Moneyball to Receive the Ultimate Test

Tonight is the night. Billy Beane went all in at the trade deadline, sending away Oakland’s offensive anchor, Yoenis Cespedes, for the final piece he felt he needed to finally win the last game of the season. Tonight, in Kansas City...

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Why Moneyball May Finally Pay Off for Billy Beane in 2014

Photo by Eric Risberg/Associated Press/ Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

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During the fall of 2011, one of my favorite sports movies of all-time hit the theatres. The movie was titled Moneyball and it summarized the baseball method of sabermetrics that Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, embraced for the 2002 season after losing some of his biggest names to heavier contracts elsewhere during the previous off-season. While the strategy of employing players that thrive on getting on base led Oakland to a record setting 20-game win streak, the Athletics did not capture a World Series title that season and Beane is still searching for one to this day. Moneyball sounds great in theory and baseball experts enjoy discounting the method, but with a record of 69-44 and arguably the most promising pitching rotation in all of baseball, the simplicity of scoring runs may finally bring Beane the world championship that he has so desperately desired.


With the best record in baseball and currently leading the league in runs scored, you would expect to see high batting averages and costly contracts filling up the stat sheet, but you won’t find that in Oakland. After Beane went all-in on this season and sent Yoenis Cespedes (who was only batting .256) to Boston for John Lester and Johnny Gomes, the highest remaining batting average for an everyday player on the team is owned by Brandon Moss, who is hitting a mediocre .251. On top of that, the A’s rank 15th in the league with a .252 batting average and started the season 25th in the league in player salaries. While I highly recommend that you read the book or watch the movie so you aren’t scratching your head at this confusing logic, the basics of it all is that solid pitching and getting on base is everything, no matter what.


The main reason that Oakland is leading the league in runs scored is because they are 6th in the majors with a .328 on-base percentage, 8th in the league with a .401 slugging percentage, and they have been walked 117 more times this season than their opponents. If you get on base, there is always a better chance that you can score, simple as that. Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Derek Norris and Coco Crisp may not wow you with their batting average, but they all possess more than 70 hits on the season and a plus .330 OBP. They may not do it the popular way, but whatever it is, Oakland is doing it the right way.


The one thing that bothered me about the movie was that it really didn’t show how important and how good the pitching rotation was back in 2002. It may have not received the love that it deserved, but Beane knows what it takes to make his adopted method work. After dealing for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs about a month ago and getting Lester just last week, the rotation of Lester, Samardzija, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Hammel have a combined ERA of 3.13 (3rd in MLB), 68 quality starts (6th in MLB) and the opposition is only batting .232 against them (2nd in MLB). If it weren’t for the Tigers adding David Price and becoming the best pitching rotation in baseball, Oakland would absolutely claim that honor. Regardless, the importance of scoring runs is keeping the lead, and while the A’s offense has done it’s part, this phenomenal pitching staff is the true reason why Oakland is standing on top of baseball’s proverbial mountain.


It may not make sense to the average baseball fan, but whatever is going on up in Oakland is absolutely real. Billy Beane and the A’s may not win the World Series this year, but with the way this team has performed all season long and the importance of pitching during the post-season, the method behind this moneyball madness may finally cash in on baseball’s biggest prize in 2014.

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The Cleveland Column: July 2014

Photo is courtesy of Written by: JP Lococo (@jp_lococo)

Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

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After a long hiatus, the Cleveland Column is back and better than ever. The last time I wrote solely about Cleveland sports, the Cavs were making a feeble attempt at making the playoffs, the Indians were just kicking off the season and the Browns were prepping for the unknowns to come in the draft (those unknowns became the phenomenon of Johnny Football). A lot has happened in the last couple of months and I think it is time I put some thoughts to paper. Enough of the intro talk, let's get down to meat of this month, shall we?


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If there is one thing we have learned in the past month and a half from the Browns, it's that Johnny Manziel will not be be kept out of the news. Since he was drafted, "Money Manziel" has been a constant in the off the field headlines. From the bathroom picture of Manziel rolling up money, to his hanging out with Justin Bieber on the weekends, he has managed to stay in the spotlight.

The big question everyone wants answered, including the Browns, is will it effect his on-the-field play? Only time will tell but there are signs of acknowledgement of some prior "rookie mistakes" Manziel has made.

"I made some rookie mistakes," Manziel said last Friday. "There were some things I wish I could have gone back and done a little differently, but I'm continuing to move forward and try and represent this organization and this team in a positive manner and a positive light."

As for Manziel's competitor, Brian Hoyer, he on the other hand was receiving some high praises from All-Pro Guard Joe Thomas, whom had some statements that rung through the league this week.

Thomas went on to state, "I think it's that (Hoyer's) attitude and that swagger that demands respect. And, he also goes and backs it up out on the field. He throws the ball to the right person. He's doing things and getting everybody on the same page. That's just as much the role of a quarterback as throwing touchdown passes."

Again, time will tell with this competition but it seems as if it's Hoyer's job to lose this year.

As for Josh Gordon, he's still screwed. Gordon is currently in ongoing hearings on his case


The Indians currently stand 3 games out of the last wildcard spot in the AL with their  56-55 record. The race is going to be tight these last couple of weeks with the top 6 teams separated by less than 5 games.

Sounds okay right? Win 3-4 in a row and you are right there with 4 weeks remaining in the season. Unfortunately, that is proving hard for the Indians at the moment. They are 3-7 in their last ten and sit over 6 games out of the division. Let's be honest, you can write that title off as Detroit simply has too much this year.

So, what direction does the Tribe take now? Well the first of perhaps a couple dominoes fell this week when the Indians dealt Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals. In return, the club received 24-year-old outfielder James Ramsey, a former first-round draft choice who will report to Triple-A Columbus.

"I was surprised it took place," Masterson said, "but I understand and see it. It's bittersweet."

The big right hander has been a consistent go-to over the past four seasons for the Tribe but after a 4-6 record and 5.51 ERA in 19 starts this year, the Indians front office decided to move him now rather than wait. In all reality, it was unlikely that Masterson was going to re-sign with the Tribe at seasons end so for the front office to turn him into a young, up and coming prospect in Ramsey, perhaps only a year away from the bigs, is a good deal.

Unfortunately, this goes back to the same ole story with the Indians. Lot's of young talent to develop and then never able to hold onto them long-term. Sure, maybe Masterson doesn't get back to where he was last season. But what about Scott Kazmir? This season he is 12-4 with a 2.53 ERA for Oakland. This is someone who the Tribe desperately needs in times and situations like the one they are in now. The time to engage into deep conversation about the Dolan Family and their commitment is for another time, but this situation was worth noting.


Photo by Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports/

Is there a better story in sports right now other than the Cavs? You'd be hard pressed to find one. Since I have last written on Cleveland sports, the Cavs missed the playoffs, somehow landed the number one pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, picked Andrew Wiggins with that pick and then received news of LeBron James returning home. There truly must be a sports God looking over the city because to have all of that happen in the matter of a couple months is down right unrealistic. But it happened and now the City and Cavaliers are back.

So, what's next? Finalizing a trade to bring in Kevin Love to Cleveland seems to be priority number one. Unfortunately, sources have cited that the Cavs must include Andrew Wiggins in the trade to make it happen. It has been known for a while that Love was looking to take his talents elsewhere but not until this weekend have we heard anything from inside the Timberwolve's organization.

"I'm saying it's most likely because Kevin has made it pretty clear that that's what he wants to do," Wolves owner Glen Taylor told the Pioneer Press over the weekend.

I find it almost comical that some people still don't want to trade Wiggins. I get asked a lot what I think about the options Cleveland has in front of them and in my eyes, there is only one thing to do; trade what you must to bring in Kevin Love.

Let's cover the facts quickly. Last season Love averaged over 26 PPG and 12.5 rebounds while also shooting almost 46% from the field. He is a 3-time All-Star and twice named to the All NBA Second Team. If you can make a trade happen to land him, then you simply do it.

In saying all that, I am also not suggesting to get Love at all cost; at least not right now. It's important to remember that Cleveland has the leverage and they should act as so. Love making public comments about his wishes definitely doesn't hurt either. Cleveland is familiar with this position as they were in similar shoes as Minnesota just 4 summers ago when LeBron was leaving town. They opted to wait things out. This is something Minnesota will not be willing to do because they must maximize the situation by obtaining as many assets as possible. Bottom line, Love will be traded and it's only a matter of when.

It's fair to keep hope that the Cavs and Wolves may be able to work out a deal without Wiggins, but it also still may be foolish. You'd like to a see a young talent like Wiggins develop under the watchful eyes of LBJ instead of the situation in Minnesota but at the end of the day this is a business and Cleveland will do what they can to provide LBJ with an All-Star supporting cast.

The next month of Cleveland sports should prove even more interesting than the last. When will Kevin Love be dealt and what will the deal look like? Can the Indians make a late surge and climb into the playoffs again? Will the Johnny Manziel buzz die? I look forward to watching it all unfold.

Want to add some additional thoughts or predictions for next month? Feel free to comment below!

The ‘Our Sports Report’ Podcast: MLB Trade Deadline Edition

Photo is courtesy of Produced by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music) & Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

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Welcome to the NEW & IMPROVED Podcast featured on ‘Our Sports Report’!  In today’s program, Matt Shock and Curt Ashcraft take the time to cover the craziness that was the 2014 MLB Trade Deadline and how Billy Beane had the best rotation in all of baseball for about 3 hours.

And without further ado, CHECK OUT the latest podcast on ‘Our Sports Report’!

The ‘Our Sports Report’ Podcast: MLB Trade Deadline Edition

‘Our Sports Report’ Podcast Page!

Michael Sam: Out of the Closet, but Hurt in the Draft?

Photo by Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch (AP)/ Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

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About a week has passed and the dust has settled. If you don’t live under a rock then you probably already know that Missouri’s All-American defensive lineman, Michael Sam, has revealed that he is gay.  Sam jumped a personal hurdle by coming out of the closet, but if the All-American hears his name announced this May at the 2014 NFL Draft, then Michael Sam will be the first openly gay football player in the National Football League. Congratulations to Michael on coming to terms with his sexuality and who he really is, but even in the age that we live in, will his honesty hurt his chances in the NFL?


I know, this is 2014 and there are states as we speak that are legalizing gay marriage, I get that. Homosexuality has become a way of life that is being progressively accepted in our society today, but I am not talking about regular society. I am talking about the All He-Man League that is the NFL and even further, the barbaric dungeon that is a NFL locker room.  I have never personally been apart of a NFL locker room, but once the Richie Incognito story hit the market, the stories that hit print and the airwaves about NFL teammates were pretty interesting to say the least.


Plenty of athletes have revealed their homosexuality after they have left professional athletics like Jason Collins (who has yet to be signed by an NBA team), John Amaechi and Billy Bean (not the Oakland Athletics GM), but to do it before a season or even a draft seemed like social suicide.


My thoughts were the same for Sam’s case, but once I heard that he told his Missouri Tiger teammates back in August and they fully supported him, that made me realize that it could work. People are always saying that college football is pretty much the minor leagues of the NFL, so if an openly gay man can be accepted in the University of Missouri Football locker room, whose to say that the NFL locker room will be much different?


There is no question that Michael Sam will receive scrutiny from fans, opposing players and even some NFL general managers. But like I said before, this is 2014 and we live in a different age. This is an age where people with authority are willing to take a risk and try something new.  There will be at least one NFL team that is willing to take a chance on Sam because at the end of the day, this All-American was the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year with 48 tackles and 11.5 sacks. Not a bad resume.


Chances are pretty good that Sam will not go in the first or even the second round of this year’s draft, but after the heart, honesty and courage that he exonerated to the world, the chances are still pretty good that you will see Michael Sam on an NFL roster in 2014.

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The Cleveland Column: August 2013

Photo is courtesy of Written by: JP Lococo (@jp_lococo)

Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

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For the encore of this monthly column that I started last month, I wanted to ensure that Cleveland sports fans got some different information on their favorite teams. Not that my post last month didn't provide any relevant information, but I wanted to change things up a bit this time.

Nothing is more concrete than statistical data about a team, player or sport. You can't argue what is already determined. That is another reason why I love looking at numbers and statistics, because they reveal the truth. We use batting averages to judge how good a hitter is throughout his career, points per game and assists per game to reveal the offense skills of an NBA player, and total goals scored to determine if a forward in soccer is producing.  We use numbers and stats as barriers of success in almost every aspect of life, especially sports. Whether its hitting your sales goals or breaking the single season home-run record, it all comes down to numbers. For the encore and second ever post on the Cleveland Sports Scene, I have focused on some stats I found to relate to each franchise and their situation at this current time. Shall we?

Cleveland Indians

1.) Currently 68-58 and 3 games out of the final Wild Card.

The good news about this record is that last year at this time, Cleveland was 54-66 and over 11 games back in the division. They were completely out of the race and the fans had already started looking forward to football season. Yes, it was bad enough to push Cleveland fans into looking forward to the Browns season, of all teams.

But this year has been different and Cleveland fans need to realize that. Terry Francona has taken a team that has completely fallen apart over the last couple years and turned them into legitimate playoff contenders. They are higher in the rankings in hitting and pitching than they were last year and they look like a team heading in the right direction.

The bad news about the current situation is that there are six teams all fighting for two wild card spots and only six games separate them. It is going to be a tight race over the next month and a half and the Indians will be right in the middle of it. Realistically, the Tribe is a move or two away from being able to make a deep playoff run in the AL but could you say that last year? Don’t think so.

2.) Nine

The number nine represents where the Indians stand in ERA in the American League. Most might consider this as an okay spot considering there are six other teams in the AL below them in the rankings. But when you take a closer look, it becomes evident on what needs addressing moving into this off-season. The starting rotation.

Below the Tribe are all teams completely out of the playoff picture. If you look at all the teams above Cleveland in the rankings, you will find all other five teams searching for a playoff spot this year and that is the concern. KC, Detroit, Oakland, Texas and the Yankees all have a lower ERA than the Indians. On top of that, even the Chicago White Sox, who are 50-74 have a lower ERA! Pitching wins championships and despite the strides the Indians have taken this past year, improvements are still needed.

3.) 15 home runs, at least 20 stolen bases and an on-base percentage of .360 or better.

Photo is courtesy of

Jason Kipnis is one of four players in Major League Baseball right now with the stats above. Before you read any further, can you name the rest?

The other three are Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Gonzalez. This is quite the group to be included in at this point in Kipnis' young career. The continued growth of Kipnis and his leadership will be crucial down the stretch as the Indians hang onto their playoff lives.

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Cleveland Cavaliers

1.) 3.3 Million

This number represents the salary of Carrick Felix, the 33rd overall pick for the Cavs in the 2013 draft.  The deal is worth three years, with the Cavs having a team option on the fourth year.

Last year at Arizona State he averaged 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds with a 56.9% efficiency field goal percentage in 35.3 minutes per game. The senior was named All-Pac 12 1st Team, All-Conference and All-Defensive.

Felix will bring a lot to the table defensively and Mike Brown has specifially been raving about his ability to defend the perimeter. With Alonzo Gee the likely starter at the three for the beginning of the season, there will be plenty of opportunities for players to rotate in that role. Gee is also a great perimeter defender but has not shown the ability the stretch the floor with his outside game. I am not expecting Felix to be a consistent rotational player, especially early on in the season. But don't be surprised if you see his minutes continue to grow if Mike Brown is not getting solid minutes out of Gee and others that might rotate in that position.

2.) 48.8%

This was Tristan Thompson's field goal percentage last season, and that led the team. Tristan was arguably the most important player on the roster last year at times and was certainly the most consistent, playing in all 82 games. But why is this number significant this year?

The reason I bring this number up is because of the drastic change Tristan is making to his game this off-season. As first reported by Michael Grange of Sportsnet, Tristan is now switching to using his right hand on jump shots and free throws.

This change will represent the first time in league history a player has switched playing hands in the middle of his career. The timing was a bit strange as Tristan was in the middle of playing for the Canadian National Team when he began to experiment with switching hands. Only time will really tell us if this move was smart or silly, but this is definitely a storyline for fans to watch moving into training camp. The Cavs may have hired a shooting coach to work with Thompson over the next couple of months, but this change will definitely come with growing pains.

Lets not forget the Cavs also drafted big man Anthony Bennett with the first pick in the draft just a couple months ago. I expect the coaching staff under Mike Brown to keep a careful watch on Thompson's progress as Bennett will need playing time to develop as well.

Will we be talking about Tristan shooting a higher free throw and field goal percentage next spring? We all hope so.

3.) No stat here, just THIS!

This highlight was something all basketball fans will enjoy. After all, it is still August and we are around five week’s away still from the start of team preseason camps. How much NBA can we really even talking about right now anyways?

Cleveland Browns

Photo by Ron Schwane/USA TODAY Sports/

1.) Weeden has completed 18 of his 25 pass attempts for 229 yards and three touchdowns so far this preseason.

Sure, maybe these were preseason games that don't count for anything. Maybe players aren't taking all the snaps seriously and maybe Weeden has only played about a games worth. With all that said, there are some take-a-ways from preseason and a lot of positive take-a-ways are involving Weeden.

In the last two games, Weeden's quarterback ratings were 127.7 and 137.8 respectively, and he has yet to throw an interception. More importantly, you can now notice Weeden reading the defenses quicker and reacting to pressure sooner. Both were big problems that caused him to make mistakes last year. I am not saying that Weeden will be a Pro-Bowler by the end of this season, but it seems the improvements are starting to show in some of his throws. Unfortunately, a lot of the team’s success this year will depend on the development of Weeden and the offense which ranked 25th in the league last season.

I know it is still very early in preparing for week one, but the numbers don't lie; Weeden is getting better.

2.) 91 Yards

I think it is clear who will be fielding all kickoffs and punt returns this year for the Browns. That man will be Travis Benjamin.

After his 91 yard kickoff return to the house in week one, Benjamin took another one back in last week that was close to 80 yards out, but was negated by a penalty.

The speed and vision of Benjamin will be a calming asset to Cleveland fans as we have been quite spoiled over the years with Joshua Cribbs. Since losing Cribbs, the Browns have been in a constant search for a speedy receiver who might be able to fill the void of taking punt returns as well. Benjamin ran a 4.36 40-yard dash prior to entering the league before the 2012 season and his speed is something the Browns have liked in him all along. With more consistent quarterback play expected from Weeden, look for Benjamin to become a bigger asset moving into the season.

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So Cleveland fans, what do you think? How do you feel about your favorite team right now? Let me know so we can re-post some of the comments!

This Little Puig-y Goes Yard

Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images/ Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Tommy Parrill (@DearTommy)

When you think of Cuban baseball players, the two most popular names would have to be Yoenis Cespedes of the Oakland Athletics and Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds.  As successful as those two young talents have been, there may be another Cuban who is not too far behind. This young man goes by the name of Yasiel Puig, he plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he made his major league debut this past Monday.

While driving home from South Carolina this past Sunday, I received a tweet from a close friend of mine asking for my opinion on the 22-year-old Cuban.  Since I am not a die-hard Dodgers fan and he hadn’t made his debut just yet, I really didn’t know what to think.  In his second major league contest, Puig hit two homeruns and ended with a total of five RBI’s and followed it two days later with a Grand Slam homerun.  In the last six days, Yasiel Puig has a batting average of .409 with a total of 10 RBI’s and four homeruns.  It is safe to say that I now have an opinion on Yasiel Puig.

Not many rookies have a debut week like the one that Puig is having.  I did find out earlier today from our own Matt Shock that Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs had six RBI’s in his major league debut, but that might be the closest comparison to what Puig has been able to show us this week.  Most newcomers take months or even whole seasons to get a feel for the big leagues. But so far, not Puig.

At 6’3” and 215 pounds, Yasiel has the deadly combination of size, speed, strength and power.  He seems to have amazing baseball knowledge and decent plate discipline. The scariest thing, is that he will continue to get better as he gains experience.  I am not saying that Puig will continue to set the world on fire all season, or for his entire career, but for a young guy with a lot of potential that seems to be a favorite in the clubhouse already, the sky seems to be the limit for this colossal Cuban.

I love to see the new kid on the block being successful, because when it comes down to it, they are the future of the game.  Baseball may be struggling to get fans out to the ballpark, but if young superstars like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Stephen Strasburg, Yasiel Puig and Matt Harvey continue to take the MLB by storm, then I feel pretty comfortable about the future of baseball. Chances are that Yasiel Puig will eventually come back down to earth, but no matter what, it is looking like the Los Angeles Dodgers have found the future face of their franchise.

Gregg Back as Cubs Closer…Not This Again!

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images North America/

Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

For those of you who didn’t notice, good old Kevin Gregg is back with the Cubs again.  Wednesday, manager Dale Sveum named Gregg the team’s closer, and I’m really not sure that there is any really good reason as to why this happened.  I get that the Cubs new direction is to win with a small market budget by developing a quality roster through the draft and shrewd trades.  But this move seems to be a step backwards instead of forwards.  I have never heard of a GM who said to himself, “You know, all we need is one more pitcher to really lock down our bullpen.  I know…let’s get Kevin Gregg!”  Any GM who said this aloud should be fired on the spot.

Kevin Gregg has played for six different teams in the last eight seasons.  Gregg also had a nine year stint in the minor leagues, with much of that time divided between single A and double A.  He never made the big club while he was in the Oakland A’s organization (and if Billy Beane doesn’t think a pitcher can get it done at the big league level…that should be a huge red flag!)  Gregg also spent time in the Los Angeles Angels’ minor league system before finally getting a shot with the big club in ’03.  But of course, by ’06 he was back in triple A.

What can we deduce from all of this?  Simple, Gregg has had to scratch and claw for any advancement in baseball…which signifies two things: 1) he’s got heart and 2) he’s really not that good, maybe a journeyman player at best.  I’m sorry, but I think the Cubs are barking up the wrong tree here.  I thought they learned this in ’09 when Gregg was blowing saves with feverish efficiency with the Cubs the first time.  But I suppose new regimes must learn for themselves.

That said, I think the lesson to be learned at the least is this:  if a player was horrible for you once, don’t give him the opportunity to be horrible for you again.  In ’09, Gregg was 5-6 with a 4.72 ERA and recorded 23 saves.  While appearing in 72 games he gave up 38 runs and 13 home runs while walking 30 batters.  You can get away with that kind of crap in the seventh inning, but in the ninth inning your goal is to shut down a rally…not start one for the other team.  (Thank you for the stats by the way)

Now, let’s not pretend that the Cubs really had any better options.  Fujikawa showed some promise before landing on the DL with a forearm strain (he was added back to the roster today if you care).  Carlos Marmol is an absolute nightmare when he takes the mound in any situation and should probably be released since no one is willing to give anything for him in a trade.  So it appears to me, a humble fan, that the Cubs might as well surrender the season and make a few cuts.  If they are interested in just handing over games in the ninth inning, then surely there are cheaper ways to do so.  Remember, they want to operate as if they were a small market team.

So where are the Cubs to find a closer for cheap?  I challenge them to look no further than the computer keyboard where this peach of a blog post was composed.  That’s right ladies and gentlemen…I volunteer as tribute for all of us starving Cubs fans!

I mean come on, it’s pretty clear that the Cubs are just looking for a guy to throw batting practice to opposing teams when the game is on the line, so they might as well do me a solid and pay me the league minimum so they can save some cash!  I can take the fans booing me, I can handle the media, and I can even take beer being thrown at me while warming up in the bullpen.  All the Cubs have to do is use the money they saved in signing me to sign a decent closer for next season…and give me number 47.  There you have it Mr. Epstein, have your people call my people and let’s get a deal done!