Saying Goodbye: Bryan LaHair and Randy Wells

 

The Cubbies 2012 first-half first baseman (and All Star, thank you very much) recently agreed to a deal that will send him to play for the SoftBank Hawks in Japan next year. Seems about right, doesn’t it?

In any case, I offer my appreciation to Mr. LaHair for the services he rendered us this season, along with wishes for a successful, happy tenure in Japan.

As for Randy Wells, I sort of forgot all about him, which I feel badly about. Because, even though he’s the sort of guy most fans turned on a long time ago, I can’t help remembering the good times. He took a no-hitter into like, the seventh or eighth inning one time. Remember that? No? Well, it happened.

Happy trails, Randy.

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Recapping Cubs Con: Day Two

Saturday morning kicked off with a Theo Epstein Q&A hosted by Len Kasper. (Warning: This is where my lousy note-taking skills are going to start rearing their ugly heads.) Theo cited the devoted fan base as a major factor in bringing him to the Cubs. “You don’t find this kind of passion a lot of places,” he said, adding that, “I’ll never forget that Kerry Wood moment for the rest of my life.” He said that he didn’t think he had done anything yet to deserve having his name chanted, but that he hoped it might be more warranted down the road. When asked what kind of changes would be made to Wrigley Field, Theo responded with, “I think that the ‘W’ flag should be raised more.” He’s clever, eh? The session as a whole was quite interesting. There is something captivating about this guy because, even though he didn’t say anything that I did not expect to hear, I was thoroughly enthralled for the entire hour.

“There aren’t a lot of Albert Pujolses around, and I’m glad the one there is isn’t in our division anymore.”

We followed up the Theo event with an hour’s fruitless wait in a Darwin Barney autograph line (oh well) after which we headed to the “Kids Only” Press Conference. It featured a line-up of Tony Campana, Darwin Barney, Reed Johnson, Todd Walker, and David DeJesus. Only youngsters were permitted to ask questions, and it was a scream. Where else would you learn Todd Walker’s dog’s name (which is Mr. Caboodle Snorkleson, or something close to that)? Or hear such a query as, “What would happen if you fainted on base”? Or learn that Tony Campana recently got carded at the movies? Or that if not a ballplayer, he would have liked to have been an astronaut? Tony was definitely a popular guy in this session, and Reed Johnson had us all in stitches.

Just a few gems from this highly entertaining hour:

Q (to Tony): How did it feel when you hit your inside the park home run?

Tony: I was tired.

Q.: What would you do if you were in a pickle?

Reed (confusedly): A pickle jar?

Reed: Is the reason every question is for Tony Campana because he’s the same size as you guys?

Q.: What do you do after a loss?

Reed: Cry. [Short Pause] A lot.

Q.: If Ernie Banks was still on the Cubs, what would he do?

Darwin: He’d wanna play a double header.

Q (to Tony): Are you gonna hit a real home run this year?

Q.: If you could change into any animal, what would it be?

Reed: A cheetah, so I could be just like Tony.

And I am sure the whole world will want to know that Reed Johnson’s favorite flavor of ice cream is mint chocolate chip, while Tony’s is cookies & cream, Darwin’s and David’s is strawberry, and Todd Walker’s is vanilla (with stuff on it.) I know that this is some pretty hard hitting stuff…. I hope you folks can handle it.

Almost immediately following the Kids Only conference was a session called “Outside The Foul Lines”, with Ryan Dempster, Geovany Soto, Randy Wells and Tony Campana (again.) It was, unsurprisingly, another winner. I won’t rehash all the contents of this panel as it was, I believe, broadcast on WGN radio and should be available for download sometime soon. It is worth a listen, for sure.

To round off the afternoon, we waited in a few more lines and procured autographs from Travis Wood (sorry you’ve not gotten a ‘Welcome To Chicago” post yet, Travis) and Todd Walker (I’m still a fan. Can’t help it.)

Doesn’t he look like somebody? I can’t figure out who. Help me out, people.

Before heading back to the ‘burbs for the night, we happened to witness Randy Wells in a hallway with a lady friend. He was taking her picture with a life-sized cardboard figure of himself and urging her to “kiss it”… I don’t think she did.

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?

Predictorama!: Your 2011 Chicago Cubs, Part Two

A most happy MLB Opening Day to one and all! The Cubs turn doesn’t come until tomorrow afternoon, but there are several games (real games!) being played to hold us over for 24 hours. There is also this, part two of my Cubs prediction party, as promised. Get caught up with Part One, if you missed it!

~

Picking right up where I left off…

Reed Johnson: I anticipate bookoos of Reed-inspired baby sloth smiles from innumerable  game-saving web-gems and a copious amount of hit-by-pitches. It’s good to have him back, isn’t it?

Carlos Marmol: Give Marmee one sloth hug for strikeout, minus one for every walk. I think he’ll come out well enough ahead. I’m calling Carlos #2 makes the NL All Star team. Or, if he doesn’t, we will all consider it injust and be wild with fury.

Sean Marshall: If he can replicate the outstanding numbers he put up last year, our bullpen isn’t going to be too shabby. 1 baby sloth hug for every time Sean’s curveball gives me goosebumps. 25 more if VCU wins the NCAA championship.

Marcos Mateo: I totally typed in “Juan Mateo” at first by accident right there. Does anyone else remember that game in 2006 when Juan was- for some reason- used as a pinch runner in extra innings and scored the winning run? And Derrek Lee proclaimed something like “that’s the slowest I’ve ever seen a human being run”? You remember the little things in seasons like that…

Anyway, if Marcos can do something that amuses me half as much as his brother did then, I shall be delighted.

Carlos Pena: It is hard to say exactly what kind of numbers Carlos will put up, or what kind of year he will have. It is easy to say that he will certainly charm us all with his winning smile, and good defense (maybe even a walk-off home run or two.) He isn’t going find baby sloth hugs hard to come by, no matter what his batting average is.

Aramis Ramirez: Probably not going to win any more silver sluggers or golden gloves. Sigh. Sometimes reality and time aren’t fun.

James Russell: One consolation baby sloth hug for every time James is going to be shuffled from Chicago to Iowa. The same goes for Justin Berg, and anyone else like that.

Jeff Samardzija: Every bullpen seems to have at least one designated kitten-eater… one guy that elicits groans before he has even tossed a warm-up pitch in the bullpen. I’m calling that that guy is gonna be Shark in 2011. 3 sympathy baby sloth hugs for him, but he can’t collect them until he cuts his hair.

Alfonso Soriano: Either Mr. Soriano has been flying under the radar lately, or people have run out of things to say about him. I, for one, have hardly given him a thought this spring. But Sori isn’t just the Canadian word for “sorry”… it’s still our left-fielder, too. I am hoping he quietly has a half-decent season, provided the injury bug doesn’t bite. 4 baby sloth hugs per home run, minus 2 for every groan-inducing defensive play.

Geovany Soto: This is one guy who I genuinely look forward to watching every day… one of the few I don’t feel like I have to cross my fingers for. I foresee good things (good health, potent bat, possible all star selection if he isn’t barred out by Brian McCann and Buster Posey.) 5 bonus baby sloth hugs for every stolen base, triple, and/or inside-the-park home run Geo hits this year. 100 Bonus baby sloth hugs if he ever does a handspring on the base paths.

Randy Wells: I’ll feel better about Randy when I know he’s found a good woman.

Kerry Wood: Kerry will always be allowed as many baby sloth hugs as he wishes, regardless how he performs. I predict a solid year from my all-time favorite Cubs, with just one negligible DL stint.

I’m happy he’s home.

Carlos Zambrano: Two baby sloth hugs per hit recorded. I don’t know what to say about Big Z anymore. I mean, his bat is easier to rely on than his arm. I am going to err on the side of superstition and not predict anything. I just hope… no, wait… I don’t. My lips are zipped.

 

 

Wildcard Wednesday: “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant.”

Yesterday was “picture day” for the Chicago Cubs, and probably for another team or two as well. Today is picture day at the Fair Base Ballist. Enjoy the visuals… it’s just a few more days ’til we get to see baseball players in live action. Hip hip hooray!

*

Some interesting training techniques going down at the Oakland A’s spring headquarters.

I’ll let y’all give this one your own caption.

This is sweet. Although, I’m not sure how that ball was going to fit through the chain link.

A nice artsy shot of Randy Wells from photo day. On a side note, the Chicago Tribune has mislabeled Randy as both “Justin Berg” and “David Wells” in the course of a month. I don’t think they know who he is.

Seeing Double: Jeff Samardzija edition. I can think of no excuse for a man to look like this in the 21st century.

Fernando “Tight-Pants” Perez tries to make sense of the discrepancy between his slacks and those of the rest of the team.

There were a lot of less-than-flattering shots that I found from yesterday, but the Matt Garza ones take the cake.

Look at ‘im! Fortunately for Matt, I find people who look like muppets endearing.

Fact: When young Kyle Smit turns sideways, you can’t see him.

Don’t you just love Carlos #4 and his happy face already?

It was windy in Arizona this week.

Tyler Colvin wins the award for being the Cubs most photogenic player. Though I think you could have shaved for picture day, Tyler.

News of the morning? Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright may be headed for Tommy John surgery. Bum! Bum! Bum!


 

 

“I’m gonna go to the game. They could win. It could happen.”

I was in attendance of Monday’s contest between the Cubs and the Washington Nationals up in DC. What follows are a lot of random thoughts and details of the experience. If they seem boring or trifling to you, just keep in mind that I’ve left out a lot (like being waved, nodded, and smiled at by several different Nationals players who we did not recognize.) But let us commence…

Talking about my collecting of autographs makes me feel not-cool at the best and just plain creepy at the worst. I suppose I could just NOT talk about it, but as this hobby (let’s call it a hobby… hobby is a nice word) makes up half the fun of going to MLB games for me, it’s a bit hard to avoid.
The routine in my family involves arriving to the ballpark a good seven hours before game-time and camping out at the player’s entrance. The sister and myself arrived at that very destination in Washington DC at noon on Monday. It was just the two of us there, and it proved to be a day worth remembering. Our creepy autograph stalking could hardly have been better and the game itself could hardly have been better.

As we walked from Nationals Park back to the Metro station after the game, there were a number of squealing and whooping Cubs fans (probably inebriated) surrounding us. Someone in front of us (probably a Nats fan) muttered that you’d think it was the World Series. Some people consider it stupid to celebrate meaningless wins in the midst of horrible seasons… I won’t comment on that extensively, but I have got to admit that it was an undeniably fun and enjoyable day. I had a blast. And if that is wrong then I can’t say I want to be right.

Here are some blurbs for each player on the Cubs roster inspired by observations made on Monday. Only I didn’t really have anything to say about Carlos Marmol or Aramis Ramirez, so they aren’t part of the list…

Justin Berg & James Russell: James and Justin. Justin and James. A lot of people seem to get them confused, which I don’t get. However they do both seem nice and I proclaim each to be adorable in my sight.

Andrew Cashner is sorta fun to watch in the outfield during BP. Threw lots of baseballs to the crowd… Cash is a people pleaser.

Nothing but *applause* for Casey Coleman. The kid threw a heckuva game.

Ryan Dempster: Dempsty is always awesome. Al-ways.

Thomas Diamond emerged from a cab outside the stadium carrying a messenger bag and I totally did not recognize him ’til he was almost gone. Yes, I am ashamed of myself. Sorry, Thomas.

Was the mystery man with a round face and light colored hair Tom Gorzelanny? I think it probably was.

Sean Marshall is still really tall.

Marcos Mateo seems jolly.

My sister doesn’t like Randy Wells. I do. She also doesn’t like Tyler Colvin, so I think everyone knows who’s in the right on this one.

After BP, there was a gentleman next to me who was genuinely put out with Carlos Zambrano for not stopping to sign autographs and engage with the fans. I always see/hear people like this a pro ballgames, and I am always a bit amused and bit incredulous. I am neither defending nor accusing Carlos. I’ve been to plenty of games, and never personally seen him sign an autograph for anyone. That doesn’t mean he’s never done it. It just puzzles me that people can be so selfish as to not understand that there are 162 games in a season, and at every single one there are thousands of people vying for the attention of players. There is no possible way for every fan to go home with an autograph or a free baseball. Obtaining such coveted freebies is all about being in the right place at the right time. Just because a player doesn’t respond to the masses screaming for attention, that does not make him an inferior human being. OKAY?!?!?

Koyie Hill’s autograph (at least the one he graciously gave me) consists of just his first name. Perhaps he’s trying to be like the Cher of baseball. It’s Koyiejust Koyie.

We saw Geovany Soto’s face through a cab window, and he looked sad.

Jeff Baker… He may not be the most valued or exciting player on the roster, but you’d have a hard time convincing me he wasn’t one of the nicest. In all seriousness, I like Jeff enough by this point to warn anyone who would dare to insult him that you’re gonna have to deal with me.

Darwin Barney has a cheerful face. Doesn’t he?

I love Darlin’ Starlin Castro more every time I see him. Watching him play is an absolute pleasure and his boyish enthusiasm has melted my heart. I want to adopt him.

Blake DeWitt does NOT look the same in street clothes. At ALL. That’s my only excuse for not knowing who he was at first. As with Thomas Diamond, I am ashamed of myself. I’m sorry, Blakey Bear.

I WANTED TO SEE SAM FULD, WHAT IS MICAH HOFFPAUIR DOING HERE???? … Kidding, kidding, of course! I’ve always been fond of Micah.

I have Marlon Byrd’s autograph! *Giddy giggles*

Kosuke Fukudome didn’t spit in my face or run away when the Sharpie I offered him proved to be dried up. Thats’ a proper gentleman.

Xavier Nady did not arrive at the ballpark between the hours of 12 and 4. Was he really late, or really early? You decide.

Alfonso Soriano: The same as always.

+ Corey Miller: Bullpen catchers just seem like cool guys to me.

~

Series Preview: The Pirates who don’t do anything (except against the Cubs)

The Cubs are set to start a three game set in Pittsburgh this afternoon at 1 PM ET. Here’s a little looksy at what might be going down at PNC Park.

It grieves me that the time has finally come where we actually have to think twice about facing the Pirates. I can feel the world crumbling around me! Let’s try and keep our heads though. Who says that the Cubs 1-5 record versus the Bucs in 2010 doesn’t have to be a fluke? They have improved some from the past several years, but Pittsburgh ain’t exactly the toast of the National League. We can beat ’em.

At the same time, the Pirates are on a 5 game losing streak. This never bodes well. It isn’t likely they’ll lose another three in a row. And they know they can beat the Cubs. *Worried frowny face.*

Players To Watch

-Andrew McCutcheon: Young Mr. McCutcheon is a large part of the reason that the Buccos aren’t pushovers any longer. Igh! He has been smothering the Cubs all year, so look out. If I were one of our pitchers, I wouldn’t be touching the guy with a 10-foot pole.

-Garret Jones: Mr. Jones has hurt the Cubs, too. He also has a nice face, so…

-Carlos Zambrano: Big Z is set to make his anticipated return to the rotation this series. I am expecting at least 2 1/2 no-hitters in his first start back. Not to mention a grand slam that lands in the Allegheny River. On the fly.

-Andrew Cashner: *Sniff* Smells like rookie! What does rookie smell like? A cross between a new car, fresh mud puddles, and cookies.

-Randy Wells: I’m looking for a bounce-back from Randy. He can’t do worse than he did his last outing. Because it literally would not be possible!

~

Into the crystal ball I glimpse…

Game 2 is definitely getting rained out. I don’t have to check the forecast. I have a crystal ball. The ball doesn’t say anything about Marlon Byrd taking out the Pirate Parrot, but I wish it would.