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!