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Thursday, March 25, 2004

No sooner do I post about McClain does news come out of Mesa that Jose Macias is out 3-4 weeks. The article points out a factor that I forgot to mention in the McClain v. Macias post. McClain is a NRI, so the Cubs would have to clear room on the 40-man roster. While this may not be a big deal immediately, as Dempster's spot will go on the DL; the question comes in when Remlinger is healthy enough to come back or if Jimmy Anderson takes another spot on the 40-man.

As for Macias, it's a torn meniscus in his left knee. Not a huge loss, but still I wish him a speedy recovery.

The buzz you here coming from the Cactus League, is from Mesa, Arizona. That buzz is surrounding the surprise emergence of non-roster invitee, Scott McClain. Yes, McClain the 31 year-old journeyman with all of 20 major league at bats. Yes, McClain who's sloppy opening game of spring saw him drop one of the easiest popups he will ever see. Yes, that Scott McClain is threatening to take one of the few available roster spots on the Cubs come April 5. McClain is tied for the lead in HRs (6) and 2nd in RBIs (15). If he had the ABs to qualify, he would be tied for 5th with a .419 batting average, lead with an eye-popping 1.129 SLP. This is the perfect opportunity for McClain to break camp with a ML job, after 3 seasons in Japan. The Cubs would be a pretty good fit. Though the Cubs have a RH loaded lineup, they have no RH punch off the bench. Ramon Martinez has to shoulder the burden of RH pinch hitting, but won't put fear in opponents hearts with the long ball. Also to Scott's benefit, is that seemingly his only competition for the final offensive roster spot is Jose Macias. While Macias' ML contract, versatility, speed and defense are in his favor; he is still probably the 3rd or 4th option off the bench at 2B, SS, CF, LF, 3B and simply as a pinch hitting option. His biggest attribute of speed is covered with Tom Goodwin off the bench.

McClain still has to prove at some point that he is not just a 4A player. In 3 years of Japanese baseball, McClain hit just .237/.340/.499. His ML equivalents would be much worse, leaving him with very Macias-like numbers. Having seen him a few times this spring, Scott reminds me of a poor man's Phil Hiatt, the ultimate AAA roster filler. His bat speed doesn't look anywhere near ML quality to me. He struggles with the ball away, up in his eyes, and can't hit a breaking ball to save his life. He's slow, poor defensively, and is a all-or-nothing type hitter.

However, McClain's spring numbers have caused me to think maybe I'm being too harsh on him. After all, the Cubs have had players with a similar "skills" coming off the bench. Glenallen Hill was an all-or-nothing type. Jose Hernandez, Mark Bellhorn....heck, Augie Ojeda has spent time on the Cubs ML roster and is a nothing-or-nothing hitter. The question for the Cubs will be whether they value the versatility and speed of Macias over the power of McClain. Not much of a choice, but interesting none the less. Either way, iowacubs.com looks ready to welcome Scotty with open arms, where he could easily put up all world numbers in the altitude.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

A while back, I posted on the cubs.com article that Dusty Baker was toying with Patterson 3rd, Lee or Barrett 2nd, and all sorts of other scenarios for the lineup. Dusty also said that he would experiment with different lineups to see what works. Well, what happened? It seems as if every single time any semblance of the opening day lineup has started, that it is the same:

2B-Walker/Grudz
CF-Patterson
RF-Sosa
LF-Alou
3B-Ramirez
1B-Lee
SS-Gonzalez
C-Barrett

The only fluctuation from this has been the occassional flip-flop of Ramirez and Lee in the 5-6 slots. The lineup I wanted to see had Alou 2nd, Lee 3rd, Patterson 5th, and Ramirez 6th.

Alou's current spring SLP of .333 would be a disaster in the cleanup spot for the Cubs, while Lee and Patterson (hitting outside of the heart of the order (3-4-5)) are mashing the ball with near .700 SLPs. Obviously, these numbers don't mean much in spring training, but Lee and Patterson will likely be better fits for the middle of the order than Alou. Heck, right now, Michael Barrett looks like a better fit than Alou in the cleanup spot. It will be interesting to see if any of these guys can force Baker's hand into putting together the most productive offensive lineup on the field everyday.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Make sure to check out the roundtable discussion at The Cub Reporter, featuring yours truly and many other great Cubs bloggers!

Friday, March 05, 2004

Ah, the season has finally started. The Cubs lost 9-3, and didn't have too many impressive performances. On the mound, Clement was hittable, Zambrano was wild, and Beltran was flat out bad. Even Joe Borowski gave up a run. If that's not enough, everyone's favorite "loogy" candidate, Jimmy Anderson turned in a decent outing. In the field, there were dropped popups, defenders not backing up plays, and Todd Walker's utter lack of range. At the plate, the lone bright spot was Corey Patterson. He blasted a HR to RF in his first AB, after working the count to 3-0. Tom Goodwin also contributed with a 2-run double. However, the biggest omen in the game was when the team's 6th hitter (and OBP leader), Derrek Lee hit a 1-out single in the 2nd, only to be left stranded there after consecutive popups by Alex Gonzalez and Michael Barrett.

It was definitely a preseason quality game. Win or lose (because the games don't count! :)), it is good to see Cubs baseball back on television.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

The "S" Word

I vowed for this site, not to not be another internet resource in the ongoing steroid debate. But I have broken. News broke this morning that Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, and Jason Giambi (along with Marvin Bernard, Benito Santiago, and Randy Velarde) were all given steroids according to information given to federal investigators.

The backlash will obviously come from fans and the media accusing these players of cheating to gain a physical advantage over the rest of baseball. But is it cheating if MLB never tested for steroids in the first place? If MLB never tested for steroids in the past, then they must not have been explicitly banned. Sure, it's morally unexceptable for these players to have been gaining an unfair advantage, but against the rules?

Major League Baseball is in a tough place right now. Because of it's policies, many players were probably able to freely use steroids and human growth hormones (HGH) in the past. However, since there was no testing, there is no way to prove exactly who and how many have used. If Bonds, Sheff, and Giambi test clean; the MLB can really do nothing but take their word that they never knowingly or actually used steroids. Baseball will just have to live with the black eye, or deal with the consequences of losing star players for extended periods of time due to suspension.


The injury bug has bitten!

Monday, Mark Prior joined the ranks of the walking wounded. He will miss 5-10 days with an inflamed achilles. Prior joins lefties, Mike Remlinger and Kent Mercker of the sidelines. Remlinger is still suffering the lingering effects of off-season shoulder surgery. Mercker is battling lower back pain. With Remmy likely unable to go by opening day, look for Felix Sanchez to get every opportunity to start the season in the Cubs bullpen.

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