The Economics of the Cubs Dodgers Deal

If the buzz leading up to the trade that sent Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot, and cash to the Dodgers for Wallach, Smit, and DeWitt, the primary snag prolonging the negotiations was the matter of just how much if any cash should be smuggled along with Lilly’s things. The number everyone was throwing around was $4 million. Ignoring the talent of the various pieces being swapped, I wanted to look at how much the Cubs are saving by making this deal.

I don’t know how anyone ascertains exactly how much is left on a player’s deal, but looking at the regular season alone, the Cubs had about 36% of their games left to play. I know that’s not perfect, but it’s close enough for me: it would leave Lilly with $4.37 million remaining on his contract and Theriot with $947 thousand (MLB Trade Rumors put them at $4.24 million and $918K). Like I said, it’s not perfect, but I’m okay with that margin of error for the sake of argument.

What I do know is that a lot of Cubs fans really liked Ted Lilly and/or Ryan Theriot, and the idea of jettisoning them to LA for a younger version of Theriot and paying the Dodgers to take Lilly strikes many fans as Hendriotic. But it’s not quite that simple or depressing.

The Cubs will pay the Dodgers $2.5 million and (by my crude calculations) pay Blake DeWitt less than $150,000 for the remainder of this year (and a cost-controlled salary for the foreseeable future); the two prospects will also cost the Cubs a negligible amount. That’s the money the Cubs have to say goodbye to as a result of the deal: $2.7 million or so.

Even using the slightly reduced numbers for Lilly and Theriot’s remaining contracts (about $5.16 million), that relieves the Cubs of about $2.6 million of payroll. Yes, it could potentially cost the Cubs the two compensatory draft picks they would have received if they had offered Lilly arbitration and lost him on the free agent market (or they’ll have to yield picks of their own if Hendry re-signs him). But there’s no guarantee Hendry would have offered Lilly arbitration.

As it is, the Cubs have an extra $2.6 million or so heading into next offseason. Obviously it would be best spent on the first of three installments paid an overpriced and injury-prone free-agent outfielder’s signing bonus, but we can only hope that dream comes to fruition.

I’ve really just wasted my time on this, haven’t I?

Lilly and Theriot to Become Dodgers, Cubs get Blake DeWhatnow?

UPDATE II: It’s Kyle Smit, not Smith and Brett Wallach, not Walch. I interpreted Smit’s name as an abbreviation and Walch as the entire name . . . got those two mixed up.

UPDATE: Jayson Stark is saying the Cubs will, along with Blake DeWitt, receive minor leaguers Brett Walch & Kyle Smith, and the Cubs will pay $2.5 million of Lilly’s remaining $4 million in salary. I feel it’s my duty to pretend to care, and I’ll update when I muster up enough feigned emotion to do so.

About a million people are tweeting that the Cubs and Dodgers have completed a deal sending Lilly and Theriot to LA in exchange for infielder Blake DeWitt and prospects. I’ll update when it becomes officially official.

Curse of Cubs Fans: We’re Jinxing Them

World’s Greatest Fans = World’s Worst Luck

Theodore Roosevelt Lilly stood atop the rain-soaked Wrigley Field mound Sunday night with a chance of realizing every pitcher’s dream: a no-hitter. During any no-no, pressure mounts for the pitcher, all the players, and the fans with every passing out. But this one carried a unique flair as both starting pitchers stretched their hitless performances into inning number seven. At least for this fan watching and tweeting from the comfort of his living room couch and referring to himself in the third person, the pressure of seeing Lilly preserve his chance at history was greatly reduced by Gavin Floyd’s pursuit of his own historicity.

The double bid seemed to cancel out the cardinal rule of superstitious baseball etiquette: don’t jinx the no-no.

Now, one might think that recording 27 outs without allowing a single hit is impossibly rare, not due to the speech patterns of observing fans, but because of just how easy it is for a professional baseball player to get a hit, especially given almost 30 opportunities to do so. I mean, think about that for a minute. If an individual player slides into an 0-27 slump, fans would boo him mercilessly. Aramis Ramirez, as bad as this year has been for him, never went 27 at bats without a hit (though he did reach an 0-20 hole). Aaron Miles’s colossal failfest in 2010 topped out at 20 consecutive hitless at bats. As bad as that looked, Miles never took a personal no-hit streak past the theoretical seventh inning.

So if it’s that rare for a hitter at his worst to make 27 outs before recording a single hit, shouldn’t we attribute the fall of a no-hitter to the overwhelming improbability of a pitcher retiring 27 batters without allowing even a remote base knock? Do we really need to add to the improbability by expecting all of humanity to refrain from saying, “no-hitter,” until it’s over?

Yes, maybe we do. A lot of people mentioned the no hitter, and it didn’t happen for either guy. Obviously we screwed it up. I mean, come on, what are the chances that the no-hitters would be broken up by Alfonso Soriano (who had been 1 for his previous 22) and Juan Pierre (0 for his last 11)? That’s gotta be roughly the same odds as Lady Gaga blending in . . . anywhere. Fate must have intervened.

Since I’m exploring the various ways in which Cub fans are destroying their own team, I want to look at more than just the disintegration of the no-hitter. What if the jinx goes beyond single-game probabilities? What if Cub fans are jinxing this team’s World Series chances because we can’t stop talking about 1908?

Obviously broadcasters aren’t playing along. You can’t go past the third inning of a nationally broadcast Cubs game (or, for that matter, an hour into any broadcast of any game in any sport in which either team is or has a chance of becoming the reigning world champion) without hearing a reference to the Cubs’ championship drought. But broadcasters have a job to do and time to fill. You can’t really expect them to shut up about it.

The fans are even worse, and I might be the chief among sinners. This entire blog is a shrine to the neverending chronicle of winlessness. Is it possible that every time I mention the (at least) 102-year span between championship celebrations, I lower the already infinitesimal probability that the Cubs might actually win it all?

Of course it’s possible. You could say it’s bordering on undeniable fact. All we have to do to ensure the Cubs end the curse of the billy goat (which is stupid and doesn’t exist and every sensible person knows this beyond a shadow of a doubt) is to go an entire year without any of us saying anything about a World Series or 1908 or 100+ years or any of that. Because every time we do, we are angering the baseball gods. And, if you haven’t noticed, the baseball gods are already pretty ticked off at the Cubs. If the Cubs were Ferris Bueller, the baseball gods would be Edward Rooney. But the Cubs aren’t Ferris Bueller. They’re Cameron Frye. They could be Abe flipping Froman, but it still wouldn’t change the fact that they have to bum trophies off of people.

But look, I can’t tell you what to do. Mention 1908. Don’t mention 1908. Just know that by doing so, we’re all jinxing the Cubs on a daily basis and we are killing this team’s chances at a World Series. When you sit there scratching your head, yelling at your TV, or trying to suffocate yourself with a 1945 commemorative pillow wondering how this team could play so badly, just remind yourself that it’s our fault. We’re jinxing it with every passing mention of the legacy of futility and the for baseball absolution that comprises the anguish and unrequited anticipation that is Cub fandom.

Are You Feeling Randy, Baby?

Somebody else is going to win the NL Rookie of the Year award. The conventional Cubbie wisdom is that Ted Lilly is the clear-cut MVP of the staff. Ask most Cub fans about the biggest bright spot of the year, and they’ll probably tell you Derrek Lee’s return to form as a power hitter and RBI machine was the crowning jewel on this otherwise thorny season’s head gear.

But for me, Randy Wells has been the 2009 Cubs’ ace and its most significant agent of redemption. (He’s not the NL Rookie of the Year, but he’s in the top 5, for sure.)

Looking just at the numbers, you’ll see that Wells and Lilly are tied with 12 wins (Ryan Dempster could join them with a win in the finale). They each have 27 starts. Lilly has pitched 11 2/3 more innings.Wells has the edge in the ERA column (3.05 to Lilly’s 3.10). Lilly has one less loss (9) than the rookie, and a lower WHIP (1.06 to Wells’s 1.41). But Wells also yields a lower slugging percentage (.365) than TRL (.393) and has given up 8 fewer homers (14/22). I’d say you can call the stats a draw.

The reason I give the (very slight) pitching edge to Wells is the simple fact that he didn’t miss starts. After the All Star break and in late September, Lilly missed some starts, had some surgery, and probably saved the free world from a terrorist attack. Wells missed games until late May because he wasn’t on the team. In the end, I award the better excuse trophy to Randy.

But more than that, Randy Wells really saved the emotion of this season for me. When he first took the mound, I severely doubted his potential. He just didn’t look like a guy who was going to win you many games. Once he started willing his way through lineups, attacking the strike zone as if to say, “Screw this paint the black garbage, I’m hungry for outs,” he looked like a winner. But he didn’t win.

Despite giving up just 12 runs in his first 7 starts (good for a 2.55 ERA) Wells didn’t notch a win until his 8th start of the season. But he didn’t let it bother him. He never allowed the failures of his bullpen and offense disrupt his consistent pitching performance. And he now has a share of the team lead in wins to show for it.

I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Derrek Lee this season, don’t get me wrong. But every time Wells pitched, I was particularly excited to see what he might do. He impressed me well above my expectations. So did Lilly. So did Lee. But the excitement level of seeing the kid do it–after not even knowing his name heading into spring training–will be the single most positive memory I hold onto from this season.

Is It Time for Curt?

Ted Lilly’s hurt. Could be awhile before he’s able to start again. And Curt Schilling’s not doing anything.

It’s been a long time since I said I wouldn’t mind seeing the guy who redefined Red Sox try to break some curses on the North Side. And I’m thinking it might be time to revisit the idea.
Adding Curt Schilling would give the Cubs a lot of versatility as to how they use their starters, especially as Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly work their way back to their normally rugged and dependable selves. It would allow Sean Marshall to stick with his role as the stellar situational lefty. Curt could pitch those extra days here and there when Rich Harden tries to avoid the daylight. And financially, the move could make sense, too.
As Bob Brenly probably remembers all too well, Curt Schilling was willing to take a back-loaded contract with the Diamondbacks when they were hurting financially. Would he do the same with the Cubbies for a shot at winning the most elusive championship in American sports?
Oh yeah. Would it work? A boy can dream.
Ted Lilly is now on the DL with an inflamed shoulder and, in a case of surgical schizophrenia, is slated for arthroscopic knee surgery. He’s likely to miss 4-5 starts (Cub-anese for three months). I hope Kevin Hart has a dynamite start today, but the Cubs need some help. Somebody get Schilling on the phone and get the turkey dinner ready. It’s time to bloody up some socks, people.

Cubs’ Injured as Numerous as All Stars in the Sky

With injuries sidelining Ted Lilly and Alfonso Soriano for at least a few days, the Cubs are close to fielding a team of All Stars who have missed time this year due to injury. Check out this list of Cubs All-Stars (mostly of past years, obviously) who have been bitten by the ravenous injury bug at some point this year:
Milton Bradley
Ryan Dempster
Derrek Lee
Ted Lilly
Carlos Marmol
Aramis Ramirez
Alfonso Soriano
Geovany Soto
Carlos Zambrano
Am I missing anyone? Again, this isn’t the list of Cubs who have been injured. This is the list of Cubs All Stars who have been injured. Cub All Stars have been injured nine times. Nine times! Granted, when they’ve been healthy, they haven’t played like All Stars this year, but the Cubs can ill-afford to lose anymore players of this calibre for any length of time.
Hopefully Ted Theodore Lilly (esquire) can plow through this injury like so many Molina brothers. But for now, the Cubs really should be thanking their unlucky All Stars they’re still in this pennant race.

Confirmed: Cardinal Fans Are Full of Crap

It wasn’t a surprise to hear card-carrying Cardinal Lovers Joe Buck and Tim McCarver lavishing praise on the St. Louis fans during the All Star festivities. But I had to giggle when they started discussing the respect the Cardinal faithful show to the opposition.
The hypocrisy was in full effect during the All-Star Game introductions, as evidenced with hilarity by this clip from a Chicago Sun-Times article on the All-Star proceedings:

Coming home

Among the American League All-Stars, White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle got the loudest ovation from the crowd at Busch Stadium during pregame introductions. Buehrle said he didn’t know what to expect, but doubted he would get booed.
Buehrle — a lifelong Cardinals fan — knows St. Louis baseball fans consider him one of their own.
”I remember when I was a kid, you come here and the Cardinals could lose 1-0 and they give the other pitcher a standing ovation if he pitched a good game,” said Buehrle, who grew up 25 minutes away in St. Charles, Mo. ”They enjoyed seeing good baseball. If someone hit three home runs or had a great game offensively, they were applauding the other team instead of booing them like most stadiums where they boo the opposing teams.”

Boos for Lilly

St. Louis fans have their limits and they showed that by booing Lilly — the Cubs’ lone representative. Lilly took it in stride, smiling as he tipped his cap.

I’m going to let you in on a secret: I agree that Cardinal fans are good fans. They follow their team, they wear the silly Cardinal gear, and they actually pay attention to the game. They do all the things fans are supposed to do . . . including booing the opposition. But I hate it when commentators like Buck and McCarver promote the ridiculous positive stereotype that all (or even most) Cardinal fans are prim, proper, dignified saints transported straight out of Victorian England. They can be just as rude, vulgar, vindictive, and disrespectful as the next fan.
And, like their White-Sox cheering counterparts, St. Louis fans are often consumed with anti-Cub obsession. Yes, despite the fact that both sets of fans have enjoyed multiple World Series championships since the Cubs last sniffed World Series glory, they are still preoccupied with hating on the Cubs. Why?
The answer is pretty simple. Cardinal fans are jealous. Jealous of the losing? No. Jealous of the drunken idiots populating Wrigley in ever-increasing numbers? Not so much. They’re simply jealous of the national adoration poured on a team they find undeserving of praise. Cardinal (and White Sox) fans who spontaneously spew insults at the Cubs and their fans are like People magazine readers who don’t understand why Julia Roberts keeps showing up in the “50 Most Beautiful People” issue. They just don’t get the fascination, and they hate us for it.
Okay, maybe they hate the drunken idiots and the loudmouths and the hypnotized drones who fail to recognize the success of other teams, too. But most of all, I think Cards fans resent the Cubs for being the default fan favorite of people who don’t really know or care about baseball.
If you’re a fan of the Cardinals and/or the Sox, I understand the sentiment. I understand why you don’t like the Cubs and their fans. But when you go out of your way to bash them, it just cheapens your image and your love of your teams. If it’s any consolation, a lot of us hate you, too. But most of us have the self-respect to avoid talking about you unless it’s absolutely necessary. This is one of those times.
Moving on . . .

Which Chicago Cub Are You? (It’s Scarily Accurate)

I hate those Facebook quizzes that make you answer five questions about something as arbitrary as your affinity for or aversion to cured meats and then proceed to tell you which Saved by the Bell character you are. First of all, the questions are always multiple choices, and all of the choices usually stink. Second of all, I am so not Kelly Kapowski.

But I think there’s potential in a “Which Chicago Cub Are You?” quiz, because this team is loaded with personalities I recognize from high school, former workplaces, and maybe a family reunion or two. I’ve probably seen flashes of Milton Bradley in my own mirror . . . partly because I can be moody, too, or perhaps because he’s stalking me for making fun of him. Either way, here are some of the possible results. See if any of these people sound familiar outside of Cubdom:
You are Carlos Zambrano. You have loads of potential and unlimited passion for everything you do. You’re the life of the party and you love to have fun. But sometimes your passion and intensity get the best of you, causing you to lose focus, lose control, and even lose a few friends. Your friends love you, your enemies fear you, but you have everyone’s attention.
You are Milton Bradley. You want nothing more to succeed, and some day that might happen. But you are easily hurt both emotionally and physically. Some people perform better when they’re angry; you are not some people. Those close to you regard you as the ultimate team player who is willing to do whatever it takes to win. Those not close to you have good reason. Still, you have plenty of skill just waiting to emerge, and if you’re surrounded by people who believe in you, you will be a shining star.
You are Ted Lilly. You generally let your actions speak louder than your words, which is good—saying, “I’m better than you, and you like it,” out loud can be rather unbecoming. What you lack in talent you more than make up for with fierce determination and skin as thick as rhino armor. Outside of a Cub uniform or a bar fight, most people wouldn’t recognize you in public. You also have a bit of a temper, but you can usually focus that productively. In those moments when you can’t, people know better than to get in your way.
You are Derrek Lee. You’re a gentle giant, smart, debonair, quick as a fox, and strong as an ox. Not easily ruffled, you measure your words, your responses, and your emotions. You lead not with speeches but by example. You keep things at an even keel, except when you’re exploding on a fastball over the plate or pouncing on a screaming line drive headed for the right field corner. Some people wish you’d be more outspoken and demonstrative, but you’re big and strong enough not to have to care what some people wish for.
You are Alfonso Soriano. When it comes to performance, you’re a human roller coaster, although you never wear your emotions on your sleeve. When you find you’re groove, there are none better, but when you get stuck in a rut . . . well, there are few worse. Your preferences and quirks have earned you a reputation as a prima donna, mostly undeserved. It’s not your fault if you get preferential treatment, you earned it? Your flair for the dramatic can, unfortunately, fizzle out on occasion. And your easy going style sometimes comes off as lackadaisical. But if you just keep walking softly and carrying a big stick, eventually, people will appreciate your even bigger upside.
You are Ryan Theriot. People don’t expect much from you at first, but you thrive on sneaking up on them with your scrappy, fiery approach. You work hard, play hard, laugh hard, and die hard. You try to be blue collar, you really do, but you just can’t seem to shed the image of the consensus clubhouse leader. Your biggest weakness just may be a propensity to forget how hard you have to work. Success will never come naturally for you; but when you chase it, it will never outrun you, either.
You are Ryan Dempster. You’re a complete goofball, and a scream at parties. But when you’re at work, you’re all business. Maybe people underestimate you because of your antics, but your professionalism will make short work of any doubters. You thrive on positive vibes and encouragement in a friendly environment, and conversely sometimes falter under intense pressure or adverse conditions. Focus is your best friend; lose it and you will wilt, but maintain it and you will dominate.
You are Lou Piniella. You know perfectly well who you are, and if I try to tell you, you’ll shoot a glare at me that says in no uncertain (yet silent) terms, “Shut up or I’ll bludgeon you with Santo’s prosthetic.” Next.
You are Ron Santo. You are 100% emotion. You rise and fall with the performance of those you hold most dear. People thrive on your emotion and sometimes laugh at the pure theater of your reactions. You deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, but this world sucks sometimes.
You are Carlos Marmol. You are equal parts wild, untouchable, breathtaking, and heartstopping. No one can control you . . . even you can’t control you. But can you grasp the wind and put it in your pocket? Can you put sunshine in a bottle? Can you tie a rainbow into a knot and tell it, “Stop being colorful”? No. Such is Marmol.
Okay, you get it. I’m not going to go through the entire 40-man roster, front office, and broadcasting booth. Maybe you could help me fill in the blanks. Go ahead, channel your inner Carrie Muskat.