Friday, February 24, 2012

The Curious Case of Ryan Braun

Let me get this out of the way first in case you've never read my blog before: I'm a Cubs fan. Have been 95% of my life.

Ok, now that we have that out of the way, it's time to move onto the press conference from earlier today given my Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun. In December, ESPN reported that Braun has tested positive during the postseason in October of having an elevated level of testosterone during a drug test. The results were leaked to ESPN from a source and Braun immediately disputed and appealed the results. Braun also submitted a second test that showed normal testosterone levels. His appeal was heard in January and on February 23rd, 2012, and arbitration panel overturned the suspension.

Things since the ruling was issued has bordered between weird and weirder. First, it was reported that the collector took the sample home and stored it in his fridge all weekend because the sample was taken on a Saturday and he assumed FedEx was closed at the time. There hasn't been any reports on where it was stored, but I would hope it wasn't near the apple juice.

Then a report followed that stated that the sample was not refrigerator but actually stored in a Tupperware container on a desk for two days. Not sure why the second container was needed.

So, here's where we stand. Braun takes a test, in Milwaukee on Oct. 1st along with two other players. Sample was either stored in the collectors fridge or on a desk until Monday, then sent to the lab for testing at 1:30pm. On October 19th, Braun has been told that he produced a test with either 2 times more testosterone or 3 times more testosterone than any test before. Which makes Ryan twice the man I am. At some point, he submits a retest which comes back normal. You know, after his team is eliminated from the playoffs. He appeals in January 2012, finds out he wins on February 23rd, 2012. Here's what I don't understand...

If the man took 3 samples that day, did he take the other two samples home as well? Or did he just want Braun's to sit at home on his mantle for a weekend? The man only wanted to tamper with Braun's sample? Braun also said "If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally, I'd be the first to step up." Well Ryan, if it was unintentional, how would you step up? You said you "never gained a pound, never got faster." So how would you it be possible for you to unintentionally done something then? By the way, your career high in stolen bases before 2011 was 20 and you stole 33 last year. Oh and ladies of Wisconsin, Braun declared himself free of STD's so rest easy tonight.

Mr. Braun didn't prove himself innocent, he proved the negligence of someone else. It's not exactly the same thing.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Research In Motion Missed The Boat

Let me start of by saying that I am not a tech blogger. There are thousands of people who can and will do it better than me. I've only written on technology post and that was way back in 2010 on what I hoped the iPad would be. Last week at CES in Las Vegas, Research In Motion (RIM from now on) has inspired the second.
A few months ago, RIM let it be known to the world that like most electronics manufacturers, they were going to help mark 2011 at the year of the tablet, and introduce their version, called Playbook. For those that don't know, RIM is the maker of the hugely popular Blackberry line of phones.
With the Playbook, they were entering the realm that is currently ruled by Apple and their aforementioned iPad. Apple was not the first one to the party, but they have taken tablets to a new height after the iPad launched in 2010. RIM wants a piece of that still developing pie. And quite frankly, they way that BB phones are popular amongst business crowds and early twenty-somethings, well if RIM can design something like that, they have a huge head start.
The BB operating system is old and very outdated, unfortunately, and RIM knows this, buying a company called QNX Software Systems and using them to develop the QNX platform that will be the basis of the Playbook and future BB's as well.
Now, for me, and I'm sure countless others, is that I want my tablet to run like a cellphone without the ability to make calls. A laptop, but more portable. The ability to compose emails, check my calendar, send messages to friends, etc. is what I want from that experience. Anyone who has used a BB in the past 5 years knows that there is nothing better to communicate with friends then BB messenger. The ability to send a message, know when someone read it, someone is composing a message is an unbelievable convenience when trying to get a group of friends to one place. In fact, the ability to create groups of friends from BB messenger as well is priceless. Right there is where RIM missed the boat. By a mile.
In order to use BB messenger, you Playbook has to be tethered to you BB via something that RIM is calling Bridge. Basically you have to merge the two via Bluetooth and viola, BB messenger on your Playbook. Which defeats the purpose of a tablet from RIM to me.
I can almost see why RIM would do that. If the Playbook didn't have 3G capabilities, then yeah of course you're going to need to tether your BB to it to surf the Internet while in your car. Except it does have a 3G radio. In fact, I'm not entirely sure they will make a version with just wifi. So honestly, that decision makes zero sense. If I'm sitting in a park with my BB, why would I "bridge" my BB to my Playbook? I'm in a park, I want to use my tablet just like my cellphone. I don't want to have to bring both, just to communicate otherwise I'll just use the BB without having to lug around an extra device.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sweet Lou Finishes His Career

After earlier this season announcing that he would retire at the end of the season, Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella has stepped up that timetable, opting instead to make the August 22nd home game versus the Atlanta Braves his last game.
Piniella's mother has been sick of late and he has opted to leave the Cubs to head home to Tampa to be there with her.

While Piniella was never able to get the Cubs out of the first round in either of his postseason appearances, having a world-class manager in the dugout for the Cubs gave the team playoff aspirations every season because of his style. Sweet Lou will be missed.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I'll Explain Why The D-Lee Trade Was A Good Thing

One of the things that I love about the social media generation we live in currently is that instead of turning on a sports talk radio station and listen to a host ramble on about why this trade was bad, or belittle their callers as morons, I can turn to twitter and find out what fans are saying about a trade as it happens. Shockingly, most of the reactions regarding the Derrek Lee trade were Cubs fans calling it a dumb move. I can't figure out why.

Sure, there are Cubs fans who love Lee. I mean absolutely love him. I'm sure they feel like GM Jim Hendry is trading away all of their best players and getting nothing in return. Here's the thing, though. At the end of the season, the Cubs would have gotten absolutely nothing for him. Nothing. Nada. Zero. And in this case, something (3 pitching prospects) is always better than nothing.

Cubs fans hate the word prospects because it always means wait till next year. And that seems to be the refrain every year. However, if any Cubs fan thought the Cubs were still in it this year, being 21 games under .500 and playing poorly since the beginning of June, I got news for you. Were not.

So, you have a pending FA in Lee. As of right now, Lee is tracking to be a Type B FA, meaning you get one extra draft pick somewhere between 30 and 60 usually in the 2011 draft. That's on two conditions however: 1. Another team must sign Lee. And with him turning 35 and coming off a very down year, is no guarantee. 2. He has to turn down arbitration, which he would be stupid to do, seeing as no team will give him a one year deal at $9.6 million, the lowest his salary could go via arbitration. Do you want to pay a 35 year-old 1B with back problems and had a terrible, terrible year $9.6 million? Didn't think so. No, moving Lee now was a great idea, one that Hendry should be applauded for. Maybe next time, I'll explain why the Lily and Theriot deal makes sense as well.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Well, Derrek Lee Is Now A Former Cub

Today, after sleeping on it for the night, Derrek Lee has now accepted a trade to the Atlanta Braves to have another shot at the playoffs instead of a shot at last place. The Chicago Cubs have acquired three prospects in exchange for Lee, righties Robinson Lopez, 19, and Tyrelle Harris, 23, and lefty Jeffrey Lorick, 22. Following the trade, GM Jim Hendry has said that 1B Micah Hoffpauir will be called up to take Lee's place on the roster. Hopefully just there.

At this point in the season, the Cubs should be trying to see what they have for next season. Part of that is seeing where the pieces they have can fit for next season. Right now, barring a trade and anyone taking most of Kosuke Fukudome off their hands, they have $14.5 million tied up in a 4th outfielder with the emergence of Tyler Colvin. But that doesn't have to be the case.

Right now the Cubs can take the time and chance to throw Colvin at 1B for the remainder of the season and not Xavier Nady or Hoffpauir. Using either of them for the rest of the season at this point doesn't make any sense. Neither one of them really fit into the future plans of the Cubs and right now that is where the Cubs need to be looking. The Future (Two words Cubs fans seemingly always hear).

Playing Colvin there gives you an idea of exactly what you need to pursue this offseason if you plan on pursuing anything. With 41 games left to play, the Cubs can get a very good idea if Colvin can play 1B or not for 2011. If he can't, no big deal, stick him in RF for 2011 and go after a 1B. If he can play 1B, then you have the option of going after a 1B or RF for next season, which gives you a bit more flexibility in what you need instead of just forcing you to just go after one.

At 1B this offseason, the best option is Carlos Pena and Adam Dunn. They both are left-handed hitters, a premium the Cubs definitely could use. After that, there really isn't much of anything else for the Cubs to get as a FA. Maybe through trade, but it's hard to see them getting someone like Adrian Gonzalez without blowing up the farm system. OF is a bit brighter outlook, however. The prize of this offseason is Carl Crawford. Crawford has typically played LF for the Tampa Bay Rays and with an albatross contract in LF, he won't be playing there. But he has played some CF in his career and undoubtedly could probably play it everyday if he wanted to. Of course, that would mean displacing Marlon Byrd, but then again, Byrd has played RF and also could play there everyday. What could stop the Cubs from going after Crawford? The $15-18 million payday he will not doubt get offered by the New York Yankees. And with Fukudome, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano's huge contracts on the team, there is very, very little chance that the Cubs will be willing to go that high again.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wished I'd Taken The Summer Off From The Cubs Instead

After a long break, I'm back to put finger to keypad to talk about what should be my favorite subject, The Chicago Cubs. Sadly, these days it's actually the least favorite thing for me to talk about. Even more so than Brett Favre. Though I could write a little about that jackass too.

Nope, this one is about the dismal and disappointing 2010 Cubs season. There really are other words that I could use, but since the biggest disappoint on this team in 2010 begins with a D, (I'm looking at you D-Lee) those will be suffice. Sure, he's not the only problem, but with Lee in a contract year, it wouldn't be surprising for him to have a monster year. That didn't happen. He'll tell you the back only bothers him on defense if anything, which funnily enough was Carlos Zambrano's blowup was all about, it's hard to believe that it doesn't hurt when swinging the bat as well. Enough about the .251 hitting 1B. I wish he hadn't rejected a trade to the Anaheim Angels. At least we could have gotten something for him.

Really, the blame on the season should fall onto the players, especially since their poor play this season is the real culprit. Ultimately, it will fall onto manager Lou Pinella and GM Jim Hendry. Unfortunately only one of them won't be back next season.

With Lou proclaiming that he was retiring after this season, and really so would I and I'm only 30, not a 104 like Lou, Cubs fans were hoping that they could get a clean start for the 2011 season. However, new owner Tom Ricketts has opted for Hendry to come back for the 2011 season, probably because they didn't want to pay him to sit on his ass for 2011 and 2012, like they have for this season so far. No, Hendry will be back for 2011 and the rebuilding of the Cubs will be in his hands. Sure, the Cubs will call it a reloading or something of that nature, but make no mistake about it, it will be a rebuilding, especially if most Cubs fans get their wish and they name Ryne Sandberg the manager for 2011.

Hendry has overseen the complete disaster of the Cubs since taking over in 2002. Sure, he made some great moves in 2003 to get the Cubs closer than they have been in a long time, but the bad contracts he has handed out since them has put them right where they are. The 2010 opening day payroll was $144 million. They have $103 million committed to 9 players. 9. Let that sink in for a second..... Ready for more? Of those 9 players, 5 have no-trade clauses and one will be a 10 and 5 player, which gives him a no-trade clause. The Cubs also have 7 players coming up for arbitration. Including Geovanny Soto, Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall and all of them will get some hefty raises, I would imagine. Could easily put their payroll at $115 to $120 million range. And that doesn't give you a 2B, 1B or any new bullpen help. Even if Hendry is able to move some bad contracts, ie Zambrano and Kosuke Fukudome, they'll be eating some salary in those deals, and doesn't help reestablish their payroll to manageable levels.

Which leads to the manager. If the Cubs hire Sandberg instead of an established manager, that could be the sing that rebuilding is taking effect, especially if the Cubs trim the payroll. Honestly, I have no problem with that. Getting the payroll down is exactly what the Cubs need to do. Sure, we would all love to see the Cubs get back to a deep playoff run, but chances are with Sandberg in the dugout, there will be growing pains, and not a lot of big free agents will jump at the chance to play for a rebuilding team, unless you throw big money and no-trade clauses in the contracts, which is what has us in this spot to begin with. Cubs fans need to be prepared for a bit longer of a playoff dry spell than just these past 2 years.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cubs Just Keep Teasing

Just when you think they will start to turn it around, the Chicago Cubs prove that they don't look to be contenders in the NL Central. And with the Cincinnati Reds looking to stick around and battle it out with the St. Louis Cardinals, is it time to shed some payroll?

Last week, Ken Rosenthal of reported that Ryan Dempster has agreed to defer $3 million of his salary this season to help the Cubs acquire some help for the 2010 season. Very nice gesture by Dempster, except that Hendry didn't use it to get any relief pitchers, the biggest offseason weakness that every Cubs fan could see. Instead, right now the Cubs are only to get pitchers like Bobby Howry, who was jettisoned last week by the Arizona Diamondbacks for sucking. Howry had a 10.67 ERA in 14 and a third innings. Sure, he's been better than that since coming to the Cubs, but his K/9 rate is way, way down this year, and that's a number you don't want to see decrease if you're a reliever. Of course, he's still better than John Grabow, but really, who isn't?

Grabow is one of those rare lefties who doesn't get lefties out. Grabow for his career has a better batting average against righties than lefties, .265 vs .261. But instead of going after anyone else this offseason to help get lefties out, GM Jim Hendry resigned Grabow to a 2-year deal in the offseason, including a $2.1 million dollar raise for 2011 and Grabow has rewarded Hendry with 9.43 ERA in 20 innings so far and a .356 batting average against. Way to go Jim.

As for shedding payroll, Hendry's first order of business should be shipping out Carlos Silva. Yes, he's been the best starter on this team. Isn't that precisely the reason you should move him? To get value for him while you still can? Silva is owed $25 million for 2010 and 2011, including a $2 million buyout. Send him and the $9million that the Seattle Mariners are giving you and try to find someone willing to take him off your hands. Is it tough to do? Sure it is. It's going to get tougher once Silva starts regressing to the bad Silva of the past couple years.

Who else can the Cubs move. Well, therein lies the problem. Hendry gives out no-trade clauses like they're going out of style. They have 7 players with no-trade clauses, including the most disappointing players of the 2010 season, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee. That leaves the previously mentioned Dempster and CF Marlon Byrd as their best marketable pieces, and both have big contracts for a team to take on, Dempster being owed $27 million for 2011 and 2012 and Byrd $12 million for 2011 and 2010 because of a back-loaded contract.

As for Ramirez and Lee, they are both in contract years, so it's a bit surprising to see them perform so poorly. Except that Lee is turning 35 this season and the most comparable player to lee after last season was Kent Hrbek who faded, quickly after turning 33. Does not bode well for a recovery for Lee. Ramirez is another story. Ramirez turns 32 towards the end of June and before this season hasn't shown much of a downtrend before getting hurt last season. Even after he came back from the injury, he hadn't slowed down that much, hitting .304 with a .496 slugging, with the .496 SLG even with his career numbers. A .496 OPS in 2010 is not getting it done. His thumb has been bothering him lately, though that can't be the excuse for the whole season. A scary thought? Most comparable player through 31 years old for Aramis? Scott Rolen, who has had poor power output up until his rebound this season. If Ramirez doesn't improve, I would bet he will not opt out and the Cubs will be on the hook for at least $16.6 million more. Cubs fans might want them to take a look at top 3B prospect Josh Vitters, but the 21 year-old isn't quite ready, hitting only .234 in AA after being called up, including .125 is his last 10 games.