Jimmy Is Blue, Should We Be Too?

May 16, 2008

What the

The signs of the impending apocalypse seem to grow more numerous every day. A black man with an African name will likely be the next President; there’s a pregnant dude (he is actually pregnant, I swear); and that’s just the real world. There are plenty of omens in baseball as well: the Rays are in first place while the Yankees are in last. And now this.

Jim Edmonds, arguably the most beloved St. Louis Cardinal of the decade and surely the greatest center fielder in franchise history, is now sporting Cubbie blue.

Plenty of smarter, more highly-paid people have already spilled lots of ink on the subject, but I just needed to share my thoughts and vent a little bit.

As a baseball decision: Anywhere from no net gain to very poor. Obviously, the Cubs are spending chump change on Jimmy, who will live comfortably off of the contract that the Padres released him from and which Walt Jocketty stupidly made in the afterglow of the 2006 World Series. It’s a low-risk signing, which is almost always good. But I don’t know that there is a high reward here. Most scouts who saw him with the Padres were looking for where to stick the fork – as in, he’s totally done. A few thought he was improving right before his release. None of his numbers or advanced stats were satisfactory. His presence also creates an opportunity cost, as he is effectively blocking Felix Pie, a stud-prospect with loads of upside, from contributing to the big club (though that probably wouldn’t be happening anyway with Piniella’s infuriating insistence on putting Reed Johnson out there every other day).

However, Edmonds’ numbers (offense and defense both) may have been depressed by playing in the Grand Canyon. I mean, Petco Park. Wrigley, with its snug outfield dimensions, crazy winds, and drunken, middle-aged Pollacks reaching over the fence for every flyball, could help Edmonds’ performance if he does have something left in the tank. The Cubs are the likeliest team from the Central to make the playoffs, so if Jimmy hangs around, sportswriters will hail the signing for bringing veteran experience to a weird, patchwork team. But we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.

As an ethical dilemma: I won’t address the issues Cubs fans will have with this signing, but I’m sure there are Cards fans out there who think that this makes Edmonds dead to us. To that I say a hearty, “Screw you.” It’s his prerogative to seek gainful employment from whoever offers it to him. I’ve said it before: players today just don’t care about these deep-seated rivalries between teams. Unless there’s a personal beef between individual players or managers, Cubs-Cards and Yankees-Red Sox is just meaningless hoopla for the media and fans to have fun. It is fun, and sometimes people get hurt, but it doesn’t affect the players.

Jerry Seinfeld has a well-known bit about how sports is just “rooting for laundry:” personnel changes don’t matter because we identify with the uniform more than anything. When Edmonds was traded to San Diego, I remember thinking that the laundry wouldn’t matter for this guy. Of course, Edmonds-as-Cub causes more cognitive dissonance than Edmonds-as-Padre, but I will have no problem rooting for him until he finally hangs it up for good.

I, like many other Cardinals fans, identified #15 as the heart of the team in the generally very successful years from 2000-2006. He was never the single best player on the team – but that was mostly because he played with Mark McGwire for two years and Albert Pujols for six.

2004 was the year of the MV3, but it was a defining season for Edmonds. Pujols just had a normal year (like Hank Aaron had normal years) while Rolen tore up the league and got MVP buzz in the first half before a slow, achy finish (have fun with that, Toronto!). Edmonds’ performance before the All-Star break was in line with his career averages. Then in July: .381/.475/.952 with 13 home runs. August: .359/.519/.795 with 10 more dingers.

After winning 105 games in the regular season, Edmonds made two iconic plays in the span of 24 hours during the NLCS. In Game Six, he hit a triumphant, no-doubt home run to win the game in the bottom of the twelfth.

In the second inning of Game Seven, with two men on and one out, Edmonds made a spectacular catch to preserve for the Cardinals a dubious matchup of Jeff Suppan versus Roger Clemens.

Watch the video of the catch on that page. Notice he was shaded to shallow right center and made that catch in deep left center. He emerged with a freaking divot in his belt buckle. I would love to see Andruw Jones try to make that catch on that play.

This is just the pinnacle of the impact Jim Edmonds had in St. Louis, of the memories he has made for me and so many others. That’s something no change of laundry can ever erase.

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Cubs’ Offense Watch: August (8/11)

August 11, 2007

It’s that time again! Let’s see how the Cubs’ offense, which ESPN predicted would be the second best in baseball, is doing with the majority of the season over. As always, we will be comparing them to the Yankees’ offense, which ESPN ranked as inferior.

  • CHC: 533 R (17th),  .330 OBP (17th), .740 OPS (18th)
  • NYY: 684 R (1st), .366 OBP (1st), .834 OPS (1st)

ESPN continues to wow us with its predictive powers.


I Don’t Believe What I Just Saw

July 16, 2007

Today, the Cubs traded for Jason Kendall.

Here comes the Cubs’ offense!


Cubs’ Offense Watch: All-Star Break (7/10)

July 10, 2007

Are the Cubs the second best offense in baseball, as ESPN predicted? Are they even close?

  • CHC: 396 R (20th), .327 OBP (20th), .739 OPS (18th)
  • NYY: 464 R (3rd), .357 OBP (2nd), .793 OPS (3rd)

It is the All-Star Break, and the Cubs’ offense still sucks. Like it did in April, May, and June. This really wasn’t that hard to predict, ESPN.


Cubs’ Offense Watch: 6/18

June 18, 2007

It has been far too long since I have checked in on the Cubs’ offense, which the experts at ESPN predicted would be the second best in baseball this season. I took umbrage at this obviously silly prediction, and decided to periodically compare the Cubs’ offense to the Yankees’, which they predicted would be the third best. To the numbers!

  • CHC: 307 R (18th), .328 OBP (18th), .744 OPS (17th)
  • NYY: 379 R (2nd), .360 OBP (1st), .807 OPS (2nd)

It’s 42% of the way through the season now, so it’s getting kind of hard to argue that this is a fluke. But because ESPN is loaded with experts who definitely know what they’re talking about at all times, I’m sure that the Cubs’ offense will perform as predicted by the end of the season.

Also, the Detroit Tigers really got shafted in ESPN’s predictions. ESPN didn’t even rank them in their top six (which consisted of “the best” and “the five best of the rest”). Currently, the Tigers have scored 407 R (1st), .354 OBP (3rd), and .834 OPS (1st).

I remain confident, however, that all of ESPN’s thoroughly researched and logically sound predictions will become true.


Z?

June 15, 2007

I’m in Chicago this weekend, and I’m fortunate enough to have snagged tickets for Saturday’s Chris Young-Carlos Zambrano matchup at Wrigley. But I had to share this tidbit from today’s Chicago Tribune which is, to say the least, curious.

Zambrano motioned to reporters standing around the clubhouse and pointed to a box that contained a pair of red shinguards.

“It’s a gift from my next catcher, Yadier,” Zambrano said.

I, uh . . . you, uh . . . I mean . . . . what?


Statistics? What Are Those?

May 14, 2007

During tonight’s Mets-Cubs game, color commentator Keith Hernandez said this after Tom Glavine ran up a 2-0 count against Mark DeRosa:

“It’s amazing the difference in philosophies between teams. When the Brewers were here, we saw that they swing at anything close. The Cubs are a far more patient team.”

Firstly, anytime you say “the Cubs are patient” with respect to hitting, a deafening alarm should go off in your mind. In recent years, the Cubs have been somewhat notorious for ignoring the value in baseball players who get on base. I mean, their last manager said it just “clogs up the bases”. So that’s that.

Secondly:

  • CHC (2007): .338 OBP (9th), 110 BB (25th)
  • MIL (2007): .337 OBP (10th), 121 BB (20th)

If you look at the numbers, it shows that the teams have had very similar levels of patience this season (granted, it is hard to quantify patience). Nevertheless, this is why we should not make decisions, judgments, or conclusive statements based solely on what we have seen in the last 10 seconds.