Archive for December, 2004

Always makes me chuckle

Friday, December 31st, 2004

One of the things that I always enjoy is seeing everyone complain about George Steinbrenner. I love how upset fans get, especially Red Sox fans. As many of you know, the Yankees are NOT my least favorite team in baseball. That distinction belongs to the Boston Red Sox. That’s not to say that I don’t hate seeing the Yankees win, cause believe me, I do. What I do love about the Yankees though, and what never makes me stop enjoying the offseason is their proclivity to spend with reckless abandon every year. This year is no exception, with the Yanks in the hunt for names like Beltran, Delgado, Pavano, well, really every name on the market. Each year George enters the off season shopping like a kid with a blank check in a toy store. Each year, reeling from the previous seasons unforeseen failed attempt to capture the World Series, Steinbrenner enters the offseason with anger and pure determination to do whatever it takes. This win at all cost attitude always seems to lead to great expectations but not nearly the result he has in mind, a World Series every season.

Last night I noticed a piece on ESPN Page 2 that made me laugh. David Schoenfield talks about how the Yankee rosters will look through 2010, with names like Bonds, Prior, and Santana all donning the pinstripes. The funniest thing about the piece is the prediction for how far the Yankees would advance each year. After 2005, the Yanks will not make the playoffs through 2010, according the article. While I wouldn’t take the futility as far as Schoenfield, I do think the Yankee spending will lead to more letdown for good old George. All that spending does lead to a more important question about baseball. Is the Yankees spending bad for baseball?

Rick Morrissey of the Tribune seems to think so.

“We’re supposed to feel happy about a Johnson-to-New York deal because what’s good for the Yankees allegedly is good for baseball. And to a certain extent, it is. Some teams get their best crowds of the season when the Yankees come to town. But another pinstriped superstar doesn’t feel right, not at all.”

Personally, I think it IS good for baseball. The Yankees draw crowds everywhere they go. By doing that, it allows other players on small market teams get some national TV time, and in turn generates interest in baseball as a whole. If that’s what it takes, then spend away George, spend away. Until it gets to the point that the Yankees are literally winning every year, it is not a problem. Sure the small market teams are at a disadvantage, but with the revenue sharing plan in place, there is no excuse for a team not to be able to field a solid core of players and compete each and every year. This obviously takes creativity and wise decisions, but smart baseball people can get the job done. Until baseball becomes so grossly one sided that no one can win without spendings 200 million, I have no problem and will continue to enjoy the free spending George Steinbrenner. That is unless he REALLY DOES convince Prior to don the pinstripes.

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I’m finally doing it

Thursday, December 30th, 2004

In case you haven’t noticed, I have been completely silent on my opinion regarding the idea of signing Carlos Beltran this offseason. The main reason being that I really could not decide how I felt about signing him. Everyone around the Cubs blog army is pinning their 2005 hopes on this guy, but I’m not quite ready to do the same. I understand that when a superstar, young free agent comes along, that he can either really help you (Vlad) or his contract can really kill you (A-Rod). That being said, I’ve spent the offseason trying to decide my opinion on the whole matter. I’m finally doing it. I’m expressing my official position on the Carlos Beltran issue.

Lately all the talk is that the Cubs are out of the Beltran sweepstakes because they cannot trade Sammy Sosa. They won’t win the world series because they do not get Carlos Beltran. Personally, I think it’s a bunch of crap. Having the best players does not guarantee a World Series victory. You would think people would have learned that by now. Instead, people just write and write about how the Cubs need to trade Sosa and go strong and hard for Carlos Beltran. Unfortunately, all my time spent watching TV has taught me that there are two things in life that ain’t easy; pimpin’ & trading aging veterans with high salaries. Both are incredibly difficult. So, rather than waste our time trying to pursue a deal with the Mets, Orioles, etc, why not let Hendry do what he does best, fill the holes. He has already shown that he can do that with a great level of success. When we needed a CF & 3b for the playoffs, he went out and ripped off the Pirates, bringing us an eventual powerhouse third baseman. When we needed a Shortstop last year, he went out and got Nomar and Neifi Perez to back him up. Hendry knows exactly what he’s doing him and I trust him.

With that all being said, I would like to make known what I would do if I were making the decisions. Step one would be to call Scott Boras and tell him that the Cubs were no longer interested in Carlos Beltran. Now before you start going crazy, hear me out. Last year, the Astros had Carlos Beltran and even with his insane playoff performance, they still fell short. Beltran does not mean a World Series. Spending the money we have wisely is the best idea here. With that being said, I keep Sammy Sosa. Yes, you heard me correct, I keep Sammy Sosa. The reason being this. IF we were to actually find someone to take Sosa, it would basically just be to get rid of his attitude. We’d be getting junk back in return. No team is going to give us anything of real value for a RF that makes 18 million when they can just as easily fill their RF void with Carlos Beltran. It’s not happening. So, keep Sosa and take your chances with the fact that this year is a contract year for him. Sosa has made it clear that breaking Hank Aaron’s mark is important to him. With that being said, he’s going to want to be in a lineup that has protection. With that desire, it’s in his best interest to show that he not only still possesses a great deal of talent, but that he can also return to form as the media darling he once was back in ’98. That record and his reputation are important to Sammy. He’s a very selfish character and would not want to do something in a contract year to further tarnish that reputation, thus hurting his market value and chances of breaking Aaron’s record. Now, to fill the left field void, I contact Boras once more and let him know that I am interested in Magglio Ordonez. I sign him for a one year deal with incentives like he wants. Ordonez is a great player and a top notch character. To top it all off, his home is just a quick boat ride away from Sosa’s home in the Dominican Republic. These guys were practically neighbors. Check the map. Ordonez can be a good example for Sosa. Now, with Sosa and Ordonez both having things to prove in 2005, the OF has a tremendous upside. There is potential for 100 homeruns from the corner OF, while still preserving some wiggle room for Hendry to make a midseason upgrade if necessary.

I know there is going to be plenty of people that disagree with my thoughts on this idea, but I really want it to happen. I think it would be the best. Maxing out the bank for Beltran leaves us no wiggle room this trade deadline. I don’t like that idea.

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Best Cubs Blog of 2004

Wednesday, December 29th, 2004

Last year I ran a competition to see which Cub blog was the best. Being new to the whole blogging scene, my main goal was to generate enough talk and links to my site to get it off the ground and validate my sense of writing. It worked, and I was able to generate an increase in daily visits. Now, with a full year under my belt I want the competition to be purely about the other sites. I want to showcase some of the other writers out there, because there are a lot of good ones. As a result, I felt compelled to narrow this years list down to the top 8 blogs in my opinion. Voting will begin Jan. 1st with each IP address allowed to vote once every 24 hours. So, in the Chicago tradition, vote early and vote often. Polls close January 15th.

The Field

You may be wondering why a few big names are curiously absent. So, let me explain.

Cub Reporter – is not included due to its superior fan base.

Cubs Chronicle – very new and not really a blog so much as a news site.

Uncouth Sloth – Simply too much perverse and crude content. I respect his cub opinions and will link to him, but I simply can’t crown him best cubs blog. Sorry Rob

Big Red C – joined cub reporter.

Update: If you have arrived to this site via a link and this is the post you see, click the logo at the top of the page to go to the most recent content. You’ll be glad you did.

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I miss back when

Tuesday, December 28th, 2004

There is a song out these days by Tim McGraw that talks about life as it used to be. Personally, I do not consider myself a person old enough to really miss the way it used to be. Growing up with television all my life, and a computer and video games for most of my life, I am and always will be a kid growing up with technology. However, there is one major difference from the way I grew up compared to the kids of today. I grew up playing sports every day I possibly could. By sports, I do not mean Madden 2005 or NBA Live. While these games ARE fun, they are not really sports, though Madden tournaments try to argue otherwise. They are basically virtual reality. Kids spend all their time playing and bragging about their skills, that they forget that the skill they possess is simply pressing buttons better than their buddy.

Recently, I read an article by Rick Morrissey of the Tribune. As many of you know, Morrissey is my favorite writer. I enjoy him because he sees things clearly. He tells it how it is, especially about the Cubs, despite working for the owner of the team. Recently though, there was an article about his kids that really brought me back. Here is a snip:

My 11-year-old son and his friend were shooting baskets in the back yard. When one boy made a shot, the two of them would celebrate with high-fives or chest bumps. Then the other would mark something down on a sheet of paper. What’s harder: Writing while wearing gloves or shooting while wearing gloves? I didn’t know what vital information was being recorded, but I understood the rest of it: Here were two kids acting out last-second basketball heroics. And I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Now, before you report me to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services . . . well, go ahead and report me. The only excuse I have for not calling the boys inside is that I wanted to see if the next shot was going to fall.

That article made me think about when I was a kid, and the only thing that mattered was playing. We didn’t care about anything else beside playing sports everyday. Even by myself, all I did was invent ways to play my games by myself. I remember I had one year when all I did was shoot free throws in my driveway. I would hold a tournament, with the teams from the most recent NBA playoffs. I would shoot and if I made it, the home team won. If I missed, it went to the visitors. I would play for hours on end just shooting free throws to this make believe game. It was all I needed.

I miss those days when sports were fun. There was not nearly as much media hype and athletes were not nearly as arrogant and bigheaded. These days, it’s fun, but frustrating. I don’t watch sports with the same childlike innocence that I used to, especially now that I write about them consistently. When I watch Cubs games, I am taking notes or thinking of some way I can write about what I am seeing. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing and I love watching, but sometimes, even if for one game, I wish it was like it was back when I was a kid. I wish I could just watch and play without worrying if my team won or lost. Watch for the pure fun of watching and not have to look at arrogant athletes. Who knows, maybe I just need to install a basketball hoop in my driveway and resurrect that old free throw game for old times sake.

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A Tale Of Two Todds

Monday, December 27th, 2004

The Cubs re-signed Todd Hollandsworth to a one-year deal. The contract amount has yet to be disclosed, but many in Cubsland will be excited to see him back in a Cubs uniform next season. I personally thought that Todd’s absence during the second half of 2004 was a big reason the Cubs weren’t able to make the postseason, and many readers thought so as well. What just a few more clutch pinch hits in those one-run games might have meant…

An aside…when I read the Cubs press release, it stated the following:

Prior to going on the DL, he was the team’s most effective pinch hitter.

I misread it as:

Prior is going on the DL, he was the team’s most effective pinch hitter.

and almost choked on my chewing gum.

Both Todd Hollandsworth and Todd Walker were meant to be bench players in 2004, but they filled in as position players when Sosa and Grudzielanek spent time on the DL. I took a look at their splits and found how they performed in their various roles:

Hollandsworth:
Playing Outfield – .261 AVG / .333 OBP / .414 SLG (.747 OPS)
Designated Hitter .500 AVG / .538 OBP / 1.000 SLG (1.538 OPS!)
Pinch Hitter – .563 AVG / .611 OBP / 1.063 SLG (1.674 OPS!)

Walker:
Pinch Hitter – .194 AVG / .278 OBP / .194 SLG / (.472 OPS)
Second Baseman – .281 AVG / .359 OBP / .494 SLG / (.853 OPS)

It seems pretty clear from these numbers that Walker didn’t fit into the bench role too well (just 6 for 31) but thrived when he was the every day second baseman. On the flip side, Hollandsworth hit fairly respectably as a position player, but just creamed the ball when coming off the bench. While I wouldn’t be at all disappointed with having Hollandsworth be the starting left fielder or splitting time with Dubois, it seems obvious that he’s a much more valuable player when he doesn’t have to run the field.

UPDATE: It’s one year, $900,000. Cheaper than last year! I guess we get the Damaged Shinbone Discount.

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The color of sorrow is white

Monday, December 27th, 2004

It snowed here in Allentown, PA last night, and I am becoming acutely aware of how my mood is directly proportional to the temperature outside and the amount of rainfall. 90 degrees and no rain = Ernie Banks. 28 degrees and snow = Dave Kingman.

Today I’m Dave Kingman. A neighborhood kid is shoveling the walk and the driveway for ten bucks. My “job” at work today will be to find a cheap snowblower online, so internal combustion can do the work for me. Science needs to get its collective butt in gear and start making us some affordable robots so my robot can go out and run the snowblower for me. Then maybe my mood won’t be ruined.

Bulls lost, Bears lost, Cubs haven’t filled their hole in LF or closer, and Sosa’s still wearing a teddy bear on his sleeve. On the bright side, my wife and I had an awesome Christmas, but its glow has been covered in a chilly white blanket assembled from millions upon millions of individual flakes of agony.

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Nagging Question That Needs An Answer

Saturday, December 25th, 2004

For as long as I can remember, i’ve always loved baseball. I remember when I was a kid, watching the Cubs in the summertime at 1:20 on WGN. I would go to the card shop and spend all my money on baseball cards. In the afternoon, we’d play baseball with about 8 guys and always have to close about 4 positions. I loved baseball. However, throughout that time, one nagging question has always haunted and plagued my mind, causing me to lose sleep time and time again. It haunts me like an awful recurring nightmare that I just can’t seem to shake. The question is a simple one. It’s not “who is the best player to ever play the game?” or “will anyone ever break Dimaggio’s record?”. It’s much simpler, and it eats at the heart of baseball.

Why do all the good free agents get signed last? – I know, that’s not really the question you had in mind, but it’s one that drives me insane. Every year, I get excited and wait in nervous anticipation like a kid the night before Christmas only to be strung along like an ending relationship that just doesn’t seem to break off. I get glossy eyed at the big names on the market and dream of the team that the Tribune could put on the field if a thing called money never existed. Once the World Series ends each year, I think that the signings will come fast and furious as if the teams were starving lions who had just been thrown a pile of T-Bone steaks. Each year I am disappointed. This year is no exception. With names like Beltran, Beltre, Delgado, Pedro, Nomar, Kent, and Magglio on the market, my excitement level was at an all time high. These are some major names on the market. However, as the offseason started and the rumors flew, the signings did not. Hence, the reason for my question.

If you were a team in desperate need for improvement or simply a team in need of a slight tweak, you would think that you would want to go after the best possible fix. With that being said, it should be the big names that are signed quickly, setting the tone for the minor contracts to come afterward. How long can it possibly take to get a deal done? If all the GM’s really have to do is work to trade and sign players, then they should only need about a week to have their rosters set for the next season. If you work the phone for eight hours a day, 40 hours a week, you should have your whole team done. As a result, it should be the big names that go first, because they would be the top priority. Teams would know that if they didn’t get one of those guys, they would have to settle with low tier guys like Tony Womack. Who in the world would be interested in signing Tony Womack?

Maybe i’m just wishful thinking, but if baseball could come up with some way to make the offseason signing period a little shorter, it would certainly make it a lot easier for a lot of people. Fans would be able to see instantly what their team looks like for the next year. Vegas odds makers would certainly have a lot less work recalculating odds each time someone signs, and writers would be eternally grateful for the shortened signings, at least I would. It would let me focus on facts rather than rumors all offseason.

As I sit here now, Beltran, Delgado, and Ordonez are still unsigned. Will it happen this week? I doubt it, but you never know. One thing is certain, my question will always remain.

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A Message from Hendry Claus

Friday, December 24th, 2004

“Ho, Ho, Ho! Merry Christmas, Cubs fans! I have good news, my friends — you’ve all been good little boys and girls this year. This Christmas I’m bringing you a World Championship in 2005! Ho, Ho, Ho!!!!!”

Merry Christmas. Happy holidays to all. So far I’ve gotten my wish; as little snowfall as possible and, generally speaking, unseasonable warmth. Now if Hendry Claus can deliver the goods like he just promised, I can die happy.

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A word of advice

Thursday, December 23rd, 2004

Growing up, we’re always taught to listen to the advice of our elders. We’re told to learn from the people that came before us and the histories they leave behind. We study them in textbooks for hours on end in hot, sweaty classrooms. I can’t tell you how many times I learned about Columbus, Lincoln, and Jefferson. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy history to this day, but what I don’t understand is why we never educate our students on the biggest, most important piece of advice known to man. Why do we not educate our children on the dangers of the cable company?

For years in my house growing up, we never had the privilege of owning cable television. We were never able to watch the Disney channel, ESPN, or HBO. We were stuck with the local channels. Eventually, I broke the norm and called the cable company myself, telling my parents I would pay for it. If only I had been educated on this horrible danger. I once heard that heroine was one of the easiest drugs to become addicted to. Not being a drug user, I don’t really know either way. What I do know is this: Cable television is deadly and highly addictive.

Within the last week, my wife and I have packed up our belongings and moved across the state of North Carolina to the Raleigh/Durham area. It just so happens that our cable provider is a company called Charter. Even their slogan, “Get Hooked”, says it all. I’m addicted to cable television and I am to the point that I cannot live without it. With the Cubs being on WGN, I simply have to possess some way of seeing them. That’s where the problem enters.

Monday: Day 1 – I have my appointment to have cable internet installed in the new apartment between 1-5. At this point, cable television is not necessary, because my landlord had ghetto rigged it, unknown to me, so that we would be on his feed, since we’re in a garage apartment behind his house. I call before noon to confirm my appointment and assure that they know exactly how to find us. At this time, I am told that my address does not exsist and that they have me listed as an address 2 numbers off. In the meantime, I am told that the change is a quick fix and that I would be fine. As we are in the process of making the change, the cell phone that I am calling on goes out. The reason I was on a cell phone is a completely different rant that I don’t want to stray to. After being disconnected, I wait on hold again only to speak with a completely different representative who tells me that I will not be able to have that cable feed and that they will be canceling my appointment for that day so they could reschedule after sending someone out to verify that service could be had at this location. He tells me that the next available appointment is the following Monday. At this point, I’m furious and get transferred to a supervisor. Once I talk to the supervisor, I am set up with an 8am appointment and a $20 credit for my troubles.

Tuesday: Day 2 – I wake up at 7:45 to make sure that I am prepared for my appointment. I wait and wait but no one shows. At 1 o’clock, I call charter from my father in law’s house due to my lack of a phone. When I talked to them, I am greeted with a snippy sales rep that did nothing but talk rude to me. I go back to my house, assured that they will be there and could be running late. When I arrive, there is a Charter van in my drive. He tells me that he just got done cutting the cable feed and that another tech would be there to do the new work. He calls the dispatcher and is told that they are running late and will be here by 5. 7 o’clock rolls around and still no tech. I call Charter again from a cell phone only to be disconnected at least 3 times. Now, having talked to god knows how many people and giving my name and phone number an unbelievable amount of times, I am told that my tech was at the house that morning and said no one was home. I explode into the phone that I was home all day and that the tech is lying. The rep says they can get someone out on Monday. I hang up and call again, this time I am told that my appointment had been canceled for today and that was the reason no tech arrived. Now, I am so ready to kill someone, it’s dangerous. I call one last supervisor, waiting on hold for at least 5 minutes each call, who turns out to be the most helpful of all. She tells me that she will send an E-mail to my local office to tell them to get a tech out here at 8am the next day. She gives me the name and number of the girl she is sending it to and tells me to call her early so I can make sure it gets done.

Wednesday: Day 3 – I wake up at 7am and call the number that I was given the night before. She assures me that she received the E-mail and is going to contact dispatch that morning. She takes my name and number and promises to call as soon as she hears something, which she does at 8:15. She tells me that she is going to get the dispatch to call me ASAP and get someone out. 10am and still no tech. She calls to check on it, and I tell her that I had not heard from them yet. As we are speaking, the call waiting beeps (at this time we finally have a phone) and I answer it. On the line is a tech saying that he will not be able to get to my house till tomorrow. I hang up on him and switch back to the girl that was taking care of me. I tell her what the tech says and she gets angry. She gives me the number for the plant supervisor, where all the local techs are based out of. I call him and he tells me that he will take care of it. He takes my name and number and tells me he’ll call back within 5 minutes. When he does, he gives me his direct line and tells me that the techs will be at my house at 3. He says that if they aren’t there by 3:15 to call him directly on his line and let him know. 3:15 arrives, but a tech does not. I count down the seconds and call the guy back. He yells at someone in the room or on another phone saying “Why the hell is the tech still not at this guy’s house?” He gets back on the phone and tells me they will be there in 15 minutes. 3:30 arrives and so does the tech. He sets everything up and leaves at 4:30. End of story? Hardly!!!! Late that evening, our internet goes up and down a few times, but is for the most part stable.

Thursday: Day 4 – I wake up and find that my internet is down. I sit on hold for 45 minutes listening to Lionel Ritchie music before finally being told that I have a weak connection. The rep says they will have a tech call me to set up an appointment to fix it that day. I wait till noon and still get no call. Finally, I call back the man that helped the day before. He tells me that he will take care of it. About 1:30, the same tech from the day before arrives and doesn’t understand why the internet is not working. He adjusts some things with the splitter, but cannot figure out what the problem is. After spouting a god awful amount of tech talk about drops and connectivity, he leaves and tells me that another tech would arrive soon. At 3pm, a final tech arrives and works for 2 hours to correct the issue. When all is said and done, the internet is working well and the cable television is doing the same. With any luck, I will be able to continue on with my addiction painlessly.

Like the great tales of Aseop, this tale has a moral/piece of advice.The advice here is this: Do not get caught up in cable television. It can only hurt you and cause you to “Get Hooked”. Stay away. Stay far far away.

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