Friday, May 06, 2005

posted by James - 11:56 PM

"Booed while jogging to the mound as he left the bullpen, Hawkins was jeered roundly after blowing a save opportunity for the 11th time in 18 chances since the start of the '04 season.
I'm not going to make any comments about this afternoon's game... in fact, I'm trying to forget the whole last week happened, but the Tribune has provided me with the perfect opportunity to make me feel better about myself by making fun of their stupidity.

I'm talking about the above sentence from this Tribune article of course. If I had a red pen, I'd be opening up a vein on this sorry excuse for filler... but I don't think the gorgeous wife would appreciate me ruining another monitor in this fashion since the paper of version of this story won't be here for a few more hours. Oh, but then the party starts!

First, a herd of oxen could be staggered in its tracks by the amount of passive voice in that sentence written by Paul Sullivan. Booed by who? Jeered roundly by who?

I sat in the first row of seats behind home plate after the section the Cubs added last year... Section 26, row 1. This is just to the right of home plate as you're facing the pitcher's mound. If I were just to the left of home plate, I don't even want to think about the raunchy vocabulary I might have picked up from these crazy fans who were practically hanging over the dugout to give LaTroy Hawkins an earfull.

Secondly... 11 blown saves in 18 chances since the start of the '04 season? uhhh... he had 25 saves last year. I don't know how many saves he blew last year, but I'm guessing he had more than 25 chances last year alone if he saved 25 games. If not, there's some crazy closer voodoo going on I'm not privy to.

Looking over LaTroy's stats (yeah, fancy that. I call it fact checking.), there's something obvious about the difference between Hawkins in '04 and '01 and Hawkins in '02 and '03.

I was going to make you guess... but interactivity isn't this blog's strong point at the moment. Yes in '04 and '01, Hawkins was the closer, albeit ineffectively, so his save numbers are remarkably higher. And in '02 and '03, Hawkins wasn't the closer, with the Twins giving the job to "Everyday" Eddie Guardado (a converted left-handed setup guy) creating one of the best one-two, righty-lefty punches in the American League. They also won league titles in both of those years.

...but there's something else there. Hawkins didn't just lose the closer's job he held in '01 and 2000. They didn't just demote him to a setup role. They took the end of the game completely out of his hands.

In 2001 with Hawkins at closer, the Twins finished in second place in the AL Central, six games back of Cleveland. Hawkins not only saved 28 games, he finished 51.

His last two years with the Twins, he saved a total of two games while cutting almost 4 runs off of his ERA. That's like subtracting a-whole-nother pitcher from your stats.

Most telling for me... he finished only 27 games out of the 139 he pitched. And like I said earlier, the Twins won AL Central titles both years.

We all know what happened for the Cubs last year, but everybody looks at his decent ERA and low number of baserunners per nine innings and assumes he wasn't horrible.

He didn't perform consistenly horrible last year. He pitched marvelously during the first two months of 2004 when he wasn't the closer. After getting the closer's job, he became extremely hittable for the next three months before finally settling down in September when it was too late.

I see a lot of promise in LaTroy Hawkins, but not in the way Dusty Baker has used him since Joe Borowski went on the DL last year.

It's very surprising to me how some hack with a mouse and broadband can click over to a well-known website and find some of these stats, but the management of a team owned by one of the biggest media conglomerates in the world can't figure it out when the problem has caused five of their last eight losses... nor have they done anything to fix a problem that has existed long before that.

posted by James - 9:17 PM

I want to be very clear. I’m writing this, not because I see any value in this issue whatsoever. I’m writing this because I see absolutely no value in this issue whatsoever. Over the last two weeks, I have attempted to write about issues where I do see value, but I found it very difficult (and obviously impossible) to finish the article witht he ability to see the same value I had before I started writing the article.

Cryptic enough for you? No, you say. Then check out the next paragraph.

In summation: when it comes to this blog, I suck. My ideas have sucked. And the topics I care about suck. Talking about their past sucks. Talking about their future sucks and talking about their present just makes me want to cry. And when I write about them, everything sounds like it’s coming through tears... and I don’t want the president to sound like that. I’m going to have to get over invoking Toby Ziegler one of these days sometime, but it’s not going to happen until I have stopped getting punched in the guts on a daily basis... and that’s after having scooped them off the floor and put them back in.

Now onto the topic which has no value whatsoever...

The Cubs Blog Army, where I’m proud to serve, has went on the offensive with regards to the start of 2005 MLB All-Star Player Voting.

MLB has made it even easier this year to fill the ballot Chicago Style, by letting you vote 25 times per computer... per e-mail... per day... instead of just 25 times per e-mail AND auto filling your ballot for you, so it takes no time get multiple votes in.

Of course our beloved Cubbies have made this more difficult by nominating a double-play combo that hasn’t played (and won’t play) the majority of the games alongside pathetic outfielders (except Jeromy Burnitz), while the rest of the nominees (Derrek Lee excluded) has slumped badly.

Of course, this isn’t going to deter our CBA Brain Trust from our mission to get as many Cubbies on the team as possible... even the ones that aren’t on the ballot.

The ballot contains two slots for write-in candidates... and we’re UUUUUUUsing them.

It makes sense when there are two players in the starting lineup for the Cubs making major contributions who aren’t on the ballot. Of course I’m talking about our unlikely savior SS Neifi! Perez and our Screw You, Dusty! savior 2B Jerry Hairston, Jr.

I give Dusty credit for giving Neifi! a chance to start every day after Todd Walker and Nomar Garciaparra’s injuries. He’s always had a superb glove at either middle-infield positions, but he’s given the Cubs offensive production which has far exceeded anyone’s expectations, even if Neifi! has started to regress towards his career norms (which I partially blame on Dusty screwing around with his lineups so frickin’ often).

I’m hoping Hairston has made himself similarly irreplaceable with his invaluable production as the lead-off hitter the Cubs have sorely lacked. Even when Walker’s potent left-handed bat returns, Hairston needs to be at the top of the lineup every day, whether that’s at second base or in the outfield.

Neifi! has made a big enough impression to beckon the call of the CBA’s biggest hitters.

Al Yellon of Bleed Cubbie Blue and the ever-changing and growing group of superstars at the Cub Reporter (kind of like a Beloveds Boy Band) have joined their respective garrisons in effort to get Neifi! a starting berth on the All-star team as a write-in candidate (yes, the write-ins carry over in the auto-fill portion of the online ballot).

I'm all for writing in Neifi (and Jerry Hairston)... but we need to think about this.

Who are the most popular names among shortstops on the NL All-star Ballot? There's Rafael Furcal... most famous for his rap sheet. Clint Barmes... a little time away from Coors will cure that. Alex Gonzalez... no, not that Alex Gonzalez, but not that far removed, either. And David Eckstein... only because he plays for the Cardinals, which is reason enough to not vote for him.

None of these guys are worth of starting an All-star game. And neither is the most likely candidate to win the popular vote at the position... Nomar Garciaparra.

He's still the most popular candidate available. He plays(ed) for a superstation team. And he'll get a lot of votes from AL ballots because they recognize him from his turn in Boston.

He's the Cubs' best shot at getting an All-star representative right now, especially with Aramis Ramirez struggling. Unless Ramirez gets hot over the next month, Rolen will run away with it based on his defense and fan support alone.

It would be amazing to get Neifi! in as a write-in candidate. It would show everyone just how powerful our fan base is and erase the indignity of Ramirez losing the Last Man Standing Ballot from last year's game to vanilla Bobby Abreu.

But realistically, if he actually deserves a shot at an All-star berth when July comes around, isn't Neifi!'s best shot as a reserve or an injury replacement? Getting Nomar elected - a much easier task - would increase Neifi!'s chances greatly.

If the Cubs miraculously turn it around and make the NL Central a competition instead of a redux of 2004, the NL authorities could look to Nomar’s replacement as Nomar’s replacement, especially if he’s one of the big reasons his team is in contention.

One solution I propose is writing in Neifi! at second base in place of Walker, writing in Hairston as an outfield selection in place of Todd Hollandsworth and continue voting for Nomar.

The other idea I’ve had is to join our online forces with another well-supported, tech-savvy American League team, where’d we vote for their candidates in exchange for them voting for our Cubs. Before the ranks of the CBA exponentially grew this offseason, there was a team whose support could rival ours: the Seattle Mariners. They have passionate, well-informed and extremely-diverse fans, and they practically got their whole team elected in 2001.

I agree that whatever the Army decides the marching orders should be would be the best thing, but we need to weigh all the options and scenarios to best ensure success.

Cause what's the point of having an infantry if it's not a Mobile Infantry? Service Guarantees Citizenship... or something like that.