A League of Her Own

Hey Cubs Fans, How Do You Feel About a Ben Sheets Rumor?

Ben Sheets celebrates after winning the gold

If it's early January, it must be time for Cubs rumors that get us all excited and then don't pan out. Today's rumor is courtesy of Ken Rosenthal!

FoxSports.com reports: Former Milwaukee Brewers ace Ben Sheets is one of the most highly regarded free agents still on the market, and FoxSports baseball columnist Ken Rosenthal predicts he will sign with the Cubs.

In a column in which he forecasts where the top remaining free agents will land, Rosenthal writes of Sheets: "Arguably the best starting pitcher in the entire free-agent class, but the question remains: Is he healthy? ... He still makes the most sense for a high-revenue club that can absorb the risk, but the Yankees and Red Sox do not figure to spend more on starting pitching. ... Prediction: Cubs."

Why that is a lovely rumor, Ken. Should this come to pass, it would make me feel much better about the state of our starting rotation, which currently features such aces as the likes of Tom Gorzelanny and possibly Carlos Silva. On the other hand, if the Cubs give Ben Sheets and his 1.5 shoulders the $12 million is is reportedly looking for after refusing to come up with $7 million to keep Rich Harden, I shall be extremely put out. Especially since Sheets is coming off a season when he pitched. . . let's see . . .  oh, not at all.

Bruce Miles, what say you re: Ben Sheets-a-palooza?

That's a far cry from it actually happening, though. For the record, the Cubs like Sheets and always have like him. However, Sheets hasn't pitched since 2008, when elbow problems led to surgery for a flexor-tendon problem. For any team to sign Sheets, they'll want to see him throw. Even then, they'll want to see him "fire a pitch in anger," so to speak, meaning game action. In other words, spring-training games.

If Sheets' agent is looking of mega-millions, he won't find it with the Cubs, who are scraping together the dough to afford a veteran right-handed reliever and maybe a veteran backup outfielder.

Can we get Bruce Miles to be our GM?

If you're a little nervous about tomorrow's Hall of Fame annoucement, you're not alone:

Former Cub Andre Dawson, the leading returning vote-getter for the Hall of Fame, is eager to learn the results Wednesday. Dawson got 67 percent of the votes last year; 75 percent is needed for election. He, Bert Blyleven and first-time-eligible Roberto Alomar are among the favorites in the selection process.

"I wish I could have a clear-cut picture of what I would think is going to happen, but you don't know," Dawson said Monday from his home in Miami. "The (44) more votes that need to be accumulated over last year's total ... it's a big jump.

"I guess I am starting to get a little bit nervous about it."

And while I'm on the subject of Dawson, to the ESPN brain trust of Rob Neyer, Jayson Stark, et al, who have been wearing not voting for Dawson as a badge of honor on Twitter, you can all suck it.

At this point in the headlines, I would like to point out that the Sun-Times hasn't updated their Cubs coverage in like three weeks.

Hey, if you missed the podcast yesterday with my partner Alex Quigley, who for some reason has been given his own blog on ChicagoNow (believe me, I tried repeatedly to stop this from happening), you can download it and listen at your convenience. The part where I hang up on Alex is especially fun.

And don't forget the Cubs Fans winter Tweet. .  er. .  Meetup, on Friday, January 15, 2010, at Kitty O'Shea's at the Chicago Hilton and Towers beginning at 7:30 pm. This is the Friday night of Cubs Con, and both flyball and I will be there, along with CubsinHaiku, (hopefully) Adambuckled, and many of your favorite Cubs tweeters. You can RSVP here!

That's all have for now--we'll keep you updated on completely ridiculous Cubs rumors as they come down the pipe!

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66 Comments

--MGb said:

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I beleive I at least tweeted not long ago that for some reason, I like the idea of Sheets in a Cubs uni. "Incentive laden" would be an understatement. If we end up paying Ben Sheets 12 million because he reaches 175 innings, 30 starts, 15-17 wins, and minimal DL time, I can live with that. If however, we only get 5 wins, 100 inn, and 60 days on the DL, then I wouldn't want to pay more than 4-5.

I'm sure, if he were still in spending mode, Jimmy would offer him 5 mil, with a 2 mil bonus for maknig the opening day roster, another 2 for making his first start, another 2 for making his 5th start, and 20 mil more for winning 6 games. I think other teams will have no problem outbidding Working-on-a-budget-Barbie though.

JulieDiCaro said:

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Not to mention he'd offer him 3 years.

Doc said:

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I said the Cubs should consider looking at Sheets before the season even ended...

It really comes down to price. And incentive laden contract is what is best. But if there are a lot of suitors for Sheets, that might be difficult to get.

But, honestly, looking at the environment this year, if the Cubs were able to get Byrd to sign for 3/$15, the market might put Sheets at around $5 million with another $3+ million in bonuses...and an $8 to $10 million mutual option for 2011.

Now with that said...Sheets spent a lot of time working on rehab with people from the Rangers organization last year. It is a little surprising that the Rangers haven't tried to pursue him. That could be for one of two reasons. First is that the Rangers' ownership issues may make trying to sign him impossible. The other reason, they know he is damaged goods and don't think he's worth the risk. It would be wise for the Cubs to investigate that out closely, and if they do offer him a contract, have him go through an intensive physical.

DustyBaylor said:

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Don't forget the NTC....
BTW...CJ, you are hot, and you know your baseball. Impressive!

JulieDiCaro said:

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thanks--that's very sweet.

Dmband said:

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I completely agree with the Harden comment. If the Cubs pay Sheets anything close to what Harden wanted, this makes no sense AT ALL. I understand we are starting the season with questionable starting pitching (partly because the organization allowed Ted Lilly to wait 2 months after the season ended to have surgery...I'm sorry that still makes me furious and no one seems to care about that) but to give Sheets anything over 2 years @ 3-5 million per would be the final nail in the coffin for Hendry.

AndCounting said:

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I'd be more willing to gamble on Sheets given his possible replacements if he does get/stay injured. I'm just imagining a stable of possible starters that includes Zambrano, Lilly, Dempster, Wells, Gorzelanny, Spellcheck, Marshall, Silva, and Sheets (not to mention any of the minor-league prospects who might be ready to make the jump for a chance at a spot start or two). In my eyes, that's a pretty nice group of pitchers. I'm optimistic about Gorzelanny and Wells in 2010, so even if Sheets has to miss a lot of the early season, I'm fine with that. If the Cubs do make the postseason, it would be nice to have a playoff rotation of Z, Demp, Lilly, and Sheets, don't you think?

DustyBaylor said:

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That's a pretty nice rotation. I dunno if I include Spellcheck in there...just because he still looks really wild, and seems to do better in the bullpen...or in Iowa.

cubsforever said:

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Last year the Cubs did not try to sign Wood - injuries and the fact that he "deserved" accoring to Mr. Hendry - the big contract. So Cleveland signed him - he struggled with a pathetic Indian team - and now they have a $10 million burden and can't unload him. This year - they did not pursue Harden - even though the price of $7.5 million really isn't that bad - not for a 3rd or 4th starter on a very good club. (The Yankees - yeah I know - pay over $10 million for all starters - including Kei - the guy they signed from Japan and has done nothing - not to mention Pavano. I have also said that Sheets is the guy the Cubbies NEED. Competitive, talented, lots of innings when healthy, throws strikes. Enough said (again) - sign him to incentive laced contract with a $4-5 million base and everyone on the team will play better - knowing he is on the mound every 5th or 6th day. And if he doesn't perform - is that any worse than the millions given away to Aaron Miles - or Milton whatshisname or Ernie Broglio?

cubsforever said:

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Julie - call Hendry - and get Sheets signed!!!

JulieDiCaro said:

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He stopped taking my calls after the "incident."

Doc said:

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another court appearance...eh?

JulieDiCaro said:

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i wasn't stalking him, i was stalking the payroll. . .

Doc said:

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I really like Ben sheets more than Rich Harden...

Both have been injury prone over their careers...but one big glaring stat the puts Sheets above Harden for me...

Sheets pitches 6.5 innings per start.
Harden pitches 5.8 innings per start.

That is actually a very large difference.
Harden's stuff is much more electric, but you replace that extra inning you get with Sheets with some middle relief pitcher, the stats start to get a bit ickier.

MB21 said:

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I like Sheets more than Harden too. I don't think it's particularly close to honest. Rich Harde has the stuff to be the best pitcher in baseball. there's no doubt, but he doesn't last very long and he's injury prone. Sheets is onef the best pitchers when healthy and does give you an extended outing and has stayed healthier than Harden.

the cubs won't sign Sheets though.

Doc said:

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I fear you are right with that last statement. What Sheets is currently asking for is out of the Cubs price range...and I have a feeling someone out there is going to meet those demands...or at least come close.

In the end, I think the Cubs are looking more for a setup man in the pen.

okoboji said:

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Go with the incentive laden contract as previously mentioned, just don't wait to do it until the last minute.

Dmband said:

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Doc-

Ben is 31 and will be 32 midway through next year. Harden just turned 28 and seemingly, getting stronger. I understand they are both injury laden, but, factoring in the age, and potential upside, I think Harden would have been a much better signing.

DustyBaylor said:

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Please explain how Harden is getting stronger? The guy could barely pitch 6 inings a start this season. Sheets had a major injury, sure...but at least when he's healthy he pitched. Sheets topped 200+ innings 3 times, and threw 198 in 2008, going 13-9. Harden pitched 189 innings once, in 2004. I'd rather not have to sign either guy, really...but at least Sheets shouldnt tax the bullpen. Now, if Sheets really wants $12 million...lol..then I'm happy with Spellcheck/Marshall/Atkins/Caridad/Jackson/Mathes/Reuschel in the 5th spot.

Doc said:

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Yeah...I would have to agree with that...Harden's stats have shown that he actually gotten worse over the last few seasons. He is not going nearly as deep into games and while keeping similar pitch counts. Last year was one of his healthiest years, yet only pitched 141 innings. In fact, his velocity appeared to be way down last year.

Perkins said:

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Actually, Harden's average fastball velocity was higher in 2009 (92.2) than in 2008 (91.7).

JulieDiCaro said:

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Ugh--that last line made my tummy hurt.

Doc said:

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If anyone wants to see the case for Ben Sheets...go here.

cub legend said:

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A healthy Ben Sheets would be a good addition. Harden was always on a close pitch count. If he reached 90 pitches, even if it was the 3rd inning he was gone. Sheets was pretty awsome when he was healthy. But than so was Mark Pryor. Of course Jim Hendry would have to give him a three year contract. He gives everybody at least three years.

Doc said:

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Ben Sheets will not a three year contract from anyone...not with his health history...and Sheets shouldn't want one unless he feels like he isn't healthy! Sheets should want a 1 or 2 year deal to prove himself to GMs so he can go out and command a $12 to $15 million a year deal for 3 to 5 seasons after 2010 or 2011.

Dmband said:

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I am perplexed that you guys are making the case for a 31 year old pitcher who couldnt even pitch last season as opposed to a 28 year old pitcher coming off a relatively healthy year. And one could make the case that the innings pitched stat is misleading because it doesnt necessarily mean he COULDNT pitch more innings in those games, but that they chose not to keep him out there, because they were concerned about it.

Also, if I recall correctly, in 2008, Sheets couldnt pitch in the playoffs due to injury...

A soon to be 32 year old pitcher, with multiple operations on his pitching arm, looking for a multi-year, mutli million dollar contract? No thanks.

AndCounting said:

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You pretty much just described Chris Carpenter three years ago.

Dmband said:

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Just to reiterate to clarify my stance:

If the Cubs are able to sign Sheets to a 2 year deal @ 3-5 million base with incetives...go for it.

My point was, if it comes anywhere close to what Harden wanted and is longer than 2 years, in my opinion, you would have to question that decision.

LostinFla said:

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The warning flags should be waving furiously at the prospect of signing Sheets at all, let alone at 10 million+ a year or even 5 million a year. The Rangers need pitching like, well, like almost everyone. If Sheets could help them, why wouldn’t they being pursuing him aggressively since they got more of a look at him than anyone else this past year? Could it be because they didn’t like what they saw? Or is Sheets such a prima donna that he wouldn’t give the Rangers some type of discount for giving him access to their training facilities or personnel (I’m not sure of the actual relationship) when no one else did? Talk about putting the “I” in ”Team” first. Not sure we need that mindset on the Cubs.

I’m skeptical of the “just sign him to an incentive-laden contract” approach too. The Cubs, who claim to be cash poor, can’t afford to waste 500K here, 3 mil there. It all adds up and is the difference between having an Augie Ojeda type riding the pine or, say, an Aaron Miles. Well, scratch that last thought.

Now, of course, the Cubs shouldn’t be cash poor. They should spend whatever it takes to win. You would think a franchise moving into a 102nd year of mediocrity would have gotten the memo by now. But Ricketts is a businessman first, probably, and the bottom line is likely to win out. And if you’re going on the premise of building a team with a business mindset then Ben Sheets is unsafe at any speed. A speed likely to top out around 88.

Doc said:

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a quick note...

Don't discount the Rangers' ownership situation right now. They are a team in quite a bit of disarray.

melissa said:

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If the Cubs sign Sheets to a one year incentive laden deal for around $5 MM with a mutual 2nd year option it wouldn't be "unsafe at any speed." Sheets could be affordable enough not to have much impact on the bottom line.

The Cubs have taken risks on pitchers coming off injuries before, Ryan Dempster would be a good example of it working out. Sheets could definitely be a low risk high reward type gamble. It's not like the Cubs would be counting on him to come in and be their Ace but if he is right he's a top of the rotation starter. If they can get him with a reasonable offer and their doctors feel good about his arm then they should definitely pick him up. The Cubs could also afford to bring him along slowly and not put a heavy innings load on him from the start of the season.

AndCounting said:

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Way to drop a Ralph Nader reference.

JulieDiCaro said:

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Agreed. If we can take a flier on Ben Sheets at about the same as it cost us to sign John Grabow (God, that deal still incites me to WHITE HOT RAGE), then I don't know how you don't do it.

JulieDiCaro said:

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of course the warning flags are waving furiously, but this is what we've been reduced to this off-season: picking the best of a bunch of bad choices.

LostinFla said:

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Well, I will say this (since this all harmless speculation right now), I agree with your point above in that I would have rather taken a flyer on Sheets (pending a rigorous review of his medical situation) over spending the bucks on Garbage Scow, I mean, Grabow. But...

The money on Grabow is already gone. I'd be cautious with spending now (and it's not even my money) since we KNOW the Cubs aren't free spenders. Free swingers, yes, free spenders, no.

Dmband said:

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AC-

The Cards signed Carpenter to his deal after coming off of 2 amazing seasons....also, I would wager to guess its much more likely or probable his best years are behind him, as opposed to expecting a comeback similar to Carpenters.

AndCounting said:

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The timing of his contracts is different than Sheets, somewhat. The Cards first signed him after he missed all of 2003 with injury, when he was to turn 29 at the start of the '04 season. You're right, they signed him to a 5-year megadeal after 2 great years (and a 3rd really good one) but he missed all but one game in 2007 due to injury and didn't return until the end of July in '08, pitching only four games that season. I'm just comparing Sheets now to where Carpenter was after getting hurt his 2nd time. If Sheets could deliver a 2010 that looked anything like Carpenter's '09, I'd be willing to pay a lot of money for that.

None of this really argues against Harden, though I suspect the Cubs looked at his arm and saw more injury than success ahead. For his sake, I hope they're wrong.

MB21 said:

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Sheets won't want a multi-year deal. He'll take the 1-year guaranteed contract with incentives and be a free agent next year where he might be able to turn that small amount of money into a 5-year deal for $75 million.

Sheets will take a 1-year deal for $5-10 million over a 4-year deal for $30 million.

Offer him a contract for a guaranteed total of $7 million with incentives and a player option. Something like $7 million plus $1 million for each of the 20th, 25th and 30th starts of the season. team option for $12 million in 2011 that becomes a player option for $15 million if he makes 25 starts.

that's a fair deal and it protects the Cubs in case he's injured most of 2010.

Doc said:

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Hey...that's what I said! lol.

HackWilson09 said:

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Somebody please help me understand this. Why is that when guys like Ken Rosenthal and Phil Rogers invent an idea for a free agent signing or trade, that it immediately counts as speculation and rumor? The process is comical.

Hendry and the Cubs have been taking chances and getting burned by injury-ridden players for far too long now. We just got saddled with Silva... instead of having an ace with a debilitating injury, we've basically acquired Jason Marquis with a debilitating injury. So why should we go out and gather more injured arms? Here's why not:

Prior, Wood, Harden, Floyd, Garciaparra. Or how about guys who were injured before we wasted our first round picks on them? Brownlie, Christenson, Harvey. Shall I continue?

Stay away from injury problems, please! Next we'll be bringing back Darren Dreifort!

AndCounting said:

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Would the Cubs or anyone lose a draft pick for Sheets? He hasn't been with the Brewers for over a year, I'd think their claim to him has long since gone away.

JulieDiCaro said:

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It's because we having nothing else to talk about right now.

AndCounting said:

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Also . . . it IS speculation and rumor. What else would it be? Rosenthal predicted the Cubs would sign Ben Sheets, and we're debating whether we like the idea and the likelihood of it happening. None of us are planning our summers around it.

And on your other note: staying away from injury problems = staying away from pitchers. Pitching is an injurious process. If you don't sign anyone with a history of injuries, you won't sign many guys over the age of 20.

JulieDiCaro said:

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On Sheets--I'm fine with an incentive laden deal, it just better not be more than $7 million base.

LostinFla said:

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I just don’t see this being the right move for the Cubs at this time, regardless of the price or contract terms. If they hadn’t already messed up their finances because of the enforced Bradley trade (or if they were spending to win as they should be), then, sure, it doesn’t matter, but the Cubs are actually a big payroll team and, unfortunately for us, a big payroll team that spends money poorly.

Every little bit counts. Dribble away $1 mil here, 750K there, etc, that becomes the money that could be the difference in being able to sign a top tier free agent to a multi-year deal next season (including even Sheets if he proves to be effective somewhere) or a backup that you might want (ala Henry Blanco who got shortchanged out even if Koyie Hill emerged as a decent stopgap this past season).

Believe me, I will be applauding the move if it happens and if it works :), but a healthy Ben Sheets (or even one who might even be mostly healthy) should be generating a lot of demand which, in turn, would suggest that the Cubs shouldn’t be able to afford him anyway. If no one but the Cubs (and Sheets’ agent) is interested, well, I’m betting that means something. And short of Sheets leading the Cubs to a WS Championship this year, anything else he does for the Cubs is meaningless (if he is signed to a 1-yr contract) since he will be on the open market following the 2010 season and would have to be signed again.

Sidenote: I do share your concerns about the pitching rotation...

HackWilson09 said:

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PS A year off? And what the hell is a flexor tendon in an elbow? I've never even heard of this injury! Sounds frightening to me, as if TJ surgery isn't frightening enough.

With Lilly and Silva in doubt for being healthy at all this year, the last thing we need is another Harden or Prior in the rotation.

melissa said:

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Silva really isn't relevant as the Cubs aren't counting on him to be in the rotation. Considering they got money back in the deal for him they will be able to cut him if he can't pitch. Even if Lilly isn't ready to go they could start the season with a rotation of Zambrano, Dempster, Wells, Gorzelanny and Sheets. That's pretty solid.

Doc said:

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agreed. If Silva is any good at all, he'll be a long reliever. Otherwise, expect the Cubs to dump him somewhere else or DL him for the season.

JulieDiCaro said:

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Plus, we got $6 million for him. If we can use that to take a chance on a "might be awesome" pitcher, we should do it.

DustyBaylor said:

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Silva....oof. I had some bad nightmares when he was a free agent a couple of seasons ago...I just hope they don't come to realization this season.

JulieDiCaro said:

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Duuuuuude.

Check out this guys head:

http://www.dailyexpresso.co.uk/2010/01/towns-mayor-caught-stealing-womens.html

As @Adambuckled/AndCounting pointed out over on Twitter, he bears an uncanny resemblance to The Brain.

Dmband said:

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So, when I intially saw that link, I was like, what kind of pathetic loser do you have to be to steal some ladies underpants. Then I saw the picture. Honestly, they shouldnt even prosecute him. I feel sorry for him more than anything...Let that poor man have the underwear for god sakes...lord knows he's suffered enough with that cranium.

HackWilson09 said:

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What town would elect a muppet as their mayor in the first place?

abe frohman said:

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Been Sneets is stupidoi.

HoboHanson said:

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HAHAHHA!!! I remember that. Been Sneets IS stupidoi.

JulieDiCaro said:

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quiet, both of you.

Rich C said:

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If anyone wants a good LOL, read (on si.com) Jon Heyman's absolutely retarded justification for leaving Bert Blyleven off his HOF ballot, and yet including Jack Morris and Don Mattingly. Don Mattingly? A HOF'er? GTFO of here. What, is he a 2nd cousin of Mattingly?

The HOF is beginning to lose all relevance when guys like Heyman control who goes in and who doesn't.

JulieDiCaro said:

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This made me so mad I unfollowed him on Twitter. Take that, Heyman!

Rich C said:

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Heyman is probably the kind of guy who dismissed Tommy John and Jim Kaat, but will instantly vote for Tom Glavine.

Whoever it was that said that baseball writers know anything about baseball needs to remember that Paul Sullivan writes about baseball. 'Nuff said.

JulieDiCaro said:

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Rob Neyer is just as bad. OBP is the only stat he cares about.

Rich C said:

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I think it's about time people took their noses out of stat books and started watching the game again. You can tell, quite easily, who belongs in the HOF and who doesn't, simply by watching the game.

AndCounting said:

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But that's pretty much exactly what Heyman said he tries to do. And I'm pretty sure all of the guys currently playing aren't yet eligible.

The "watch the game" argument also wouldn't help Andre Dawson's case at all. How many Expo games got national exposure . . . or even Montreal exposure? I think we forget that the saturation of baseball highlights and game feeds is pretty new. The media darlings tend to get more favorable HOF treatment. Guys whose stats tell their story are easy to elect as well. Guys who played for teams without television contracts (or whose teams never won championships) and had C-level HOF numbers . . . they tend to max out at 50% of the vote or so.

I really don't think any HOF voter doesn't watch baseball games, but it's not like the Oscars either. Nobody has watched every game played by every candidate.

JulieDiCaro said:

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I just can't stand it when HOF voters focus in on ONE Stat and that's it. But the HOF is such a joke, I don't know why I care, anyway. I guess because it's important to the players.

Rich C said:

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I disagree, of course, but only to the point that there may be quite a few baseball writers out there who never actually saw Tommy John throw a pitch and saw how great he really was. The same can be said for Jim Kaat, and maybe even Bert Blyleven, too (retired in '92 - unreal how old I feel right now).

I guess I have to retract my blanket statement and admit that statistics are a necessary tool in evaluating someone you've never had much exposure to.

However... If Jon Heyman actually voted for Don Mattingly for the HOF, he should never be allowed to vote again.

Doc said:

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The Bears have made me feel better about Jim Hendry being the GM of the Cubs.

okoboji said:

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But not much better...

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