Archive for May, 2006

Cut It Out

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

When I was a kid, I used to watch Full House religiously. I’m not really sure why I did, but my brother and I were addicted to it. Uncle Joey used to always use the catch phrase “cut it out” whenever something was too good to be true. So I say it today. Cut it out, Cubs. Two wins in a row and a chance to sweep against a team that beat your brains in earlier. Zambrano goes tonight. I’m refraining from getting too excited, but I do admit, it is nice to see a pair of wins and a chance to finally do some sweeping in Wrigley. God knows the baseball has been a mess there lately. A good sweep might make the place look good.

Update from Chris

The Cubs have traded Jerry Hairston, Jr. to the Rangers for Phil Nevin.

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Don’t worry, be happy

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

Last January my father suggested that we do a vacation together and we planned a tentative trip to northern California. Well, one thing led to another and we ended up meeting this weekend in Chicago under the guise of catching a weekend series at Wrigley. Quite frankly, I’ve not had the chance to visit the Windy City since the last time I lived there in 1982; I was very pleasantly surprised by much of what I saw. Except the Cubs of course, they reminded me of the Black Knight in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” But then again I fully expected them to lose, isn’t that what they always do? Always the same story, the best fans on earth and the worst management in baseball.

Chicago had it’s share of nice little neighborhoods, I’d move there in a heartbeat were it not for the winters. Everywhere I went I saw these magnificent brownstones being renovated and the tree-lined streets made me feel right at home. I can’t say enough about Chicagoans – everywhere we went people went out of their way to help with directions and the food scene was fabulous. Hold your heads up Chicago, you truly are America’s best city!

One thing that perplexed me was all of the rainbow flags I saw in the Wrigleyville area, finally one of the cab drivers clued me in on the nature of the neighborhood. I’m not a bar hopper and perhaps that’s a good thing. Cubs fans were loud and they cheered the good and booed the bad; the crowd seemed to be a pretty good cut of people. My father was surprised though at the lack of black fans at the ballpark, we only saw two or three African American fans amoungst the faithful. The ballpark was beautiful, for the first time in ages I felt like a little kid again, staring in wonderment at the world around me.

I’m already looking forward to a 2007 visit to the Friendly Confines – I strongly advise a pilgrimmage to Wrigley to all of you outside the Chicagoland area. Don’t be disappointed about the Cubs, there’s not much you or I can do as long as MacFail and Hendry are running the show. Don’t worry, be happy.

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Dodging the Karmic Bullet

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

I decided to blow off (yet again) a task that has gotten out of hand: mowing the lawn. The grass was getting so long that I was not at all surprised when I saw Laura Ingalls Wilder sitting in the back yard. I chose to shirk my responsibility in order to listen to the Cubs, and I was vindicated when the Cubs scored 4 in the first off of Smoltz. Then the game was in the hands of Jae Kyuk Ryu (whose last two syllables rhyme with something that rhymes with “duck pooh” and describe how the Cubs have been treating us this year) and he proved unworthy. Or, perhaps, worthy. Worthy of carrying on the legacy of misery I inherited from my father, who in turn inherited it from his father.

About three hundred fifty-seven Braves homers later, it was 11-5. I started to regret my decision, so I quit listening to Ron’s moans and Pat’s efforts to save the broadcast in order to face my duties.

I came back in just in time to see the bottom of the ninth: Braves 12, Cubs 8, a whole bunch of second basemen due up. Neifi!’s triple changed everything!

I started to worry. What if, like Earl, karma intervened (stupid Carson Daly!) and changed the game because I did the right thing? Then I’d be forced into a lifetime of good deeds and what-not.

Enter Aramis Ramirez, the “Skull of Free Will.” Thank you, Aramis, for your soccer-inspired fielding of that popup. You restored lack of balance to the universe and let me off the hook. And through it all, we learn the lesson we’ve been taught about 90 times a year since the day I was born:

This team sucks.

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Friday, May 26th, 2006

It’s embarrassing.

–Ron Santo during the 9th inning of Friday’s game

Ronnie may not be a great color announcer, but he described today’s ninth inning to a tee. For those who don’t know, Ryan Dempster came on in the ninth to protect a 2 run lead. 2 singles and 2 walks later, it was 5-4 with 1out and Andruw Jones at the plate. Andruw lofted a deep flyball to our own Jacque Jones, who caught it and actually got the relay in the vicinity of cutoff man Neifi Perez, as Brayan Pena scored the tying run. But Neifi failed to handle the throw, so Marcus Giles raced around third and scored when Perez’s throw to home was 10 feet over Barrett’s head. It was the first time I’ve ever heard of 2 runs scoring on a sacrifice fly. And the strange part is, Santo called the Cubs effort embarrassing BEFORE this all happened.

This team is lousy. There’s really nothing more to say about them. If Dusty Baker can ever engineer a 5 game winning streak, he’ll get an extension, but right now the Cubs don’t even look capable of that. The front office needs to go. I know I’ve been harping on Dusty Baker since last season, but today just provided me with more fodder. It’s bad enough that Perez was batting 2nd today, but with the team down 1 run in the bottom of the ninth, Dusty let Neifi hit for himself. That’s right, Neifi, he of .221OBP, the guy who was charged with 2 errors on the play that allowed the Braves to go ahead in the first place was allowed to bat, despite the fact that Matt Murton and Jerry Hairston were still both on the bench (Tony Womack may have been there too). Jim Hendry remains sequestered in an undisclosed location, emerging occasionally to tell us that he’s working hard on a trade, but that nobody will make a trade this early in the season (meanwhile, the Mets made two separate deals for starting pitchers). Finally, Andy McPhail assures us all that he will do everything in his power to make sure that he brings the Mackinac Cup* to Tribune Tower. Actually, that’s not fair. Andy McPhail just wants to remind us that the Astros started the season 15-30 last year and went to the World Series, so obviously the Cubs are following that same blueprint. Except instead of Andy Pettite, Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt all throwing 200 innings each, the Cubs will have Mark Prior, Wade Miller and Kerry Wood throw 200 innings combined.

So please, if you’re still entertaining thoughts that the Cubs are somehow “in it” don’t write me an angry e-mail or comment about how a true fan of the team shouldn’t give up. A true fan of baseball should recognize the crap we’ve been handed and realize that this team is an embarrassment. You know what’s really sad about this whole thing? There are 3 other baseball teams close by, the White Sox, the Cardinals and the Brewers. Now, I can’t bring myself to root for any of those teams, but I have been watching them, and they are all playing exciting baseball. They all have talented yet selfless players, who are fundamentally sound, who hustle, and who seem to have legitimate fun when they step between the white lines. I don’t see this with the Cubs, and it’s a damn shame, because as fans of the game of baseball, we deserve better from this team.

* for those who don’t know, the Mackinac Cup is the trophy awarded to the winner of the annual yacht race from Chicago to Mackinac Island

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Get the Word Out

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

It was just a matter of time. Got this e-mail last night. Normally I wouldn’t comply but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Is there any way you can pass the message below on in your blog? I’m new to this, and don’t have much time to get the word out. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I have just been contacted by fox tv. We will be in discussions tomorrow (thursday)regarding coverage of the protest. They are covering the game saturday and they want to cover the protest. Just showing up and helping us with the cause would really help, we’re not even going to the game, we’re just protesting the Tribune Co. in front of Wrigley (big red marquee) at 11:30am. We are protesting the lack of vision and forethought in putting a world series team together for the past 98years. 25 of it under tribune co. ownership! We still love the cubs, but we’re tired of the Tribune Co. taking us for granted. This is not a boycott, but instead, a protest. A peaceful one at that.

We want a team on the field that compares to the financial support us Cub fans have given the Trib. Co. for the past 25 years! If you have any other way to help out, let me know. Some will disagree with me and i respect your opinions, but this is my little effort for what it’s worth. Feel free to contact me for info.
Thanks for your support. Help spread the
word. Bill

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Season of Futility Continues

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

Box Score

An image can sometimes serve the purpose of encapsulating an entire event or series of events. Such was the case this afternoon. The Cubs were batting in the top of the 6th inning. The starting pitcher picks up a bat and uncharacteristically smashes into a helpless ice chest, spewing ice chips and water all over a Cub trainer.

What is so amazing is that this was not Carlos Zambrano or even Kerry Wood. This is Greg Maddux, the Professor. Mild Mannered Clark Kent.

The Season of Futility continues.

Another opposing pitcher who has had virtually no success this year comes out looking pretty good. Brian Moehler of the Marlins had an ERA of over 7.

The final score was 9-3. Miguel Cabrera spanked the Cubbies pretty good once gain with another 4 rbiís, totalling 8 for the series.

The seminal moment of the game seemed to occur in the bottom of the 5th. Maddux leading 3-1, got the first two outs in the frame. It seemed that Madduxís lead-off double in the top of the 5th wasnít having any debilitating effects (except his teammates couldnít score him from 2nd with no outs). The next guy grounds one deep to short. Ronny Cedeno fields, throws and skips it into Todd Walker, who doesnít handle it cleanly. No error is charged to either player, it is scored an infield hit.

The floodgates opened. The Marlins hit for the cycle after the 2nd out and all of a sudden itís 6-3. the major clout was a 3 run shot off of Joe Borchard, who was hitting .111 against right-handers before Maddux grooved one to Borchard.

After a stellar April, Maddux has self-destructed in May. He is now 5-4, about where most prognosticators assumed heíd be before the season.

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Dumb Things People Say

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

The fish rots from the head, or so they say (I’m not getting close enough to a rotten fish to confirm it). Well, the Cubs are rotten, and Andy McPhail’s management style is definitely part of the problem, not the solution. As if to illustrate this for us, Andy was able to put his silver spoon down long enough on Monday night to give a quick state of the Cubs address. I’m not going to break his statement down word for word, since War already did an excellent job of that already. But there was one particular sentence that caught my eye:

“We need to get at full strength and have everybody play to their accustomed level and see how we go from there and find out how good we can be,” MacPhail said.

In other words, expect no accountability. And expect no changes in the way the team operates. There will be no major trades for a player that might pick up the slack while Derrek Lee is out (although it seems to be too late for that anyway) and there will be no major rebuilding. The 2006 Cubs are a sound team, with injuries the only major problem. The Cubs will proceed through this season, evaluate the current roster, make some relatively minor changes in the offseason, and be surprised when the same crap happens again in 2007. Thank you Andy McPhail, you are a true visionary.

And for a quick bonus “dumb things people say” here’s Dusty Baker commenting on how the Cubs issued 7 walks in yesterday’s game:

“We had a ton of walks, Baker said. You can’t walk people. You walk them, you’re asking for trouble.”

Now, this isn’t a dumb thing per se. But considering that Baker recognizes that it’s bad for his own pitching staff to issue walks, but doesn’t think it’s important for his own hitters to draw walks against opposing pitchers.

Oh, in other news, the Cubs lost to the Marlins 5-4 tonight, when Ryan Dempster blew the save in the 9th.

Prediction: If there are no changes in either team’s management personel, the Marlins will be a better team than the Cubs in 2 years.

I hope to take a more serious shot at answering the question posed by Mastrick later this week.

Why did I come back from vacation again?

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Looking forward into 2007

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

Let’s forget discussing tonight’s game against the Marlins, there’s nothing to discuss. We were outclassed by a team that had a fire sale in 2005 and we were beat by a guy WE TRADED. But boy do they have a future! We all know what the problem is – our leadership needs to be replaced and some of the players do too.

My question to the readership of VFB is this: Supposing Andy MacFail was fired tomorrow and you were selected to take his job. What would you do about about the rest of 2006 and what would you do going into 2007? I will offer my specific solution after this has been discussed by the readership as an update. Some of my fellow writers may also wish to make updates; remember, you are the president, you have the $105M budget and you call the shots. The Trib will back you up if you stay inside your budget and offer concrete solutions.

Mastrick’s solution:
If I were appointed to do MacFail’s job I would spring into action the very first day. I would first call Jim Hendry into my office and make him the Cub’s head scout for Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. I would set his expectations that he could plan on being on the road on specific game assignments four days per week. If he offered his resignation *without pay* I would accept it. Then I would name Onieri Fleita as acting GM until such a time as Dallas Green could take over. I would then fire Dusty Baker, Larry Rothschild and Gene Clines and appoint Mike Quade as acting manager and Dick Pole as acting pitching coach. Quade would be free to hire his own bench coach and I’d encourage him to hire a ra-ra kind of guy. I would hold an immediate team meeting and set clear expectations for the team insofar as immediate specific performance improvements. If the Cubs didn’t show improvement by the All Star break I would trade every player that I didn’t plan on having back next year.

Insofar as 2007 I would hire a new manager and GM to one year contracts. Pay would be tied to individual performance metrics that would make them anywhere from the worst-paid to the best-paid depending upon their performance. I would not be interested in any candidate that did not want a performance-based salary, nor would I be interested in any candidate who insisted on a multiyear contract. The GM would be expected to have a starting rotation composed of Zambrano, Maddux, Marshall and two new top free agents. I would not want a relaxed clubhouse, rather I would expect my players to be like Siberian Huskies straining at the leash. The Cubs need to get out of their comfort zone and get into their stretch zone. It can be done if the leadership makes it happen.

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Sunday, May 21st, 2006

Box Score

Well that’s what today’s game was about and the Cubs’ players showed they had it. Respect for the game and themselves, they could have folded against a superior team but they showed spunk and vigor and deservedly won a game.

Jacque Jones is about to discover the good side of Wrigley – he’s about to come home to a hero’s welcome. From an offensive standpoint this guy is making it happen. Zambrano fought and scratched his way to a victory – his exchange with Ozzie and Pierzynski has me real curious. What was that all about? Sometimes I wonder if Carlos is part Klingon.

Tomorrow night the Cubs face former top prospect Ricky Nolasco, we gave him and others up for Juan Pierre. Rotoworld reports that Kerry Wood has soreness in his pitching shoulder and could miss his Tuesday start; Glendon Rusch is mentioned as a possible replacement. “It’s deja vu all over again” Hendry, why didn’t you do your job during the offseason?

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