Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Some Odds & Ends

The Hawk Soars Into the Hall of Fame … FINALLY!

On his ninth time on the ballot, former Cubs right fielder (and 1987 NL Most Valuable Player) Andre Dawson finally garnered the necessary 75 percent of the vote by the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) to be enshrined into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. As you may know, players may appear on the ballot five years after retiring from the game and can stay on it for up to 15 years as long as they receive at least five percent of the vote. Dawson, who appeared on 77.9 percent of the ballots, made a huge jump from last year when he received 67 percent. Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven came within an eyelash of also making it in, Alomar missing by eight votes and Blyleven missing by only five.

Former Chicago Sun Times a-hole Jay Mariotti went on record bragging about how he submitted a blank ballot. What a tool.

Cardinals Land Holliday

I must say, I didn’t see it happening. I, like almost everyone else, saw Holliday as a rental player for the Cardinals last year. Now he’s signed for 7 years and $119-120 million, mainly because of the lack of suitors willing to overpay for another Scott Boras “phenom”. That being said, can the Cardinals afford both Holliday AND Albert Pujols once his contract ends after 2011? The Cardinals do not seem like the kind of team to commit roughly half of their payroll to only two players. And if they do, what will the rest of the team look like? Will they be able to keep Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainright? Can they hold onto Yadier Molina? These are three talented, and soon-to-be expensive players the Cardinals probably want to keep. Can they keep them all, or will the Holliday/Pujols package be too much? Or, even more intriguing, will the Cardinals be able to afford Pujols at all in two years? In any event, 2010 and 2011 look to be good years (barring injuries) for St. Louis, so expect the cloud of arrogance to hover over Missouri for a while. Then again, the Cubs were heavy favorites going into the 2009 season, so who knows. That’s why you play the games.

Cubs Looking at Sheets?

There have been some rumblings that the Cubs are looking at bringing in oft-injured former Brewers ace Ben Sheets. At last check, Sheets was looking at a payday of roughly $12 million for a one year deal. Now that it’s apparent no team is willing to go there for a guy who missed all of 2009 due to injury, perhaps the Cubs can swoop in with a high-incentive deal. I’d love to see a guy like Sheets pitching at Wrigley. It could be a low risk, high reward situation if he gets back to form. Let’s not get too carried away just yet, though. These are just rumors at this point.

Fantasy Baseball!!!

I will be hosting another private fantasy baseball league again this season. I will probably use this blog to post updates, but will also send out special invitations to people who may be interested. I will again be using the MLB.COM format, as I like their setup better than the others. More to come on that.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Toys R Us Debacle

Yes, this is a non-baseball rant, and I apologize in advance. As you may know, my wife had an awful experience with the Toys R Us store here in Springfield, IL. Yes, this is the same store that had a Black Friday Midnight sale that almost resulted in the place being shut down by the police and fire department because their management allowed the store to exceed its capacity. In any event, right after my wife got home from the store and told me what happened, I immediately wrote a scathing letter to their corporate office. I have since been in contact with members of their office, and I thought I would share the entire story with anyone who might be interested in how this store treats their customers.



Name: Eric Woods

Wrote: My family and I will NO LONGER be shopping at Toys R Us. My wife came home practically in tears after trying to exchange a Christmas item received by my son. She did not have a receipt (since, you know, it was a CHRISTMAS gift) and received so much attitude BY THE MANAGER about an EXCHANGE (not a return), we will no longer EVER shop at this store. We will now be going online and to other stores in town when buying items for the kids.

Your store - especially the one in Springfield, IL, needs to learn how to hire competent people who don't talk down to, argue with, and try to embarass customers who have spent quite a bit of money at your store over the years. This was pathetic and unacceptable.

If you don't like people, get out of retail.

Customer (Customer Service at - 12/28/2009 03:58 AM
Dear Mr. Eric Woods,

Thank you for contacting

We appreciate your reaching out to us regarding your poor experience relating to the Springfield,IL Toys"R"Us store. I have taken the liberty of forwarding your email to the appropriate team for their prompt and much needed attention to this matter, and you should expect a response from a Guest Service Specialist within 3 to 5 business days. Please accept our deepest apologies for this inconvenience, we value you as a guest and I assure you this matter will be handled appropriately.

Thank you again for contacting We value your business and look forward to serving you in the future!

Cassidy Masters
Guest Service Team (1-800-ToysRUs / 1-800-869-7787)

Response (Benjamin Pratt) - 12/30/2009 10:08 PM
Dear Mr. Woods:

Thank you for contacting the "R" Us Family.

I appreciate you sharing your feedback with us. I am sorry you are dissatisfied. If could please provide us with the names of the associates or managers who were rude as well as exact statements they made, we will be happy to forward this to the appropriate department for review and any disciplinary actions necessary. Please be assured, your comments and suggestions are extremely important to us.

Thank you, once again, for contacting the "R" Us Family.

Benjamin Pratt
The "R" Us Team

Customer (Eric Woods) - 12/31/2009 11:15 AM
The incident happened on December 27th, early part of the afternoon. The name of the manager is not known, but she was caucasian with shoulder length red hair and of average height/weight. The item in question was purchased during the midnight sale on Thanksgiving/Black Friday by my sister-in-law (who has an "R" Us credit card). My wife gave the information (her sister's phone number) to the manager who claimed it wasn't in the system and bluntly stated, "If the person's name and phone number are not in the system, then they've never shopped at any of the "R" Us stores." My wife then called her sister who stated that her phone number was not requested during the purchase to which the manager fired back, "That's impossible, all of our employees are instructed to get that information." (Incidentally, my wife also did not have to give a phone number that night when she made her purchase.) At that point, she grabbed a nearby receipt and in a very condescending voice pointed at the bar code and said "Do you see this bar code? This is how we know if you really bought it here or not."

While she was very careful not to call my wife a liar, every comment she made (and the tone she used) implied it. After my wife made it clear she was not going to shop there again, the manager then said that if she did come back that she needed to keep her receipt. Again, her tone was very rude and condescending. Not to mention, this was all done in front of other customers, who all seemed to be unimpressed with how this manager was acting. I understand that retail outlets need to adhere to a return policy. But right after Christmas, there's a good chance that people will have returns without a receipt. We did not want money back on the item. Because it was a duplicate item, we just wanted to exchange it for something else, and would have probably spent even more, since my son wanted a PS2 game (which was much more expensive than the item being brought back). My sister-in-law lives in Jacksonville, so we were not going to have her come all the way in town with a receipt for something that seemed so minor at the time. Thank you for your time.

Eric Woods

Please note: while the "grammar nazi" in me wanted to come out, I did not edit this response.
Response (Benjamin Pratt) - 01/01/2010 03:12 PM
Dear Mr. Woods,

Thank you for updating this information with us about our store in Springfield
Illinois. We will be forwarding this on to their supervisors so the manager may
be approached regarding the manner in which she handled this situation. We apologize for the inconvenience, but we can not affect a return of exchange on any item without a the original receipt being present. If the store can pull up the original purchase by the credit card number used or the phone number registered, they may be able to affect a return. However, Toys R Us does return the right to refuse a refund or exchange, though in this case the manager appears to have been in need of reviewing our guest service expectations for the manner in which she approached this situation. We do appreciate your feedback and we will be placing that for review with the appropriate groups once our protocols and procedures are valuated and updated so they may see how our Returns and Exchanges policy can interfere with our ability to serve our guest. We do appreciate you taking the time to contact us and bringing this matter to our attention. Again, thank you, and we hope that we may one day re-establish your trust as our guest.

Benjamin Pratt
The "R" Us Team

Is it me, or has the retail industry taken a nosedive over the past 10 years? I worked in retail through high school and college. Behavior like this, especially from a manager, would have gotten you fired. Unfortunately this is becoming all too common, not just from this store, but from a number of others as well. Is it a generational thing? I mean, it usually isn't the Generation X and older group that gives off the attitude (this manager looked to be early-mid 20's).

While I don't espect this lady to get much more than a slap on the wrist (if it is even acknowledged), I am hoping people who are tired of the bad attitudes now associated with retail start fighting back a little more. Buy as much as you can online, and only patronize stores who truly act as if they want your business. This is not a shot at the big corporate businesses. In fact, I cannot remember a time when a Wal Mart employee was rude to me (I'm sure there are plenty of stories out there, just not any that I have experienced).

Thanks for reading my rant. Comments are welcomed.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking Ahead to 2010

Before I begin, I would like everyone to meet the newest Cub fan in the family, Beau.

I was hoping a solid season by the Chicago Bears would ease the pain of watching the car wreck that was the 2009 Chicago Cubs. I even picked Jay Cutler as my starting quarterback in Fantasy Football. No such luck (although, somehow I ended up with the third place trophy for the fantasy league). So now, as I watch the rumors come and go, I begin to wonder about how next season's Cubs are going to fare.

In 2009, it seemed to be one disaster after another. Every starting pitcher spent time on the disabled list, Geovanny Soto suffered the "sophomore slump," Aramis Ramirez separated his shoulder and was out for two months, and Alfonso Soriano had every problem imaginable. Then there were Jim Hendry's acquisitions: Milton Bradley was an expensive bust, Kevin Gregg couldn't hack it as the closer, and the Aarons (Heilman and Miles) were just plain bad. Now, everyone acquired for 2009 will not be a Cub in 2010.

The Shopping List for 2010

The start of the offseason began to look eerily similar to the one five years ago when the biggest item on the "to-do" list was getting rid of an overpaid tumor. To Hendry's credit, he was unable to unload Bradley without paying any of the salary. He even got money back in the deal. The bad side of the deal was that the Cubs ended up with Carlos Silva, whose abominable numbers in Seattle do not have me jumping for joy. I guess all we can do is hope he can regain his form from his time with Minnesota.

Right now, the Cubs are looking for a center fielder, bullpen help, and possibly another starter (especially with Ted Lilly out for the first month). The Cubs lost out on Matt Capps, who would have been a good setup man for Carlos Marmol. They lost out on Curtis Granderson, the best center fielder available on the free agent or trade market. They lost out on getting Roy Halladay. They are not going to spend the money it would take to bring in Johnny Damon. There's nobody left in the FA pool of starting pitchers who are worth the money, either. It appears to be down to Scott Podsednik and Marlon Byrd for the center field opening (I refuse to mention Rick Ankiel as I pray that one does not happen). And the bullpen will probably be filled out during spring training competition.

Is the Window Beginning to Close?

The contracts for Derrek Lee and Ted Lilly end after 2010. Aramis Ramirez has a player option at the end of the year. Will the Cubs resign any or all of them (assuming Ramirez declines the option)? Looking at next season's potential free agent crop, I'm not too impressed with what's available, at least at the hot corners. (Yes, I know Albert Pujols has an option, but that will get picked up). As far as pitchers go, Cliff Lee, Brandon Webb, and Josh Beckett could all be available if they do not sign extensions with their current teams. But it would be quite expensive to get any of those guys.

Looking at the Cubs' minor league hotshots, Josh Vitters and Starlin Castro seem to be a couple of standouts. Vitters could be a replacement at third if/when Ramirez leaves. I'm not sure who the eventual first baseman of the future will be (I though possibly Jake Fox, but that's not happening). I'm sure it's a dream to think the Cubs will have any shot at nabbing Pujols, should he even reach free agency after 2011.

The Cubs will have Zambrano, Dempster, and Wells for a few more years. Soto, Theriot, Marmol, and Soriano are going to be here for several more years as well. Where is this team going? Will the underachievers from 2009 get back to form to make it work in 2010? Will the holes be filled with the right people this time (it can't be worse than last years newbies, can it)? So many questions to answer before the season, but I'm just going to focus on one thing:

Pitchers and catchers report in a month and a half!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Oh What a Lousy Season

The Cubs just completed a sweep of the Pirates. Ho hum. They just finished a 4-2 road trip. Ho hum.

At the beginning of the season, I predicted the Cubs would three-peat in the NL Central. I was wrong. MANY people were wrong. The underachievements of the 2009 Chicago Cubs are too long to get into, and while they are not officially eliminated just yet, I'm not seeing a 20-4 finish that would likely be needed to even consider landing a playoff spot. It has been a sad season, and even though many self obsessed, arrogant Cardinal fans are laying claim to the Cubs' bad season (not to mention the Cardinals great season), it was the lack of production from the offense and the wrong call at closer that doomed this team.

Alfonso Soriano had the worst season of his career. Geovany Soto fell victim to the "sophomore slump." Mike Fontenot is not an every day player. Closing games for the Cubs is different than closing games for the Marlins. Milton Bradley - do I even need to go there? These guys just could not get it done this year. So what were the high points? I mean, this team is still likely to finish above .500 for the third straight season, so some things went well, right? Let's see ...

Derrek Lee It looks like the power is back. Lee has carried this offense all season. Unfortunately he had little support. With Aramis Ramirez going down with a two-month injury, nobody else stepped up to help Lee. He will finish with great numbers this year and is truly the team's MVP this season.

Starting Pitching Currently ranked fifth in the National League, the Cubs pitching staff has been very good this year - with the exception of the disasterous Kevin Gregg experiment. Rich Harden's arm held up, Randy Wells is a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate, Ted Lilly had another strong season, Carlos Marmol has taken hold of the closer's role for the next several years (likely), and the addition of John Grabow gave the team a true late inning lefty. Pitching was stellar this season.

Jake Fox We knew he could hit. But how was he to get any playing time when he is blocked at every position he knows? The Cubs blew it by not having Fox paractice at third while at Iowa IMMEDIATELY after Ramirez went down. After working his ass off, Fox eventually became the everyday third baseman until A-Ram returned. The guy has some SICK power, but again, going forward, how can Lou get him in the lineup every day? With Soriano out (likely for the year), I hope he gets put out there every game going forward (no offense to Bobby Scales and Sam Fuld).

Looking at next season, there are many things that CAN be done to attempt to right the ship, but WILL anything be done? Will Jim Hendry try and deal one of his high priced veterans? Will re-signing Rich Harden be the top priority? (Personally, I hope they try and bring him back.) As far as the other free agents go, Grabow and Reed Johnson should be retained if possible. I believe the Cubs have control over Jeff Stevens, Koyie Hill and Aaron Heilman next year, unless they are non-tendered. With the exception of Heilman, I think all should be brought back in 2010. Heilman needs to go, and Gregg, another free agent, should be uncerimoniously shown the door.

There is also the players set to leave after 2010 (Lee, Lilly, Ramirez - should he opt out). Will they be extended? I don't want to see D-Lee go. He still has several good years left, as does A-Ram. Lilly has been the Cubs' best pitcher over the last three years, but he's no spring chicken anymore. In any event, I think extensions to all three should be attempted in the off-season. I also think it's time to put Soriano back at second base and give Fox the opportunity in left field. Let's face it, folks, Fonzie's contract makes him untradeable, and if this is how to add Fox's bat to the lineup, I say why not try it.

All I can hope for now is that the Cardinals fail in the playoffs. I just don't think I could handle the already swollen heads of Cardinal fans getting even bigger with another World Championship. I do like the idea of Albert Pujols becoming a free agent after 2011, though. Can anyone else see Big Albert in blue pinstripes???

Sunday, May 24, 2009

This ... Team ... SUCKS!

I may retract this later. But for now, this is my stance on the embarassingly pathetic offense that the Cubs have shown lately.

Aramis Ramirez is being missed more than anyone could have imagined. Scoring a total of three runs in the first five games of a road trip is something I wouldn't expect even from baseball's worst team (which right now is the Cubs). Averages are below .200. The hitters are making Cy Young contenders out of rookies with ERAs near 6.00. PATHETIC!

So, what does Pinella do to get them going? Might I suggest a taser? Or perhaps bringing up every AAA hitter who is doing well and either disabling or sending down the gross underachievers? Would that stir up these guys? Probably not, seeing as they will still be getting paid. PATHETIC!

It's too bad to see this much good pitching continue to go to waste because the offense refuses to do their jobs. PATHETIC!

I hope this week long vacation they took was worth it. Because they've sucked the life out of this ballclub and seriously make me wonder if they will win 40 games this year. They just don't seem to care anymore. I guess royally screwing with a 97-win team wasn't the smartest of moves, eh Mr. Hendry? PATHETIC!

Today, Ted Lilly not only sets out to pitch a perfect game, but he also knows he will probably have to hit a home run if he wants to get a win. PATHETIC!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cubs Begin Season with *OUCH* 9-8 Record

Milton Bradley. Aramis Ramirez. Carlos Marmol. Derrek Lee.

Four big time pieces to the 2009 Cubs team. Four necessary pieces to the Cubs' chances of winning the NL Central for the third year in a row. Each one is hurt, but not hurt enough to warrant a stint on the disabled list. Now the Cubs are trying to get through a stretch of games with a shortened bench and bullpen. Injuries are part of the game, but this is somewhat puzzling.

If one of them needed to go on the DL, the Cubs could call up someone from AAA (preferably Jake Fox who is hitting nearly .500 right now). However, all of the injuries seem to be of the 3-5 day stretch (except for Bradley who is available in a pinch hitting capacity). Putting someone on the DL only to find out that they are good to go a few days later would not be good. So Lou Pinella has decided to ride this stretch out as long as he can. Let's hope it works.

The Cardinals are 13-6 to start the season. Get out the World Series banners. Someone please tell Cardinal fans that the season runs through September. If I recall correctly, April 2008 was also dominated by St. Louis, so let's not surrender the crown just yet.

If nothing else, the Cardinals have given the Cubs enough fits to last all season. They are now 3-3 against their #1 rivals, having avoided the sweep in St. Louis by bringing out the big bats for the first time in nearly a week. Fukudome has been outstanding so far, and I'm cautiously optimistic that he'll continue to be productive as the season wears on. He had 10 home runs all of last year and already has four in the month of April. That, my friends, is a good sign.

The offensive woes that the Cubs experienced during the four-game losing streak concerned me a bit, although every team will go through it. I just wish that someone would tell Mr. Soriano that if a pitcher makes you swing and miss at two straight breaking balls in the dirt, that a third (and possibly fourth) is probably coming. At least the "experiment" with having him bat down in the lineup is over. The people who complain and criticize Pinella for batting him leadoff are obviously not Cub fans. His production at the top of the lineup is needed. I don't care if he doesn't meet the prototypical definition of a leadoff hitter. Who the hell really cares??? If batting him leadoff is what is best for the team, then bat the guy leadoff! Plus, his legs are the best they've been since he's been a Cub, so it looks like the base stealing part of his game may be creeping back.

Some Little Tidbits:
Are the Pittsburgh Pirates really in second place with the best pitching ERA in baseball????? Are the Toronto Blue Jays really the best team in the AL East right now??? At least the Washington Nationals are doing what I expected!

Note to David Patton: When you load the bases for Albert Pujols and then throw him a first pitch fastball right down the middle of the plate, he might just hit it out of the country. Food for thought.

I guess Luis Vizcaino learned the hard way not to be late for games and then "half-ass" it when you're on the mound.

Why do I get the feeling that Soriano will see time at second base at some point this year?

Game winning home runs are so fun to watch.

In any event, it's still April - but not for much longer.

Just my opinion.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I Respect the Fans ... I Don't Respect the Haters

The rivalry between the Cubs and Cardinals goes back long before I was born. For the most part, it is a fun way to enjoy baseball, especially for the followers of each team. The heckling can be fun, and living in Springfield, IL, you see an almost 50-50 split between fans of the two teams. Seeing as we don't even have a minor league affiliate anymore (come on you lazy-ass Springfield bums, support a team!), we look at the two teams closest to us (nobody cares about the White Sox). Most Cardinal fans I know can take some good-natured ribbing, and understand that the Cardinals are not the Gods of Baseball. Most Cub fans I know love how well they have played over the last two seasons, but know that the Cubs are hardly a lock to win the World Series this year.

I respect most Cardinal fans who just like to poke a little fun here and there, then can take it in return when their team looks lousy. Here is what I cannot stand - Cub haters. These are not fans of any one particular team. Many select a rival of the Cubs in order to hate on Chicago. And for what? Does it make them feel superior? I know a few Cardinal fans who predict World Championships every year. I know Cardinal fans who tout the 2006 Cardinals - you know, the team of 83 wins who became the worst team to ever win a World Series - as the Greatest Team Ever. I know people who actually said that Anthony Reyes was a better pitcher than Carlos Zambrano because Reyes won a game in the Series. Really??? Love your team, but come on. Don't let your ignorant arrogance cloud that thing known as common sense.

I like to watch the internet stories in baseball, specifically the ones on the Cubs and Cardinals. I will post on the comments boards, especially the Springfield newspaper board. There are several regulars to the baseball stories, many of whom are fans of one team who heckle the other. I do that, and it's supposed to be in good fun. Unfortunately there are a few bad apples on both sides who try to ruin it for everyone else. While I do notice a couple of loud-mouthed Cubs fans who post often, the arrogance of several of the Cardinal fans on that board gets to a point, at times, where it is so laughable, I can't help but "point it out" so to speak.

PLEASE NOTE: these are serious posts from Cardinal fans. One such recent post suggested that the Cy Young in the National League would come down to Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse and Adam Wainwright. Albert Pujols has already been crowned 2009 MVP. One post stated "Will this team ever lose another game? This is scary!" Another hater said the Cubs would win no more than 70 games and be out of the playoff race by June 15. Come on. I can understand trying to be funny, but these goofs post stuff like this all the time. Some Cardinal fans are predicting a World Series championship because of their recent 5-game winning streak. Oh well. They will keep up the tradition of "Cardinal Arrogance", and I will keep responding as I see fit. But I won't slam anyone because of what team they choose to root for. Unless they are bandwagon fans, but those people don't even count.

The bottom line is this: every team will win at least 60 (well, maybe not Washington) and they will lose at least 60 (yes, Cardinal fans, your team WILL LOSE at least 60 games this year). What the teams do with the other 42 games will determine their fate this season.

Just my opinion.