If John Grabow and Sean Marshall aren’t around I guess that would make James the new go-to lefty in our bullpen.

Samardzija, Jeff: He’s done OK this year, certainly better than anyone expected. I would just keep Jeff where he is and ride out that contract.

Wells, Randy: Most of these fellows fit into one of three basic divisions. One, the guys somebody may want. Two, the guys that nobody want. Three, the guys people want but can’t have. I’m afraid that Randy might be a two.

Wood, Kerry: Maybe Kerry should be a one, but he’s a three as long as I’m GM.

Zambrano, Carlos: I wouldn’t even consider Carlos #1 as trade bait. If only to annoy Paul Sullivan.

Hill, Koyie: I heard a rumor that someone might be interested in Koyie. If it’s true, he’s theirs. But it probably isn’t.

Soto, Geovany: Not for sale. Catchers, even half decent ones, are too hard to come by.

Baker, Jeff: If I were the GM of a team that was in contention, I would want Jeff Baker. As Cubs GM, I would hesitate to part with him. Players as versatile and inexpensive as Jeffy B. are worth hanging onto, even in a bad year.

Barney, Darwin: Not going anywhere on my watch.

Castro, Starlin: Crown prince of all the untouchables.

DeWitt, Blake: Blake has never really seemed like a fit on the Cubs. I would send him some place where he could be more useful.

Pena, Carlos: I love Carlos Pena. I always have. I’ve enjoyed watching him as a Cub. But he is still probably the first guy on the proverbial chopping block.

Ramirez, Aramis: The times, they are a-changing. I’m willing to say goodbye if he is.

Byrd, Marlon: Yet another prime trade candidate who I’d miss.

Campana, Tony: Should probably be in triple-A getting more seasoning and playing time, but if half the trade propositions I’ve suggested went down, he’d probably have to tough it out in Chicago.

Fukudome, Kosuke: Sayonara, Fuke. (I seriously feel so mean all of a sudden.)

Johnson, Reed: I couldn’t let go of Reed. So much for that head/heart business.

Soriano, Alfonso: Rumors, schmumors. Fonsie isn’t going anywhere, whether we like it or not.

*Jackson, Brett: I would appease the people (myself included) who would like to have a peek at Mr. Jackson in Chicago before the 2011 season expires.

*Flaherty, Ryan: How do you feel about third base, Mr. Flaherty?

***

So, how ’bout it? What would you all do if you had GM powers for a day?

Wildcard Wednesday: Happy Birthday, Frank Oz!

Happy Wednesday, all. You know the drill…

Today’s notable birthdays:

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803), Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (1878), Ian McKellen (1939), and FRANK OZ! (1944).

And other stuff:

Eyre M. Shaw became the oldest Olympic gold medal winner at 78 years of age (1900)

Babe Ruth was suspended for one game and fined $200 for throwing dirt on an umpire (1922)

Willie Mays made his Major League debut for the New York Giants and went 0-for-5 (1951)

Braves pitcher Max Surkont struck out 8 Reds batters in a row (1953)

Early Wynn won his 300th game (1963)

Dennis Eckersley made his Major League debut in Cleveland, shutting out the A’s 6-0 (1975)

“Star Wars” was released (1978)

Fergie Jenkins became the 7th pitcher to record 3,000 strikeouts (1982)

The Red Sox traded Dennis Eckersley to the Cubs for Bill Buckner (1984)

The Mariners traded Mark Langston to the Expos for Randy Johnson (1989)

*

Who caught the Cubs and Red Sox in their vintage uniforms on Saturday? I didn’t (stupid FOX), but fortunately there were lots of photos.

Wildcard Wednesday: “Are the cubs really as wild as they say?”

I’ve been a bit backed up blog-wise this week due to busy-ness and technical difficulties. Let us hope for smooth sailing from here on…

Today I thought I’d just fling around a few thoughts on the Cubs season thus far. It’s only been five days, but there is already plenty to talk about.

NL Central Standings, as of this morning

My scatter-brained thoughts on…

Tyler Colvin: Did you get a load of Tyler at first base yesterday??? He looked like a pro. I never would have expected as much, especially given the standard (years of Derrek Lee and, now, the very adept Carlos Pena) I can’t help holding him to. It was really a delight to behold. He’s had some delicious at-bats, too.

Carlos Pena: Speaking of Carlos Pena! How much do we love him already? Who could resist such gloviness or such smiles? I am happy he is on our team.

The Defense, in general: Much better, so far, than I expected. Starlin’s gems have outnumbered his hiccups. Mr. Pena has been great. Geovany Soto’s arm has saved us a number of times already. Nothing truly atrocious has happened in the outfield. Now if they can only keep it up…

Andrew Cashner: Cash put up a hey of a showing in his first ever major league start yesterday. Of course, given the Cubs fortune, his health is now in question. I am hoping and praying, for his sake and ours, that the shoulder tightness which forced Cash’s early exit proves to be nothing serious.

Matt Garza: Was very enjoyable to watch in his 12-K Cubs debut. Is even more fun to watch in the dugout during games he is not pitching.

Starlin Castro: I’ve tried to be objective when it comes to our young shortstop. I can’t do it anymore. I love this kid. He has thrilled me to my very tippy toes since I first watched him taking batting practice in Cincinnati last May. I can’t recall having as much satisfaction watching any single player as I have had watching Starlin. Of course, it is less than a week into the season. He probably is not going to maintain a batting average of over .500. Just the same, you have to think that we are going to have a whole lot of fun rooting for Starlin this year. And, hopefully, many many more years in the future.

Geovany Soto: Made the best tag ever on Sunday.
Darwin Barney: Runs funny. But so much fun to watch!


Kerry Wood: Boy is it ever nice having him back home where he belongs!

The BIRDS: The droves of seagulls and low volumes of people have made Wrigley Field something of a sight these past few days, dontcha think?

Hopefully it doesn’t come to anything like this…

Predictorama!: Your 2011 Chicago Cubs, Part One

I shall conclude all my prediculating this week with an “in-depth” peek at the Chicago Cubs. Come to think, I’ll probably due some more once October hits, but no worries! That is many months off.

For now the end (mercifully, of both Predictorama! 2011 AND the off-season) is in sight. What better to do with these few remaining days than taking a stab or two at what the future may hold for Chicago’s North-siders?

This is Part One… look for Part Two on Thursday, Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise. To help measure my expectations, I have instituted a “system” of baby sloth hugs. The more hugs, the better, obviously. It’s not an exact science, though, so don’t read too much into it.

~

In 2010, I predicted that the Cubs would be neither as bad and people generally expected nor as good as they secretly hoped. Don’t think it cheap of me, but I pretty much expect the same for 2011. That’s about all I have to say on the team as a whole. I’ll take the rest of this preview player-by-player, going in alphabetical order. Ready? Here we go.

~

Jeff Baker, Darwin Barney, Blake DeWitt: It is hard to say who will see the most playing time at second base. I consulted a magic-8 ball, but it was noncommittal, so I am lumping these gentlemen all together. Their names are conveniently close together alphabetically. I am strongly of the opinion that we need something cool to call this infielding trio. “Killer B’s” has been done… do you think “Bakey, Blakey & Barney” works, or does it sound too much like a law firm of  babies? I am wide open to any better-suited suggestions.

Marlon Byrd: I am prepared to award Mr. Byrd 5 baby sloth hugs per web gem he makes. That should add up to something like 7,000 hugs, right? I forecast a slight drop-off from the offensive stats he put up in 2010. Nothing drastic. Byrd will continue to be the Wyrd.

Additional Note: Baby sloth would highly approve bringing back the post game victory hug that was instituted for a time last season.

Andrew Cashner: I am delighted that Cash was awarded a spot in the starting rotation and have every hope of his holding his own there. I expect we’ll see some flashes of brilliance interspersed with a few rough periods. Don’t lose heart, though. He’s gonna be alright, in the long run.

Starlin Castro: If Darlin’ Starlin continues to play in the regular season like he has in the spring, and improves a bit in the field, I will buy him a pony and grant him infinite baby sloth hugs.

Tyler Colvin: Will easily become the most popular “TyCo” in the Midwest since beanie babies. With any luck, he will hold onto his value better. Speaking of which, what will anyone give me for a Patti the Platypus (near-mint condition)?

Ryan Dempster: I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying that Demp will have another solid year. Who could ask for a steadier, more reliable pitcher? Or a more genuinely like human being, for that matter? Baby sloth hugs: lots and lots.

Kosuke Fukudome: I would be no more surprised to see Fu put up respectable numbers than I would be to see him wearing a different team’s uniform by August. Doesn’t really need any baby sloth hugs, as he has an adorable Asian child of his own to embrace at his leisure.

Matt Garza: Matt gets two baby sloth hugs for every different muppet he will remind me of this season. That’ll add up to more than a few. Pitching-wise, I am going to be optimistic and predict 14-15 wins and an ERA in the mid 3’s.

John Grabow: I honestly believe that John G. will exceed expectations this season. I’m not saying he won’t eat a few kittens along the way, but I have a generally positive feeling. 12 baby sloth hugs, one for each hold I predict John will record.

Koyie Hill: I hear more lamentations about Koyie than any other individual on the team. I’ll stick up for him, not just because I like him, because I don’t find it entirely fair. There aren’t more than half a dozen really good starting catchers in the major leagues. It’s almost funny that people seem to  expect so much from a back-up. I can only owe it to the fact that we were spoiled for several years with Henry Blanco, who was exceptional for a second string guy. I am sorely tempted to do a bit of a study on back-up catchers. I may well do it, if I continue to be provoked by peoples treatment of Koyie. Really, I would just implore that folks be a bit more realistic. That’s all.

I grant Mr. Hill one baby sloth hug per insult he receives this year. I hope they are less than in 2010.

~

 

“Well, you’ve certainly given the ghost of Tchaikovsky something to think about.”

“We have a system. It’s a good system. There’s an old saying: Don’t… change… anything… ever.”

As I expect everyone is aware, the use of “walk-up” music for the players was instituted last year in Wrigley Filed, replacing the traditional organ-ic strains of Gary Pressy. As it turns out, this was done at the request of Marlon Byrd. After reading the following article from the Chicago Tribune this weekend, I decided to post it here for your perusal, with some added commentary  of my own (in red.)

I usually try to avoid being snarky/sarcastic, but that side of me may come out today. No offense meant to Marlon or the other players, I still love you- snarkasm* aside.

~

Unlike most teams, the Cubs are forced to walk a fine line between progress and tradition.

They were the last team to install lights, and one of the last to install rotating advertising boards behind home plate. The installation of the car sign in left field caused a stir last summer, and talk about bringing a Jumbotron to Wrigley has been debated for years. (Let the record show that the FBB and most of its readers are anti-jumbotron.)

The Cubs made one small (the smallest things are often the most annoying) change to tradition in 2010 to make their players happy (all two of them?), while aggravating a segment of their fan base (that’s me! *Waves hands wildly and excitedly*). With no fanfare last June, they suddenly replaced Gary Pressy’s organ music with snippets of taped music for hitters’ intro songs.

Asked by a fan at the Cubs Convention why they were spoiling the “Wrigley Field experience,” Chairman Tom Ricketts recalled a conversation with an unnamed player who wanted the taped music to help the team out of its early-season slump (That really worked, too, didn’t it?)

“We weren’t getting the clutch hits, we weren’t scoring runs,” Ricketts told the fans. “And a player came up and made that request. “I was like, ‘Geez, we have traditions.’ ”

Ricketts and the marketing department debated it, and ultimately decided to make the change.

“I said ‘Look, I know that it won’t be popular with everybody (I think he meant anybody), but if it shows the players that we’re going to give them some support and try to shake things up and help things a little bit, then I’ll give it a shot,’ ” he told fans.

Marlon Byrd confirmed he was the player Ricketts cited and that he was trying to boost the team’s morale. Points for honesty.
“We were the only team not coming out to music,” (Dude, why don’t you just punch Gary Pressy right in the face?) Byrd said. “I thought it’d be a good twist (and how is conforming to exactly what everybody else does a “twist?) , with it being ‘Year One’ with the Ricketts. (what does that have to do with it?) I understand you have to keep tradition (DO YOU?), have to keep the organ. But change it up just a little bit.”

Byrd’s intro song was “Work” by Gang Starr, which included the lyrics: “I’ve been laying, waiting for your next mistake/I put in work, and watch my status escalate.” He said he enjoyed seeing fans “bobbing their heads in the stands” when they heard his song (If your walk-up song is supposed to help you focus/jazz you up, why are you paying attention to what the crowd is doing?), even if the sound system is so antiquated it barely could be heard. Another good point, there. All the crowd hears is four seconds of blurred static.

The reaction was split between the traditionalists and progressives (personally, I didn’t hear any positive reaction, and I’m not just saying that). Ricketts admitted to fans they received “a lot of feedback from fans who preferred” organ music to taped songs, and said they’re considering whether or not to return to the old-school ways. Please, please, please return to the old-school ways!

Infielder Jeff Baker, who came out to various Beastie Boys songs, said he hopes the Rickettses keep the status quo. I like you, Jeff Baker, I really do. But I wish you would have kept your trap shut here.

“It creates a personality and an identity for each player, showing what you bring, and making your own stamp,” (Wrong. All it really shows us is what terrible taste in music you all have) Baker said. “I’m all for it. I know the majority of the players like it (If majority rules, than the fans should outweigh the players. There’s more of us than you. Just saying.) I know it’s a tough line for [the Rickettses] because they’re trying to balance the traditions of Wrigley with what the players like and want.”

“It’s a tough call, but I hope they don’t can it. It’s not like you’re replacing the organ music completely. You’re just adding to (no, subtracting from) it. I don’t think it has ruined the fundamental history of Wrigley.”

Catcher Koyie Hill, who preferred striding to home plate to Led Zeppelin, said a new sound system would make the recorded music more palatable.

“If they’re going to [play] music on that speaker system they have now, I don’t know what the point is.” Hill said. (There isn’t one. There isn’t one.) “But if guys in the room like it and that’s their thing, I’m all for it. When you’re up at the plate, or on the mound, it’s your turn. So take your turn. If you want music, you get music. I’m a big traditional guy, but I’m also not ignorant to the modern stuff. I like a good mix.” Quit being all political, Koyie.

If the Ricketts family decides to go back to organ music, Byrd said the team can live with it (good!). It’s not a big deal, but one of those little “Chicago things” Chicagoans like to debate. It’s not a debate. I’m pretty sure we all hate it.

“I’m not part of the marketing department. So I’m not sure what kind of feedback they got,” Byrd said. “If the fans didn’t like it, we don’t need to have it. (Thank you.) They do need a new sound system. We need a lot of things. But I think the Ricketts are going to take care of that, and if we did have one, it’d be pretty cool. (Not untrue.)

“I know, just looking in the stands, that a lot of people enjoyed it (I don’t think it was your song that those people were enjoying.) It’s all just fun, trying to keep it loose. It’s too serious sometimes in Chicago. We need to have fun.” That wonderful, Marlon. Just find some other way to keep it loose and have fun. Pretty please.

~

But what does everyone else think? I’ve pretty much taken the assumption that everybody is on my side, but I could be wrong. Let me know what you think!

*Snarkasm… that’s going in the glossary, for sure.