Archive for June, 2005

Wiffle Twins

Monday, June 20th, 2005

Every once in a while a player comes along that seems like a great acquisition to the Cubs. Guys like Turd Hundley, Rey Ordonez, and Anthony Young. However, not one of them is more my favorite than the two guys currently on the team. Every time Enrique “Wicked Cut: Wilson and Jose “Big Bopper” Macias step to the plate, the crowd goes into an eerie hush. Everyone wants to see the AB by these guys. Inevitably, it ends in a weak groundball to either the pitcher or SS each and every time. For the longest time, I could not figure out why that was, until recently. I ran across this website called Online Sports and was amazed what I found. Behold the following picture, which is a link to the actual size picture. Pay special attention to the product and the testimonials on the far right.

So there you have it, Macias and Wilson are too poor to buy real bats, so they are stuck using wiffle bats. No wonder they are not able to hit the ball out of the infield. I have decided to anoint them the official View From The Bleachers superheros. They shall be called “The Wiffle Twins”

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News, Notes and Complaints

Monday, June 20th, 2005

Mostly complaints. Man, what a terrible weekend showing by the Cubs. So many things went wrong, I guess I’ll start with

What went right:
Derrek Lee: Do I even need to elaborate? He was 6-13 against the Yankees. Unfortunately, Dusty Baker’s interesting strategy of batting the two regulars with the worst OPB in front of Lee didn’t pan out.

What went wrong:
The bullpen: for the most part, these guys were awful. Will Ohman gave up a big 2 run homer to Hideki Matsui on Friday and Joe Borowski put Saturday’s game out of reach by giving up Derek Jeter’s first career grand slam. I like Joe, but his slider doesn’t seem to slide any more, and it’s going to be tough for him to be effective when his only 2 pitches are an 88 MPH fastball and a hanging slider.

Neifi! has turned back into Neifi. The first two months of the season, he had shown decent plate patience, and a knack for being able to hit the ball where it was pitched; going the other way when behind in the count, driving the ball when he was ahead and dropping down bunts to keep the infield honest. That Neifi! seems to have suddenly dissappeared, leaving us with a guy who swings at everything (his bases loaded double play on Sunday was a killer) and is a black hole in the leadoff spot.

Dusty Baker. Dusty had a bad series this weekend. Whether he was starting Enrique Wilson on Friday (thus leaving two far superior hitters to languish on the bench) or feeding a steady diet of lefthanded pitchers to Hideki Matsui (who is killing lefties this year) this was not a banner series for Dusty.

Carlos Zambrano. For a second straight game, Zambrano was extremely wild, walking 6 hitters and just not looking comfortable out there. The Cubs are now 9.5 in back of the Cardinals, and desperately need to go on another roll. To do that, they’re going to need Carlos at his best.

Corey Patterson. Patterson just looked bad against the Yankees, particularly in the field where he appeared to be wearing ice skates. Maybe Dusty should have started Enrique Wilson in center, he’s probably familier with the Yankee Stadium outfield.

The good news is, the Wild Card is not yet out of reach. The bad news is, this team can’t wait until the trade deadline for offensive reinforcements. Jim Hendry needs to get on the phone now nd overpay if it means getting the right player. The Cubs need to take 3 of 4 from the Brewers this week, and with the White Sox looming, a sweep would be a good idea. Let’s hope they have it in them.

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Father & Son

Sunday, June 19th, 2005

Dad has been gone now almost five years. God, I miss him. Iíd love to say there were no regrets but Iíd be lying. I regret a lot of stuff that was said as well as stuff that should have been said but wasnít.

You see, we rarely communicated. Oh, there was talk but little listening. I didnít hear him and he wouldnít hear me. We were so different, my Dad and I.

And yet, when we could never discuss the Lord or politics (two of my favorite topics) there was always baseball. This was the one common bond where we could have a meaningful dialogue. I remember meeting Orel Hershizer and buying two of his books for him to autograph, one for me and the other for Dad. Orel has a strong testimony in terms of his faith and this was the best way I could think of communicating spiritual matters with Dad.

When I visited Wrigley for the first time in July of 1970. Dad was right there with me to take in my very first ballgame. We saw a few more after that and he always reminded me of the big lead the Cubs blew and tho I could never recall the details. Dad did.

Dad was a purist. His era was the great players of the 50ís. I donít think he especially liked or followed one team but I often heard him speak of Bob Feller. He hated the modern era with the money and everything. When he died, it was of Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Like I said, a purist.

And smart? Dad was phenomenal when it came to his knowledge and memory of the game. A key highlight from my childhood was waiting for our monthly issue of Baseball Digest. The first thing we would do is the quiz. I asked the questions and my Dad usually knew the answers.

He kidded me relentlessly about the Cubs, pretending he didnít like them but Mom told me that even when I wasnít around she would catch him watching them. Would he ever admit it? Not likely. He rolled his eyes when Jack Brickhouse or Harry Carey would make a routine fly sound like a sensational play by a Cub outfielder.

A couple of years ago I realized a lifelong dream by going to Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame. It was a bittersweet day. I loved all of the exhibits and everything but something was missing. Someone to share it all with.

My Dad.

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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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