Archive for September, 2005

A Little Hope (very little)

Tuesday, September 13th, 2005

This is for those Cubs fans out there still holding on to the slim hope that our boys may yet pull out some kind of playoff appearance. Last Friday, TJ Brown came up with the following guide to a scenario that would allow the Cubs to win the Wild Card. Here it is below, starting with last Friday’s games:

“Now, I’m not saying this is possible, but…

Houston
2-1 at MIL
2-2 vs. FLA
2-1 vs. MIL
3-1 at PIT
0-3 at Cubs
0-2 at the Stl
2-2 vs. the Cubs
Final Record: 86-76

Florida
1-2 at Philly
2-2 at Hou
2-1 vs. Philly
1-2 at NY
1-2 at ATL
2-1 vs. Nats
2-1 vs. ATL
Final Record 86-76

Phils
2-1 vs. Fla
2-2 vs. Braves
1-2 at Florida
2-1 at Chip’s place
3-0 at Cincy
2-1 vs the Mets
1-2 at Nats
Final Record 86-76

Nats
1-2 vs. Braves
2-1 at Mets
2-1 at Padres
3-0 vs. Giants
3-0 vs. NY
1-2 at Florida
2-1 vs. Philly
Final Record 86-76

Mets
3-0 at Stl
1-2 vs. Nats
3-0 vs. Braves
2-1 vs. Fish
0-3 at Nats
1-2 at Phils
4-0 at Rockies
Final Record 84-78

Milwaukee
1-2 vs Houston
3-0 at Ariz
1-2 at Houston
0-3 vs. Cubs
3-0 vs. Cards
4-0 vs. Reds
3-0 at Pittsburgh
Final Record 84-78

And then, the Cubs
2-1 at SF
3-0 vs. Reds
3-1 vs. St. Louis
3-0 at Milwaukee
3-0 vs. Houston
2-0 vs. Pirates
2-2 at Astros
Final Record 87-75

Things were actually going quite well until yesterday, when the Cubs were the first team to deviate from the formula by losing to the Reds (and Aaron Harang!). So now the Cubs have to pick up an extra win somewhere, against either Houston or St. Louis. Good luck boys, you’re going to need it.

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Keep wearing your Cubbie Blue

Monday, September 12th, 2005


The recent Cub hot streak has put the Cubs at 71-72. I cringe when I think I had given up on them, but I think for about a week in late August that I did. It is now time to renew my enthusiasm and, though the number of things that have to go their way is ASTRONOMICAL, there is still a dim hope. My job as fan is to hope, and it is in times like these that we Cub fans should be able to perservere. Given all of our losing seasons, our history of frustration, to not be able to put your heart behind these Cubs, flawed as they are.

It’s like they’re down 7-1 in the 8th. Dodger fans would be heading for their cars. They’ve still got 6 outs to go; if they hit enough and the opposition sucks enough, there’s time to come back. Maybe Dusty and the Trib don’t deserve to hear our loudest cheers now, but Matt Murton and D-Lee and Nomar and Prior and Z do. I’m putting my heart back into this year.

I’m not delusional enough to think that they’ve got a decent, or even small, chance of making the playoffs. But their tiny, tiny chance is enough. Better throw your support back to the team now, because IF they get within 3 games of the wildcard by next Sunday, you’ll officially be a bandwagon jumper. If they don’t, you’ve lost nothing; you’ve only rooted for the underdog.

By now, that oughta be familiar.

Go Cubs!

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Thru Cub Eyes: Mark Grace

Friday, September 9th, 2005

Caution! Language of this weekís featured Cub may be unsuitable for minors. Not that great for the majors either but thatís Mark Grace. Got him in a bit of hot water on air a couple weeks ago. Enjoy this weekís excerpt from Carrie Muskatís compilation Banks to Sandberg to Grace.

Grace

Zimmer let me know who was boss right from the start. He wanted me to succeed. He didnít want me hanging with what he considered the wrong crowd. He didnít want me going out at night. He didnít want me hanging out with veteran guys. We had a ton of veteran guys.

Me and Rafael were the only rookies, and Rafael wanít really a rookie. Zim got wind of us going out ñ Sutcliffe, Gossage, myself, Jim Sundberg, Scott Sanderson, a bunch of veteran guys. He got wind of it and called me into his office and just chewed my ass out.

He said ìI donít want you hanging out with those guysî and all that. He told me ìIf I ever find out your hanging out with Sutcliffe or anybody like that, your ass is going to be in Des Moines faster than you can say ëJackie Robinson.íî

So I was a little bit dejected. I was pouting at my locker and Sut comes over and says ìHey, kid, whatís going on?î

I said ìSut, Iím not allowed to hang out with you anymore.î

Heís like ìWhat? Thatís bullshit.. Weíre supposed to go out tomorrow night.î

I said ìZim told me I canít go.î

He said ìThat little, fat, bald son of a bitch.î And he storms up the stairs and starts screaming at him, and the next thing you know, theyíre both screaming at each other.

ìLeave him alone, ***damn it!î

ìIím the ***damn manager.î
It was something.

Catching the final out of the wild card game? Better than sex. Better than sex. The feeling that went through me, it was a tingling type of numbness. If I had died that night, if I had stepped off a curb and got hit by a train or something that night, Iíd have died a happy man.

Iíve got a lot of great things. Iíve got a great family. Iíve got a great life. I love what I do but I couldíve died that night and had no regrets whatsoever. Instead, I had to live through í99.

Iím a Cub. This is all I know. They drafted me in í85. thereís a lot of loyalty there. I mean, they drafted me, they gave me the opportunity to play professionally, they gave me the opportunity to play in the big leagues, so Iím very loyal to the Tribune Company and the Chicago Cubs. Everything I have is because of them ñ the cars, the homes, the lifestyle, this locker room ñ is all credited to them. I wish a lot more guys would look at it like that.

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Some Observations

Thursday, September 8th, 2005

I don’t have the strength to put together something coherent about how disappointing the Cubs are right now, and I’m betting that nobody else wants to hear about it anyway. So here, in the tradition of lazy newspaper columns everywhere are some pithy observations disguised as random thoughts:

How dumb am I? You’d think as a Cubs fan I’d know better, but I obviously haven’t learned anything. I look at the Chicago Bears and understand that they have some huge holes: their offensive line is mediocre at best, they’re starting a rookie quarterback and they’ve only got one real wide receiver. But all I can see is that hellacious defense, the bad NFC North and the weak NFC overall and think “man, if they can just get a few lucky bounces…”.

I know rookies don’t get the benefit of the doubt, but the umpires seem to have it in for poor Ronny Cedeno. He got called out at first against the Cards on Wednesday when he was safe by a mile, and was called out again tonight at 3rd on another terrible call. Does he just look slow to umpires or something?

I’ve been watching tonight’s Patriots/Raiders game, and all I can say is that if John Madden really had any input into the Madden video games, then the 2006 version would simply be Madden ’92 with updated player names.

Does anybody else see a trailer for movie and think it looks pretty interesting, and then see that Nicolas Cage is starring in it and immediately decide that it can’t be any good?

A few years back, I used to watch professional wrestling religiously. I remember things like Stone Cold Steve Austin beating the hell out of his boss and flipping the bird on TV, a wrestler named Mark Henry supposedly having an affair with a transvestite and then later an 80 year old woman and Mick Foley rendering his opponents unconscious with his sweat socks. So it was probably a bad sign when I turned RAW on Monday and thought “wow, this has really gone downhill”.

How come everybody at View from the Bleachers gets a vacation but me? I should have read that contract before I signed it.

I can’t believe that FOX brought back “Family Guy” and not “Futurama”.

Earlier this season, Dusty Baker told the newspapers that Aramis Ramirez had an injury that Aramis apparently knew nothing about. Now Baker says that Mark Prior’s leg hurts, but Mark says his leg is fine. Wasn’t Dusty hired because of his ability to communicate with today’s players? Or is trainer Mark O’Neal just having some fun at his manager’s expense?

The Cubs played their last game at Busch Stadium this week. I’ve only been there a few times (and not since college) but I never really liked the place. The Cardinals fans seem to think it was a great venue to watch baseball, but then these are the same people who thought building a giant arch in the most humid city in America would make it a tourist Mecca. But I can’t look down on the Cardinals too much, as they’ve managed to stay one step ahead of the Cubs yet again. I mean, it took our guys nearly 50 years to finally figure out how to win there, and now St. Louis is going to blow the damn thing up.

I can’t resist: Bears 17, Washington 6.

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Breaking Down Sullivan

Tuesday, September 6th, 2005

Paul Sullivan writes a column in Monday’s sports section concerning Corey Patterson and the winter ball idea. I’d like to take this opportunity to let you know my thoughts as I read through the article.

Corey Patterson says he wants to return to the Cubs in 2006, and barring a change of mind, the Cubs are planning to give him that opportunity.

Contrary to popular belief, Corey Patterson is not a lost cause. He is slowly getting there, but he has not arrived at that point yet. With that being said, 2006 is his last shot at showing the talent his prospect scouting report talked about. Next year must be Corey’s bust out year. With Felix Pie on the horizon, it’s now or never for C-Pat. If Paul Sullivan is correct in this opening statement, I believe it’s a good decision on the part of the Tribune Co. to not trade Patterson this offseason.

The Cubs want to send Patterson to winter ball in December to work on his game, a plan to which Patterson has yet to agree. Patterson said he doesn’t feel pressure from management to play winter ball, despite repeated suggestions by manager Dusty Baker that he needs to do it for his own good.

What I don’t understand here is this. If the Cubs have asked Corey Patterson to play in winter ball, why does he feel that they aren’t serious about it? I would like to know what Corey would consider putting pressure on him. Perhaps it would involve Dusty holding him down and twisting his thumb back until he cries for mercy. No matter what, all the Cubs should have to do for Corey to know they’re serious is ask him. It should take no more than that.

If Patterson doesn’t go to winter ball, would he be sending the wrong message to the organization?

“It’s his career,” Baker said Monday. “It ain’t my career.”

Gotta love Dusty Baker chiming in with his village idiot comments. Why doesn’t he just come out and say that he doesn’t like Patterson and that he wants out of this ballclub?

My Conclusion
This is probably not the most popular opinion, but it’s one I am sticking to. I believe that Corey Patterson should NOT go to winterball. He’s had a terrible year. Sometimes something like winterball would help. However, this year, Corey needs to take a break from baseball. He should clear his head and come back fresh to impress. He’ll be pushed in spring training next year by Felix so he needs to be rested and ready to shine in 2006.

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I love it

Monday, September 5th, 2005

Mike Kiley mentioned in the tail end of his column that Sammy Sosa may be hard pressed to recieve much interest this off season. As a result, there is a good chance that he could go overseas to play in Japan. Maybe now he’ll realize that he wasn’t the hot to trot # 3 or 4 hitter he thought he was.

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Looking Ahead

Friday, September 2nd, 2005

Well, the August 31st waiver trade deadline has come and gone, and with the Cubs fighting to retain 4th place in the Central, now seems like as good a time as any to take a look at 2006. The Cubs are going to have some decisions to make on a few of their current players:

The Keepers: Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Michael Barrett, Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Greg Maddux, Carlos Zambrano

This group will form the guts of next year’s team. When I call them keepers, what I mean is that they’re all either under contract or club control for next season, and while I don’t think anybody on a sub .500 team should be considered untouchable, it’d take an excellent trade offer to get one of these guys. Wood is the guy I’d be most likely to move, but his contract for next year might make that prohibitive.

The No-Brainers: Todd Walker, Ryan Dempster
Walker has 2.5 million dollar option on his contract for next year. As annoyed as I am with his habit of making underhand flips on seemingly every play, the Cubs aren’t going to find a veteran left handed hitter to put up .306/.358/.476 numbers at second base for that kind of money.

Dempster will be a free agent, but the Cubs would be wise to hang onto him. He’s been a good closer for them this year, and he’s the type of guy who wouldn’t be bothered by moving into the setup role if the Cubs were able to find a better closer on the free agent market.

The Tough Choices: Glendon Rusch, Jeromy Burnitz, Nomar Garciaparra
Rusch has another year on his deal, but can opt for free agency at the end of 2005. If he chooses to do that, I think the Cubs might be better off parting ways with him. Rusch didn’t perform well after being bounced back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen. His true value seems to be as a starter, but the Cubs seem reluctant to give him a starting job, instead insisting on pitching him out of the bullpen and starting him in emergency situations. If that’s still the case, then there’s no sense in bringing him back. Jim Hendry probably dropped the ball by not moving Rusch at the deadline while he still had some value.

Burnitz has a $7 million club option for 2006, but it seems unlikely that the Cubs will exercise it. They’ll probably pay Jeromy his $500K buyout, and then try to re-sign him for less. If Burnitz will go for this deal, then the Cubs should do it. While his hitting has leveled off a bit this season, Jeromy plays good defense, runs the bases well, and is a good clubhouse guy. He also doesn’t seem like the kind of player who chafe at sitting on the bench, should a younger outfielder start to outperform him.

Nomar is one of the toughest calls to make here. He’s starting to hit the ball again, he’s showed what a good team guy he is by volunteering to play 3rd base with Aramis’ injury. That said, Nomar cannot be brought back as the shortstop of this team next year. The Cubs simply can’t risk relying on an aging and injury prone player at such a key position again. If Nomar will take a pay cut and learn to play left field(a position that would be a lot easier to fill with an in season trade if Nomar gets injured) next year, I’d have him back.

The Bench: Jose Macias, Neifi Perez, Henry Blanco, Jerry Hairston
I hate to admit it, but Macias has been much better than I expected this year. But if Dusty Baker is going to insist on giving him spot starts, well, I don’t want to see him here next year. I have a theory that a Baker needs to have a new bench almost every season, as when the same guys hang around for several years, he gets too comfortable using them, and he puts them into situations for which they are ill-suited.

Neifi Perez has been forced into more action than expected due to injuries, but my feelings on him are pretty much the same as Macias. If Dusty’s here next year, Neifi shouldn’t be.

Blanco is under contract, plays excellent defense, calls a good game, and has even started to hit a bit. He stays.

Jerry Hairston won’t like this, but he has the looks of a utility player. He’s got a decent on-base percentage, but not good enough to lead off full time, and he has good speed, but is a terrible base stealer. He’s a good contact hitter, but he doesn’t bunt well, and he pulls the ball too much, so he’s not a good choice hit second. He lacks the power to hit higher than 7th in the lineup. He can play several positions, but with Todd Walker playing second, the only other place to play him is CF, because he’s not a good enough hitter to justify putting in left. I think the best thing right now would be for the Cubs to trade Jerry if they can, as he does not want to accept a bench role, which is what he’ll have to take on a winning team.

The Bullpen: The bullpen
Other than the afore mentioned Ryan Dempster, almost nobody in this group should feel good about job security. Ohman, Wuertz, Wellemeyer and Novoa have all shown flashes, but have also had stretches where they couldn’t throw strikes if their lives depended on it. Scott Williamson will likely be back, and should be better with more time to recover from his Tommy John surgery. Jermaine Van Buren is likely going to put one of these guys out a job next year, and Jim Hendry ought to bring in some veterans and declare an open competition for most of the spots next spring.

Everything after this colon must go!: Corey Patterson
I don’t care how much time and money has been invested in the development of Corey Patterson, he simply should not be on this team next year. If you’re reading this, you probably don’t need me to tell you that Corey’s been brutally bad at the plate this year and seems to have confused the concept of the strike zone with that of the time zone. Worse yet, his defense has regressed. In other words, he’s a total liability, and there’s no excuse for bringing him back. The fans won’t accept him back, management seems to be fed up with him, and frankly, I think Corey wants out of Chicago as much as we want to be rid of him. The kid needs a new start, and it’s time to give it to him.

If you’ve read this far, I thank you, and I hope you’ll bear with me for a just a few lines more. Like most of us, I’ve followed the terrible disaster in New Orleans via television and the internet, and watched with horror at as the situation unfolded there. Over the course of a few days, the citizens of New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast have lost virtually everything they have. These are our families, our friends, our countrymen, and most importantly, our fellow human beings. They need our help, and not knowing what else I can do right now, I’ll provide this link to The American Red Cross Website. Please donate to the relief fund if you can. And if you can’t spare any money (and believe me, I fully understand) then please inquire about donating something else. Over the coming months, the people affected by this storm are going to need not only money, but food, water, clothing and blood as well. Please give what you can. Every little bit helps.

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Thru Cub Eyes: Joe Girardi

Friday, September 2nd, 2005

For some players, itís money; others itís glory and adulation or maybe even stats. But for this weekís featured Cub, family is what makes his world go round. Joe grew up in Peoria and the Cubs were a family staple growing up. Joe played on two separate Cub squads. Some even speculate a third is in his future (managerial.) Enjoy this weekís excerpt from Carrie Muskatís compilation Banks to Sandberg to Grace. I know Joe will. (Aiello, that is.)

girardi_joe2

I wrote a third-grade essay that I wanted to play for the Chicago Cubs. That was my dream. I have a lot of fond memories about coming to the ballpark. Itís funny, what I remember the most about coming to the ballpark was the Ron Santo pizza. I used to get three or four pieces during the course of the game, and thatís what I remember the most.

I would usually fall asleep in the chair next to my dad. We watched a lot of division rivals, Pittsburgh and the Phillies. I remember Mike Schmidt being a Cub killer. I was pretty amazed, Opening Day, 1989, when I ws actually on the same field that he was. That was like, pinch me and wake me up.

Yankee Stadium, thatís a special place. But itís different here because as a kid I didnít watch the Yankees, and I didnít grow up loving the Yankees. I grew up loving the Cubs. And to be able to fulfill your dreams is really special.

It was really important for me to come back to the Cubs for a number of reasons. I think the first reason is family. I wanted some stability for my family and I wanted my daughter Serena to know her grandparents and her aunts and uncles like I did because that was real important to me. Youíre basically gone nine months out of the year.

Two, I got a chance to play for the team that I love playing for and I always wanted to play for. That was real important to me. I think last year ñ this might sound kind of funny ñ but last year was the first year I ever had to rent a U-Haul to come home. Thatís not easy to do.

Itís a lot different now because Iím a lot more mature and I donít think Iím necessarily taken aback by the surroundings and in awe like I was the first time I came here. The idea of coming to Wrigley Field and playing in this ballpark will never lose its appeal, even when Iím done playing and I bring my kids here.

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