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Cubs in Five

Womackolypse Now: Blowing Up the Cubs, Pt. 1
by Jeff Webber

The horror... The horror...

The Cubs season is over. It's dead. Seriously: forget about it. They are 16 games back for the division lead, next to last in the Wild Card standings, and they sport a humiliating sub .400 winning percentage. Tony freaking Womack is playing every day at second and leadoff. These are dark days, friends.

Never mind wondering when Prior will get his fastball back. Never mind wondering whether Kerry Wood or Wade Miller will contribute this year. With the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline fast approaching, the questions we should be asking are: what can we sell off, and who's buying?

And with that, we give you this week's edition, Part One in a Series of Two.

One: Kerry Wood to the Texas Rangers
The Cubs hold a $13 million option on Kerry Wood for 2007 and I'll bet you $14 million they won't exercise it. Really, it's time to exorcise Wood. Cast that devil back to Texas from whence he came. Let the Rangers worry about his arm, his shoulder, his attitude. We'll take one of their top pitching prospects in return: John Danks or Thomas Diamond would do just fine, thanks.

Two: Greg Maddux to the Los Angeles Dodgers
As discussed here previously, Maddux makes his home in Vegas, not far from La-La Land. You don't think he'd jump this sinking ship to pitch for a contender in one of the best pitching parks in baseball, and a thousand miles closer to home to boot? The Dodgers already have Rafael Furcal, Cesar Izturis and Joel Guzman piled up on their depth chart at shortstop, so maybe they'd be willing to part with 20-year-old Korean phenom Chin-Lung Hu, who has been described as a Rey Ordonez who can actually hit. Yeah, we've already got a shortstop, but let's light a fire under him.

Three: Dusty Baker to the Unemployment Office
Whether you "trusty" Dusty or hate his guts, there seems little arguing that what he's doing isn't working. Is it his particular management style? Is he just a poor fit in Chicago? Was it that he was never given the right players to begin with? In any case, a change in course is obviously needed. How about trying to lure former Mets skipper Bobby Valentine back from Japan? Until then, grabbing a promising AAA manager to serve as an interim guy would at least clear the air.

Four: Aramis Ramirez to the Philadelphia Phillies
Hate the idea of losing one of our best hitters? So am I. But it may happen whether we like it or not. Aramis has a clause in his contract that allows him to opt out of the last two years of his deal and pursue free agency if he is unhappy with the Cubs' current direction. You've got to figure that's looking a lot like a Get out of Jail Free Card to a player on a team losing 61 percent of its games. And with AA third-sacker Scotty Moore looking more and more like a potential regular, the loss gets much easier to take. Top Philly right-handed pitching prospect Scott Mathieson would be a nice starting point for a deal.

Five: Tens of Millions of Dollars into the Cubs' Coffers
What do these first four initial deals accomplish? They unload tens of millions of dollars of salary weight for the 2007 season, giving them ample wiggle room for some serious free agent spending. And with the added benefit of picking up some useful prospects in return.

Next Week: Prior, Rusch, Walker, Pierre, and Jones... pack your bags.

Sox in Five

Like a Pair of Thoroughbreds
by Steve Gozdecki

As of this writing (early Monday evening), the Chicago White Sox have the second-best record in major league baseball. Unfortunately, this 44-25 team is in the same division as the club with the best record in baseball, the 46-24 Detroit Tigers. While the Sox spent the weekend trying to help the Cubs out by sweeping the Reds on the road, the Cubs got swept by the Tigers in yon Friendly Confines.

And so the Sox trudge onward, playing pretty good ball while chasing a foe that forever appears just beyond arm's reach — at least until they next meet head to head. And on that note, let's do us some Sox in Five.

One: Muck a Buck
Not for nothing does a Google search of "'Buck Showalter' + ass" yield just under 10,000 hits, though something tells me substituting Ozzie Guillen for Buck may bring about similar results. Anywaydehowdy, the Texas Rangers manager had starting pitcher Vicente Padilla bean Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski twice last Wednesday night. (But not in the same at-bat — that would be considered excessive force.) The second beaning started the spinning of a whole web of weirdness, as the umps then gave a warning to both teams that the next pitcher to throw at someone would get tossed, even though the Sox hadn't yet buzzed any of the Rangers. At this point, Ozzie opted to try to do some headhunting, ordering Sean Tracey — who has lousy control, but who was also the most expendable guy in the 'pen should, say, a suspension result — to try to bean Hank Blalock. When the rookie pitcher failed to do so, he was removed after getting Blalock to ground out. The Comcast Sports Net cameras didn't show it during the broadcast, but Ozzie then got into Tracey's face back in the dugout, and the kid was subsequently banished to the minors when the Sox made their next roster move.

Two: At the Risk of Not Being a Doofus, I Will Not Make a Play on Our New Relief Pitcher's Name
Of course, the real reason that wild young Sean Tracey is back down in Charlotte is because the Sox acquired veteran right-handed reliever David Riske from the Boston Red Sox late Wednesday. Though he's been troubled by back problems this season, the 29-year-old Riske is a good'un, having posted a career ERA just a shade over 3.5 and averaging nearly a strikeout per inning during the course of his seven-year big league career. The price was right, too — left-handed reliever Javier Lopez, who posted gaudy numbers down at AAA Charlotte this year but would slot in behind Neal Cotts and Matt Thornton on the lefty reliever depth chart, was all it took to get Riske from the lefty-starved BoSox.

Three: Get Him While He's Hot!
Don't look now, but Jon Garland has put together decent starts his last two times out, and even went yard yesterday against the Cincinnati Reds. So this is it, the streak we've waited for, and now it's time for Jonny G to swagger around and party like it's early 2005 once more, right? Wrong! It's time to work the phones and see if we can trade Jonny Cakes and his heinous contract and sucky "pitch to contact" approach to pitching! While rumors that he'd be swapped for Aaron Rowand appear to be unfounded, the Sox have Brandon McCarthy ready to step into the rotation and Garland is the starting pitcher the Sox would miss the least were he to be traded for a center fielder or a strong bullpen arm and a prospect. Of course, wishing don't/won't make it so, and with a 5.58 ERA despite his recent successes and his usual weak strikeout rate, Garland isn't the most desirable trade target. *Sigh.*

Four: All Stars All Around
While we're still a few weeks away from the All Star game, it's never too early to start speculating which Sox Ozzie will choose to bring with him to the game, what with him being the AL manager this year and thus having a lot of say as to which pitchers and backup fielders will make the team. While the voting in the American League has been dominated by the Yankees and Red Sox — collectively, members of these teams are in the top two in voting at seven of the eight positions on the ballot, though not all are deserving (I'm looking at you, Robinson Cano and Mark Loretta) — a half-dozen White Sox seem likely to end up on the team. Clearly the big three of the Sox batting order — Jim Thome, Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye — will make it, while third sacker Joe Crede, Pierzynski and even second baseman Tadahito Iguchi are dark-horse candidates. There's a decent chance that sure things Mark Buerhle and Jose Contreras will each be halfway to 20 wins by the All Star break (with Contreras likely to start the game), and they could well be joined on the squad by flame-throwing closer Bobby Jenks.

Five: Even Though There Are Two Ds in Podsednik, There Is Really No D in Podsednik
One All Star surprise from last year who doesn't seem destined to make a repeat appearance in this year's game is left fielder Scott Podsednik, who is scuffling at the plate again, rarely stealing bases and stinking it up in the outfield with six errors through the season's first 11 weeks. Take it away, Ozzie: "I don't know if it's concentration, but [Podsednik] should be better. It comes from work. So many things can happen in fielding, and I believe in defense. That's why sometimes we replace him in the outfield. I don't want to take the bat away from him, but if the time's coming, I will do that." You know Pods, when infielder-by-trade Rob "No Instincts or Range" Mackowiak is your designated defensive replacement, you may just be a bad outfielder. When you're thought of as Juan Pierre minus the glove, you may just be a bad player. Returning for a moment to my April mantra, it's time to put someone who can hit out in left field and move Iguchi to leadoff.

Fire in Five

by Steve Gillies

...is still on hiatus while Steve enjoys the World Cup up close in Germany.

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Comments

Michelle / June 20, 2006 1:25 AM

Steve, I believe Garland has a no-trade clause -- can't move him until November.

And you be nice to William Nathaniel Showalter III. Remember, he
holds the key to baseball.

Pete / June 20, 2006 9:06 AM

Garland for the Cubs' Pie. You know he's not going to produce for the Cubs once they bring him up, so lets just quit the semantics.

Steve / June 20, 2006 10:04 AM

What Pete said -- I like the idea of the Sox perpetually appearing to steal prospects from the Sox only to have the players prove to be decidedly meh over the course of their careers. And if we can flip the meh boys back to the Cubs each time we acquire a suspect prospect, all the better.

Jeff Webber / June 20, 2006 1:21 PM

The Cubs wouldn't include Pie in a deal for the likes of Miguel Tejada or Bobby Abreu, and now you're hoping they'll give him up for someone'shighly paid struggling fifth starter?

Good luck with that.

Pete / June 20, 2006 1:38 PM

...but our struggling fifth starter is better than your #2. The real risk is that he'd tear his labrum at the Cub's press conference.

Jeff Webber / June 21, 2006 1:15 AM

Careful with the "our" and "your" comments. As has been noted in this space a dozen or more times, I am an insanely rabid Sox fan as well as a Cubs fan. Call it Bisoxual, but I call it twice as much baseball. (So why do I write the Cubs column? Being disappointed with the Cubs is much easier to write about than being elated with the Sox... just ask Steve.)

And while I realize you were smack talking (and yeah, it was funny... particularly the labrum line), I'd rather have Maddux, Marshall, or Marmol over Garland and I might even take Guzman.

Garland got stupid lucky last year on BABiP and I think the Sox will be lucky if he goes back to being a league average pitcher again. He might get unloaded, but I seriously doubt he'll get traded for much of value.

Jason / June 23, 2006 8:57 AM

Jeff, Jon Garland is 6-3 on the year, and while I know that his ERA is quite high, I don't know what about 6-3 doesn't make him more than a league average pitcher already.

As for value, in the sad state of baseball today, a pitcher who goes .500, gets 200 innings and doesn't get hurt has tremendous value. He has basically done that every year he's started 30 games.

Now, of course, it would be ludicrous for the Cubs to trade Pie for him, but I think he has value...but he also has a no-trade.

 

About the Author(s)

Jeff Webber spends hours and hours every day taking in every printed, spoken, and broadcast word he can find about the Chicago Cubs, and each week till the end of the season he's boiling them down into five simple crib notes you can use to stay on top of any watercooler or corner bar Cubs discussion. Send comments to cubs@gapersblock.com.

Steve Gozdecki has been a White Sox fan his entire life, with the exception of an ill-advised flirtation with the 1984 Cubs in the days when his town wasn't wired for cable. Because he swears by the work of the "baseball outsiders," who believe that statistical analysis trumps old truisms like subjective evaluation and team chemistry, he found himself pleasantly surprised when the Sox won it all last year. Each week through the 2006 season, Steve will bring you five crucial talking points you can use the next time someone says, "Hey, how 'bout them Sox?" Send comments to sox@gapersblock.com.

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