In Wrigleyville, the last rites of October?

Meh-eh-eh! Meh-eh-eh!

I’m in the Wrigley Field dungeon doubling as a media workroom. It’s the top of the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, and Mark Prior has a four-hit shutout and the Cubs within five outs of the World Series, and the Marlins’ Luis Castillo has just hit a lazy foul ball down the left field line which Moises Alou is about to catch before Steve Bartman gets in the way.

The writers look up from their computer screens at the TV monitors around the room, look at each other and we can hear the goat bleating in the background.

Then Miguel Cabrera’s likely inning-ending double-play grounder is booted by Alex Gonzalez, whose 10 errors during the regular season made him the top fielding shortstop in the National League.

And us writers now can see the black cat, too.

Eight Florida runs later, all the premonitions have come true.

So now the Cubs are back. If they are going to bury all the hexes of the past 107 years, they’re going to need a mass grave …

Speaking of graves, eight more wins and you no longer will be able to find this in your neighborhood Hallmark shop:

The cheers for Terry Collins’ redemption add fuel to the feeling that Dusty Baker, too, deserves another shot at managing after two painful seasons on the outs. Hope Karma wasn’t in play when he interviewed for the Nationals’ opening on the 12th anniversary of The Bartman Game. … 

 

No shortage of storylines in the League Championship Series about to kick off, and one common theme is underling-becomes-rival.

 

Collins’ bench coach in Anaheim was Joe Maddon — who took over as the Angels’ interim manager when Collins was dismissed on Sept. 3, 1999.

 

John Gibbons stayed on as the Royals’ bench coach following Trey Hillman’s early-2010 firing and remained in that capacity under Ned Yost through 2011. …

6 Comments

Mr. Singer,
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I read somewhere recently that since the All-Star break, the Mets hit the most HR’s of any team in the Majors, and the Cubs hit the second most. Which means — if the wind is blowing “out” at Wrigley — it oughtta be fun to watch, for offensive-minded baseball fans, don’t’cha think ?? Kewl.
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And speaking of HR’s, the Arizona Fall League is now well underway. And guess who hit two HR’s in what I think was his first game in this year’s AFL ?? That’s right, you guessed it. None other than JaCoby Jones. A quote from Mr. Biertempfel at the time of the Joakim Soria trade —
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According to Rob Biertempfel, the Tigers will receive minor league shortstop JaCoby Jones as their return for Soria. This will likely be a bitter pill to swallow for some Pirates fans, as the toolsy Jones was somewhat of a cult favorite among the prospect-watching set. Jones, who was recently promoted to Altoona, has speed and power and arm strength, and he could very well end up as an everyday player in the major leagues within the next few years. Still, Jones’s continuing issues with contact and decreased performance in 2015 mean that he’s far from a sure thing, and established closers like Soria never come cheap at the trade deadline.
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Count me in as one of the cult followers. Yeppers, I know, Mr. Soria did quite well for the Buccos down the stretch, but isn’t he now a Free Agent, and if so, isn’t it incumbent upon the Pirates to re-sign him ?? Doing that — and of course if he has another good year — may just be enough to ease the pain of losing JaCoby.
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And speaking of hitting, I see that Adam Frazier hit two triples for the Glendale Desert Dogs. Maybe he will be a middle infielder in our future ?? I’m not at all ‘sold’ on Alen Hanson — although perhaps someone can bring up something to convince me I should be . . .
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And speaking of the Glendale Desert Dogs, is that the only AFL team on which Buccos prospects (Frazier, Meadows, McGuire, & Brault) are playing ?? I think so, but I’m not sure. And what’s the inside skinny on Steven Brault ?? I know some commentators seem to be raving about his future career prospects, but given that nifty article you wrote recently about tall pitchers . . . (Brault is “only” 6 foot-one.)
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And speaking of Elias Diaz, I see he won a rather prestigious award from Baseball America —
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http://www.baseballamerica.com/minors/captains-catcher-award-catcher-year-elias-diaz/
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That young man simply MUST start 2016 with The Big Club. Otherwise, I — for one — shall be slightly mortified.
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And then there’s the 2B situation for 2016. Mr. Walker may be too expensive, but the thought of Mr. Harrison playing there instead . . . Not my cup of tea. And like the homer-happy Mets and Cubs, if it’s true that Going Yard wins an awful lot of important (read post-season) games (something I firmly believe when almost all pitchers are pretty good or better, and “small ball” has almost no chance of succeeding), I think we better bulk up on the power hitting category. Couldn’t Jung-ho Kang play 2B and then the Buccos find a rilly good power-hitting 3B-man to go along with him, and with Mr. Alvarez ??
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I didn’t realize it until I looked it up, but Mr. Kang had the third highest ISO ranking in 2015 of all the Pirates, except for Messrs. Alvarez and McCutchen. A fair decent ISO score of .173
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By contrast, Josh Harrison’s 2015 ISO was .103 — and it’s not as if Josh is exactly a defensive whiz . . .
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Alvarez at 1B, Kang at 2B, Mercer at SS, and Mystery Man X (a/k/a the Bulk Hulk Crusher) at 3B. That could be a pretty good infield with some post-season capable power. But who could that Mystery Man X be?
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Inquiring minds want to know.
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Hi Tom!
I am ensconced in the lonely, if interesting postseason.
It hurts to know we ate the Mets all year. The Jays simply have to win today starting at 4p today after yesterday’s fireworks.
robs is a baseball savant, and I love a lot of what he says, but surely disagree on others:
1. PEDRO’S GOTTA GO! We hang our hat on the fact he helped us in ’13, and hits a few timely dingers (BTW not close to 40). He completely sucks defensively (my diagnosis is terrible ADD), and his path to a successful future, as everyone knows, is to be an AL DH.
robs position HAS to be based on the reality no one wants him in either league (not even his father-in-law), and unfortunately his best value is we are stuck with him.
2. Jeff Branson MUST be …… oh, wait, he WAS fired in May. Please let me restate… Jeff Branson MUST be escorted from the property. The Janquis just did it, let’s follow suit. Can anyone in Pittsburgh spell ‘CHILI DAVIS’?!
3. The Buccos have to start preparing now for a strong start to the 2016 season. Our start to 2015 and our 1-5 return from the ASG put us in the position we were in.
4. The loss of Jung Ho was a death knell for us, period.
5. PEDRO’S GOTTA GO!!!
All the postseason love I have the energy to give,
Cozmo in Orlando

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Cozmo,
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Hey, amigo, I can feel your pain
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When it comes to Pedro.
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But over the past 3 – 4 years, hasn’t he hit more HR’s than just about anybody in baseball ?? (I think 3rd or fourth most — I can’t remember the statistic, precisely.) But if we do say sayonara to El Toro, who would we be able to replace him with who could at least put up a 20 HR season ??? Look at the 16 1B’men this year (both leagues) who had a WAR of 2.0 or better. The *lowest* number of HR’s hit by this group was 18. (With four of the sixteen over 30 HR’s, and one of them over 40.)
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So whom might we expect in return for Pedro if he was traded. A couple of high-level prospects, and maybe some way-past-his-prime guy ?? Our Buccos had only a mediocre team WAR this year (final ranking,11th out of 30) — part of that, I think, because as a team we only hit 140 HR’s (23rd out of 30 ML teams). That’s ninety homers fewer than the Blue Jays, eighty homers fewer than the still re-building Astros, even 37 homers fewer than the also still-rebuilding Mets. If we trade Mr. Alvarez for prospects and/or have beens, don’t we run the risk of moving even further away from a formidable offensive machine ??
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I admit it’s a dilemma. But I just can’t see getting rid of the team’s HR leader — for prospects or whatever — when the team is far from an offensive juggernaut overall, in the first place. For example, look at the following statistic. “ISO” — a measure of overall power hitting — this past season only three teams in the National League had “weaker”/lower power-hitting numbers: the Phillies, the Marlins, and the Braves.
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http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=nl&qual=0&type=8&season=2015&month=0&season1=2015&ind=0&team=0,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=10,d
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imo, we have to improve/bolster our power hitting capabilities, not take a real chance of making it even worse by trading our team HR leader for gosh-knows-who in exchange.
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regards
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OK robs, my man, but then El Toro needs meds for ADD, a personal fielding coach, and a sports psychologist.

Cozmo,
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At this point, whatever it takes . . .
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I may be in a minority here — because after all, a win is a win — and although I am of course quite pleased with how well our Buccos did, overall the team was not as formidable as most 98-season-win teams seem to be. Part of that was reflected in the “pythagorean” — that is, the number of games we *should* have won based on our overall runs-scored versus runs-allowed. That should have produced 93 wins, still a very good season, but still not dominant. (And I *LIKE* it when our guys can just blow other teams away on a regular basis. To me, that’s the Holy Grail.)
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And consider the following statistical comparison. The Mets, who now seemed destined to go to the World Series, are clearly peaking at the right time. (They have the young pitching staff that we wish we had.) But in getting to the post-season, during the Regular Season, they had a Won/Loss record of 25-24 in one run games.
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Our Buccos’ W/L record (in 2015) in one-run games ??
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36 – 17
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Some of that is skill, or course, esp. with reference to our bull-pen. But any number of those one-run wins could have gone the other way. (And as Mr. Singer noted in an earlier article, it was the three early-season one-run losses to the Cardinals that might have gone a long way in sealing our eventual fate.) And the offense often did seem to continually trying to “catch up” after early runs allowed. Another season recap point he made. Boasting about x-number of comebacks wins?? The ever Battlin’ Buccos and all that stuff. Me, I’ve *never* been impressed with “comeback wins.” All that tells me is the team started out playing worse than the other guys in way too many games.
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There are fans who all year were saying “We need more hitting.” (And I might add, more power-hitting.) Apparently, you were one of those lucid, and baseball savvy, fans. And you and I are both on the same wavelength, that it’s an area that MUST be improved over the winter, because we cannot be guaranteed of going +19 wins next season in one-run games.
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regards
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robs-
Totally agree re the hitting. And I am one who subscribes to the major value of superior coaching. Even in the Bigs.
I am weary of calling for the ouster of Jeff Branson since May. In a previous rant, I explained a great hitting coach must be a combination of a master mechanic and a sports psychologist.
Not hard to study and get the mechanics down. “Keep your head on the ball, stay back, keep your back shoulder up through the swing, extend”. Etc. Even Branson, who was not a decent hitter himself, can watch a film and get that down.
It’s the thinking process that makes the difference. Agreed, the big ball is reimportant this year. But as we were going down in flames early this year I begged for Branson to instruct singles and doubles for a while. Cutch always starts slow. HELLO- HE GREW UP IN FLORIDA!! But Jung Ho thankfully opened the JHK School of Player Development, put JaHa, Mercer, and Walker on notice, and things started to change.
I agree we need to add power. But we need to cover the small ball too. That comes from an enlightened hitting coach.

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