Friday, March 11, 2011

Dear Ken Williams, Grow a Pair and Cut Mark Teahen

With three weeks until Opening Day, it is feeling like an eerily quiet Spring down in Glendale. Aside from the post-separation name-calling between Ozzie and Bobby Jenks and the astounding progress being made by Jake Peavy, there doesn't feel like there's much to talk about regarding the Sox. There are no real position battles, most of the rotation is just about set, and really, the only question marks on the roster at this point are the last man out of the bullpen and who will end up the 4th outfielder.

All that being said, there's a pressing issue with the Sox that needs to be talked about. Mark Teahen. And not in the good, oh you're hitting .569 against mostly A-ball level quality pitching, but in the, someone give him his walking papers and get the him the hell off our team.

When the Sox acquired Teahen last off-season for Chris Getz and Josh Fields, it was a "meh" kind of a deal, but then they went and did something stupid like offer him a multiyear contract extension. So now we're on the hook for $4.5 and $5.5 million the next two years for a guy who can't play any defensive position adequately and hasn't had a good year at the plate since 2006. Brilliant.

He's already essentially ceded his starting job at third base to rookie Brent Morel, despite the fact Morel is hitting a robust .143/.250/.238 this Spring (yes, in Arizona), Morel is still at least an above average defensive third baseman. The Sox seem to have plenty of firepower offensively as it is, but need a steady glove at the hot corner when your pitching coach preaches pitching to contact as often as Don Cooper does. Teahen, thus far this Spring, has had 18 balls hit his way and committed 4 errors, plus tripped over the bag trying to catch a routine pop-up in foul territory.

But aside from his awful play and awful contract, what scares me the most about Mark Teahen... Ozzie Guillen, who has shown himself to be tremendously stubborn in the past and play guys far, far too often despite their pitiful performance. We've all seen this show before, Mark Kotsay was one of the worst offensive players in the American League in 2010, posting a -0.5 oWAR last season yet still got 359 plate appearances, 3rd most of the bottom 60 in the league behind only Baltimore SS Cesar Izturis and Seattle 3B Jose Lopez, although in fairness to those two, I should point out they were both adequate defensive players, off-setting their lack of production at the plate. Mark Kotsay's primary position? Designated hitter. I can't make this stuff up.

This has been going on throughout Ozzie's managerial tenure. So even though every indication from Teahen's time with the Sox points to him as the 25th man at the far end of the bench, you just know that's not how it will play out. As soon as Morel shows signs of struggle, Teahen will be right back in there, bobbling ground balls, sailing throws over Paul Konerko's head, and harmlessly flying out. Jerry Reinsdorf and Ken Williams have invest $125 million into this roster, with the assumption an exciting play-off contender will bring fans out in force. And yet, they allow mediocre talent like Teahen stick for no discernible reason other than he scored a sweet deal and they can't bring themselves to eat the $10 million it would take to kick him to the curb.

Look, I realize that the 2011 season doesn't hinge solely on Mark Teahen, but I'm also pretty convinced that had the Sox not bought out his arbitration years last off-season he would have been non-tendered and shown the door. You can correct your mistake, Ken Williams, and handcuff your manager's ability to make curious lineup moves, by hanging that pink slip in his locker.

Do it. Please.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Zack Greinke Fractures Rib

Apparently, he did it playing hoops.

He won't miss much time, but still...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Rick Morrissey Says The Darndest Things

I like Carlos Zambrano a lot. He's one of my favorite Cubs of all time, and one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the franchise. I've written a lot about him lately, but I don't want to give readers the false impression that this blog is an unapologetic supporter of Big Z, no matter the situation. 

But holy shit, do the usual suspects in this town make it easy.
I’m here to defend the sorely misunderstood dugout skirmish and sing the praises of the cleansing clubhouse dust-up. I’m here to say that, yes, sometimes violence is the answer, as long as we’re not talking about dugout war criminal Carlos Zambrano.
First of all - "war criminal." Nicely done, not excessively hyperbolic in the slightest. But Rick, I'm afraid the rest is going to need some clarification. You say that a baseball season is a long, emotional ride and sometimes the tension between players just needs to be released. Except when Carlos Zambrano does it. Since you're a professional writer and all, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Please explain to me how Carlos Silva erupting on teammates during the fourth spring training game of the season is acceptable, yet Carlos Zambrano's eruptions, generally in June, are unacceptable?
I’ve excluded Zambrano because he’s his own category. He’s a serial smasher of Gatorade dispensers and a recidivist dugout exploder. He needs to stop that stuff.
I guess that makes sense?

Yeah, it would be super annoying if Big Z started smashing stuff between innings of every start, regardless of the situation. Except he doesn't do that. In fact, Zambrano's most famous "explosions" have been for the exact same reasons that you're espousing in this column.

I can understand why you would fail to mention that many people consider the Zambrano-Barrett fight the turning point of the initially dismal 2007 season that ended with a division championship. Or how after his skirmish with Derrek Lee in the dugout after poor defensive support in 2010, he was lights-out the remainder of the season. I mean, if someone were to point out that Z's most notable tirades (a) were inspired by poor team performance, and (b) had an overall positive impact on the team, which is exactly why you're defending the Silva-Ramirez skirmish in the first place, it would make this jab at Z even more inexplicable.

You're losing me Rick, but just because I like you I'll read your next sentence.
On the other hand, there’s a small voice in my head saying, “Yes, but didn’t he go 8-0 after his nasty altercation with Derrek Lee last year?’’ did go ahead and mention it.

I have to hand it to Rick. It takes stones to blatantly not try this hard. How else can one explicitly contradict himself so many times within the same column and still have the balls to turn it in? I'll bet this is what his e-mail signature looks like:
Rick Fucking Morrissey.
Columnist, Sun-Fucking-Times

Just for kicks, here are some other ideas Rick Morrissey column ideas from the past few days:

"The King's Speech was riveting and certainly deserving of the Oscar for Best Picture. It was a welcome change from the tired, British historical dramas from years past."

 "To all those decrying the election of Rahm Emanuel as mayor because they think he is not a resident, let me remind you he was only gone for a few years serving the United States. You know who wasn't a resident? Gery Chico, who went fishing in the Boundary Waters from early April, 1986 to mid April, 1986."

"Someone needs to get Charlie Sheen's children out of that house. Kids should not be raised in that kind of circus environment. Unless, of course, it's fun as shit. If it is, then they can stay."

"You know what I love? Bacon. But you know what I can't stand? Bacon."

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dave Kaplan Jinxes Cubs out of the Albert Pujols Sweepstakes

There's still 4 weeks until Opening Day and it seems like a pretty large chunk of Cub fans I know are just about ready to quit on this season. It's not hard to see why, the Cubs are coming off a 75-win year, they're already fighting in the dugout, and management doesn't seem to have any real, tangible plans for improvement, other than just waiting out the Alfonso Soriano deal.

Stop me if I'm wrong, but the biggest short-term fantasy here on the North Side centers on the 2012 off-season and the spending spree the Cubs will be able to afford. They can shed nearly $52 million off their current payroll by declining options on Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Silva and letting Kosuke Fukudome and Carlos Pena walk. Throw in the fact that the biggest fish in the free agent pond in 2012 is a superstar who is the face of your archrival, and well, it's easy to see where this is going...

To that effect, enter Dave Kaplan, of the Chicago Tribune and Comcast Sports Net, who ended the Cubs' hopes of landing Albert Pujols about 240 days before he can even file for free agency by unveiling his blue-pinstriped #5 jersey on Chicago Tribune Live yesterday.

At least you all know who to go Bartman on when Pujols signs a long-term, below market value deal to stay in St. Louis for the rest of his career.

Jake Peavy Returns, Dayan Draws a Walk (Updated)

Jake Peavy makes his return to anything resembling competitive baseball this afternoon, starting against the Angels in Peoria, Arizona. Peavy is slated to throw 2 innings like Buehrle, Floyd, Jackson, and Danks before him. Normally this wouldn't be much more than a "Yay! Baseball's back" kind of story, except that we're still less than 9 months shy of Jake's last game (coincidentally, against the Angels) when he tore his lat muscle off his shoulder.

I thought today's start would have been blog-worthy enough until I read the ESPN Chicago fluff piece about the Sox starters still not allowing a hit in Spring yet when this bomb was dropped,

Peavy said he is shooting for an April 10 regular season return at home against the Tampa Bay Rays.

I was at the game last July when Peavy was injured and yeah, you could tell he was done for the year and probably more. I could see that from my seats out behind the bullpen in right field. Considering he is still blazing path on recovery that is completely unknown, you'll have to excuse me if I don't breath every inning he is on the mound this year.

Update... Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman tweeted this afternoon that Peavy is telling everyone his target date to return to the Sox is May 1.

Dayan can Walk! The Sox beat the Mariners yesterday, 6-1 for their 1st win of the Spring, but after glazing over the box score, the big story is the strong start to Spring Dayan Viciedo is having, 2-3 with a run and a walk! This is huge news to anyone who has followed the kid's career and development thus far. In his brief stint in the Majors last season, Dayan walked twice in 106 plate appearances. Pardon my rudimentary math for a moment, but hitters in the American League averaged 1 walk every 11.77 plate appearance in 2010 (7,367 walks in 86,725 plate appearances). For 106 trips to the dish, that should have resulted in 9 walks. Add 7 walks to Dayan's numbers and his OPS is over 900, which is staggering considering his 22nd birthday is later this month.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Carlos Zambrano Fails Again

In his recap of the Cubs 8-7 loss in Mesa, Paul Sullivan astutely points out that the fault lies with Carlos Zambrano. Z left after three innings of scoreless work and a 1-0 lead, but mentioned afterwards that his arm felt fatigued after the start.

There are two reasons why this loss is his fault. The first, of course, being that it is inexcusable for a starting pitcher to have a tired arm in the first week of spring training. In fact, it is unheard of. If Z is not in physical shape to throw complete game shutouts in early March, then he is of no help to this team. You know who is ready to throw complete game shutouts right now? Koyie Hill.

The second reason why this loss is on Z (and remember, this is clearly the most important story to be told from today's game) is because despite succeeding in not allowing any members of the opposing team to score, he himself failed to drive in any runs. Everyone knows that the Cubs are so bad on defense that a one-run lead is essentially worthless. If Z really cared about his team's chances of winning, he would have gone out there and knocked in a couple himself. Right Paul?

...okay, now I'm just confused.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Viciedo Shines in the Field... Wait, what?

Though the return of actual baseball is always a welcomed relief from the dredges of winter, it's hard to get too jacked up for these games when the majority of the guys playing have numbers in the 90s and are on the chopping block between a plane ride to Charlotte or Birmingham.

All of this could be yours... If you fail.

That being said, there have certainly been a few things to capture the irrational sense of optimism this time of year nurtures (unless, of course, your team is already fighting in the dugout)... Juan Pierre is a workout machine and batting .500! Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, and Edwin Jackson all didn't allow any hits in their 1st start!

That doesn't mean everything we learn in the early days of March is uninteresting. Take Dayan Viciedo, who turned some heads in Tuesday's game against Milwaukee by playing right field like a Major League right fielder, taking proper routes to balls and showing off his arm, nailing a runner at 3rd on a single to right. This is a critical step in the development of Dayan, who is now entering the third year of a four-year, $10 million contract that to this point has produced a total of 106 Major League plate appearances with very mixed results. Though Viciedo has played the outfield before in Cuba, he was a 3B and 1B in his two seasons in the Sox farm system, but has been essentially shut out from moving up the corporate ladder by Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, and Brent Morel.

Though's contract section states Viciedo will remain under the Sox's control until the 2015 season, I'm not entirely sure how these weird international contracts always work, and since Dayan has switched agents from the Sox-friendly Jaime Torres to Jerry Reinsdorf''s Personal Satan, Scott Boras, I'm sure if there's a way out of this deal after it expires in 2012, he'll find it.

Still, the Viciedo to RF storyline is one of the more intriguing of the 1st week of the Spring season. Since the Sox obviously feel confident enough in the near-future of their corner infielders (sidenote: Also possible Viciedo was just too terrible defensively to justify any more playing time there) what does that say about their future plans at the corner outfield positions? Pierre is entering his contract year and Kenny Williams purportedly spent a chunk of the winter trying to move Carlos Quentin for pitching help.

Carlos Must Go

UPDATE: I forgot to give a h/t to Aisle 424 for bringing my attention to the Rosenbloom piece earlier this offseason, cause I sure as hell don't read Steve Rosenbloom on my own.

By now I'm sure anyone reading this is aware that a dugout scuffle between Carlos Silva and Aramis Ramirez had to be broken up after a disastrous first inning against Milwaukee today. After giving up several runs along with three defensive errors behind him, Silva apparently returned to the dugout angry and words were exchanged.

Carlos must be held accountable. This type of behavior is simply unnaceptable on a major league roster, and after all, Carlos has a reputation. After a few spring training games, we can clearly see that nothing has changed with the addition of Carlos. Time to cut ties.

Yes, Carlos Pena must go.

You'll recall from the offseason that Pena was signed solely to play the part of Jaime Escalante in the rowdy, out-of-control Cub clubhouse. Steve Rosenbloom heard from former Playgirl model Steve Stone (h/t to Another Cubs Blog) why the Cubs shelled out $10 million for Pena:

The Cubs signed Pena to provide a strong Latin presence in a clubhouse screaming for something more adult than Zambrano’s screaming. But it’s more than Zambrano. There’s Alfonso Soriano, who supposedly ruined Felix Pie by teaching him every bad party habit. There’s Aramis Ramirez, who refuses to dive for balls, and isn’t that a great example? There’s a history here that goes back to kicking out Mark Grace and turning over the clubhouse to Sammy Sosa, the ultimate team play -- no, wait, never mind.
The Cubs recognized how the latin faction had overridden the clubhouse and posed a threat to their up-and-coming latin youngsters, Starlin Castro and Geovany Soto. They were still salvageable from the latin stink of Zambrano and company and still had a chance to be successful. So the Cubs went out and bought the happiest, friendliest latin that money could buy to protect them and change the poisonous clubhouse atmosphere.

There's the dangerous and selfish Carlos Zambrano who needs anger management to function as a human being. There's Alfonso Soriano, who the Cubs feared would teach Castro and Soto how to party all night at seedy latin clubs (instead of learning how to party the right way from Randy Wells: body shots off of Trixies at Red Ivy). Of course there's Aramis Ramirez, involved in the altercation today, who sets a negative example for the kids by just flat out REFUSING to dive for balls on defense:

SeƱor Pena, I'm disappointed. You were supposed to change things. The latins are as rowdy as ever. What are we paying you for? Won't someone please think of prospects?
"How do I reach deez keeds?"