Grabow feels better. Will he be?

Grabow’s back. See what I did there?

The Cubs have recalled John Grabow off the 15-day disabled list and sent Mitch Atkins to reexamine a career choice that has seen him as less desirable than John Grabow in the eyes of the Chicago Cubs front office.

John Grabow of the 9.45 ERA. John Grabow who has exactly one run allowed to match each of his 23 appearances. The guy with the 4.95 BB/9 innings rate. The one allowing opponents to hit .362, to reach base at a .431 clip, and to slug .611 against him. Barry Bonds had a career OPS of 1.051; batters facing Grabow this year trail Bonds only slightly with an OPS of 1.042.
Most fans are understandably irate that Grabow is returning to this team, but I want to give him the benefit of the doubt that maybe, just maybe the problem in 2010 has been an injury that he’s not bringing back with him. Because, if we find a way to wipe our memories clean of the filth that has been his season thus far, no one was this disappointed with John Grabow’s status as a Chicago Cub.
Oh, I know all too well that many people hated the signing, which is why they always cite the total amount he’s being paid over this year and the next ($7.5 million) as if he’s being paid that much annually; that mistake is only half as bad as it’s being made out to be. Still, many Cubs fans were unhappy that the Cubs paid that much money to a marginally serviceable reliever with a relatively lucky streak of late (at the time . . . clearly his luck has run out in 2010).
For his career, Grabow has had a WHIP floating between 1.2 and 1.5. In 2008 he had a deceivingly low ERA (2.84) because of an impossibly high LOB% (85.5). No one strands 85% of their baserunners. John Grabow did it that year. On the other hand, no one strands just 56.8% of their baserunners either, and John Grabow is doing it this year. His career rate is 73.4%, so 2010 definitely looks like more of an aberration than 2008.
That’s just the thing. None of Grabow’s career numbers are anything close to this bad. Something had to have changed. He’s only 31. It’s not a great leap to blame 2010 on an injury. Still, I remember thinking the same thing about Aaron Miles last year, and we all know how that ended up.
I’m not saying we should put supreme confidence in the guy, but it makes sense to give him a chance to prove he can still pitch. It’s not like the World Series hangs in the balance, here.

Adding Insult to Insult

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The ex-Cub the media just won’t leave alone is back in the news today. That’s right, Ronny Cedeño finds his name in ignominious headlines because of the Pirates’ latest batting order decision.

Poor E6 (as my friends at LOHO like to call him). Last year he was made expendable by the acquisition of fellow light-hitting utility infielder Aaron Miles. As if that weren’t enough, this year Pirate manager John Russell had decided he’d like his pitchers to hit ahead of Ronny and his much-maligned tilde, according to the Bucs’ website:

Russell said that Andy LaRoche’s plate patience makes him a good fit to hit seventh, one spot in front of the pitcher. Shortstop Ronny Cedeno will then slot into the No. 9 spot, effectively making him the leadoff hitter after the first go-through of the lineup.


“Cedeno is going to see better pitches to hit,” Russell said. “It frees Ronny up to be more aggressive.”


Still, Cedeno will have to show an ability to consistently get on base for this lineup to set up well for the top of the order. Cedeno is a career .240 hitter with a on-base percentage of just .280.

Spin those facts and quotes however you want them, but the only way I know how to react to it is with a big ol’ “Ouch.”

Maybe Ronny can take some solace in knowing that the man who once replaced him, Aaron Miles, not only returned to the NL Central via an ever-so-brief stint in the AL West, but he also knows how it feels to bat behind the pitcher. Miles has started 41 games in the number 9 hole (all of them in the NL). So for the 16 times the Reds and Pirates square off, Ronny has a chance of not being the worst hitter on the diamond.

Hang in there, Ronny. We’re pulling for you.

A Few Small Repairs

Warning WreckI’ve made a couple changes to the site. Not wholesale changes or even dramatic ones, just a few minor adjustments. And that’s not because the site doesn’t need work, it’s just . . . well, what am I gonna do? I’m not exactly chiseling rough edges off the Michelangelo. Oh, and I’m not raising payroll, either. But you know, I think these relatively small additions to life at And Counting might just help out.
The situation here isn’t all that different from where the Cubs are right now. Look, last offseason Jim Hendry made some moves that didn’t work out. You could call them great moves that went bad, or foolish risks that were doomed from the start. Actually, it’s really easy now to say that they were all ridiculously misinformed—but so is this blog, so who am I to judge?

This offseason, Hendry has subtracted just about all of last offseason’s moves (the Mark DeRosa toothpaste can’t be squeezed back into the tube). Bradley’s gone. Gregg is gone. The Aarons both Heilman and Miles. We bid farewell to Rich Harden and Jake Fox, and we’ll miss a little bit of Ted Lilly at the outset of the season. But when you look at the 2009 contributions of the dearly departed Cubs, is the absence of any of that really going to sting?

So I look at the additions, the small changes, the slightly altered logos and DISQUS comments of this 2010 Chicago Cubs team. Marlon Byrd. Xavier Nady. Clubhouse gallbladder infection, Carlos Silva. And let’s not forget new guy, other new guy, and the dude we got for Jake Fox. None of these guys are going to reconfigure the Cubbie universe. They won’t win Nobel Prizes. But the the Cubs don’t need wholesale changes. They just need to tread water.

If you want to see the statistical projections, you can check them out at ACB. The Cubs aren’t bad. They’re not as good as the Cardinals (who suck, by the way). They’re not as good on paper as last year’s paper team. They might not even be as good on paper as last year’s team was on the field.

But I like this team. I expect Soto to have better luck (let’s hope his eyebrows weren’t the source of his power). I expect Soriano to be healthier and better. I expect Zambrano to be worse and luckier. Marlon Byrd will be good. Someone I’ve never heard of will be good. The pitching staff will be the least of the Cubs’ problems. I expect the sportswriters to fade into the dingy background of the press box. I expect to be wrong about oh so much. But in the end, or at least on the way to the end, I expect to enjoy the 2010 season.

Jon Heyman thinks the Cubs struck out. I think the Cubs took two steps forward and one and a half steps back. If they can just stay afloat until June, Jim Hendry might make a real move, and this team just might kick a little ass.

A Biblical Guide to Baseball Prophecy

This post may very well be of no interest to anyone, which would hardly make it the first of its kind. If I could call any subject matter my niche, it would be things no one cares about enough to read. But to be more specific, in terms of sheer volume, the two topics I’ve written the most about are probably baseball and the Bible. The audiences for both are small enough, but the overlap between the two is impressively minuscule. But despite the almost nonexistent intersection of the disparate groups, this post is born out of their improbable similarities.

What I’ve noticed is this: there’s a big similarity between biblical prophecy and baseball statistics and the way both have been received, dispensed, and interpreted.

Since I’m posting this on a Cubs blog, I’m going to focus on the baseball side of things, particularly the statistical realm. But since I know next to nothing about statistics, I’m going to weigh this sucker down with Bible talk. If the verbose introduction hasn’t served as warning enough, I should also caution you that I’m not exactly a Bible scholar either. I mean, in the general community of Cubdom, I probably know more about biblical prophecy than most . . . but certainly not all. And among the people I know who would be most eager to discuss the translation of Isaiah 7:14 in the Septuagint, I don’t know that any would give two craps about Fielding Independent Pitching.

So, chances are I could talk about either topic to the other audience without ever being exposed as a fraud. I’m okay with that. Now, on the off chance that anyone is still reading, I’ll press on to something resembling a point.

Most people, biblically inclined or not, equate the term prophecy with the foretelling of future events. But the fact of the matter is, most of the content of biblical prophecy had less to do with judgments that lay ahead and more to do with sins that had already transpired and wayward beliefs and practices going on at the time. Sure, virtually every prophet predicted something about the future, but many of those forecasts were fulfilled in multiple manifestations separated by many hundreds and sometimes thousands of years. And some predictive prophecies are spelled out in fairly precise terms, while others leave room for infinite speculation and varying interpretations.

The big problem comes in the way people handle what they know, what they think they know, and what they don’t care to know. Some scholars obsess over the minutiae to the contempt of the faith and the division of their ranks. Many well intentioned people project historical anecdotes onto completely unrelated current situations and future speculations. Others focus so intently on the future that they become myopic to their current travails or joys. And the masses just want to know enough Bible to feel good about themselves and roll their eyes at the mention of prophecy. But, whether any such people exist or not, the best among us have the wisdom to learn from past declarations, draw conclusions from clear predictions, and allow for the uncertainty of peering into the great beyond.

If you’ve yet to see a correlation between all of that and the way baseball fans view their stats, I applaud and pity you for making it this far. But I’ve observed a similar phenomenon among Cub fans and sabermetricians the world over.

In a debate taking place far above my level of understanding, there are statisticians on many sides of many different arguments about concepts I can hardly begin to understand. I won’t go into them, I just know that there’s a lot of projecting and computing and regressions and standard deviations and . . . hell, a lot of stuff I don’t know. But the people who do know it can get pretty heated about their methods to the point you wonder how a game can cause smart people to act so foolish.

On the plane where commoners like me reside, there are old-school, lowbrow minds who devoutly swear by stats like Wins, ERA, batting average, and fielding percentage, and they’ll tell you that the basic triple-crown stats tell you everything you need to know about a player’s performance and his potential. They don’t see the difference between the stats that describe the past and the ones that predict the future. Like a close-minded pastor using Habakkuk 3 to tell you rock & roll is of the Devil, they’ll tell you that any stat invented after 1908 was contrived for the sole purpose of polluting young minds with the perverted rites of the cultic Epsteinian overlords.

Then there are the occasional saberlovers who are so infatuated with advanced stats that they look with disdain upon conventional numbers. If they had their way, games would no longer be decided by a statistic so rudimentary as runs but by a park-adjusted comparison of  team xBABIP, xFIP, EqA, and UZR or a sum of each player’s Win Probability Added. Keith Law comes to mind. He got publicly lambasted (called an idito more than once, if I recall) for valuing FIP above ERA in his Cy Young balloting, and I can understand why. FIP is designed to ignore the factors of luck and the defensive skill behind a pitcher—but baseball isn’t so kind to pitchers. Should the batting title go to the hitter with the highest xBABIP?

Crap, I’m afraid I’ve lost my last interested Bible reader. If you care for an overview of some of these stats . . . ugh, look them up. It’s 4 in the morning, I can’t post every link in the world. Or go here.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Of course, Wrigley Field welcomes plenty of visitors who have no intention of examining stats beyond finding just enough to confirm the positions they already hold about players, managerial decisions, and player acquisitions. They’re mad. They’re happy. They love a guy. They hate a guy. Find a stat that helps you feel better about that feeling . . . or don’t. Whatever. You’re definitely not reading this.

But the thing that I’ve learned from everything I read about baseball statistics is that some stats are really good at predicting the future and evaluating talent, even when they paint a different picture than the old-school stats that tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt what happened in the past. The typical stats are determined by tons of luck and teammate-dependent factors, but baseball is hugely affected by those factors. The advanced metrics may tell you who the best man is, but the old stats will tell you who wins.

But that doesn’t mean you can dismiss the prophets who understand the stats better than you. I’ll admit, most statistical methods give me a headache. I understand what’s going on to some degree, but I will always need help knowing what the numbers mean, how they’re computed, and where they’re headed. I do know that no matter how good they are, they won’t stop strange things from happening. You just hope that eventually, they’ll stop stupid things from happening (cough, Aaron Miles, cough).

Prophecy, stats . . . they have nothing and everything to do with each other. Neither is necessarily predictive. Neither is necessarily relevant. But both of them will tell you the truth in a way you can’t otherwise understand.  And I’ll say this for sure: in life or in baseball, if you ignore the truth, you’ll more often than not find yourself walking into big piles of suck left and right.

Worst Move of the Season Nominee: Trading DeRosa

Before 2009 had a chance to greet the world, Mark DeRosa was greeted instead by a call from Jim Hendry, interrupting his round of golf and his career with the Cubs. It wasn’t as if anybody needed an excuse to drink on New Year’s Eve (or that Hendry had an explanation for starting so early—he also signed Aaron Miles that day) but Cub fans had an extra load of sorrows to drown after hearing one one of their MVPs had joined a new Tribe.

A day hasn’t gone by since then without discussion of this deal among the Cubs faithful. His departure and consequent performance with other teams escalated to near Favresque proportions. We all know the Cubs missed him. We all know he didn’t do that great in 2009. Most statistically minded folks know that DeRosa’s 78 RBI would have ranked 2nd on this Cubs team. Granted, Aramis Ramirez was hurt for half the season . . . but that reminder just rubs salt in the wound, doesn’t it?

De-Ro’s defense is acceptable, not great. His speed is par for the slow Cubbie course. His average with runners in scoring position was nothing special (.256). The single biggest observable difference between DeRosa and the guy many viewed as his replacement (you know who) was his rapport with the media and fans. Okay, we really could have used that difference. I should say, you can’t track a guys stats with other teams and assume he would have performed the same way with the Cubs. Maybe DeRosa would have had another career year if he’d stayed on. Maybe he would have suffered a career ending injury. Sometimes your stats take a major hit when you change teams (Exhibit A: you know who). So let’s just throw the stats out the window for a second.

At the time of the deal, I thought DeRosa was a stepping stone to a Jake Peavy deal, the only thing that could have justified the move for me. But we ditched the DeRosa marijuana and never moved on to the Peavy cocaine. All we got was dirty crack (you know who). So why trade DeRosa?

Here are the numbers I care about: DeRosa made $5.5 million this year, the last in his contract. Kevin Gregg made $4.2 million. Aaron Heilman made $1.625 million. Aaron Miles made $2.2 million. Hendry even signed a free agent who made $7 million this year (you know who). Say what you want about not needing DeRosa, but who among the aforementioned players are you glad we had instead of him?

There’s always the argument that we don’t know how much we’ll be helped by the three pitchers coming from Cleveland in the DeRosa deal. I counter that argument by saying . . . we don’t know how much those pitchers will help the Cubs. We do know the help didn’t arrive this year (Jeff Stevens made a negligible impact). They probably won’t help us in 2010. If the GM of your $135 million team is making bad deals in 2008 at the off chance it will help in 2011, it’s time to think about restaffing your organization.

Bad move, Jim. Bad move. Was it the worst? You tell me.

Other Nominees:
Firing Gerald Perry
Incessant Lineup Changes
Bullpen Design & Management
Milton Being Milton

We Could All Learn a Thing or Two from Aaron Miles

I’ve been pretty rough on Aaron Wade Miles this year. Heck, this year has been pretty rough on Aaron Wade Miles. He has become the Rodney Dangerfield of the 2009 Cubs, which, considering the number of Cubs having down or deplorable years, really tells you something.

But Miles hasn’t lost control of his emotions on the mound. He hasn’t spouted off to the media. He didn’t get busted for smoking weed at the World Baseball Classic or put on extra weight. He didn’t trade Mark DeRosa. He doesn’t hop before he catches fly balls. He wouldn’t hurt a fly on a Gatorade Machine. The only reason I and a teeming throng of others have lambasted him with gleeful mockery is that these are his stats.

I was thinking of listing some of the things I’ve said about him, but that would betray my genuine intentions for this post (which is why I didn’t make a joke about whether or not he could hurt a fly on a Gatorade Machine . . . from now on, I’m just going to insert asterisks * in places I feel tempted to mock him). I want to commend Aaron Miles for conducting himself like a professional and, frankly, like a good man during this, the worst year in his career.

You can make fun of Miles for his size, but he’s probably the same height as I am. So I can’t make fun of him for that. And yes, his hitting has been miserable, although marred somewhat by injury for the first half of the season . . . second half, too, maybe? But other than that, he’s done nothing wrong*.

When Miles fails on the field* he never shows his frustration. Do you know how hard that is to do*? To keep your composure when you ******. Well, it’s not easy. But it is commendable. And I’ve just never detected anything in the way he carries himself (and believe me, I look for these things) that would identify him as the jerk I’ve secretly wanted him to be.

With a guy who isn’t producing, you want him to give you the Todd Hundley total package. If you’re gonna stink, you should be a jerk—it’s just proper baseball etiquette. But Aaron Miles is not that guy. He tries hard. You can tell he wants to succeed. He just doesn’t compound his baseball troubles* by making an ass of himself.

So if you ever find yourself in a situation when you’re less than your best (or less than your mediocre) ask yourself this simple question: What Would Aaron Miles Do? I’m so printing up WWAMD bracelets right now.

************

UPDATE: I was trying to think what the best way to handle Aaron Miles at this point in his two year contract would be. Although it would mean eating $2 million, I wouldn’t mind seeing him released. But as long as we have a couple weeks of games with no playoff implications, it might not hurt to give him the everyday job at second—or at least a handful of starts. As terrible as he has looked, I’m sure it’s next to impossible to get better on the bench. If the experiment went terribly, though, I’d have to continue the barrage of insults . . . no reason for all of us to suffer.

Milton’s Gone, and So Are Cubs’ Playoff Hopes

There are some facts about the Cubs that don’t need to be said. I’ve rounded them up here so they can huddle together in their unspoken misery.

  • Signing Milton Bradley was a mistake.
  • Suspending him was not.
  • The Cubs aren’t going to the playoffs.
  • Even the most jaded Cubs fans still harbored a tiny vigilante voice of hope deep in their hearts that was saying, “Let’s just wait and see how we* do this weekend in St. Louis.”
  • That voice is now muttering obscenities.
  • No matter the standings, it’s always nice to beat the Cardinals, especially after watching them prematurely rush the field in jubilant, firework-lit celebration.
  • Aaron Miles has had a bad year.
  • The Chicago media don’t like Milton Bradley. (Lesson to high-school jocks: Be nice to the nerds who don’t make the team and have to settle for praising you in the school paper; they will one day have the power to torture you.)
  • Jake Fox is a man’s man.
  • Only time will tell who overpaid more absurdly: Jim Hendry for Milton ($30 million) or the Ricketts family for this team ($845 million).
  • This season has been a disaster.
  • Someday we’ll go all the way.
*Yes, the voice deep inside the heart of skeptical Cubs fans refers to the team as “we.”

Someday, We WILL Go All the Way

You remember. Last year at about this time the collective emotions of Cubmania were being swept away heavenward by the Pearl-Jammiest Cubs song ever. Eddie Vedder, the consummate celebrity Cubs fan, was commissioned by Ernie Banks (Mr. Cub himself) to write a song about the Cubs. He did, and he released it in what felt like the climactic throes of a 100-year “will they or won’t they” love affair with the World Series.

Last September, that song (whether it’s called “All the Way,” “Someday We’ll Go All the Way,” or “We’ll Go All the Way,” I can’t be exactly sure) evoked the best of feelings in me. The Cubs had the division wrapped up. The National League looked really bad and the Cubs looked really good. Maybe even 100-win good. I couldn’t listen to that song without imagining the celebration of the Cubbie Championship Centennial.

Every time, the scene in my mind is the same. I run out my front door and start screaming. I run all around the neighborhood. I complete the Forrest Gump cross-continental circuit in about 30 minutes, shouting “Yeah!!!!!” for everyone in America to hear. I wind up on a mountain top where a shaft of light shines down on me, kneeling, arms extended toward the manifest glory . . . crying and covered in beer.

When that song was playing, that image overtook my brain. It was exquisite bliss. I didn’t even feel like an idiot entertaining the thought of the Cubs winning it all. It felt almost real.

But, as you also remember quite well, that dream was shattered in the three ugliest baseball games ever played.

If your experience has been at all like mine, it’s been hard to hear that song ever since. Not too many Cubs fans I know have that song on repeat since October 2008. Nobody was writing bonus stanzas about Milton Bradley and the Aarons Heilman and Miles during Spring Training. The pain was too fresh. The cut was too deep.

But I want to encourage you to give that song a fresh listen. When we wanted to feel hopeful last year, Eddie’s ode to Cubdom was up to the task. Let me tell you, it can be equally mournful as the funeral dirge to this year’s hopes. It has actually helped me grieve a little better and breathe a little easier.

Take a listen. Let the tears flow. The healing can’t begin until the grieving is complete. There you go.

All the Way
Eddie Vedder

Don’t let anyone say that it’s just a game
For I’ve seen other teams and it’s never the same
When you’re born in Chicago you’re blessed and you’re healed
The first time you walk into Wrigley Field
Our heroes wear pinstripes
Heroes in blue
Give us the chance to feel like heroes too
Forever we’ll win and if we should lose
We know someday we’ll go all the way
Yeah
Someday we’ll go all the way

We are one with the Cubs
With the Cubs we’re in love
Yeah, hold our head high as the underdogs
We are not fair-weather but foul-weather fans
We’re like brothers in arms in the streets and the stands
There’s magic in the ivy and the old scoreboard
The same one I stared at as a kid keeping score
In a world full of greed, I could never want more
Than someday we’ll go all the way
Yeah
Someday we’ll go all the way
Someday we’ll go all the way
Yeah
Someday we’ll go all the way
Someday we’ll go all the way

And here’s to the men and the legends we’ve known
Teaching us faith and giving us hope
United we stand and united we’ll fall
Down to our knees the day we win it all

Ernie Banks said “Oh, let’s play two”
Or did he mean 200 years
In the same ball park
Our diamond, our jewel
The home of our joy and our tears
Keeping traditions and wishes made new
A place where our grandfathers, fathers they grew
A spiritual feeling if I ever knew
And if you ain’t been I am sorry for you
And when the day comes with that last winning run
And I’m crying and covered in beer
I’ll look to the sky and know I was right
To think someday we’ll go all the way
Yeah
Someday we’ll go all the way . . .

The Nightmare 9 (and a closer to choke on)

On Wednesday, MLB took advantage of 09/09/09 by inviting me (and millions of other people, but whatever) to come up with my dream lineup of 9 Cubs. Tonight, the dream is over. This is my all-nightmare team. The worst possible lineup I can conceive. The team I couldn’t bear to watch (and I have watched some real crap over the years).

For this list, I didn’t go old school. I’m limiting the squad to players I’ve watched play, because as fabulous as the baseball historians are at waxing eloquent about the greats of yesteryear, they don’t quite pack the emotional punch with their yarns about the Aaron Mileses of long ago. I need to remember that punch-to-the-gut feeling I’d get when Todd Hundley would strut to the plate, top two jersey buttons flapping in the arrogant wind. The stats alone don’t tell that story. So here they are. The worst team I can imagine, and the reliever who would blow the few leads he ever could inherit from the Sultans of Suck:

Leading off, playing CF, it’s Corey Patterson, 2005. .215 AVG / 13 HR / 34 RBI / 15 SB
This was the year that the Cubs uber-prospect, lead-off man of the ever-loving future posted an OBP of .254. Regardless of how bad this team might look, the potential in the leadoff spot would forever be through the roof.

Hitting second and playing 2B, everyone’s hero: Aaron Miles, 2009. .180 AVG / 0 HR / 5 RBI / 3 SB
Do I need to write anything here? I’m kind of shocked by the 3 stolen bases. I’m still waiting for the official scorer to change them all to defensive indifference, but hey, I’m glad there’s a stat that likes this guy. He’s got a 1.000 SB average. Yaaaay!

Batting third in RF, Roosevelt Brown, 2002. .211 AVG / 3 HR / 23 RBI / 2 SB
I didn’t dislike Roosevelt Brown, but like Corey Patterson before him, he epitomized the never-blooming prospect mentality of the Cubs organization in the ’90s and beyond.

The cleanup hitter on this sinking ship would be 1B Ron Coomer, 2001. .261 AVG / 8 HR / 53 RBI / 0 SB
This one is hard because the Cubs first basemen during my time as a fan, while not powerhouses, haven’t been too bad. Grace was great. I love Lee. Hee Seop Choi and Julio Zuleta were kind of fun. Leon Durham and Bill Buckner were both good hitters, even if both had their fair share of colossal hope-crushing ground balls in the postseason. Coomer wasn’t even predominantly a first baseman in his one year as a Cub, but whenever he was there, I knew what to expect. Stank.

In the five hole and out in LF, it’s the 1992 version of Luis Salazar. .208 AVG / 5 HR / 25 RBI / 1 SB
Like Coomer, Salazar actually played the most games as a third baseman, but the competition at third for worst I’ve ever seen is heavier than a Hector Villanueva lookalike contest. I award this spot to Luis because I once attended a game in which Salazar watched a line drive sail over his head, turned the wrong way as the ball ricocheted off the wall behind his back, and then threw up his hands to signal for a ground rule ivy-eaten double. He realized that the ball had trickled toward the infield, picked it up, and threw the ball in too late to prevent an inside-the-park home run. Welcome to the team, Luis.

Todd Hundley, C, 2001. .187 AVG / 12 HR / 31 RBI / 0 SB

Todd Hundley had been good with the Mets. He was Cubs family, Randy’s son. We weren’t supposed to boo him. But he was a tool. On his best day, he was as likable as Milton Bradley on his worst, just without the 2nd half surge. I remember going to the game on Todd Hundley key chain day. I’m still saving it for the worst white elephant gift in the history of Christmas.

Jeff Blauser, SS, 1998. .219 AVG / 4 HR / 26 RBI / 2 SB
The Cubs wanted the Cub killer. They got him, and he lived up to his reputation.

Gary Scott, 3B, 1992. .156 AVG / 2 HR / 11 RBI / 0 SB
Gary “Great” Scott didn’t play in a lot of games, but his Cubs career spanned two seasons of hopeless potential that he would be the one to break the since-Santo 3B drought (the one that is so long, it made this the toughest decision in the lineup). He didn’t end the drought. He was a goatee away from being Aaron Miles. The list of dishonorable mentions is legendary.

Mike Morgan, P, 1994. 6.69 ERA / 2-10 / 1.810 WHIP / 1.3 HR per 9 innings
I liked Mike Morgan. I did not like seeing him on the mound to start the game. As tough a century as the Cubs have had, the 1990s was a brutal decade and Morgan’s 1994 season pretty much defined the era of futility.With Morgan, expectations were never as high as his ERA and WHIP.

Pointless Closer: Mel Rojas, 1997. 4.42 ERA / 0-4 / 13 SV / 6 BLSV
Kevin Gregg doesn’t really hold a candle to Mel Rojas. In ’97, the Cubs very rarely had leads to begin with, so acquiring 6 blown saves by mid August was no easy task. But God bless him, Mel got the job done. The job, of course, was sucking, and he pretty much taught that freaky German Dyson dude everything he knows about never losing suction.

I would ask you to include your own suggestions for your own Nightmare 9, but I must warn you: this exercise took a lot out of me. I had to relive a lot of pain, and I was not ready. Don’t face those demons unless you’re willing to let them inhale your soul just one . . . more . . . time.

The 2009 Cubs: One Doodle That Can’t Be Undid

Some Cub fans would like to give the last offseason the Mark McGwire treatment and just leave the past in the past. Others would like to see every move Jim Hendry made go up in a mushroom cloud. Others are still holding out hope this year will have a happy ending.

I know we can’t turn back time. I know this season is all but mathematically over. But I still think we can at least try to learn from our mistakes. (Yes, I know we didn’t make the mistakes and that Jim Hendry needs to do the learning in this scenario, but maybe this will at least  be fodder for some good awkward questions to ask at Cubs Convention 2010.) Hendry made a whole pile of moves after the 2009 Dodger sweep, and I want to know which one has hurt the Cubs the most.

I had my opinions, but before sharing them with the world of sorrows that is Cubdom, I was curious what other people thought. I asked my #Cubs tweeps what single move they would undo if they could. Jmkobus spoke for millions who would have never signed Bradley, opting instead for Adam Dunn, the Knight of Wrigley. Pbernicchi would be the leader of the “undo the DeRosa trade” party. Ehudmh posited that if he could reverse Hendry’s initial pursuit of Milton Bradley, he could undo every other bad move the Cubs made. TheCubsInHaiku just wishes (in 17 syllables) that Hendry would have quit.

The tragic fact of the matter is that all of those arguments are better ideas than what’s played out in reality in 2009. Here’s a list of all of the moves since last October that involved signing new contracts, welcoming new players, or saying goodbye to former Cubs with a look at the amount of damage inflicted by each:

10.29.2008 3B Casey McGehee claimed off waivers by Brewers. His 13 HR and 50 RBI make this a pretty damaging move considering Aramis Ramirez’s prolonged injury this year, but somewhat unpredictable. Cubs Richter Scale: 3.5

11.13.2008 Traded RHP Jose Ceda to the Marlins for Kevin Gregg. The opposition is slugging .436 against Kevin Gregg. The Cubs only have 3 hitters with a slugging percentage that high. Even if Jose Ceda never pitches again (and he hasn’t, since the deal) this trade hurt the Cubs big time. Cubs Richter Scale: 7.5

11.18.2008 Re-signed Ryan Dempster to a 4-year, $52-million contract. Given the length of the deal, this could get worse, but I wouldn’t call Demp’s numbers in 2009 damaging. Cubs Richter Scale: 0.5

12.11.2008 Bought RHP David Patton from the Reds for cash. This is one move (let’s see if there are more) that actually helped the Cubs. David Patton has been pretty decent. Cubs Richter Scale: -0.5

12.12.2008 Signed LHP Neal Cotts, RHP Chad Gaudin, and OF Reed Johnson to 1-year contracts. Setting aside Reed, who is great to have on the team, injured or not, the Cotts and Gaudin signings didn’t really work out so good. Cotts especially had a disastrous time with the big-league club, albeit limited. Cubs Richter Scale: 3.5

12.16.2008 Signed free agent Joey Gathright to a one-year contract. He left town quicker than you can say “car-jumping,” in a later move. Cubs Richter Scale: 0.085

12.31.2008 Traded Mark DeRosa to Cleveland in exchange for pitchers Jeff Stevens, Chris Archer, and John Gaub. The Cubs have struggled to find run production anywhere in the lineup. 2B has been an offensive black hole. When Ramirez was out, 3B produced similar suction. The pitching prospects might help down the road, but this season, only Stevens has helped at all. What’s worse, DeRosa has made the division-leading Cardinals that much better. This one hurts more the longer the season goes on, and nobody but nobody liked this deal at the time it was made. Cubs Richter Scale: 9

12.31.2008 Signed POC Aaron Miles to a 2-year contract. Yes, the same day the DeRosa deal went down, Hendry also signed the human out. The New Year’s Eve drinking started plenty early in the Hendry house. This has to go down as the single worst day of the offseason. Aaron Miles was sketched in as a possible everyday starter on the Cubs roster. He’s hitting .174. In the 2nd half, he’s hitting .038. The Cubs are paying him two and a half million bucks to do that. Cubs Richter Scale: 5 (but considering how tiny Aaron Miles is, that’s a tremendous shock)

1.5.2009 Signed LHP Bill White (aka Guillermo Blanco) to a minor league deal. I put this in here only for the Blanco joke. Cubs Richter Scale: NA

1.6.2009 Traded RHP Jason Marquis to the Rockies for RHP Luis Viscaino. In the baseball sense, this move helped the Rockies immensely. He has 14 wins (and has reached double-digit win totals for 6 years running) and a 3.75 ERA. From the business side, the Cubs wound up paying Luis Viscaino a few million bucks to get released by every team in baseball. Since financial restrictions were such a pressing factor in the offseason, it would have helped to gain a productive salary instead. While I don’t think the Cubs have been hurt all that much by not having him, the Rockies are leading the Wild Card race, so . . . that hurts. Cubs Richter Scale: 2.5

1.8.2009 Signed Milton Bradley to a 3-year, incentive-laden contract worth up to $30 million. I’ve said before that Cub fans put too much blame on Bradley for the 2009 debacle. It is pretty standard for newly signed veterans (Alfonso Soriano, Jacque Jones, Derrek Lee, Moises Alou) to struggle in their first half-season at Wrigley. Since then, Bradley has been productive and healthy. Some chastise him for the distraction he has been, but I don’t see how anything that distracts attention away from this team could be viewed as a bad thing. Bottom line: if a clubhouse distraction is the reason you’re losing, you suck. Yes, the Cubs did commit a lot of money to Bradley, but not so much that they couldn’t have kept DeRosa and just not traded for Kevin Gregg or signed Aaron Miles. Cubs Richter Scale: -2.0 Yes. That’s right. I’m saying he’s helped the Cubs. Deal with it.

1.18.2009 Traded Felix Pie to the Orioles for pitchers Garrett Olson and Henry Williiamson. Painful, but hardly damaging for this season. Although it did pave the way for their next move. Cubs Richter Scale: Owie

1.28.2009 Traded Garrett Olson and Ronny Cedeno to the Mariners for Aaron Heilman. I feel like Heilman has gotten some bad breaks and that he would be better as a starting pitcher than a reliever. But he hasn’t provided much relief to Cub fans. He has a WHIP of 1.5, an ERA of 4.35, and opponents are slugging .422 off of him. I view him as the replacement for Bobby Howry, and he’s been precisely that. Not good. Cubs Richter Scale: 6.5

1.30.2009 Signed Paul Bako to a 1-year contract. He didn’t make the team. Cubs Richter Scale: —

2.2.2009 Traded Rich Hill to the Orioles for PTBN and traded Michael Wuertz to the A’s for prospects Richie Robnett and Justin Sellers. Rich Hill is struggling. But Michael Wuertz has a 3.09 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP, and a .205 batting average against for the A’s. I always liked Wuertz, even though he struggled with his control (his strikeout to walk ratio is up to 4.3 now, though). Given the struggles of the Cub bullpen, this oft overlooked deal deserves more attention. Cubs Richter Scale: 7.4


Aside from minor league deals and other insignificant moves, that’s the sum total of the 2009 Cubs offseason. Now, you might be wondering about letting Henry Blanco and Kerry Wood walk away, but in my opinion A) those aren’t really moves, they’re just moves that didn’t get made; and B) neither one would have been a whole lot of help to this Cubs team. Koyie Hill is a white Hank White. Kevin Gregg has been Kerry without the blisters.

So, yeah, if I could undo one move, I have to admit it would be the DeRosa trade. If the Cubs had not acquired Kevin Gregg, Aaron Miles, and Aaron Heilman, we still could have afforded Milton Bradley.  If we’ve learned nothing else, it’s that we should take away Jim Hendry’s cell phone this New Year’s Eve.

NOTE: If you’re on Twitter, let your displeasure be heard (and read) by clicking the “tweets” box to the left.