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The Top 79 Cub Killers of My Time #15: Fernand-“iabl”-o Vina

I was basically this close.

Here’s a not-at-all-funny story of my life that has absolutely no payoff. In 2001, I was a starry-eyed high school teacher with two hundred dollars in my savings account, and not a care in the world. Including the educational futures of CHILDREN. In the midst of finals week, my brother-in-law called me on my Motorola i90c cellular phone (with push-to-talk functionality!) and asked if I wanted to go to the Cubs-Cardinals game at Wrigley Field that night. “But, brother-in-law,” I said. “Surely, all of the tickets for tonight’s game are sold out!”

“No!” he replied. “In fact, I just fired up Windows XP and checked the internet, and found two tickets right behind the Cardinals’ dugout. Let’s hop on our Segways and get down there!” I quickly ushered the rest of America’s youth out of my classroom, and we headed down to watch the shockingly competitive Cubs take on the Cardinals. Much to our surprise, we were seated right next to the blue-hair lady they always show during the Seventh-Inning Stretch, just yards from the Cardinals dugout. Much to my later, drunken surprise, the blue-hair lady has BUSINESS CARDS about being that lady. Or at least she did in 2001. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH CUBS FANS? But I digress.

Fernando Vina led off that night and played second base for the Cardinals. I hated Fernando Vina. I hated his face. I hated his annoying at-bats. I hated his uniform. So, I took advantage of the fact that we were mere yards from Vina every time he had to enter and exit the dugout, and every time he was in the on-deck circle. I heckled him. All night. Terribly. My 23-year-old brain chose to fixate generally on the fact that Vina’s beard made him appear to be the Devil. Or perhaps Mr. Applegate from a St. Louis production of Damn Yankees. Regardless, I clearly got to Vina. After he led off the game with a double, he couldn’t do a thing. In his next three at-bats, he struck out twice and grounded out, and my casual heckling turned relentless. It also helped that the Cubs pounded the Cardinals 12-6. Finally, prior to his final at-bat, Vina actually acknowledged me. He stared up at me and-

And I couldn’t think of a single thing to say. I’m pretty sure Vina actually IS the Devil, and his gaze stole the words from my mouth. And THAT’S why Fernando Vina is #15 on the list of the Top 79 Cub Killers of My Time.

Fernando Vina’s professional baseball career began more than twenty years ago. After the Yankees drafted Vina and failed to sign him in 1988, the New York Mets took him in the 9th round of the 1990 draft. Vina didn’t hit well at all in the minors, but that didn’t stop the Seattle Mariners from selecting Vina in the 1992 Rule 5 draft.

Vina made his MLB debut on April 10, 1993. Rick Sutcliffe pitched for the visiting Baltimore Orioles against Lou Piniella’s Mariners. Vina pinch-ran in the 9th inning for Dave Valle and did…nothing. Vina played only 24 games in 1993 with the Mariners and put up a whopping .594 OPS before being returned to the Mets for failure to be good enough to play for Lou Piniella.

In 1994, Vina recovered slightly from his terrible debut. He put up a .372 OBP and got drilled with a league-leading TWELVE pitches. In fact, Vina walked more times (12) than he struck out (11). However, Vina’s power was still completely anemic. He slugged only .298, and only 6 of his 31 hits were extra-base hits (all doubles).

Vina’s debut against the Cubs came during the 1994 season. On April 4, 1994, Vina was a 9th-inning defensive replacement for Jeff Kent in a 12-8 Mets Opening Day win. Holy shit, Mike Morgan was the Opening Day starter for the Cubs in 1994. Vina didn’t get an at-bat, which was like the Cubs getting a reprieve from the governor.

Vina’s first substantial action against the Cubs came on April 11, 1994, and it was a hell of a Cub-killing debut. Vina batted second and played third base. Vina struck out swinging in his first at-bat, but then popped off. He went three for his next three against the golden arms of Willie Banks, Jose Bautista, Dan Plesac, and Randy Myers. HOW DID WE WATCH THE 1994 CUBS? The Cubs won 9-5, but Vina’s Cub-killery was off to a great start.

After the 1994 season, Vina was the PTBNL in a Brewers-Mets trade, and ended up going to Milwaukee for Doug Henry. It surprised me to learn that Vina was actually a Brewer for longer than he was a Cardinal. Vina spent five years in Milwaukee, putting up a .286/.349/.389 slash line, and walking 140 times against only 138 strikeouts. He was anti-Cub in EVERY WAY. Vina also made an All-Star Game in 1998, which ended up being the best year of his career.

After the 1999 season, the Brewers traded Vina to the Cardinals for Juan Acevedo, Eliezer Alfonzo, and Matt Parker. Perhaps the devilish Vina was always meant to wear red, because this is the Vina that burns so brightly in my memory. Vina spent his next four years tormenting the Cubs from terrible, terrible St. Louis and compiling a .285/.349/.384 slash line. He still had a great command of the strike zone, walking 123 times and whiffing 131. He also got hit by SEVENTY-NINE pitches in four years, including a league-leading TWENTY-EIGHT times in 2000. I presume that prior to every one of those pitches, the guy on the mound uttered under his breath, “The power of Christ compels you.”

At the close of the 2003 season, the Cardinals granted Vina his free agency, and he later signed with the Detroit Tigers. Vina spent one final, embarrassing season in Detroit, putting up a career-low .577 OPS in 131 plate appearances. Shockingly, Vina had used HGH under Tony LaRussa in St. Louis to recover from injuries, and presumably didn’t have the same access to drugs in Detroit. The little shit STILL managed to walk nine times against nine strikeouts, but at least his career was finally over.

Throughout the course of his 12 seasons in the Major Leagues, Vina batted .282 with a .348 OBP and .379 SLG. Bad, right? You’d never know if you were a Cubs fan. In 304 career plate appearances against the Cubs, Vina put up a ludicrous .342/.413/.457 slash line. He drew 21 walks against only 19 strikeouts. He drove in 32 of his career 343 RBIs, and he managed 17 doubles, 4 triples, and 2 home runs against the Cubs.

Vina’s career rankings against the Cubs as opposed to the rest of the league in the following offensive categories are in parentheses below:

BA: .342 (2)
OBP: .413 (2)
SLG: .457 (2)
OPS: .870 (2)
Total Bases: 123 (2)
HBP: 12 (2)
Runs: 48 (1)
Hits: 92 (2)
2B: 17 (2)
3B: 4 (t1)
RBI: 32 (1)
BB: 21 (1)

Vina’s 13 RBIs, 23 runs, 48 hits, 10 doubles, and 63 total bases at Wrigley Field are higher than they are at any park he didn’t call home. INCLUDING THE UNDERWORLD, YOU SON OF A BITCH!

Why You Should Hate Him: May 16, 2003. Matt Clement and the Cubs were in St. Louis taking on Woody Williams and the Cardinals. Vina led off and played second base and, as far as I can tell, was involved in every single Cardinals scoring play that day save one. Also, he basically answered EVERY SINGLE Cubs’ score. After the Cubs took a 1-0 lead, Vina led off the bottom of the first by getting drilled with a 1-2 Matt Clement pitch, advancing to third on a J.D. Drew base hit, and then scoring on an Albert Pujols single to tie the game 1-1. The Cardinals and Cubs traded runs to make the game 2-2, but in the bottom of the second, Vina hit a two-out single up the middle to drive in Mike Matheny and give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead. The Cubs tied the game again on a Troy O’Leary RBI double in the top of the fifth. But Vina led off the bottom of the fifth with a double, then scored yet ANOTHER go-ahead run when he was along for the ride on a J.D. Drew two-run home run. Corey Patterson drove in Moises Alou in the top of the sixth to cut the Cardinal lead to 5-4, and unfortunately Vina came up in the bottom of the sixth with runners on second and third. He lined a base hit to center field to score both runners and put the Cardinals up 7-4, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Vina finished the day 3-3 with a HBP, 2 runs scored, 3 RBIs, and 4 babies’ souls that he DRANK.

Did You Know? Vina is a music STAR (the SUPER-AWKWARD dancing begins around the 2:00 min mark)!

NSFW language

The Muskbox Addresses the 800-Pound Gorilla: A Jim Hendry Exclusive!

Before we dive knuckles-first into this week’s Muskbox, it’s my duty to point out that tickets to tonight’s compelling Cubs-Reds matchup are currently selling for ONE DOLLAR AND FORTY-EIGHT CENTS on StubHub. (HT: Ned Ryerson) If you’ve been waiting to see Rodrigo Lopez pitch, NOW IS YOUR CHANCE.

SIDE NOTE: Anyone need two tickets for tonight’s game? Face value! It’s a steal!

What are your thoughts on the Cubs’ GM search? Who are five candidates who could get serious consideration for the job?
— Ken W., Minneapolis

–Steve S., Chicago

No, wait. That’s too obvious.

–S. Stone, Chicago

CARRIE: This is such a key hire for the Ricketts family.

This hiring is so clutch, they’re thinking of letter Derek Jeter do it for them!

CARRIE: You’ve heard talk about changing the “culture” — the next GM will be responsible for creating a winning environment.

So we’re moving the team to Charlie Sheen’s townhouse.

CARRIE: There needs to be an emphasis on player development.

And rage management.

CARRIE: As you know, being the general manager of the Cubs is one of the prime jobs in baseball.

It’s almost as desirable as being the head coach of Notre Dame football! Does anyone outside of those two organizations ACTUALLY think these jobs are that much more attractive that jobs with successful franchises?

CARRIE: They play in a major sports market, have a devoted fan base and play 81 games at one of the top attractions in the state.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum?

CARRIE: Who’s on the list? Depends on which rumors you listen to.

God knows if we’re expecting a reporter to acquire a piece of news and report on it, WE’RE BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE.

CARRIE: Tom Ricketts did not have a piece of paper in his pocket with potential candidates on Aug. 19, when Jim Hendry was dismissed.

He had 38 cents, keys to his Range Rover, a package of Eclipse gum, and an iPod Mini playing “Go, Cubs, Go!” on repeat.

CARRIE: Ricketts is talking to baseball people about the best way to proceed in the search.

RICKETTS: We have top men working on it.
CARRIE: Who?
RICKETTS: Top. Men.


PICTURE UNRELATED



CARRIE: He’s thorough. There is no timeline, but there is some urgency.

Preferably, he’d like to have someone in place before NEXT year’s trade deadline.

CARRIE: The next GM needs time to evaluate what the Cubs have before making decisions on coaches…

Well, that shouldn’t take long. “You have a starting pitcher, one left-handed setup man, a closer, and a starting shortstop.”

CARRIE: …most have contracts ending on Oct. 31 — plus the scouts, player-development staff and the roster. As for potential candidates, here are a half-dozen: Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine; Red Sox assistant GM Ben Cherington; Royals assistant GM J.J. Picollo; former Twins GM Terry Ryan; White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn; Marlins assistant GM Mike Hill. Add those to the rumor mill.

Who are six people who have never been in my kitchen?

Why isn’t Tyler Colvin playing every day, versus righties and lefties?

Because he BLOOOOOOOOOOOOWS.

I love Reed Johnson, but he’s not the future.

Neither is Tyler Colvin.

Colvin should be playing every day to see if he can get his swing back and produce.

It’s cute how he’s suggesting that Colvin once had an awesome swing and then he lost it.

The season is over, and we should be looking to the future. The Cubs still don’t know if Colvin can perform well on a regular basis.
— John P., Austin, Texas

Yes, they do. He can’t.

CARRIE: September will be important for Colvin.

Because he’s a huge It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fan?

CARRIE: The goal is to get him back on track and play him in situations where he can have success…

AAA?

CARRIE: …which is why he’s not facing left-handers. He’s 2-for-33 (.061) so far against lefties.

But those two hits were SOLID.

I’ve been following the Zambrano story very closely…

I love when people say dumb shit like this. How exactly are you following it more closely than anyone else? You’re just reading the articles about it, just like everyone else is. In fact, unless your bedroom walls look like this…


This means something!




…you can’t even really consider yourself a Zambrano FAN.

…and while he does have many temper tantrums, his numbers are quite good — 9-7, 4.82 ERA in 24 starts.

Listen, I miss Zambrano and think he got a shitty deal this year, but pointing as his numbers this year and calling them “quite good” isn’t doing him any favors.

Since the Cubs’ pitching hasn’t been great this year, knocking him out of the rotation might be overdoing the penalty, which I don’t think is necessary. The Cubs have struggled with starting pitching all year. Casey Coleman had a subpar outing his last start, against the Astros in Zambrano’s spot, and it shows what the Cubs have to lose if they drop him. What do you think they’ll do?
— Felix H., Hanover, N.H.

I think Carlos’ disqualification was the final “fuck you” of the long-con “fuck you” that Jim Hendry pulled on this franchise.

CARRIE: Zambrano was not placed on the disqualified list because of his performance on the field.

Hold up. Let’s not be as stupid as we normally are. If Carlos Zambrano was pitching like Roy Halladay, there’s no WAY the Cubs disqualify him. At least part of the reason that the Cubs’ front office got sick of Zambrano’s act was because of his “declining” performance. It’s the same thing that happened to Sosa. You’re willing to put up with a lot more from a guy who’s producing for you.

CARRIE: After giving up five home runs to the Braves, he told teammates he was “retiring,” packed his gear and left Turner Field on Aug. 12. A few days later, he changed his story.

We know. We’ve been following this story VERY CLOSELY.


"That's good reporting!"



CARRIE: Yes, Zambrano has the potential to be a solid starting pitcher…

Potential? Or he’s actually BEEN a solid starting pitcher for the vast majority of his career? You bitch.

CARRIE: …but he can also be a huge distraction.

Other things that the Ricketts family finds distracting:

  1. Colors that aren’t gray.
  2. BOGO sales at Payless.
  3. Tentacle porn.

CARRIE: The Major League Baseball Players Association did file a grievance on his behalf, but look at the calendar. Even if he was reinstated, Zambrano has not pitched in three weeks. I don’t expect to see him in a Cubs uniform again.

And I keep expecting the Cubs to eventually give me control of the Muskbox, yet this dance continues, week after agonizing week.

Is there any chance the Cubs give Tony Campana the opportunity to be the starting center fielder for next season?

FUCK YOU.

With his speed, he would seem to be a defensive upgrade. He’s already shown himself to be a baserunning threat in limited opportunities.
— David W., Duncan, Okla.

This same logic is why we had to watch Corey Patterson play center field.

CARRIE: Yes, Campana is fast, but the Cubs don’t need a defensive upgrade in center field, with Marlon Byrd out there. Campana has already taken steps to take advantage of his speed.

Right, then left, then right, then left, and so on and so forth.

CARRIE: He worked with Juan Pierre of the White Sox on his bunting technique.

Holy shit. The one piece of unique news that the Muskbox has reported all season is terrible, shitty, heartbreaking news. Is Pierre also the one who taught Campana to wear his hat like a total asshole?

CARRIE: Scouts tell me Campana should be fined every time he hits the ball in the air.

Scouts wonder if you’ve ever heard of this hilarious new movie they just saw for the first time. It’s called Major League, and it stars that guy from White Men Can’t Jump.

CARRIE: He plans on working this offseason to get stronger so he can expand his role.

I make that plan every New Year’s Eve, and by the end of the night, I’m drunker than the year before, eating a burrito and crying.

I really like Mike Quade’s sunglasses.

Man, we are REALLY stretching for ways to compliment this guy.

Any chance you can put in a good word for me and maybe he’ll send them to me after the season?
— Jeff W., Huntley, Ill.

I have a feeling after this season, Mike’s going to need to sell those sunglasses for a bottle of hooch.

CARRIE: They’re Oakley sunglasses, designed in the Cubs’ colors. The model is MLB Flak Jacket, and you can purchase them yourself.

Also, they’re as fuck-ugly as Quade himself.

The Top 79 Cub Killers of My Time #33: Todd Walker “Texas Ranger”

Sure, it's not the NSBB Minor League Player of the Year Award...

Travel back in time with me, if you will, to a time before the Cubs’ “Cajun Connection” of former Louisiana State University players Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot. Years before that cute moniker was first used to describe the diminutive middle infielders, the Cubs had a GRITTY second baseman with beard stubble and a Tiger pedigree of his own. But even before THOSE years, Todd Walker was swinging his way to the #33 spot on the Top 79 Cub Killers of My Time.

Walker was originally drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 51st round of the 1991 draft. Fortunately for Chuck Norris but unfortunately for nicknamers everywhere, Walker didn’t sign.

Lest you fear that this T79 entry will be filled with Chuck Norris jokes, well, originally it was. But any time Chuck Norris is referenced in a list, he is immediately declared #1.

Walker ended up going to LSU and, hey, won a National Championship there in 1993, LIKE EVERYONE FUCKING DOES. Walker even won the Most Outstanding Player award. And he didn’t have to face Cub pitching to do it.

On June 2, 1994, the Minnesota Twins took Walker with the 8th overall pick of the draft. This time, Walker signed. After a couple of solid seasons in the Twins’ minor league system, Walker made his MLB debut on August 30, 1996, against the Milwaukee Brewers in County Stadium. Walker was 1-5 in the Twins’ 5-4, 12-inning loss to Phil Garner’s Brewers.

Walker’s first appearance against the Cubs came in an early September interleague matchup in 1997. A bad Twins team came to Chicago to take on a bad Cubs team. Walker replaced former Cub Ron Coomer in the 7th inning of a 9-2 Cubs blowout. In his only at-bat, Walker tripled off Cubs’ starter Mark Clark.

Walker would get many more chances to face Cub pitching. Although Walker had a .285/.341/.413 slash line in his five seasons with the Twins, before the trade deadline of the 2000 season, he was traded along with Butch Huskey to the Colorado Rockies for Todd Sears.

Just a year later, Walker was again involved in a trade deadline deal. The Rockies sent Walker and Robin Jennings to the Cincinnati Reds for Alex Ochoa. Walker lasted only a year and a half with the Reds. After the 2002 season, the Reds sent Walker to the Red Sox in exchange for Josh Thigpen and Tony Blanco. He was thereafter referred to as “Todd Walkah.”

Walker was, of course, part of the 2003 Red Sox team that was supposed to face the 2003 Cubs team in the Dream World Series That Never Happened and Never Will Happen Because God Hates You and Everything You Love. Walker was terrific during the 2003 playoffs, so the Cubs decided that adding as many gut-crushing losers to the 2004 roster was STRATEGY. So, they signed Walker.

I didn’t realize it until I began writing this entry that Walker’s second-longest tenure with any team during his career was the Cubs. Walker spent more than two and a half years in a Cubs uniform. Walker played 333 games as a Cub, batting .286, with a .353 OBP and .447 SLG. But that’s neither here nor there.

The Cubs traded Walker to the Padres at the 2006 trade deadline for Jose Ceda. Walker spent the last year and a half of his career with the Padres and the Oakland Athletics, but didn’t face the Cubs again after the 2002 season.

Throughout the course of his 12 seasons in all the colors of the MLB uniform rainbow, Walker batted .304 against the Cubs with a .368 on-base percentage. Good numbers, certainly, but not that far from his career numbers and hardly worthy of Cub Killer status. At least until you look at his slugging percentage. At .594, it was higher than it was against any other team. In 138 at-bats versus the Cubs, Walker hit 13 doubles, 3 triples, and 7 home runs. Walker scored 25 runs against the Cubs while driving in 24 of his own.

Oh, and he was one of those 2006 Cubs who couldn’t stay the hell away from a microphone. Asshole.

Why You Should Hate Him: September 12, 2002. I’m going to have to ask you to bear with me, because this game was a hot mess. First of all, it was the end of the shitty 2002 season. The Cubs were 22 1/2 games back, and Bruce Kimm was their interim manager. Steve Smyth started for the Cubs against Cincinnati starter Shawn Estes. And THAT’S why 27 runs were scored that Thursday at Cinergy Field. Bobby Hill led off for the Cubs. Corey Patterson batted second. Fred McGriff played first base. Kevin Orie played third. Mike Mahoney caught. Chris Stynes pinch hit. So did Angel Echevarria. And Roosevelt Brown. And Todd Hundley. And Hee Seop Choi. Will Cunnane AND Kyle Farnsworth both gave up 4 runs and had blown saves.

On the other side of the ball, Shawn Estes only lasted an inning and surrendered 6 earned runs. The Reds went through 7 relievers, and the Cubs piled up 12 runs against them. It was not enough. Todd Walker led off and played second base. He was 4-6 with 4 RBIs. But wait until you hear WHEN three of those RBIs occurred. In the bottom of the 8th inning, the Cubs were clinging to a 12-11 lead. Yes, the Cubs scored 6 runs in the first 2 innings, and were clinging to a one-run lead. This was the 2002 Cubs. Farnsworth came on and got two swinging strikeouts. That’s good. But he loaded the bases with two outs. That’s bad. Reggie Taylor (Who? Indeed.) was at the plate when Farnsworth uncorked a game-tying wild pitch. Farnsworth proceeded to walk Taylor to reload the bases.

Walker stepped to the plate and worked a full count off Farnsworth before drilling a double into left-center field to clear the bases. The Reds held on to their 15-12 lead, as Scott Williamson retired the bottom of the Cubs’ lineup in order.

That’s a lot of B126ers.

Did You Know? This is more of a “DO You Know?” The genius editors of Wikipedia have the following statement regarding Walker:

In the early part of the second decade of the twenty first century, Todd was involved in a controversy regarding the type of person Uncle Brundon was. He was quoted as saying “he’s a crappy person,” and “Oh, I don’t like him.” It caused great stress on him and his family for a period of time.

No context comes before or after it. There’s a footnote, but it’s a broken link that appears to go to the 2009 College Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, anyhow. Google results for “uncle brundon” suggest that maybe I mean “Uncle Brandon.” So, who is this mysterious Uncle Brundon, and why was it so awful on the Walker family that Todd insulted him? Is this some weird LSU bayou thing?

The Top 79 Cub Killers of My Time #46: Jim “Sox It” Thome

I want to pet the bunny!

Jim Thome’s Major League Baseball career started in 1991, the same year as one James Sarkis Essian. Nearly TWENTY years after his rookie season, Thome managed to garner an AL MVP vote while compiling a .283/.412/.627 slash line with the 2010 Minnesota Twins. Thome has continued to be a productive hitter and, by all accounts, a very likeable, genuine human being throughout the course of his long MLB career. He also grew up in Peoria, Illinois as a big Cubs fan. All of these factors are going to make it difficult to rip on the big dope for checking it at #46 on the Top 79 Cub Killers of My Time.

At some point, Jim Thome’s forearms weren’t as thick as your legs, and his legs weren’t as thick as your waist. Presumably, that point was Thome’s first few years with the Cleveland Indians. Way back in the age of innocence, when Freddie Mercury was alive and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” made EVERYONE want to blow their brains out, Thome debuted at third base for the then-terrible Indians. Those 1991 Indians were more similar to their fictionalized Major League counterpart than they were to a competitive baseball team. They finished the season 57-105, dead last in the American League East.

But the arrival of Thome and some other key components was the beginning of a turnaround for the franchise. After finishing in 2nd place during the strike-shortened 1994 season, the Indians snapped off a run of five consecutive AL Central titles, and six out of the next seven. Led by Thome, Sandy Alomar, Matt Williams, Manny Ramirez, David Justice, and a young, fat, Bartolo Colon, the Indians were on the losing end of the first of the Florida Marlins’ TWO World Series titles in the past twenty years.

When it became clear to the Indians that Thome was going to both hit and eat a ton of taters, they traded for Matt Williams and moved Thome over to first base and designated hitter, where he has spent the majority of his career. And a fine career it has been. Thome currently holds a .277/.404/.558 career slash line with 593 home runs and 1,636 RBIs. He has led the league in walks on three occasions (1997, 1999, and 2002). One could make a strong case that Thome should have won the AL MVP in 2002 over Miguel Tejada, though the Indians were aggressively mediocre that year, so Thome finished seventh in the voting despite his 52 HR, 118 RBIs, and league-leading .677 SLG.

What I’m getting at is that I, like probably most of you, love Jim Thome, respect his career, and wish the Cubs would have signed him instead of convincing themselves that they were “set” with Hee-Seop Choi. BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED. What happened was, Jim Thome was allowed to murder the Cubs throughout the course of his career.

Even accounting for his recent “declining” years, in Thome’s 149 plate appearances against the Cubs, the gentle giant has a 1.006 OPS with nearly as many walks (30) as strikeouts (35). In 2006, Thome (then with the Phillies) got only four starts against the Cubs. In those starts, he hit three home runs, drove in five runs, and slugged an absurd 1.071.

But where Thome’s numbers against the Cubs REALLY stand out? Oh, Wrigley Field. In only eight starts at the Friendly Confines, Thome has a .333/.455/.722 slash line with three home runs and six RBIs. Certainly eighty-one starts a year from Thome in Wrigley Field would have been more fun to watch than Hee-Seop Choi decapitating Kerry Wood. Though, it WAS pretty cool to see an ambulance drive on the field.

Why You Should Hate Him: You shouldn’t. You should love him and hate Jim Hendry for not signing him for the hometown discount that Thome offered. Twins fans might be able to muster up some hatred for him after he hit a game-winning solo home run to beat the Twins during Game 163 in 2008. HOWEVER, if you Cubs fans NEED to hate everyone on the T79, observe June 30, 2003. Dusty Baker’s Cubs were in Philadelphia against Larry Bowa’s streaking Phillies. Dusty’s top three batters were Lenny Harris, Alex Gonzalez, and Corey Patterson. You pissed at Thome yet? No? Just Dusty? Yeah, me too. Shawn Estes was on the mound. Anything yet? You’re asking how the FUCK that team came within five outs of the World Series? No clue, man. No clue.

Anyhow, Estes was clinging to a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh. After retiring Jason Michaels and the enormous mushroom head of Placido Polanco, Estes gave up a base hit to Jimmy Rollins, bringing Thome to the plate. Thome worked a 3-0 count. Unbeknownst to Estes, really good hitters who have a chance to give their team a lead in late-inning situations often have a green light to go ahead and swing at 3-0 meatballs. Thome had such a green light. He hit Estes’ next pitch so hard it needed stitches! *rim shot*

The Phillies won the game 4-3, leading to the unnecessary stress of having to watch Shawn Estes continue to pitch in meaningful games deep into the 2003 season.

Did You Know? Thome’s signature stance, during which he points his bat straight at the opposing pitcher, was lifted from the film The Natural. In the film, the character “The Whammer” faced Roy Hobbs in a pick-up at-bat and pointed his bat threateningly at Hobbs. The Whammer struck out in that at-bat, just as Thome would do A LOT during his MLB career. (I’m so, so sorry for that one, Jim.)

We Interrupt Making Fun of Gordon to Make Fun of the Muskbox

Returning to the Muskbox after a long weekend of making fun of Gordon Wittenmyer makes me realize what’s really important in life. And that’s knowing that, no matter how many Matchbox cars I shove up my nose, I will never be the stupidest Cub fan on this green-and-blue marble we call Earth. Especially not with Gordon still out there. Okay, I’m done with him now. For now. This week’s Muskbox includes not only TWO questions about calendar dates, but also TWO questions about Reed Johnson! Why? WHY THE HELL NOT?

What are the Cubs planning on doing for a leadoff hitter? I don’t think they have one on the roster.
— Tim S., New Albany, Ind.

The weird thing about rosters is that ANYONE can be a leadoff hitter if you just put them into the leadoff spot. Unless you’re doing Dusty Baker’s roster. Because then you have to be black, play center field, and preferably be Corey Patterson to lead off.

CARRIE: You’re right.

Somewhere, Kosuke Fukudome just committed seppuku. Probably in Japan.

CARRIE: Cubs manager Mike Quade is aware, too. “You look at this club, as I do right now…”

You look at the club with disgust, too? And sometimes you throw a beer at this club and wish you were born in New York?

CARRIE: “…and you say, ‘Who’s a perennial leadoff guy?'” Quade said. “‘Who’s the prototypical leadoff guy? Do we have one?’ And I would say, ‘I don’t think so.'”

And then I would say- No, wait. YOU tell ME, what I’d say, Quade!

1st Runner-Up Joke:
Is Mike Quade writing a screenplay starring me as CYNICAL CUBS FAN?

2nd Runner-Up Joke:
Mike and I must have had this conversation at Shitty O’Kea’s, because I don’t remember it AT ALL.

CARRIE: “OK, when the answer is ‘I don’t think so,’…

…the question is, “Would you like to buy a Pick 13 ticket package?”

CARRIE: “…I can mix and match.” That means Quade will experiment with different players in the No. 1 spot this spring, including Blake DeWitt, Jeff Baker, Tyler Colvin and Kosuke Fukudome, and he may go with a leadoff man by committee.

Good idea. That way, Quade can decide his leadoff hitter based on that day’s matchup. So, as long as the starting pitcher is absolutely terrible at pitching, he’ll have four legitimate options to lead off.

How is Tyler Colvin doing and will he be ready for Spring Training?
— Ed W., Streamwood, Ill.

Please note, that this is a compound question requiring two separate answers, such as, “Good,” and “Yes.”

CARRIE: Colvin, whose rookie season ended early when he was stabbed in the chest by a broken bat in September…

That bat, which was made of wood, which is the stabbiest of all materials…

CARRIE: …is healthy and has been working out in Mesa, Ariz., since late November. He’s been joined at “Camp Colvin”…

…which is a really terrible nickname, which is an affectionate alternative to a proper name, which will never catch on.

CARRIE: …by more than 30 players — that includes several prospects…

Impossible! NSBB informed me that the Cubs gave up EVERY SINGLE ONE of their prospects in exchange for Matt Garza!

CARRIE: …– eager to get a head start on the 2011 season.

/checks nut-punch countdown clock
//sighs

Note that Carrie answered how Colvin is doing. She failed to answer whether or not he will be ready for Spring Training. INTRIGUING? Or INCOMPETENT?

My father and I are both big Cubs fans and Notre Dame fans, so, of course, we follow Jeff Samardzija very closely.

“Not closely enough to violate our court-ordered restraining orders, of course, but- You know- CLOSELY.”

With the recent pitching additions, what are the plans for Jeff this season?
— Mike C., Canyon Lake, Calif.

  1. Continue being signed with the Cubs
  2. Collect money
  3. ???
  4. PROFIT!!!

CARRIE: Samardzija is on the ever-increasing list of candidates for the rotation or the bullpen. He’s out of options, so this is a big spring for him. The right-hander has been in Mesa to train since early November.

Mesa? Or a little place I like to call the Samardzija Shantytown!?

CARRIE: Said Samardzija:

“Why wouldn’t you just use ‘Samardzija said’?”

CARRIE: “I’m very, very excited with how things are going and how I’m working out, how I’m throwing the ball, how I’m throwing off the mound already. I know at the end of the year, it’ll be a different story than what it is now.”

Meaning at the end of the year he…WON’T be excited about how well he’s throwing?

CARRIE: “A lot is to be written, but I’m excited. I feel great, I really do.”

Sounds like EVERYONE is going to get a writing credit in Quade’s screenplay, tentatively titled, Quade of Reckoning II: Not By the Hair of My Chinny Chin Chin.

When do Cubs pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training?
— Elliott B., Naperville, Ill.

Is the Muskbox the only place left in existence that still abbreviates Illinois with a double L?

CARRIE: Pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 12, and their first workout will be the next day at Fitch Park in Mesa.

Or, as I like to call it, PITCH PARK!

CARRIE: The first full-squad workout is Feb. 19.

There’s no joke here. I just want you to take a minute to ponder the fact that someone just penciled the date of the first full-squad Cubs workout of 2011 into his calendar. Just a few days removed from the nothing he has penciled in on Valentine’s Day.

When do the 2011 regular-season tickets go on sale?
— Ian S., Dickinson, N.D.

I went to Cubs.com just to see how simply Ian could have answered this question himself (it’s stupidly not easy). Instead, I noticed two things.

  1. This year’s Cubs Convention is still not sold out! Grab your tickets today!
  2. This.
    His real sign read, "BRING BACK RYNO AND ROLLED-UP JACKET SLEEVES!"

    His real sign read, "BRING BACK RYNO AND ROLLED-UP JACKET SLEEVES!"

    CARRIE: Individual game tickets for the 2011 season go on sale Feb. 25.

    And with the way these tickets have been FLYING off the…shelves(?), they will sell out just about the time that ground breaks for the Todd 2014 Project.

    I loved Reed Johnson as a Cub as much as anybody…

    “Don’t you DARE question my love of Reed Johnson. I WILL STAB YOU!”

    …and the ’08 team with him was one of the best Cubs teams ever.

    Indeed. They almost won a playoff game!

    /shakes fist at Ryan Dempster
    //draws four-pitch walk off of Ryan Dempster

    However, his recent re-signing doesn’t make sense to me.

    Other things that don’t make sense to him:

    • Yeah, it’s called standing ROOM, but I can’t fit in that aisle AT ALL!
    • Why do they call the wife of a gay man a beard when DeRosa had one?
    • Why haven’t they released thirtysomething on Blu-Ray yet?

    I know it was only a Minor League contract with an invite to Spring Training, but if he is healthy…

    Not likely.

    …and plays like Reed Johnson…

    Pretty damn likely.

    …he has a good shot at making the Major League roster. With the outfield already crowded with Marlon Byrd, Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome and Tyler Colvin, and the option of Colvin playing first base gone, where would Reed fit? Someone would need to be moved. We know Soriano and Colvin aren’t going anywhere.

    Colvin is as untradeable as Soriano?

    Byrd was a workhorse most of last season, and even though it would make sense to move Fukudome, giving up a left-handed bat for Johnson doesn’t seem feasible.
    — Earnie B., Saint Charles, Va.

    That’s the way you spell “Ernie” if you’re STACKING CHEDDAR!

    Or if your parents are retarded.

    CARRIE: If he’s healthy and plays like the Johnson of ’08, he could be on the roster as an extra outfielder. One of the reasons the Cubs included Sam Fuld in the Matt Garza deal…

    …is because Sam Fuld is a cute mascot, but a terrible player.

    CARRIE: …and wanted Fernando Perez was because they felt they had enough left-handed-hitting outfielders and wanted an extra right-handed bat. Johnson and Perez will be competing for the same job.

    That’s ALTERNATE FOURTH OUTFIELDER in Mike Quade’s screenplay. And it’s called a “part,” not a “job.”

    There isn’t much known about Fernando Perez

    Like, is he seven feet tall? Does he have a batting average? From which side of the plate does he hit? There’s absolutely no way of knowing until he shows up in camp.

    …other than his accomplishments during Tampa Bay’s World Series run.

    He had a total of 69 at-bats in 2008, and only 9 of those came during the postseason. But he was always on time for work, I guess.

    What can we expect from Perez in 2011?
    — Melvin B., Beverly, N.J.

    Punctuality!

    CARRIE: Perez is fast, a switch-hitter and very sharp. He was selected by the Rays in the seventh round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft and has a career .279 batting average in the Minor Leagues. He was limited in ’09 because of a wrist injury. He has appeared in 41 regular-season big league games and is 22-for-94 (.234) with five stolen bases. He went to school at Columbia University in New York — the same school that Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig and Eddie Collins attended. He’s a poet, has his own blog and Twitter account, and is a gifted writer.

    He also thinks The Heckler is as terrible as everyone else does. I love this guy. Please hit .480 in Spring Training, Fernando.

    Now that we have Reed Johnson back, is he going to start blogging “Reed Between the Lines” again?
    — Karyn M., Maitland, Fla.

    Better question. Do we really want him to? In Fernando Perez, the Cubs have the most interesting, well-read, intelligent player they’ve had since Doug Glanville. Just pray he makes the team and read HIS stuff.

    CARRIE: Maybe he’ll revive the blog during Spring Training. I’ll see what I can do.

    SPOILERS: Nothing.

    My wife and I are big Cubs fans. We have an 18-month-old named Maddux, who we named after…

    My beagle, Maddux?

    …Cubs great Greg Maddux.

    Oh. You did that to a PERSON?

    We are expecting our second son in May and are having trouble picking a Cub with the name of Garret.
    — Kyle N., Delaware, Ohio

    JODY GERUT!

    CARRIE: There was an Adrian Garrett, who played in 1970 and from 1973-75, but he had a .163 average in four seasons with the Cubs. There has not been a Cubs player with the first name Garret. How about Geovany, Tyler or Fergie?

    How about birth control?

The Muskbox Hasn’t Yet Learned of Theriot’s Cardinalism

This week’s Muskbox sadly came out just before Ryan Theriot was traded to the Cardinals, natural enemies of the Cub. But that’s okay. I suspect that next week’s Muskbox is going to be absolutely epic in its garment-rending. But fisking duty calls.

Marlon Byrd was awesome in center field this year. Did he get any votes for a Gold Glove?
— Bryan A., Glendale, Ariz.

Just one. From Glendale, Arizona.

CARRIE: The voting results are not released for Gold Glove winners as they are for MVP or Cy Young.

Because then everyone would know exactly which assholes actually voted for Derek Jeter. Multiple times.

CARRIE: Since 1965, the managers and coaches of each team handle the defensive award. They are not permitted to select players from their own teams.

So, wait. Jeter has won multiple Gold Gloves WITHOUT being voted for by the entire Yankees staff? I need to go lay down for a while.

CARRIE: The last Cubs outfielder to win a Gold Glove was Hall of Famer Andre Dawson in 1988, and he had both the arm and the range. You’re right, Byrd did have a stellar year in center.

What about all those Gold Gloves Corey Patterson won in my dreams? Sure, it’s not the only-slightly-less-prestigious “NSBB Minor League Player of the Year” award that Eric Patterson won, but it’s SOMETHING.

Lance Berkman is available and provides power and defense at first base. Sign him up.
— David G., Scranton, Pa.

Plus, he’ll buy up all those extra hot dogs that Todd Ricketts couldn’t sell!

CARRIE: It could work.

Or fail in hilarious fashion.

CARRIE: Berkman would prefer to play in the National League and thinks his 2011 season will be better than 2010. He had arthroscopic surgery in his left knee early this year, which he says limited him at the plate.

Also, his obesity.

CARRIE: In an interview with FoxSports.com last week, Berkman said the A’s have aggressively pursued him, but he’s also drawn some interest from the Cubs.

But why would he ever want to play in this shithole?

I know division rivals don’t like to make trades with each other and Walt Jocketty never had any dealings with the Cubs during his tenure with the Cardinals, but why don’t the Cubs trade for Yonder Alonso?

Oh, Christ, now I have to learn about the prospects in OTHER organizations, too?

He is Major League-ready, left-handed…

JIM HENDRY: SOLD!

…hits for power and also a better glove than Joey Votto. With Votto winning the MVP, only 26 years old and putting up impressive numbers the last three seasons, I don’t see him going anywhere.
— Antonio K., Chicago

Good. You just preempted an escalating series of “Why don’t the Cubs trade for Joey Votto?” questions.

CARRIE: A Reds source tells me Alonso is a good hitter and good character guy, but said the Cuban is not great defensively and his future may be as a designated hitter.

They’d be better off going after a different first baseman originally from the Reds organization. Like Adam Dunn!

CARRIE: Plus, because the Reds would be dealing within the division, they would likely ask for a lot in return. Jocketty and Cubs GM Jim Hendry are friends — the Cubs drafted Jocketty’s son Joseph in the 47th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft…

UGH.

CARRIE: — so it’s not impossible that they could make a deal.

No wonder the Cubs fucking suck. Hendry is only allowed to trade for players who play for teams with GMs whose children he’s drafted?

Carol M. of Willowbrook sent in a question [in the last Inbox] about Carlos Pena as a possibility at first base. Based on the stats she gave, I believe she was thinking of Pena’s Tampa Bay teammate and fellow free agent, Carl Crawford. He batted over .300 with more than 40 steals last year. I’d love to have Crawford but one, the Cubs won’t spend that kind of money, and two, Alfonso Soriano is already in left field.
— Todd P., Streamwood, Ill.

And, three, OLD NEWS.

CARRIE: You’re probably right.

Or completely right, since the only way Carol M. could have described Crawford any more accurately was by saying, “And he spells ‘Pena’ in such an unusual way! C-R-A-W-F-O-R-D!”

CARRIE: Crawford certainly would look good at the top of the Cubs’ lineup. But you’re also right, as far as money and Soriano go.

“But you might not be right about the Pena/Crawford thing, CHUMP!

What are the odds of the Cubs going after Derek Jeter if things don’t work out with the Yankees?
— Jason K., Mackinac Island, Mich.

Is there such a thing as a negative percentage?

CARRIE: If Jeter doesn’t return to the Yankees, it will be because they didn’t offer enough money. Plus, the Cubs not only have Starlin Castro, who’s just 20 years old, at short, but also Darwin Barney and another infielder in the system who is very talented in Hak-Ju Lee.

Allow me, for one moment, to point out one of the most ridiculous things about the Muskbox. Carrie reads these entries and, of all of the ridiculous questions, THESE are the best she gets. She knows how colossally stupid the people who read the Muskbox are. Yet somehow she still doesn’t think they need things spelled out for them. For example, “If Jeter doesn’t return to the Yankees, it will be because they didn’t offer enough money.” THEREFORE, there’s no way the Cubs will be able to afford signing Jeter for more money than the Yankee money he rejected. One would assume that Carrie, who is a professional writer for Cubs.com, which is THE source of Cub information on the internet, which is a series of tubes, would spell it all out for us dopes.

NOW Can Tommy Boy Finally Evaluate Jim Hendry?

If there’s one sports radio refrain that annoys me, it’s, “Tom Ricketts is being SO SMART AND CAREFUL about his evaluation of Jim Hendry.” Bullshit. The Cubs are now halfway through their first season under Ricketts’ ownership. They’re 39-50, with the third-highest payroll in all of Major League Baseball. The only two more expensive teams are the 56-32 Yankees and the 51-37 Red Sox, both of whom play in a far tougher division than the Cubs do. The Cubs are saddled with the following virtually untradeable contracts: Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, Jeff Samardzija, and John Grabow. Jim Hendry built this team.

I don’t understand why some people are acting like Ricketts is evaluating Hendry in a vacuum. Yes, Ricketts didn’t own the team until last fall, but it’s not as though he’s Leonard from Memento. It’s not as though Hendry’s entire body of work couldn’t have been known prior to Ricketts taking control of the team. Hendry has been the general manager for over eight years. Certainly, someone in the front office wrote down the things he’s done in those eight years. He’s exhibited a pretty clear pattern of (1) making trades which have either worked out well (Lee, Ramirez), worked out terribly (Pierre), even if the idea was good (Nomar), or been completely baffling and pointless (Trachsel); (2) handed out far too many years at free agents, whether they’ve worked out (Soriano) or not (Marquis); (3) given a no-trade clause to every asshole who’s asked for one (Samardzija); and (4) torpedoed the trade value of several of his players just before he ships them out of town (Farnsworth, Patterson, Sosa, Pie, Bradley, possibly Zambrano). Why would Ricketts assume that Hendry would change his managerial style going forward?

How long did it take Hendry to replace Derrek Lee during the 2006 season, and why did we have to wait that long for Phil Nevin? Why did Greg Maddux have to trade himself for Cesar Izturis? Why hasn’t there been a backup third baseman on the roster for the past couple of seasons? Why wasn’t Dusty Baker fired after the debacles that were the end of the 2004 season, all of the 2005 season, and all of the 2006 season? WHY IS DARYLE WARD GONE?

A popular counter-argument has become, “It’s not Jim Hendry’s fault that Aramis and Lee aren’t hitting.” No shit. It’s also not Lou Piniella’s fault, yet a disturbing number of fans have decided to crucify him. But it is Jim Hendry’s fault that the oft-injured Angel Guzman was expected to play a crucial role in the bullpen. It is his fault that, once again, there was no legitimate backup for Aramis Ramirez. It is his fault that- well, Jeff Samardzija.

Some fans argue that a switch now won’t help the team. Why not? If this isn’t Hendry’s team moving forward, it stands to reason that a new G.M. should take over prior to the trade deadline. 2010 is over. I’m frustrated to the point where I don’t even care if Hendry is the G.M. in 2011. But cut the wishy-washy nonsense. There’s no reason a decision on Hendry couldn’t have already been made. And if it has been made already, God help us all.

The Muskbox Unravels the Mystery of Gary Pressy’s Organ

You’re so predictable, Cubs fans. More predictable than the Cubs losing the first two games of every single series. More predictable than Randy Wells getting lit up in the first inning. More predictable than Ryan Theriot swinging at a first pitch. The five people who are still watching Cub baseball all wrote in to the Muskbox this week. And you reap the benefits.
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The Muskbox Somehow Makes Tax Day Worse

It’s Tax Day, and I’m having a shitty one. What better time to turn my glower to this week’s Muskbox? None. None better time. Get your Tyler Colvin boners out, because they’re about to get a rubdown.
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Sweet Uncle Lou’s Friday Roundup: The “Screw Fisted Foul” Edition

So, Dolan and Kermit start a new blog and don’t invite me and Skip? FUCK. YOU. GUYS. The rest of you know where to find the only GOOD writers in the baseball blogosphere. Right here. At HJE. And those writers are me and Skip. Don’t send your Roundup tips to Fisting Fouls, or whatever it’s called. Send them here.
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