Padres Wisely Gambling on Mark Prior

Prior Wood CoverESPN, whose reporter Buster Olney wrote up the news of Prior’s agreement to a one-year, $1 million deal with San Diego, has a great graphic on Prior. In 2003, he won 18 games and finished third in NL Cy Young voting. In 57 starts since then, Mark Prior has won just 18 games. I don’t think anything else can better describe Prior’s downfall. Regardless of Prior’s lack of recent success, I agree with Obscure Sports Quarterly and think the signing was a wise gamble for Kevin Towers and the Padres.

With the rest of the NL West actively beefing up this offseason, San Diego needs to make some moves. They’ve acquired Jim Edmonds and signed Tadahito Iguchi and Randy Wolf. Their offense is so anemic they’ll need all the pitching they can muster. Even though he might not be able to pitch until June, should Prior give San Diego just 7-8 good starts before he gets hurt again, he’ll have been well worth the money.

Arizona is the defending NL West champ and they improved significantly by adding Haren. The Rockies re-signed Aaron Cook and added a few relievers. The Dodgers brought in Andruw Jones and Kuroda. The Giants signed Aaron Rowand (hehehe). With a small budget to work with, the least San Diego can do is gamble on a pitcher like Prior who has a high ceiling. For only a million bucks, the investment was well worth it and makes me wonder why no other team tossed out a few more greenbacks for the rights to Prior.

(Though this post has nothing to do with Kerry Wood, it has everything to do with the picture I selected. Oh the days, Cubs fans.)

What the **** Was Lou Thinking?

Let me go on record here: before the home run ball was served up, I was vehemently questioning why Lou Piniella, in the middle of a complete pitcher’s duel, screwed with the rhythm of the game and yanked his starter. I just couldn’t believe what he’d done. It was completely beyond me. There is no possible logic that justifies his decision. And for his stupidity, the Cubs could have to pay.

Even if they move on, I won’t forget this call. They will have had to play longer in this series because of that poor decision. You simply cannot be thinking about Game 4 in a best of 5 series. That is just faulty logic. Thinking about Game 4 in the middle of Game 1 leaves you with your pants down, your pucker exposed for the opposing team to take aim with penetration. And that’s exactly what the Diamondbacks did. Beating Brandon Webb could have ended the series right there. After that, who does Arizona throw, Doug Davis? Livan Hernandez? Micah Owings? Hardly an intimidating group. Taking out Brandon Webb would have all but squashed Arizona’s chances, and it should have been to priority for the Cubs. You really telling me Lilly and Hill can’t beat Livan and Davis? Please. Lou grossly mismanaged the situation, to the point that it makes me sick.

Should the Cubs lose this series, I would consider Lou’s move nothing less than a fireable offense. I cannot believe he made that dumb of a move.

Settle Down Cubs Fans

Yes, the rest of the sports world has taken notice. We all see. You’re tied for first. You happy? Back 8 1/2 games on June 23rd and it didn’t even matter. Good. Now you can settle back down, and we can all resume our days.

Seriously though, as anyone who has heard me do a radio interview this year knows, I said that the Cubs were going to make it close, and that it would only be a matter of time before the Brewers faded. Looks like that day has come. Funny enough, I think it’s permanent too. Not to say that the Brewers might not sneak back into first at some point, but I think the Cubs will win the division, and the wild card won’t be coming out of the Central. So there you go Cubs fans, go crazy folks.

A Save in a 12-1 Ballgame

Sean GallagherContributor JS emails in to alert me about an odd occurrence in the Cubs game on Wednesday. A save was awarded despite the final score being 12-1. On any given day in baseball, several closers will be awarded saves. However, it’s not often that a non-closer gets a save, especially in a ballgame where the margin isn’t three runs or less. So Carlos Zambrano went his obligatory five innings for the win, then came in Sean Gallagher to go the rest of the way, pitching four effective innings to get the save. Because it happens so infrequently, it’s a good time to bring up the three circumstances under which a save can be awarded:

Credit a pitcher with a save when he meets all three of the following conditions:
(1) He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his club; and
(2) He is not the winning pitcher; and
(3) He qualifies under one of the following conditions:
– (a) He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning; or
– (b) He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, or at bat, or on deck (that is, the potential tying run is either already on base or is one of the first two batsmen he faces; or
– (c) He pitches effectively for at least three innings. No more than one save may be credited in each game.

As JS astutely points out, Scott Boras must have had the “effectively” clause stricken from the rule books in order to help him make more money. Can’t say I disagree.

(AP Photo/Joseph Oliver)

Cubs Emotions Boil Over: Zambrano and Barrett Get into a Dugout Fight

I was utterly shocked — stunned and equally flabbergasted. There it was, clear as day. Right in the middle of the dugout. One of the worst on-field fights I’ve ever seen. Between a pair of teammates no less, not opponents. Check out my post at FanHouse for all the details. And man, is this the culmination of a crappy Cubs season or what?

What will this do for the team? I really thought they had a chance to get over the hump. Which way will this send the team, plummeting, or skyrocketing? Or nowhere — there bullpen’s too horrendous to overcome? But as they said in Major League, for the first time all year, the Cubs are showing some signs of life! And that my friends, is a good thing.

Lou Piniella Has First Blow Up

Not happy about his team blowing a 5-0 lead (5-0!) with their best pitcher, Carlos Zambrano, on the hill, Lou Piniella blew up at a reporter who asked him what's not working. Listen below to hear Lou's first blow up of the '07 baseball season.

MP3 File

Baseball Preview: Chicago Cubs

Last year’s record and finish are in parenthesis with projected improvement/decline indicated by plus or minus.

Chicago Cubs (66-96, 6th in NL Central) +16 games

Get Crunked: Carlos Zambrano is a Cy Young contender — funny he turned out to be the best on a promising staff that once featured Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Bam-Bam Soriano went 40-40 last year, fully maximizing the potential he’s shown for his entire career. If he can bash 46 out at RFK, imagine what he’ll do at Wrigley! Aramis Ramirez is a stud slugger at 3B, and killed during spring training so he should start out the year strongly for a guy who’s a notoriously slow starter. Derrek Lee is back from injury, and seems fully recovered and ready to return to his MVP-like form of ’05.

Party Foul: The bullpen still blows big-time, that’s the major weakness. Dempster was as stable at closer last year as a coke addict tweaking out in Vegas. Neal Cotts showed his true colors last year with the White Sox after a stellar ’05 and will probably stink. Scott Eyre and Bob Howry are probably the most solid in the pen, but even they’re not too reliable. And for all the additions to the rotation, there weren’t many upgrades, it’s still only slightly above average.

A healthy Derrek Lee is the key to the Cubs’ success

What’d my GM do: What didn’t he do is the question. Hendry was busy all winter setting the team up for the future owners, saddling them with around $272 million in future payroll commitments over the off-season. Let’s examine: Aramis Ramirez could’ve been the best bargain of the winter, Alfonso Soriano got overpaid by about $20 million, Jason Marquis was decent value, Lilly was overpaid by about $8 million, DeRosa will be a bust, and Cliff Floyd is a cheap and excellent bench option. Kerry Wood did the right thing in giving the Cubs a discout for being so ineffective the past few years. But I would’ve liked to see them reach a long-term deal with Zambrano, that’s a huge priority.

Lay it on me Straight: It’s a much improved team this year, if not for the free agent additions, but also just to get Derrek Lee back and healthy. His absence is a big reason why the Cubs struggled to score runs last year. Don’t be fooled however, lots of free agent acquisitions don’t mean instant winning. Lilly and Marquis offer depth and consistency, but not a drastic upgrade. Soriano’s bat probably added an extra 5-6 wins alone. The wheels seriously fell off last year and the team just spiraled downhill, they weren’t as bad as they turned out to be.

So where my boys gonna finish right now: I have them at just above .500, in the thick of the division, but with new players, a new manager, and a refreshed attitude, they can put up a serious fight for the division title. Man, if they only had a bullpen.

Can we be better than that: Yes, if all the pieces in the puzzle come together this team can win around 86 or 87 games, which should be good for first place or so. They probably won’t finish worse than 5 or 6 games below .500.