Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Sporting News Says...

Picked up my annual copy of the Sporting News baseball preview mag yesterday (I think it’s the best written preview magazine available, year in and year out), and when reading what they had to say about the Cubs, I came across a few interesting tidbits. Thought I’d take a look at some things they wrote and offer my insight on it.

*From the “Scouts View” Section: “If their starters are healthy, this is the best team in the division.. – I don’t buy that at all. First of all, it’s asking a lot for our starters to be healthy. They haven’t been able to do it the past 3 seasons, and I think it’s a stretch to even halfway assume that this year. Something will come up. It always does. But even if everyone were to stay healthy, I still think that the Cardinals have a better squad than us. They have more pop in the lineup, better overall defense, and pretty damn good pitching themselves. We’ll see. I still think that ALL the chips have to fall in the right places for us to contend with St. Louis this year.

*Also from the “Scouts View” Section: “Matt Murton should give them good power.. – Wha? Good power? From the guy who hit 7 HR last year, albeit in only a 1/3 of a season’s worth of AB? From the guy who really has never shown above-average power in the minors? Every scouting report I’ve read on Murton says the same things..good plate discipline, controls the bat well, makes good contact, smart hitter, can become above average OF’er. Never has there been a mention of above-average power. When I think above-average power, I think 25 HR. Murton won’t hit 25 HR. In their write-up of Murton in the main preview section it says “Murton has power potential and will have a chance to show it.” I don’t buy it.

*From Todd Walker’s write-up under defense: “Is not a good defensive second baseman.” – Just goes to show ya..if you get stuck with a label, true or not, it’s tough to shake said label. Walker is a quite passable 2nd baseman. He positions himself well, and his glove is better than advertised. It’s crap like this that people use as justification as to why Neifi or Hairston deserve to start ahead of Walk. Todd should be our everyday 2B, case closed.

*From the “Dugout Dirt” section: “Clubhouse Clown: Ryan Dempster. You never know what to expect. He once wore a blond wig during BP, calling it the result of “fast-acting” hair plugs.” – Dempster’s a great guy. I’ve been lucky enough to meet him in person a couple times, and he’s come off as very approachable, and quite personable. Add in stories like this and the clip of him doing fake broadcasting in a Busch bullpen last year, and you’ve got yourself a winner. I’m rooting hard for Dempster to keep on saving games for us this year.

*From Ronny Cedeno’s write-up: “Extremely aggressive at the plate, excellent runner, live-bodied IF’er with quick feet, soft hands, excellent agility, plus range, plays under control, charges ball well, quick release, accurate on throws, BIG upgrade for Cubs defense, and will contribute offensively too.” – Wow. That’s a lot of praise there. I really think we’ve found our SS for the next 8-10 years. Kudos to the Cubs brass for sticking with Ronny when his bat was lagging. Now that it seems to have come around, we really have something.

*From Greg Maddux’s write-up: “..Might be the most intelligent pitcher of all-time.” - That’s big praise, and it’s probably not far from the truth. The Mad Dog will go down as one of the all-time greats. They’re not real high on his production from here on out, though.

*From Michael Wuertz’s write-up: “(He) has an elite slider, but he relies on it too much. He leaves his fastball up too much and it doesn’t have great movement.” – Quite true. Wuertz’s breaking ball has great bite on it, but for him to make the next step in his career, he has got to keep his fastball down and work on a change. Otherwise hitters can sit on the slider and high fastballs, much like what happened last season.

That’s about it. I’d recommend picking up the Sporting News mag if you have 7 spare bucks, it has tons of great stuff in it, and it’ll get you even more pumped for opening day. Go Cubs!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Need Design Work?

I have been toying with a design overhaul here at the YCR. The problem is my job has kept me from really doing anything about it.
I want to move the site to entirely different domain, because we can get some more freedom that way. Is there anybody out ther that would like to design a site. I can pay for the job. If you would like to talk about leave some comments, or email at yarbage @ I can't pay a ton, but I am sure we can agree on something. Just let me know.

Time for a nap, and then off to work for a basketball tournament.

Monday, February 13, 2006

My First Post!

Before I get going on my first column here, I’d like to take a second (a few lines actually) to introduce myself. My name is Mike Wilkinson, and I’m a Cubs fan. Sounds kind of like someone standing up at an AA Meeting doesn’t it? That’s a fairly accurate assessment for me as it pertains to the Cubs. I’m addicted, and I can’t get enough. No matter what has happened, I’ve always been a fan of the Northsiders, through thick and thin. Baseball is one of my true passions in life, and another is writing. I’ve never been particularly great at writing though, so I steered away from English as a major in college. Oh college...Those days were great. I plan on writing a column once a week, hopefully more frequently during the season. I plan on shying away from the day-to-day recaps (you can get those other places, and I guarantee they’ll be done better than I could do them), and focus more on opinion and retrospective. I also plan on sprinkling in a minor league report once a month or so. I did this at my old blog, “Out in the Bleachers”, and it went over fairly well. I know Chris liked it. He also liked ripping on Lenny Harris, and while he’s safely out of our lives now, I’ll see what I can do about tossing in some of that as well. I’m really interested in comments and feedback, and you can leave that for me at the end of the article. Enough of the intro crap, it’s onto the feature.

I’m not going to beat on the dead horse that was last year, but we all know that the Cubs circa 2005 weren’t good. We didn’t even play .500 ball. Logic dictates that in order for us to be contenders this year, we have to have improvements over last year’s performances. This has to come from either young players maturing and playing at a higher level, obtaining players who can play at a higher level than last year’s crew did, or luck. Or some combination of the 3. Luck is the hardest to quantify, but I can say with some assurance that we weren’t terribly lucky or unlucky last season. Sure, we had some injuries, but we also had some performances that were better than expected (Lee, Murton and Cedeno’s late season emergence, Dempster as a closer). Where have the Cubs attempted to upgrade for this season? Common logic dictates that we’re in store for a full season of Cedeno at SS and Murton in LF. Some people think that both will come in this season and perform at the levels they established in their short time last season. I don’t think that will be the case. I think one of the 2 will fall well short of expectations while the other thrives.

Other changes are in store in RF and CF as well. While the defense Jones will provide in right will be a step up over Burnitz’s, the offense won’t. Pierre is a significant upgrade over Patterson in center…that much we all know. The Cubs really struggled with taking a walk last season, as well as getting the runners over. While having Pierre at the top of the order will be nice, neither he, nor Jones, nor Cedeno will take walks often enough. I think the offense has improved some, but not by much. The pitching staff features tons of question marks. Can Mark Prior stay healthy for a whole year? Can Kerry Wood make it back from shoulder surgery? Can he be effective? Will Dempster be effective as a closer all season long? Is Maddux done? Can Glendon Rusch rebound to his 2004 form as a starter? Whats the story with Jerome Williams? Was signing Bobby Howry and Scott Eyre enough to patch the bullpen? I wish I had the answers to these questions. My gut feeling says that the pen will still be ineffective, and that we’re going to have injuries in the rotation again.

Best case scenario has Cedeno and Murton exploding on the scene, Prior winning 18 plus games, Kerry returning to the rotation and being Kerry by June, and the bullpen holding up. Worst case scenario sees injuries, ineffectiveness, lots of Neifi, Derrek Lee returning to Earth, Dempster imploding, the bullpen being leaky as ever, and Aramis’s groin causing problems. As is always the case, the truth lies in between. I see the Cubs being a little bit better than last year, but not winning more than 85 games. Call it 83-79, in 3rd place behind the Cardinals and the Brewers. I hope I’m pleasantly surprised though!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Blast from the Past

Every now and then it is good to hear from somebody in the past. The Yarbage Cub Review would like to welcome back Mike Wilkenson to the Cub Blogger Community. You may remember Mike wrote hear for a short while and had his own blog (Out the Bleachers).
We had fun bashing the old Lenny Harris days.

Be sure to look our for Mike's first post in the next couple of days.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Still Waiting

I teased some of you with an announcement, but nothing is final. I have told some of you what is going on.
Hopefully everything will finalize soon and I can announce it.

In the meantime, pitchers and catchers are getting much closer. As for the Super Bowl, Shaun Alexander leads Seattle to a 21-17 win over the Steelers.

More later...