Tagged: Pittsburgh Pirates

Baseball Realignment, Inter-league Play and Schedule

Yesterday ESPN.com had an article about possible schedule realignment and inter-league play next season. You can read the short article here.

 

We know that there will be a change to the schedule next year for sure because the Houston Astros will be moving to the American League. Each league will now have three divisions of five, for an odd numbered total of 15. It makes all the divisions equal in number, but it also creates a situation in which there will be inter-league play on every day of the season, from Opening Day right through to the last game of the season.

 

Personally, I have no problem with inter-league play every day, if it’s good enough on May 18th, why not September 18th? And I think most people feel the same. However, if I’ve heard one beef about it though, it would be playing against the other league down the stretch of the season all the way to the last game. Most people like the idea of division games that last week, and I do to, but it rarely works out to be the 1st and 2nd place teams playing each other anyway. On the last day of the season this year, Minnesota will be playing Toronto, Atlanta is at Pittsburgh, San Diego at Milwaukee; Not exactly heated division rivalries, but I didn’t hear any complaints about that scheduling when it was posted.

 

If you read the ESPN article, you know the real gist of it was about the possible reduction in “Rivalry Games” like Mets-Yankees, Cubs-Sox, and Reds- Indians.

 

Good! I say.

 

I don’t need the Cubs to play the Sox 6 games each year in a home and home matchup.

 

MLB has a real opportunity to make the schedule right for the foreseeable future. But because I don’t trust them to come up with the correct plan……….I’m going to give it to them 😉 .

 

Every team plays 18 games against the other 4 teams in their Division: 72 Games Total

 

Every team plays 6 games against the other 10 non-division teams in its League: 60 Games Total

 

Every team plays 30 inter-league games. 6 games against each of the 5 teams in one of the three divisions in the other league. All the teams in your division will play the same other league division as you. Each year the division that they play will rotate: 30 Games

 

That’s a total of 162 games. It’s really that simple.

 

The only “flaw”, natural rivalry games (Cubs-Sox/NY-NY etc.) are reduced to happening only every three years. And that’s perfectly fine with me. The Cubs went from 1901 to 1997 without ever playing the Sox in the regular season and nobody had a problem with it. If MLB really needs the Cubs and the Sox to play against each other every year, they should have put them in the same division….. then it would REALLY be a rivalry, but until then I’m happy to play against the Cardinals every year and the Sox once every three years.

 

So there it is, so simple that it will never happen.

 

But hey Mr. Commissioner, if you are reading this and want to talk about it, just leave a comment down below or feel free to email me.

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Side Note:  I’m taking WrigleyRegular on the road; I will be in Cincinnati tomorrow. You can look for a trip and game review with pictures coming soon.

One Week……

 

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!!!

 

 

Another Playoff Spot the Pirates Won’t Get

 

MLB has made it official; there will be two wildcard teams in each league this year.

 

I like the new format. The two wildcard teams will play one game, that’s it, just one game against each other. The victor will move on to face the division winner with the best record while the other two division winners will meet.

 

The holdup in the decision to announce the addition wildcard team was due to scheduling. MLB solved their problem by eliminating one off day from the LDS series. They also have changed the standard format of 2-2-1 to 2-3, with the club having the better record getting the last 3 games at home.

 

One of the concerns for the league was the worry that the regular season could end in a tie for a playoff spot, or worse, multiple ties, that would have to be played off before the actual playoffs could start. While it is possible, I’m not worried about it. In the 17 years since baseball has had the wildcard, only 3 times would two teams have tied for that fifth and final spot; that’s just 3 out of 34 chances (17 years X both leagues).

 

So now there is a real benefit to winning the division, although all teams are happy to make the playoffs, no team will happily want to risk their World Series chances on a one game playoff. 

 

This brings the excitement of a division battle back.   Instead of two division teams setting up their rotations and getting ready for the playoffs because they both know they are in, both teams will do their best to win the division and secure that first round bye.

 

Now if they could just add 6 wildcards, the Pirates might have a chance.

 

Fans Wave the season goodbye

The Chicago Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates today 6-3 in what was the unofficial end of the season, well at least as far as the fans are concerned.

With Chicago 20 games below .500 at 60-80, the Cubs had what will most likely be their last 40,000+ attendance day.  Of course that was tickets sold, the real crowd was less than that, but it was still a fairly large turnout.

With Chicago city kids going back to school Tuesday, the NFL season starting Thursday, and the weather turning colder; I don’t expect to see any huge crowds in Wrigley Field during any of their last 9 home games.

In fact, I would say the unofficial end came in the top of the fifth when ‘The Wave’ started making its way around the field.

While The Wave has had varying degrees of success over the past 30 years, it has never taken hold in Wrigley. Personally I don’t care for the Wave, and I’m glad it’s usually not done in Wrigley, but I’m not crazy against it. If your city does it or even on the rare times that someone does try to get one going in Wrigley, I don’t get combative in my stance opposing it. I just let people do their thing and it will die out eventually.

And so today when I saw The Wave making its way around the field in the 5th inning with the Cubs leading the Pirates 2-1, I knew it was time to start putting the final wrapping on this lost season. There may be three and a half weeks and 22 games remaining before the players put the final numbers in the book, but the fans closed it out today.

ASG, Pittsburgh, Ricketts, and Biggio

 

I used to love the All-Star game, now I just kinda like it.

 

I don’t want to get into a big rant about how the ASG used to be better and how the players used to care more and bla bla bla ( even though it’s true ), but this year 84 different players have been named to one of the two All-Star squads for one reason or another. 84! That’s just too many.

 

And yes, I do realize that 84 players actually represent a smaller percentage of the league than used to make it back in the 16/20 team days of the 1950’s and early 1960’s. I don’t care. 84 are too many.

 

Raise your hand if you predicted Pittsburgh to be just 1 game back in the NL Central at the all-star break, ok other than Pittsburgh Peas,………………me neither.

 

I’m not expecting the Cubs to make major changes before the season ends, but right now, during the break; I would hope that Tom Ricketts makes some type of statement.

 

If he doesn’t, the drum beat from the fans will start to bang louder and louder. All he has to do is say; “We’ve played bad. We’ve disappointed ourselves and our fans. We will take the next 3 months to review every facet of the team from top to bottom. No one will be above scrutiny. And when the season is done, we will do what is best for this team in an effort to play winning baseball in 2012.”

 

I heard talk on the radio today about the 3000 hit club and the Hall of Fame. The host was actually trying to make the case that Craig Biggio should not go in the HOF when he is eligible. That he was just a numbers accumulator and not a great player.

 

I’ll just say this. 3000 hits. Only 28 players.  It might just happen to be a round number that’s not particularly much better than 2995 hits, yet if it was easy there would be more players that would have them. It’s not easy, and Craig Biggio is a first ballot HOFer.

Making the Case: Jim Hendry

Jim Hendry was promoted from assistant GM/Player Personal Director to General Manager on July 5th, 2002. That was nearly 9 years ago. I think it’s fair to say that Hendry has had plenty of time to make his mark on the Chicago Cubs and that he is responsible for the players on the field. The question I’d like to look at today is, Should Jim Hendry be back next season as the GM of the Chicago Cubs? Let’s look at a couple of topics and I’ll make the case For or Against.

The Record:

Since Hendry’s first day back in ’02 thru Sunday’s extra inning loss to St. Louis, the Cubs are 718-712. During those nine seasons the Cubs have made the playoffs three times.

The first playoff appearance was the fateful 2003 season when the Cubs were just five outs from making it to the World Series before losing to the Marlins. Chicago also made the post seasons in ’07 and ’08, both times being swept out in 3 games in the NLDS. While a .502 winning percentage and only one playoff series win might not seem like much, let’s put things in perspective. In the previous 1430 games before Hendry, the Cubs were 670-760, .469, with only two winning seasons and one playoff appearance, which the team lost 3 games to nothing against Atlanta.  Overall, the team has been more competitive the past 9 years and the playoffs always seem to be a possibility before each season.

Is this where we are at? Content with a .500 team, because that’s what Hendry has given us.  Look, I’m not asking for 90+ wins every season, which is unrealistic. But there have been 59 teams that have won 90 or more games in the last 9 years and the Cubs have only done it once. Just on average they should have done it twice. And that is just not acceptable for a team that is in the top 10, if not top 5, in revenue. I’m not trying to say that money buys you wins, but it doesn’t hurt.

The Roster:

Over the years Hendry has made several good trades that have helped the Cubs both in-season and over the long run. In 2003 Jim made a trade with Pittsburgh for Kenny Lofton. Lofton made an immediate impact on the Cubs that summer hitting .327 and helping lead the team to the playoffs from the lead-off spot in the lineup. While Lofton turned out to just be a one year rental for the Cubs, Chicago also received Aramis Ramirez from Pittsburgh in that trade. Ramirez has been a cornerstone for Chicago at third base and has now played more games there than any other players except Ron Santo and Stan Hack. During his tenure Hendry has also traded for Derrek Lee and Nomar Garciaparra as well as getting other teams to take disgruntled players Sammy Sosa and Milton Bradley. In 2007 Hendry was able to sign the number 1 free agent on the market, Alfonso Soriano, the first time the Cubs have ever gotten the top guy and then came back in 2008 and signed the top Japanese player, Fukudome, that was out there.

As for the minors, the Cubs Opening Day roster in 2011 contained 16 players that started with and came up through the Cubs system. This includes players like Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and 2008 ROY Geo Soto that look to be mainstays up the middle for a long time to come.

On the other hand, while Hendry’s signings and trades looked good at the time, the Cubs have since been hamstrung under the weight of those deals. But being buried under millions of dollars in deals doesn’t have to be a never ending problem, in fact Chicago will be freeing up huge amounts of salary after the 2011 season. The problem is, the Cubs didn’t win anything while they accumulated all those players and spent all that money. And without winning a championship, what’s the point.

As for the minors, the Cubs have only had 2 of their last 9 number 1 picks in the amateur draft make the team (Colvin & Cashner) and they have come up dry this season when they needed a pitcher or 4 to fill in due to injuries. It might be easy to say that they have a few guys that look good but just aren’t ready, but he has had 9 years to restock the minors, why do we have to wait another couple of years to see if they can play.

The Conclusion:

Considering the overall record of the Cubs under Hendry, which will probably be under .500 by the time this season is over, I can only think of one reason why Jim Hendry should remain as the Chicago Cubs GM this off-season.

Hendry and Pujols Hug it out : Courtesy - YahooSports.com

3-6 Home Stand

I feel like a broken record, singing the same line from the same song over and over. But there ain’t no Coup de Ville hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box.  <skip> But there ain’t no Coup de Ville hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box. <skip>

Another home stand complete and another player goes on the DL. The Cubs placed Alfonso Soriano on the DL yesterday after he pulled a quad muscle on Monday running to first on a ground out. They also announced that Matt Garza would not be ready to return to the rotation this weekend after there had been talk that he might start on Saturday. And just to top it off, Aramis Ramirez got hit in the side of the face and mouth this afternoon when he dove for a ball down the third base line that took a funny hop and came up and hit him. Aramis suffered a lip laceration and will probably need stitches. Hopefully he won’t need to spend time on the DL.

The team as a whole didn’t fare any better.  The Cubs were 3-3 after facing the Mets and Pittsburgh on this home stand before the Astros came in.  Unfortunately the Astros outscored the Cubs 22-11 in the 3 games series and won all three. The biggest loss came Tuesday night when the Cubs and Carlos Marmol blew a ninth inning lead. It was Marmol’s worst performance as a reliever.

The Cubs have a much needed day off on Thursday before heading to St Louis for a three game series.

The Cubs currently stand a season low 8 games below .500 at 23-31, 9 games out of first place. Unless the Cubs came somehow go on a winning streak of 5 or more or maybe win 10 of 12 games, this is going to be a long summer.