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Just Who Is This Weegh-Man Who Runs WP?

I'm a proud charter member of the Cub Blogger Army

WP was Established April 2003

Blogging from 1 1/2 miles Due Southeast of Former Weeghman Park in Chicago, Illinois

Cubs Fan / Bud Man since the halcion days of Ivan DeJesus....

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Weeghman Park
Thursday, March 24, 2005  
Back from the Dead?

WP has been relegated to the dustbin of history by some (thanks for keeping the link up, Sloth), but I hope to have it up and running again this season.

It took a long time to get the Internet up and running in my new (old) house, so blogging from home was out of the question. Like Jason Steffens from Clark & Addison, blogging from work on a consistent basis (in between work as an attorney) proved difficult. With any luck, this season will see me be better about paying attention and updating this blog regularly.

I won't get into a long extended post right now - I'll leave that to Ruz and the boys at TCR and Derek and Alex at Cubs Town. Go find their sites if you want more thorough treatment of the Cubs and the pre- and off-seasons. Instead, I'll sign off with a couple of Cubs updates that I haven't seen elsewhere:

In Miami, it appears that Rule 5 pick Luke Hagerty won't make it out of Marlins camp alive. The only hope for the Marlins appears to be if Hagerty is "injured" (note the comment about the tweaked finger - possibly a precursor to an NBA-style "injury" - just ask Jared Reiner). If he is injured, the Marlins can still carry him on the roster until the 'injury' resolves. If it does resolve, Hagerty doesn't look like a good bet to make the roster, as his spring has been less than scintillating. It would appear that the Marlins, a team with legitimate post-season aspirations, will not carry Hagerty as dead weight, which means he is likely headed back to the Cubs organization. Score that one for Gamblin' Jim Hendry.

On the other side of the ledger, Rule 5 draftee Andy Sisco looks like a good bet to stick with the moribund Royals franchise based on a decent spring showing (as a reliever). Since the Royals aren't going anywhere in an improved AL Central, and 6'9" lefty prospects with 93-95 mph fastballs don't exactly grow on trees, look for Andy to break with the big club and stick for the year. Of course, Andy could flame out, but don't count on it. Score this one as going against Gamblin' Jim.

So, for those scoring at home, it's one for, one against. Breaking even isn't great, but it's better than 0-2.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004  
A lot to talk about, and so little time...

Since I've been remiss about blogging for most of the last two months, I feel compelled to catch up. Let me synopsize for the sake of brevity:

The Bad:

July in general, including the Brewers and Cardinals sweeps, highlighted by the complete collapse of the Cubs bullpen in that morale-shredding loss to the Evil Satanic Fowl. Shades of Alfonseca in that ESPN game two years ago...

Mark Prior's on-again, off-again battle to regain his form. Punctuated by an elbow 'injury' that had Cubs fans everywhere looking for the nearest bridge, Prior's return has been anything but spectacular. Since the MRI, CT, bone scan, and physical exam have all proven negative, I can't be too despondent over Prior's health, but other blogs have ably pointed out that Prior has completely reversed last year's groundball / flyball trend, leading to a scary propensity for the gopher ball. He's got two months to get it straight, so we'll see. I'm still hopeful.

The Move. New house = lots of time and money dedicated to mortgage, moving, etc. It's over for now (save about 150 boxes worth of unpacking), but f*@king DISH NETWORK sucks and this very morning informed me that, for the THIRD TIME, they had failed to show up for an install ("just be home between 8-12") and had no record that the install had even been scheduled. I'll reserve further judgment on Dish Network until the fourth install attempt on Thursday, but I'M PISSED I CAN'T WATCH THE CUBS AGAIN TONIGHT.

The Good:

(1) NOMAAAAAHHHHHH! It's hard to even say it, as I still can't believe it.

The recent scourge of Boston (if you believe Dan Shaunnessy) becomes our golden boy, ready to plug the remaining hole in the lineup as the Cubs make a run for the wild card. Nomar is, for reasons set forth in far greater detail in other blogs, a collossal upgrade for the stretch run and likely a key component in any push for the wild card. If Nomar plays to his capabilities for the next two months, the Cubs simply do not have any major holes in their offensive lineup. Coupled with a pitching staff that is 2nd in the league in ERA and first in runs allowed, this should put the Cubs in about the best position possible to make the post-season. Of course, games are played on the field, not on paper, so we will have to see what actually transpires as the Cubs take the field. Continued surveillance of Nomar's achilles tendon injury (see Mark Prior) will be one of the true keys.

Kudos to Jim Hendry, BTW, for pulling off yet another tremendous deal at the deadline. I can't think of any other Cubs trade in recent memory that even comes close to this for pure psychological value. More below...

(2) Health. Simply put, we are now seeing the team that Jim Hendry envisioned, even though we don't have a closer at the moment. Closer may be by committee from here forward, but I think the Cubs should have fewer one run games with Nomar in the lineup nearly every day. LaTroy has returned to the historical mean during his time as closer, which is not unexpected given his past struggles with the Twins. As I suggested two months ago on this very blog, we may see Ryan Dempster get a crack at closing once Dusty is confident his arm has returned to full strength. When on, Dempster throws mid-90's heat with a decent curve and plus changeup. Limited to a two-pitch repertoire, Dempster may have more success out the bullpen than as a starter, where he has been inconsistent over his career.

(3) Depth. Once again, the superior depth of the Cubs team assembled by Hendry has enabled Baker to mix and match to keep the Cubs afloat despite numerous crippling injuries. The depth of the farm system has also provided Hendry with the bargaining chips necessary to get deals like the Nomar trade done, and Hendry has plied his trade without giving up many of the big assets.

Justin Jones was the biggest loss, as he was likely the top lefty prospect in the system. If there was one area where the system was strong, however, it was in lefty starters, with Andy Sisco, Richard Hill, Sean Marshall, and Jon Connolly all showing major league talent (despite a poor season for Sisco and recent struggles for Hill and Marshall). Coupled with Reynel Pinto (having a fabulous season at AA West Tennessee), Carlos Vasquez (the best starter at High-A Daytona) and Luke Hagerty (returning from injury at Boise), left-handed pitching was a position of great depth and an area where the Cubs could afford to lose talent. Hendry was also smart enough to ensure that Jones went to the AL, where he will not directly affect the Cubs if Jones' talent turns into major league production.

As for Francis Beltran, there is no doubt that he had tremendous potential, but his appearances were hit-or-miss at the major league level. The Cubs were lucky that Beltran was still around as a bargaining chip, since Beltran was originally going to Pittsburgh in the Ramirez / Lofton deal of a year ago. Beltran's biceps tendonitis scared Dave Littlefield, however, and Bobby Hill went in the deal instead. With Beltran now gone in another deadline deal, the Cubs will turn to their deep stable of young minor league relievers to fill the gap, including Jon Leicester, Todd Wellemeyer, Jason Szuminski, Scott Chiasson, David Cash, WP favorite Jermaine Van Buren (who, at last check, was 2-0, 0.92 with 19 saves and 46 K's in 39 innings pitched at AA West Tennessee), and the rehabbing Jason Wylie (who led the Florida State League in saves and relief ERA last year). Given this depth, Hendry had no need to hold on to Beltran, while other teams looked at him as a key asset.

Finally, Brendan Harris' inclusion in the Nomar deal means that Richard Lewis is now the official #1 Cubs prospect at second base. Lewis continues to be on fire at West Tennessee, posting a .324 / 9 /55 line while leading the Diamond Jaxx. Look for Lewis to be in the mix next year at second, especially if the Cubs move to re-sign Garciaparra to a new deal.

Monday, August 02, 2004  
Damn Cubs Traffic

We're all moved in to the new house, so life should be much calmer now. Everything is great, except for that darn Cubs traffic (we now live right off of Addison). I wouldn't mind if I was going to the games, but...

Anyhoo, Weeghman Park will be back, hopefully tomorrow. New satellite with TiVo goes in tomorrow - so no more missed Cubs games. Mucho to talk about, including NOMAHHHHH!!!!!

Friday, June 25, 2004  
It Warn't Purty, But...

It was a win. Cubs 7-4 - should have been 7-1, but who's counting....?

Cubs should have had 3 errors (2 on Alou, 1 on Sosa), but friendly home field scoring leaves the "E" column empty on the scoresheet. Mark Prior looks a little wild but puts in a strong performance overall, and the Cubs break out of the St. Louis malaise to start themselves on a new winning streak.

Zambrano tomorrow against Felix Diaz; Maddux vs. Loiaza on Sunday in the series wrap-up.

Thursday, June 24, 2004  
Trade Bait?

Don't get me started on last night's debacle. I was busy sleeping with the enemy (watching, in person, as the ChiSox got pounded by Cleveland), so I didn't see the game. The box score and Baseball Tonight highlights showed me everything I needed to see.... Today's a new day, so we'll leave it at that. Honest Abe Clement, do your thing.

Getting on topic, has anyone noticed what's going on at Iowa and West Tennessee? While newly minted Cubs 2B prospect Richard Lewis is hitting .327 / 6 / 39 and leading the Southern League in numerous hitting categories, former top 2B prospect Brendan Harris has returned to form in a big way at Iowa this season, finding himself at .328 / 5 / 23 after starting the season injured. Harris' resurgence has made him a viable prospect yet again, and gives Jim Hendry another card to play in the upcoming trade sweepstakes. Although Todd Walker may be wearing Cub blue again next year, there is an equally good chance that one of Lewis or Harris will man 2B for the Cubs in 2005, with the loser being packaged in a deadline deal. But who to trade for?

One trade that would help the Cubs in the both the long and short terms would be to go out and get 19 year-old uber prospect B.J. Upton, the immensely talented SS who is on the verge of being brought up by Tampa Bay. Although the Rays are currently in the midst of a hot streak, there is little hope that Tampa will do anything this year or next. Upton was the BA #1 prospect for the Rays this year, and has done nothing this season to shake his standing as the best SS prospect in the minors (.299 / 7 / 19 at AAA; .327 / 2 / 15 at AA). But a trade that included Harris or Lewis, West Tenn SS Ronny Cedeno (finally living up to his position on the 40 man roster), 1B David Kelton, and two or three pitching prospects (Sisco, Mitre, Nolasco, Bay, Brownlie, Marshall, Blasko, etc.) might be too much for Tampa Bay to turn down. All we would ask for is two guys - Upton and Aubrey Huff.

How would this work, and why would the Rays do it? The loss of Huff wouldn't hurt the Devil Rays a bit - with prospects like 2003 first rounder Delmon Young, Johnny Gomes, and Joey Gathright ready to fill the lone available outfield spot (and DH) by 2005 or 2006. Losing Huff would cut salary, a primary concern for a franchise in constant money trouble. Upton would be a major loss for the Rays, but they would get solid (and cheap) 1B and 2B prospects (positions where they are currently weak), a replacement SS prospect, and a passel of much needed pitching in return. For the Cubs, Huff would immediately slot in as a backup outfielder and pinch hitter for the stretch drive, and would be first in line for the LF spot next season at a relatively cheap $4.8 million. Huff's presence would also add balance to the lineup, which desperately needs another left-handed bat. Although Huff is having a slightly down year (.263 / 9 / 41), he is playing out of position (3B), he is still young (27), and has trended significantly upward over the last three seasons (.248 / 8 / 45 in 2001; .313 / 23 / 59 in 2002; .311 / 34 / 107 in 2003)

As for Upton, the Cubs would have the luxury of stashing him at Iowa the rest of the year, furthering his development. With luck, Upton would take over SS next season, with the winner of Harris / Lewis splitting time with Todd Walker and taking over 2B full time in 2006.

Finally, WP kudos to Rodan a.k.a. D-Lee, who continues to absolutely smoke the ball. I personally never got off the Derrek Lee bandwagon, but what happened to the Hee Seop Choi chicken littles out there? Any calls for Derrek Lee's head now?

Thursday, June 17, 2004  
Assorted Bits

Game 3 = Cubs Win. Maddux looks strong, the "hero-for-a-day" (TM) is Paul Bako (for even getting a hit), and the Cubs guarantee a series win and at least a 5-2 road trip. Not bad at all for a 7 game set against the Angels and Astros... Rusch and Oswalt today.

On the stat front, all 5 Cubs starters sport ERA's under 4.00. When was the last time you could say that this deep in the season?

Ricky Gutierrez is back, signing a one-year minor league deal on Monday after being waived by the Mets earlier this season. A fan favorite in the 2000 and 2001 seasons, Ricky will report to Iowa. What does this mean for the Cubs? Probably nothing much, but it may signal the end of the Rey Ordonez era... Even if Ordonez isn't gone, Gutierrez adds yet more depth and insurance. Another solid move for Jim Hendry, who should be at the head of the line for GM of the year.

Trade Proposal: Taken from the Cubs Newsgroup, this is the most reasonable deal I've seen in a while (courtesy of Doug Miller):

Deal 1: Cubs send Corey Patterson, Reynel Pinto to Seattle for Eddie Guardado.

Deal 2: Cubs trade Ricky Nolasco to Colorado, Brendan Harris to Kansas City; Colorado sends JC Closser to Kansas City; Kansas City sends Carlos Beltran to Chicago.

The prospects involved might be a little light (UPDATE: the Cubs pitchers will have to be bigger names, or two pitchers instead of one - Nolasco has a 10.43 ERA after last night's appearance), but the deals are eminently reasonable and give all four teams something they want. Seattle needs a CF with Mike Cameron gone and Randy Winn playing miserably, and Guardado is doing them no good with a losing record and no hope of recovery in the tough AL West. Colorado needs pitching, and has a prospect to deal in Closser to get help from the Cubs. The Royals get what they want (catcher, 3B) in return for Beltran, and save a few dollars in the process. Makes sense, but we all know that trades in the blog world never match up to the real world...

Finally, we've been remiss at WP for failing to cover the baseball draft. Second-round pick Grant Johnson (Cubs first pick overall - 1st rounder was lost to Minnesota as Type A free agent compensation) looks like a keeper - another hard-throwing RHP prospect with an injury history (like Bobby Brownlie). He had 1st round stuff, but his labrum injury apparently scared teams away.

Interesting draft picks included 8th round pick Eric Patterson and 19th round pick Micah Owings, both of whom fell in the draft. Per John Sickels:

Patterson is an athletic second baseman, and the brother of Cubs outfielder Corey Patterson. Eric was mentioned as a possible second or third-round pick at the beginning of the season, but his college campaign was erratic, and he fell to the eighth round. He doesn't have his brother's power, but is very fast and will take a walk. His main problem is his approach: he tries too hard to hit for power, resulting in a lot of medium-depth fly balls, but few homers. Scouts want him to chop down on the ball and leg out hits, or drive liners over the heads of the infielders.

Sound like anyone we know? Just asking.

Sickels also had this to say about Owings:

Owings, considered a second-round talent by most teams, fell to the 19th round because of concerns about his bonus demands. He reportedly wants at least $1 million to sign, and as a draft-eligible sophomore he has the leverage to hold out and wait until his junior year if he doesn't get what he wants money-wise. Owings is a fine two-way player, with a power bat and a power arm, though the Cubs listed him as a pitcher on draft day. I wouldn't be surprised if they take a serious run at trying to sign him, since they didn't have a first round pick and should have the money to do so.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004  
2 In The Bag

After a thrilling 9th inning comeback yesterday (aided by some shaky Lance Berkman defense), the Cubs ensured at least a split with the Ass-Trolls in this series. Ramon Martinez was the star yesterday, which continues the recent Cubs theme of "hero-a-day." For his part, Carlos was effectively wild, getting the big outs when they counted and tightroping his way to two runs allowed. Although I didn't see the game before the ninth, the highlights showed that Carlos had good movement on his pitches, which may have contributed to the 4 BB's bookending his 4 K's. It was especially fun to see Carlos drop to full sidearm at one point to strike out one of the Ass-Trolls (I don't remember who - but who cares?).

Maddux goes tonight (Cubs currently down 1-0 in the 3rd) to try for the third series win.

In other news, Sammy will return on Friday after a one at-bat appearance at West Tennessee last night. No news on recurrent back pain is good news.

One of the other stories percolating around this morning was the cap-throwing incident, where Carlos Zambrano expressed his displeasure at Todd Walker during last night's game by throwing his cap to the ground. I don't think this will amount to much, as Dusty will inevitably smooth things over, but it is something to keep an eye on.

Also on the Walker front, it will be very interesting to see whether Dusty takes Walker out of the lineup in favor of Grudielanek even though Walker is on a hot streak right now. I personally would favor a straight platoon, but Dusty may fall prey to Proven Veteran Syndrome (TM) and install Grud back in anyway.

At Iowa, Sergio Mitre continues to show why he might make trade bait at the deadline (as well as show that he learned how to pitch in the major leagues), giving up 5 hits and only one run (unearned) in 7 IP last night. Recent Rule 5 returnee Jason Szuminski picked up the win in relief. At Lansing, Ryan Dempster had yet another strong outing, pitching 4 1/3 innings with 6 K's and only one walk. For the season, Dempster has a 1.96 ERA with 21 K's and only 2 walks in 18.1 innings pitched. The walk figure is especially encouraging given Dempster's predeliction for wildness.

Finally, it wouldn't be a proper WP-length post without another shout out to WP favorite Jermaine (Martin) Van Buren, who is taking to the closer role like the proverbial fish-to-water. For the uninitiated, JVB, a former first round draft pick with a heavy fastball and curve signed as a minor league free agent this offseason, has a record of 0-0 with a 0.39 ERA and 14 saves since taking over as closer for the Diamond Jaxx. In 23 IP, JVB has allowed 7 hits in the 23 innings he has worked, facing 82 batters in the process. Add that to 25 K's in that time, and you've got a guy who needs to be watched closely as a serious relief prospect for this organization...

Tuesday, June 15, 2004  
Messianic Figure

Maybe that's hyperbole, but it sure is good to see Mark Prior back on the field. The Cubs beat up on the formerly invincible Roger Clemens last night, cruising to a 7-2 victory over the Ass-Trolls. The win brings the Cubs into second place (or at least a tie for second place), 2 games back of the Reds. The Cubs sport a 7-3 record in their last ten, news that, when coupled with the Friday return of Sammy Sosa, the potential Thursday return of Mark Grudzielanek, Alex Gonzalez's return next week, and Kerry Wood's return late next week, makes Cubs Nation very happy.

BTW, a special WP shout out to Nuke LaLoosh-style Cubs prospect Jon Leicester, who came in and saved the Cubs' collective asses against the Angels in the series finale on Sunday. 3 scoreless IP to get the win was a huge gift from our farm system, which is really beginning to get into gear. I didn't see the game because I was stuck in Logan Airport (weather delay) listening to caterwauling Red Sox fans, so I would love to see some highlights of the Leich in action (a man who historically had very little idea where the ball was headed once it left his hands.)

Finally, "official WP fav team" (the Boise Hawks) announced their short season A roster yesterday. Among the notables on the team are former SS prospect Luis Montanez, in town to convert to the outfield, 2003 draftee Kyle Boyer, highly touted LHP Darin Downs (another 2003 draftee), and BA tease 3B Alfredo Francisco (in town after failing miserably at Lansing). 2003 draftee Tony Ritchie will catch along with former prospect (and Korean national team star) Yoon Min-Kweon, attempting to make a comeback after personal problems and injuries wiped out most of the last two seasons. 2003 #1 draft pick Ryan Harvey will remain in Arizona, attempting to recover from a bad hamstring pull. Expect to see Harvey added to the Boise roster in July.

Zambrano (7-2, 2.27) v. Miller (6-6) tonight. Go Cubs.

Thursday, June 10, 2004  
A Split Ain't Shit...

But it isn't great, either.

2004 has proven to be a very strange and adventure filled experience for
this member of the WP writing "team" (I use the term loosely since co-writer
John hasn't really contributed). Marriage, 2 trials, a ski vacation, and
now the trials and tribulations of a home purchase have all conspired to
make contributions to the site very difficult. It isn't an excuse, of
course, but it's at least an explanation.

So I find myself sitting at O'Hare, waiting for my 1 1/2 hour delayed flight
to Boston, ruminating about the state of the Cubs. Today's 12-3 victory,
courtesy of Carlos Zambrano (7-2), restored some measure of my sanity, but
the Cubs' world remains in tumult.

A withering run of injuries has caused and / or contributed to the
collective Cub doldrums, including ill-timed injuries to Sammy Sosa and
Kerry Wood and the revelation of what we already knew - that JoeBo was
trying to pitch on a bad wing. What one has to hope is that the worst has
passed - with the best left to come.

With life returning to general sanity soon, good things are already on the
horizon. Sammy (miraculously) has agreed to rehab at West Tennessee and
appears close to being back (although Todd Hollandsworth has done an
exemplary job in Sammy's absence.) Kerry is close to being back in the
rotation (and has received a clean bill of health from Lewis Yocum and James
Andrews) but Kerry is still uncomfortable on full extension. With Ryan
Dempster pitching well at Lansing, his return is also imminent. The
upshot? A full pitching staff for the stretch run will bode well for the
Cubs' chances, although the Cubs nation is holding it's collective breath.

Pilot just gave us clearance to go - more Sunday.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004  
0-1 vs. Ass-Trolls; Minor League Highlights

Didn't see it, but I didn't have to - Roy Oswalt was on his game, Carlos
wasn't, Cubs lose.

Maddux tonight in game 2 of the abbreviated series. Let's go for the split.

Minor league highlights:

Iowa - Did Not Play

West Tennessee - 2B Richard Lewis was 4-5 with a run scored in a 3-2 loss;
OF Aron Weston was 3-5. Lewis, who came over in the Juan Cruz trade, is now
batting .327 on the season. Carmen Pigniatello was roughed up, but it was
encouraging to see Russ Rohlicek pitch well again (Rohlicek came over in the
Tom Gordon trade to the Ass-Trolls). Rohlicek's ERA is a microscopic 1.21.

Daytona - LHP Richard Hill continued rolling in his breakout season,
throwing 6 1/3 innings of 1 hit ball, with 3 BB and 10 K's. OF Nic Jackson
went 0-5 in his ongoing rehab stint, but finds himself at .340 in his time
at Daytona. Look for Jackson to move back to Iowa soon.

Lansing - Almost forgot.... Prior's line was 4.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB,
8 K. RHP Carlos Marmol got blown up behind him in his worst outing of the
year to date, giving up 10 hits and 5 ER in 4.2 innings pitched. DH/1B
Kevin Collins was 4-6 with 3 RBI (.336 YTD).

More soon.

Monday, May 24, 2004  
Wood Update; Sirotka APB; The Labrum

According to ESPN and the Chicago Tribune, Kerry Wood's arm is "structurally sound" (i.e. no bone spurs) but he is still expected to miss more time. At present, Wood plans to take a week off and then resume throwing, with an anticipated return sometime in early June.

Will Carroll has a nice piece in the latest Slate on the most devastating of all pitching injuries - the torn labrum. Carroll's article answers a question I had about former White Sox player Mike Sirotka, who was signed by the Cubs as a reclamation project:

Coming off a 15-10 season in 2000, Mike Sirotka was a key player in an off-season trade between the Blue Jays and White Sox. Before he ever put on a Blue Jays uniform, Sirotka's left shoulder started barking. The culprit: a torn labrum. While he had been a coveted commodity just a few months before, the Sox and Jays now treated Sirotka like the plague—Commissioner Bud Selig ultimately had to force the Blue Jays to accept the trade. Sirotka, now 33, did have surgery to repair the labrum. After missing three full seasons, he tried a comeback this year. The Cubs released him in spring training.

Houston tomorrow.

Off Day: Martin's Progeny, Hinske's Worth, Whither Wylie?

Blogger had a few technical problems over the last few days, but things should be resolved by now.

No comments on this past week's games that will add anything of note to other bloggers' posts on the subject. Nice wins on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and an ugly game on Friday that cost Mitre and the Cubs. It could have been a sweep if not for some ugly defense that led to 2 or 3 (arguably) unearned runs off of Mitre. Mitre didn't pitch well, but deserved a slightly better fate...

Some stats of note:

Van Buren(A)0-1 1.8035.06157
Van Buren(AA)0-0 0.001216.050420
Chiasson(AA)2-0 2.53910.28319

Van Buren? That's Jermaine Van Buren, not Martin Van Buren.

A former second round pick of the Colorado Rockies in 1998, Van Buren pitched five seasons in the Colorado system, only getting to high Single-A. He posted a 28-26 record with Colorado affiliates and a 4.15 earned run average in 92 games, with 75 starts and 422 2/3 innings. Last year, pitching exclusively as a starter, Van Buren went 9-4 with a 3.07 earned run average for the Rockies High-A affiliate, allowing 107 hits in 111 1/3 innings, with 37 BB and 113 K's.

Obviously, someone in the Cubs system liked Van Buren, and the Cubs signed him as a minor league free agent this off season. Upon arriving in AA West Tennessee, Van Buren was installed as the closer and has never looked back. To date, Van Buren has dominated Southern League batters on his way to 9 saves, without surrendering a single run in 16 innings pitched (to go along with 20 K's). Although I don't know much about Van Buren beyond the information above, I have seen some suggestion that he has a power arm and is an ideal closer candidate. Although I realize that Van Buren's stats are somewhat skewed based on the small sample size, we'll keep an eye on him as a player to watch.

On the topic of once-and-future closers, does anyone know what happened to Jason Wylie? After posting a dominant season last year, Wylie started the season in Daytona and got shut down after three appearances.

Finally, Scott Chiasson (a.k.a. the player traded for current Blue Jay Eric Hinske) has come back from surgery rehab to post a pretty nice line at AA West Tennessee. Chiasson was once regarded as primary set-up or closer material, so we'll have to watch to see how his recovery plays out. With luck, Chiasson may see some major-league action in September.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004  
Cubs Finish Strong in West, Sosa Disabled

Very nice weekend for the Cubs, including newly-minted Cubs star Jose Macias (formerly known as "Jose F. Macias"), who busted out a serious can of whup-ass on the Fightin' Friars on his way to nearly tripling his batting average. The Cubs put the lie to the claims that Petco Park was a pitching paradise, hitting multiple home runs on the way to the sweep.

The happiness of Cubs fandom regarding the Padres series outcome was tempered today, however, as Sammy Sosa's bizarre sneezing / back injury led him to the 15 day DL. Per news reports tonight, Sammy has a sprained ligament in his back that will require time to heal. The same news reports indicate that no structural damage (i.e. disk herniation / displacement) was identified on examination, so Sammy should be back after his 15 day stint on the DL. In the interim, look for a lot of Todd Hollandsworth in right field, with an occasional appearance by Tom Goodwin. Potential call-ups include Jason Dubois and Dave Kelton, and the Carlos Beltran nuclear option begins to loom larger....

More tomorrow.

Friday, May 14, 2004  
Weeghman Returns, Brownlie On Deck, Whither Beltran?

Nice to be back. The trial's over, and life is beginning to settle down. I actually made it back for the Dodgers series, but couldn't bring myself to write after the Great Triceps Debacle or the Wilson Alvarez Ass-Whuppin'. Watching Carlos beat down the Dodgers yesterday was as cathartic as hot chicken soup on a cold winter's day, however, so I brought myself around to writing today.

With Woody on the shelf for a start or more, the question becomes how to best compensate for his absence. Glendon Rusch is the most likely candidate, but I'd prefer to keep his Shawn Estes-like tendencies locked in the pen for now. If Angel Guzman were throwing right now, he would be perfect for that role, but he's not available. I know it probably won't happen, but I don't think it would hurt to bring Bobby Brownlie (4-2, 2.61 ERA, 7 G, 41.1 IP, 10 K, 33 K at AA West Tennessee) up for a start or two.

We have heard a lot about Brownlie's potential and makeup ("potential #1 or #2 starter," "top pitching prospect in the 2002 draft") so isn't it time to begin the 2005 pitching rotation sweepstakes now? I expect that Angel Guzman, Brownlie, and Justin Jones will battle for Matt Clement's spot in that rotation, so I don't think we would lose a whole lot by getting an early preview.

Continuing on this topic, just how many lefty prospects do the Cubs have? It boggles the mind how many quality lefty starters the Cubs have assembled throughout the lower tiers of the system.

Darin Downs (Boise, A) - No Stats for 2004.
Sean Marshall (Lansing, A) - 2-0, 1.11 ERA, 7 G, 48.2 IP, 4 BB, 51 K
Justin Jones (Lansing, A) - 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 5.0 IP, 1 BB, 3 K (Injury Rehab)
Jon Connolly (Daytona, A) - 3-2, 3.03 ERA, 7 G, 35.2 IP, 7 BB, 25 K
Richard Hill (Daytona, A) - 1-3, 3.13 ERA, 6 G, 28.2 IP, 15 BB, 37 K
Andy Sisco (Daytona, A) - 1-3, 3.76 ERA, 7 G, 38.1 IP, 15 BB, 36 K
Carlos Vasquez (Daytona, A) - 2-1, 2.21 ERA, 6 G, 36.2 IP, 11 BB, 26 K
Luke Hagerty (West Tenn., AA) - No Stats for 2004 (Injury Rehab)

Remember that Jones and Sisco were members of the Cubs Top 10 prospects list, with Hagerty right behind. Remember that this list doesn't include lefties Carmen Pigniatello and Reynel Pinto. How many major league teams have eight quality left-handed starters in the minor league system? I simply don't see anyone else with this kind of depth.

Taking the right-handed side of the equation (Jae-Kuk Ryu, Ricky Nolasco, Chadd Blasko, Carlos Marmol, Bear Bay, Billy Petrick, Bobby Brownlie, Angel Guzman, Jon Leicester, Jason Szuminski) into account, the upshot of all this is that Hendry will have a lot of toys in his cart (at least 18 quality arms plus Sergio Mitre, Francis Beltran) to play with as the trade deadline approaches.

So where to use those chips becomes the key question. If Carlos Beltran's there for the taking (and I realize that TribCo wouldn't readily pay the price to re-sign him), I think the Cubs would be foolish to turn down any deal that would send out pitching prospects plus Corey Patterson and net Beltran in return. Although I don't really want to give up on Corey just yet, his market value remains high and we have at least two prospects waiting in the wings as insurance in case Beltran doesn't re-sign (Nic Jackson and Felix Pie). With Jason Dubois (.331, 12, 34, 1.091 OPS in 34 G at AAA Iowa), Jackson, and Dave Kelton as cheap options for left field next year, TribCo can afford to take the $9 million savings on Alou and put that toward the needy Carlos Beltran fund.

Padres tonight. More soon.

Monday, April 26, 2004  
Forced Vacation

Unfortunately, I'm going to trial with a case that should last 4-6 weeks. I haven't posted in a while due to workup on the case, but I have been following the team's fortunes from afar - even purchasing a radio to listen to while chained to my desk.

I intend to post again as soon as humanly possible - maybe during a break in the trial, or maybe after it's all over. In the interim, John will try to cover when he's not tied up with his own trial.

Talk to you soon.


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