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Posted on: June 22, 2009 6:36 pm
 

How Donald Fehr Saved Baseball

He retired.

Before I get into ripping Donald Fehr, let me first say that he was really good at the job for which he was hired.

I'm a union man myself. Fehr was hired to represent the interests of professional baseball players. There is very little he has done that didn't put his players first.

Look at the salaries alone. These players make millions and millions of dollars and sometimes before they even make the major league squad.

Pensions and health plans for the players are among the best for any retired worker.

In 1972, Fehr was one of the many lawyers working on the Messersmith-McNally ruling that ushered in free agency. Today, free agency is a staple of off-season activities that can make or break World Series contenders.

But now, we're still (disturbingly) in the middle of the issue of steroids.

Who used? Or would it be faster to ask, who didn't?

Why did it go on so long? Why didn't anyone stop it?

I believe there are two answers: Donald Fehr and Bud Selig. You can view my opinions on Commissioner Selig in a BleacherReport article I wrote back in February.

Fehr's unbridled defense of the players kept baseball's banned substance list to a minimum. Any tests that performed on the players were anonymous and unpunishable- also because of Fehr.

Even after Alex Rodriguez's name escaped an anonymous list of positive tests from 2003, Fehr remained firm on his position that all other names should remain undisclosed, although recently Sammy Sosa was also named.

Fehr has only been doing his job. I get that. He has always worked for the players.

Unfortunately it's gone too far. Baseball may not be hurting at the turnstiles or in television ratings, but the fans have lost trust in the players and their stats.

Most fans agree that players associated with steroids shouldn't be associated with the Hall of Fame or career records. We root for our teams more than rooting for players now and the players that we do single out are usually players that "we're sure aren't using."

In order for baseball to rid itself of the black cloud over its head, steroids need to be completely eradicated for the sport to move on. I called for step one in February.

Back then I would have said that step two would be Fehr's resignation. We need new leadership that will be able to push baseball into a cleaner, brighter future.

For now, I'll take one of the two.
Category: MLB
Tags: Donald Fehr
 
Posted on: June 20, 2009 2:50 pm
 

Cubs Stars Starting to Shine; Is Season Brighter?

Bats heating up at the right time

In 2007 Carlos Zambrano punched Michael Barrett in the dugout. Barrett was later traded.

In 2008 there was the comeback against the Rockies. Jim Edmonds became a fan-favorite.

In 2009 the Cubs have been searching for that big turning point. The one you look back on and say, "That's where it began. That's when we found the magic."

On Thursday, the Cubs took down their Southside rivals in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion. Trailing 5-1 in the eighth inning, Derrek Lee hit a three-run bomb to make it 5-4. Before the fans were done cheering and before the players sat back down in the dugout, Geovany Soto blew the cap off the building with a no-doubter. Tie game.

A single by Reed Johnson, a sacrafice bunt and an RBI-blooper by Alfonso Soriano later and the Cubs escape with a 6-5 win over the completely stunned White Sox.

On Friday the magic happened again against Cleveland. Going into the fifth inning down 7-0, Johnson and Lee used a pair of solo home runs to close the gap and then we get to that same eighth inning as the previous game.

Bases were loaded for Andres Blanco who hit a broken bat single down the right field line scoring Milton Bradley and Soto. Koyie Hill reached on an error, scoring Johnson. Soriano blooped a hit to score Blanco and lo-and-behold the Cubs are only down by one.

Insert drama.

Former Cub Kerry Wood, now the closer for the Indians and back at Wrigley for the first time, served up a solo shot for Derrek Lee. Tie game.

After one inning of free baseball, Theriot used the very end of his bat to cue a ball around the first baseman scoring Soriano from second. Another elated celebration on the field.

The if you notice in both of these games, major contributions from Soriano, Theriot and Lee have led to these comebacks. Those are the first, second and fourth hitters in the line-up, respectively. By the way, Bradley is batting third and has a nine game hitting streak.

The hitting is coming around. The bats are heating up with the June weather and the balls are starting to bounce in the Cubs' favor.

Now they just need to keep it rolling.

News and Notes

- It appears that for whatever reason, the Ricketts family (the winning bidders to purchase for the Cubs) have ran out of their exclusive rights to the club. Sam Zell, owner of the Tribune Company, has reportedly reopened the bidding. Fan favorite Mark Cuban has publically said he has no plans to pursue the team a second time.
-  Everyone is talking about Mark DeRosa's return to Wrigley, but what about the guys on the other end of the trade? Jeff Stevens is 0-3 with a 2.81 ERA over 31.1 innings and 27 strikeouts at AAA Iowa.  John Gaub is in AA Tennessee and is 3-1 with a 3.04 ERA, 3 saves and 38 Ks in 26.2 innings. Chris Archer is in A Peoria with a 2.42 ERA and is 2-2 with 62 Ks in 13 starts.

Category: MLB
Tags: Chicago Cubs
 
Posted on: May 27, 2009 3:46 pm
Edited on: May 27, 2009 3:52 pm
 

Cubs Adjust Roster After Breaking Losing Streak

During the recent six-game road trip, on which the Chicago Cubs scored a whopping five runs, fans began to get restless. Glogs and threads were filled with questions from supporters of the Northside squad.

"Why isn't Micah Hoffpauir starting over Derrek Lee?"

"What the heck happened to Mike Fontenot's bat?"

"When are they going to bring up Jake Fox to give the offense a spark?"

Hey, I've been with you guys. I never understood the Milton Bradley signing. GM Jim Hendry said he wanted a power left-handed bat so that's why he got Bradley. I didn't realize that Hoffpauir was a contact hitter. With both Bradley and Lee both struggling at the plate, the calls for more Hoffpauir have gotten all the louder.

At one point during the road trip, Fontenot had two hits in forty at-bats after a pretty solid start to the season.

Jake Fox is a power hitter from AAA Iowa that is making a mockery out of minor league pitching staffs from all over the league. His name became more popular during the eight game losing streak.

So what changed?

Well, Lee got sick and Hoffpauir started at first in the first two games of the Pittsburgh series. The Hoff (can I call him The Hoff?) ended up going 2-3 with two RBIs in yesterday's rain-shortened win.

Fontenot took advantage of some deserved rest and also went 2-3 in the win.

And then we come to Jake Fox. Fox is the guy that hardcore fans have been drooling over for a couple of years now. This kid was easily the best hitter in the Pacific Coast League with a .423 average and 50 RBIs on 17 HRs in only 40 games. That's right.. forty.

Now Fox is in Chicago, and rumors are that the Cubs want him to play out of his natural positions (1B and OF) and take Aramis Ramirez's spot at third. With that bat, he sounds perfect.

In addition to Fox, middle infielder Andres Blanco and reliever Jason Waddell also joined the big leagues today.

To make room for those moves, the Cubs placed Aaron Miles on the DL and sent Bobby Scales and Neal Cotts to AAA Iowa.

Category: MLB
Tags: Chicago Cubs
 
Posted on: May 8, 2009 6:25 pm
 

Cubs Bats Continue to Produce In Houston

Cubs Sweep Houston in Two Games

The Chicago Cubs offense came to life in Houston scoring 14 times in the two games meaning if you take away Tuesday's minor league starting lineup loss to the Giants, the Cubs offense is averaging a little more than six runs per game in six wins.

As much as I criticized Lou Piniella's decision to give everyone a rest on Tuesday, I have to give him equal credit for setting up the batting order for maximum success.

After testing Alphonso Soriano out in the three hole for a couple of games, I think the experiments are finally over. I don't care if he's a true leadoff hitter or not, Soriano is clearly more comfortable batting first.

Ryan Theriot and Kosuke Fukudome batting second and third, respectively, couldn't be a better situation for each hitter. Both have the ability to spray the ball around the field, both have an OPS of .800+ and both keep getting hits when the team really needs them. That's what you want in those to batting spots.

Even though Derrek Lee is struggling, Aramis Ramirez has an OPS of over 1.000. Even though Milton Bradley is just now showing signs of getting comfortable at the plate with the Cubs, Mike Fontenot is showing us his hidden talent to drive the ball (he's second on the team in home runs and tied for first in RBIs).

All that leaves is the one true disappointment so far this season. Everyone goes through slumps like Bradley and Lee are currently suffering, but what truly surprises me is that Geovany Soto hasn't broken out of his. I highly doubt his Rookie of the Year award last season was a fluke, he just needs to let it come to him.

Despite Soto's struggles at the plate, the fact that the seven guys batting in front of him are really starting to put together tremendous seasons is very encouraging for the next few months. Saint Louis may have gotten off to a fast start, but the Cubs aren't going anywhere.

News, Notes and Rumors

-- I was in the middle of writing this article as breaking news hit my computer. I planned on talking about the trade rumors swirling about the Cubs trading OF Joey Gathright to Baltimore for veteran IF/OF Ryan Freel. Freel's versatility makes him a much better option on the Cubs team as Gathright was strictly an outfielder. Piniella had expressed desire for another utility infielder and Freel fills that hole, as well as the hole left by Gathright. The Cubs have a tremendous outfield platoon right now and Gathright never really fit in.

-- Derrek Lee's neck injury seems to be healing fine and the team has said that he should be available again full time this weekend.

-- There seems to be a common theme happening with some of the Cubs starting pitchers. There seems to be a trend of early struggles and then settling down to a very solid start. If you take away Jeff Samardzija's terrible outing on Tuesday, the last three starters have given up early runs before settling into another quality start.

-- Speaking of Samardzija, the Cubs sent him back to the Iowa squad when the Cubs brought up reliever Chad Fox. I can only hope the Cubs have finally decided to quit screwing around with this young talent and actually finalize his transition into a full-time starter.

Upcoming Series

Next up for the Cubs is a weekend series against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Friday night, rookie Randy Wells makes his debut this season against Dave Bush (1-0).  Wells makes his first start in his young Cubs career and only had two appearances in a brief stint last year as a reliever.

Saturday, Ryan Dempster (2-1) duels against Yovani Gallardo (3-1) and Sunday's matchup faces Sean Marshall (0-2) against Jeff Suppan (2-2).

On Monday, the Cubs will have their first day off in twenty games.

Category: MLB
Tags: Chicago Cubs
 
Posted on: May 6, 2009 12:11 pm
 

Cubs Give Lincecum a Minor League Workout

So how about this line-up to strike fear in the hearts of major league pitching staffs:

1- Joey Gathright
2- Aaron Miles
3- Kosuke Fukudome
4- Derrek Lee
5- Micah Hoffpauir
6- Mike Fontenot
7- Bobby Scales
8- Koyie Hill
9- Sean Marshall

I get the theme. Lefties and switch hitters. Derrek Lee is the only true right handed hitter in that entire line-up. Even the pitcher is a lefty.

Here's another theme: Vacation.

Not only did Lou Piniella give Cubs starters a vacation day (other than Lee, Fukudome and Fontenot), but he also gave a vacation day to former Cy Young winner and opposing pitcher, Tim Lincecum.

I seriously don't get this. I understand getting as many quality lefties in there against a dominant right handed pitcher. That's when your switch hitters bat left, and maybe Micah Hoffpauir comes in for Derrek Lee, who could probably use the day off more than Ryan Theriot (one of the hotter hitters in the entire league right now).

When does a manager cross the line between a strategic batting line-up and giving up the game? I think Lou crossed that line yesterday.

Lincecum is good enough as it is, he doesn't need the Cubs to rig the game for it.

Did I mention Scales was starting in his first ever major league appearance? Talk about baptism by fire. To be fair, though, he got his first ever major league hit against a former Cy Young winner, so I guess it wasn't too bad.

Maybe I'm being to harsh on Lou's decision. Maybe the strategy goes beyond just yesterday's game.

I mean after all, the Cubs do have a huge match up against Mike Hampton and the absolutely mediocre-at-best Houston Astros on Wednesday night.

Category: MLB
Posted on: May 4, 2009 5:45 pm
Edited on: May 4, 2009 7:06 pm
 

Are the Cubs Finally Clicking?

It's been a weird season so far for the Cubbies. Multiple injuries but, as of yet, no DL appearances**. Mike Fontenot is second on the team in homeruns and last year's Rookie of the Year, Geovany Soto, is looking up at the Mendoza line like he's a two year old trying to dunk in the United Center.

One game the Cubs will score eight runs in the first three innings and then a different game they lose 3-1. The starters will be terrible for a couple of days but the bullpen will be fantastic; then they switch.

I think it's all turning around now, though. I think Lou Piniella finally has his line-up set (leading off with Soriano, Theriot and Fukudome is the best decision Lou has made in his three years at Wrigley). Heck, even Milton Bradley's ejection seemed to help his presence at the plate.

As Kevin Gregg seems to be getting more comfortable, the pitchers are settling in to their respective roles in the bullpen. About the only question left is whether or not Heilmann will be with the team by the trade deadline.

The Cubs took the last three games of a four game set from the Marlins this weekend and they flat out looked more like the Cubs of last year. They looked confident and happy. They won the games with pitching, timely hitting and heart.

Now they play a team in San Fransisco that has virtually no offense, but some of the best pitching in the league. The Cubs should sweep this two game set but an exciting matchup between Sean Marshall and Tim Lincecum Tuesday will probably be a low-scoring affair.

Either way, things are looking up again in Chicago. The Cardinals are coming back to earth at the same the the Cubs are putting their puzzle together. No one else in the division seems to care other than (maybe) half of the Reds.

The skies are getting bluer in Chicago and the ivy is slowly starting to show signs of green. And finally, the daily-raised flag on the corner of Waveland and Sheffield is white more often than not.

**- Less than two hours after posting this blog, the Cubs placed Carlos Zambrano on the the 15-day DL for his hamstring issue.
Category: MLB
Tags: Chicago Cubs
 
Posted on: April 22, 2009 11:44 am
 

Skies Are Sunny in the Chicago Sportsworld

I noticed on Saturday that it may have been the greatest day one sports city can experience. The Bulls, Blackhawks, White Sox and Cubs all won in a 12 hour period. I don't know where to look, but as far as I can tell, that would be pretty rare, especially considering the Bulls and Hawks were both in the playoffs.

That got me to thinking: How good is it to be a sports fan in Chicago right now?

The Bulls stole a road game agains the Celtics and now effectively have home court advantage in the first round of the NBA playoffs and Derrick Rose is about to be named the Rookie of the Year.

The Blackhawks are in the playoffs for the first time in seven years, have an owner that actually cares, and actually have an average to good chance of making the Stanley Cup Finals with what could be the greatest Western Conference Finals matchup in years against rival Detroit.

The White Sox and Cubs are both trying to defend their division titles and oh hey look, they're both in first place. The Cubs might be more exciting right now, with one of the better all-around teams in the entire majors but the White Sox are taking advantage of a mediocre division and are winning the games that they should.

Heck, things are going to so well in Chicago that it isn't even football season and the Bears fans are already excited. The trade to acquire Jay Cutler from Denver makes the Bears a playoff favorite this next season. Jerry Angelo finally showed the Bears fans that he cares what his team does on the field now.

Maybe it isn't the greatest run a single city will ever have, but it just might be the best one CHICAGO has had in a long time.

We deserve it.

Posted on: April 7, 2009 5:32 pm
 

Life after the Madness

March Madness has finally subsided which means baseball must be back. Honestly, I don't know how Opening Day isn't a national holiday. I spent all day yelling "Happy New Year" in my Aramis Ramirez batting practice jersey. Ramirez didn't disappoint me either, with his first homer of the season on his first at-bat to put the Cubbies up 2-0. An opening day victory is a good sign for my summer.

The Cubs looked pretty good last night. There just isn't a hole in this lineup. Ryan Theriot would be a lead off or second hitter on most ball clubs but where is he in Chicago? Eighth. Followed by Zambrano. Awesome. Adding Milton Bradley could potentially be the most underrated offseason pick up in the league.

UConn's women's basketball team goes for the undefeated season tonight. I won't be watching.

I'll reflect on the butt-whooping that which was the championship game last night: I want my money back. I couldn't believe that I was watching a team coached by Tom Izzo. Hopefully that team learns from its experience because they were fun to watch for the previous five games.

Tank Johnson is now a Cincinatti Bengal. It was only a matter of time.

Michael Jordan. Jerry Sloan. David Robinson. John Stockton. All-time greats that were just elected into the NBA Hall of Fame. Duh.

Speaking of Michael Jordan, his son Marcus is already the most famous student in Central Florida history, and he has only committed to go there. It's nice to see that mediocre athletes of schools know one cares about make the bottom ticker on ESPN.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com