Archive for June, 2004

10,000 Hits – Thank You Everyone

Sunday, June 20th, 2004

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Sometimes I just don’t understand

Saturday, June 19th, 2004

Today, Mark Grudzielanek was activated from the disabled list. That’s a good thing. However, I just don’t understand why we sent Jimmy Anderson down. Anderson was pitching decently and throws left-handed, which is always a plus. On top of all that, Dusty himself said that these next few days we would have very few days off so we would need to keep out pen strong. But getting rid of one of its members does nothing but mean that the others are going to need to get the call more.

If that was not enough evidence, let me enlighten you on who I feel should have been sent down. His name is Rey Ordonez. His current batting average coming into today’s game is lower than 4 of our pitchers. He is also the 7th infielder on the active roster.

This is what I would have done. When you bring Grudzielanek up, you send Ordonez down. When you bring Wood up, you send Anderson down and put Rusch in long relief. It would add a 3rd left handed arm in the bullpen. It would also keep Anderson up long enough to keep our pen rested. I guess that is why they run the team and we just watch and criticize.

I hate our announcers

Normally I am a big fan of Steve Stone, but I swear, the more he works with “Chippy”, the stupider he gets. It’s like Carey’s lack of intelligence about baseball seems to be seeping into Stone brain and sapping him of all his brilliant baseball knowledge. The other day, he said that the majority of the homeruns that Maddux had given up this year were because of poor location. Well obviously!!! If it was a perfect location, it would mean that the batter didn’t hit it. All homeruns are due to poor location.

Then, yesterday, Stone tried to make a simple observation about the weather and “Chippy” decided that he would try to make Stone feel and look stupid. The conversation went like this.

Stone ~ “The skies are starting to get dark around Wrigley Field”

Chippy ~ “That’s because it’s almost night time”

I hate Chip Carey!!!!!! Quit messing up Steve Stone and ruining his chances of ever winning the Ford Frick award.

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Friday Five: Lesser-Known Baseball Books

Friday, June 18th, 2004

This week’s Friday Five covers one of my favorite topics: baseball books. I’d like to say that the frantic pace of my life is the reason that I haven’t been able to read as many of them as I’d like recently, but that’s no excuse; there are ways one could make time. At any rate, I do manage to get some reading time in — mostly when I’m taking a dump. But it counts.

I promise you that none of the books I have listed here were read when I was on the toilet, so don’t let that stand in the way of your enjoyment (by the way, on that topic, see “Everyone Poops” by Taro Gomi). I’d love to hear if anyone else has some winners, too. Click each picture for information on purchasing these books on Amazon.

#5: The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers (Bill James, Scribner):

Lots of attempts to attach numbers and rankings to the stuff managers do. Includes summaries about the changes in the way managers have their jobs over the years. My favorite article is about why NEW managers seem to do a much better job than the managers they replaced were doing. It’s number five because it’s better known than the others on the list.

#4: Essential Cubs (Doug Myers, Contemporary Books)

The statistical lists are non-sabermetric and therefore a little oversimplified, and it has wonderful stories about a lot of Cubs, well-known and obscure. It goes into great detail about some of the greatest games in Cubs history (Like Wood’s 20 K game), ranks good/bad trades, discusses GMs, and makes a hall of fame case for Ron Santo, among others. It’s written by a die-hard Cubs fan and it shows, so if you’re not a fan of this blog’s reason for being, don’t waste your time. The book quotes Dick Ellsworth as saying, “We played for the fans, not for management. They were the ones who gauged our abilities and degree of success.”

#3: The Hustler’s Handbook (Bill Veeck/Ed Linn, Fireside):

This “sequel” to Veeck as in Wreck has lots more great stuff from Bill’s life in baseball. It’s written in a very campy, informal style that presents Veeck as the teacher and the reader as student and hustler-to-be. Nonetheless, a very entertaining read.

#2: Green Cathedrals (Philip J. Lowry, Addison Wesley):

Now quite dated, as the newest stadium in the book is Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but it has some GREAT facts about all of the parks used up until then (by the major and negro leagues). My favorite entry is about Clark Field in Austin, Texas (hosted a few Negro League games in ’49-50); it reads:

“This is perhaps the only two-tiered field ever. With a 12-foot-high cliff separating the upper outfield in left around to right center from the infield and lower outfield, there were two levels of play, the upper tier and the lower tier.”

#1: Sadaharu Oh (Oh and David Falkner, Times Books):

The story of the Japanese home run hitter who applied zen and martial arts training to his baseball approach. Lots of great stories of Japanese baseball and insights on what he’s seen of American players. The coolest part is that there are about 20 pages in the middle of the book which you can flip and see Oh’s swing.

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I have a horrible disease

Thursday, June 17th, 2004

Recently I have acquired a horrible disease of the brain. It’s one that many deal with each day. It causes you great anguish and emotional pain. It can at times cause frustration and lack of desire to move forward. While it is not usually fatal, it at times can be. Hopefully my case does not turn out to be. I will find out in the next few days. I disease I have is none other than……Writer’s block.

Sorry, didn’t mean to worry anyone, but when you do have writer’s block, God knows you will throw anything out there that comes to mind in an effort to simply beat “the block”. This seems like the least opportune time for a case of “the block”, but you take like as it comes.

In other news, the Cubs now have a 5 game winning steak, with 3 wins over the Astros. It has been very nice seeing the Cubs step up to the plate and get the job done against two teams with the potential to meet up in October. As the Cubs go for the sweep tonight with Rusch on the mound, I actually feel pretty confident. I think the Cubs will come out swinging, wanting to keep the streak going with Sosa back on Friday. My prediction: Cubs – 7 vs Houston – 3

Houston Deals Hidalgo

This move surprises me a little. The Astros deal Hidalgo, obviously in a cost cutting move, to the Mets. However, what they get back is a reliever in the last year of his contract. Houston’s pen is usually consistently tough so why not add someone a little better than this? Oh well, that’s one less good hitter they have off the bench.

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Q & A with Chicago Tribune Writer, Rick Morrissey

Sunday, June 13th, 2004

One of my favorite reads each day is the column written by Rick Morrissey. I generally agree with his opinions on the Cubs. Recently, we had the privilege of asking Rick some questions. It’s always a great privilege to pick someone’s brain, especially when they are getting paid to do what we all love to do. We asked Rick ten questions. His responses were very well thought out and enjoyable to read. Enjoy!!!

Q – Your May 26th story on W.P. Kinsella’s new book made your respect for his

work clear. Among sports columnists (yourself not included, of course) which

writer’s work do you respect the most and why?

A – That would be a long list because there is so much good writing going on out there, and some of it people might not have heard of. Many of these columnists aren’t on TV and radio all the time — just off the top of my head, Art Thiel of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Gary Shelton of the Tampa Tribune, Harvey Araton and Ira Berkow of the New York Times, Bill Lyon of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bill Plaschke of the LA Times. I like Mike Downey at my paper and Rick Telander at the Sun-Times. Pound for pound, Bernie Lincicome is still one of the best writers in the country. There are a lot of people I’m leaving out.

The common thread is that these guys can mix it up with good points of view, good writing, humor and a hammer, when necessary and not simply to get a reaction.

Q – Is the continued reign of Bud Selig as Commissioner good or bad for baseball and why?

A – I have mixed emotions about this. I think Bud has a terrible time making decisions, to baseball’s detriment. He never should have considered the idea of Spider-Man ads on bases, but he approved it, then did away with it under pressure. He ended the All-Star Game a few years ago when it was tied in extra innings –the message being the game doesn’t matter much — then comes up with a plan to use the All-Star Game to determine home-field advantage in the World Series. Doesn’t make a lot of sense. But I think he was able to introduce a dose of economic sanity to baseball when he was able to stop the union’s run of victories. He should be remembered for that. I’m not sure he will be.

Q – Who do you see as the one individual in the Cubs’ organization who could make or break this season? From Hendry to Dusty to the players to the equipment manager, who can propel them to the top or drag them to the bottom?

A – The burden is going to be on Jim Hendry. For all the good he has done, the injuries have been pulling the Cubs down, to the point where Hendry is going to have to make some deals eventually. I still think everything is going to be all right in the long run this season if everybody comes back healthy, but the more this drags on, the more that “if” gets bigger.

Q – Which baseball team did you grow up rooting for?

A – I grew up a Cub fan in Oak Park, but that was a long time ago. One of the unfortunate aspects of my job is that it knocks the ability to be a fan right out of you. I appreciate good stories and great games, but I don’t root for a team. A 10-game losing streak could be a very compelling story, as heretical as that might sound.

I have three kids, 11, 12 and 14, and it’s fun watching them go through the ups and downs of being a baseball fan in this town. But all I think about at each game is, “OK, what do I want to say about this game or this person or this play?”

Q – There is no online biography of you (or the other writers) on the Tribune’s site or on Chicagosports.com. Can you fill us in on your path to the Tribune, and tell about your best writing job of all time?

A – I went to Fenwick High School and had an idea then that I’d like to be a writer. I was lucky enough to win a Chick Evans caddy scholarship to Northwestern and studied journalism there. My first job was at Star Publications in the south suburbs. I was hired as a news reporter but decided to try sportswriting when there was an opening after about six months there.

I went from there to Fort Wayne, Ind., to Charlotte to Denver, where I covered the Broncos for eight seasons. I came to the Tribune in 1997. I had been trying to get a job at the Trib or Sun-Times for years but had no luck. I must have had a lot of luck built up because after about three years, I was writing the “In the Wake of the News” column.

This is the best job I’ve ever had and I have no reservations saying this is one of the best newspaper jobs in the country. I get to write about whatever I want.

Q – Of any active player in any sport, whom do you enjoy talking with the most and why?

A – Kerry Wood. He’s accessible, cooperative and willing to talk. A writer can’t ask for more than that.

Q – Of all the articles you have written for the Trib, which one is your favorite and why? (Please include a link if possible)

A – I don’t mean to be dark here, but I think the best column I wrote for the Trib came in the few days after 9/11. Athletic events had been postponed because of the attacks, and like everyone else, I was feeling very down about what had happened. I went to Northwestern, where there was supposed to be a football game, and to Wrigley, where there was supposed to be a baseball game. I wished for simpler times. I think we were all grasping for something to hold on to, and I’d like to think the column reflected it. (Joe, I don’t have a link. I’ll try to find the column and e-mail it to you.)

~Update~ Rick has e-mailed me a copy of the article he refers to and I will forward it to anyone who requests a copy. I can’t post it here due to copyright laws. Just e-mail me and I will pass it on.

Q – Your May 31st story on football player-turned-Army Ranger Pat Tillman’s death outlined why you think he was a hero. How do you define a hero and what can a professional athlete do ON THE FIELD that would make him a hero?

Was Jordan a hero? Sosa in ’98? Or does it take a Rick Monday flag-grab to be a hero?

A – In light of what’s going on in the world, I can’t call any athlete a hero for what he or she does during competition. It’s not heroic to hit a home run or hit a winning shot or run back a punt. It’s breathtaking for sure. It might even take guts to attempt the winning shot. But heroic? No. Let’s reserve that for people who give up some of themselves for something they believe in. If somebody gives up a job to work for the Peace Corps, then that person is a hero. That’s why I thought so highly of what Tillman did (and I’m not a supporter of this war).

Q – What do you feel is the biggest problem (excluding injuries) the Cubs have this year and how would you like them to fix it?

A – I think they lack speed on the bases, and this ties in directly with Corey Patterson’s problems. He refuses to shorten his swing. He continues to swing at high fastballs. In other words, he’s not trying hard enough to get on base. He’s taking runs from the Cubs. Drives me crazy.

Q – How often, if ever to you read Cubs Blogs (i.e. The View From The Bleachers) and what is your overall impression of them?

A – I don’t read them much at all, and that’s a reflection on me and not the people who do it. I don’t have a whole lot of time to be online, what with my job and my family. But I will say this about blogs: There is room for a lot of voices. It would be a boring (and twisted) world if everybody agreed with what I write.

TVFTB – Thanks again for being kind enough to do this Rick. It means a lot to us and hopefully our readers will enjoy it.

RM – Good Luck.

Well, that’s it. Ten questions with our favorite writer over at the Chicago Tribune. I hope you guys enjoyed the Q & A session. It was nice to see that he is just as frustrated with Mr. Patterson as we are here at TVFTB. Please let us know your responses to the Q & A session. Leave comments on what you agree and disagree with. Also, if you would like a copy of that article, e-mail me and let me know.

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Radio Show

Saturday, June 12th, 2004

Tonight, I will be a guest on a radio show called “Life’s a pitch”. It’s on sports talk Cleveland. There is an internet feed if anyone would like to listen. I will be on tonight from 9:05pm est – 9:30pm est. If you would like to listen, click here. If that link doesn’t work, go to Sports Talk Cleveland website and click listen now.

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Sandberg and Patterson: An exercise in free-form writing

Friday, June 11th, 2004

Part I: Ryne Sandberg

Ed Sherman wrote an interesting story in the Trib today about Ryne Sandberg. I’ve mentioned before that Ryno was my childhood hero, and he has managed (unlike some other pro athletes) to keep his personal flaws hidden from the world his whole life. Apart from his first Larry Himes-related retirement, his divorce right around that time, and that moustache he wore for a while, he’s led a charmed life. That ability to keep us from peeking in his closet — regardless of whether there’s a skeleton in there — has allowed me to continue to see him as someone to look up to.

radio has Ryno as a “regular contributor,” in the words of Ed Sherman, which makes him a member of the media. I haven’t heard him yet (WMVP doesn’t reach Allentown, PA), but I’m glad to see him back in the Cubs’ universe.

Ed Sherman’s column is about the media, which makes him a writer about writers. Which, in turn, makes me a writer about writers about writers. The guy’s a decent writer, but the stuff he covers usually doesn’t interest me. I have a lot of varied interests, but how NBC covers the Skins Game isn’t one of them. Ryne Sandberg, however, is; Sherman has finally managed to capture the attention of the vital “David M. Beyer” market.

Part II: Corey Patterson

Mr. Sherman quoted Ryno as saying that Corey Patterson needs to be more selective at the plate and go the opposite way more often. You’ve heard us harp on Corey A LOT on this blog, but it’s because we both feel like the guy isn’t using his talents, and as a speedy left-handed hitter in a lineup full of slow righties, he could make such a huge difference. But the quote got me thinking about another hitter back in ’97 who needed to go with the pitch more often and be more selective. This guy was a better hitter than Corey is now — more power and a longer history as a quality major leaguer — but still was frustrating because he could be so much more.

In ’98 he turned a corner, seeing a huge jump in walks and OBP, and elevating his game by being more selective and going with the pitch. The guy’s name was Sammy Sosa.

I’m not suggesting Corey Patterson will turn into Sosa if he watches a few pitches, but maybe he’d become the positive asset we’re all hoping he’ll be instead of the out machine he currently is.

Baseball’s time is measured in outs, and if you get on base more often, therefore making fewer outs, you suspend time for your team’s offense. The longer you can suspend time, the better your chance of scoring runs. Outs are inevitable; what happens in between is what determines how good your team is.

Currently, Patterson is Devon White without the defense; he has the quick-strike capacity to put a run up on the board, but he mostly accelerates time for his team by failing to get on base.

Now that Ryno has said what Corey needs to do, it’s official: everyone but Joe Morgan and Harold Reynolds have recognized what he can do to improve. All we need now is for Corey to recognize it. He looked awfully good yesterday, so maybe there’s hope.

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Friday Five: Best Active Baseball Managers

Friday, June 11th, 2004

I’ve left several very successful and popular managers off this list, and no, I didn’t forget about them. The impact of a manager on his team varies depending on how much you believe in “intangibles,” but regardless these five are the ones I’d want as field general.

5: Buck Showalter

How can a guy who’s never been to a World Series be the fifth best manager in the game? Because, that’s why. He’s never had a lot to work with and has still done a fine job. The Rangers didn’t win with Alex Rodriguez, but it’s because they had about ten legitimate major leaguers on the roster. Now that they have a better team, it’s showing in the win-loss record.

Though not universally popular with players, Showalter is a meticulous student of the game who seeks every advantage. He gets his team prepared like no one else in the game.

4: Jimy Williams

Never popular with fans and often not popular with players, Williams is nonetheless a winning manager whose in-game strategy, roster-building, and pitching management skills put him at the top.

Better than Bobby Cox? Better than “the Genius?” Yes and yes. His teams have finished, in order, 4th (with an 86-76 record), 2nd, 3rd (87-75), (12-24 in 1989 before getting canned), 4th (78-84, his only full losing season), 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, and 2nd, and got everything he could out of those teams. Despite all the roster turnover and injuries in Houston (besides the Killer B’s), he’s kept the Astros in the hunt the last couple of years.

The man has worked hard and deserves another “m” in his first name.

3: Jack McKeon

A mediocre run in KC from ’73 to ’75, a bad run in Oakland with a wretched team in the late ’70s, good win-loss records in San Diego before getting a midseason firing, and a fair amount of wins in Cincinnati in the late ’90s. One manager of the year award and a lifetime of achieving with unimpressive rosters notwithstanding, if it weren’t for last year’s historic Marlins run he wouldn’t be on my list. He was absolutely brilliant last year and has been excellent this year, and he rightfully got his second Manager of the Year award, his first World Series crown, and lots of respect from David M. Beyer (which is secretly every manager’s goal) as he outmaneuvered the next guy on the list in the ’03 NL Championship Series, then did the same to manager #1 on the list in the World Series.

2: Dusty Baker

Dusty’s magic is certainly not his ham-fisted handling of pitchers or in getting the right guys to fill his bench. His magic is getting his players to believe his B.S.–that they CAN win, that the scrubs CAN contribute, and that everything WILL be okay. Dusty’s a man that players would follow into combat without hesitation.

Calling Dusty one of the best managers in the game isn’t going to stop me from complaining about him, though…after all, there’s still room to move up…

1: Joe Torre

It pains me to say so, but Torre is the best manager in the game. He always has his players believing in themselves. He never has problems with players thinking they are bigger than the team, surrounds himself with the right people, and lets those people make the decisions for which they’re most qualified. His success with the Yanks was a long time coming; his tenure in St. Louis, Atlanta, and New York were not as successful, but neither were his teams anywhere near as talented. Always gets his teams to fulfill or exceed their expectations.

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Interview with Chicago Tribune’s Rick Morrissey

Thursday, June 10th, 2004

As you will notice on the bottom right of our site, we have a section called “Writers we love and hate.” Among the names is Tribune Columnist Rick Morrissey. He is personally one of my favorites. He always tells it like it is. I look forward to reading his stuff each day because more often than not, I feel the same way he does. Recently, The View From The Bleachers caught up with Morrissey and asked him 10 interesting questions. He was nice enough to give us some great responses to the questions. I am just going to wet your appetite with the 10 questions we asked. His answers will be posted on Monday.

1) Your May 26th story on W.P. Kinsella’s new book made your respect for his work clear. Among sports columnists (yourself not included, of course) which writer’s work do you respect the most and why?

2) Is the continued reign of Bud Selig as Commissioner good or bad for baseball and why?

3) Who do you see as the one individual in the Cubs’ organization who could make or break this season? From Hendry to Dusty to the players to the equipment manager, who can propel them to the top or drag them to the bottom?

4) Which baseball team did you grow up rooting for?

5) There is no online biography of you (or the other writers) on the Tribune’s site or on Chicagosports.com. Can you fill us in on your path to the Trib and tell about your best writing job of all time?

6) Of any active player in any sport, whom do you enjoy talking with the most and why?

7) Of all the articles you have written for the Trib, which one is your favorite and why? (Please include a link if possible)

8) Your May 31st story on football player-turned-Army Ranger Pat Tillman’s death outlined why you think he was a hero. How do you define a hero and what can a professional athlete do ON THE FIELD that would make him a hero? Was Jordan a hero? Sosa in ’98? Or does it take a Rick Monday flag-grab to be a hero?

9) What do you feel is the biggest problem (excluding injuries) the Cubs have this year and how would you like them to fix it?

10) How often, if ever to you read Cubs Blogs (i.e. The View From The Bleachers) and what is your overall impression of them?

Wanna know how he responded? Tune in on Monday to see the response. I am sure you’ll enjoy it. Until then, make sure you go to the bottom right and read his stuff. It will be well worth your time.

Polls close on Friday

The first round of the World Series of Blogs is going to be coming to a close. The votes will be tallied and the winners from each division along with a wild card winner from each league will be moving on. Get your votes in to ensure your favorite moves on. Voting for the second round will begin on Monday, June 14th. Good luck to everyone in the final days of the first round voting.

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