The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

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Toeing the party line

Ever find yourself thinking "man, what my team should do is hire all the rejects from teams that were pretty good a few years ago?" Yes, Ned Colletti, we know you do. Ned, at least, has an excuse: he’s a retard. So, Jon Greenberg, what’s your excuse?

Cubs fans need some Rays of hope
Reaction to offseason moves has been mixed, but Garza, Pena bring winning attitudes

Oh. Same as Ned’s, then.

How optimistic were the teeming masses at Cubs Convention on Friday night?

Well, for one, they cheered Carlos Zambrano’s entourage.

While I think they might have confused one of the bigger guys with Carlos Silva, that’s another sign of unfettered enthusiasm: They cheered a guy who kind of looked like Carlos Silva.

I guess this is what passes for biting wit in baseball journalism these days. Almost makes you look forward to the awful analysis.

I only popped into the convention kickoff rally to see who the fans booed, because I’m a jerk like that.

Then your article’s obsolete, because Andy Dolan’s already written it better.

With traditional target Larry Rothschild chilling in Tampa, owner Tom Ricketts got off with polite applause, even after curiously repeating Jerry Krause’s apocryphal line about "organizations win championships," while team president Crane Kenney got a mix of boos and crickets chirping. General manager Jim Hendry got some cheers, but mostly boos, which is unfortunate considering the bang-up job he did this offseason.

Have you spotted it? The point where this article began its shift away from too-cool cynicism and toward fanboy cheerleading?

That notwithstanding, it’s nice to hear that Cubs fans — even the crazy fanatics who attend the Cubs convention — are bright enough not to cheer for Crane. Who is awful.

Because this is an event attended by the most rabid of die-hard fans — the kind of people who believe a tucked-in Greg Maddux jersey equals steppin’ out clothes — the players all got raucous applause, even Zambrano, who was the target of the fans’ ire last season until his final stretch, which was after everyone stopped paying attention.

Whoa, these idiots wear Cubs jerseys? To the Cubs convention? How positively uncouth! I personally would wear only the most ironic $30 t-shirt with my True Religion jeans.

Kerry Wood got the kind of applause that Silva gets when he enters an a la carte steakhouse.

Oof. That joke sucked all the air out of my living room.

For all the fun I make of it, the Cubs Convention — and next week’s SoxFest — is a welcome sign because it means baseball is around the corner, and talking to the Cubs on Friday made me slightly sanguine about the club’s chances. After all, as Big Z himself reminded us, 2010 is over.

You’re more than slightly sanguine, Martha. You’re downright vermillion.

I don’t think the so-called curse will be lifted in 2011, but I think the Cubs will be more likable than you might think.

Nice attempt to eat your curse and have it too, asshole. Notice how smirking and ironic I am? I said so-called curse! That’s how you know I’m too hip to believe in things like that. Now that that’s settled, I’ll talk about it like it’s a real thing anyway.

And two of the main reasons are the newest Cubs, Matt Garza and Carlos Pena. Along with part-time poet, full-time outfielder Fernando Perez — "He can really fly. He might be the fastest guy in baseball," Hendry said — Garza and Pena can bring a little bit of the winning tradition of the Tampa Bay Rays to musty Chicago.

The Rays have a winning "tradition?" They’ve been good twice. I mean, ever, in all of history. Part of the reason they’ve been good is that they’ve gotten very adept at casting off aging, expensive players and getting a lot of good, cheap, young players in return. The Cubs are attempting to emulate this strategy by sending good, cheap, young players to the Rays in exchange for expensive, aging players. I don’t see how this plan could fail.

And let’s talk about Fernando Perez. His major-league career looks like this: .234 / .301 / .351 / .652, 72 OPS+. TZ, DRS, and UZR all agree that he’s been excellent, but he hasn’t had enough chances yet for them to stabilise; we’re talking like 54 career plays. Marc Hulet wrote about him in 2009 that "Perez strikes out too much for a player with modest power (.106 ISO at triple-A in ’08), although he does a reasonable job of getting on base via the walk. If he were to play everyday, Perez could reach 30-40 steals. His 0.8 career WAR is tied almost solely to his defensive abilities."

Also, as for all that speed, his career line is 5 SB and 2 CS. That’s pretty bad, though, honestly, it’s seven attempts. That ain’t much of much.

Point is: let’s hope you’re wrong and he’s not a full-time outfielder at all.

They’re different personalities — Garza is intense and self-admittedly "goofy" and good citizen Pena has a burgeoning reputation as one of the "good guys" in the game. Both are capable of bolstering with good vibes and good play.

Well thank god they have vibes. I asked Ozzie Guillen, and he says things like that are very important. You might want to proofread a bit more closely, though, because you accidentally snuck in a bit about baseball ability there at the end.

The fact the public response to the Pena signing and the Garza trade was mixed shows how little faith the fan base has in Hendry’s stewardship.

What it shows is that $10 million was a massive overpay for Carlos Peña, and that everybody in the world knows that. Derrek Lee — you remember him, he’s the much-better first baseman the Cubs got rid of so they could sign Peña — signed with the Orioles for $6 million. Manny Ramirez, who could probably field 1B about as well as Peña, signed with the Rays for $2 million. All three of these players have one thing in common: they’re all coming off the worst full season of their careers. Here are their numbers for that season. You tell me which one of them the Cubs just signed for more money than both of the others got combined:

Player X: 320 PA, .298 / .409 / .460 / .870, 138 OPS+, 1.5 WAR
Player Y: 626 PA, .260 / .347 / .428 / .774, 103 OPS+, 1.5 WAR
Player Z: 582 PA, .196 / .325 / .407 / .732, 102 OPS+, 1.1 WAR

Can’t figure it out? Here’s a hint: check any of the BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, or WAR columns. He’s the one who’s lowest in all of them. Oh, and I lied a little bit: this was not the worst season of Carlos Peña’s career. This season was about average. So really, Martha, it’s hard to fault Cubs fans for not having much faith in Hendry’s stewardship.

The concern with Pena is mostly due to an anemic batting average that has dropped precipitously the past four years, going from .282 to .196.

Well, no. It’s mostly due to an anemic everything that has always been pretty poor except in 2007. Seriously. Here he is. He was awesome in 2007. He was pretty good in 2008 and 2009. He was the armpit of ass every other year. 2010 was actually better than any year he had before 2007.

While most fans know average is an overhyped stat, .196 is still .196.

Sure. Batting average is massively overvalued. But you’re right: it’s really, really hard to be good for a great goddamn if you’re only hitting .196. I guess if you’re Barry Bonds and you walked 232 times, and then every single one of your hits was a crazy moonshot, you’d still be good. Carlos Peña didn’t do that. He walked 87 times and hit 28 home runs, which was enough to bring his offense up to "valuable." It was not enough to justify paying him $10 million.

But more importantly, to me anyway, he’s averaged 36 home runs and 102 RBIs in that span. I know RBIs are a flawed stat as well, but I always like a guy who can drive runners in — call me old-fashioned.

How about, instead of that, I call you an idiot. RBIs is not a "flawed" stat. It is a meaningless stat. It is a stat so heavily polluted with external influences that it really tells you just about nothing about the player it supposedly rates. Carlos Peña will not be hitting behind Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria this year. He will be hitting behind, I don’t know, probably Kosuke Fukudome and Blake DeWitt instead. Ergo, his RBIs will go down. Is this really so hard to understand? I guess it is, if one is a dimwit.

Garza looked like he was going to be Hendry’s white whale until the GM struck a deal with Tampa Bay to send a group of prospects, headlined by pitcher Chris Archer, to the Rays for him.

This deal wasn’t awful. I don’t love it, since I think the attempt to compete this year is ill-starred, and I’d rather see the Cubs hold on to some prospects or maybe trade them for position players instead of more starting pitching, but it wasn’t awful.

While Garza, a fastball-heavy hurler, is coming off a career-high 15 wins and a solid 3.91 ERA and 1.251 WHIP, he’s a little wild, in more ways than one.

Hey Trog, this is the future calling. We don’t need to rely on shit like wins and guessing when we evaluate a pitcher. Matt Garza’s FIP in 2010 was 4.42 — almost a half-run jump. It’s the highest FIP he’s posted since 2006, and it is cause for concern. It happened because his strikeouts were down and his home runs were up. Let me repeat that last part for you:

Matt Garza’s home runs were up in 2010. Why do we care about this? Because he’s moving from Tropicana Field, which suppresses home runs (0.936 in 2010), to Wrigley Field, which is a giant goofy band-box (1.134 in 2010). A pitcher already experiencing home run problems moving to a park that increases home runs is something to worry about.

For instance, like Zambrano, he’s both fought his catcher during a game and thrown a no-hitter. But Garza also was the MVP of the 2008 American League Championship Series.

What? For instance, like Stairs, his first name is Matt and he throws right-handed. But Stairs is also the all-time leader in career pinch-hit home runs.

Pena talked about how fun it is to watch Garza pitch, even from first base, and Perez, who has a good shot to make the club as a reserve outfielder, agreed.

Well thank god Hendo finally found a guy who’s fun to watch from first base. That’s really been dragging the Cubs down for years.

"Matt is an amazing competitor, he’s really, really fun to watch," Perez said on ESPN 1000 last week.

We get it. From first base, he’s super fun to watch. Those of us not inclined to be standing on first base at the time would prefer somebody more boring who maybe doesn’t give up quite so many home runs.

"He doesn’t really have the modern athlete’s indifference to what’s going on, just trying to be cool out there. He’s a pitcher; he’s kind of a throwback pitcher, that’s what we decided."

The major problems that have plagued the Cubs for the last hundred years:

• Pitchers are not enough fun to watch from first base
• Players are too concerned with their appearance
• Not white enough

Wood saw a little of Garza in the AL the past two years, and is thrilled to have him aboard. And as you know, Wood’s stamp of approval is better than Good Housekeeping’s.

I get it, but, really, how often does a reporter ask an athlete what he thinks of a new teammate and not hear something like that? Does anybody ever bitch?

"Hey, Stephen Drew, the Diamondbacks just traded for Armando Galarraga. What do you think about that?"

"Fuck that guy. Total shitbox. Why didn’t we get Cliff Lee instead? First chance I get, I’ma pants him during his windup."

"He’s going to get into a groove and some guys are going to be in awe what he’s capable of doing," Wood said.

Now, you know I love Woody as much as the next guy. So I’ll just call this "charmingly ham-fisted." Some guys are going to be in awe!

Since I’m less in love with Matt Garza, I’ll pick on him more for his nonsense babble:

"I come to the park with a smile on my face and leave the park with a smile on my face. There’s not a better job in the world to be doing. Everybody wants to do this, everybody wants to do this, but everybody wants to be a ballplayer."

Fuck the heck, Matt Garza? Are you freestyling?

There’s plenty of time to fret about the bullpen or the hole in Pena’s swing in the coming months, but for now bask in the cheer of guys who have never been booed off the field on a sunny day at Wrigley Field. To them, joining the Cubs is an opportunity to win.

Sure, hey, I’m happy for Carlos Peña. He got like three times his market value. I’d take it if somebody offered it to me. But it came out of my team’s pocket. That’s a quantity of resources — both in dollars and in roster space — that the Cubs no longer have to spend on other things. So you’ll forgive me if my overwhelming joy for Carlos’ windfall doesn’t prevent me from being annoyed that the Cubs paid him so goddamn much money.

Don’t laugh. Because anything really is possible in baseball. Just ask the guys who made a World Series with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Excellent. End your post with dipshit nihilism. Anything could happen! So just act at random and hope it works!

The Tampa Bay Rays got to the World Series by doing the exact opposite of that. They painstakingly maximised the value of every dollar they spent, since they had so few to work with. I mean, Jonah Keri’s upcoming book no doubt explains this a lot better than I can, on account of Jonah Keri is 400% more awesome than I am.

As soon as they invent numbers I can use to describe how awful your banalysis (like that? I portmanteau’d that shit up just for you, Martha) is, I’ll be sure to fill you in.


January 25th, 2011 Posted by | Baseball | no comments