It was a close game the whole way, but it felt like a relatively boring Super Bowl until the final three minutes. And now, we wait for baseball.

  • Geovany Soto, coming off an ugly 2011 campaign that saw him go .228/.310/.411, is projected to be back among the top offensive catchers in 2012. Rotoworld/NBC’s Matthew Pouliot ranks catchers by projected OPS, and Soto comes in 8th behind Buster Posey, Mike Napoli, Carlos Santana, Matt Wieters, Joe Mauer, Brian McCann and Alex Avila. Pouliot projects a .799 OPS for Soto, which is just below his career .803 number. Soto’s BABIP last year was almost 30 points below his career average, so it’s easy to see how Pouliot goes from a .721 OPS last year to a .799 OPS next year.
  • Mark Prior is still coming back. Prior, 31, hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2006 with the Cubs, and, after minor league efforts with the Cubs, the Padres, the Yankees, and even in independent ball, he’s hoping for another chance to come back in 2012. He actually pitched fairly well last year in the minors, but (1) it was in the low levels, and (2) it was only 12 innings. It sounds like Prior hopes to work out for teams in March. I give him credit for continuing to try.
  • Ready to start speculating about Joey Votto to the Cubs in 2014? Me either. But some folks are. At least the writer acknowledges that it depends on Anthony Rizzo. Either way, I don’t really see the Cubs going to the mat on an eight-year, $200 million contract for a 30-year old first baseman. But even saying that seems ridiculous, because it’s two years from now(!) Who knows what the Cubs’ plans will be?
  • Tom Ricketts will be speaking at a lunch at the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce a week from today. Somebody get him to talk about the Cubs’ total baseball budget.
  • Seen as, perhaps, the favorite in the NL Central this year, the Reds come in ranked just 12th in Phil Rogers’ pre-season power rankings. A good offense that returns almost in total, a greatly improved rotation after the addition of Mat Latos (and possibly Chapman to the rotation), and a bullpen now with Sean Marshall and Ryan Madsen at the end? That’s a team barely better than average?
  • The Braves have unveiled a new logo, and, whatever the reaction to the Marlins’ new logo was, the reaction here will be the exactly opposite. Something on the order of: oh, ok. That’s fine. Here you go:

  • Kid

    How about a different picture of Prior?

    • Brett

      Sorry, I know it’s ugly. But it’s iconic.

      • fromthemitten

        Did anybody else see the picture of him in a Yankees uniform on hardballtalk? I saw it, thought, it was 2003 and you told me Prior would be wearing a Yankees uniform I would have been pissed about the Cubs being outspent by the Yankees once again.

  • Nate Corbitt

    “Either way, I don’t really see the Cubs going to the mat on an eighty-year, $200 million contract for a 30-year old first baseman.”

    Eighty-year contract? Theo and Jed must know something about Votto’s health if they think he’ll be playing until he’s 110 years old. :-)

    • Brett

      You see, that’s why they *wouldn’t* sign him. :)

      • Wilbur

        Might not be so bad at $220 m for 80 years, without even taking in the effect of NPV that’s only $2.5 m per year.

        I think you may be on to a whole new strategy for the Cubs. Besides, if they ever start a MLB Senior’s Tour the Cubs would have first base nailed down …

    • Dougy D

      If you look at the overall cost of an eighty-year deal, That’s only 2.5 mill per year for Votto. What a steal!

  • daveyrosello

    Different picture of Prior, huh? How about a picture of a towel?

  • gratefulled

    That Marshall & Madsen combination does not sound like much fun for opposing lineups. Seems like enough to put them in the top ten alone.

    I agree with you Brett, I think Prior deserves much credit for what must be a grueling effort to make a big league team. It cannot be easy for someone with his talent and where he was to fight his way through low A ball. Many a player would have shut it down and started selling insurance a long time ago.

  • Dane

    Joey Votto is going to get an eighty year deal?! :p

  • Norm

    Would it be all that shocking to see Votto land an 8 year deal? I don’t think so…

  • CubFan Paul

    get Ricketts to talk about the Cubs’ total baseball budget aka why are you being cheap?

    • Norm

      Cheap? $7M for Concepcion was a pretty large overpay. Where are they being cheap? (Please don’t say its because they didn’t sign Fielder)

      • CubFan Paul

        Cheap? (yes. Cheap. Chicago is a Top 3 Market with at least $270M in annual revenue) $7M for Concepcion was a pretty large overpay. ($7M is not even half of the Chapman bonus & pretty much expected considering the CBA changes) Where are they being cheap? (where? on the Major League Payroll since Ricketts bought the team. The Payroll has steadily decreased for 3 seasons) Please don’t say its because they didn’t sign Fielder (and yes, not signing Fielder is one of the many reasons that I (i’ve) called Ricketts cheap)

        • Deer

          you’re right on Paul. Some just don’t want to hear it and for some reason believe the Cubs are barely able to pay their bills.

        • Brady

          I dont know if you realize this but $ does not = wins. Just ask the Yankees. I’d rather spend money wisely and appropriately than on players that have the chance to stifle our team for the future. I wish Fielder the best but this was not going to be a year we should bring someone of his caliber in and certainly not at the 8yr contract Boras wanted for him. We have no DH spot and in probably 4 years or less he will be forced into one. I do not want to get bridled by another Soriano. I say we save up now that way when we do get talent we can afford to keep them through their prime years rather then desperately searching the FA’s for that last needed piece to bring a championship to us.

          • Kyle

            I asked the Yankees and they said that in the last 17 seasons, they have 16 playoff appearances, 12 division titles, 7 pennants and five WS championships.

            I’m not sure why I asked them, because I should have known it would just make me envious.

            • CubFan Paul

              hilarious Kyle, thanks. Burn.

            • Brady

              So because they pay double everyone else and occassionally win means its worth it? That is just blind stupidity. The spent $97,255,456 more than the winning team last year. They could have payed the entire Texas Rangers payroll with that money (keep in mind that team has gone to the WS for 2 years straight beating out the Yanks). That is not wise spending. I’d rather cheer for a quality team that loses more than it wins but doesnt throw money around like its toilet paper on halloween so long as it brings me exciting baseball once in a while. IMO spending that much money on losing seasons is not acceptable in my book and if I was a yanks fan, I’d be pissed.

              • CubFan Paul

                the Yanks won 97 games in 2011. thats losing?

                • Brady

                  97 games and no championship. Yes that is losing.

                  • DocWimsey

                    You can buy a ticket to October, but how you perform then is basically how you perform in September. The Tigers had the 5th best September of playoff teams of the last 11 years. (Too bad that they ran into the Rangers, who were #4!) The Yanks were a 0.500 team over the last month.

                    Granted, 5 games is not much, but most series with such lop-sided September performances are a lot more lop-sided than 5 games.

                    (Ditto this story for the Phils.)

              • Wilbur

                Not arguing for a Yankee level Cub budget (wouldn’t argue against it either with this crew making the signings), but 5 WS championships and 97 wins both seem a lot more than “occasionally” … whether you’re taking the short or long term view.

                • DocWimsey

                  Basically, the way to “buy” a championship is to buy repeated post-season appearances. There is no repeatable formula for winning come October that a GM can use to put together a team in the off-season. (Yes, September performance is critical: but September performance in one year does not predict September performance the next year, at least for teams with normal schedules.)

                • Brady

                  For me its just a matter of cost. I also see a future where no matter how much money the yankees have, losing roster spots because they have overpaid underperformers on the roster is going to clog the way for future talent.

                  • DocWimsey

                    heh, you are looking at the future through rose colored glasses, I think. Or perhaps Boston Red Sox colored glasses! 😉

                    Seriously, the Yankees attitude is that they are paying Jeter, ARod, etc., $XM that is being distributed over Y years. Yes, they won’t be producing at the end: but they accept that the $$$ they are shelling out then were spent to reach postseason now. They’ll spend more money later to keep reaching post-season.

              • TWC

                Brady wrote:  “I’d rather cheer for a quality team that loses more than it wins …”

                Sorry, kid, but a team that loses more than it wins is not a quality team.

            • hogie

              The difference is the Yankees had a strong farm the whole time, which is what they are trying to establish first in Chicago. I guarantee the big spending will return when it is enough to put us over.

              • Kyle

                Absolutely true. As I keep arguing, the problem for the Cubs in the post-2004 world is not that they whiffed on some big contracts (Though they did). Every big-market team, even the very good ones, whiff on some big contracts.

                It’s their complete and utter failure to draft and develop well.

              • DocWimsey

                The Yanks farm system has not been particularly strong over the last 15 years. They had a core of guys that came up through their system in the early-mid 1990’s that helped, but that was a long time ago in baseball years.

                Even when the Yanks traded farmhands for established veterans, they either were giving cheap by buying the contract OR they were fooling teams with substandard guys who were packaged as “winners” just because they had been Yankees.

                • Luke

                  The Yankees farm system hasn’t been Kansas City good for awhile, but they are still are almost automatic as a Top 10 system. They do an amazing job in Latin America. That pipeline alone would make them one of the better farm systems in the game, but they supplement it with a very strong domestic scouting operation. Their farm system regularly turns out solid players for the major league team, and that’s really all you can ask from a minor league system.

                  “Particularly strong” is a relative term, but it is one that I would be comfortable attaching to the Yankees.

        • JB88

          I’m not sure who Conception can be used on either side of the argument. Signing Conception for any amount is neither evidence that Ricketts overpays or is cheap. It merely shows that the Cubs probably paid more than many expected Conception would receive.

          That said, if the Cubs ink both Cepedes and Soler, you might have to reevaluate what that information means to Ricketts overpaying or being cheap.

          • hrubes20

            Which is ridiculous, IMO. Not sure why a lot of people think Concepcion got way more than he should have. Concepcion got what Noel Arguelles got, and less than Iglesias or Viciedo.

        • Norm

          So if the Cubs shed Alfonso Soriano’s $18M and replace him with Brett Jackson’s $400K, you’d be upset because the payroll dropped and the Cubs are being cheap, instead of being happy that the team is improving?

          • CubFan Paul

            its $54M not just his 2012 salary. if the cubs shed soriano (trade or release) the Cubs have to include all money their contractually obligated to pay ..spending $54M to get rid of someone is not cheap or frugal by any means

            • DocWimsey

              The money on Soriano is already spent, just as it is for all veteran ball-players. It should not be a factor in roster decisions. Of course, it always is: but it borders on the Concorde Fallacy!

              • CubFan Paul

                huh? if soriano is traded or released they’ll have to write a check for the remainder of his contract owed (minus what a trade partner pays).


                • DocWimsey

                  Exactly. The money is (of all intents and purposes) already spent, so it should not affect how you play Soriano. If he’s in LF, sitting on the bench or sitting at home, the money is (effectively) spent.

                  Given that, the question becomes: “in which of these three places do the Cubs get the most bang for their total payroll?”

            • Norm

              It’s a hypothetical, don’t take it so literal.
              If the Cubs move an expensive veteran who gets replaced by a minimum salary rookie, the payroll drops. But the team gets better. Will you complain that the Cubs just saved all that money?
              Do you feel that the Cubs should spend just for the sake of spending?

              • CubFan Paul

                the cubs arent saving money with soriano. he has a contract and that money is on the books. if they move him for “salary relief” i’d be happy because because BJax seems to be an exciting player (& soriano is done physically) & i’d like to see dave sappelt make the 25 man (he brings more to the table than campana at this point)

                & as far as spending for the sake of spending, no. thats ridiculous.

    • JB88

      I have a hard time seeing the Cubs being cheap. They are making a very large investment in the DR. They have already increased the FO by huge leaps and bounds. They invested $20+ MM in purchasing the land on which McDonald’s sits. They are investing in improving Wrigley Field.

      I see less “cheap” and rather someone who wasn’t prepared to hit the ground running to implement his plan. I don’t mind that; it is Ricketts’ team, but I do wish that he and his board had a more cohesive strategy they were ready to implement when the purchase was finalized.

      That said, though, if he had had a plan at that time, you probably aren’t looking at Theo, Hoyer, and McLeod being part of the organization. And, personally, I think the addition of those three (plus others in the FO this year) will be worth much more long term than anything that Fielder or Darvish could offer the Cubs.

      • CubFan Paul

        thank you for a coherent, not inside the bubble point of view jB ..and you’re probably most certainly right about if ricketts had a plan for 2010 (the year most inside the bubble people make excuses for instead of being rational or say WINNING 97 games isn’t winning 97 games)

      • Noah

        I wouldn’t say that the Ricketts didn’t know how to implement their plan, but would instead say that implementing their plan was impossible. Prior to the Ricketts’ first season with the Cubs in 2010, their payroll was so bloated they couldn’t do very much. Even with Zambrano’s, Dempster’s and Soriano’s contracts still at least largely being paid by the Cubs, the Cubs have shed the contracts of Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, Ted Lilly, Milton Bradley/Carlos Silva and John Grabow.

        This isn’t to say that the Ricketts really knew what they were going to do, but I don’t honestly see what they could have done right away. At this point the Cubs are about 75% out from the last gamut of longterm contracts, and a new GM is really able to start building. Coming into 2010, I really think their only option was hoping that the veterans they had could put together one more big run.

        I just don’t think there is the evidence there to say “they didn’t have a plan” right away instead of saying that they didn’t have a way to effectuate any plan they did have until a couple years and some of the bad contracts had passed.

        • JB88

          Given that Ricketts stayed with Hendry, allowed Hendry to hire Mike Quade, and gave substantial influence to Kenney during those first two years — for both the baseball side and non-baseball side, I think there is support for my comment that the team didn’t have a plan.

          Ricketts has had a tremendous amount of luck in landing Epstein, but there were a ton of people in Chicago and nationally who rightfully questioned what he was doing when he fired Hendry in August. My comment about a plan was not limited in any way to the ML payroll. There is some evidence of a plan (i.e., the Mesa negotiations for a spring training facility, the purchase of the property in the DR), but overall, the plan looks much better developed at this point than it was in 2010.

  • Quintz

    In the same breath of the Marlins sending a 57′ Bel Air to pick up Cespedes, the Jays will have a Mountie escorting Votto from the airport when he visits. Feels like Toronto will be gettin them a Canuck in 2014. Which is fine with me.

  • Ben

    Ya, I don’t see how the Reds aren’t at least co-favorites for the NL Central. If they get any offense from SS this year, plus the fact their entire offense is back (plus that kid at C, who could be really good), they should be better. Add in Latos, plus the one of best 8/9 inning combos in baseball, and they should be tough.

    I think Ricketts is being choosey with his dollars. Where should we be spending more? Only 1 Cuban has signed, and we got him. There isn’t any FA (other than maybe Edwin Jackson, and odds are he didn’t want to play for the Cubs to rebuild value) that I feel the Cubs should have signed.

    • DocWimsey

      THe issue is, how many more wins per player do you expect? The Reds actually won 3-4 games fewer than they should have last year, but that only makes them an 83-win team. (Remember, they over-achieved in 2010.)

      The Cards have lost Pujols, but they are getting back Wainwright. They also have a few minor upgrades elsewhere. So, they might actually have stood pat in the end. Obviously, the projected wins are well within sampling error: but the Cards should be projected a little ahead of the Reds.

      • Noah

        You can’t expect Wainwright to be Wainwright next season. Control and command take typically time to come back after TJ. He should be fine in the rotation, but I’d expect him to be more a 2-3 WAR guy next season than 4-5 WAR or above.

        With that said, the Reds have made additions that should improve their projected wins as well. Latos isn’t replacing their ace, but instead becoming their ace and pushing everyone else down a notch. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him add 3-4 wins to their projected total all by himself.

        But I agree with you Doc. If I had to rate the top three teams in the NL Central going into the season I’d go Cardinals, Reds, Brewers. Although that is based upon Braun being suspended 50 games. If his suspension is overturned, that definitely would make me rethink that position.

  • baseballet’s baseball power rankings rank the Cubs 26th out of 30 teams. We may have to rely on the charisma of Len & Bob to get through the season. Oof.

    • Brady

      Well its going to be an exciting year regardless what the power rankings say, though I am glad we aren’t dead last. I dont even have to look at the list to guess that is the Astros. Not clicking the link so yall will have to tell me if I am wrong.

    • Wilbur

      There will be pain. but this day has been coming since the start of 2010 …

      Still think there will be little jewels this season as a couple of players will have the seasons that give you hope for the future.

    • MightyBear

      First of all rankings don’t mean anything. Nobody had the Cardinals ranked first last year. Second, is the worst anyway. I think the swimsuit models do the rankings.

      • DocWimsey

        Nobody ranked the Cards #1 at the end of the season, either: the best team in baseball for a season and the team that wins the WS usually are not the same team. The Cards were the best team in the NL after August, nothing less or more.

        However, I seem to recall that SI had the Cards ranked first in the NLC 12 months ago, which means: 1) they correctly predicted post-season for the Cards and thus basically a 1 in 8 chance of the WS; and, 2) the Cards underperformed by coming in 2nd. Of course, Wainwright’s arm didn’t blow out until spring-training, so SI’s (and everyone else’s) predictions were based on a somewhat different team.

    • Noah

      I’d honestly rather have the Cubs be the 5th worst team next season than the 11th worst team. Barring a miracle, the Cubs are going to be bad, and the new draft rules really are going to make it more like the NFL or NBA drafts where draft positioning can make a very big difference.

  • rbreeze

    You can’t call Ricketts cheap.  He inherited Zambrano and Soriano.  Soriano will be a tough one to move but they have turned the roster over.  They had one of the best drafts last year because they over paid on some high potential kids.  He hired the dream team with Theo at the helm.  Most of us never thought that would happen.  He is building the training facility in the Dominican to help develop more latin players.  He has bought property around the park.  He is going to build the triangle building to add office space and stores and attractions around the park.  They are going to continue rebuilding and modernizing Wrigley.  Ricketts is rebuilding this whole organization from the top down and the bottom up.  Spending good money for bad on guys like Fielder and Pujols would only tie us up salary wise long term.  Lets build the foundation of this organization, so maybe next year and the year after, we can make some moves on trades and free agents that help us get into the playoffs and then the World Series and help us become perennial contenders.  Go Cubs!!!

    • baseballet

      I agree rbreeze, the Ricketts have spent wisely in 2011 – 2012 and were wise to avoid draining the coffers on Fielder. However I do think that the Cubs’ payroll budget going forward is a cause for concern. Will the Cubs be one of the top spending teams in payroll once the rebuilding gains steam? It seems that there is a larger group of teams now who are in the upper eschelon of team payroll, and I’m worried that the Cubs won’t be there with them. While the Cubs were a top spender in the Central, will they be one of the top spending teams overall going forward?

      • Mick

        That’s a good question but the evidence is stacking up that if the Cubs can generate enough revenue than yes, they will have a top 5 MLB payroll. Wrigley is the 6th smallest stadium in MLB so, until plans such as the right field party deck, the proposed Triangle Building, and the efforts to renovate the grandstands come to fruition we can all expect the payroll to remain between $120-$140 million. There’s also the renogotiation of the TV deals in 2014 or 2015 that will help increase revenue. I’m really digging what the Ricketts family is doing and how they’re actually investing in this franchise. Aside from boosting payroll to help sell the team, what did the Tribune Company ever do that even compares?

        • baseballet

          Ricketts have been light years ahead of the Trib so far. I agree they’re doing a great job. Like you I’m hoping the Cubs will be one of the top five payroll teams going forward, but I do have doubts about that. Once payrolls are finalized, I’ll be curious to see where the Cubs stack up this season and next.

    • Dave H

      He also inherited a bad TV contract. Don’t the yankees own their own network outright? The Ricketts are not cheap. Frugal now but not cheap.

  • JulioZuleta

    Kind of off-topic, but I just looked on and according to their odds, the Cubs are the 10th most likely team to win the World Series. They’re more likely than the Cards, Brewers, Braves, Rays, and Nationals along with 15 others. Kinda shows how eternally optimistic Cubs fans are.

    • Brady

      On the bright side, if we do win and then the world ends we will be the final champion of all of baseball and nobody could ever take that away.

      • ogyu

        If the Cubs win the Series in October 2012, it will be a clear sign that the predictions of the world’s end on December 21, 2012, are accurate. I’m getting my bucket list ready, just in case…

  • 2much2say

    Out with the Old, In with the New. New Owner, FO, Coaches, Scouts, Pla’yas, and McD’s.
    Time for a NEW ATTITUDE people.

  • die hard

    What the Braves, Indians and other teams referencing Native Americans dont get is that such logos and team names are a sign of disrespect. Too bad that MLB tolerates.

    • Matt

      They also don’t recognize that the two Chicago organizations are being disrespectful of baby bears and athletic socks. That to me is completely intolerable.

      • DocWimsey

        Hmmm, it is novel that I am agreeing with die hard, but I’ve heard neither hosiery nor ursids complain about team names. On the other hand, I have heard Native Americans complain quite a bit. If they are offended, then that means something.

        (And, no, it is not comparable to the Vikings or the Celtics, who are named for the dominant European populations of those areas.)

        Besides, I want to see the Indians go back to being called the Cleveland Spiders. Just imagine: they could have the 7th Inning Spider Run when they fill the bleachers with wolf spiders or something!

    • MontelleW_IA

      Honestly, when does the PC end already? Everyday we give up something new in the name of PC. I don’t care if we have a team called the Braves, Indians, being Irish, I really don’t give 2 squats if we change the Fightin’ Irish to the Drunken Micks either! Here’s where PC gets into trouble – words ONLY HAVE POWER when YOU GIVE power to them. Growing up red-headed, I never understood when my mom told me to laugh with them instead of being upset at the kids who made fun of my hair. Well, now I’m a lot older, hopefully a little wiser(not counting totally on that!), and now I realize that life isn’t what comes your way so much as how you react to it. So to MLB, my answer is this: Name the team anything you want as long as the logo is cool. Oh, and I hope that they don’t beat the Cubs either LOL!

    • JB88

      One of my intellectual hobbies is Native American history and, interestingly, I’ve read a number of articles/books in which Native Americans actually refer to themselves as “Indians” when referencing all Native Americans. Their thought process is that when referencing a solitary tribe they talk about the name of the tribe, but since there was no overall group name for all Native Americans, they refer to themselves as Indians.

      I’ve probably seen 10-to-1 articles/books where Native Americans refer to themselves as Indians versus the 1 where someone takes offense at being called an Indian.

      • Stinky Pete

        George Carlin wrote about “PC” in one of his books.
        “If you think we have to say ‘Native American’, go check with someone at the American Indian Movement.”

  • Mick

    Why stop at Native Americans? The Fightin’ Irish, Metropolitans, Yankees, Vikings, Padres, Saints, Giants can all be deemed offensive by some group? We should just name our teams after colors, oh wait that might be racist, how about letters, wait F and S and G, D, are sinful. What about Rorschach ink-blots, no those would be infinitely misconstrued. I’m out of ideas Die Hard, how will we identify teams other than their uniforms?

    P.S. nice troll post, anything about sex, religion, or politics makes a lot of sense on a baseball blog.

    • TWC

      “P.S. nice troll post, anything about sex, religion, or politics makes a lot of sense on a baseball blog.”

      So this is not the place for me to regale y’all with my story of how I hooked up with that Republican nun?

      • MontelleW_IA

        As long as it’s a good tip on how to pick up a republican nun, I don’t see any harm in it LOL

      • DocWimsey

        Actually, I think that your therapist’s office might be the best place for that story….. 😉

  • rcleven

    When will baseball tell Mark Prior to hang em up? At 31 he has been a rehab project for 5 years now(more than he has pitched in the major leagues). I too would like to see him make back to the majors but the odds are zilch to none.

    • DocWimsey

      Despite the belief that athletes are in it for the money, most of them are driven people. It’s not just Prior, but also the aging veterans who are convinced that the last X years were a fluke and that they can still perform. The toughest thing in the world for a talented person to do is admit to him/herself that he/she has lost that talent.

      • Cubbie Blues

        For what it’s worth, Ricky Henderson played for an independent league at the end of his career. I believe he even came back to the MLB for a bit after his independent league stint. T.O. is now playing in a indoor football league for $400,000. He still could play for someone next year in the NFL.

    • die hard

      I agree Cubs owe Prior a look with an incentive laden minor league contract as he was the soul of the team for a season. What a way to fill the seats if he can contribute? Would be great PR move especially with Wood on the team. I see Ricketts being tempted and it may happen. Would be good for MLB too.

  • Bren

    Isnt that a bit of a misnomer? The Atlanta Braves, atlanta, havent been around since 1876