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carlos villanueva blue jaysA fresh podcast episode dropped yesterday in case you missed it, or haven’t yet started doing the podcast thing. I’m told I shared a little bit too much about my trip to Chicago in this one, so you’ll just have to excuse the first five minutes or so. And then you should subscribe to the podcast on iTunes so you can get more chunks of TMI.

  • In case you were concerned that the delay in making the Carlos Villanueva deal official was tied to a bum physical or other issues that could cause the deal to fall apart, Phil Rogers has a source who confirms that the only hold-up is the roster issue. (We’d suspected that for a while, and Assistant GM Shiraz Rehman and manager Dale Sveum suggested as much this weekend.) With Scott Hairston being signed, as discussed yesterday, the Cubs have to find two new spots on the currently-full 40-man roster. With respect to Villanueva, a portion of the delay was certainly the holidays, and finding a mutually-agreeable time for a physical. But the last few weeks of delay have undoubtedly been due to the Cubs’ efforts to make a trade that would clear a 40-man spot. Indeed, the Cubs have probably been exploring a huge range of trade options over those weeks, and there’s no sense in designating a player for assignment until you absolutely have to. That said, if we soon hear of the Cubs DFA’ing two players, you’re probably going to have some folks saying, “well, geez, if they were just going to dump guys, why didn’t they do it weeks ago?” Well, it’s a last resort. That’s why.
  • A quote from Matt Garza in the Northwest Herald about his kids reminds us that Cubs players are just people, not machines: “If I wasn’t going to learn patience, then it was never going to happen with those three,” Garza said of his kids, smiling. “This offseason was a good test. I had to fight a 7-year-old to wipe makeup off. I had to fight a 3-year-old to go to sleep. And I had to fight a 5-month-old to eat.” Sometimes I think it’s easy to forget that the players, in addition to performing on a stage for us, also have to live lives and do regular stuff.
  • The Rooftop Association – i.e., an association involving the rooftop owners in Wrigleyville – has apparently put together their own plan for the addition of advertising at and around Wrigley Field, and they will unveil that plan today at Murphy’s Bleachers at 11am CT for anyone in the area. I assume the plan will involve signage that doesn’t block views into Wrigley, and indeed could be signage on the rooftops, themselves (with a split of revenue with the Cubs). It will be interesting to see what they have to say.
  • The Vine Line Blog offers a peak at their prospects profiling series, with a look at pitching prospect Nick Struck: “Struck, the Cubs’ 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, doesn’t have big stuff but pitches like he does, to paraphrase McLeod’s end-of-season report. Struck’s ultra-competitive approach helped him put together a phenomenal 155-inning year at Tennessee. He stands only 5-foot-11 but is big, strong and durable. His fastball touches 92 mph with heavy movement, and he’s not afraid of contact. He also mixes in a change-up and slider. A former 39th-round pick, Struck provides starting depth, though his best role may be as a swingman who can spot start or eat a couple of innings at a time from the bullpen.” Vine Line is covering more than 60 Cubs prospects this month.
  • In case any of you are looking to start a website, the host I use – DreamHost – is offering my readers a $20 discount when they sign up for new hosting. All you’ve got to do is enter the promo code “BNHOSTINGDH.” Folks are often asking me about the functional side of a web site, so I figured I’d throw that out there for anyone who wants to save a little scratch.
  • Here’s a series of pictures from the charity event David and Kim DeJesus put on last week – a fashion show involving Cubs players and their significant others. Pretty easy to see why the DeJesuses chose a fashion show – as a couple, they’re quite easy on the eyes.
  • BN’er Joe emailed me with a story from the Convention, and I had to share a portion of it with you. He was with his daughters waiting in the Ernie Banks autograph line when it became clear that there wasn’t going to be enough time for them to get to Ernie before the signing period ended (vouchers or no vouchers). And then this happened:

I came across a young lady with the Cubs front office and informed her of the situation. She informed me that while they couldn’t pull a kid out of the line and move her to the front because it would cause a riot, she assured me she would come up with a solution after speaking with her supervisor as well as Ernie’s people. A little while later my two daughters were taken out of the line and told to wait by an exit door that Ernie was leaving through and he would sign it as he left.

The time came and he made his way towards the exit. As he got close, one of his people took my two daughters through the exit door to wait away from all the people in a less chaotic area. Ernie went through the doors and that was the last I saw of him. As my wife and I waited, the time passed. Five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes. I asked my wife, where the heck they went to sign this jersey. They shouldn’t be gone this long. Shortly after, a gentleman came back out the door, but no sign of my daughters. I asked the man if he had seen them and he said last he saw they were walking to a private room to sit and sign and he had his arm around my daughter singing to her as they walked away. I thought he was mistaken, but shortly after, my two daughters emerged crying hysterically. He sat with them and signed anything they wanted signed, told them stories, sang to them and talked to them about school. All my daughter was looking for was an autograph and she got a life changing experience that she will remember for the rest of her life. It’s great when a player that you put on a pedestal and idolized can not only meet those expectations, but surpass them by far. After telling a friend the story of this, his response was “And THAT’S why he’s Mr. Cub!” Never has a truer statement been written.

  • ETS

    Only 5′ 11″?

    I’d like to see some studies on MLB pitching effectiveness by height. My suspicion is that we overstate the effect height has, but that’s just a hunch.

    • Edwin

      It’d be an interesting study. I just think it’d be tough to filter out all the noise from a potential sample and still be able to draw a decent conclusion. But I agree, height might sometimes be overrated.

    • hansman1982

      That’d be challenging to do because guys don’t change in height so you couldn’t remove a lot of the variables involved.

      However, it’s similar to changing the height of the mound, if you were to stretch Struck out another 4″ it’d be the same as raising the mound 4″. It gives someone who is taller a better chance to do the same with less.

      • Edwin

        what if you compared where pitchers 6’5″ and taller were drafted, and pitchers <6'0" were drafted, and compared how they performed relative to their expected slot value?

        • ETS

          Relative slot value would be good. You could just test WAR vs height for correlation. I’d throw out outliers (just because greg maddux was 6’0″ doesn’t mean that every 6’0″ pitcher is amazing.

          • hansman1982

            the first place I’d start is with the top-100 in career WAR and/or wins and see how their heights fall into place.

            I imagine draft slots will be impacted by height as a third tier type impactor. If two players are similar to the scouts, I believe they would take the taller dude.

            • preacherman86

              of the top 100 career war I just blitzed through the top 20 and 5 of the top 20 were sub 6′. I don’t know but if that holds true that 25% of top 100 WAR pitchers would be sub 6′ would lend itself towards the fact that height is overrated. HOWEVER, that list of sub 6′ guys only Pedro pitched after 1917. So you would have to factor in time frame as well. As time has gone on, the players have gotten bigger, stronger, and live generally above the norm. So the longer down the time line we go as athletes get bigger and stronger, a sub 6′ is becoming less and less the norm, which would make a 5’11″ pitcher somewhat of an anomaly were he to become a stud. What is more typical anymore is a guy like Tim Lincecum who is a stud for awhile and then kinda flames out cuz the body can’t hold up over the demanded time frame with how hard you have to work that smaller frame.

      • yield51

        The 4″ gained in his height is not the only advantage. I assume if Struck was 4″ taller, his limbs would also be longer. I would guess that a variable length of a lever will change leverage and torque.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          It also assists in creating a downward plane on the pitch, which is more difficult to square up than something coming laser straight through the zone from a lower height.

          • Scott

            Maybe it is important to look at arm length for this reason. For Offensive Tackles in the NFL, the biggest indicator of success is arm length, not height or weight. A guy who is 6ft could easily have a larger wingspan than a guy who is 6’2″.

        • hansman1982

          Wow, here is an article posted on SABR that is far to geeky for me to fully read and understand but here is a paragraph from it:

          “The data speak for themselves. Baseball organizations have been scouting, signing, and developing players based on a fallacious assumption. Shorter pitchers are just as effective and durable as taller pitchers. If a player has the ability to get drafted, then he should be drafted in the round that fits his talent. ”

          http://sabr.org/research/does-pitcher-s-height-matter

          • Kev

            This article is really thorough, but as a nerd, I’m somewhat concerned about the sample that this guy used. Namely, he looked at only professional ballplayers. My intuition is that if we looked at a sample that included minor-leaguers or amateur ballplayers, there would be more of an indication that height definitely matters. If you did this, you wouldn’t be able to use career statistics like this fellow did, so it’s pretty unrealistic, of course. I don’t really know where I’m going with this…

            Anyway though, my thought is that (among the sample this guy used) height is not that huge of a factor in a pitcher’s success, but other things–arm length relative to body height or arm length relative to weight–which correlate with height–probably are having some sort of effect. But then again I just pitch on a beer-league softball team, so what do I know?

    • hansman1982

      This is a meaningless study but I pulled the top 5 career wins leaders along with a semi-random sampling (I grabbed Maddux, Tommy John and Moyer but the other 3 were random) of another 6 from the Top-50 Wins leaders from the B-R leader board:

      1 guy (Pud Gavin) is below 6′ (he is 5′ 8″)
      2 are 6′ (Maddux and Moyer)
      4 are 6′ 1″ (Walter Johnson, Grover Alexander, Christy Mathewson, Bob Gibson)
      2 are 6′ 2″ (Cy Young and Nolan Ryan)
      1 is 6′ 3″ (Tommy John)
      1 is 6′ 4″ (Steve Carlton)

      Obviously this means nothing and I may have just been lucky enough to miss all of the guys who were shorter than 6′.

    • TakingWrigleyToSãoPaulo

      There may be an issue here with selection bias. I am guessing scouts and FO types have a bias towards taller pitchers due to there workhorse frames so the number of “smaller” guys pitching may be fewer but may have relatively better stuff to make up for the lack of frame and “convince” the scouts or FO to give them a shot.

  • Seth

    That Ernie Banks story gave me goosebumps. What a great guy.

    • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

      I agree. I am not the sentimental type, but that is just beautiful.

    • OregonCubFan

      I’m with Seth on this one. I just about shed a tear. I wish we had more Ernies in the game today.

      • itzscott

        Ditto regarding the goosebumps and Ernie. Growing up as a kid, Ernie Banks was and still is my all-time idol. Not surprising to me that he did what he did because he always extended those kind of niceties even when he was a player.

        When I was 8 years old I wrote him a letter explaining that he was my favorite player just to let him know and I asked for nothing in return. I’ll never forget when my mom got our mail soon after and told me there was something for me. 8 years old…. I never got mail!

        Inside was an autographed picture of Ernie Banks, which I still treasure to this day.

        I’m now going on 61 years old, that gesture stayed with me my entire life and more than anyone…. Ernie taught me early on that it’s nice to be nice to others.

        • Fishin Phil

          I had an autographed picture of Ernie that my neighbor who worked for the Tribune got for me. My little brother poked about 20 holes in it with a sharp pencil.

          40 some odd years later, and I still haven’t completely forgiven him for that one.

    • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

      Here’s a major reason why being a Cubs fan is so important to me.

      I come from generations of Cubs fans, and my late grandfather (who lived 80+ years without seeing a championship) *loved* Ernie Banks and had spoken to him many times as a casual fan, usually during Spring training. My grandfather always told me what a great person Ernie was and reading this awesome story not only made me emotional because of the story itself but its connection to my grandfather and probably a whole bunch of other stuff I’m not even aware of.

      I’d also like to give my grandpa credit for writing me a letter from Spring training when I was a kid, telling me about this new, young shortstop I’d never heard of, Shawon Dunston, who was going to be great one day.

      These are some of the things that make being a true Cub fan something special for many of us.

  • Forlines

    Dude, Ernie Banks is the man! (like everyone here didn’t already know). I love sports stories like that.

  • TonyP

    Kathryn Schierholtz is quite easy on the eyes as well

    • http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/653cc0c5f0eded621ab13b4f631de7da.png Cizzle

      That was my take too.

  • SalukiHawk

    Sammy Sosa, by contrast would have asked the girls stories about which of his homers they liked the most, told them about all his personal exploits, and asked them to guilt their parents into investing in his neddleless injection company. Mr. Cub is amazing.

    • Edwin

      I don’t think we know what Sosa would or wouldn’t do, since he doesn’t get invited to these things.

  • Beer Baron

    The first Cubs game I ever went to (1977) we saw Ernie Banks walking through the concourse. I would have never recognized him but my mom did, and we rushed over to see him. I worked my way up to him and asked for an autograph. Unfortunately, this being my first time seeking an autograph I didn’t understand how it worked and didn’t bring anything for him to sign. But Ernie being who he is, didn’t turn me away and actually went over to the guy selling scorecards (which I think were a quarter at the time), asked for one, signed it and gave it to me. I think it meant more to my mom than me, but in retrospect it was pretty awesome. I’ll guarantee you that doesn’t happen today.

  • IlliniBone

    A similar situation happened to me about 15 years ago at the Cubs Convention. I thought I was getting the autograph of a famous Cubs player…happened to be Ronnie Woo Woo.

    • TonyP

      Thanks I just spit coffee on my moniter

      • CubFan Paul

        Me too.

        • http://www.justinjabs.com/blog/ justinjabs

          I literally laughed out loud. My girlfriend was sleeping, thanks.

  • 5412

    Hi,

    Loved the story at the end. Why we all know Pete Rose or Mr. Personality Mark McGuire would have done the same thing…

    regards,
    5412

    • hansman1982

      I bet you $50 I wouldn’t do the same thing.

      XOXO,

      Charlie Hustle

      • cjdubbya

        But for an extra $60, he’ll throw an “I’m sorry I bet on baseball” on whatever he’s signing.

  • http://worldseriesdreaming.com/ Rice Cube

    All hail Ernie Banks. May he shine forever.

  • cubzforlife

    I think Kerry Wood has a little Ron Santo, Ernie Banks in him. I wrote a few weeks ago how Lee Smith and his wife had a similiar impact on my seven year old. Good guys are just good guys.
    These rooftop millionaires remind me of gangsters. My way or my way.

  • JulioZuleta

    I have a feeling we’re going to hear about a trade today, Soriano methinks. Just a hunch.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Given that it’s a Friday, and the big stuff always seems to break on Friday – and given the roster stuff – I wouldn’t be surprised.

      • Kygavin

        Texas maybe since they missed on Upton?
        Seattle kinda same boat (not the best fit)
        Baltimore still an option maybe since they missed on Kubel?

        Idk what the market is and this was just going off the top of my head but seem like ok options to me…. if it happens at all

        • jdblades

          The yankees need a rh bat for the outfield also

          • Kygavin

            They were supposedly in on Hairston too and Soriano should be pretty cheap for them if they give a prospect of any sort of value so I could see that being possible

  • Joker

    “Sometimes I think it’s easy to forget that the players, in addition to performing on a stage for us, also have to live lives and do regular stuff.”

    So true, Brett. In fact, I’ll guarantee this rarely crosses our minds. As a boss myself, it’s something I am reminded of every day when dealing with my employees. Sure, you will hear the cries of “suck it up” and “leave that stuff off the field”, but players are just like the regular joes you work with on a daily basis. We all have our baggage and, truth be told, rarely do most of the co-workers even know what’s going on with each other.

  • RoughRider

    I’ve run into Ernie a few times at Wrigley and Spring Training. He’s a great person. So was Ron Santo. Most of you probably don’t remember him but Kenny Hubbs was a really good guy too. The Ernie story reminds me of a time in Spring Training when Dunston was sitting in the stands in the late stages of a game and refused to sign autographs for some young kids. They weren’t anybody we knew but my father was really ticked off.

  • North Side Irish

    Ben Badler ‏@BenBadler
    Great stuff, can’t stay healthy. High-end relief potential RT @keeks_66 what do you think Arodys Vizcaino can be? Is he in Neftali Limbo?

    This seems to be the prevailing opinion…still love getting that kind of talent for Maholm.

  • Carne Harris

    I remember when I was 9 I went to a Cubs event Ernie was at. Me and a friend stood in line to take a picture with him. He was sitting down at a table and he had us stand behind him to take the picture. He put his hands up in a sort of “here we all are” gesture but 9-year-old me mistook it for him wanting me to slap him five, which I did. He gave me a dirty look. From all accounts since, I really do believe he’s a genuinely nice man and it was just my luck to turn him into a dick. Should I be lying on a couch for this?

  • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

    I’m a little surprised MLB hasn’t stepped in at this point on the Cubs with Villanueva. This is pretty blatant rules evasion pushed to a degree I’ve never seen before.

    But if MLB isn’t going to do that, good for the Cubs for finding a loophole to exploit.

  • CubbiesOHCubbies

    Brett. Thank you for sharing my daughters encounter with Ernie Banks. For my 11 year old daughter, this has officially become know as the greatest day of her life. I find it so great that from a little portion of my story, it brought out so many others with their own stories of encounters with Ernie, and each one has the same basic storyline. He did more than anyone could have expected and is a genuine class act.

    Keep up the great work and thank you to you and your readers for making this community more like a family.

    Take care all.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      The thanks goes to you, Joe (and to Ernie, obviously). Glad you shared.

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