Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association are expected to announce and release their new collective bargaining agreement at mid-day today, so there will be plenty to discuss on that this afternoon. Before then, there will be bits on Yoenis Cespedes and Carlos Marmol, and, until then, the bullets…

  • Want to get to the bottom of the Cubs’ struggles the last three years? Sure, there are a number of reasons, but, with Baseball America’s help, I can point to one of the biggest. BA reviewed the 2005 to 2007 MLB drafts for each of the 30 teams, and totaled the number of Major Leaguers those drafts have produced for each team. The Cardinals led the pack with 24 big leaguers coming from those three drafts. The next few teams include the Padres (22), Marlins (21), and Tigers (18). The Red Sox come in tied for 8th, with 14. The Cubs? Scanning down the list … down the list … there they are. In 25th place, with just eight big leaguers. And three of the teams below the Cubs have produced fewer Major Leaguers, but have produced genuine superstars (Evan Longoria, David Price for the Rays, Clayton Kershaw for the Dodgers, and Troy Tulowitzki for the Rockies). The best the Cubs have produced in those three years? Darwin Barney. Yikes. Two of those three draft years, by the way, belong to Tim Wilken.
  • New Cubs’ manager Dale Sveum recently discussed his pitch count philosophy, something of particular note to Cubs fans, who, in recent years, have become accustomed to managers who seem oblivious to the issue. “[Pitch count is] relevant to some people, and they’re not relevant to other pitchers,” he said. “They’re all very relevant to the outing he had before, the stress factor that he had before. The pitch count that night has a lot to do with the stress factor that he’s been going through that night. Did he get to 100 pitches very easily? Did he get to 100 pitches when every pitch was a lot of stress involved, bases loaded, second-and-third, one out? It’s not just a cut-and-dried, ‘We’re taking this guy out (at) 110 pitches. This guy, we might let go 120.’ It’s how he got there a lot of times, how hot it is outside. Was he on the bases for 10 minutes sometimes in a long inning?” That’s a fine attitude, I suppose. Once again, we’ll have to see how it plays out.
  • Not new Cubs’ manager Ryne Sandberg recently committed to returning to the Phillies’ AAA affiliate to manage in 2012. Sandberg interviewed for the Cardinals’ managerial opening, but didn’t appear to get serious consideration for any other big league jobs, including coaching jobs. The fact that someone of Sandberg’s stature, hard work, and minor league success can’t seem to even be considered for a Major League coaching job – let alone a managerial job – is either strange or telling. I love Ryno, so I don’t want to say it’s the latter.
  • Keeping the lights on: if you are looking for a little online betting, check
  • A Minnesota Twins blog reminds us of how easy for fans to overvalue their own players, and undervalue other teams’ players. The writer calls the Twins’ farm system thin, and says the Twins would have to send the Cubs one of their top five prospects and “probably another decent one as well.” That offer will “probably” get you hung up on. And I say “probably” only because the other possibility is that the Cubs’ front office member receiving the call might be laughing too hard to effectively hang up.
  • Marlon Byrd shares his thoughts on what it means to be truly thankful, after dealing with compartment syndrome earlier in his life. I still think the Cubs would be best served dealing Byrd this Winter, but, if they don’t, you won’t hear me complain a bit.
  • Pat Hughes releases a CD today highlighting Ron Santo’s career. It features some of the best moments from Pat and Ron’s time together, and you can find it on or
  • Justin Verlander is the AL’s MVP, which doesn’t bother me at all. Yes, he plays in only one of five games, but he’s involved in some 30-plus at bats in each of those games. The difference between a pitcher and a positional player, in terms of impact on the team, is not as stark as you might think. Name an AL player you’d have rather had on your team in 2011. I’m likely to go with Verlander.
  • Fishin Phil

    That first bullet makes me want to puke.

    • Wilbur

      Well stated, you speak for many of us.

  • Montellew

    My thoughts exactly on that last note! i’ve been a long time fan of ‘Bustin’ Justin Verlander! It would be awesome to have him on our mound in Cubbie blue, but I’m fairly certain that the last contract he signed with the Tigers locked him up for long time. Nevertheless, I’ll still be a fan!

  • Polar Bear

    Great photo!!! Now I know how I looked every time I had to watch one of “the quads” bad decisions this past year!!!

  • BD

    Tim Wilken’s drafts, but would they be asteriked because of the weak budget they were giving him then?

    • JulioZuleta

      You can’t though. I get in this discussion all the time with people, anyone can have a good draft with a big budget, and anyone can have a bad draft with a bad budget. It doesn’t take a genius to take Dillon Maples in the 14th round, it just takes an owner willing to shell out another 2.5 mil. A draft guru, as Wilken has been labeled by many, needs to find the so called “diamonds in the rough” and the fact of the matter is that we had some terrible drafts under him. I’m sure someone will come back and say “he drafted Chris Carpenter (the good one) and Roy Halladay” but baseball is a “what have you done for me lately” business, and the fact of the matter is, he hasn’t done a whole lot. I’m not saying he’s awful, he’s just average in my opinion.

    • Luke

      I’ve seen several reports that Wilkens (until 2011) had been given orders to restock the Cubs farm system with potential major league players on a budget. If that’s the case, he did exactly that. The Cubs have unbelievable depth; they may have more major league players in their farm system than any other team.

      Now that the Cubs are focusing on higher ceiling, potential star level talent (as seen in 2011), they will rocket up the farm system rankings and be comfortably in the top five by the end of next season.

      I think the bigger problem with the promotion rate is that the Cubs were adverse to filling from within when there was a mediocre free agent available. Why Koyie Hill over Welington Castillo? That kind of thinking kept some players in the minors who could otherwise have emerged already. That kind of thinking has to change (and probably has with the new sheriff in town).

      • Itocx

        “Two of those three draft years, by the way, belong to Tim Wilken.”

        I agree with Luke. The first of those two years, the Cubs were missing their 2nd, 3rd and 4th round draft picks and had 0 supplemental picks. That year also produced a rookie who hit 20 HR and Samardzija. The following year Wilken drafted an 17-y/o HS player (who is now only 22) and players used, in part, to get Harden (Donaldson) and Garza (Guyer). He also drafted, but was not allowed to sign, Cashner in the lower rounds that year. Boston, and the 2011 version of Tom Ricketts, would have allowed him to sign Cashner. Zell did not (and Wilken didn’t get to sign Sonny Grey or Anthony Zych in 2008, either).

        Boston used the system to stockpile extra picks and they paid for the guys they believed in. Tim Wilken was simply not drafting in that system and yet he gets compared to what team’s drafts? Boston’s.

        On a side note, I sure hope that Tim Wilken was on that airplane to the DR. It would be a horrible waste to have a scout like that and not use him to judge those two very high-priced Cubans.

        “The best the Cubs have produced in those three years? Darwin Barney.”

        I would argue that 169.2 innings pitched at 12-9, 4.40 is much more valuable than 608 AB at 2B (without top defense) with a .656 OPS. For me, it isn’t even close.

        • Brett

          The “best player” thing is from BA, not me, by the way.

          And Wilken isn’t being compared to Boston – Boston is pointed out because the current front office of the Cubs is pretty similar to the Boston front office of 2005 to 2007.

  • die hard

    Attributed to Tribune somewhat and then Zell all the way pinching pennies in development to
    spend on FA and artificially inflate value of team. The Ricketts family overpaid as a result and now may have to spend more good money to keep team competitive for the short term. Not a pretty picture unless they bite the bullet and declare next few years as rebuilding years with low expectations until can undo what prior owners did to farm system. This move would mean no FA. Hope they take this approach. Doubt they will.

  • Bails17

    That Twins Blogger is delusional and writes like he’s a 12 year old.

  • JulioZuleta

    Hey Brett, that article in the Twins bullet won’t open for me. Is he referring to an offer for Matt Garza? If so, that is absurd. Try two top 5’s another 6-10 and a 10-15.

    • Brett

      Hmm – opens for me. Maybe it was down temporarily. And yes, an offer for Garza – from a system he describes as not particularly good.

      • Ian Afterbirth

        Opens for me, too.

  • BFM

    I like Sveum’s philosophy on the pitch count.
    I think he makes some good points.
    If he sticks to it, it could be good………..better than Quade’s ideas.

    • Itocx

      If he applies it to the closer he’ll be even better. Somehow relief pitchers get skipped when it comes to worry about their recovery periods/pitches (IIRC, Marmol is far and away the leader in relief pitches for the last several years and he has been used in back-to-back far too often for a team that can’t break even).

  • Cliffy

    QT @thekapman: Big day today as @chuckgarfien and I host inaugural show of Chicago Baseball Hot Stove at 5 pm on CSN. Then CTL and WGN Sports Night.

  • Toosh

    Evaluation, projection and development are the keys. Obviously. Money does not guarantee that a team will draft productive Major Leaguers.

  • Lou Piniella

    To be fair to Wilken’s drafts 7 of the 8 big leaguer’s come form 2006-07 and there are a handful of guys knocking on the door. Also WIlken has been constrained by small budgets and missing picks 2-4 in 2006. Stockstill’s final draft in 2005 was an unmitigated disaster to say the least. I would guess if you used the draft years 2006-08 that the Cubs would rank highly on the list of players in the big leagues.

  • hansman1982

    I agree that it doesnt take a super-genius to draft well with good picks and I don’t want to absolve Wilkens of poor drafts (very odd that the almighty Rays system has generated fewer major leaguers than the Cubs) but I do wonder if some of the failures can be attributed to the small FO staff in that there are fewer eyes looking at the data telling Tim who is better than others.

    • Luke

      Where would the Rays play those guys? Looking just at promotion rates can be a little misleading. For example, the Cubs could have three major league quality shortstops at AAA Iowa, but their promotion at that position would be exactly 0 because Castro blocks them all (that is not the case, that was just an example). A really good, young team (like the Rays) won’t be promoting as many guys because they wont’ have the slots to fill.

      The Cardinals did a mini-rebuilding recently, which helps account for their elevated rank. And the Cubs were obsessed with filling holes via mediocre free agents, which helps depress their rank. I think player promotions has as much to do with the priorities of the front office as anything.

  • Cedlandrum

    While I agree that it is putrid to be that low for draft classes, if you look a little closer- In 06 Wilkens first draft he didn’t have a 2-5th round pick. So that probably limits you a bit. 3 of his 1st 4 picks will be in the bigs. His 07 draft wasn’t great. Alot will depend on Vitters. That said 4 of his first 5 will be big leaguers of various success. Only 1 guy from the 05 draft will have made the show- Donnie Veal. So that kind of skews the results a bit.

    If you look at the 06-08 years a conservative number would say that 15 guys will or have had big league experience. Which would put them in the top 8. So while Wilken hasn’t been great, there have certainly been challenges and he has had some moderate success. What he has yet to do is put a star in the system that is a bona fide big leaguer, other then maybe Cashner?

  • clark addison

    I wound up sitting next to Garza’s brother and father and family during the final series in San Diego. Nice people, and very proud of Matt. Asked about his reaction to the Cubs’ miserable season, and the wins the bullpen blew, they quoted him, “It is what it is.” But they said he likes being a Cub. (What else could they say?)

    Watched him win #10 in a blowout.

  • MoneyBoy

    A tale of two cities ..

    Tampa … God awful, but Friedman continually traded arb eligible players for draft picks, stockpiling unbelievable numbers … and continues to do so, so is able to trade a Matt Garza for 3 top prospects, 2 of whom got playing time on the ML roster last year.

    White Sox … continue to be near the bottom of all of MLB in draft picks signed and $$ spent.  Compound this with KW trading his near-MLB ready players for the likes of Peavy, Rios and Dunn … they’re a complete mess … arguably, even in worse shape than the Cubs.

  • Andrew Moore

    Something else that has to be looked at is… Has a team needed to call up all these major leaguers? I k kw Boston had to call up countless in 2010 just because of injuries. Cubs have been fortunate to not have as many injuries as Boston per say, and when we did we always had Jeff baker or reed the steed Johnson waiting

  • JasonB

    To be fair, the Twins top two prospects would be a top two prospect in our system as well and their top prospect Sano would have a shot at being the #1 prospect in our system although Jackson would likely edge him out since he is ML ready.  And the only prospect in the Rangers system that I would probably take over Sano would be Profar.

    Since Theo/Jed seem to only be interested in trading Garza to a team who overpays, it seems that one of these two would need to be included in any sort of Cubs/Twins deal.

  • hardtop

    final bullet.  i disagree.  there a seperate award for pitchers.  take away the cy young and pitchers could be in the MVP race… NL pitchers only though.  Not only does verlander only see the field 1 game out of 5…  HE DOESNT HIT.  To me if you dont play the game from both sides of the plate your not a player, your a pitcher, and the P in MVP does not stand for pitcher.

    he’s a stud, i like him, should have won the cy young easily… but he’s not the MVP in my book.

    • Brett

      So, what about in the NL? What if there was a pitcher who was not only far and away the best pitcher, but he was also a Gold Glover and hit .350/.450/.550 in his limited plate appearances? Could he win MVP? Just asking theoretically.

      • hardtop

        in my own little world: sure.  you hit and field and pitch like that, you definitely could be the most valuable player.  id have to know the particulars on the competition that year but it seems like that guy would make a strong case for MVP

        now if that .350 came in interleague play and by limited plate appearances you mean the handful of times an AL pitcher gets up over the course of his games in NL parks, I’d say go fuck yourself for trying to trick me :)

        • Edwin

          I’m curious why it’s must that a player ” must play both sides of the plate” to be considered for an MVP. What if a player was a DH, but far and away destroyed the competition when it came to hitting? isn’t that player providing an enormous amount of value to his team, even though he doesn’t provide any value in the field?

          The same thing applies to pitchers in my book. If a pitcher throws 250 innings of < 2.00 ERA ball, isn't that valuable? Most pitchers are terrible at the plate anyways, and don't add value.

          Pitchers provide value through pitching, DH's provide value through hitting. Just because they don't play defense seems like a silly reason to exclude them from an award acknowledging how valuable they are.

          • hardtop

            DH cant be MVP either.  some old fatty with no field skills all hopped up on adoral? nope, not eligible mvp.  wait, arent silver sluggers position based? the DH isnt a position so they cant have a silver slugger either. when i replace bud selig i’ll see to it that this is clear.  actually when im the commish, the abomination called the DH will be forever abolished!

            i dont know man, i just dont like it, especially and AL pitcher. im not going to stop watching baseball because of it, i just think the cy young is a fine little award and we should spread the love.  verlander is my homie.

      • hardtop

        oh, you did say NL, so you werent trying to trick me 😉

        yeah, i suppose so, if  you are swing the stick at a 350 clip you can gold glove, cy young, and mvp in my book.  im not saying my book is based on anything other than a love for the NL and a hatred for the DH.

    • Odd

      Pitchers have the Cy Young, hitters have the Silver Slugger. Anyone can win the MVP.

  • Toosh

    The day that a position player wins the Cy Young Award is the day that any pitcher should be allowed to win the MVP.

    • Edwin

      Since position players don’t log much IP during the year, I doubt a position player would rank high in Cy Young voting. However, considering that the MVP award measures the Most Valuable Player (not most valuable position player), and since pitchers could hypothetically be the most valuable player during a season, I see no reason why a pitcher shouldn’t win an MVP. As long as a pitcher doesn’t win the Hank Aaron award, I’m fine.

  • Toosh

    Starting pitchers have a chance to contribute once every 4 or 5 days or so. Closers every 3 or 4. Position players, even DHs, every day.

    • Brett

      And in those one-in-five games, the starting pitcher has the chance to contribute four to five times as much to the outcome of the game than any individual position player. Consider a positional players total plate appearances plus defensive chances over the course of a season. Then consider a starting pitcher’s batters faced plus defensive chances (plus plate appearances in the NL) over the course of a season. You’ll find that the numbers are quite close.

    • Edwin

      Sure. But a pitcher also impacts more plays per game than a batter. Position players impact 4-5 plays each game with the bat, and however many fielding chances they get during a game. When a pitcher pitches, that pitcher impacts 18-30 batters per game, plus fielding.

      I’m not saying that a pitcher should always win the MVP, but in some instances it is possible that a pitcher pitches so well that he is more valuable to a team than a position player. Pitchers have more of an ability to influence any 1 single game than a batter does.

  • Toosh

    I’ll take the position player having a great season over the starting pitcher or closer having a great season every time.

    • Brett

      If a positional player in the AL had had the kind of season Verlander did on the offensive/defensive side, I’d take him, too. This particular year, though, there was no player who had the kind of season Verlander did, in my opinion.

  • Toosh

    You might be right, but if you take all of Verlander’s starts away from the Tigers this season their winning percentage in the remaining games was still good enough to win their division easily. While if you take away all of the games that their “best” hitter played in, their winning percentage in the remaining games takes a more significant hit. A hot hitter can carry a team for days, sometimes weeks, at a time. A starting pitcher? One or two starts a week.

  • Rooster

    Trib Live had a great point with Verlander….the rest of the club wins 80-90 games without Verlander. Take Miggy out of that lineup and they go .500