Archive for June, 2004

Friday Five: Potato Chips

Friday, June 25th, 2004

I like to pretend to myself that I am a man of few vices. I drink alcohol, though seldom excessively. I do no other drugs. I am in control of my temper. I do not womanize, I do not gamble, I am punctual, and I do not spend excessively. I have a healthy diet for the most part, primarily because I love vegetables and don’t like cheese, salad dressing, condiments, or dessert.

However, there are two things which I can definitely say are vices:

1) Dr. Pepper

2) Potato Chips

Now, ranking the top five Dr. Peppers I’ve ever enjoyed would be impossible, as each one surpasses the previous one. But there are many varieties of potato chips, and I eat so many that I estimate I’ve cost my heart about three years of lifespan. Unless artificial heart technology is ready by the year 2028 or potato chip manufacturing becomes a lost, arcane art in the next couple of years, potato chips will be the death of me.

With that in mind, here are the top five potato chips I’ve ever tasted:

5: Lays Classic Potato Chips: Readily available, greasy, salty, over forty percent of the chip’s weight has to be grease.

4: Cape Cod Potato Chips: Also available at most grocery stores, this is the last of the readily available potato chips on my list. Cape Cod makes a variety of potato chips, each with fancy names, but their plain chips are the best. Flavoring on a potato chip always falls flat; the goodness of barbecue sauce or sour cream and onion, much less “sea salt and vinegar” simply cannot be conveyed with a cheap powder.

3: Ole Salty’s Potato Slices: As a surly teenager in rural Illinois, Ole Salty was one of the few pleasures I enjoyed. Please do not infer sexual innuendo into that statement; it refers only to the simple joy of eating a nice, thick, salty potato chip.

2: The chips at the Bitter End, Austin, Texas.

Crunchy, hearty flavor. Heavily salted in an effort to get you to buy beer. Dark, robust color. Magnifico!

1: The Bar at Harry Caray’s Restaurant in Chicago.

I’ve only been there once, in late April of 1992. It was a surprise visit to Chicago, and I was lucky enough to convince my mom to go with me to a Cubs game. Afterwards we took a taxi to Harry Caray’s, but we were dressed like slobs so we couldn’t get in to the actual restaurant. However, a memorable treat awaited me at the bar — the free potato chips they served! I loved them so much I took a bag back to Texas with me; by the time I got home the whole bag was soaked with grease. The chips were magnificent.

UPDATE: The View From the Bleachers may fall short on journalistic quality in other ways, but we always correct our mistakes when informed about them. I was there twice.

On a day when a division rival acquires Carlos Beltran and the Cubs lose 4-0 to the division-leading Cardinals, comfort can only be found in vegetable oil, salt, and potatoes.

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How do you fix something that isn’t REALLY broken?

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2004

As I look at the calendar, I am constantly reminded just how quickly July 31st is approaching. As all baseball fans know, that is the beginning of the stretch run. Teams have reloaded with the ammunition for the chance of winning the World Series. Last year, Jim Hendry retooled the Cubs lineup by adding Randall Simon, Aramis Ramirez, and Kenny Loften. These moves helped plug some glaring holes in the Cubs lineup: a leadoff hitter/CF, a third baseman, and a left handed bat off the bench. Hendry recognized weaknesses and sought to fix them. However, this year is a little different. For the first time in as long as I have been seriously following this team, they are actually favored to go deep into the playoffs, if not win the whole darn thing. That means this team is already built to accomplish that feat. As a result, there are not as many glaring holes as last year.

To this point, this team has yet to play a single game in the regular season with the 25 man roster that was “favored” to win the World Series by ESPN’s Peter Gammons. So how do we know what this team is actually capable of? To this point, we really don’t. So, as the trade deadline quickly draws near, Hendry faces a question of how exactly do I fix a team that I am not sure is broken. I would like to give my opinions on each position as well as make my prediction for what will happen as the trade deadline draws near for the Cubs.

Catcher

No move necessary here obviously. Michael Barrett has been 100% better than Miller was last year. His .305 batting average is 3rd behind only Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. His defense, which in the beginning of the season was in question, has improved incredibly. As a whole, he has been a major strength for this team.

First Base

No move necessary here. Derrek Lee is here to stay. His recent hot streak, which include a current 11-14 run, has ignited a Cubs team. He is now beginning to show Chicago just why we acquired him in the first place. Not only can he hit the baseball, but his defense has been one of the major reasons guys like Ramirez and Walker have been having the fielding years they have. By saving error after error, it allows those guys a chance to feel confident with their fielding and throws.

Second Base

This is a position that Hendry may decided to deal with. While an upgrade is not needed here, there is a slight log jam at the position. With Mark Grudzielanek coming off the DL and Todd Walker hitting a hot streak, the Cubs are faced with a situation where they must choose between 2 above average second basemen. One starts, the other is left struggling to find his niche off the bench and in an occasional start.

I don’t like platoons, never have and never will. I feel like it’s best to stick with a guy and see what happens. I’m not sure if Dusty is considering a platoon or sticking with one guy, but the fact of the matter is and will be that the Cubs NEED to move one of these guys. While I would love to have both of their bats in our lineup, as pointed out yesterday, it’s just not possible.

Prediction – My prediction for this situation is that the Yankee’s will come a calling and Hendry will be listening. Grudzielanek would be a perfect fit for the Yanks. He is a FA after this year and is not a major salary burden. It would give Steinbrenner the quality bat he needs at second, and essentially complete the team that will probably be representing the AL in October. The question is what the Cubs get in return. Odds are it would be a veteran for prospect deal.

Shortstop

Going into the season, all the rave was that the Cubs needed to upgrade here. With a non-hitting, 5 million dollar burden at short, the Cubs will not be dealing to upgrade this position. The fact of the matter is, Gonzalez will get another chance when he comes back to try to earn some of the money we’re paying him and then shown the door in the off-season. No one wants to trade for him when they can get him next year for a lot less.

Third Base

“Now batting, third baseman, Ron Santo……(cough, cough)…..correction, Aramis Ramirez.” This kid is legit and here to stay. He is our Ron Santo reincarnated. He hits for power, drives in runs, and this year has played a decent third base. This kid will be a major reason we are alive down the stretch. He has been money with driving in runs and could end up leading the team in RBI’s. God bless you Mr. Ramirez. Thanks for not being a bust.

Left Field

With Alou as hot as he is, I think we need to just cross our fingers and enjoy the ride. Hopefully this is a bust out career year for him. Don’t look for him to be going anywhere. He will be our starting Left Fielder come October.

Center Field

All you ever hear on this site is how much I hate Corey Patterson. That being said, what you are about to read may surprise you. I am actually leaning toward KEEPING Corey Patterson. Yes, you heard me correctly. Don’t adjust your screen! The fact is, I really want to believe the hype that goes along with Corey. He is a kid with a huge upside. He has speed, power, fielding skills, base stealing ability, bunting ability. The list goes on and on. The one thing not on that list, however, is consistency. If he can add that to the list, he would be a huge player. I am willing to take my chances. Sure, I would love to see Carlos Beltran in the Cubs line up, but if we were to go get a player like that, he would be nothing more than a rent a player for 3 months. That’s not what I want for this team. I want players that are going to re-sign and help us in the future, like A-Ram. Beltran however is represented by Dr. Evil, who will command from the Cubs the sum of ONE TRILLION DOLLARS!!!! I know, I know. The Tribune owns the Cubs, they can afford it. However, what many aren’t looking at is the other players that are on this 25 man roster that are currently making next to nothing. These guys are going to need to get theirs and if Beltran has all the money, what are we going to give to Prior, Zambrano, etc.?

Prediction – Cubs will make no moves concerning this position. Sorry to burst your bubble. Beltran will go to, plug your ears, THE HOUSTON ASTROS. Their signing of Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite must provide at least a winning series in the playoffs if not a World Series. The team they have right now is not going to get them that. By moving Beltran into CF, it allows them to take Biggio and move him around the field. He can play 2b, 1b, or LF.

Right Field

Lets face it, Sammy is the heart and soul of this team and city. He isn’t going anywhere. It would be a huge PR nightmare if he were moved. End of story. I look for him to really put up some good numbers down the stretch. He knows the potential that this team has. He knows this might be his chance to win the World Series and will do everything he can to ensure that it happens.

Starting Pitcher

Matt Clement is the one name that you could see in trade talks. With the quality pitching put in by Glendon Rusch, Clement becomes expendable, especially because of his contract demands next year. Prior, Wood, Zambrano, and Maddux are locks to be here. With Guzman on the way, Rusch could serve as an acceptable stop gap until Guzman arrives next year.

Prediction – As much as it pains me to say it, I look for Matt Clement to be pitching somewhere else down the stretch. I think it would be a huge mistake but the Cubs to rely entirely on Rusch, but you have to get something for Clement before you lose him. With the Phillies and Yankees struggling with injuries to their rotation, both could be suitors for the young right hander down the stretch. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Clement go to the Yankees with Mark Grudzielanek in a package deal. It would be a great investment for the Yanks and not cost them in the long run.

Bullpen

This is an area that has given the Cubs some trouble of late, but how can you really fix it? When we go out and spend tons of money on our pen like we did a few years ago, what happened? Our pen sucked!!! When we don’t spend money, some players like Borowski pitch great (last year). The fact is, bullpens are like a crap shoot. You never know what you’ll get. Get a few guys that you know will be reliable and run with it. The Cubs have that in place. With Hawkins, Farnsworth, Remlinger, and Merker, the pen should be fine.

Prediction – Cubs get a pen addition in the Grudzielanek/Clement trade to finish off the pen. With a trade with the Yanks, perhaps a player like Paul Quantrill or Tom Gordon could be pitching in the pen for us.

So that’s it. Now you see how this year could be more difficult for Mr. Hendry. How do you fix a team that really isn’t broken. You have now seen my predictions. Please let me know where you agree or grossly disagree. Just remember, come August 1st, I will be posting a big fat “I told ya so!!!!”

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Community of Cub Fans

Monday, June 21st, 2004

One of the major things that I like about putting my opinions on the internet is that I get to see other people’s responses and opinions on a lot of topics. So, I would like to know how many of my readers or other writers have AOL instant messenger or AOL. I would love to start to build a network of people. So, if you could, E-mail me your screenname or leave it in the comment section. If anyone is curious, my screenname is jaiello78. IM me anytime.

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Round two coming to an end

Sunday, June 20th, 2004

So far the World Series of Blogs has been a great success. Round two will be ending this Friday and the two blogs leading their poll will move on to the final round. The World Series. Good luck to those blogs.

Also, as you will notice in our last post, we passed the 10,000 hit mark over the weekend. That is just because of people like yourself that read this blog consistently. Thank you so much for getting us to the point we are. I think I speak on behalf of Dave when I say that we are both having a blast with this site and with this season. We welcome any suggestions you have for topics, site improvements, criticism, Friday Five topics, etc. We love to hear from everyone. Thanks again for 10,000. Next up, 100,000!!!

Can we put Grudzielanek at SS?

I wrote about this idea a while back. With Alex Gonzalez out, we are stuck with a platoon of Ramon Martinez and Rey Ordonez at SS. This leaves us with just an average SS in terms of batting. Why not put Mark Grudzielanek at SS and then use him as our leadoff hitter? He did an alright job last year as our leadoff hitter, so why not. Coming into this year, a big question mark for this team was going to be our defense. However, to this point our defense has been one of the best in the league. So, even though Grudzielanek doesn’t play the best SS in the world, he brings a better bat to the table than Martinez and Ordonez. He would be a potential .300 hitter and a leadoff man. In return, our defense might take a slight hit. At this point though, offense is what this team is lacking. Our Starting pitching has been great this year. Their ERA as a group has been in the neighborhood of 3.50 and that’s with the disaster that was Sergio Mitre starting the number of games he did. If he didn’t have to be activated, it would be lower. Our pitchers deserve some runs. Grudzielanek and Walker would be a nice 1-2 punch at the top of the order. Our lineup could look like this.

1) Grudzielanek
2) Walker
3) Sosa
4) Alou
5) Ramirez
6) Lee
7) Patterson
8) Barrett
9) Pitcher

That’s a line up that should be able to put some runs on the scoreboard. I think we ought to give it a try.

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10,000 Hits – Thank You Everyone

Sunday, June 20th, 2004

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