Happy Birthday To BCB!

Today, February 9, is Bleed Cubbie Blue's First Birthday; if you haven't been here that long, here is the first BCB post, from February 9, 2005. Looking back a year, I'm pleasantly surprised to see that it holds up pretty well, except for... well, that title, "2005... This Is The Year". It was a "year", all right, but not quite the one we had hoped for.

Given the current state of the Cub roster, 2006 might not be "the year", either. But in six days, pitchers and catchers will report to camp in Mesa, and only the coldest-hearted among us wouldn't look toward spring without any hope whatsoever, especially considering there's snow on the ground again here in Chicago.

That out of the way, and NO SINGING!, let me first thank each and every one of you for stopping by here each day, reading my contributions to the Cublogosphere, and weighing in with your comments. That is what makes BCB the great community it has become, and as the 2006 season begins, I hope it will become even more so.

Now, let us move on to some more pertinent information, viz. some Cubs news.

USA Today Sports Weekly's current issue contains an article called 100 Names You Need to Know for 2006.

Four Cub players appear on the list: Matt Murton and Ronny Cedeno, who will be likely starters in LF and at SS, respectively, and two pitchers who may not even make the major league roster, Rich Hill and Angel Guzman. There are 51 hitters listed; Murton ranks 7th and Cedeno 16th; among the 49 pitchers, Hill is 15th and Guzman 35th.

As you'll see if you click on the link above, the online version says you have to buy the paper to get further details. But thanks to your intrepid blogger and his fast-typing fingers, I have transcribed the comments on the Cub Four below.

You're welcome. I'll make a brief comment and then leave the carving-up to you.

Matt Murton:

Acquired from Boston along with Nomar Garciaparra in 2004, Murton probably will be the Cubs' starting left fielder this season. The club also has capable backups in Jerry Hairston and John Mabry. Murton is not a prototypical power hitter, but he's a .309 career hitter in the minors who can get on base.

COMMENT: This is sort of a non-comment; all of this is well-known about Murton. The writer obviously didn't want to go out on any sort of limb.

Ronny Cedeno:

A .265 hitter over six minor league seasons, Cedeno has combined to hit .308 between the Double-A and Triple-A levels over the last two years after batting just .211 at Class A Daytona in '03. When the Cubs failed to land veteran Rafael Furcal, they decided to hand the shortstop job to Cedeno, though veteran Neifi Perez will back him up. Cedeno has shown good speed in the minors, but has yet to translate that into major league steals.

COMMENT: Ditto for Cedeno; steals haven't really been the issue for Ronny, it's whether or not he can sustain the new level of performance he established in 2004 and 2005.

Rich Hill:

If recent history is any lesson, the Cubs will need to have a starting pitcher or two on call to offset struggles or injuries. Hill, the best pitcher in their system whose out pitch is an excellent curveball, should be ready for a call-up. Though Hill got knocked around in his brief time with the Cubs last season, the organization honored him as its 2005 minor league breakthrough player of the year.

COMMENT: The problem, of course, with the curveball is that Hill hasn't been able to get it over the plate consistently.

Angel Guzman:

He missed most of last season with a strained forearm but pitched well in the Arizona Fall League. He also had shoulder surgery in 2003, so he has had 17 regular-season starts in the last 2 1/2 seasons. He's not expected to begin the season in the Chicago rotation, but Jerome Williams must prove he can handle the No. 5 spot. If not, Guzman and Hill could be first in line to fill the role.

COMMENT: Sounds like the writer has never actually seen Guzman pitch but is relying only on the statistical record.

And for good measure, the 48th-ranked pitcher, ex-Cub Jermaine Van Buren:

The Red Sox acquired him in December from the Cubs, who had him as their closer at Triple-A last season. He's been dominant in the minors -- 141 strikeouts and 65 hits in 117 innings the last two years -- with a low-90s fastball and a good slider. He's a strong candidate to earn a setup spot in the Boston bullpen at some point this season, and he could make the team out of spring training.

COMMENT: Van Buren is also a strong candidate, for anyone who's seen him pitch, for arm surgery due to his quirky motion. The K and H ratios look great, but for a reliever of this type, a low-90's fastball isn't quite enough.

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