Logged on to MLB.com today, and the first headline was about the MLB All-stars and the Taiwan series. I really didn’t care about that but the very next feed was called “MLB.com Free Agent FRENZY”. This was a sweep stakes naturally to gauge fans knowledge of the Hot Stove free agency. The give away; ho hom tickets to opening day. I’m guessing the tickets are to your favorite team…Oh Boy im excited about both the Sox and Cubs opening day…. insert sarcastic smirk here. So of course, i being the over zealous fan that i am, enter the contest with the bravado that i know what the hell im talking about and i know more then the actual experts. The contest revolves around 10 players; Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jonathon Papelbon, Aramis Ramirez,  Cj Wilson, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Heath Bell, David Ortiz, and Carlos Beltran. My job is to guess what teams they will sign with, how many years all 10 players contract equal too and who would be the last to sign. I’m so confident that my picks are soooo accurate  that i decided to share them and why….

Albert Pujols

Pujols is hands down the BEST player in Baseball now and should be the number 1 player during this millennium. If he decide to retire now, it would be a unanimous decision to enshrine him to the hall of fame. since his first season in 2001 up until now he never hit less than 30 home runs, his batting average never dropped lower than .310 (except this season he batted .296), drove in 100+ runs and have a career on base percentage of .385.  Pujols owns 3 Batting titles, 3 home run titles, 7 silver sluggers, 2 gold gloves, 3 Mvps and most important 2 World Series rings. With that resume why would u let a guy like that who is in the prime of his career at 32? Rumor has it Pujols wants to be the highest paid player in the major leagues. He wants to be paid more than a Bronx bomber that isn’t one-third as talented (also who was caught cheating)a s he is but is being paid 275 millions for 10 years to break Milestones. Pujols wants 300 mil for 10 years to break milestones, bring more championships and retire as a legend with one team. The Cardinals been kicking this around for the last six months how they’re gonna meet the demand of a legit superstar. in my opinion Pujols will resign with the Cardinal. The Cardinals can’t afford to lose him and no other team can afford him but the KC Royals. Pujols wont get 300 mil and 10 years he desire but he will be the highest paid player with the Cardinals at the tune of 225 mil for 7 years….

Prince Fielder

Prince is going to watch how the Pujols deal is handled to gauge his own price. Prince is a premier left-handed power bat that will be coveted by every major league team that can afford him. Prince has all but wave bye bye to the Brewers organizations. Of course he wants to stay there with his good buddy Ryan Braun and the eccentric “Tony Gumbo” Nyger Morgan but the Brewers wont be able to afford his price tags and also fill needs that exist around the team. If Prince return it will be the same song and dance as the battle for playoff spots instead of being legit title contenders. The Cubs crave to sign Prince, But will Prince want to sign with a team that’s in a rebuilding process no matter how much that try to make us believe they will be contending in 2012? The Phillies need a first baseman since Ryan Howard will be out until the All-star break. But that would make Howard a rentaplayer for the 2012 season and with his salary and injury it would be hard for the Phillies to get rid of Howard at the dead line. Which leave the LA Dodgers. Frank McCourt put the team up for sale. The team would be brought faster than u can say Dodgers. The Dodgers will have the Money to afford the contract it’s just up to the new owner how big of a splash he want to make. Matt Kemp will get the protection in the line up he needs and the Dodgers will be top of the west once again. With the prospects that going to have a profound affect on the team in 2012 (Dee Gordon, Ivan DeJesus, Russ Mitchell and Jerry Sands plus Rubby DeLaRosa) this would be the best situation for Prince. Contract 185 mil for 7

Cj Wilson

CJ stock may have drop because of his playoff performance the past 2 years, but his body of work in the rotations can’t be questioned. In what maybe the weakest off-season for starting pitching, CJ could bring lighting in a bottle to a team or be the Mike Hampton disaster revisited. CJ 7 seasons with the Ranger was impressive. 5 of those 7 season CJ was in the bull pen (3 years as lefty specialist and 2 as a closer). The Next 2 season Cj made the seemless transition to the rotation putting up solid numbers. Cj isnt a premier frontline starter, at best he can be a 3 or 4 starter for anytime out side of the Rangers. Left hand pitching is always a hot commodity and CJ will get his fair share of teams handing him pens to sign over his services. The Cubs would love to have him but will bulk at any thing more than 30 mil for 3 year, Brewers not interests, Philllies don’t need him, Astros can pay him but CJ wants a contender, Marlin can use him but that wouldn’t be the best fit, Reds have 2 talented young Lefties in Travis Wood and Arolidis Chapman, Mets are now scared to signed pitchers to long terms thanks to Oliver Perez and Chris Young, Dodgers wants to focus on their prospects and Seattle need him but wont pay him…which leaves Atlanta. The Braves farm system is pitching rich but with this past season call ups they are not quite ready for the big leagues. Also the trading of Derek Lowe and the dangling of Jair Jurrgens on the trade block suggest the Braves may be making a run for CJ. Adding CJ to an already dominate rotation would ensure the Braves will keep up with the Phillies and their big 3. making this move would also give the Braves leverage to move Jair Jurrgens to get the maximum value of the trade…Braves sign CJ 45 mil for 4 years

Jose Reyes

Oh boy we  been waiting for Jose to break and play like the superstar he was projected to be, how befitting he has an MVP season in a contract year? Jose played this past season in tune to a triple figure payday  from some sucker…i mean team. he added a batting title, gold glove and an all-star appearance plus he play 140 games some he never done his entire career. Jose is the total package and if he can stay the field 140-150 games he will be a worthy investment. Jose is only 26 and show he is only improving. How can a team turn their back on a player like Jose? Easy just like the Mets are going to do take a look at his medical records and wave bye to the oft-injured short stop. Jose is not coming back to the Mets, but a lot of teams will balk at his asking price. The Brewers will be front-runners for Jose. They would be losing out on Prince but will gain a superstar. sign with Brew-Crew 70 mil for 5 years may include a club option…

Johnathon Papelbon

Its seems every one is running out of Boston after the September Not to Remember fall from grace. Theo Epstein is a Cub, Tito Francona quit and now Papelbon is on his horse along with David Ortiz out of town. Closers are the  most coveted relievers but the least favorite to sign. Usually teams like in-house candidates to fill those positions but it’s so hard not to want a dominate closer from one team just continue to dominate with yours. In the past signing closers as elite game stoppers f0r big money tend to be big mistake, just ask the Brewers about Trevor Hoffman and the Mets about Fransico Rodriguez. But Papelbon stuff you just cant ignore. Papelbon will be looking for a team that wins consistently. He is obsessed at breaking Mariano Rivera save record and 31 he have the opportunity to break it only if he is with a contender. I was torn between the Twins and Phillies but i decided that the Phillies will sign him. I know Ryan Madsen did a helluva job as the closers for the Phillies but I don’t think they are confident with Madsen as their stopper for 2012. Plus Madsen have been a premier set up man for  the last 3 season I think he will sign with another to team to get the opportunity to start again. Papelbon said Boston was a distraction this past season, his younger brother is in the Cubs farm system, The Twins maybe his best fit but the phillies will offer the money. 39 mil for 3

Heath Bell

Heath has been nothing but consistent for the Padres the past 4 season as closer. Heath has averaged 35 saves person and he gets people out. At 34, Heath still hits mid to up 90’s with his fast ball and has a hard slider. extremely durable havent seen no time on the DL in 2 seasons…What more can you ask for?  The Padres can’t afford him. Only way the Padres fans see him back if Heath takes a home town discount and he don’t love San Diego like that. Angels may pursue him aggressive but Boston going to reel him in with 33 mil for 3 years

Jimmie Rollins

Since we all know Jose Reyes gone from the Mets why not replace him with someone of the same caliber? Its gonna be a 2 team race between the Phillies and Mets for Rollins services. Of course Rollins want to stay with a team that he been with the last 10 years but the Phillies have Micheal Martinez to replace Rollins and provide the same production. At 33 Rollins some signs of wear and tear but aside from the 2010, Rollins average 150 games over his career. The Mets may over Spend  for him but they will land a quality player…Sign 48 mil for 4 years

Carlos Beltran

Carlos doesn’t fit no team better than the Giants. The Giants Lacked an offensive player of his caliber since Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent retired. I don’t think the Giants rented Carlos for a playoff push he havent look this healthy in years and in my opinion i believe the Giants thinks he is due a monster season. Plus Carlos looking for another multi-year deal which no team will offer but the Giants will give him 23 mil for 2 years with a vesting option

David Ortiz

No more Big Papi in Boston. Looks like Big Papi wants to be a Yankee. Maybe it was the Commercial he did over the summer where he tried to get a Yankee fan to hug him. The Yankee desperately wants a left-handed power bat (case in point the tried to claim Carlos Pena off waivers from the Cubs and also tried to trade for Pena when he was slumping). David is that Left handed power bat they can use.  Although David had a bounce back year, it’s still obvious that he is in decline. At 36 you wont expect much of an average and also power decline and more injuries but the Yankees will reach in those deep pockets and still over pay for David services. also the Yankees need to start a youth movement, their team age average is 31 years old. Papi signs for 16 mil for 1 year

Aramis Ramirez

This maybe a hard pill to swallow for both the Cubs and Ramirez. Aramis will hit the market and wont get much interest from many teams and the Cubs will be hard press to give Aramis what he asking for. Aramis Declined a guaranteed 16 mil pay-day to test the free agent market. sure if he is sign he will risked getting low ball on contracts. Aramis is 33 and is looking for 3 or more years teams aren’t willing to offer him more than 2. It’s obvious he wants to play for a contender but will he take a pay cut and seat in the back seat? The Cubs may panic unless Jed Hoyer pull of some deals at the Winter meeting that will bring a 3rd basement in because Josh Vitters is still a few years aways from being ready. A platoon system may not be a good Idea with Dewitt and Baker and there is no free agent 3b worth looking at…this is a wait and see approach for both the Cubs and Aramis this off-season but he will be back for 44 mil for 3 years

There u have it my Hot Stove Point of View

Cubbie Blues

July 5, 2011

While channel surfing, i stumbled across the rebroadcast of the “Cross Town Rival” game of the Cubs vs. WhiteSox on Comcast Sports Net ( a local cable channel in chicago jointly own by the Cubs and WhiteSox). It was obvious i caught the end of the game because of the folksy and awful song “Go Cubs Go” was blaring while fans crooned along. It was a perfect soundtrack to the announcers, Len Kasper and Bob Brenly, uninspired sign off to what was a well played game by the Cubs. Games likes this have been few and really far between for the Cubs. Although the Cubs drop the series to the Sox, this game featured the return of fan favorites to the field- Marlon Byrd and Kerry Wood- and Starlin Castro being named to the All-Star team. Maybe with the return of Wood and Byrd coupled with Castro being selected as an All-Star, we will see a resurgent Cubs’ team take the central division by storm in the second half….NAHHHHHHH. We can only look forward to more dismal play and our loveable losers continue to fail to put together a winning streak more then two games. The Cubs has sunk to the cellar of the National League. With the way things looks it may take a few years before they can make it to the first floor of contention. This has been a downward spiral thats been three years in the making and it havent been any effort to stop the bleeding. It has been several areas where it all went wrong. Listed below are situations that aided in the Free fall of the Cubs;

Owner:

With the finalized purchase of the team in ’09, Tom Ricketts quickly established himself as a fans’ owner. Tom quickly made renovations to Wrigley Field. Updating several dated aspect of the park and highlighted the effort to make it a more family friendly environment. He struck a deal withe Mesa, Arizona to kept Cubs spring training facilities there until and 2035 and also a new stadium. Not to mention a new Baseball academy and facilities in the Dominican Republic. Tom also made  numerous appearance in the bleachers during the ’10 season.Tom was Greeting fans, talking to fans, handing out promotion and prizes, getting fans suggetions hell he even sold consession items through out the season. While Tom Ricketts greeted fans by the thousands, his brothers and sister (also co-owners) Peter, Todd and Laura disappeared. With T0m assuming majority decision making over the Cubs, he was scruntinize for much of of the year for retaining Tribune corporate lawyer Crane Kenney as team President. Tom also assured Cubs general manager Jim Hendry that his Job was safe for the remaining two years on his contract. In another odd move, Tom proclaimed that he would not interfer in any decisions made by Hendry and Kenney. Tom, who father was the founder of Ameritrade, begin to become engulfed in the financial side of the Cubs. Towards the end of the ’10 season, it seemed Tom became complacant with the baseball operation side and seemed to be more focused on how to generate more money then building  a championship contending team.

Front Office:

Being a general manager is a extremely difficult job. You have to piece together a team with 25 guys to achieve the goal of winning a championship as well as sustain a winning culture for years to come. Negotiate contracts, sign free agents and over see minor league signings and operations. Jim Hendry has been the Cubs’ GM for 11 seasons. On paper it seem Hendry has did a serviceable job; compiling 819-811 (.503 winning percentage) record from 2001-2010 and  2 division championships….wait…actually on paper Hendry has done a terrible job. 2 division championship in 11 seasons and only 8 games over .500 hmmmm not a great pitch for your next job. It hasn’t been too many Highlight during Hendry tenure that the most devout Cubs’ fan can gush about about. Hendry can be credited for the 2003 “ALMOST” National league Championship Cub team. That year, Hendry made a shrewd move to acquire to two important componants to the team; Leader off catalyst Kenny Lofton and the corner stone of the franchise for the next 8 seasons Aramis Ramirez at the trade deadline.  That trade propelled the Cubs in contention as well made them all as certain to see the world Series for the first time in 58 years. As we all know the Bartman incident happen (they was 4 outs away from clinching the National league Pennant) which made the Cubs implode and lose the next 3 games to the Florida. The next year Hendry remained aggressive, acquiring Derek Lee from the World Champion Florida Marlins. The same year, Hendry signed Ryan Dempster who was only 8 months removed from Tommy John surgery and regarded to be a significant signing over the years. BUT after those signings, Hendry seem to lose sight of the job at hand: Sustain a winning culture. After 2004 solid signings, Hendry began to make questionable decisions and signings. Starting with the signing of Jerome Burnitz. Burtnitz was at the twilight of his career, Poor plate discipline,  diminishing power and one foot out the door of baseball. Yet Hendry Paid Burnitz 5 millions dollars to man right field. Next was the Signing of Latroy Hawkins. Hawkins was a volatile hard throwing reliever who was known to have team chemistry issues. Next was the herald trade that brought the Uber popular Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs in a three team deal which had Hendry looking like a baseball genius. Hendry gave up little of nothing to aqcuire Nomar who was tagged as a future hall of famer. But Hendry failed to look at medical reports..Nomar played only 95 games in 2 seasons with the cubs. Hendry then brought back Greg Maddux which was a sentimental fan favorite decision to correct a mistake that was made 14 years prior. Unfortunately Maddux was 5 years past his Cy Young Prime. Hendry continue his poor decision making. The bad; Letting Kenny Lofton go after the ’03 season. The Lead off spot has been a sore issue since. Signing Jason Marquis (24 million for 3 years), Jacque Jones (10 Million for 2 year) , Steve Trachsel, Jason Kendall (9 Millions) and Jon Lieber.  The colossal mistakes; trading Sam Fuld (the Human Web Gem), Chris Archer and Brandon Guyver, signing Alphonso Soriano (184 milli0n for 8 years whhhhhhhhhyyy), Milton Bradley (30 Million for 3 years),  Trading Milton Bradley after one season to Mariners for Carlos Silva who played only one season and now we paying 12 million for a free agent, Koske Fukudome-The International Man of Mystery (48 million for 4 years) and signing Carlos Zambrano to 5 year 85 Million extention . Its seemed Hendry signed stop gaps to a what is already a WIN NOW scenerio.

The Farm System

In 2010 the Cub was applauded for the resurgent Farm system. They Boasted the Minor League Player of the Year in Brandon Guyver and Minor League Pitcher of the year in Chris Archer.  Trey McNutt wasnt to far behind Archer in pitching brilliance and Brett Jackson was the belly-hooed hitting prospect.  Jay Jackson had a phenomonal year and was deemed the most major league ready pitching prospect of the laundry list of pitching prospects waiting the wings; McNutt, Robert Whitenack (who led all levels in strike outs), Chris Archer, Chris Charpenter and Alberto Cabrera. Not to mention Tyler Colvin, Casey Coleman and Andrew Cashner already made Major League splashes. Tim Wilkins, The director of scouting, has been praise the rebuilding of the once dismal system. Besides Brett Jackson, the Cubs doesnt have much to look forward to in position prospects. Josh Vitters, the Cubs ’07 first round draft pick and heir apparent to the thirdbase, is still having trouble getting to the next level. Once deemed the Cubs most advance bat, Vitters poor plate discipline and poor defense hasnt allow him to get past class AA in 4 seasons. Outfielder Matt Sczcr had an outstanding 2010 season and is having an outstanding 2011 season but is blocked by Marlon Byrd (one more year left on contract), Alphonso Soriano (3 more years), Tyler Colvin (maybe 2012 starting RF) and Brett Jackson (Hier apparent to CF and more than likely reserve OF in 2012).  Scouts say that Szczr wont be ready until 2013 anyway. Catcher Wellington Castillo has a major league ready bat and possess the arm behind the plate to put fear in any runner that like to steal bases. Castillo also has been rated better defensively then both Geovany Soto and Koyie Hill. Which inturn can make Soto expendable at the trade deadline. Only knock against Castillo is his ability to handle a pitching staff and call games. Now in 2011, that farm system doesnt look to be the answer or the solution to Cubs short term or longterm problems. Archer and Guyver has been traded. Jay Jackson and Trey McNutt has struggled, Robert Whitenack has under gone Tommy John surgery and Chris Carpenter has been converted to a reliever. Vitters still hasnt shown he can play at the next level, Castillo and Carpenter has had a few stints on the major league team but After that, the farm system is slim pickings.  We may have to wait to Spring training to see if there any hidden gems in the farm system.

Mike Quade:

Maybe it was the Sandberg effect. Maybe its the Lou Pinella coined phrase “Cubbie Occurence”. Maybe it was the injuries that decimated the team since opening day, But Quade looks to be in over his head. We credit Quade for his work ethic and baseball resume but this doesnt seem to be the same manager that ended the 2010 season 24-13. It all started in spring training. Quade seemed to be on autopilot with his new position. It seemed it was a surreal moment and Quade havent fully asborb that he was an actual manager. During a spring training game where Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Silva had a scuffle, Quade was ineffective in defusing the situation. Quade proclaimed they were grown men and they would be solve then problem amongst themselves and he didnt need to interfer it was just frustrations from the game. Quade also fail to hold players accountable for sloppy play on the field. Quade also made several questionable decisions and lineup changes. In game one of the recent Cubs vs. Sox game at Wrigley, Randy Wells was pitching a solid game where he took a 4-2 lead into the 7th inning. Wells was only 6 weeks removed from the disable list and already was nearing 100 pitch count. Quades decides to leave Wells in and he promptly gave up 4 consecutive runs. In the end, the Cubs lost. Quade need to establish leadership and demand the most out of his players. Facilitate wiser decisions to lead the Cubs to at least a 3 game winning streak.

Its several things the Cubs need to address to remove the moniker “Loveable Loser”. The Cubs are in dire need of a legit lead off man, Situational hitting need to be much better, Defense need to be a top priority and it wouldnt hurt to have a Ace for the pitching staff. This storied franchise with history as old as baseball need to get back to the days they dominated baseball (1886-1930). Hopefully after a 100 year+ wait for a championship one day the Cubs with get it right….

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March 2, 2011

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