Daily Archives: January 13, 2012

The Chicago Cubs 2012 Convention: The Inside Report

Friday  January 13th, 2012

Brian Bernardoni (Guest Writer – MLB reports):  The tour begins.  As long as baseball is played….

For 15 years I have given tours at Wrigley Field to literally thousands of Cub Fans, tourists and the occasional Canadian.  And since 1998 I have always started them the same way; with this soliloquy:

“As long as baseball is played, the memory will live of a bulbous man on matchstick leg pointing in an elegant gesture to Wrigley Field’s faraway centerfield barrier, the jibes of 50,000 Chicago fans searing his ears.  There were two strikes on George Herman (Babe) Ruth like there had been many times in his career.  The score was 4 to 4 in the fifth, and Ruth’s Yankees were gunning for their third straight win.  Two called strikes and there stood baseball’s greatest hitter in the sunset of his career, majestically drawing a bead on a spot 400 feet away.  Contemptuously the Babe held up two fingers, then pointed to the centerfield flagpole.  Charlie Root pitched.  He shouldn’t have done it.  Like a projectile the ball left the Ruthian bat to scream on a line over the right centerfield wall.” 

Any true baseball fan will recognize the story immediately.  The story is of course the “Called Shot”. 

The story is really part of American folklore; its “Casey at Bat” except Casey hits the home run.  Personally I have long contended that the “Called Shot” story is the work of Ruth and the massive public relations team that supported him.  Charlie Root and Gabby Hartnett both presented full course presses during and after their careers were over that the story was false, as did a significant volume of others.  Heck; Ruth even admitted it.  But when you strip away the grandiose story, the drama of the World Series and the great imagery the myth provided Ruth with the setting for what a star is supposed do.   A star, when provided the opportunity shines. 

Now there are undeniable facts about the story.  Fact 1: Charlie Root pitched the ball and Ruth hit it out on Sheffield Avenue.

But as a Cub fan, and a Wrigley Field tour guide the part of the story that grabs me the most is that the Ruth’s pinnacle moment didn’t happen at Ebbets Field, or Fenway, or even the house he himself built – Yankee Stadium.  No.  The moment that was the exclamation mark on his extraordinary career happened in Chicago and it happened at Wrigley Field, and that is Fact 2. 

The 27th Annual Cubs Convention will take place Friday, January 13 through Sunday, January 15, 2012, at the Hilton Chicago, located at 720 S. Michigan Avenue.  The hours of the Convention are as follows:     Friday – 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday – 9 a.m. to midnight; Sunday – 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For Cub fans interested in what is happening at Wrigley Field during the off-season the can’t miss session is “Meet Cubs Business Management,” offering a look toward the future of the Cubs and Wrigley Field with Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney, Executive Vice President, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Wally Hayward, Executive Vice President of Community Affairs Mike Lufrano, Vice President of Stadium Operations Carl Rice, Vice President of Ticket Sales Colin Faulkner, Vice President of Business Development Alex Sugarman and Director of Fan Experiences Jahaan Blake.

The ballpark is much more than a building for me.  It’s part of my own family history as my grandmother played softball there in 1933 during the World’s Fair in Chicago.  My daughter took her first step on the field on Father’s Day just a few feet away from where her grandmother once played.  It’s also a cruel mistress – who takes me from my family.  I leave hours before I should so I can gaze upon her and sing her praises.  So as I embark on blogging about her and Chicago ballparks and their rich history  – I hope you enjoy the tour. 

I will be tweeting at the event (should the Hilton have WiFi).  Follow me on Twitter (@brianbernardoni)

ABOUT:  BRIAN A. BERNARDONI

2010 Jerome Holtzman Award Recipient

In 2012 Brian A. Bernardoni will enter his fifteenth year as a Wrigley Field Tour Guide.  He is a native Chicagoan and is widely recognized and highly regarded as an expert on both the West Side Grounds and Wrigley Field.

Brian is a lifelong Chicago Cub fan who along with his colleague Michael Reischl and the “Way Out of Left Field Society” coordinated efforts to place a historic marker at the location of the West Side Grounds, where the Chicago Cubs played (1885 -1915).  He has testified on behalf of the Chicago Cubs on land marking matters at before the Chicago Landmarks Commission and the Chicago City Council Committee on Buildings.  He is a member of the Emil Verban Society, the Emil Rothe Chapter of SABR, the Ballparks Committee and the Old Timer’s Baseball Association of Chicago of which he was the 2008 “Old Timer of the Year”.  For these efforts Brian was awarded in 2010 with the Pitch and Hit Club of Chicago’s “Jerome Holtzman” Award.  

A vigorous researcher he has contributed to several books including The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball, Haunted Baseball, Field of Screams: Haunted Tales from the Baseball Diamond, the Locker Room, and Beyond, Classic Cubs ¬– A Tribute to the Men and Magic of Wrigley Field, Hoodoo: Unraveling the 100-Year Mystery of the Chicago Cubs and ¬Living the Dream – An Inside Account of the 2008 Cubs Season.  His poetry on the Cubs can be found on Bardball.com and he is a blogger for MLB Reports.  His own book on Wrigley Field with Elliott Harris is anticipated soon.  

Brian and his efforts to preserve the history of Chicago Cubs ballparks have also been featured in two recent films on the Chicago Cubs; “We Believe” and “Chicago Cubs: The Heart & Soul of Chicago.” Brian was also a contributor on both films.

Brian is not only a serious baseball historian but also has played a role in some interesting Cub related events including “Burying the Curse” where he performed in a funeral home with legendary performer Tom Dressen and a séance in the room where Billy Jurges was shot at the Hotel Carlos; an inspiration for the book and subsequent film “The Natural.”

Brian and his wife Carrie are residents in the Chicagoland area and are the parents of four daughters.

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The 2012 Tampa Bay Rays Starting Rotation

Friday January 13th, 2012


Rob Bland:  Starting pitching surplus.  This is a phrase that every Major League Baseball franchise wishes they could say they possess.  However, one team that is quickly becoming a power in the AL East, has just that.  The Tampa Bay Rays’ rise to success began in 2008 where they were crowned the American League champions.  Since then, they have won due mostly to their strong pitching.  A while back, I heard someone say that the Rays franchise is like an onion: peel one layer off, and there is another layer there waiting to blossom.  When they lost Carl Crawford, probably the best player in franchise history, to free agency, ultra prospect Desmond Jennings came to Tropicana Field.  When Matt Garza was traded to the Chicago Cubs, hyped pitching prospect Jeremy Hellickson took over the 5th spot of the rotation and finished the season with a 13-10 record and 2.95 ERA.  Oh, and he won the American League Rookie of the Year Award just to top it off.  The fact of the matter is the Rays have a scary rotation already in place, with David Price, James Shields, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, and Hellickson.  

Before the 2011 season, Baseball America ranked Hellickson the #6 prospect in baseball, with Matt Moore coming in at #15.  Moore is a flame-throwing lefty who was called up to the Rays on September 12, 2011 in the middle of a pennant race.  Moore threw 9.1 innings, with 15 strikeouts to 3 walks, and a 2.89 ERA.  He then went on to pitch Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers, and threw 7 scoreless innings on 2 hits.  GM Andrew Friedman believed in his talent so much that he inked Moore to a 5-year, $14M contract that includes club options that would push the total value to $37.5M over 8 years.  Moore will only be 22 years old at the beginning of the season.  

Alex Cobb is another intriguing arm that is waiting in the minor leagues for his time to shine.  While he wasn’t included in the Rays’ Top 10 Prospects list before the 2011 season, he turned heads while pitching most of 2011 in AAA.  Cobb went 5-1 with a 1.87 ERA over 12 starts.  Cobb struck out 70 with 16 walks in 67.1 innings, showing plus command of an 89-93mph fastball.  Cobb projects to be an inning-eating work horse in the middle of a rotation.  While he ended up with 9 starts for the Rays with success, there doesn’t seem to be a spot open for him just yet.  

So it appears as though the Rays have 7 viable starting options at the moment. SEVEN. Most teams can’t even say they have four that they are actually happy with. A true embarrassment of riches!  

Talent is not the only thing to consider when putting a team together, and the strapped-for-cash Rays are no exception.  Even with a team salary of just over $42M, the Rays still clinched the AL Wild Card and reached the postseason for the third time in four years in the loaded AL East.  James Shields has club options for 2012-2014, with a value of $7.5M, $9M and $12M, respectively.  For a team with such a low payroll, a pitcher like James Shields does not quite seem to fit the team’s plans.  It might be in the best interest of the club to be looking for suitable trade partners to potentially shore up the team’s needs at 1B and/or SS.  

The reality is that the Rays believe that Moore is Major League-ready now, hence the multi-year contract.  So therefore, one of the five starters from 2011 is either on his way out, or on his way to the bullpen.  Price, Hellickson and Moore are locks for the rotation it would seem.  Even though he missed all of May and half of June with back tightness after a rough start to the season in which he gave up 23 runs in 31.1 innings over 6 starts, Niemann had a very strong July and August. Niemann finished 2011 with an 11-7 record and 4.06 ERA.  Davis signed a contract prior to the 2011 season that would pay him $10.1M through 2014, with options from 2015-2017 for $7M, $8M, and $10M, respectively.  Davis was 11-10 in 2011 with a 4.45 ERA.  The fact that his career ground ball rate is 37.8% and he has struck out under 6 batters per 9 innings doesn’t bode well for him.  Davis’s stats have regressed in the last two years, and with his contract doesn’t seem likely to net a large return if traded.  He could, however, find himself in a swingman type role to start the season.

In James Shields, the Rays have a HUGE trade chip.  Since 2007, he has averaged over 220 innings per season.  His career marks of 7.5 K/9 and 2.07 BB/9 to go along with a 44% ground ball rate make him a very good pitcher.  With 3-years of control remaining, at an average of under $10M per season, Shields could net the Rays a king’s ransom type return.  When Friedman traded Garza to the Cubs, he received outfielder Sam Fuld, SS Hak-Ju Lee (#6 prospect by Baseball America), RHP Chris Archer (#38 by BA), OF Brandon Guyer (#6 Rays prospect), and C Robinson Chirinos.  Comparing Garza’s 2010 season and Shields’ 2011 season shows that while Garza pitched well going 15-10 and 3.91 ERA, his peripheral stats don’t quite stack up.  Not only is Shields’ platform season greater, but his career statistics prove he has been the better pitcher.  With the exorbitant prices some teams are paying for frontline starting pitching (see Gio Gonzalez and Matt Latos), the Rays should certainly be looking into moving Shields.  

In all probability, the Rays rotation will start out as Price, Shields, Moore, Hellickson and Niemann, with Davis going to the bullpen, and Alex Cobb biding his time in AAA.  The Rays could play out the first few months of the season, and look to deal one of Shields, Niemann or Davis based on where they sit in the standings, and their personal performances.  Starting pitching surplus sure is a great problem to have.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Blandy on Twitter***

 

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Anthony Ranaudo Interview: 2010 1st Round Draft Pick and Red Sox Uber-Prospect

Friday January 13, 2012

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  Imagine that you were 6’7″, a chiseled 230 lbs and drafted in the first round (39th overall) in the 2010 MLB draft.  Better yet, you were drafted by the Red Sox.  This comes after you were drafted by Texas in 2007 but opted to play for a powerhouse school like Louisiana State. To top it all off, you show up to your first professional season of baseball as a 21-year old highly rated pitching prospect and you hold your own against the competition.  Impossible dream? Not really…not if your name is Anthony Ranaudo.  Going into 2012, Anthony is one of the top rated pitching (and overall) prospects in the game. While he has the resume and strong credentials already, Anthony is not letting anybody hand him anything in baseball. He is working hard to earn his chance and to prove that he belongs in the majors. Red Sox fans are absolutely giddy at the thought of having Anthony in their team’s rotation one day.  Can you blame them? There are 29 other major league teams who would grab him for their system in a second. For a kid that grew up a Yankees fan in New Jersey, Anthony’s baseball story certainly took an interesting twist. Now a member of Red Sox nation, Anthony Renaudo is on track to land in Boston in the near future.  

Featured today on MLB reports, we are proud to present Anthony Renaudo of the Boston Red Sox:  

MLB reports:  Welcome to MLB reports Anthony.  First question:  We have to know the truth.  We understand that you grew up a Yankees fans.  How did it feel to be drafted by the Red Sox?  Was it difficult to give up the love for the pinstripes and join Red Sox nation?

Anthony Ranaudo:  Haha… that is actually such a common question with all my family members and friends back home in New Jersey. But once I went to college and saw teammates and guys I played with making it to the big leagues, you become more of a fan of the game rather than of one specific team. So by the time the draft came, I was excited to be picked by the Sox and join the tradition and history behind the organization.

 

MLB reports:  You got the call in 2007 that you were drafted by the Rangers.  Was there ever a possibility of you signing with Texas or was it Louisiana State the whole way?

Anthony Ranaudo:  There was a slight chance if they were willing to pay above slot. But I really had my mind-set on going to college, earning a part of my degree, and competing for a national championship at one of the best college programs in the country.

 

MLB reports:  How did you enjoy your time in University?  Do you feel you made the right choice in picking school over pro ball? (if you could go back in a time machine- would you have still made the same choice?)

Anthony Ranaudo:  The time I spent at LSU was an amazing three years to say the least. I would not go back and change a thing, if I had the chance a million times over. The people I met, friendships I made, and the baseball experience I gained- is not something that I could ever replace. I am so thankful I was a part of it.

 

MLB reports:  Not an easy subject I’m sure, but I was curious about your injury in 2010.  You hurt your elbow prior the draft.  How did you get injured and were you afraid that the injury would affect your draft status?

Anthony Ranaudo:  It was actually a freak incident and a rare bone injury that no one really knows why it occurred. But it did happen and affected my performance and ultimately the draft. With that being said, during that time I can honestly say that I wasn’t as concerned with my draft status as I was with returning to my team and helping to defend our national championship in 09.

 

MLB reports:  How is your health today? Any lingering issues?

Anthony Ranaudo:  I am 100 percent healthy with no lingering issues.


MLB reports:  Did you have a favorite player growing up?

Anthony Ranaudo:  Even though he was before my time, I always idolized Nolan Ryan because he was the best pitcher of his time and always wanted to be the best. My dad would tell me stories about him and his work ethic and why he was the best. I used to collect his cards and want to be as successful as he was.


MLB reports:  Which current MLB star do you most admire and why? Any current players that you pattern your game after?

Anthony Ranaudo:  I respect a lot of the players in the major leagues because obviously they have put a lot of time, effort, and energy into their life as a baseball player. Many of them are very intelligent and have learned the game well and that is why they are so successful. I can’t really say there are too many guys that I pattern myself around. But I can say that whenever I am around a major league player, I listen closely and absorb as much as I can about his career and things he has gone through.


MLB reports:  What are your goals going into the 2012 season?

Anthony Ranaudo:  Personally, my goals for this season are simple. I want to have a focus of getting better each and every day to make myself more of a major league ready pitcher. I think the season will dictate more of my specific goals. But if I work as hard as I can and focus on getting better, I will eventually become the pitcher I know that I can be and hopefully be a major league pitcher helping my team win.


MLB reports:  You were a first round pick by the Red Sox in 2010.  How did you find out you were drafted?  Big party that night?

Anthony Ranaudo:  Actually the opposite. The night before the draft, we were eliminated from the postseason at UCLA and had a plane ride that day and night. I found out I was picked by the Sox after we landed back in Baton Rouge.

 

MLB reports:  Did you expect to go to the Red Sox and as high as the 1st round?  Your name was discussed for some time in baseball circles as a future 1st round selection- how much of the hype reached you?

Anthony Ranaudo:  Well I had heard some rumors about the Sox drafting me, but there are a lot of things your hear all the time. From the time I was a kid it was my dream to play professionally. So just to be drafted was a great honor.


MLB reports:  You start off your career as a Greenville Drive and then moved on to the Salem Red Sox last season.  Tell us about your first two professional teams…and what the heck is a Greenville Drive?

Anthony Ranaudo:  Honestly, I played there for two months and I have no idea. This year was a lot of fun and I really enjoying playing for both teams. I met a lot of good guys and made a ton of new friends that really made this first year of pro ball very memorable.


MLB reports:  How did you feel going from school to professional baseball?  What was the transition like?

Anthony Ranaudo:  Playing at LSU really gave a great start to the transition. There were some minor things to make adjustments to, but overall it was pretty simple.


MLB reports:  Do you see yourself long-term as a starter or reliever?

Anthony Ranaudo:  I have always seen myself as a starter and I love being on the mound for seven or eight innings. With that being said, I also love having the ball in my hand when the game really matters the most in the late innings. So if it is my job to be a reliever or closer one day, I will really enjoy and embrace that role.


MLB reports:  What do you consider your best pitch(es)? Any new ones that you plan to be working on this season?

Anthony Ranaudo:  No new additions this year so far. I am trying to really focus on having great control and command of my three or four current pitches. To this day, my fastball and curveball are still my favorite pitches.

 

MLB reports:  Who were the strongest baseball influences growing up?  Any particular coaches that had a deep impact on your game?

Anthony Ranaudo:  I would have to say my father had the greatest influence on my career. He was the one who taught me the game and was there for every step, even to this day. But without the support of my mother and father and my brothers and sisters, I would never have made it to where I am today.


MLB reports:  What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?

Anthony Ranaudo:  I need to refine my command of the strike zone and throw more quality strikes with greater consistency. Once I do that, I can focus on competing and hopefully moving up the ladder.


MLB reports:  If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues and what do you think you need to do most to get there?

Anthony Ranaudo:  I am glad I don’t have a crystal ball because that way I cannot worry about it. And that is the approach I take every day. Like I said earlier, I try to get better each and every day. If I can keep doing that while staying healthy, I think those decisions will be made for me, hopefully sooner rather than later.


MLB reports:  Favorite baseball movie of all-time and why?

Anthony Ranaudo:  For Love of The Game. No doubt. Literally tear up every time. It is the perfect description of the life of a pitcher, with the ending of a perfect game. Something that every competitive pitcher dreams of.

***Thank you to Anthony Ranaudo for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports!  You can follow Anthony on Twitter (@anthony_ranaudo). Anthony enjoys speaking with his fans, so please feel free to send him any questions/comments you have.  Or just wish him good luck on the season, as he works his way up to Boston!***

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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