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    The Greg Maddux Watch: Stunning at 355

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      What to expect from the Cubs this season...
    So here comes another great season of Chicago Cubs baseball and following that are the expectations of a Word Series in Chicago. Is it realistic? Well, former Cub Broadcaster Steve Stone believes so. On the Score radio station in Chicago, Stone said he believes that the Cubs will walk away with the National League title this year. He says that the subtraction of Alou and Sosa are going to pay dividends when it comes to scoring more runs.

    What do I think? Well Sosa has always been one of my favorite players but he has shown little or no interest to become a team player. Alou was also a fan favorite. I, personally, have never seen him smile before which cant be good in the clubhouse. Maybe it was all the chewing tobacco he had in his mouth. Another thing I like is that these two would play the worst defense out of any outfield combination that I have seen in recent memory. I am not sure but I think the total was like 12 errors from them combined. Alou was terrible on the base path, which is not characteristic for a 10-12 year veteran.

    The bar has been set too high on Corey Patterson. He is a strike out machine that can’t realize he has to use his speed much more than hitting a homerun. If he decides to cut down on that hard swing his average and stolen bases should go up and the strikeouts and homeruns will decrease. That’s what they need with the lead off guy. Hairston may or may not play in left. If they try to put him in at 2nd I would not be happy if I was Todd Walker. He needs to have the security of knowing he will be in the lineup everyday.

    Hollandsworth may have a great start but he probably will get hurt. I say they should make an offer for Aubrey Huff. He only struck out 74 times last season which means he should be a great RBI guy as shown by his 104 RBI last season. He also played in 157 games at multiple positions, which could prove great value. They need a prominent lefty on top of Walker and Burnitz. He fits the bill.

    In addition to the offense, Pitching should be a plus. The Cubs only got 43 combined starts from Wood and Prior. That should increase to about 64, which would give the Cubs about 32 wins at least between the two. Wood has always been a .500 pitcher but Prior has the ability to win over 20. Maddux had another 16 win season along with Zambrano, but Maddux also had his worst ERA since his rookie season.

    The bullpen is another question mark. Joe Borowski has said that he regained his velocity of a couple years ago. I'll believe it when he is getting people out. I am actually looking forward to Ryan Dempster as the closer. He reminds me of a Joe Nathan type that will not get rattled like LaTroy Hawkins visibly did last year. Then Hawkins will return to the Set-Up role which he is great at. They still might make a move for Urbina or someone else. Urbina is the more likely choice given the amount of arms in that Detroit bullpen. So will they win? Probably not. Something will happen to continue the worst case of losing in professional sports. Boston did end their drought last year...ahh, nevermind with the cliche's. John
      Jealousy, owners, and a styrofoam cup.
    Boy is it painful being a baseball fan this time of the year. Thank god for College Basketball. Spring training just wont come quick enough.

    Very little baseball news these days, unless you count all the "Outside the Lines" B.S., and I don't. But here's a pretty good (if relatively tame) interview with Anaheim's owner Arte Moreno.

    Q&A with Angels owner Moreno.

    If you could buy shares of baseball teams on the stock market--and maybe you should be able to--I would own as much of the Angels as I could afford. Some owners just get it. Some owners sit back and whine about not being able to compete, but don't actually do anything to improve their lot.
    How are we going to be able to take the franchise to the next step? By trying to bust out of the small- to mid-market team mold and move into a large market.
    Arte Moreno knows exactly what it takes to increase the value of his franchise. To make money, all you really have to do is put a somewhat competitive team on the field. To make a lot of money, you have to go further. There is a reason the Yankees can spend so much money. They have the largest, and most loyal fanbase, that provide them with an obscene amount of revenue.

    The Angels are in a similar situation. They play in a large market, but have always taken the back seat to the Dodgers. Moreno is trying to change that, and with everything he has acccomplished so far, I believe he will succeed.

    After all, his first move as an owner was to lower the price of beer. What else does anyone need to know? He's also marketing his team incredibly well. I didn't know Moreno's business history, but it didn't suprise me to learn it was in marketing. As the only minority owner in baseball, Moreno has made a strong effort to market the Angels to the large Hispanic population in LA. He's spent money on players, he's invested in the stadium, he's got a great team on the field and one of the best farm systems in baseball.

    All Moreno needs to do is secure a lucrative TV deal like the one Steinbrenner got with the YES Network, and the Angels will officially be Yankees-West. Then he just needs 100 years of loyalty building excellence on the field and he'll be on a par with the New York Yankees.
      Now I know how Yankee fans feel.

    Okay, baseball season can start now.
      How far (and how quickly) can one man fall?

    It's amazing to think that just a few years ago Sammy Sosa was the most popular person in Chicago not named Michael Jordan. Look at where he is now. An entire city's feelings towards that man can be summed up by the word 'bitter'.

    Not that Sammy has anyone else to blame, though he can try to shift the blame elsewhere. Sammy brought it on himself. A gigantic ego is tolerable only when you deliver on your promises. Just like people put up with Tom Brady's cockiness so long as he keeps winning football games, people put up with Sosa's ego only so long as he was belting 60 homers year after year.

    But even with all Sammy has done to piss off the once loyal fans, his prescence remains. The best evidence of the pockets of Sammy-resistance in Chicago is the simple fact that all the Baltimore series at U.S. Cellular Field Sox have already been sold out. It's not White Sox fans buying up those seats.

    But how good will Sammy be in Baltimore? What will the tail end of a Hall of Fame career look like? Sammy Sosa will never regain his glory days, I think that ought to be clear to just about everybody. I don't think he even has a chance at being the best hitter on the Orioles next year. In fact, I would bet he might not even be an above average hitter next year.

    League averages for a right fielder in the AL: .276/.344/.440. Sammy Sosa hit .253/.332/.517. I think he's probablly a lock to hit 30 home runs if he plays a full season, and he might hit 40, but I doubt Sammy will ever hit higher than .270, and he'll never even come close to that 100 walk plateau he was sitting at when pitchers were actually afraid of him.

    Much has been made of Sammy's development. Some call it steroids, some call it developing some plate discipline. I don't care which, but Sammy's plate discipline was a direct result of him crushing the ball with any kind of regularity. Now that he's not, his usefulness as a player has plummeted.

    Think of how many walks Sammy earned just by standing there and being Sammy. Pitchers were afraid of Sammy and worked with extra caution. Last season (and in 2003) nobody was scared of Sammy anymore, and everybody came after him. As a result, his walks and average plummeted, and his strikeout rate rose (21% in 2001 & 2002, 24% in 2003, 25% in 2004).

    And its not just the intentional walks that bear this out. The intentional unintentional walks are what really boosted Sammy's numbers. Nobody is scared of Sosa anymore, and without the fear that made him one of the best hitters in the history of the game, Sosa will be a slightly above average right fielder.

    It's too bad, the slow decline of a ballplayer can be a painful thing to watch. The sudden plummet of Sammy Sosa is even more painful.