We've got a few hours before Edwin Jackson's next-to-last start (barring some weird occurrence) before the non-waiver trade deadline, so here's a look at random happenings on the internet regarding the Cubs and MLB...
Oh those Astros...
I linked to a fantastic Baseball Prospectus article on the Brady Aiken-Houston Astros mess in a previous blog, but I have always wondered whether there was any true medical issue with Aiken's "abnormally small UCL" that would cause Houston to torpedo their entire draft. My disclaimer is that I do have a doctorate, but not the kind that taught me how to memorize all the ligaments and stuff (I do have a good working knowledge of general human and comparative anatomy though). My initial thought was that because the UCL is the important ligament in stabilizing the elbow during the pitching motion, having a small one might make Aiken more susceptible to injury than if the ligament was thicker. This Beyond the Box Score article actually talks a lot about the anatomy of the elbow and the unknowns of whether this will actually adversely affect Aiken's career. As the B-Pro article suggested, the Astros didn't really have enough leverage or justification to torch their draft, and Aiken's "defect" might not even be all that bad, so now it just makes the Astros look even worse and may have stunted Aiken's career arc some. Sad, really.
On Barry Bonds' 50th birthday, Aaron Gleeman at HardballTalk took a look at the players with the most multi-homer games in the past few seasons. There are a couple of obvious names, and Edwin Encarnacion was on a tear for the Blue Jays this season before he got injured. One name that came up in his search was Alfonso Soriano, who was released by the Yankees earlier this month and actually came in second behind Encarnacion. Soriano obviously split those games between his final days with the Cubs and with the Yankees before his release, but it kind of underscores how underappreciated he was as a player (and yes, he was way overpaid, but that's the business).
Ranking the MLB ballparks
Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider has the fortune of having visited pretty much all the MLB ballparks in existence during his lifetime and wrote a ranking of the 30 parks in service right now. I agree with the top three, although I would rank AT&T over PNC just out of personal bias. While I do love Wrigley Field, I think it's ranked a bit too high because of how old it is; I'm not sure that can be overshadowed by Wrigley magic. It is nice though. Here's the blurb:
4. WRIGLEY FIELD, Chicago
Comment: It’s so hard to try to compare a ballpark built 100 years ago with one built in the last decade, but Wrigley Field is one of the 30 current MLB ballparks, so we’ll try our best. To step into the Friendly Confines is to step back in time. That can be bad in some cases (try sitting way under the overhang and directly behind a pole, or try navigating your way through the rustic concourse) but the good far outweighs the bad. There simply is nothing like a Chicago summer afternoon spent in the bleachers at the corner of Clark and Addison. The ivy. The manual scoreboard. The rooftops. The rest of Wrigleyville outside the stadium. If you’ve never been, you need to put this one on your list.
Yes, I've been to Wrigley many times, and I enjoy it. I'll enjoy it more when they fix it up.
The A's and Cubs and the effect of their early trade
As you could gather from the previous trade seasons, the Cubs prefer to jump the market and get their guy off the block before the really busy season hits. Last year they dumped Scott Feldman and Matt Garza early, and this year it was Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Both times, the Cubs received a pretty good haul. Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs analyzes it from the Oakland point of view, and I can't help but think that this also benefits the Cubs because "precious little is" available for the competition. This means that the A's will have less to worry about their division rivals getting significantly better through trade, and this may also raise the return for the Cubs if they choose to trade some of their remaining expendables. Good times for two teams I'm rooting for.
Theo Epstein's other comments
The previous blog I linked to above had Theo's comments about the Cubs not having done anything yet, but the comments everyone seems to be talking about are about the Cardinals and their reward of yet another competitive balance pick. I do believe the Cubs can still try to get benefit from the competitive balance rounds, but the perception on the non-Cubs side of the internet seems to be that Theo is whining about the Cardinals' advantage. I don't think that is the case; he obviously praises the Cardinals for doing well in building an enviable organization that the Cubs themselves are trying to emulate, and very honestly says that this is an organization that is so good that they don't need any more help. Of course, maybe I'm biased, so let's just link to a Deadspin article about it and eat some popcorn.
The Cardinals winning that extra draft pick is a byproduct of using market size to define means, and maybe it's not an unfortunate one. Why should MLB punish teams that have managed to win consistently in spite of their markets? Why shouldn't MLB reward them, and incentivize success? It's not the Cardinals' fault they've managed to do what they've done in the country's 19th largest metro area. It is the Cubs' fault they can't build a winner in the country's third-biggest. (Take a look at where each falls on this FiveThirtyEight chart of performance relative to payroll.)
No, this is just more fodder for what promises to be combustable CBA negotiations when the current deal expires after the 2016 season. When the big-market teams feel they're getting shafted, that's when labor talks get ugly.
This is a harsh but true statement, although I have to say that even when I talk to my friends down in St. Louis and other purported sports experts (small sample size alert), they do suggest that there isn't much to do there over the summer so they might as well become rabid Cardinals fans and support the team. I don't know if that's really true or not, I've been to St. Louis a couple times and it seems nice enough and there are obviously other sports teams and museums and stuff to do. Heck, I wanted to get into Washington University before the University of Chicago came calling, so what do I know. But the Cardinals have built a model franchise that gets tons of support regardless of market size. They're also getting a reward on top of that, something we can argue the fairness of and probably not get to a satisfactory resolution. Deadspin's take is right, though, in that if big market teams (including the Cubs, and by extension, the White Sox who for whatever reason can't draw that many fans in a supposed big market) think they're getting a raw deal, something is going to change. Also, you can't really blame Theo for feeling slighted when the Cubs are playing catchup against a model franchise that gets more help than it arguably needs.
By contrast, it's kind of funny how the best team in baseball right now is in a TV turf war with its neighbor across the Bay and didn't even get a comp balance pick until Round B.
Dabynsky wrote something really cool for Cubs Insider about Javier Baez possibly getting called up in September along with Jorge Soler (which he wrote earlier this summer). With Kyuji Fujikawa coming back from injury, that will take the open 40-man roster spot for now, so if that's going to happen, the Cubs will have to trade or designate players for assignment to make room for Baez and other guys they might want to see. Enter Mauricio who wrote a trade deadline preview for Cubs Den. It's not super-rosy for the Cubs' remaining trade assets, but given the Fangraphs link above, my thoughts are that the Cubs might be able to get something minor done to open up that spot, because for Baez's sake, the roster spot is probably more important than the PTBNL anyway.