Archive for October, 2004

Guess Who’s Back, Back Again

Thursday, October 14th, 2004

It’s been awhile since I have had the desire to post something new on the site. I apologize for that, but I think all writers in the Cubs blog army will tell you that when the season is over, it gets extremly difficult to be positive and write. The team was nothing but a disappointment to me, so I would like to take the time to talk about the current state of affairs of the ALCS. To be honest, all four of the remaining playoff teams disgust me, but none more than the Yankees and Red Sox. Now I know a lot of Cub fans would love to see the Red Sox win it all so their curse would finally be broken. Me? No way!!! The Boston Red Sox are and always have been my least favorite team in all of baseball. I can’t stand the team, the players, the media, or the fans. All they do is whine. Have you ever noticed this?

The Media – When the Cubs got Nomar, all the talk in the Boston media was how bad of a person Nomar was. How he was a team cancer and a liar. Nomar goes to the Cubs and immediatly has a smile on his face. I watched some Red Sox games before the trade, and never did I see a smile on Nomar’s face. The fact of the matter is, Nomar was unhappy in Boston this past year and wanted out. He was hurt by the way the organization treated him. So, rather than paint the beloved Sox out to be bad guys, the Media decides to trash Nomar till the bitter end. Show some class guys. Ever think about the fact that it wasn’t all Nomar’s fault?

The Fans – These are the people who annoy me the most. They strut around like the Red Sox are the best team in the world. They feel like the world should be given to them and their organization. When it doesn’t happen, never once is it “We messed up”. Instead, all you hear out of their mouths is “We’re cursed!!!!” Personally, and I know I am in the minority on this one, but I think the curse is a bunch of crap. The fact of the matter is, the Boston Red Sox are nothing more than Choke Artists!!!! Buckner? Choke!!! Dent? Choke!!!! Boone? Choke!!!!

I know what you’re thinking, the Cubs always say their cursed too. Yes, they do. And you know what? They are nothing more than, listen carefully, CHOKE ARTISTS too. Durham? Choke!!! 1969? Choke!!! 2003? Choke!!!! 2004? Choke!!!! I am in no way saying that the Red Sox are bigger choke artists than the Cubs. They both suck when it comes time to get it done. What bothers me about the Sox fans is how irritable they get. I was talking to a Red Sox blogger, who will remain nameless out of courtesy, and I asked him before game 2 started if he considered the game a must win. I was not trying to rub the loss of game 1 in, I simply was trying to gauge his feelings on the importance of the game. What was his response to my question? “Just let me watch the damn game man. If they win, they win. If they lose, they lose, and there is not a damn thing I can do about it.” Sounds a little uncalled for but maybe that’s just me. I wish Red Sox fans were just a little less uptight.

So now the Hated Red Sox are down 2-0. Shilling is most likely out for the year, and the Yankees are still Pedro’s daddy. What a wonderful series this has been so far. I can’t believe I am about to say it, but GO YANKEES!!!

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

MASTER deBATERS

Friday, October 8th, 2004

Instead of watching a bunch of teams who didn’t have red Cs on a blue background compete in the playoffs, I watched two self-interested multi-millionares compete for the presidency. Though my vote was decided coming in, and will for the first time go toward a candidate representing one of the two major parties, I must say I found these debates absolutely riveting. The greatest drawback was that it was held in front of a bunch of people who were probably St. Louis Cardinals fans. The rest I found pretty cool to watch.
I kept a tally on a notepad so that, when all was said (and nothing done), I could reflect. Here are the results:

QUESTION QUALITY:
This falls largely upon Charles Gibson, from whom I expected the questions to be as soft and straight as a Joe Borowski fastball.
CRAP: 7
MEDIOCRE: 5
GOOD: 5

I thought the question about the Patriot Act was the best question of the night. The question directed to W about the 3 decisions he “regretted” (paraphrasing) was good, and the last question of the night threw both politicians off guard. There were a great many slow-pitch softball questions, but all in all Gibby did better than expected.

POINTS SCORED:
This result will give away the politician for whom I am voting. I scored it as:
George W. Bush: 2
John Kerry: 6
Kerry had one salient comment that I think should sway more people than it will, and I paraphrase, about abortion:
“I have my opinions about it, but I don’t want to turn my personal feelings into legislation.”
That says it all, to me. The job of all branches of the government is to uphold the constitution and (open to interpretation) keep it up-to-date. Nowhere in the constitution is there anything about marriage, application of science, or whether a person should abort an almost fully developed child from her womb (to make the most extreme case).
Let it also be said that the statement was contradicted every time he said he wanted to put tax money or legislation in favor of or against any other issue, but it’s enough for me for the idea to be acknowledged these days.
There were fewer moments where the camera caught Bush looking like an irritated observer, but that’s the way it ought to be. I don’t claim to be immune to it, but we as voters make FAR TOO MANY decisions based on how a candidate appears to us, rather than what he represents or stands for.

GRAMMATICAL FOLLIES:
I expected W to run away with this one, and it’s unfair to compare the two given their styles. All the same, as a grammar nerd, I couldn’t help but take note. My standards were lowered because they were speaking rehearsed answers at the spur of the moment; a written debate would have been graded much more harshly.
BUSH: 7
KERRY: 2
Not bad. Republicans have to be breathing a sigh of relief that Bush’s grasp of the English language sounded better than usual.

JOKES:
Again, a stylistic difference between the two, but the number of jokes is usually inversely proportional to the substantiveness of the answers, in my opinion.
BUSH: 8
KERRY: 2
I’m as shocked that Kerry managed to get two jokes in as I am that Bush only told 8. I tallied this only because it was interesting, not because it has any actual merit.

USES OF CATCH PHRASES:
I counted the following as catch phrases:
“Wrong War, Wrong Place, Wrong Time” (Bush): a Kerry quote that he’s been using throughout the campaign.
“Win the Peace” (Kerry): A phrase he invokes to imply that Bush can wage war, but not win peace.
BUSH: 2
KERRY: 2
A surprisingly low number. Good job to both politicians. I say politicians and not candidates, because I feel that there should be more than two options presented to the American people in debates. Your tax dollars go toward funding any party which receives more than five percent of the votes; in other words, the two major parties. All others are left to struggle from the grass roots level.

All in all, my scoring system supported the decision I made coming into the debate: Kerry will get my vote. That’s probably the case for 90 percent of voters; humans tend to see only what they want to see. So I’m not saying that this sheds any scientific, or maybe even relevant, light on the debate. But it’s my opinion, and my opinion is the only one that counts.

I give credit to Charlie Gibson for not pitching questions like LaTroy Hawkins in a 3-2 tie and for the camera crew/producer for not making a single gratuitous shot of a minority in the audience.

Hurrah for the modern theater we call politics!

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Public Image 101

Thursday, October 7th, 2004

The Cubs players’ outbursts against the media, against umpires, and against other players in the 2004 season has been a continuing storyline filled with silly action that would make a Michael Bay movie seem slow-paced and well thought out.

Volumes could be written about this behavior, but I want to focus on the athletes wearing Cubbie blue this year and their relationship with the media. At this point in major media history, it is the job of a journalist to make public any flaws he or she discovers in an athlete. With that in mind, it becomes part of a player’s job not to speak with the media, but to handle them as a politician would.

That’s difficult. Imagine having to speak with members of the media whom you have known since you were twenty years old; people around whom you have begun to feel comfortable. They travel with you on the road. They see you after every game. Whatever you do for a living — work in an office, deal drugs out of your back seat, teach in a classroom, whatever — imagine having those people in your lives.
Now imagine you’ve had a tough day. You just walked out of a meeting where you were told that you had to fire two members of your staff for reasons you do not agree with. On top of that, one of your co-workers at the same level is going through a rough patch at home and he’s not pulling his weight. You’ve tried to help him out for about a month by sharing some of his workload, but it’s starting to get on your nerves. In the meeting, you just had to cover his butt again.
When you walk out the door of the office, bedraggled, hungry, and emotionally worn down, a reporter you’ve known for years and has treated you fairly starts asking you how it’s going at work. He talks with you at length; it gets conversational, and you start to open up a little.
He’s had a rough patch and has writer’s block. He has nothing to write about, so he makes public your lamentations.
That’d piss you off, so maybe you spout off the next time you see him. He, in turn, starts griping to his reporter buddies. The other guys start researching, and publishing, his complaints about you. Now, because of one bad day, three different stories about you being a jerk at work are in three different papers.

It’s that quick and easy to mess up your public image. Is that what happened to the Cubs players this year? I doubt it. They’ve thrown out more conspiracies than Oliver Stone. But you can see how easy an acrimonious relationship between a player and reporter could begin. I want to take it easy on these Cubs. Sosa, Mercker, Alou, Dusty Baker, and others have all sniped with reporters or announcers, and none of it is excusable, but apart from the ridiculous attacks on Steve Stone, most of it could be conceivably arrived at by the imaginary scenario I outlined above.

THAT BEING SAID:
There is a simple formula to using the media to your advantage:
1) guard your words when a reporter is present
2) keep problems inside the clubhouse
3) speak ill of someone only if you want to send a message.
That’s it. That’s all you have to do.
Speaking to a reporter is like having a Public Address system on whenever you’re in public. If the Cubs had kept that in mind, they wouldn’t have made public the following follies:
1) “Umpires are squeezing our team or are out to get me individually”
2) “Our announcers are making us look bad”
3) “My manager doesn’t support me”

All that’s just in the last month. All year, Cubs have been shooting their mouths off to the media. Imagine every reporter as a PA system and you will not talk yourself into trouble.

There are times when the media can be used to help; times when a team leader or the manager wants to tear into a player if he knows it will motivate that player. Or when he wants to attempt to get into an opponent’s head. Same thing: if you see the media as a PA system, you get your message out.

REPORTERS ARE NOT THERE TO BE DRINKING BUDDIES. Or therapists. Or vigilantes out to pursue justice. They will not turn off the mic if they know you’re just frustrated after a bad game. Many different Cubs players, and their manager as well, have gone boo-hooing to the media. I do not know what they were expecting to happen, but it couldn’t be what actually did happen: they alienated the media and many of their fans.

It takes discipline to change one’s perspective like this, but most Cubs players would benefit from seeing members of the media as public address systems, capable only of carrying a message.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Sosa Sosa, Everywhere Sosa

Wednesday, October 6th, 2004

With the season over, you would think that Sammy Sosa was the MVP of the league due to the amount of newspaper coverage he has gotten over the last few days. I was browsing around today to see what I could find about the rumors surrounding the possible trade. Here is what I found, so enjoy:

This is going to be an interesting off season. Last year we all held our breath as Sammy decided if he was going to opt out of his deal. This year we hold our breath to see if our hero, Jim Hendry, can opt us out of the deal.

Side Note

NOTE: Broadcast reports in San Francisco have Sonny Jackson possibly replacing Wendell Kim as third-base coach for the Cubs, with Kim shifting to first. First-base coach Gene Clines reportedly would replace Gary Matthews as hitting coach. General manager Jim Hendry said he and manager Dusty Baker would meet this weekend to discuss the coaching staff.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Writers Picks for 2004 Playoffs Rd 1

Monday, October 4th, 2004

Well, the post season is upon us and unfortunately the staff here will all be pulling for someone other than the Cubs this year. So, here are our staff picks for round 1.

Joe

Andy

Dave

Anthony

vs.
vs.
vs.
vs.

Just for the record, here are the writers picks for World Series Winner

Joe – Anaheim Angels
Andy – Houston Astros
Dave – Houston Astros
Anthony – New York Yankees (Not the Astros like I accidently wrote before)

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

So Long Chippy

Sunday, October 3rd, 2004

Our days with Chip Caray have come to a close. In the final year of his contract, Carey was offered a small raise by WGN, and according to the Tribune, he was contemplating an offer from the Atlanta Braves.

Caray, the Cubs’ television play-by-play voice since 1998, is weighing an offer to join the Atlanta Braves next year, according to team and broadcast sources. Caray is in the final year of his contract with the Cubs and WGN-Ch. 9. Caray has been offered a new contract to stay with the Cubs, but it was said to include only a nominal raise over his estimated salary of $400,000 per year….Asked about his contract situation earlier this year, Caray expressed a strong desire to stay in Chicago, saying he wanted another 30 years in the Cubs’ broadcast booth. As it stands now, Sunday could be his final day.

At the end of the broadcast today, Carey and stone said their goodbyes. Chip signed off by saying that for the last time in a WGN, he was signing off. I wish him all the best. Now the search for a new broadcaster begins. If it were me, I would make Pat and Ron my TV guys.

Update: 6:30pm Read the story from the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Chip Caray is gone.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

All I can see from the bleachers is smoke

Saturday, October 2nd, 2004

Hello all. It’s been a looooong time since I’ve been able to write. During my time of absence the Cubs got their pulse back, then lost it. The only thing saving my sanity at this point is that I was so busy with work and school that I was only able to check the box scores. I couldn’t afford to spend a lot of time thinking about the Cubs. I’m taking a lot of classes this semester and, as a man of limited intellect, I’m in a little over my head. I have a Spanish teacher, a small Peruvian gentleman with the grandiose name “Maximiliano,” who assigns two to four hours of homework per class session. I was not counting on that, and the 3rd person indicative preterit tense in Spanish has swallowed up the time I would, if left to my own devices, have spent agonizing over the tragic end of the 2004 season.
So thank you, Maximiliano, you mountain-bred generalissimo, for saving me.


With the collective body of the ’04 Cubs in the coffin and the Braves acting as undertakers, let’s head to the funeral and say nice things about the dearly departed. In a couple of days we can get back together with some booze and complain about all the things the deceased did to us. But for now, out of respect for the dead, let’s celebrate the team’s strengths.

1) Back-to-back winning seasons
For the first time since I was zero and one years old, respectively, the Cubs had back-to-back winning seasons. From ’67 to ’72 they had a run of six straight 81+-win seasons.

2) Team home run record

Despite the inconsistent play of the Cubs’ most prolific home run hitter, Mr. Samuel Peralta Sosa, the Cubs had power at every position and were able to break the team homer record. No matter what the results of the season, that’s worth commenting on.

3) Confirmation of Aramis Ramirez as the Real Thing. Let’s hope they re-sign him. He was a fairly consistent source of offensive output for the Cubs this year and down the stretch last year. He’s still just 26 and entering his prime. Pay up, Cubs. This guy should be allowed to stick around for the next 5 years.

4) Clear evidence of progress from Corey Patterson
A late-season 4-for-38, 13 K slump and a few ugly stretches during the season were the downsides of Patterson’s first bonafide major-league level full season. I was afraid that he’d be Oddibe McDowell at his worst and Devon White at his best. He’s already Devon White. He has nowhere to go but up, and has actually shown himself to be capable of learning. As he hits his prime we’ll see more good days and fewer bad days. My vendetta against Corey is officially over. Welcome to the “Good Cub” side, Mr. Patterson.

5) The Nostalgia Tour ’04
The return of Greg Maddux, a spiritually healing event, also provided a steady, efficient starting pitcher. In a year when Wood and Prior were hurt, Zambrano was suspended a few times, and Clement lost his effectiveness, Maddux’s second half was huge. He did about as good as I expected, but the context of his season increased the value of his numbers; Maddux and Zambrano became the guys in the second half that made you feel relaxed when they were on the mound. Good to have you back, Greg.

6) Z
Zambrano was the Cubs’ best pitcher. It appears that Prior is returning to form, so the ’05 starting rotation looks like a strength. Zambrano is one of the league’s top five pitchers right now. He’s a goofball, but he’s a competitor who wants to be great and is willing to do what it takes to be great.

7) A catcher who can hit for the first time since…I don’t know, Rick Wilkins?
I tried to dismiss him as a stinker, but he made a believer out of me. Let’s hope his career path doesn’t follow Rick Wilkins.

8) Return of form to Mark Prior
Mark Prior had maybe 4 very good-to-great starts this year compared to about 20-25 last year. That’s the difference in the standings. The good thing is that 2 of his last three starts were great and the other one featured 5 unearned runs. So he finally looks recovered, and his final numbers looked okay as a result.

9) Pulling the plug on Rey Ordonez
The Ordonez experiment could have dragged on much longer. I guess this is the part of the funeral when the guy at the podium starts looking around uncomfortably, knowing he should have more nice things to say about his dead friend. So I guess I’ll just wave meekly, sit down, and pretend the organ music I hear is accompanying John Cusack singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch of game 3 of the World Series instead of a funeral dirge.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

The Professional

Friday, October 1st, 2004

Of all the color announcers that broadcast this great game of baseball, I firmly believe that Steve Stone is the best there is. His baseball intellect is one of the sharpest in the game and he consistently makes brilliant, insightful comments throughout every Cubs game in which he sits in the booth.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard that many in the Cubs front office are upset about Stone’s recent criticism of the team. Here’s a sampling of Stone’s remarks:

“You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth. Let me tell you something, guys, the truth of this situation is [this is] an extremely talented bunch of guys who want to look at all directions except where they should really look, and kind of make excuses for what happened.”

“At the end of the day, boys, you don’t tell me how rough the water is, you bring in the ship. The best eight [teams] go on, the other teams go home. This team should have won the Wild Card [playoff berth] by six, seven games. No doubt about it. They have the talent to do that. They’re life-and-death right now.”

That’s pretty darn harsh. Both Dustry Baker and Jim Hendry have gone on record as calling these remarks outright personal attacks. There are three points I’d like to address.

For one, Stone’s remarks are one hundred percent spot-on. As much as it pains me to say it, this is perhaps the most underachieving team in the league. After all the trade winds subsided this winter, Cubs fans and media outlets everywhere looked at this Cubs roster and saw the best starting pitching staff in baseball and a potentially dominant offensive lineup. That they didn’t run away with the Central Division was certainly disappointing, but that they didn’t just waltz into the playoffs was just plain shocking. Sure, they’ve had their share of injuries, but there’s been little difference in the performance of this team when they’ve been shorthanded and when they’ve been healthy.

Second, these comments are not personal attacks, any way you slice it. Sure, they are directed at people, but a criticism of the performance of a sports team and its staff by a sports broadcaster is about as professional as it gets. It may be unfavorable to the individuals on the receiving end, and they may take offense to it, but there’s nothing personal about it. It’s like a hard slide into second base to break up a double play; you don’t necessarily have anything against the shortstop, but you’re going to make it as hard as possible for him to throw out the guy at first because that’s what it takes to be a good ballplayer. As a broadcaster, you may have nothing against the individuals on the team, but you can’t sugarcoat or ignore their poor performance — that’s what it takes to be a good broadcaster.

And finally, to publically complain about Stone’s comments only proves his point – this team complains to no end. The job of the Cubs players and staff is to play and make decisions about the game. If they find some merit in what a member of the media has to say, they should take it to heart and try to fix it. If they disagree with them, they should shrug it off. It’s that simple. No complaining, no excuses, just play the game.

Update 10/2/04 5:45 PM: If you’re interested in hearing the whole Steve Stone interview, WGN Radio has added that segment to their audio archives. Listen to it here.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us: