One week until every team is in first…..at least for a day
One week until the Angels begin life with the best right handed hitter in the game
One week until the beginning of Chipper Jones’ farewell season
One week until Stephen Strasburg tries to recapture his rookie year magic
One week until the Pirates try to end a streak of 19 straight losing seasons
One week until Paul Konerko is just 4 homers away from 400
One week until the Theo Epstein era begins in Chicago
One week until Prince Fielder questions money over Comerica Park’s 420ft Center Field fence
One week until the ‘Carlos Zambrano Meltdown Watch’ starts
One week until Bobby Valentine tries to prove he’s the smartest guy he knows
One week until Kenny Williams questions why he traded Sergio Santos
One week until Kansas City fans look at the starting lineup and say “who’s that?”
One week until Magic Johnson wonders what $2 Billion just bought
One week until the fans actually listen to the starting lineup announcement
One week until Ryan Braun tries to prove it was all legit
One week until the Houston Astros become National League lame ducks
One week until the New York press declares the Mets out of the division race
One week until a first pitch ball outside will get a huge cheer
One week until I duck my head when an F-18 skims the top of Wrigley after our National Anthem
One week until the Red Sox don’t eat fried chicken during the game
One week until this passion we call baseball begins
One week until Opening Day!!!
I love Opening Day.
I look forward to it every year. I really love it when the Cubs home opener is the first game of the year, as opposed to the 7th game after starting the season on the road. This year, not only will I be at the Cubs home opener, but I’m heading over to the south-side a week later for the White Sox home opener.
Opening Day is the start of the season. The real start. Spring training is fine, but I just can’t get into number 78 ‘so-and-so’ pitching to number 63 ‘never-gonna-make-the-roster’.
I even love the first Opening Night game on ESPN the day before all the other teams start the year.
Unfortunately, that Opening Night excitement of being the first regular season game is ruined again this year as the season will officially began a week earlier in Japan. On March 28th and 29th the Mariners and the A’s will play two games in Tokyo. I’m probably not gonna get up at 5am to watch. But hey, you Oakland and Seattle fans can get up at 3am if you want to watch your favorite team.…..blah.
Look, I know the league wants to take the game to an international level, and I’m all for it, but we’ve had season openers in Japan now since 1999, and so far nothing has changed. You wanna show me that the game can be played on an international level, ok fine; schedule a three game series in the middle of July. Show me that two teams can finish a series on Sunday afternoon in Seattle and Oakland, and then meet for a three game series in Tokyo or Sydney or San Juan; then be back in Chicago to start a three game set on Friday night. Because if you can’t do that, then these games in Japan are about nothing more than putting some extra money in MLB’s pocket.
In the meantime, it really screws up Opening Day. Won’t it be fun opening up the paper every day for a week and seeing 28 teams at 0-0 and two teams with 2 games under their belt? Then again, if Seattle wins both games, that 1 week may be the longest time that they have spent in first place in over a decade.
Here’s an idea. People are always trying to make up drinking games, right? On the night of April 4th when the Marlins take on the Cardinals in what should have been the first official game of the season, get your favorite beverage ready. Every time an announcer on ESPN says that this is the start of the regular season – “except for those two games played in Japan last week”…..take a sip.
It’s a rare case when the baseball writers vote unanimously to give one player the Cy Young or MVP awards. An example of this happened in 2011 when Justin Verlander deservedly received all 28 first place votes for the AL Cy Young. However most years the writers split their first place votes; and while most times the majority makes the correct pick, sometimes they don’t. This is one of those times.
For years there has been a debate about whether the MVP Award should go to the best player in the league or the most “valuable” player on a post-season reaching team. That debate rarely applies to the Cy Young Award though. Almost always the award goes to the best pitcher that season regardless of his teams overall success. 2005 seemed to be different though when Bartolo Colon (17 first place votes) won the award over Johan Santana (3 firsts).
During the ’05 season the Twins were never in the division race and finished 16 games behind the eventual World Series Champion Chicago White Sox. The Angels on the other hand were in a tight race all year before finally pulling away from the Oakland Athletics and winning the AL West. It was this sprint to the finish and Bartolo Colon’s key role in that finish that probably won him the award. Over his final 14 starts, Colon was 10-2. The award shouldn’t be given for a third of a season’s performance though. Especially when that performance wasn’t as dominating as people think.
First let’s look at those final 14 starts. Yes Colon was 10-2, but his ERA was 3.26 and he only pitched more than 7 innings 3 times during that stretch. In fact, Colon only pitched 5 innings in four of his last five starts. The credit for Colon’s great season ending run should probably go to the Angels offense. During those last 14 games Bartolo was supported by 88 runs, that’s 6.29 per game.
You can’t just take the award away from one pitcher however, another has to win it, and Johan Santana did.
Here are each pitchers season totals.
Pitcher G Record ERA Inn K WHiP ERA+
Colon 33 21-8 3.48 222.2 157 1.159 122
Santana 33 16-7 2.87 231.2 238 0.971 155
Santana easily beats Colon in each stat other than wins. Colon picked up 21 wins in his 33 starts and had 29 decisions overall. Santana on the other hand had “just” 16 wins and 23 decisions. So what happened in the other 10 games? The Twins were 8-2 in those games. Santana threw 71 innings (7.1/gm) with a 3.04 era. Clearly Santana was keeping his team in these games, but for one reason or another he just didn’t collect the win. In four of his 7 loses, the Twins scored 2 runs or less.
It seems to me that the writers were blinded by Colon’s 21 wins, which did lead the league, and his “great” stretch run. The real winner though should have been Johan Santana.
So Congratulations Johan Santana! You are……
Wrigley Regulars 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner
With the recent firing of Jim Hendry as the Chicago Cubs general manager, there has been much talk as to who will replace him in the Cubs front office.
One name that has jumped to the top of the speculation list is Oakland GM Billy Beane. Depending on your point of view, Beane may or may not be what the Cubs need.
It wouldn’t be the first time that Beane’s name has been linked to a new team. In 2002 the Boston Red Sox tried to hire Beane away from Oakland. Billy decided to stay with the A’s and Boston eventually went with Theo Epstein.
Beane is the main subject of the book Moneyball, as well as the upcoming movie of the same name.
And while wondering what Beane might do if he gets the job is interesting, I thought this would be a good time to bring back a Wrigley Regular feature that I haven’t used in a couple months, What If…….
The idea of What If is to take an event, alter that event, and then see what 5 things would be different because of the change. So with that in mind, let’s play What If.
What If…..… The Cubs had hired Billy Beane as their General Manager in 2002 instead of Jim Hendry?
1) Instead of signing with the Oakland A’s in 2002, Beane gets Scott Hatteberg to sign with the Cubs to be their starting catcher. Hatteberg becomes an instant team leader and pays off huge in 2003 when….. instead of having Paul Bako behind the plate in game 6 of the NLCS, Hatteberg goes out to the mound and settles Mark Prior down after Alou doesn’t catch a pop foul down the left field line. Prior then strikes out Ivan Rodriguez and Miguel Cabrera grounds into a 6-4-3 double play started by Alex Gonzalez. The Cubs win the game 3-0 and go on to win the 2003 World Series.
2) In 2004, Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball hits the books stores. White Sox general manager Kenny Williams is unhappy about the way he is portrayed in the book and attempts to out-smart Billy Beane in a trade. That fall Williams trades overweight rookie pitcher Booby Jenks for catcher Michael Barrett. With Barrett behind the plate, the Sox don’t go out and get AJ Pierzynski in 2005 and use Damaso Marte as their closer. The White Sox don’t win the World Series and both Williams and Ozzie Guillen are fired after the 2006 season.
3) In the fall of 2006, several top free agents hit the market, including Alfonso Soriano who had just completed only the 4th 40/40 season in baseball history. But because Beane is fixated on on-base percentage plus slugging, he scratches Soriano and his then .820 OPS off his want list and targets JD Drew. Beane gets Drew and his .904 OPS for half the price of what the Angels pay for Soriano. In the five years after the signings, Drew plays 130+ games or more only once and is seen as a drag on the Cubs roster, meanwhile Soriano is a 5 time All-Star for the Halos at the DH position and wins the AL MVP in 2009 after leading the Angels to a World Series victory.
4) In the June 2007 Amateur Draft, Billy Beane and the Cubs select Jason Heyward with the number 3 overall pick. Heyward moves up through the minors quickly and wins the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year award. The Atlanta Braves get Josh Vitters with their first round pick. Vitters is still in the Atlanta system waiting for Chipper Jones to retire.
5) In the fall of 2011, Billy Beane is played by Brad Pitt in the movie version of the book Moneyball. Beane is able to see the movie as many times as he wants because he has nothing else to do after being fired in the middle of the season as Cubs GM. Chicago hires Jim Hendry as the new GM sighting the need to get back to “old school”, “I know talent only if I see it” type of scouting. The Cubs go at least another 20 years without winning a World Series.
If you have a What If that you would like answered, send it to WrigleyRegular@Comcast.net
Or add it to the comments below.