December 31, 2010

Forget fixing the BCS - how to fix the other bowls

I know people love to complain about the BCS, but the lesser bowls are far more nonsensical. As I write this, 7-5 South Florida is taking on a 6-6 Clemson team in the Meineke Car Care bowl. What a clash of gridiron titans. This will be followed up by the much higher profiled matchup of Notre Dame (7-5) and Miami (7-5), which at least has some small storyline to it, and Georgia (6-6) vs UCF (10-3).

When did these bowl games become so meaningless? I find it tough to believe that so many schools, advertisers, stadiums, etc. are making money off of all of these matchups. The BCS, I can see since people want to watch top teams square off. But each year it just seems we have more and more meaningless game stretched out over an entire month. Ohio vs Troy? Southern Miss vs Louisville? And somehow, one of the games that should be on today or tomorrow (Utah vs Boise) was played on Dec 22. What the hell? Meanwhile we have epic matchups like Nevada-BC, Pitt-Kentucky, and Middle Tennessee State vs Miami (OH) all after New Year's.

What I propose:

Require a 7-win threshold to make a bowl game: you have to have a winning record.

Get rid of automatic conference bids/tie-ins. This will help ensure that the bowls take more interesting teams.

No non-BCS bowls after the Rose Bowl.

After the BCS bowls, bowls should pick their matchups going backwards from New Year's Day (i.e. before the Rose Bowl).

Reduce the number of non-BCS bowls by a third to a half. 7-5 teams that got there on the strength of wins against Western Cupcake Tech do not deserve a bowl trip.

December 16, 2010

Well done, Cubs

It's not officially official yet, but it looks like Kerry Wood might be returning to the Cubs. This is exactly the move the team needed to make this offseason - even though it will likely be for too much money and the 2011 Cubs still aren't going to win anything, it's completely knocked out my preemptively bitter feelings towards the next two seasons and made me excited about next year's team.

Well done.

December 09, 2010

How the roster is shaping up

Miraculously, Marquez Smith was not picked in the Rule 5 draft today. However, that shouldn't make a big difference for the 2011 team as the position player part of the roster is set. As things stand now, here's how that side will likely shape up (along with my stab at the likely lineup)

RF Kosuke Fukudome, LHB
SS Starlin Castro, RHB
1b Carlos Pena, LHB
3b Aramis Ramirez, RHB
CF Marlon Byrd, RHB
LF Alfonso Soriano, RHB
C Geovany Soto, RHB
2b Blake DeWitt, LHB

C Koyie Hill, BHB
MI Darwin Barney, RHB
CI Jeff Baker, RHB
OF Tyler Colvin, LHB
OF Sam Fuld, LHB/some NRI

Castro Colvin (ed: stupid C names) has been mentioned as an 'everyday player' and may end up getting more starts than Kosuke during a week, my guess is that he'll spend about half his starts spelling Soriano and Byrd.

The 5th OF spot is the main one up for grabs, though the Cubs also have 2 catchers on the 40 man roster so Hill might need to watch his back. The org inexplicably loves him though, so maybe he shouldn't worry *too* much.

The pitching side, as usual, is in flux, even more so considering the Cubs are foolishly looking to add a middling starter to their 10-deep rotation depth. The bullpen is a mess. Aside from Marshall and Marmol (and I guess Grabow), the rest should all come down to who has a good spring.

SP Carlos Zambrano, RHP
SP Ryan Dempster, RHP
SP Randy Wells, RHP
SP Carlos Silva, RHP
SP Tom Gorzellany, LHP

CL Carlos Marmol, RHP
SU Sean Marshall, LHP
P John Grabow, LHP
P Jeff Samardzija, RHP
P Thomas Diamond, RHP
P ?
P ?

The Cubs have an absolute glut of starting pitching prospects in AAA, maybe so many that some guys who are ready for AAA will have to pitch in AA, or in the pen. Samardzija and Diamond are the most likely to be 'penned but it could happen to guys like Jackson and Cashner. Here's the list

P Andrew Cashner, RHP (could spend the year in AAA building up arm strength to start. Thankfully the Cubs are making noises about turning him back into a starter)
P Jay Jackson, RHP
P Chris Archer, RHP
P Casey Coleman, RHP (another bullpen candidate)
P Chris Carpenter, RHP
P Trey McNutt, RHP

They also have a reliever or five that could impress their way into the pen as well
P Marcos Mateo, RHP
P Scott Maine, LHP
P Jeff Gray, RHP
P Esmailin Caridad, RHP
P Justin Berg, HRP
P John Gaub, LHP
P Jeff Stevens, RHP
P James Russell, LHP

If I had to guess, I think it's most likely that the back half of the pigpen will consist of F7, Diamond, Mateo, and Coleman

Cubs sign Carlos Pena

The Cubs signed former Tampa Bay 1b Carlos Pena to a one year, $10 million dollar contract ($5 million is deferred to next season). At first I was against this deal but the more I think about it, the more I like it. Let's make a list of Pros and Cons, Halpert-style:


  • $10 million is a lot of money for a team that is trying to slash payroll and isn't going anywhere in 2011.
  • The Cubs had much cheaper left-handed 1b options in Bryan LaHair and possibly Tyler Colvin
  • Pena turns 33 next year and could be on the decline. His injury last year does throw things off a little though. Scouts have always loved him, but he was a late bloomer.
  • Pena is useless against LHP

  • Pena is prime for a bounceback season after suffering from plantar fasciitis last season, especially moving out of the AL east and into the weaker league.
  • Pena brings a good glove to 1b, and one of the Cubs priorities this season was to get a good receiver for the still raw Starlin Castro to throw to.
  • It only costs money - the Cubs didn't unload any prospects to pick up a guy like Fielder, Gonzalez, or (ugh) Chris Davis in a trade.
  • Speaking of prospects, with the Cubs unlikely to contend next year they can flip Pena for some prospects if he regresses back to something more like his numbers from the previous 3 seasons.
  • Most importantly, the length of the contract. At least one of Pujols and Fielder (if not both) should hit the market next year, and both the Yankees and Red Sox are already locked up at 1b. This leaves the Cubs, with a few contracts coming off the books, in prime position to chase one of those franchise players.

December 08, 2010

File under "can you believe this shit"

A big controversy erupted at UW last week when The Badger Herald released a list of 34 students that were attempting to sell their Rose Bowl tickets on facebook mere minutes after they sold out. Shock! Horror! People are selling things at market value!!

What surprised me even more was that so many people agree with the newspaper's stance in publicly calling out these people. What the hell? How is this surprising? Even more appalling and depressing is the fact that many of these students received death threats from other students.

Many have gone on to blame the university for the ticketing process, forcing those who buy tickets to have their names linked to them, or to have to pick them up in Pasadena, etc. It's a good idea as far as limiting these shenanigans goes, but I see no point in blaming the university. It's not their problem if people want to sell these tickets.

Goodbye, Ronnie

I've been traveling overseas and missed my chance to react to Santo's death here on the blog. Luckily so many other excellent people have beaten me to the punch (links included at the end of the post).

It's tough to pin any particular reason why we are fans of particular sports teams. Many are fans of teams because they were hometown teams, others (like me) because of family tradition, or simply because for many people the Cubs and the Braves played a lot of games on national TV. I was a Cubs and Yankees fan growing up but couldn't have named more than two players on the team in any given year - I pretty much just watched the World Series and occasional games on WGN when we hooked our cable back up when I was in high school. After I went to college, I started watching more games and, more importantly, started listening to games on the radio. It's safe to say that Ron Santo is the reason why I am the Cubs fan that I am today.

Santo cared too much about the games, and that's why I loved him. It always felt like he was your crazy old uncle or grandfather in the booth. Hughes was always good about giving scores, but if you just tuned in you could always tell how the Cubs were doing by listening to Ron for half a second (or more telling, not hearing him at all). His sheer excitement, especially in the 2008 season (that I caught nearly all of on the radio) was infectious and amplified all of our own excitement. The last two years have not been as kind to him, both medically and emotionally (given the team's performance) but Ron was a guy who never gave up on the team or himself.

After the 2003 postseason raised the stakes for Cubs fans and especially after watching This Old Cub, I knew that when the Cubs eventually did win it all there was no doubt that I'd be sharing the experience with Pat and Ron on the radio. I'd get shivers down my spine just thinking about it. Things didn't work out in 2007 or 2008, and now that Ron is gone we will never get to experience this. When they do win it will still be for him. But it sure would be nicer if he could be there to share it with us.

And Counting
A League Of Her Own
Tales from Aisle 424
Cubs f/x
Suburban Kid from ACB's take on Santo
ACB's look at Santo's HOF-worthy career
ACB on Santo compared to other HOF 3b

December 02, 2010

NFC Playoff Craziness

Based on my earlier post, I was playing around with ESPN's Playoff Machine scenarios and it looks like a hot mess. My final Standings are

1. NE 14-2
2. BAL 13-3
3. SD 11-5
4. IND 11-5
5. PIT 12-4
6. NYJ 12 -4
(JAX, KC at 10-6)

1. PHI 12-4
2. ATL 12-4
3. GB 11-5
4. SEA 8-8
5. NO 11-5
6. TB 11-5
(CHI, NYG at 10-6)
Seattle picked up some wins solely on their home field advantage. You can just as easily slide the Rams or whatever other punching bag from the NFC West in there.

What surprised me the most is that two of these playoff spots came down to one game: PHI @ NYG in Week 16 and CHI @ GB in week 17. Whichever team loses those games is likely to be watching the playoffs at home. Even more oddly, in the event that the Giants beat Philly, the Eagles do not go to the playoffs and the winner of the Chicago-GB game gets a bye week, while the loser stays home.