Thursday, June 21, 2018

The 47 Best Players from the 1998 Chicago Cubs - #34 Kurt Miller

34. Kurt Miller
Kurt Miller was supposed to be a big deal. This is a man drafted fifth overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates. His career started off well as he performed well in the lower levels of minor league baseball. He was good enough to be traded for Steve Buechele, and that ain't nothing to sneeze at. He was able to make his major league debut at the age of 21 with the Marlins. Unfortunately, the major leagues seemed to be a code that he couldn't crack. The Marlins traded him to the Cubs for nothing before the 1998 season. And that's where things get interesting.

Kurt Miller's 1998 season for the Chicago Cubs was nothing short of incredible. Let's take a quick look at his ERA in each of his years in the majors.

8.10
DNP
6.80
9.82
0.00
18.00

Oh yeah, 1998 was a magical year. Miller went 14-3 for the Iowa Cubs that year to earn a September callup to Chicago. In three appearances, Miller went four innings, had six strikeouts, while giving up zero walks and zero runs. This was not smoke and mirrors as his FIP was 0.14.

And he didn't just do this against chumps. I mean, Miller was able to take out both Aaron and Bret Boone in the SAME inning. His relief work was a boon for the Cubs who were in desperate need of bullpen help.

But as good as Miller's stats were, his most important stat was 0-3, and that was the Cubs record in games where Miller pitched. Now a lot of nerds will tell you that reliever win percentage is not a thing, but Jim Riggleman and I know better. Sure, Miller was never put in a game where the Cubs were losing by any less than four runs, but a reliever's job is not only to get outs, it is to inspire his teammates, and that is where Miller fell short.

So it was no surprise that despite Miller's statistical superiority in many categories, Riggleman left him off the playoff roster.

Although he started the year in the big leagues for the Cubs, poor performance and a rib injury got him sent down and eventually he was allowed to play in Japan where he struggled for a couple years before retiring in 2000.

Kurt Miller did not have a long run in 1998, but he did the best job possible in that limited time. Sure, any hope for the future turned out to be misguided, but the 1998 Chicago Cubs were a team built on hope and Miller only added to Cubs' fans optimism.

In case you missed it:
Introduction
#47 - Matt Karchner
#46 - Jose Nieves
#45 - Rodney Myers
#44 - Justin Speier
#43 - Tony Fossas
#42 - Kennie Steenstra
#41 - Chris Haney
#40 - Bob Patterson

#39 - Pedro Valdes

#38 - Derrick White
#37 - Ben Van Ryn

#36 - Terrell Lowery

#35 - Don Wengert

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The 47 Best Players from the 1998 Chicago Cubs - #35 Don Wengert

35. Don Wengert
As a fellow, Iowan, I want to show love for Don Wengert. Unfortunately, we have some major issues. He went to an inferior school in Iowa State University, and during his final year there, he managed to add 10 MPH to his fastball. Did he introduce Sammy Sosa to steroids? It's impossible to say, but the answer is yes.

Wengert did not start 1998 with the Chicago Cubs as he was toiling away with the San Diego Padres. But about a month and a half into that season, the Cubs traded Ben Van Ryn to the San Diego Padres in order to get Wengert on the team. Was this a wise move by the Cubs? Well, his ERA 5.93 at the time, so it didn't seem like a great decision. And it wasn't based on past performance as his ERA was over 6.00 in 1997 with the Athletics. Still, the Cubs traded for him, and at that time, it was IJHWT, In Jim Hendry We Trust.

Wengert became the Cubs "Break in case of emergency" pitcher. As you can probably tell from all of the pitchers that I have already covered, there were a whole lot of emergencies that year. Unfortunately, he didn't actually solve the emergenciesHe was so bad at first that the Cubs couldn't even handle it. After three appearances where he gave up at least one run each time out, the Cubs sent him to Iowa to figure things out. He came back up two months later, and Don Wengert raised his level to be exactly who you would have though he could be, getting to a 4.91 ERA when the Cubs made a curious decision.

The Cubs were so desperate for starting pitching that they decided to put Wengert in the rotation. Although he wasn't outrageously bad, the Cubs were 1-5 in games that he started, with his only win being a game against the Diamondbacks, where Cubs' rogue agent, Amaury Telemaco purposely pitched poorly to help out his former team.

After that, he went back to the bullpen where his ERA rose slightly to 5.07 to end the year, although due to those starts, he did pitch an astonishingly high 49.2 innings in 1998.. After that, he had short stints with the Royals, Braves, and Pirates before hanging it up after a 2002 season where he spent the entirety plugging away at Triple-A. He immediately transitioned to being a sales rep for Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company. What a coincidence.

In case you missed it:
Introduction
#47 - Matt Karchner
#46 - Jose Nieves
#45 - Rodney Myers
#44 - Justin Speier
#43 - Tony Fossas
#42 - Kennie Steenstra
#41 - Chris Haney
#40 - Bob Patterson

#39 - Pedro Valdes

#38 - Derrick White

#37 - Ben Van Ryn

#36 - Terrell Lowery

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The 47 Best Players from the 1998 Chicago Cubs - #36 Terrell Lowery

36. Terrell Lowery
Terrell Lowery may be the greatest athlete on this entire list. He played D-1 college basketball for Loyola Marymount which may not sound impressive at first glance. But this isn't the Loyola you know today. It was the Loyola that was led by Paul Westhead to have the most explosive offense in the nation. In fact, Lowery averaged 28.5 and 26.0 points per game in his final two seasons for the team. That is so many points that I checked, re-checked, and then triple checked that this guy decided to play baseball instead of sticking with basketball.

But, sure enough, he became a pro baseball player as he was drafted in the second round by the Texas Rangers. He bounced around to the Mets before the Cubs selected him in the Rule 5 draft in 1996. He got his first major league experience in 1997 with limited action with the Cubs after tearing up AAA with the Iowa Cubs.

In 1998, he again tore up AAA, but it was tough to break through in the outfield for a Cubs team that was absolutely loaded out there. He played in 24 games but mostly as a defensive replacement as he only had 15 at bats during that time. In the two games that Lowery started, the Cubs were undefeated, taking out the Braves and White Sox in his starts. In games where Lowery got a hit, they were 3-0. In fact, he received at bats in nine games, and the Cubs went 8-1 in those games. Just Lowery playing was enough to put them at 17-7. He was the good luck charm.

Unfortunately, the Cubs weren't aware of good luck charm analytics back then, and he was sent back down after their game on July 4th (Cubs won, of course). He would become a free agent and join the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays for their second year of existence. In 2000, he joined the San Francisco Giants, where he had a slash line of .441/.548/.647 for an 1.195 OPS which would have led the major leagues had he qualified.

And after that performance, he never saw another major league at bat. Lowery had a short but fascinating career, and the good luck he brought to the Cubs will never be forgotten.

In case you missed it:
Introduction
#47 - Matt Karchner
#46 - Jose Nieves
#45 - Rodney Myers
#44 - Justin Speier
#43 - Tony Fossas
#42 - Kennie Steenstra
#41 - Chris Haney
#40 - Bob Patterson

#39 - Pedro Valdes

#38 - Derrick White

#37 - Ben Van Ryn

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Hypocrisy of NFL Discipline

Below is a post from Lukewarm Jonah.

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Adam “Pacman” Jones has been arrested ten times.  He started a fight in a strip club by assaulting a stripper which left a bouncer paralyzed when he was shot by someone in Jones’ crew.  He was most recently arrested in January of 2017 for disorderly conduct, obstructing official business, assault, and a felony charge of harassment with a bodily substance.  He started nine games for the Cincinnati Bengals this previous season.

Kenny Britt has been arrested seven times.  In 2011 he lead police on a car chase in New Jersey.  He also has charges of resisting arrest, drug charges, and DUI.  He was also benched for being a negative influence on his teammates in Cleveland.  He is under contract with the New England Patriots for the upcoming season.

Greg Hardy was found guilty of assaulting a female and communicating threats in 2014.  He reportedly threw his ex-girlfriend into furniture, strangling her and threatening to kill her.  After he lost a bench trial he requested a trial by jury and the woman stopped cooperating with police.  The charges were eventually dropped.  Though he only played in one game in 2014, he collected his salary while not playing.  In 2015 he signed an 11 million dollar one year deal with the Dallas Cowboys.  He was suspended for four games that season.  In 2016 he was arrested for cocaine possession.  He just signed with the UFC.

2016 NFL Hall of Fame inductee Marvin Harrison was heavily implicated in a shooting in 2008.  A rare gun he owned was used in a shooting that hit two people at his car wash.  One of the people shot was someone Harrison had been fighting with minutes earlier named Dwight Dixon.  The other was an eye witness named Robert Nixon who was hit by accident and later named Harrison as the shooter.  In 2009 Dixon was murdered in front of a bar that Harrison owned.  His security cameras went blank for three minutes when the shooting happened.  It is alleged that Harrison’s cousin carried out the murder.

2018 NFL Hall of Fame Inductee Ray Lewis’ two friends allegedly stabbed and killed two other men.  Afterwards they hopped in a limo and took off with Lewis and others.  Lewis’ blood stained clothes he was wearing have never been found.  Witnesses initially reported Lewis was involved in the fight where two men were murdered, but changed their stories when the trial came around for some reason, possibly massive amounts of money.  I had to say allegedly earlier because Lewis’ two friends were eventually found not guilty for some reason, possibly massive amounts of money.  He played for 13 more years after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice.

Michael Vick pleaded guilty to federal felony dogfighting conspiracy in 2007.  He ran and financed a dog fighting organization.  It was reported he personally murdered dogs by hanging, electrocution and drowning.    After his release from prison he rejoined the NFL in 2009 and played seven more seasons, starting games every year.  Nike also resigned Vick to an endorsement deal in 2014.  In more humorous than dog murder charges, Vick also gave women herpes while using the name Ron Mexico.

Oakland Raiders cornerback Sean Smith was charged with felony assault for a vicious beating that caused permanent brain damage to the victim in August of 2017.  He played 14 games in the 2017 season.  He was sentenced after the season was over to one year in jail.

These are just some of the well known cases in the NFL’s recent history.  There were 37 arrests last year and 17 so far this year.  A piece of advice to NFL players, just make sure not to peacefully protest, then you might actually get in trouble.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The 47 Best Players on the 1998 Chicago Cubs - #37 Ben Van Ryn

37. Ben Van Ryn
On a per-inning basis, Ben Van Ryn may have been one of the Cubs three best relievers in 1998. Outside of a game in 1996, 1998 was the only season that Van Ryn spent in the major leagues, and even then, he didn't make it the entire year. But at the beginning of 1998, pitching low leverage innings for the Chicago Cubs, Ben Van Ryn was straight fire.

Ben Van Ryn started off the year making eight separate appearances and gave up a total of zero earned runs. It seemed as if no one could score on Van Ryn. Sure, those eight appearances only totaled six innings, and two of those outings ended without him getting a single out, but they were still scoreless.

After going all of March (one game) and most of April, Van Ryn was finally solved by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers had already put up nine runs on the collection of Kerry Wood and Amaury Telemaco, so the Cubs turned to Van Ryn to stop the bleeding. In fact, they even subbed Van Ryn in for Sammy Sosa, because Jim Riggleman LOVED double switches. Going through these box scores has truly been an incredible experience to see how many double switches the Cubs made that year. Anyway, Van Ryn in for Sosa, but not even Van Ryn could stop the red hot bats of Todd Zeile, Jose Vizcaino, and Matt Luke. The Dodgers exploded for three runs and ended Van Ryn's scoreless streak.

The Cubs apparently had incredibly high standards for their bullpen as Van Ryn would never pitch for the Cubs again. Just 11 days later, they would trade him to the Padres in exchange for Don Wengert. 24 days after being traded, the Padres released Van Ryn who put up a 10.13 ERA for San Diego. The Blue Jays picked him up but quickly realized that it was a bad idea when he put up a 9.00 ERA. He would never pitch in the major leagues again.

But for the beginning of 1998, Van Ryn was pretty dang good, putting up a 3.38 ERA in eight innings for the Cubs, good enough for the fourth best ERA on the team. BVR? More like DVR, because this guy was must see TV.

In case you missed it:
Introduction
#47 - Matt Karchner
#46 - Jose Nieves
#45 - Rodney Myers
#44 - Justin Speier
#43 - Tony Fossas
#42 - Kennie Steenstra
#41 - Chris Haney
#40 - Bob Patterson

#39 - Pedro Valdes

#38 - Derrick White

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The 47 Best Players for the 1998 Chicago Cubs - #38 Derrick White

38. Derrick White
Derrick White's career makes no sense. I keep looking through things, and there is no rhyme or reason to anything. He was drafted by the Expos after a very good final year at Oklahoma and sent to play short season ball for the rest of 1991. In 1992, he skipped both levels of A-ball to play the entire year in Double-A. He put up decent numbers. Then, in 1993, he played in High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A before getting a callup for 23 games for the Expos. In 1994, he struggled in Triple-A, got released by the Expos, signed by the Marlins and sent down to Double-A. In 1995, he signed with the Detroit Tigers, played the majority of the year at Triple-A but also got 39 games with the Tigers. Then, in 1996, he signs with the Oakland Athletics and spends the entire year between both levels of A-ball. I thought there were rules against guys being that old (26) and in low-A. In 1997, he spent the year at Double and Triple-A for the Angels before signing with the Cubs in the offseason.

White went to Triple-A Iowa and put up his best numbers ever, torching the league to the tune of 1.112 OPS in 66 games for the team. His torrid pace earned him a callup at the end of May. Things continued to be weird for White. He played in 11 games for the Chicago Cubs and got a total of ten at bats. In nine of those at bats, he failed to record a hit. Five of those times, he failed to even make contact. But one at bat was different. In one at bat, Derrick White unleashed his potential, and that is what is important to remember.

The date was June 6, 1998. The Chicago Cubs hosted the Chicago White Sox at Wrigley Field in just the second year of interleague play. A pitcher's duel was expected as Scott Eyre took on the Cubs' Kevin Tapani. It played out that way for the first two innings as both teams were held scoreless. The White Sox were the first to put a run on the board in the top of the third when Ray Durham hit a double and was driven in by Mike Caruso.

But the Cubs would not go down easily. They strung together a ton of singles and took advantage of a Frank Thomas error to score three runs in the third. They continued the momentum in the fourth when Jose Hernandez hit a solo home run. Things were looking great for the good guys. In the 5th, the White Sox inched closer when Mike Caruso drove another run home. In the sixth, the White Sox made their move as Robin Ventura tripled, Magglio Ordonez singled, and then Charlie O'Brien hit a home run to give the White Sox a 5-4 lead. It may have only been the sixth inning, but this game looked like it was over.

Eyre had calmed down and appeared to be cruising. He dispatched of Henry Rodriguez easily. Then, something truly inexplicable happened as he found a way to walk Jose Hernandez. It looked like it wouldn't matter when he got the second out by making Scott Servais ground out. Instead of ending the inning against Kevin Tapani, Jim Riggleman made a bold move. He brought in Derrick White, a man who was 0-5 with three strikeouts on the season. Only a fool would make such a folly as a manager, but Jim Riggleman was no fool. Scott Eyre smirked to himself as he saw White stroll to the plate, but his overconfidence would be his downfall. Eyre left one over the plate, and Derrick White connected. It was high; it was deep; it was gone. Derrick White would give the Cubs a one-run lead in a game they would go on to win 7-6. He may have gone 0-9 in his other at bats, but his one hit was instrumental in getting the Cubs to the playoffs that year.

White seemed like a guy who would quickly wash out of baseball, but he found a way to hang around the game. He never made the major leagues again after 1998, but he bounced around from Triple-A, independent ball, Korea, Japan, and found his home in Mexico where he tore it up for Tijuana until finally retiring in 2009. It may have not been the career he dreamed of, but it definitely had its moments.

In case you missed it:
Introduction
#47 - Matt Karchner
#46 - Jose Nieves
#45 - Rodney Myers
#44 - Justin Speier
#43 - Tony Fossas
#42 - Kennie Steenstra

#41 - Chris Haney

#40 - Bob Patterson

#39 - Pedro Valdes

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The 47 Best Players from the 1998 Chicago Cubs - #39 Pedro Valdes

39. Pedro Valdes
Pedro Valdes was a corner outfielder for the Chicago Cubs during the 1998 season. As you will learn through this article, that may have been the toughest position to find playing time for this team. Not only did they have starters in Sammy Sosa and Henry Rodriguez, but they would go on to add a ton of talent to their corner outfield, and had Jose Hernandez as a full-blown utility player. Still, Valdes managed to carve out a role in 14 games where he could attempt to help the team.

Although his line of .217/.250/.348 is not going to impress on its face, he did manage some positive contributions during his time on the big league roster that year. He went 3-4 with a double against the Royals, and his final at bat for the team was his best hit of the year as he managed a triple off of Jason Bere in a game against the Reds.

Unfortunately for Valdes, he was more of a Quad-A player. He could handle the AAA level, but when it came to the big leagues, he was never quite able to measure up. The good news was after he gave up the MLB, he went to Japan and truly found his niche. During his four years in Japan, he managed a .300 batting average with a little over 20 home runs per season. He ended up playing professional baseball in Mexico until 2011 and would still play in Puerto Rico until at least 2013. He managed to play 23 seasons, for 18 teams, in 13 leagues, in five countries. Valdes may have not had the most exciting major league baseball experience, but it's tough for anyone to match the experiences he lived because of baseball.

In case you missed it:
Introduction
#47 - Matt Karchner
#46 - Jose Nieves
#45 - Rodney Myers
#44 - Justin Speier
#43 - Tony Fossas
#42 - Kennie Steenstra

#41 - Chris Haney

#40 - Bob Patterson

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The 47 Best Players from the 1998 Chicago Cubs - #40 Bob Patterson

40. Bob Patterson
Bob Patterson managed to spend 13 years in the big leagues which is no surprise. I mean, just look at that picture above. Who wouldn't want that guy on their roster? But things didn't start out that well for your friendly neighbor, Bob. He had an ERA of 24.75 in his rookie season for the Padres. That was enough for the Padres who traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Marvell Wynne (a player who would later end his career with the Cubs). Patterson then put it together for the Pirates, being a key bullpen member during some near glory years in the early 1990s.

He would play for the Texas Rangers and California Angels before the Chicago Cubs signed the 37-year-old Patterson as a free agent in 1996. For the first two years, it worked out great as he posted ERAs of 3.13 and 3.34 respectively in those first two years. Unfortunately, we are not talking about 1996 or 1997, we are talking about 1998, and that year did not go nearly as well for Bob.

His greatest highlight from that 1998 season was likely getting a save against the Braves. The Cubs had a five run lead going into the 9th, but the Cubs two most reliable relievers, Terry Mulholland and Rod Beck managed to make it a one-run game with runners on first and second and just one out. Patterson came out and immediately got Ryan Klesko to line into a double play to end the game.

But things rarely worked out that well for Patterson. The year started poorly when he gave up two runs without getting an out to give himself an infinite ERA. But Bob battled back and had his ERA down to 2.45 by May 8th. Unfortunately, after giving up four runs to the Braves on May 22nd, his ERA would never drop below 5.09 for the rest of the season. His final appearance was on July 11th when he walked Jeromy Burnitz before giving up a double to Marquis Grissom, raising his ERA to 7.20. The Cubs released him the next day.

In a year of bad bullpen performances, not even the Cubs could justify keeping Patterson around. Hell, even he may have been relieved when the Cubs released him as things just did not work out in 1998, and he called it quits after his release.

When Bob Patterson left baseball, baseball didn't just lose a middle reliever. They lost a legend behind the scenes as Patterson was known as "The Glove Doctor." Patterson would spend his time in the bullpen repairing gloves, even bringing in extra material in order to do his repairs. He didn't just do this for teammates, as he also offered his services to opposing teams as well. Bob Patterson was a really good dude, and baseball could use more guys like him. Hell, the world could use more guys like him.

In case you missed it:
Introduction
#47 - Matt Karchner
#46 - Jose Nieves
#45 - Rodney Myers
#44 - Justin Speier
#43 - Tony Fossas

#42 - Kennie Steenstra

#41 - Chris Haney