Archive for July, 2004

House for Rent

Monday, July 19th, 2004

Being a Cubs fan is like being a guy who’s renting a house with some really likeable features, but it’s not the greatest house. It has vaulted ceilings, a nice yard, it’s in a good part of town, and he’s been there so long that it feels like a part of him. But there’s always something wrong with it. Sometimes he doesn’t know exactly what it is — one year it’s the plumbing, another year it’s roof leaks. There have been lots of plumbers and roofers and HVAC guys and landscapers and whatnot coming out and messing with the house the whole time he’s lived there, and it always looks nice enough, but there’s always something going wrong. He knows he can’t afford a house on his own, so he’s at the mercy of his landlord. There have been a couple of landlords in his time, but it seems sometimes like this last one doesn’t care about the place as long as it keeps making him money. So the guy keeps living in the house, ignoring the really bad drafts in the upstairs and the creaky steps and the running toilets, because no matter who owns it, he lives in it, and that makes it his. No matter how crappy it is at times, he has grown into the house. They fit. Maybe his attitude changes over time to make the bad stuff more bearable, and maybe he adapts to the house’s limitations and into its strengths. But either way, the guy can’t imagine being without the damn house. As much as it drives him nuts sometimes.

Right now I’m noticing that Moises Alou is leaking (don’t say it) water all over the basement, and the grass out back is as ugly as Ordonez’s batting average, and there’s a big hole in the wall where a shortstop ought to be, and the whole foundation’s been messed up and getting worse all year. But if a couple of things go his way and the landlord fixes a couple of things, he’ll have the coolest house on the block.

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What it takes to be bitter, angry, and jaded

Wednesday, July 14th, 2004

I didn’t watch the All-Star game last night for what I thought at first were a set of principled reasons, but as I woke up this morning I continued to think about the question, “Why does the All-Star Game make me want to vomit?”

I reasoned to myself that, in a marathon like the baseball season, one game can’t show you anything about which league has better stars. I used to complain about how uninformed voters got to decide who was playing. I was sure that the mano-a-mano matchups in the All-Star game, in which A-Rod would intentionally foul off a bad Zambrano pitch just to pass on a walk and take another cut, showed off a bunch of jocks embracing their testosterone.

But the real reason, I’m slowly admitting, is that I don’t like when people tell me what to get excited about! The “this one counts” bit is contrived and generally quite unfair to the team that makes the world series, but there’s been so much trumpeting about how it gives meaning to an exhibition game that I feel like MLB’s trying too hard to make me look at it. And the times I feel like that, like when, say, a car salesman tells me how I’ll be a lot happier with the next model up, I always react by insisting that it go my way. I’m so afraid of being manipulated that I get manipulated into depriving myself of something.

I think I would have liked watching the All-Star game, but I was so crabby about it by the time that it came that I pretended it wasn’t even on. Now I’m afraid to look at a recap of the game or the box scores because I’m afraid that I missed something.

So I missed it. And I know the score was 9-4, and that when the Cubs make the World Series they won’t have home field advantage, and that Clemens got beat up, and the Yankees will probably make the World Series. So if the Cubs face a game 7 at Yankee Stadium and they have one or two lefties in the lineup and they lose, it will have been Roger Clemens that beat us.

He’s still pitching for the Yankees! And because Andy Pettitte talked him into it, maybe Pettitte’s a spy for the Yanks, sent to Houston to get Clemens to cost the NL the home field advantage!

Boy, those Yankees are tricky.

UPDATE:

Our friend Hank E. has asked the question, “What is the History of the All-Star Game?”

Here are a couple of links:

From Hickock Sports

From SI.com

From what I can find, the game was suggested by the Trib sports Editor Arch Ward, owners saw a moneymaking opportunity, and in 1933 they held the game. For a while, from ’59 to ’62, the players’ pension fund received the proceeds from a second game. I’d say that the host of the game benefits the most, but Hank’s right; an All-Star selection looks pretty good on a resume, even if the name at the top of the resume is Gerald Perry’s.

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A break is cause for limping

Sunday, July 11th, 2004

Early in my softball season this spring, I hit a ground ball and proceeded to run as fast as my legs would to try to beat out the throw to first. Unfortunately, in the process, I came down extremely hard on my heel in the stretch to first. I immediately had shooting pain all throughout my foot and thought for sure I had broken it. I limped back to the dugout and sat in pain. I sucked it up and finished the game and played the second game, limping all the way. Not all that smart, but when I am in a game, I don’t want to come out. It turned out that my foot was not broken, but rather a deep bone bruise was revealed. Nonetheless, I was on crutches and limping for about a week.

The Cubs, who came into this year with huge expectations, are suffering lately from a broken offense, which has caused them to limp pathetically into the All-Star break. If ever there was a team in need of some rest and healing, it has to be the Cubs. This is a team that was not swept at all last year, but now faces the very real possibility of being swept in a second straight series this year, on national TV to make it worse. Fans in the city of Chicago have gone from incredibly optimistic, with both of its baseball teams in the hunt, to slowly becoming despondent and cumbersome towards baseball. With names like Prior, Wood, Sosa, Ordonez, and Thomas appearing on the DL this year, baseball in Chicago is looking grim and uninteresting.

Enter the All-Star Break. With the three days off, both teams will have a chance to rest, circle the wagons and come up with a gameplan for the second half of the season. In my opinion, both teams have a chance to be successful in the second half. The Cubs, who will get Wood, Ramirez, and Remlinger back today, also have Wellmeyer, Gonzalez, Dempster, and Borowski on the way soon. In a sense, that’s the same as making a trade for a starter at third, short, closer, and three members of the pitching staff, including one with Ace like stuff. With these guys healthy, the Cubs have as good of a chance as anyone else at making a run in the second half. To this point, we have not seen the 25 man roster that Jim Hendry had on paper to start this season. With that being the case, I am hanging on with hope. However, I am thanking God that tomorrow is a break from Cubs baseball for 3 days.

Return of Kerry Wood

With Woody returning from the DL today, everyone in baseball keeps talking about how he’ll be a huge lift to this club tonight. I am optimistic that he will in fact be that welcome moral boost, but here is my prediction for tonights start.

5 IP, 110 pitches, 3 hits, 6 walks, 6 K’s, and 4 ER.

Wood is a power pitcher. With it being his first start back, on national TV, against a hated rival, in a very important game, he will try to throw the ball completely through poor Barrett’s glove. As a result, he will be very pumped up and as a result, be wild and inconsistent. Here’s hoping I am wrong, but I have a feeling I won’t be.

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Friday Five: Baseball Announcers

Friday, July 9th, 2004

If the Cubs team is a 5th grade schoolboy, the Cardinals have been playing the role of class bully. The Reds have been that sneaky kid who tapes “kick me” signs on people’s backs, the Astros have been the smart kid who everybody kind of ignores because he (his ballpark, actually) is freaky, the Pirates have been the skinny runt, and the Brewers have been the humorous fat kid. This weekend, the humorous fat kid walked right up to our little fifth grader and kicked him in his groin and peed all over him while he rolled around, groaning in agony and humiliation.

In the aftermath of that attack, the bully still picks on the Cubs and the fat kid is still just the fat kid, but during the whole episode nobody looked at the Cub/child because it was too embarrassing for everyone involved.

Now that it’s over and the kid’s had a chance to take a shower, it’s up to us, the other kids in school who like that child, to make sure he doesn’t turn into Ted Kacszynski and we can’t like him anymore.

This week’s Friday Five presents a pantheon of the best current (or very recent) major league baseball announcers.

#5: Joe Buck



Probably the least popular of my picks, Buck’s voice is indistinguishable from a few others (like Thom “the H is for hammy” Brennaman), and at the beginning I wasn’t even considering him. However, as I went through all the guys I’ve heard recently (either side of the Miller/Morgan debacle, Kalas, Steiner on Yanks’ radio, and so on), Buck’s stock rose. Is it really possible that he’s the fifth best baseball announcer around? And does that make me overly picky or have I passed out of baseball’s target market?

#4: DeWayne Staats



Staats was a standout broadcaster with the Cubs from ’85 to ’89 and I still wish he were doing Cubs games. Though it’s been a while since I’ve listened to him, I’d still rather listen to ghosts of Staats doing Cubs games than even the best of Skip Caray’s lifetime achievements.

#3: Vin Scully



Vin is smooth as silk, not rushed, not forced, and takes time and effort to describe what’s going on. There’s character to his artistic style of broadcasting which makes his voice unmistakable, but there’s no ESPN SportsCenter-style gimmicking, like Chris Berman.

There are a lot of Scully supporters around baseball, which says a lot for the guy, but what says even more is how few Vin Scully HATERS there are in the world. Even if you’re doing TV, being able to describe what’s happening makes a big difference, just for the fact that you’re doing less scrambling to fill air time.

#2: Bob Costas



He’s not doing games now, but he’s funny, smart (though a little pompous), observant, and classy. I don’t buy into “Costas for Commissioner,” but I wish they’d pick World Series broadcasters the way they do (or at least claim to) umpires, because then we’d get to listen to Costas no matter which network outbid the others.

Costas has done a lot of different sports in his day and has stepped out of sports to do things (don’t mention Baseketball, please), but he’s a wonderful baseball announcer.

#1: Pat Hughes

Pat is the saving grace of the otherwise wretched collection of media packages the Cubs currently present to their fans. Together with Santo (who’s a joy to listen to, but is not a great announcer), he makes listening to the Cubs radio broadcasts via the internet BETTER than actually seeing it on TV.

Next week it’s the worst five. Want a preview?

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Sniderman 2

Thursday, July 8th, 2004

I went to see that movie Sniderman 2. First of all, I should tell you that I didn’t see Sniderman, so I don’t know what really happened in the first one. Maybe that was the problem.

The movie is about this guy named “Peter Sniderman.” He has this girlfriend who’s only eighteen but already has saggy breasts. But she’s going to get married to some other guy; I think he was a Spaceman.

Anyway, Mr. Sniderman keeps having these dream sequences where he’s on his way to the gym or something, because he’s wearing really weird, tight clothes like a leotard, I think. And he has a problem with self-esteem, because in the dreams he only wears a mask. Plus there’s some kind of motif going with webs, but I can’t figure it out. At one point he starts throwing little globs of webs at an octopus man. Once I had a dream about a chimpanzee and three howler monkeys taking my bananas, but this dude’s dream was MUCH weirder than mine.

And he doesn’t wear glasses, but all of a sudden he needs them, but now he doesn’t anymore. Then he has a dream about the gym. And I guess the movie was about his self-esteem rising, because in the end of the movie Mr. Sniderman starts running around in his gym clothes without his mask on his dreams.

And everybody in the movie has a speech impediment! They all sound like they have a cold. They can’t pronounce Mr. Sniderman’s name right!

In the end, I think Mr. Sniderman must have found the gym in his dreams, because the happy music started. I just didn’t follow it.

I don’t know. Maybe Mr. Sniderman was originally one of those weird Swedish films.

I don’t recommend seeing it; save your money and see something you can follow, like “Princess Diarrhea 2.” That sounds scary; what’s worse than a princess with diarrhea? Maybe six hundred clowns, each one smaller than the other, until the last one can crawl into your brain.

But that’s all that I can think of.

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Offense, Offense, Where for art thou, Offense?

Wednesday, July 7th, 2004

While listening to the game on Gameday Audio tonight in the 7th inning, Cubs broadcaster Pat Hughes spoke up and said, “Always remember, Ron, when you lose, you’re not as bad as you look. When you win, you’re not as good as you look.” While it is a nice, heartwarming phrase that may work on little league kids, it doesn’t work on me. The fact is, 2 runs scored in 3 games against a less than elite team in the league is worse than bad, it’s just plain AWFUL. Never has a team needed a day off more than the Cubs need one. They were awful this series and there is no kind way to say it.

This offense is in need of some kind of kick start, but I am not sure how we’ll really get it. With Hendry already stating that the position players on this team are already set, the spark must come from inside. We have to find a way to get a player or two hot so that the rest of the team catches fire. We can get all the great pitching performances we want, but they mean nothing if we can’t score. I really think Dusty needs to take the approach of a manager that has no offense at all, and begin to play smallball until this team starts to play better with the bats. If you get someone on, bunt him over and look for a hit. Start playing for a run or two each game, and good things will happen. Instead, the Cubs have been trying to hack the ball, hit homeruns, and not work the count. As a result, this team has looked horrible at the plate. Take last last nights game for example. Usually, when the Cubs have lost the first two in a series, they shorten their strokes, and somehow get the job done to avoid a sweep. Facing a starting pitcher whose fastball consistently is in the high 80′s, the Cubs managed to strike out 2 times. I have to admit that I am glad we have a day off today, because we can’t possibly lose.

Is there anyone more annoying?

Ronnie Woo, the single most annoying Cubs fan in the World. I listened to the whole game on the audio and that idiot continued throughout the whole game to chat. “Cubs Woo, Cubs Woo, Cubs Woo” At times he was so loud in the background, it was as if he was in the booth with Pat and Ron. I had trouble concentrating on the game. Was there anyone else out there that listened to the game on WGN Radio that heard it, or on Gameday Audio that heard it? If so, leave me a comment on what you thought about it. On top of it all, when your team is stinking up the joint, the last thing you want is a fan that just keeps cheering the way he does. A while back I wrote a post that highlighted an article about him. I am going on record and saying that he is someone I wish would get a life and go away. I hate you Ronnie Woo. Get a job and go away!!!!!!!!!

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Let’s Agree To Disagree On This One

Wednesday, July 7th, 2004

As I was scanning my list of recently updated blogs using a wonderful application called Bloglines, I came across the latest musings from The Rooftop Report, which is one of my favorites. He talks about the recent rehab start of Kerry Wood, which has everyone in the Cubs organization excited. When Wood comes back, we will see the rotation, 1-5, the way it was supposed to be from opening day. What’s not to love about that. If the post had ended there, this would not be written, but since we post things for the public, we also must have our thoughts questioned by them as well.

Another Cubs starter began his rehab recently. His name? Gonzalez, Alex Gonzalez. Personally, I am not all that excited about his return to the lineup. He is an upgrade, all be it a slight one over the current SS, but not enough to justify the money we are paying him. In the Rooftop Report post, he talks about how Kerry Wood’s replacement has been acceptable, but how Alex Gonzalez’s replacements haven’t.

“As the currently vogue joke goes, I think I just threw up in my mouth. Martinez is great off the bench, is very versatile, and all and all doesn’t do anything to make me rifle tomatoes at the television, but he isn’t a starter and it shows. Rey Rey on the other hand isn’t even a major leaguer in my opinion. He has never hit (career OBP of .290) and his once “dazzling” glove seems to have been left at the cleaners (evident by the fact that his Fielding Percentage and Range Factor would be dead last in the majors, if he qualified). On top of that, he slid into first a couple of days ago. So, can’t hit, can’t field, and apparently can’t think very well. Great combo.” ~ Rooftop Report (7/7/2004)

I agree that Rey Ordonez is not the answer for this ballclub. If we are gonna have an Ordonez on the team next year, let’s make sure his first name starts with an M, and not an R. Ramon Martinez, however, is not as bad as he is made out to be in that post. Here are the career numbers for Martinez and Gonzalez.


AVG OBP Slug
Gonzalez .243 .303 .394
Martinez .271 .334 .391

Seems to me that Alex Gonzalez is not that much of an upgrade, if anything, the only real upgrade he brings is his range in the infield and eye candy for the Rooftop Report’s wife. If that’s all we’re looking forward to, wake me up when he gets here. I’m not going to be waiting up for him to get back.

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Picking Apart Rick Morrissey

Tuesday, July 6th, 2004

Usually, I agree with Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune, but for once, I am going to agree to disagree with the man. As the Cubs beat the Sox in a rain shortened 6 inning game on Saturday, Greg Maddux came out to pitch after 3 separate rain delays totalling 1 hour and 45 mins. I didn’t really think anything of it, but Morrissey did.

“Greg Maddux is a big boy, and if he says he’s OK to return to the mound after three rain delays that last a combined 1 hour 45 minutes, he probably is…..Against the White Sox on Saturday, Baker chose to bring Maddux back into the game after a third rain delay. You had the distinct feeling that if there had been a flood advisory, Baker would have handed Maddux a canoe paddle. It’s not for a player to say he’s able to pitch again after a weather delay. It’s for a manager to take that decision away from a pitcher.”

While I agree with the fact that it is indeed the manager’s decision, Dusty is not the kind of guy that is going to be a tyrant. One of the reasons players like to play for him is because he maintains an open line of communication with his players. He consults them on what is going well, and where they are struggling to get their opinions. When he consulted Maddux, Greg said he was fine. How do you tell Greg Maddux that he’s done for the day? This is one of the smartest men to ever pitch, he knows his body and what he is capable of. If you remember, he took himself out of a game earlier in the year, and when asked about it in the press conference, he said that he felt he was done.

“When Maddux walked onto the field for the sixth inning Saturday, the risk-reward ratio seemed skewed toward some risky business. The Cubs were leading 4-0. If somebody is at risk of hurting his arm at that point, I’d prefer for it to be middle reliever Mike Wuertz.”

I don’t know about you, but if I were Wuertz, I’d be pretty pissed if someone said they would rather I got hurt than Maddux. Why even make a statement like this, let alone name an actual player? Not too smart there Rick.

Dusty Baker said it best when asked about his decision.

“When you have a player out there who’s truthful and honest with you, you’ve got to listen to him. I’ve known Greg three months. Greg has known Greg 38 years. If it had been a younger, lesser player, I would have taken that decision away from him. But when it comes to Greg Maddux, you have to give this guy some props.”

Baker isn’t stupid when it comes to dealing with pitchers, no matter how much everyone wants to believe he is. If he were, he wouldn’t have the reputation he has with players, coaches, and owners. He’s one of the best, and people in baseball know it.

In the end, I want to re-state my complete confidence and trust in the way Dusty handles this team. He does it better than any of us ever could. Don’t agree? Let me know when you’re in the bigs and I will apologize.

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Baseball Fetish

Monday, July 5th, 2004

We live in a world that is filled with sex. Everywhere you look, there is sex. Don’t believe me? Just check out The Uncouth Sloth for proof. One of the most popular aspects of sex in todays society is pornography. People love watching other people “do it”. I guess for the stars of the show, it makes them feel like they are the best in the world, even though they look like normal people. For the audience, there is just something that intrigues them. The same goes for baseball. There is nothing that makes a team feel more envigorated than winning a game on national TV, especially if that game is the final game of a sweep over your cross town rival. The Cubs gave the world a chance to watch them “do it”, and boy was it exciting. I would take a game like that over porno anyday.

I was only able to watch one game of this series, due to the TV schedule, but I enjoyed the series nonetheless. I don’t know what it is about Sox fans that bugs me so much, but beating them always makes me happy. I was proud of our guys for playing a good game today. With Aramis Ramirez out, and Glendon Rusch on the mound, I was a little nervous. Going into the 8th, I told my wife that we really needed to get another run, because 1 is just making me too nervous. When we brought in Hawkins in the 9th, I was worried. I really do not like him as our closer. I would like to see someone else do the job. Hawkins was money in the setup role so we should keep him there. No matter what, a win is a win, and we are now ready to face the Brewers. Sweeps are beautiful things, especially when everyone is watching. Ever “do it” in front of people? The Cubs sure have!!!

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