June 21, 2010

World Cup 2010 thoughts and predictions

I've become more of a football (the real kind) fan in the past year or so, largely thanks to Mercurial Outfielder over at ACB, who is a big Tottenham Hotspur fan. I watched maybe half the Spurs matches last year and had a great time doing so. Plus, they made the Champions League this year! Yay!

Still, even then I've been surprised by how much I've been enjoying the World Cup. I was talking about this with Adam the other day - one thing that always bothers me about the Olympics is all the nationalistic jingoism stuff. Somehow it doesn't bother me in the World cup. Maybe it's just that the gap between the traditional world powers and the rest of the world doesn't seem so small.

Even though the US doesn't necessarily dominate the Olympics (though they generally do quite well), the media here would like you to think so, and all the planning and media revolves around the US because that's what generates the most money. Not so much with the World Cup - it's much more global than the Olympics - people in the US don't care as much about football, and people around the world could generally give a crap about swimming, track and field, and ice dancing.

It could also be that the World Cup isn't rocked with the kind of scandals and political maneuvering as the Olympics (though this could just be my ignorance shining through). Football fans have respect for good teams, and most of the hate that flies around is either for the refs or for unsportsmanlike play (especially flopping).

I know it's late in the game for predictions, but here I go anyway (based on the results through round 2 of the group stage)

Mexico (1A) beats South Korea (2B)
Germany (2D) beats England (1C)
Netherlands (1E) beats Italy (2F)
Brazil (1G) beats Chile (2H) (Spain, Chile, SUI tie in group H, but goal differential causes the the swiss to lose. Chile is a good team though, and I could see them drawing Spain and knocking them out of the tournament)

United States (2C) beats Serbia (1D)
Argentina (1B) beats Uruguay (2A)
Paraguay (1F) beats Denmark (2E)
Spain (1H) beats Portugal (2G)

Mexico defeats Germany
Netherlands defeats Brazil
Argentina defeats USA
Spain defeats Paraguay

Mexico defeats Netherlands
Argentina defeats Spain

Argentina over Mexico

As much as I hate El Tri...I think they have a good team

June 08, 2010

Fun fact

Pudge Rodriguez has caught both Nolan Ryan and Stephen Strasburg.

Strasburg's debut and the Natinals' future

Stephen Strasburg makes his MLB debut today against the Pirates. The game is sold out (probably one of half-a-dozen sellouts they've had in their new park). Watch out for the Natinals, they're going to be pretty good in 2 years or so, especially when they get Jordan Zimmerman back from TJ surgery.

I'm originally from the DC area and this buzz is nothing but great for the team - no one I know ever gave a crap about the team except for one of my cousins. The Natinals aren't going anywhere this year, but any extra butts they get in the seats is only going to help them contend. DC is a surprisingly big (and growing!) market that the team is only beginning to tap, and if they can actually start getting people to the park they should be one of the teams in the upper half of revenue (though Angelos's MASN screwjob as a part of agreeing to the move there isn't doing them any favors). Honestly, given their advantages in market and the fact that they don't play in the AL east, they've got the potential to be in even better shape than the Rays going forward. The fact thet Jim Bowden is no longer their GM is probably helping too (dying laughing). I'm not sure I have a lot of faith in Rizzo though, since IIRC he was Bowden's right-hand man. He was left to clean up the bonus scandal/embezzlement mess that brought Bowden and Rijo down, but I'm skeptical as to whether he didn't know anything about it either.

Here's the cost-controlled core of this team (more or less in order of talent):

P Stephen Strasburg

3B Ryan Zimmerman

C/OF/?? Bryce Harper

P Jordan Zimmermann

P Drew Storen

C Derek Norris (still in A ball, but has plus-plus power)

SS Ian Desmond (should be a solid regular)

Add in rising revenues and this team will be pretty good in the near future

June 02, 2010

Rebuilding, Retooling

The prevailing wisdom over at the 176th best Cubs blog is that the Cubs should just blow things up and go through a few rebuilding years of non-contention. While I agree that the Cubs should definitely be sellers this year - they're a decent team that had their chance with a soft schedule to open the season and blew it - I don't really advocate a full-on fire sale, unloading everyone except for the young guns (Castro, Cashner, Jackson, Soto, Colvin).

The Cubs have a good farm system that should make a great core to the 2012-2013 seasons. But do the Cubs really need to put up some particularly crappy teams in the meantime? The Cubs do, after all, have one of the hugest payroll and marketing advantages in baseball. Ignoring for a second criticism of the current management's ability to do so, Ricketts did say that the team should be modeled after the Red Sox, who have lots of money and have been able to retool and integrate in new players (Pedroia, Lester, etc) on the fly. If the Cubs allocate their resources wisely, why not put out good/decent teams *and* still rebuild? One thing that the Yankees and the Red Sox have going for them is money to sign tough sign draft picks. Why not the Cubs too? I think the Cubs lose tons of money (esp with their debt service) if they put up the kind of 60-win seasons they need to draft guys on the caliber of Strasburg or Harper, but if they invest in the draft they can still get good talent. Maybe that advantage might disappear after the next CBA, though, who knows. It's something the owners are pushing for, and I could easily see draft pick slotting (since current players could give a shit about draftees) traded for the end of the lame FA compensation rules.

Here's what I think should happen (in order of easiness)

1) The Cubs should move Ted Lilly before the deadline. Of all the guys with NTCs on the team, Lilly seems like he would be most likely to waive it. Not that he has a problem with the team or anything, I just think he'd love to play for a contender. This is just idle speculation on my part.

2) The Cubs should also move Tom Gorzelanny, and put some combination of Cashner, Wells, and Jackson in the rotation for the rest of this year.

3) If Ramirez opts out, the Cubs should let him go and replace him with a short-term averageish 3b to keep the seat warm for Vitters, if he ever gets here.

4) The Cubs should trade one of Byrd, Fukudome, or Soriano and start playing Colvin every day. Of those three Byrd is easily the most movable, but I don't really see him being moved until the offseason at the earliest. With one year left Fukudome could be moved but I have a feeling he's not interested in leaving Chicago, and I don't think the Cubs could get much of anything for Soriano (again...jsut gut feeling). Fukudome should be gone by the time Brett Jackson arrives to be the everyday guy.

If the Cubs can't move Fukudome or Soriano before the deadline, they should just trade Byrd in the offseason and make Colvin the 2011 CF. If Jackson is ready, he can be the 4th OF until another spot opens up for him (2012 at the latest).

5) The Cubs should try to move Silva. I don't really see this happening until the offseason, but if they can move him earlier that would be great.

6) The Cubs should try to get whatever they can for Ryan Theriot. There's little doubt that he's going to be non-tendered this offseason, so they might as well get rid of him.

7) The Cubs should try to move Silva. I don't really see this happening until the offseason if at all, but if they can move him earlier that would be great.

8) The Cubs should try to sign Derrek Lee to a 1-year extension. Who's going to replace him next year? Hoffpauir? FWIW I don't see the Cubs moving Soriano or Ramirez (if he doesn't opt out) to 1b. Might as well spend it on a guy who's a good clubhouse presence and likes Chicago. He should be one of the top FA on the market so it might be a tough sign. But if anyone on the team would give the team a discount, it would be Lee.

8) The Cubs should pony up and sign Prince Fielder when he becomes a FA before the 2012 season. It's tough to count on this though, because there's a very good chance that the Brewers move him before then and he signs an extension with his new team. I'm not sure if he signs it though, or if the Cubs should sign him to what he will likely demand. Given what he witnessed in his childhood, he wants to be paid sooner and more rather than later, and I don't blame him for it.

9) The Cubs should try to move Zambrano. I think he might be tougher to move than Soriano at this point, given all the things the Cubs have done to tarnish his value. That bullpen move was the dumbest thing this organization has done since the college of coaches. The only things I can think of are maybe letting Maddux and Palmiero go.

I guess that turned into a bit more of a 'fire sale' than I thought, but I think with the right moves the Cubs can at least be competitive enough to fill Wrigley. I don't think the Cubs will get much salary relief for moving Z and Soriano, if they can even do it so why not just keep them around. I certainly love watching Z pitch. But I don't think *all* of these moves happen, and obviously some of the young players won't pan out (I'm especially looking at Vitters here). But the Cubs have the resources to fill those holes from outside the organization if needed, especially by 2012.

In summary, I'd like the Cubs to plan to hang on to (at least for next year)
B Jackson
H-J Lee