Archive for August, 2004

UGH

Sunday, August 22nd, 2004

Last night’s loss was like a swift shot to the stomach that knocks the wind out of you. Hopefully that only applies to fans, because this team can’t afford to play like that again today. Kerry Wood has to step up today. We need 8 innings from him, and a big enough lead that we don’t have to see Latroy trot in.

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Copycat

Saturday, August 21st, 2004

No, I’m not just copying Joe, but it is important to me to share with everyone that this past Wednesday, August 18th, was the second anniversary of the blessed union of my wife and me. We were off in Niagara Falls, Ontario while the Cubs were blundering their way to a 13.5 game division deficit and a half-game deficit in the wild card.

Upon my return this evening I caught up with Joe’s work on this blog. I both agree and disagree about Sammy. Mostly I agree. Regardless of what a wind machine Sammy is, he’s still got an .893 OPS, which ranks a reasonable sixth among MLB rightfielders. But though it hasn’t yet been effectively measured in a statistic, some of the impact of that solid number is softened by the fact that he has, as Joe pointed out, not advanced a single runner all year, not gone to right field regularly, and drawn just 42 bases on balls. When he was “SAMMY,” he was doing at least the last two of those things. Now he’s just “sammy,” but he’s pulling in about 20% of the team’s salary (un-researched number; swallow with a grain of salt).

*Nomar: .935 OPS for us. He’s all I expected so far.

*Put Grudz on waivers now and let the Sox or Yanks swallow the rest of his salary for the rest of the year. Never again will he hit two homers in a fortnight, much less a single game.

*Derrek Lee has drawn 42 walks this year. What kind of crap is Gary Matthews whispering into his ear? Apart from that he’s had an awesome year, but not for the reason I expected.

*Cubs hit six homers and score nine runs. Raise your hand if you think playoff teams go to the series by feasting on pitchers’ off nights.

*Aramis Ramirez is just 26 years old. Hot diggety dog!

*Barrett’s magical stagecoach is rapidly turning back into a pumpkin.

*Who’s leading the Cubs in wins this year? Six inning, fifth starter Greg Maddux, that’s who.

*No one pitcher is the key to the Cubs making the playoffs. Cubs hitters starting to see a few pitches against tough pitchers is.

*It’s nice to talk about whether the Cubs will make the playoffs instead of whether the Cubs will reach the seventy win plateau.

But enough about the Cubs. What I really want to talk about is my anniversary. To that end, here are the items of note:

*Niagara Falls is REALLY cool; definitely worth seeing. The falls have about a 36 hour appeal, then it’s just a whole bunch of water hurrying to fall into some other water.

*I love my wife. Also, she’s hot. I think. I don’t really know–I’m a rather subjective judge. I’m certainly not going to post a picture and leave it up to a random collection of internet-ready geeks like yourselves. So get your hands out of your pants.

*I’m a big dork who misses his stupid dogs every time he leaves the house.

*If the rest of my marriage is as easy as the first two years, we should stay happily married until we’re rotting corpses. Which means that either we’re in love or that we’re interested in the “murder-suicide” scene.

The Cubs have a rough road ahead, but they have enough talent. If Magic Dusty Baker is what his reputation leads us to believe, he’ll have them rising to the crop of the second place crowd. If it’s all been a bunch of David Copperfield crap, Moisty Alou and the gang will be watching the playoffs with tears in their eyes and urine on their fingertips.

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Highway Robbery

Thursday, August 19th, 2004

In case you did not read the post, Scott over at the Northside Lounge had his house broken into the other day. It’s a horrible thing to be robbed. If you’ve never experienced it, you don’t fully understand what it fully feels like. You feel horrible, and used. It’s awful!!!!

If you’re a Cub fan, you have been robbed constantly this year. If you are the Chicago Tribune, you have been robbed constantly this year. If you are the city of Chicago, you have been robbed constantly this year. Who is this masked robber I speak of? None other than Dominican Republic’s favorite son, Sammy Sosa. This guy has become a joke. He does nothing at all to earn his paycheck. The hardest he works in when he runs out to right field each game to gain the praise of clueless morons who think he’s God. If you have sat in right field this year and cheered him on, you are no longer allowed to be a Cub fan, because you a clueless. Last night Sammy did nothing to help this team get a win. Not one thing!!!! I am so sick of his strike outs, violent hacks, and horrible fielding. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen the same play over and over this year. There is a hit down the right field line with someone on base. Sammy runs over to pick it up and drops it anywhere from 1-3 times. As a result, the runner takes 2nd or even third. Is it just me or have you noticed this play as well? How freaking hard is it to pick up a baseball? Even my middle school players last year didn’t have this trouble, and they played for free.

I’m tired of being robbed. I’m tired of Sammy Sosa making the game far less enjoyable for me than it could me. I’m tired of him wasting the Trib’s money. I’m tired of him being praised as an All Star. I’m tired of him hitting his chest like a monkey. It’s old already. Get it out of your system, because there is a RF on the south side who will be replacing you shortly. I read somewhere recently that Sammy won’t retire until he reaches Hammerin Hank’s mark. If he is in a Cub uniform when he does it, I swear to God, I won’t watch the whole season.

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Someone please help me

Wednesday, August 18th, 2004

If you’ve ever had some sort of bug, whether it’s the flu, a cold, or something worse like mono, you know that it is a very hard thing to shake. You can try everything. Sudafed, NyQuil, orange juice, and rest. Nothing seems to work. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t get past the bug. That is the way this season has gone for the Cubs as well. Coming into this season, we had nothing but a healthy feeling about the future. However, as soon as spring training started, the bug hit. Whether it was the injury bug, the hitting slup bug, or the bad bullpen bug (which seems to strike the Cubs every year), the Cubs just couldn’t shake it. They have tried the Magic dust provided by Dusty Baker, but nothing is working. They just can’t seem to get healthy in all aspects of the game.

I also suffer from a bug, and have been for as long as I can remember. It’s the awful, dreaded, “Eternal Cub Optimist” bug. This, unfortunately is a bug that afflicts millions. It causes a blurred or distorted vision. As a result, I see hope when there really shouldn’t be. I see the Cubgs glass as half full when it should be half empty. In fact, there are even times when I see the glass as full when it is in fact bone dry. It’s really a horrible afflition. Everything in me wants to see the team this year for what it is….Underachievers. Unfortunately, even after last nights loss, all I can think of is how we can win tonight and get on a roll to the playoffs. This team has issues, I know that, but for some reason, I can’t come to grips with that and quit watching.

Maybe some day I’ll get better. Until then, lets get em tonight. (the words of a complete optimist)

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A Question To All Cub Fans

Monday, August 16th, 2004

As I sat in my living room, frustrated after another game that seemed to get out of hand way too quickly, I began to think about something. A question stuck with me all day that I really do not think I know the answer to. I’d like to see the Cub fans weigh in on this question so I will argue both points of view to present an unbiased opinion on both, because I am, as I said before, on the fence regarding this question. Given the current state of this team, I propose the following inquiry of all Cub fans. Please leave a comment and fill it all up with your arguments for the answer you choose.

Question: Which of the following would you prefer for this year’s Cub Team?

  1. Make the playoffs via the Wild Card and hopelessly get beat in the first round.
  2. Make the playoffs via the Wild Card and get swept by the Cardinals in the NLCS.
  3. Fall just short of the Wild Card in the final days of the regular season.
  4. Fall way out of the Race by September. 1st

There are no good answers to this question, but all of them are certainly possible based on what the Cubs decide to do in these next few weeks against sub .500 teams. They can rise to the occasion, put some kind of a healthy winning streak together and take this playoff birth by the balls or they can put their tail between their legs and limp pathetically to the finish line.

Here are my arguments for each of the answers. You choose the one you think should happen this year, since it doesn’t seem that a World Series is in the future this year.

Answer 1: This would at least give us the ability to break that horrible tradition of failing miserably the year after making the playoffs. We did it in ’84, 89, and ’98. By making the playoffs, it also helps our case to Nomar that we can and should win the World Series. If we miss the playoffs, I don’t know that he’ll want to re-sign with the team, despite the constant smile on his face since arriving.

Answer 2: This could be good because at least we would feel like we didn’t take a step backward from last year. We would get to the same spot in the playoffs, and could blame it on the horrible injury bug that plagued this team all year. We would have played above what was expected of a team with that plague. It would hurt to get beat again in the NLCS, but it would again give us the sense of being so close.

Answer 3: This could be good because it would be a wake up call to this team. We have guys on the team who are not carrying their weight for this team (i.e. Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou) and should be removed ASAP. It would let Hendry know not to ever get so comfortable that he doesn’t evaluate every player on this team no matter what their contract or hall of fame future is. It would also keep us into baseball for the whole season.

Answer 4: This could be good because at least we know what this team is going to do. If you’re not going to make the playoffs, quit teasing us. It would also give us more time to watch the Olympics, which would be nice.

I’m not sure which I would prefer, but I don’t think we’ll have to wait too much longer to find out what the answer is. Hopefully I’ll be wrong and the Cubs will just wake up and go nuts like last year down the stretch. If not, we’ll see what answer was right. Please, if you read this, leave a comment about which answer you would like to see if World Series isn’t an option and why.

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Now don’t get too excited

Sunday, August 15th, 2004

Before we cheer and raise our hands to the heavens because we beat a good team, lets see what the Cubs do today and the rest of the series. If it goes well, then I will comment. I have to admit though. Kerry Wood played a heck of a game.

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Agony of August 12th

Friday, August 13th, 2004



I have been cursed not only with being a Chicago Cubs fan since before I was able to think for myself, but with having the birthdate of August 12th. Today was my 33rd birthday. Seeing the Cubs lose the 2nd straight series, this one to the wildcard runner up, may seem like a sucky birthday, but it’s pretty low on my list.

For starters, Today was Matt Clement’s 30th birthday. He left the game up 2-0 and got another no-decision. My birthday wasn’t that bad.



Worse birthdays for me:

3rd worst: In 1977, my 6th birthday, my mom (then known as “mommy”) told me that, having already completed kindergarten, I would have to go BACK to school, and this time for an ENTIRE day.

2nd worst: in 1999, my 29th birthday, I was playing for a co-rec team and a men’s team during a post-season softball tournament. Both were winning, so I ended up getting just one hour off in the first ten hours of a tournament in Texas. It was 105 degrees with 70 percent humidity. At 6:30 p.m. I dehydrated and had to go to the hospital to get an IV drip. That pretty much sucked. But it ain’t the worst birthday of all time.

Worst: In 1994 I turned 23. 23 is a big number for me; it’s my favorite number and the number of my boyhood hero, Ryne Sandberg. It also happens to be the age that I turned 23 at 1:17 a.m., exactly 1 hour and 17 minutes AFTER the baseball strike of 1994 started. It was the strike that resulted in the cancellation of the first world series since 1904, when neither my father NOR my grandfather were even born yet. It was also the day my girlfriend broke up with me. It turned out to be the first of seven breakups we would have, but it was the first time I was broken up with, so it generated a solid emotional scar. Finally, I can’t prove it, but it was also the day that Elvis Presley, who had faked his death and was living on Fiji, had a fistfight with Jimmy Hoffa and broke his pelvic bone in a nasty fall. That eventually led to his real death in 1997.

So my birthday has always been a hell of a day. So the Cubs blowing a VERY winnable game in a season which they need every possible win (especially against other wildcard contenders) is only a normal-level dose of birthday sorrow.

To those of you with a birthday in August, whoop-de-frickin-doo. Congratulations and I hope you live to see another miserable year. For me, I have 364 days to hope for something good to happen until my next guaranteed crappy day.

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Warm Fuzzies

Wednesday, August 11th, 2004



This game has filled me with happiness. Zambrano’s dominance is important; he’s been pretty consistent this year, and I believe that he, not Prior or Wood or Maddux or Clement, is the foundation of this pitching staff this year. So seeing him go out and dominate in a game in which the last hope of the Cubs, the wild card leadership, was on the line, was a big deal.

It was also nice to see a Cub — any Cub — hit a homer with someone on base.

The Cubs are 62-51. Nine games over .500. You can blame it on injuries all you like, but they have 49 games left in the season. If they win 28 of those games they’ve got ninety wins, which means they ain’t controlling their destiny. Even two games up in the wild card, they’re going to have to make a strong stretch run to end up on top of the wild card, and with 2 of the last 4 world series champions entering the playoffs as wild cards, that’s all that matters.

On a day when Garciaparra goes 0-4 it’s nice to see the rest of the team — the guys that put up a post-Nomar 57-49 record — put the game on their shoulders and win it. I think we’re in good shape.

UPDATE: It was pointed out to me that 62 minus 51 is eleven. So the Cubs are eleven games over .500, not nine as I stated before. I’m in college to be an elementary school teacher, so soon I’ll have a whole classroom of eight year-olds who can hopefully teach me how to do simple math.

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It’s not WHEN, it’s WHOM

Tuesday, August 10th, 2004



There have been some pretty definitive statistical studies that show that your lineup doesn’t appreciably affect your runs scored per game no matter how you fill it out, given that you’re using the same names to fill it and they put out the exact same production. On a day-to-day basis it matters a lot; I’ll bet every one of us can think of three or four examples this year in which the lineup made the difference. But over the course of a year the random element built in to baseball (played out by things like texas leaguers going for doubles and frozen ropes caught by an outfielder without moving an inch) evens it out. Over 162 games, the lineup could possibly get the club three extra wins. So it matters, but not nearly as much as it would seem it does.

Here are some sources to back up that statement:

“All the time managers put into masterminding a winning lineup is so much thumb twiddling, and they are hereby granted an additional hour’s sleep a night.”

“The most influence a manager can have is not in determining whether to bat a player second or sixth, but rather in deciding whether to play him at all.”

Does being protected by a certain hitter matter? Those who say that it does are are scouts, players, and former players (including managers); not objective sources, but people whose personal experiences give them that idea. Statistically, it doesn’t seem to:

“The evidence thus suggests that protection doesn’t matter at the major-league level; it doesn’t help to bat in front of a big-name hitter.”

So, from a practical standpoint, what difference does the lineup make? Why does it matter?

1) It increases plate appearances (by about 18 per place in the lineup; the #3 hitter, in other words, would get 36 more plate appearances than the #5 hitter). Over 162 games, the difference between Derrek Lee hitting 6 or 3 is about 50 at-bats of Sammy or Alou that could go to a hitter who’s putting up an OBP of .375 instead of .335 or .345. Not a big deal.

2) It guarantees that the leadoff man will lead off once and the 2 & 3 hitters hit immediately behind him in the first inning. This is an obvious statement, but it is the only time in the game that you KNOW certain spots in the lineup will hit. After that, the leadoff hitter may never hit leadoff again, the #4 hitter may not see bases loaded the whole game, and so on. So it’s worth mentioning.

3) It psychologically affects the players in the lineup. To misquote Crash Davis, “if you think you’re winning because you’re getting laid, then you are.” Baseball players are a superstitious lot. Ryne Sandberg hated hitting in the 3 spot but loved hitting second, so even though Grace would have been a perfect #2 hitter, he hit third for many years. If you need to teach a guy to take a pitch and he thinks he needs to be more patient in the 1 or 2 hole, then it might do him good to hit there.

4) It breaks up the righties and lefties, which does affect how the opposing manager uses his bullpen.



So the real reasons are #3 and #4.

The only thing I’d like to see given #4 is Walker playing every day.

As for #3, Dusty knows what he’s doing much more than I do, and even if he doesn’t, it doesn’t seem to matter much.

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