Archive for June, 2005

Joe’s Favorite Video Games – Part II

Sunday, June 19th, 2005

Another loss to the Yankees last night? No need to fret, I have your remedy right here. Take a stroll down memory lane with me as we look at one of the greatest football games ever made.

Tecmo Super Bowl (NES)

Before the complex days of John Madden football, there was a game that was simple, yet detailed and fun all at the same time, Tecmo Super Bowl, or Super Tecmo Bowl as we used to call it, provided this writer with countless weekends of entertainment. If you have never played it, or even seen it, let me share some highlights and screenshots with you.

Here is the basic playcall screen. Each team would look at the same screen. On offense you would choose one of the 8 plays, while on Defense, you would also choose one of the 8 plays. If you matched what the offense picked, it put a crazy blitz on. It was simple, yet strategic as well. You could begin to watch human opponents and learn their tendencies. Once you learned them, they HAD to adjust or they would never be able to move the ball.

The playbook to the left contains a couple of my favorite passing plays. I used to love the play on the far left that has receivers crossing all over each other while going long. It was a great play and was almost always in my playbook. The one just to the right of that, which had all the receivers go about 8-10 yds and turn around was also a good short yards play. Once they turned around, just look for the one who was not covered and hit him.

Once the play got underway, you controlled the QB, which is the case in all football games. Since Nintendo only had 2 buttons (B & A), the controls worked a little different from video games these days. The receiver on the top would start with that little triangle above him. Each time the user would hit the A button, the triangle would cycle through to a different receiver. When you got to the one you wanted, you had to hit B to pass. It was challenging, because if it was a blitz, you either had to take a sack or throw to someone. It were quick enough, you could hit A a couple times and get a better receiver before dumping it off. It was tough to get used to, and many times I cycled passed my receiver, but it was a great setup nonetheless.

Running was basically a matter of how shifty you could be with the keypad. If you were pretty good, you could fake out some of the runners. A big part of it had to do with what RB you were running the ball with. The first time I played, I was using Barry Sanders, my childhood idol, and I literally ran a circle around a guy before streaking to the endzone. It was great fun.

The best part of the game was the ability to do a complete season, with playoffs, superbowl, AND stats. Not only that, but it had the setting to allow more that one human controlled team playing in the season. Each weekend, my friend Marty and I would head to the video store to rent the game. Why rent it each week? Because what 7th grader has enough money to actually by a game? Check that, what 7th grader back then had money to buy a video game. These days kids in my classroom carry around more money than me. Each weekend, we’d spend the night at one of our houses and play the game non stop so we could do a 2 player season completely through. Most of the time, we’d use the same teams each season. I would use the NY Giants, with Lawrence Taylor (Who I once had 136 sacks with in a season), Phil Simms, and Pepper Johnson. Marty would use the Buffalo Bills which featured Thurman Thomas as running back. Remarkably, we rarely met in the super bowl. One of us would always get knocked off in the playoffs.

One last cool thing about this game, so this post doesn’t go on forever (Though I could), was the way players were rated. I don’t know of a game before this that rated each player in so many categories. It seems to have paved the way for games like Madden, which rates players in a host of categories. Each player had rating scales that slid back or forward based on the player’s physical condition. I was never really able to figure out how the physical condition was determined. I think it was strictly random, because at times I was dominating with guys, and they were listed as bad. Other times, I dominated and they were listed as excellent. It was strange. The rating choices were Bad, Average, Good, Excellent. When a guy who was a FB got to excellent, look out. He was unstoppable, and almost impossible to take down. When he was BAD, they were very slow and hard to run with. It wasn’t very realistic, but fun either way.

I can’t express enough how fun this game was. I loved it so much that I even went out and downloaded it on the NES emulator for the computer. I still love it very much. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this walk down memory lane. Tune in next Sunday as we take the walk and look at another one of my favorite games of all time.

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Not Yet a Dunn Deal (but it could be!)

Saturday, June 18th, 2005

Havenít written much this week but I have left a lot of comments on other peopleís posts. So much speculation on possible trades, it can get wearisome. And everyone seems to be an expert these days on what the Cubs should do to improve the club. Well, my opinion is worth about as much as the next guyís so here we go.

I want to limit my analysis to the outfield and the prospect of picking up a player from the Reds. Earlier today Joe already dealt with this but my observations seem too long for the comments section and I’m tired of doing that. Time to stand on my own.

For the life of me, I cannot understand the fascination over Austin Kearns. It reminds me of the fervor over Jason Dubois. I just donít get it.

My personal choice would be Adam Dunn or even Wily Mo Pena (the best name in baseball this side of Coco Crisp.) and it basically comes down to stats. How else should we evaluate? I primarily look at OPS and career production at Wrigley because half of their games will be played there and I want someone who can execute at home. Of the three Reds supposedly avalable, here are their Wrigley stats by order of at bats, batting avg. and ops.
Adam Dunn 115 .330 1.172
Wily Mo Pena 32 .313 .983
Austin Kearns 62 .226 .964

Now, comparing on base pct for all games in 2005:
Dunn .404
Pena .315
Kearns .306

Patterson .294
Hollandsworth .316
Dubois .302

I also like the fact that Adam Dunn, tho striking out a lot, also has walked 50 times and hit into but a single double play this year. In 3 games at Wrigley this year Adam shined by hitting .417, 2 homers and 6 rbiís.

Remember that series? So do I.

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It’s gonna happen

Saturday, June 18th, 2005

I just know it is. The Cubs are going to get Adam Dunn or Austin Kearns, and my money is on Kearns. I would be willing to bet serious money that this is going to happen, and happen soon. This comes from the Dayton Daily News today.

Dunn unhappy

Adam Dunn was given another day off Friday, and he was about as happy as he was for his last day off June 3 in Colorado. That time, he didn’t complain because he wasn’t hitting well.

Now he is vocal about it after hitting a 455-foot homer Thursday.

“I don’t know why I’m off,” he said. “And, of course, they didn’t tell me Thursday — that would be too easy, they waited until today (Friday) when my mom and dad are here for the games.

“I found something working with Chris Chambliss in the batting cage Thursday,” Dunn added. “That’s the way it usually happens for me. Something snaps into place and I say, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s it,’ then I’m able to take it into batting practice and into games.”

Asked what would have happened if he had hit a 500-foot homer, Dunn said, “I probably would have gotten two days off.”

Kearns unhappy

Dunn and Austin Kearns have talked often via cellphone since Kearns was demoted last week to Class AAA Louisville. Dunn misses his friend and lockermate.

“I hate it without him,” Dunn said. “All they’re doing is seeing if they can break his confidence, then they’ll want him to start from scratch. He is finally fed up and said he is just waiting to see what happens, knowing if they don’t want him, he can go somewhere else and play every day — like Atlanta, Washington, the Chicago Cubs.

“When that happens, I know what will happen … he’ll hit .325 with 20 homers and 100 RBIs.”

Personally, I think the Reds would be stupid to give up and trade either of them, but if Hendry is ready, like he was when the Pirates were stupid and unloaded A-Ram, I think Kearns will explode. If he stays in AAA and then comes to Chicago, he will be so ready to prove that he was not a bust. He’ll be focused and the Cubs will reap the benefits.

Get On The Phone NOW JIM!!!!!

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Thru Cub Eyes: Gary (Sarge) Matthews

Friday, June 17th, 2005

With this weekís installment of first person recollections from those who played for the Cubs, we enter the era of 1984, an incredible season on many fronts. These compilations are from Carrie Muskatís anthology Banks to Sandberg to Grace. We salute you, Sarge for a job well done.

Sarge

Dallas [Green] was the type, unlike a lot of managers and general managers today, who put the onus on the players, so if you made a mistake, he would blast you. If you didnít get the big hit, he would blast you. The players in my era when you did that, they would say, ìOh, Iím going to show you.î And weíd go out and do better. Now, if you sit them, they say ìOK, fine. Iím going to take a vacation. Iíll just collect my paycheck on the 1st and 15th. The pride factor, except for a handful of players, has left.

I can honestly say ñ and Iím sure a lot of the guys would say ñ that [1984] was the most fun year of all time. We made it fun. Guys couldnít wait to get to the ballpark to be able to take batting practice.

I took a lot of pressure off say, even Sandberg, who would be up at the plate and heíd get a high inside fastball. I would be screaming at the pitcher from the dugout, and Ryno would have to step out of the batterís box because he was laughing. Ultimately what it does is break the pitcherís concentration because heís looking over at me seeing whoís screaming and yelling, and Iím staring right at him, and Sandberg, heís laughing, getting ready to go back out thereand hit. Consequently, he had not his best year, but probably his all-around best year as far as having fun and going out to the ballpark and winning a lot of ballgames.

Leadership is more or less God-given. Iíve always said the true athlete, whether he has better stats than anybody else on the team, your true best athlete on your team will make other players play better. For me, even in high school, coming up in Little League, it was the same thing. My Mom always told me that I wasnít the MVP even though I might have had the best stats. I was more the captain, more the glue that held everybody together.

Not being able to get to the World Series takes a little bit away from it, but again it was a great year, and it was a great year for baseball.

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Joke for the Day

Friday, June 17th, 2005

A man walks into his bedroom and sees his wife packing a suitcase.

He asks, “What are you doing?”

She answers, “I’m moving to Sydney. I heard prostitutes there get paid $400 for doing what I do for you for free.”

Later that night, on her way out, the wife walks into the bedroom and sees her husband packing his suitcase.

When she asks him where he’s going, he replies, “I’m coming too, I want to see how you live on $800 a year”.

Brought to you by I Love Bacon
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Life, Baseball, & Gays

Thursday, June 16th, 2005

Wow, Carl Everett has decided to sound off on a number of issues, including baseball fans, Wrigley field, and gays. Take a look.

  • Everett has had gay teammates, whom he has accepted, but: “Gays being gay is wrong. Two women can’t produce a baby, two men can’t produce a baby, so it’s not how it’s supposed to be. … I don’t believe in gay marriages. I don’t believe in being gay.”

  • Wrigley Field is the worst park in the majors: “They need to implode Wrigley.”

  • Most baseball fans don’t know diddly: “Fan is short for fanatic — he’s crazy about something he really doesn’t know about. And it’s proven that 99 percent of baseball fans have no idea what they’re watching.”

  • Jose Canseco is a “bitter, ignorant individual.”

  • The congressional hearings examining steroid use were a waste: “We have a war going on — I have family in that war — yet we’re talking about steroids. … If everybody in the world got on steroids, we’ll still lose more kids to a war than we will from steroids.”

So Carl, why don’t you tell us how you REALLY feel?

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GRRRRRR

Thursday, June 16th, 2005

I mentioned yesterday that I despise rumors. I try not to bring them up. However, when the Cubs themselves confirm the rumor, I feel like it may be worth noting. Pauly Sullivan, the village idiot, from the Tribune has a column today stating that the Cubs have interest in Preston Wilson of the Rockies.

“Cubs sources confirmed a report in Wednesday’s Rocky Mountain News that they have made inquiries about center fielder Preston Wilson, who is likely to be dealt before the July 31 trading deadline.”

This acquisition drives me insane. All people are complaining about is our CF who swings for the fences and strikes out too much. So the Cubs look into bringing in another OF who swings for the fences and actually strikes out more. This is a wonderful plan, don’t you think? Perhaps Jim Hendry is sitting in his office thinking he wants to make sure the Cubs hit the most HR’s as a team forever.

If I were Jim Hendry, I’d see what the asking price for Kearns is. He makes under a million for the season and is currently on his way to AAA Louisville. He has good upside at a low risk if the asking price is low. I can’t imagine it would be low, but it’s at least worth pursuing more than Preston Wilson who has got to have a higher price than Kearns.

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Just Like Old Times

Wednesday, June 15th, 2005

Well, it’s been a few days since I have written anything Cubs related. I’m not really even sure why that is. So, with that being said, I’d like to address a couple of topics one at a time to get some feedback.

One of things I have been charting this year is the importance of the Cubs getting on the board first. Now let me explain that a little. Each day I chart which team posts a run first. Which means the visitors have a slight advantage there because they bat first. I have been charting the Cubs record when they score first and when they do not score first. I cannot express enough how important it is for this team to get on the board first. This year, they are 20-10 when they post a run before their opponent. That translates to a 108 win season if they Cubs were to score first every game and follow the trend. DIsturbing is how putrid the team is when the opponent scores first. Coming in to todays game, they are 14-19 when not scoring first. That translates to 68 wins, give or take a win. The Cubs have got to make it a priority to get on the board first. It gives an obvious edge.


There have been some faulty trade rumors provided to the Cubs Blog Army readers by the usual false rumor master from the Army who will remain nameless. Needless to say, I grow tired of rumors. Nothing is more annoying that reading them everywhere. Now I know that some people think that is what makes the June and July months exciting, but for me, baseball alone makes the June and July months as well as the rest of the year exciting. I do not need to hear melodious fairy tails of the many big names the Cubs are pursuing. What’s the point when they never come to fruition? All I know though is according the a source who knows a source that dated a source, the Sheffield talks are legit. Yep, i’m sure they are. Anything for hits to the site I guess. Whatever works.

Can we just stop listening to all the moronic rumors, 90% of which are pure speculation, and just start watching the game for what it is? Personally, I’m not willing to give up on the outfielders we have. Burnitz is a hard nosed player who knows how to play the game the right way. He plays hard everyday, has a good glove in RF, and has been doing fine with the bat.

Corey Patterson, while frustrating way to often is only 25 years old. Some players have not even made it to the big leagues by that age. Give this kid a chance. Do whatever it takes to work it out with him. Maybe it means sitting down with him and asking how the team can help? Maybe he needs a personal hitting coach to devote 100% of his time to Corey. Who knows, but you cannot just be so quick to give up on guys you have groomed through the system. Pie, who some people believe is the answer, is NOT ready yet. He’s not ready to go from AA to the ML. In addition, there is NO WAY he is ready for the Chicago media. Right now, he plays in AA where there are no reporters to ask you nagging questions before and after the game. He has no pressure on him down there. When he comes to the big leagues, he will be thrust into a totally different situation. You heard the interview I did with him. He can barely speak english. That’s in no way a bad thing, but what you didn’t see what how shy he was and embarrassed he was by the thought of not knowing how to reply to my questions. I loved talking to Felix, and he’s going to be outstanding in the big leagues soon, but he’s not ready to take over for Corey Patterson this year.

Jason Dubois, while also frustrating at the plate, is a rookie. How could you be willing to give up on a guy that has enormous power potential at the plate. Give him the AB’s he needs in the majors to really judge what kind of player this kid could be before you just give up on him. I’m tired of seeing guys like Jon Garland and Dontrelle Willis mowing down guys because they were better players than the Cubs thought. I know you have to be willing to give up talent to get talent in return, but I have a feeling this Dubois kid will end up being a 40 HR guy we could have had in the OF if we had just a little more patience.


What in the world is up with Sergio Mitre? This guy has been a mad man the last two games and has helped the club out in a BIG way. Anytime you can go out and beat a guy like Roy Halladay you can put a feather in your cap. However, when you come out as the 4th or 5th starter for a team, as Mitre is, and beat not only one teams ACE, but two teams aces in consecutive start, you deserve to have a soda named after you. Don’t you think? Oh wait, he already does.

With Prior and Wood on the happy trail to recovery, the team is looking promising in the SP department once again. If we can keep the big 3 healthy the rest of the year, the Cubs have no excuse to not compete. The offense has been coming alive the last few weeks and with the addition of two nice SP’s to the rotation, the Cubs should be in every game they play. It’s nice to know that if that isn’t the case, Mitre seems to be putting it together as insurance. God knows he can’t be worse than Koronka. I do not know why Dusty cannot see this. He’s essentially a one pitch pitcher, because of the quality of his other 2 pitches. His fastball is slow and doesn’t move. Every game i’ve watched, he comes in around 90. His 3rd pitch is a breaking ball of some sort, but it is almost non exsistant. The only pitch he has that is any good is his changeup. When you get to the majors, you better have at least 2 good pitches or you’re going to get shelled. Hopefully the Cubs will see this and give Jerome Williams a shot for the next Koronka turn in the order.


Last but certainly not least, I would like to introduce you to a future fan of the Chicago Cubs. My wife and I are expecting our first child in January and the picture is very cool. Gone are the days of the black pictures with white globs. I present to you my Son or daughter. Not sure which yet.

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Just the Facts

Monday, June 13th, 2005

Usually I don’t do this.

See, when I watch Sunday Night Baseball, I go in with two assumptions:

1. that Jon Miller is going to exaggerate the pronunciation of every Latin player’s last name.

2. Joe Morgan is going to say something stupid.

And I just let those things roll off my back. But not this time. You see, last night Joe said something that was stupid, hurtful, and ridiculous. If you watched the game, you may recall that Kevin Youkliss hit a 1st inning home run into the basket that runs the length of the bleacher wall at Wrigley Field. The next inning, Miller and Morgan had a little discussion about the basket, it’s reason for being (to prevent fan interference, although it’s also been argued that it’s there to keep drunks from falling onto the field) and the merit (or lack of) of home runs that land in it. That was fine, but Morgan couldn’t resist this little dig at the end: “back when I played”, he told Miller, “we called that Banks’ boulevard”. Now we all know what’s being implied here by Morgan. That one of the most prodigious home run hitters of his time (and one of the greatest Cubs of all time) made his bones by hitting cheapies into the basket. For a second I thought it might be true. But then I did some looking and realized it probably wasn’t.

The reason I’m making a big deal of this is I was a history major. Like most, I inflate the importance of the subject I majored in, but this is important. History can be shaped and changed by whoever teaches it. It’s likely that some impressionable youth somewhere was watching that game, and said to himself “well, Joe Morgan is a Hall of Fame player and bad broadcaster with his own miniature suits and everything. He must be right! Ernie was nothing but a fraud, lofting over 500 flyballs into the Jet Stream that plunked safely into the basket”. Those are the people I’m writing this for.

You see, less than five minutes worth of research shows that this nickname is highly unlikely. The Cubs own website states that the basket was constructed prior to the 1970 season. A quick survey of baseball reference.com shows that Banks retired at the end of the 1971 season. During this period, Ernie hit exactly 15 of his 512 homeruns. Now, I never saw him play, but I’ve seen the tape of his 500th homer, which he hit in 1970, several thousand times during rain delay, and that one did not land in the basket. This means that out of a grand total of 512 homers, Banks could have hit no more than 14 of them into the basket, thus making it highly unlikely that this apparatus was given any sort of nickname on his behalf.

So, if you’re an impressionable young person and you’re reading this, please listen closely: if you ever see Joe Morgan on the street, you should feel free to throw rotting produce at him. And if your parents ask you why, just tell them it’s because Joe Morgan is an irresponsible broadcaster who denigrated Ernie Banks simply because he thought the phrase “Banks’ Boulevard” sounded cute. They might even join in.

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