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Tag: Derrek Lee (page 1 of 7)

The Best Bad Cubs Team of My Time: SP Glendon Rusch

Catch the mist.  Catch the myth.  Catch the mystery.  Catch a whiff.  Seriously.  Look at that gut.

Catch the mist. Catch the myth. Catch the mystery. Catch a whiff. Seriously. Look at that gut.

A passing comment on Twitter has led to my next pet project.  I’ve compiled a 25-man roster of the best bad Cubs of my time.  Let me clarify a few things right off the bat.  I looked at stats, but I really don’t care about your stats-based argument.  This is supposed to be fun.  Calm down.  As you’ll see as the roster develops, personality wasn’t as big a factor as it was for the Bottom 126.  However, watching a bad player play well as a Cub made generally made him pretty likeable.  I’m starting with the bullpen, then I’ll do the bench, then the starting pitchers, and finally the starting eight.  HERE is the roster so far.

Glendon Rusch may not be the worst overall player on this roster, but when he was signed by the Cubs prior to the 2004 season, he was certainly coming off the worst season of any of the guys on the roster so far. His 2003 season in Milwaukee was nothing short of atrocious, and Cubs fans had no reason to expect that Rusch wouldn’t be the main reason for the collapse of the 2004 season. Rusch, contrary to all of our expections, had the best year of his career in 2004. The fact that he was not an asshole on a team more full of them than r/gonewild made him even more likable. So he becomes the fourth member of the starting rotation on the Best Bad Cubs Team of My Time.

Glendon Rusch’s professional career began in 1993 when he was taken in the 17th round of the amateur draft by the Kansas City Royals. Rusch’s numbers were all over the place in the minors except for one. He was pretty damn good at avoiding the long ball. He also was pretty good at striking dudes out when he was younger. Combine those two things with not giving up many walks, and it’s no wonder that the Royals were pretty excited that they might have found a hidden gem in the 17th round.

Because it was the late ’90s and it was the Royals, Rusch made the 1997 rotation at the age of 22. At the Metrodome for his first MLB start on April 6, 1997, Rusch went eight strong innings, allowing only two unearned runs and allowing only four hits on his way to a Royals’ 12-2 win.

The rest of the season went less well for Rusch. He made 27 starts and finished 6-9 with a 5.50 ERA and 1.515 WHIP. But c’mon, guys, it’s the Royals. He was in the starting rotation again in 1998, when he was worse. He finished with a 6-15 record, 5.88 ERA, and 1.558 WHIP in 24 starts. Even the Royals had seen enough by 1999. Rusch spent the majority of the season between their AAA and Rookie league teams before a two-game stint in late July, and then a September call-up. Rusch appeared in only three games for the Royals and compiled a 15.75 ERA before they sent him to the New York Mets for Dan Murray in a VERY late-season trade on September 14, 1999. Rusch appeared in only one game for the Mets in a losing effort, though he worked a scoreless inning.

In the course of two years and an inning with the Mets, Rusch went 19-23 with a 4.30 ERA and 1.349 WHIP. If there’s one thing you could say about Rusch as a Met, it was that he always showed up to the park on time. And he had a great postseason for the 2000 Mets. He had a win in the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals and had a 2.25 ERA in four World Series innings against the New York Yankees. Prior to the 2002 season, the Mets were involved in a hilarious trade of turn-of-the-century players you had probably completely forgotten about. Get this:

Traded as part of a 3-team trade by the New York Mets with Lenny Harris to the Milwaukee Brewers. The New York Mets sent Benny Agbayani, Todd Zeile and cash to the Colorado Rockies. The Colorado Rockies sent Ross Gload and Craig House to the New York Mets. The Colorado Rockies sent Alex Ochoa to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Milwaukee Brewers sent Jeromy Burnitz, Lou Collier, Jeff D’Amico, Mark Sweeney and cash to the New York Mets.

Like shits passing in the night.

Rusch had more losses than anyone in the National League in 2002. Sixteen of ’em, to be exact, against ten wins. He had a 4.70 ERA and 1.438 WHIP in his 34 starts. The 2003 season was worse. Much worse. So very much worse. In nineteen starts and 123 1/3 innings pitched, Rusch finished the campaign 1-12, with a 6.42 ERA and 1.751 WHIP. So, you can imagine why Cubs fans weren’t too thrilled when the Cubs signed Rusch after he was briefly picked up and released by the Texas Rangers in the spring of 2004. The Cubs were defending the first of many NL Central pennants they’d win under Dusty Baker! They had power arms and added a wily veteran in Greg Maddux! The sky was the limit!

Rusch was destined to be the “swing man” for the 2004 Cubs. You know that guy. He’s not good enough to see batters three times a game, but his stuff isn’t good enough to see batters only one time a game. So he’s stuck in bullpen purgatory, where he was actually pretty amazing for the Cubs. When everyone was hurt all the time, Rusch went 4-2 in sixteen starts with a 3.50 ERA. And then when Joe Borowski and LaTroy Hawkins were utter crap at closing games and Dusty was too stupid to find anyone to do it (EVERY single member of that bullpen finished at least one game in 2004. Even Andy Pratt!), Rusch filled that role, collecting two saves in five games finished. Rusch was willing to go wherever the team needed him. Unfortunately, they needed him to pitch the 7th-9th EVERY game, and not even he could do that.

Rusch finished the year with a 6-2 record, a 3.47 ERA, and a 1.234 WHIP, the latter two being career highs. His ERA+ of 127 was the best of his career, and he was stingier with home runs (0.7 HR/9) than he had ever been or ever would be. Most refreshingly, though, he just shut the fuck up. When he was getting bounced back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen, he didn’t say a peep. When Steve Stone and Chip Caray were being their terrible selves, he didn’t throw a hissy-fit about it. He was a professional on a team full of children and Greg Maddux.

I wish I could tell you that Glendon fought the good fight, and the National League hitters let him be. I wish I could tell you that. But the MLB is no fairy-tale world. He never said who did it, but we all knew. The Cardinals. The Brewers. The Reds. Things went on like that for two more years. Baseball consists of routine, and then more routine. Every so often, Glendon would show up with fresh runs on his score sheet. The NL Central kept at him. Sometimes he was able to strike ’em out. Sometimes not. And that’s how it went for Glendon. That was his routine. I do believe those last two years were the worst for him, and I also believe that if things had gone on that way, Chicago would have got the best of him.

Fortunately, the Cubs released him after the 2006 season, and he signed a year later with the San Diego Padres and then the Colorado Rockies. But he was never the pitcher he was in 2004. Something inside Glendon died at the end of that 2004 season. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. When I picture Glendon heading west in his own car with the top down, it always makes me laugh.

Rusch made his last MLB appearance on May 13, 2009 in relief of Jason Marquis as the Houston Astros came into Colorado. It had gone poorly for Marquis, as he surrendered nine earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. Rusch gave up another six in 2 2/3 as the Astros pounded the Rockies 15-11.

These days, I have no idea where Glendon Rusch is. Glendon, please check in if you’re reading this. We’re all worried about you.

Greatest Cub Moment: The White Sox are stupid and everyone hates them. But a 2004 Fourth of July matchup of Mark Buehrle and Glendon Rusch at Wrigley Field did not favor the Cubs. Buehrle was predictably awesome against the Cubs, giving up a lone earned run on a solo home run by Derrek Lee in the second of his seven innings pitched. Rusch was better. He threw a five-hit shutout through eight innings with six strikeouts and no walks. The Cubs led 1-0 into the top of the ninth. LaTroy Hawkins changed that, blowing the save on a solo home run to Cub killer Carlos Lee. Fortunately, the Cubs loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth against Shingo Takatsu and eventually won on an appropriate Todd Walker walk-off walk.

Worst Moment as a Human: It was clear that Rusch’s Cub career was over on April 29, 2006. The Brewers were in Wrigley Field, and Rusch was on the mound. Not for long, unfortunately. Rusch lasted only 2 2/3 innings after allowing seven earned runs on six hits (FOUR of them home runs, including a leadoff homer by Rickie Weeks) striking out no one, and walking four. He labored through 81 pitches in getting those eight outs. The Cubs lost a laugher 16-2 as Rusch dropped to 1-4 on the season with an 8.46 ERA.

Friday Roundup: The “I Don’t Know How to Use the Internet” Edition

Melancholy courtesy of hirejimessian.com.

Image also courtesy of mashable.com.

Why is the Roundup so late? Because of a horrible, horrible thing that has come to pass. It’s with a sadness in my heart that I report that Google is discontinuing Google Reader. Since HJE has existed, Reader has been the way I do the Roundup. For years, it was the easiest way to pull articles from all the terrible websites I read. Including this one. It was a quick (or exhausting) break from work. I don’t really know how to use the internet without RSS. Do people, like, go to websites they like? Like, every day? That’s fucking weird. Now, I find myself forced to move over to Feedly. Which is…ehhh. I’m sure Reader will pop up on Google+ anyhow. Which, by the way, is such a refreshingly clean social network. Probably because none of my friends ever post anything on it. Oh, well.

Your tips are even more appreciated now that Reader has a death date. LONG LIVE THE TIPS!!!
Read more

The Muskbox Is an Equal-Hand Opportunity Employer

Please tell me that's your LEFT hand.

Growing up as a pure left-handed baseball player, my options on the field were limited. I was primarily a first baseman, though I did have my fair share of opportunities in the outfield and one ill-advised stint behind home plate (Why do they even SELL left-handed catcher’s mitts?). I’ve come to accept the fact that there are really only five positions on a baseball diamond for left-handers. The latest Muskbox has not yet accepted the same fact. Even more amazingly, someone finally asks a good question, and it’s followed up with NO ANSWER. Muskbox, away!

With Ian Stewart off to a bad start…

In LIFE. I want to like you, Ian Stewart. I really, really do.

…could Rizzo be called up to play third base? They could leave Bryan LaHair at first against lefties and use Jeff Baker at third.
— Stanley B., Gulf Breeze, Fla.

Maybe this idea isn’t as stupid as I first assumed. Sure, Anthony Rizzo wears his glove on the wrong hand for third base, which might be a liability. But “they” could significantly lessen that liability by playing Jeff Baker there at the same time!

CARRIE: I wouldn’t bump Stewart now.

Please. You’d bump Stewart whenever he wanted to.

CARRIE: He’s 8-for-28 in his last nine games. Rizzo joked that he would catch or even pitch just to get to the big leagues, but his best, and only, position is first base. One reason he won’t be moved to third is that he throws left-handed.

The other reason is- Wait, that’s all of the reasons.

CARRIE: If anyone moves, it would be LaHair to one of the outfield corners.

Or to the Indians.

It was nice to see LaHair and Stewart go back to back with home runs on Monday. I feel it’s been a while since the Cubs had two power-hitting lefties. When was the last time two Cubs left-handed hitters went back to back?
— Henry F., Urbana, Ill.

SOMEONE UNLOCK HARTIG’S CAGE!

CARRIE: I don’t know if you’d call Mike Fontenot a power-hitting lefty…

Don’t you? Don’t you, REALLY?

CARRIE: …but the last time the Cubs had two left-handed hitters belt back-to-back homers was April 30, 2009, when Milton Bradley led off the fifth inning against the Marlins with a blast and Fontenot followed with a home run on the next pitch.

Two of my favorite Cubs ever!

On Monday against the Braves, the Cubs almost hit three consecutive home runs in a game. When is the last time they actually did hit back-to-back-to-back homers?
— Nick E., Champaign, Ill.

Man, they REALLY love back-to-back homers down in Champaign-Urbana. Also, agricultural engineering.

CARRIE: Derrek Lee, Sammy Sosa and Michael Barrett did so Sept. 15, 2004, against the Pirates.

FUN FACT: Those were the last three home runs the Cubs hit during the 2004 season. MOTHER FUCKERS.

Since the Cubs traded Marlon Byrd, it has opened a spot in the outfield.

I was wondering why all those routine base hits to center field were rolling all the way to the ivy.

Is it possible that David DeJesus could play center?

IS HE LEFT-HANDED?

This would allow LaHair to play right field and Rizzo could be called up to play first. Is this possible to get Rizzo in the lineup?
— Cole V., Long Island, N.Y.

Season SAVED!

CARRIE: DeJesus has played more games in center than anywhere else in his career, so, yes, he could move over.

And, as to the second part of your question…

CARRIE:

Carrie?

CARRIE:

Carrie???

I saw Jamie Moyer pitch in Wrigley Field in 1986, his rookie season.

I saw Mark Prior pitch in Wrigley Field in 2002, his rookie season. So, we’re both retarded.

I wondered if that could have been his debut, but then read somewhere that Steve Carlton was the opposing pitcher when Moyer debuted.

“Then, I forgot about the existence of baseball-reference.com, mlb.com, espn.com, si.com, fangraphs.com, foxsports.com, cbssports.com, sports.yahoo.com, and pretty much every sports website in existence which would have allowed me to easily determine the date and opponent of Jamie Moyer’s Major League debut.”

I’m certain Carlton did not oppose Moyer in the game I witnessed. Do you know if Moyer’s maiden game was on the road in Philadelphia?
— Joseph H., Lake Ariel, Pa.

It was so long ago, HOW COULD ANYONE POSSIBLY KNOW???

CARRIE: Moyer made his Major League debut on June 6, 1986…

…at the age of 38…

CARRIE: …at Wrigley Field against the Phillies and Carlton. Moyer gave up five runs (four earned) on eight hits and three walks over 6 1/3 innings, striking out two. I don’t have data on the speed of his pitches then. Carlton took the loss, giving up four runs on six hits over 3 2/3 innings. The Cubs won, 7-5, and Moyer got his first “W.”

It’s neat that Jamie Moyer is old, I guess, but am I alone in not giving a flying fuck about anything relating to Jamie Moyer?

Do we know who will be giving the Hall of Fame induction speech for Ron Santo?
— Bob B., Frankfort, Ill.

/sets DVR

CARRIE: Santo’s wife, Vicki, will do the honors on July 22 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

/cancels scheduled recording

Everyone is wondering when Rizzo and Jackson will get called up to the big leagues.

I’m actually too busy wondering when Tony Campana is going to get called down to Iowa.

One guy I’m excited about but haven’t heard much about is Trey McNutt. Any word on how close he is to getting the call?
— Devin P., Zion, Ill.

You might say waiting for Trey McNutt is driving him…CRAZY!

CARRIE: McNutt has been bothered by blisters and just came off the disabled list. Injuries set him back last season as well. This year, in six starts with Double-A Tennessee, he’s 0-3 with a 2.66 ERA, giving up six earned runs on 16 hits and 10 walks over 20 1/3 innings.

What this franchise wants–nay, NEEDS–are more injury-prone pitchers.

Where is Junior Lake?

It’s just off 41 in Wisconsin between Lake Winnebago and Rush Lake.

I couldn’t find him on any of the Minor League rosters.
— Steve S., Florissant, Mo.

Oh.

CARRIE: Lake is now with Tennessee. The infielder had some back problems, and didn’t open the season with the Smokies, but spent time in the Cubs’ extended spring camp in Mesa, Ariz. Through Wednesday, he was 3-for-12 in three games.

I’ve seen enough. GET HIM UP HERE.

How many bunts have been attempted this season by the 2012 Cubs Spring Training bunt tournament champion, DeJesus? I don’t think it’s been that many. Why hasn’t he laid down more?
— Mike C., Peoria, Ill.

The Muskbox wants DeJesus to move to center field and bunt more. Then why do they have Tony Campana? No, seriously, WHY DO THEY HAVE TONY CAMPANA?

CARRIE: Good question.

Good answer. No, wait.

The Muskbox is Not Quite Dead Yet

I long for the days when the Muskbox was timely.

Despite appearances, I’m not letting HJE die a slow death. In fact, I’m working on another facelift for the old girl, which will probably take longer than the T79. Also, there may be a return of a beloved feature on the horizon. No, not the Shoutbox. I haven’t gotten around to that yet. In this latest episode of Muskbox, the fans lament Bryan LaHair’s lack of at-bats (DAFUQ?) and wonder what might have been for the Peoria Chiefs if Albert Pujols were still playing there. Yup. It’s gonna be THAT kind of Muskbox.

Why isn’t Bryan LaHair starting every day?

Because he basically…is? He’s started 75% of their games to this point.

He has a .300 average…

.381, but it’s pretty refreshing to see a Cubs fan UNDERvalue a player.

…he’s hitting home runs, and this is supposed to be his opportunity to show his abilities.

The True Value Cubs Caravan Circus Freak Show is finally in town!

It doesn’t make sense.
— Dean S., Goshen, Ind.

Agreed.

CARRIE: This spring, LaHair was 3-for-18 against left-handed pitchers, while hitting .349 against right-handers.

“He sucked against lefties.”
“That’s bad.”
“But that was in the spring, so the stats didn’t count.”
“That’s good!”
“But he only has one hit against lefties so far this year.”
“That’s bad.”
“But the hit was a home run.”
“That’s good!”
“The home run was cursed.”

CARRIE: If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because a lefty is starting and the Cubs want to get Jeff Baker in the mix.

Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy? I mean, nothing against him personally, but Jeff Baker sucks and has absolutely no future with this team nor any trade value, no?

CARRIE: Baker has a career .309 average against left-handers, while LaHair is 1-for-7 this year, and 6-for-41 in his career against lefties. He’d like more chances against them.

He’ll show you lefties. He’ll show ALL of you lefties!

CARRIE: “I’m not afraid of left-handers,” LaHair said.

“Just spiders, dying alone, and Blake DeWitt.”

CARRIE: “I feel any time I come to the plate, I can do something, whether it’s a lefty or righty.

“I can either strike out or hit a home run, respectively!”

CARRIE: I’m on board [with sharing first], and I have a role, and I’ve accepted it.”

“I didn’t ask.”
-Dale Sveum

CARRIE: Cubs manager Dale Sveum isn’t using a strict platoon. Sveum did not lift LaHair for a pinch-hitter on Tuesday against Cardinals lefty Marc Rzepczynski…

That’s bad.

CARRIE: …and LaHair delivered a home run.

That’s good!

CARRIE: That was his first hit this season off a left-hander.

Can I go now?

“You do want to give him at-bats against lefties, you don’t want to straight platoon,” Sveum said of LaHair. “The bottom line is, Baker swings the heck out of the bat against left-handed pitching, and you have to give him at-bats, and sometimes without jeopardizing our defense in other areas, that’s the one spot Baker is going to play.”

Baker is .250/.364/.375 against lefties this year. Jeff Baker’s “swings the heck out of” is everyone else’s “tolerable.”

I was wondering if Bryan LaHair or Anthony Rizzo are serviceable at any position but first base. It seems to me that Rizzo is just wasting his time Triple-A Iowa and needs more big league at-bats. Any way to get both of them in the lineup?
— John B., Ketchikan, Alaska

Do you have any idea how many closer options you have for cheering on a baseball team than the Chicago Cubs? You are over 2,600 miles from Wrigley Field. You should just root for Russian bandy instead.

CARRIE: LaHair can play the outfield corners if necessary, but he did not play any outfield this spring.

No success against lefties, no outfield in the spring. What a sad turn of events for Bryan LaHair.

CARRIE: And to those who have suggested LaHair move to third base, that’s not going to happen.

Although there’s a way better chance of that move happening than putting Rizzo there, as previous Muskboxers suggested.

With all the talk about LaHair and Rizzo at first base, it got me thinking: How many first basemen have played for the Cubs since Mark Grace went to Arizona?
— Kevin M., Racine, Wis.

Oh, God. Oh, God, WHY WOULD YOU ASK THIS QUESTION???

CARRIE: Grace’s last season with the Cubs was in 2000. Since then, there have been 36 players who have taken a turn at first base. The list includes: Matt Stairs, Fred McGriff, Julio Zuleta, Ron Coomer, Delino DeShields, Michael Tucker, Mark Bellhorn, Hee-Seop Choi, Angel Echevarria, Robert Machado, Lenny Harris, Eric Karros, Ramon Martinez, Randall Simon, Jason Dubois, Todd Hollandsworth, Derrek Lee, Todd Walker, Scott McClain, Enrique Wilson, Henry Blanco, Jerry Hairston Jr., John Mabry, Scott Moore, Mark DeRosa, Jake Fox, Daryle Ward, Micah Hoffpauir, Baker, Xavier Nady, Tyler Colvin, LaHair, DJ LeMahieu, Carlos Pena, Steve Clevenger and Joe Mather.

And not a one of them could measure up to the cool confidence and slick fielding of Lenny Harris. Except the ACTUAL Lenny Harris, I suppose.

I saw in Parade magazine…

Though I appreciate a submitter providing more detail than, “I read somewhere,” this is probably the best example of when “I read somewhere,” would be the safest way to avoid getting your ass kicked.

…that Albert Pujols was listed as playing for the Peoria Chiefs. Is there another Peoria team not affiliated with the Cubs, or was he in the Cubs’ Minor League system? If so, how did he get there (it seems the Cubs would’ve drafted him) and why did he leave?
— John R., Pinckneyville, Ill.

So, so much is wrong here. I’ll start.

  1. assumes that minor league teams never change affiliation with the Major League club
  2. supposes if there were two minor league baseball teams in Peoria that they’d BOTH be named the Chiefs
  3. ignores the fact that if Albert Pujols had ever been in the Cubs’ minor league system, Phil Rogers would be bitching about it EVERY SINGLE DAY
  4. doesn’t understand the amateur draft
  5. can’t fathom a minor league player having basically no control over his career path

Did I miss anything?

CARRIE: The Peoria Chiefs were a Cardinals Minor League team from 1996-2004, which is when Pujols played for them. The Chiefs were affiliated with the Cubs from 1985-95, and again from 2005 to the present.

I feel like this transfer is the result of Jim Hendry having no idea how a trade for Pujols would actually work.

With Kerry Wood going down on the disabled list again this year, I feel he may not be around in the Major Leagues much longer.

Impossible. His career path trends toward him pitching well into his 40s.

Can you see Kerry staying with the Cubs as a coach after his career? I would love to see him stay in Cubbie blue.
— Nick A., Valparaiso, Ind.

Then get Ryne Sandberg to manage, bring Greg Maddux and Rick Sutcliffe back as co-pitching coaches, bring Andre Dawson and Mark Grace back as co-hitting coaches, and bring Bob Brenly in as bench coach, just to shut him the fuck up about sunglasses!

CARRIE: Wood, 34, has three young children who may want him to be their coach once his playing days are over. Right now, the focus is on this season.

Is she suggesting that Theo Epstein draft Kerry Wood’s three young children? Because, if so, BRILLIANT.

I was watching one of the Cubs-Brewers games, and the announcers were talking about a Cardinals pitcher (I’m not sure when this happened)…

“Or, really, IF it happened. Or where I am. Or why we’re all here.”

…but he left the game at Wrigley, found a trench coat and they spotted him in his uniform across the street on a rooftop cheering with fans. Can you tell me who this was?
— Jeannine W., Ashland, Wis.

But if he was wearing a trench coat, HOW DID THEY SPOT THE UNIFORM? No, no. Nothing about this story adds up at all.

CARRIE: The only pitcher I know who did that was Tom Browning, who was with the Reds. In July 1993, he snuck out of Wrigley Field and was spotted on one of the rooftops on Sheffield Avenue in uniform. He was fined $500 by Cincinnati manager Davey Johnson for the prank.

Browning had access to one of the best seats in Wrigley Field, yet he chose to go sit 450 feet from home plate instead. Only a total idiot would ever choose to do that.

What’s become of Derrek Lee? Is he still a free agent and not signed?
— Dan M., Hillside, Ill.

He’ll never work in this town again!

CARRIE: He is still a free agent and not signed — that’s correct.

Also, “Yes.”

Do the Cubs have a good shortstop at Triple-A? They have to move Starlin Castro to center field. He is not a shortstop at all, and enough is enough with the errors.
— Rick V., Woodridge, Ill.

God dammit, you suck. There is absolutely no reason not to give Starlin plenty of time right now to prove whether or not he can handle shortstop at the Major League level. If he can, awesome. If he can’t, he’s almost certainly not going to end up in center field. Incidentally, Starlin Castro can RAKE. No, that’s not a typo. That is all.

CARRIE: The Cubs’ best shortstop prospect is Junior Lake, but I think you’re writing Castro off too soon. When he was called up in May 2010, he was 20 years old and had less than 1,000 at-bats in the Minor Leagues. He may be ready offensively, but he is still learning on defense. I’m not saying Castro is a Hall of Famer…

“…because I never say anything of substance or make any real predictions in this column.”

CARRIE: …but Robin Yount made 44 errors at shortstop in his second season in 1975, and 31 more in ’76. Sveum is working with him, but there will be growing pains.

“I’m not saying Starlin Castro is A Hall of Famer, I’m saying he’s THE Hall of Famer, Robin Yount!”

The 2011 Cubs Season in Review. Horrible, Horrible Review.

QUIT STEALING PLAYING TIME FROM TONY CAMPANA!!!

The 2011 season ground to a merciful halt yesterday. In a beautiful display of symmetry, it ended much the same way it started, with Ryan Dempster walking everyone in the park, serving up a grand slam, and losing to a shitty team. In case you missed the past six months of baseball, the Cubs didn’t make the playoffs again. What did they make? MEMORIES. Here are some of the best of the 2011 season, as told by me, you Tweepers, and (mostly) Pre. Seriously, this got a great, frustrated response from many of you. I laughed heartily last night at the #2011Cubs hashtag. Thank you all for doing my “job” for me. Now bear with me. This is a lengthy, girthy one.

November 7, 2010: With the Cubs’ offseason in full swing, Todd Ricketts goes on CBS, the network television version of the Chicago Cubs, to film an episode of Undercover Boss. Throughout the course of my live blog, we learn that not only can Todd not read or write, but he also cannot (1) hose down a bathroom, (2) sell a hot dog, (3) park a car, or (4) operate a scoreboard. The next day, no fewer than 6,000 blogs use the headline “Undercover Todd.”

November 12, 2010: With Harry Caray’s corpse unavailable and Ryan Dempster home for the offseason, the Cubs do their best to desecrate Harry’s memory in any way possible. (HT: Pre)

November 20, 2010: Miraculously, no one dies during a Northwestern-Illinois football game played at Wrigley Field. Despite the fact that Wrigley Field used to HOST FOOTBALL GAMES, the Cubs choose to flip the configuration of the playing surface, leaving six inches of space between the back of the end zone and the brick wall beyond. Crane Kenney is quoted as saying, “Wait, six inches is way above average, right?”

April 1, 2011: APRIL FOOL! On Opening Day at Wrigley Field, Ryan Dempster reminds us of (1) why we hate him, and (2) Game One of the 2008 NLDS. In the top of the 5th inning, Dempster walks two guys and serves up a 2-out grand slam to Neil Walker in a 6-3 Cub loss. (HT: @lcm1986) Outside the park, more pranks!

April 4-5, 2011: The Cubs lose 40% of their rotation on consecutive starts against the Arizona Diamondbacks. And you have that brief, horrible moment where you sort of miss Carlos Silva. (HT: @Toolism)

April 12, 2011: James Russell makes his first of a nightmarish five starts for the Cubs in 2011. He goes 0-5 and pitches only 18 ⅓ innings with a 9.33 ERA and a 2.018 WHIP in those five starts. He also allows an astonishing seven home runs, and strikes out only ten batters. (HT: @Toolism)

April 15, 2011: The Cubs are in Colorado to face the Rockies. In the bottom of the 2nd inning with bases loaded, Chris Ianetta triples to center field. Starlin Castro airmails a throw to Aramis Ramirez, allowing Ianetta to score. Len and Bob call the boner a “mental error.” Stupid Castro. Choosing to throw the ball to a fan instead of to Aramis. Oh, the Cubs lose 5-0. (HT: @greaso)

April 20, 2011: The final day the Cubs had a winning record in 2011. NEVER FORGET. (HT: @wsuraiders33)

April 25, 2011: Starlin Castro commits three errors in the top of the 2nd inning against the visiting Colorado Rockies, including two on consecutive batters. The Rockies score three runs off the errors and beat the Cubs 5-3. (HT: Pre)

April 29, 2011: With ticket sales already slipping, the Cubs start bribing fans to come to the bleachers with the promise of free t-shirts, cheap beer, and cheap hot dogs. They’d have done better with a Crane Kenney dunk tank. Filled with piranhas. (HT: Pre)

April 30, 2011: Matt Garza, Jim Hendry’s biggest offseason acquisition, finally wins a game in a Cub uniform. It only takes him six starts. Darwin Barney finishes the month of April with a respectable .326/.351/.449 line.

May 3, 2011: Carlos Pena, Jim Hendry’s SECOND-biggest offseason acquisition, finally hits a home run in a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. It only takes him 88 plate appearances.

May 7, 2011: Pointy-shouldered Todd Wellemeyer retires. Too bad for him. If he’d stuck around, he’d have made at least a dozen starts. (HT: Pre)

May 10, 2011: Jim Hendry molests Albert Pujols, and the Cubs blogosphere goes apeshit over the prospect of Pujols in a Cubs uniform. (HT: Pre)

May 14, 2011: Doug Davis makes his first of (I shit you not) NINE starts in a Cub uniform. Davis pitches miraculously well, surrendering 3 runs (1 earned) in five innings of a rain-shortened 3-0 San Francisco Giants win. Davis pitches from mid-May until the end of June, compiling a 1-7 record with a 6.50 ERA and a 1.861 WHIP. (HT: @MikeyLo34)

May 21, 2011: Marlon Byrd tries to hit a baseball WITH HIS FACE.

May 27, 2011: Carlos Zambrano injures himself WATCHING TELEVISION. (HT: Pre)

May 31, 2011: Jordan Lyles makes his first career start and–surprise, surprise–surrenders only two runs in seven innings of a 7-3 Astros win. Lyles wins only one more game in his 15 starts and posts a 5.36 ERA on the year. (HT: Pre) Darwin Barney’s power and ability to get on base regularly disappear, as wraps up May with a .296/.316/.343 line. Radio callers continue to praise Barney for “playing the game the RIGHT way.”

June 1, 2011: Aramis Ramirez tries to catch a baseball WITH HIS FACE. (HT: Pre)

June 4, 2011: Albert Pujols walks off with a home run. (HT: Pre)

June 5, 2011: Albert Pujols walks off with ANOTHER home run, prompting Cubs fans to say, “Why the hell does Mike Quade keep pitching to Albert Pujols with the game on the line?” and prompting Carlos Zambrano to say what everyone is thinking. “We stinks.” Dr. Seuss covers the event.

June 7, 2011: The Cubs draft Shawon Dunston and Trevor Gretzky in the amateur draft. (HT: Pre)

June 8, 2011: Jim Hendry learns that he actually drafted Shawon Dunston JUNIOR. Also, that Wayne Gretzky was a HOCKEY player.

June 11, 2011: FOX inexplicably continues to hand a microphone to Ryan Dempster. Humorless idiot Joe Buck calls Dempster’s terrible Will Ferrell impression “tremendous,” and sycophant Tim McCarver says Dempster has “never been better.” Even Harry Caray’s STATUE rolls in its grave. I turn the game off before it even starts. Incidentally, when I was looking for the Joe Buck-Artie Lange exchange, the top autocomplete result in Google was “joe buck gay.” Allegedly, he had an affair with Fernando Tatis. None of this is germane to the season recap. I just wanted to put the image of Fernando Tatis fucking Joe Buck in your head.

June 15, 2011: Ryan Dempster makes HILARIOUS “Fudge the Goat” t-shirts. Only he didn’t say “Fudge.” He said THE word. The big one. The queen-mother of dirty words. The “F-dash-dash-dash” word! Literally. He didn’t even have the balls to put “FUCK” on a t-shirt. (HT: Pre)

June 20, 2011: Ozzie Guillen is ejected from the first game of the Crosstown Series at U.S. Cellular Field for booting Geovany Soto’s mask. (NSFW due to Hawk and Stone) Cubs fans will remember it as the one time during the 2011 season when Geovany Soto was relevant. (HT: Pre) While members of the Cub organization tell the youthful homosexuals of the world, “It gets better,” the team gets worse and worse.

June 28, 2011: The best throw of the season comes from the left-field bleachers, as a fan almost hits Miguel Tejada with his own home run ball. In other news, John Grabow gave up a home run.

June 30, 2011: Darwin Barney bats .246/.281/.246 in June without a single extra-base hit, with one measly RBI, and with 12 strikeouts against ONE walk. However, he remains white, gritty, and therefore BELOVED BY THE CUB FANBASE. Meanwhile, Tom Ricketts assures the media that absolutely nothing is wrong with the Cubs. They’re just injured. Oh, and he’s totally confident in Jim Hendry. And unicorns are real! Todd saw one behind his bike shop last week! And the economy is turning around, and it’s a great time to sell your house!

July 5, 2011: Holy shit, Ramon Ortiz is still alive? AND HE’S STARTING FOR THE CUBS??? (HT: Pre)

July 12, 2011: The 2011 All-Star Game is held at Chase Field in Arizona. Just three years after the Cubs sent SEVEN players to the game, they send only the mandatory one: Starlin Castro, the youngest player in the majors. (HT: @TheWrigleyBlog)

July 20, 2011: Knowing that they attract the wine-and-cheese crowd, the Cubs give away chip-and-dip platters. Wow. (HT: @espnchijon)

July 22-24, 2011: The Cubs FINALLY win three games in a row. And then promptly lose their next five. (HT: Pre)

July 26, 2011: Mike Quade denies his own insanity, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. He also manages to only use two terrible nicknames for his players during a minute-long interview. Oh, and Marlon Byrd almost punches a heckling fan. A heckling CUBS fan. (HT: @TheWrigleyBlog)

July 28, 2011: Jim Hendry awakens from his slumber long enough to trade Kosuke Fukudome to the Cleveland Indians, who are in the midst of a pennant race. Indians fans are like, “WTF?” Cubs fans are like, “LOL!” and Kosuke is like, “さようなら.” The Indians finish 14 games behind the first-place Detroit Tigers.

July 31, 2011: Darwin Barney rebounds from his awful June with a slightly-less-awful .276/.323/.391 line in July. Mike Quade finally realizes Barney probably shouldn’t be hitting at the top of his lineup.

August 1-2, 2011: Despite the damage done to Wrigley Field due to concerts held in the venue, Crane Kenney just HAD to see Sir Paul McCartney sing “Let It Be.” My search for the setlist led to me accidentally reading my first BCB post, which was, incidentally the MOST BORING GODDAMN THING EVER WRITTEN ABOUT THE BEATLES. Yellon writes about McCartney MAGICALLY rolling up his sleeves before getting to the important questions, like what the crowd wore. Here’s a brilliant snippet from the article: “Meanwhile, Wrigley itself looked the same — only different…” That fragment makes perfect sense — only it’s fucking retarded. Maybe Al should take over the Muskbox when Carrie retires. (HT: Pre)

August 5, 2011: Tony Campana hits his first (and, God willing, his last) MLB home run, an inside-the-park job off Cincinnati Reds starter Mike Leake. Legions of idiots insist that Mike Quade should give the 25-year-old “kid” more playing time. Incidentally, Campana finished the 2011 season with an anemic (too soon?) .259/.303/.301 line. He’s a disgrace to the #41 once worn by legends Jim Essian and Lou Piniella. (HT: @wsuraiders33)

August 10, 2011: The Cubs unveil a Ron Santo statue. I am disappointed the statue isn’t made mostly of plastic, but with legs made of human flesh.

August 12, 2011: Carlos Zambrano serves up five home runs to the Atlanta Braves and “retires.” The Cubs see a cheap way to get out of Zambrano’s contract, so they immediately begin doing everything they can to (1) destroy any trade value he might have had left, and (2) void the rest of his contract.

August 15, 2011: The Cubs put Carlos Zambrano on the disqualified list. I learn that the MLB has a “disqualified list.”

August 16, 2011: Entrusted with a 5-2 lead, Carlos Marmol gives up two singles, a walk, and a wild pitch before serving up a walkoff grand slam to Brian Bogusevic (who?) in Houston. (HT: @bbott17)

August 19, 2011: After 16 years with the Cubs, Jim Hendry is finally fired. Outside of doughnut shops all around the Chicago area, “Taps” is played faintly, mournfully, soulfully. We learn soon after the announcement that Hendry was actually fired on July 22nd, which explains why he sat with his thumbs up his ass through the trade deadline. Un. Fucking. Believable.

August 22, 2011: Bobby Valentine interviews for a managing job during Sunday baseball, ripping into the Cubs’ best position prospect since Mark Grace for SEVEN MINUTES for…chewing sunflower seeds, I guess. I hate Bobby Valentine.

August 24, 2011: The New York Yankees claim Carlos Pena off waivers, but the Cubs inexplicably don’t trade him. Which makes absolutely no sense. (HT: Pre)

August 31, 2011: Darwin Barney finishes August with a .255/.306/.343 line. Reporters and bloggers everywhere blame Aramis Ramirez’s laziness for the Cubs floundering near the bottom of the NL Central. Aramis finishes August with a LAZY FUCKING .377/.429/.575 line, slugging five home runs and driving in 20 RBIs.

September 3, 2011: The Cubs are facing former Cub Derrek Lee and the Pirates in Pittsburgh. Carlos Marmol is handed a 5-3 Cub lead in the top of the 9th inning. In an inning eerily reminiscent of his August 16 outing, Marmol gives up a single, two walks, and a passed ball. Lee sends a grand slam into the bleachers to give the Pirates a 7-5 lead that they would hold. (HT: @bbott17)

September 6, 2011: Ned Ryerson points out to me that Cubs tickets are selling on StubHub for ONE DOLLAR AND FORTY-EIGHT CENTS. Holy shit. (HT: @89Cubs)

September 9, 2011: Health inspectors at Wrigley Field confirm that, yes, the Cubs organization has been trying to kill you for years.

September 21, 2011: Despite a half-full Wrigley Field for many of the Cubs’ 81 home games, they surpass three million fans for the eighth season in a row. Because of idiots like me who ordered their tickets before this shitshow started. (HT: @Toolism)

September 27, 2011: In the top of the first inning of the penultimate game of the year, Starlin Castro collects his 205th hit, passing Juan Pierre and making him irrelevant to Cub history. THANK YOU, STARLIN! Castro ended 2011 with 207 hits, tying him with Heinie Zimmerman at #9 on the Cubs’ hit leaders for a season. Wait, how did this GOOD item get on here?

September 28, 2011: On the greatest night of regular season baseball ever, Alfonso Soriano finishes the season with a .289 OBP, the lowest of his career. (HT: @Toolism) Ryan Theriot finishes the season with a .663 OPS versus the league…and an .864 OPS versus the Cubs, cementing his place as a Cub Killer. (HT: @LouUhler) The Cubs wrap up the 2011 season without hitting a single grand slam. They are the only team to finish the season without one. (HT: @lastcartridge) Darwin Barney hits to the tune of a .247/.291/.321 line in September. But the Ricketts family will tell you they’re “set” at second base heading into the 2012 season. Marlon Byrd, who spent most of the 2011 season batting 3rd, 5th, or 6th, finishes with only 35 RBIs, EIGHT FEWER than Darwin Barney.

Is This the Last Muskbox of the Season? ONLY THE BUN KNOWS FOR SURE.

There is a very real and sad possibility that last week’s Muskbox may be the last one of the season. Meaning they will certainly address those last remaining questions you have about the Cubs. All of the important stuff, like HOW DID THE CUBS FARE WITH RUNNERS IN SCORING POSITION IN 2000??? The Muskbox is nothing if not relevant.

So, nothing then.

I don’t understand even the idea of not re-signing Ramirez.

The Rickettses hate spending money, and they hate evaluating baseball talent. And, let’s face it, NO ONE CAN EVER REPLACE RON SANTO!!!

You mentioned a four-year deal is a stretch. Ramirez would only be 37 then and he has not showed any signs of dropping in production. He’s led the Cubs in home runs and RBIs since he came here in 2003, aside from Derrek Lee’s season in ’05. There is no one in the Minor League system good enough to take his place in the near future, and there are not many all-around third basemen out there, either. To me, the Cubs are asking to lose if they let Ramy go.

Holy shit, Mike Quade wrote in to the Muskbox!

They would be losing half of their offensive production. Even when he has had injuries, he still leads the team in almost every offensive category. It’s absurd to me. How many other third basemen have had numbers close to Ramirez since 2003?
— Alycia T., DeMotte, Ind.

A-Rod. But no third basemen who DON’T wear lipstick are really close.

CARRIE: The Cubs were considering picking up Ramirez’s $16 million option for 2012, but…

…then someone explained to Todd Ricketts how many Xboxes $16 million can buy.

CARRIE: …his agent told the team on Wednesday that the third baseman will test the free-agent market. Ramirez, 33, will be the best third baseman available this offseason and may get a three- or four-year deal from a team. You’re right that the Cubs don’t have an heir apparent. As I said Sept. 8: “The main question is whether he wants to stay with the Cubs.” Evidently, he’s answered that question.

The Muskbox is quoting old Musboxes? It’s a Muskbox within a Muskbox! MUSKBOXCEPTION!!!

What are the chances of seeing an outfield of Tyler Colvin in left, Brett Jackson in center and Bryan LaHair in right in 2012?

Shockingly, the exact same chances of me NEVER WATCHING THE CUBS AGAIN.

That would give the Cubs young left-handed power that the team hasn’t seen in years. Marlon Byrd’s 35 RBIs in 460 at-bats in the middle of the order is pathetic.
— Ron M., South Bend, Ind.

/checks stats

Holy shit, Marlon Byrd really DOES only have 35 RBIs. And Aramis is the only player on the team with over 90 RBIs. This season could mark two years in a row that the Cubs didn’t have a player who drove in more than 100 runs. Hell, in 2010, they didn’t even have a guy who drove in 90. This team. She’s not-a so good.

CARRIE: The chances aren’t real good.

Is it because all of those guys are terrible?

CARRIE: Alfonso Soriano is signed through 2014, so unless he’s moved this offseason, he’ll be back in left. Colvin (.154/.208/.313) has a lot of work to do. Jackson would have to wow the team this spring. Right field is risky for LaHair.

Did you know some teams actually hit FLY BALLS out there???

CARRIE: Byrd has some work to do this offseason, and he admitted that on Wednesday, saying it’s a mechanical thing. Said Byrd: “I’m sure it’s an easy fix, and I’ll get it done for 2012.”

So, wait, he was too busy during the season to fix this simple mechanical problem?

RUDY JARAMILLO: Marlon, I just want to talk to you really quickly about your swing.
MARLON: Hang on, coach, gotta go play center field for a little bit.
TIME PASSES
RUDY: Marlon, seriously, we need to work on your swing.
MARLON: Right NOW? I was going to go down to Toshi Station to pick up some power converters!
RUDY: You know I get paid more than half the hitters on this team, right?

With all the talk about how bad the Cubs’ average with runners in scoring position has been this year, I am curious to compare this year’s to each of the past 10 years, but I can’t find the stat anywhere.
— Tim G., Burbank, Ill.

That’s because you’re a terrible person who asks awful questions. That took me less than 30 seconds to find.

CARRIE: Here you go:

2011: .233
2010: .262
2009: .241
2008: .278
2007: .278
2006: .262
2005: .258
2004: .266
2003: .259
2002: .241
2001: .269
2000: .269

Ed Hartig is somewhere smoking a cigarette.

CARRIE: For comparison’s sake, the National League West-leading D-backs are batting .252 with RISP this year, the East-leading Phillies are hitting .267 and the Central-leading Brewers are at .264.

And Marlon Byrd is hitting .200!!!

With the Cubs’ first-base situation next year, why is Mike Quade not letting LaHair show what he can do at his normal position?
— John P., Swifton, Ark.

While Mike Quade is an idiot, LaHair is also 28 years old, and has played in 63 MLB games. I don’t think where you play in the field affects how you hit, right?

CARRIE: Quade wants to give Carlos Pena a chance to hit 30 home runs this year.

Holy shit, Mike Quade : Carlos Pena :: Don Baylor : Fred McGriff.

What a season, folks. What. A. Season.

The Top 79 Cub Killers of My Time #29: Preston “Wears T-Shirts…Sometimes” Wilson

He's like a happier-looking LaTroy Hawkins.

Surely, you remember Preston Wilson. His hair was kinda- I don’t know- brown. Well, not really brown. Oh, he’s tall. Yeah. Kinda- kinda tall. Sorta tall. And he’s always wearing- like- t-shirts. I mean, he’s Preston. PRESTON. You know? Preston. Press-TONE! And he’s the 29th biggest Cub killer of my time.

Preston Wilson was one of the most-hyped free-swinging sluggers in the late ’90s, after being drafted as the 9th overall pick of the 1992 draft by the New York Mets. After belting 129 home runs in 5 minor league seasons with the Mets, Wilson made his way to the big leagues. His Major League debut came on May 7, 1998. The St. Louis Cardinals were in New York to take on loudmouth asshole Bobby Valentine’s Mets. Wilson led off the game and played left field. He went 3-4 with an RBI and a stolen base. It’s almost as though he was playing against the Cubs!

Just two weeks later, Wilson was traded to the Florida Marlins along with Geoff Goetz and Ed Yarnell for Mike Piazza. It was in Florida that Wilson’s assault on Cub pitching began. His debut against the Cubs came on April 27, 1999, at Pro Player Stadium. Wilson pinch ran for Cliff Floyd in the 6th inning, and scored on a Derrek Lee triple off Cub pitcher Kurt Miller (who?). In Wilson’s first at-bat against the Cubs, he grounded into a double play. It didn’t matter, though. The Marlins were leading 7-0 at the time on their way to an eventual 8-0 win.

Wilson spent 5 years with the Marlins before he was involved in another big-name trade. The Marlins sent Wilson along with Vic Darensbourg, Charles Johnson, and Pablo Ozuna to the Colorado Rockies for Mike Hampton and Juan Pierre.

Wilson spent three seasons swinging for the fences (and occasionally a baseball) in the thin Colorado air, after which he was sent to the Washington Nationals for J.J. Davis and Zach Day before the 2005 trade deadline. The Rockies kept the rent-a-player until the end of the 2005 season.

Much to the chagrin of Cub pitchers, Wilson spent the final two seasons of his career in the National League Central with the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals before retiring after the 2007 season. Though the phenom never lived up to his full potential, compiling a .264/.329/.468 slash line over the course of his career, he did just fine against the Cubs.

In 228 plate appearances versus the Cubs, Wilson had a .288/.333/.604 line. He hit a whopping 17 home runs and drove in 47 RBIs. He even managed to walk 12 times, a tough task for the guy who challenged Bobby Bonds’ strikeout record when he whiffed 187 times in 2000.

Wilson was even more potent in Wrigley Field, where he hit 12 of his 17 bombs and drove in 31 RBIs against the Cubs, compiling a .303/.370/.672 line.

All the while wearing t-shiiiiiiirts!

Why You Should Hate Him: Pick your poison. There was the June 24, 2000, game in Florida. Preston launched 2 home runs, including a go-ahead, 2-out, 3-run shot off Rick Aguilera in the bottom of the 8th inning to give the Marlins a 6-4 lead. But, let’s face it. The Cubs were awful in 2000. On September 5, 2001, however, they were in a pennant race when they traveled down to Florida. Behind starter Juan Cruz, the Cubs jumped out to a 4-0 lead, and they were still leading 6-4 when Tom Gordon came in to close out the game. It was not meant to be. Gordon got two outs, but couldn’t get former Cubs Derrek Lee and John Mabry. Wilson came to the plate with two men on and, with a 1-2 count against him, launched a 3-run walkoff home run.

Did You Know? Wilson is the stepson and nephew of Mookie Wilson. That family tree seems…difficult to climb.

Friday Night Fukudome: Lee vs. Ramirez

Well, it’s still Jim Hendry day, and old Jim made a few good moves during his time. No question, however, the two best moves he made were (1) trading Bobby Hill, Matt (hee hee!) Bruback, and Jose Hernandez to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton; and (2) trading Hee Seop Choi to the Florida Marlins for Derrek Lee. Which leads us to the Fukudome.


VS.
Derrek Lee Aramis Ramirez

[poll id=”108″]

The Top 79 Cub Killers of My Time #36: Billy “Goat” Wagner

The only way Wagner can't kill the Cubs.

Billy Wagner has had a very long, very successful MLB career. Wagner was half of a lethal back end of a Houston Astros bullpen in the early ’00s. Wagner saved games behind setup man Octavio Dotel. He’s saved quite a few of them in his sixteen seasons. 422, to be precise. He might be stuck on that number, as a postseason injury suffered during his remarkable 2010 comeback with the Braves may have ended the 40-year-old’s career. That’s happy news for the Cubs, since the diminutive left-hander is the 36th biggest Cub Killer of My Time.

Wagner was drafted by the Houston Astros as the 12th overall pick of the 1993 draft. The Cubs took another closer with a long and storied career two picks ahead of the Astros. Brooks Kieschnick.

Wagner was a September callup at the end of the 1995 season. Wagner was brought on in the bottom of the 6th inning and successfully retired lefty Rico Brogna. That was Wagner’s only appearance that season. Wagner was a mid-season callup in 1996, when he accumulated 67 strikeouts and 9 saves in 51 2/3 innings pitched. His 2.44 ERA was the lowest on the Houston staff.

1996 was also the first time Wagner faced the Cubs. In a late-August game at Wrigley Field, Terry Collins called upon Wagner to pitch the bottom of the 8th inning in a 12-3 Cub blowout. Wagner struck out Ryne Sandberg and Leo Gomez swinging before inducing a Scott Servais groundout.

By the 1997 season, the 25-year-old Wagner was officially named the Astros’ closer. He saved 23 games in 29 chances and struck out a ridiculous 14.4 batters per 9 innings.

Wagner pitched until 2003 in Texas, saving 225 games and racking up an ERA+ of 171 with a 1.039 WHIP while striking out 12.4 batters per 9 innings. His best season with Houston came in 1999, when he saved 39 games, had a 0.777 WHIP, and finished 4th in the Cy Young voting and 16th in the MVP race.

After the 2003 season, Houston traded Wagner to the Philadelphia Phillies for Ezequiel Astacio, Taylor Buchholz and Brandon Duckworth. Oops. Wagner was injured for part of the 2004 season, but bounced back strongly in 2005. He pitched 77 2/3 innings and compiled 38 saves with a 1.51 ERA.

Wagner was granted free agency after the 2005 season, and he signed with the Mets on November 29, 2005. His four years with the Mets ended with several injuries, but he still managed a 2.37 ERA and 101 saves in New York. When the Mets had enough of the injured Wagner, they traded him to the Boston Red Sox for Chris Carter and Eddie Lora. The Cubs had a brief respite with Wagner out of the National League. Unfortunately, the Atlanta Braves signed him prior to the 2010 offseason, and he had one of his best seasons ever. The All-Star posted a 1.43 ERA and 0.865 WHIP, saved 37 games, and struck out 13.5 batters per 9 innings.

An injury sustained during the 2010 playoffs might have ended Billy Wagner’s career. That’s good news for your favorite team. In his career versus the Cubs, Wagner is 6-1 with 25 saves, a 1.47 ERA, and an 0.836 WHIP. He has walked only 9 Cubs and struck out 64 of them. He’s allowed only 2 home runs (to Alex Gonzalez and Derrek Lee) in all of his 55 innings pitched against the Northsiders.

Happy retirement, Billy Wagner!

Why You Should Hate Him: August 15, 1998. The Cubs were in Houston desperately trying to stay in the NL Central race against the first-place Astros. The Cubs were leading 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th when Moises Alou hit a leadoff, game-tying solo home run off Rod Beck. Larry Dierker brought in Wagner to pitch the 10th and 11th. Wagner did just that. He struck out the first 5 Cubs he faced, all of them swinging, then induced a weak Scott Servais popout to shortstop (PATTERN!), before the Astros rallied against Terry Mulholland in the bottom of the 11th to win 5-4.

Did You Know? Wagner was born right-handed. However, he broke his right arm twice as a kid and taught himself to throw left-handed. Holy shit, can you imagine how high up on this list he’d be if he threw with his right hand?

The Muskbox FINALLY Addresses All of Your Burning Questions About…Scott Moore

Of all the obscure former Cubs who were once traded for Kyle Farnsworth and Steve Trachsel, and who you didn’t even realize were reacquired by the Cubs, Scott Moore is that specific one. And he’s actually the subject of a question in this week’s Muskbox. Scott. Moore.

I’m stunned the Cubs would spend $10 million on Pena and not Derrek Lee. Lee’s average took a dip last year, but nothing compared to Pena. What’s going on here?
— Dave A., Madison, Wis.

Well, not a one of the other twenty-nine teams in the MLB has shown any interest in Derrek Lee, either. And he’s only looking for a one-year deal for $8M-$10M. And he considers the NATIONALS his best destination. He had a down year, and his opposable thumb no longer works. I like Derrek Lee just fine, but wanting him back is ludicrous.

CARRIE: Pena gives the Cubs that much sought after left-handed bat for the middle of the order. Both he and Lee are Gold Glove caliber first basemen and quality individuals. But Lee is 35; Pena is 32. Lee has averaged 24 homers over the last four seasons; Pena has averaged 36 in that span. Lee will be coming off thumb surgery; Pena is healthy. Pena’s batting average has dropped the last four years, but Lee went from .306 in 2009 to .251 with the Cubs in ’10.

Lee comes before semi-colons; Pena comes after them.

Now that the Cubs have signed Kerry Wood and he’s going to be the setup guy, does that increase the chance of Andrew Cashner going to the rotation since we don’t need a setup man anymore?
— Josh P., Los Angeles

If they don’t need a setup man anymore, THEN WHY DID THEY SIGN KERRY WOOD?

CARRIE: Yes, but Cashner needs to show he has command of three pitches if he’s going to take a spot in the rotation.

Or do a hell of a Harry Caray impression. Or beat the shit out of his starting catcher. Or save a group of rag-tag kids from the Fratelli brothers.

CARRIE: New Cubs pitching coach Mark Riggins said the right-hander was throwing his changeup when he was in the Minor Leagues and had confidence in it. But when he was called up to the big league team and used as a reliever, Cashner stuck with two pitches.

One of them “wild.”

CARRIE: Wood won’t be the only setup man. The Cubs have reliable lefty Sean Marshall and are hoping John Grabow comes back strong.

Other things the Cubs hope will come back strong:

  1. The TGIF lineup
  2. Hypercolor t-shirts
  3. Wham!

During the summer, I would schedule my drives to and from Chicago around Cubs games to listen to Pat [Hughes] and Santo.

“Sure, I lost my job due to chronic tardiness, but, dammit, IT WAS WORTH IT.”

My favorite Santo moment came in, I believe ’09, when Santo and Hughes interviewed a member of the Bears who went to the Pro Bowl as a “Pro Bowler.” Santo thought the transition from football to professional bowling was bizarre, and this misunderstanding led to the funniest interview I’d ever heard. I discuss it all the time and have searched for the sound bite with no success.
— Steven Y., Ames, Iowa

Piracy is wrong, Steven.

CARRIE: I believe Dave Duerson was the guest, and I haven’t been able to find an audio clip of that specific show (I do have requests out to the WGN Radio people).

In Santo’s defense, Duerson is one hell of a bowler. His wife told me he once rolled a perfect game. And that she- uh- fell down some steps. And that she always wears sunglasses indoors.

CARRIE: To hear some of Santo’s highlights, you can check out our tribute to Santo or go to WGN Radio’s website. We’re still waiting for details on what the Cubs will do next season to honor Santo, but they’re expected to add a patch to the uniform.

I’m sure it’ll be something classy like a #10, but I really wish it would be a toupee.

CARRIE: No word on who will join Hughes in the booth.

A never-ending stream of celebrity Seventh-Inning Stretch conductors.

With all the talk this offseason about player movement, specifically in the pitching department, what are the plans for Angel Guzman? After surgery last season, is the club still looking at him as a viable option or planning to shop him around?
— Jeff O., Tulsa, Okla.

Jim Hendry dials his cell phone.
HENDRY: Hi, is this Neal Huntington? Jim Hendry here. So, listen, I have a guy I think you might be interested in.
HUNTINGTON: Oh, yeah? Who?
HENDRY: Angel Guzman.
–CLICK–

CARRIE: Guzman, who had shoulder surgery last spring, didn’t start playing catch until mid October and was not expected to throw off the mound until February. Maybe.

Possibly. Potentially. Unlikely.

CARRIE: Anything he could give the Cubs in 2011 would be a bonus.

Except maybe syphilis.

I had a chance to see Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson play at Class A Daytona.

You lucky sonofabitch!

What position do the Cubs project Jackson to play? He looked pretty good in center and might have the speed to be a leadoff hitter. Which one of these two might be playing for the Cubs in the near future?
— Terry L., Kissimmee, Fla.

At this rate, both of them will be in the Opening Day lineup. Somehow, the Cubs have to answer the Zack Greinke trade.

CARRIE: Jackson, 22, is quick enough to handle center and may be the leadoff man of the future. He’s been on the fast track since he was selected in the first round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. Who will get there first? That’s determined not just by talent, but opportunity. For example, if Aramis Ramirez is injured, the Cubs would need a third baseman, and Vitters, 21, could get the call.

You see, Major League Baseball teams have a minor-league system in order to provide support for the Major League club. From time to time, when players get injured, or hurt, the general manager will decide to replace that player with a player from the minor-league system rather than sign a player out of free agency or trade for a replacement player.

I read that the Cubs signed former prospect Scott Moore, who they traded to the Orioles a few years ago.

Where did you even read this? Are you on Scott Moore’s Christmas card list?

What will his place be next year? Does he even have a chance to make the big league team?
— Justin M., Memphis, Tenn.

Sadly, PROBABLY.

CARRIE: Moore, whom the Cubs acquired from the Tigers in February 2005 in the Kyle Farnsworth deal, is a non-roster invitee this spring. The infielder appeared in 18 games with the Cubs in 2006-07, and he was dealt to the Orioles in August 2007 along with Rocky Cherry for pitcher Steve Trachsel.

Sean Marshall is STILL sticking needles in his Jim Hendry voodoo doll because of that trade.

CARRIE: He’ll be trying to win a spot on the roster as a utility player. A left-handed batter, he can play third and short. Does he have a chance? He’s in the same situation as Jackson and Vitters. It depends on talent and opportunity.

Wait, Scott Moore can play short? Then WHY THE HELL DID THE CUBS EVER SIGN NEIFI PEREZ?