Archive for May, 2006

Suggestions Please

Monday, May 15th, 2006

It’s getting harder and harder to write about blowout losses day in and day out. So, I want to make sure we keep the content entertaining enough to stay with the team and the site through this tough time. What i’d like for you to do is sound off with some ideas for things you would like to see. Here are a few of my ideas. Let me know what you think and add some of your ideas.

1. Predict the future – Basically, what this feature would be is a way for us to dialogue about the future of various things related to the team. For example, I am working on one now that will be a discussion on the future of a couple of the Cubs prospects. It is something that they do on John Sickel’s site a lot.

2. Remember me? – This is a segment where we focus on Cubs of old that have since faded off to obscurity. It’s fun to find out what happened to fringe players once they left the Cubs. We can share our memories of them and see what they did in their short career.

3. Meet the prospect – These will be discussion threads revolving around various players in the farm system. One of the most exciting parts of being a fan is watching the players in the system slowly work their way up to the big leagues.

Those are the ideas i’ve been kicking around right now. What do you think?

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“The world’s greatest pool player”

Sunday, May 14th, 2006

Some months ago I wrote a short piece about the only pro baseball player I ever knew, Billy Martin. But there was one other sports figure whom I knew even better. Rudolph Wanderone, Jr., known to the rest of the world as Minnesota Fats.

Minnesota lived in the Hermitage Hotel on Sixth and Union in Nashville, TN and spent most of his nights hanging around the Bull Pen Lounge in the basement of the Stock Yard Restaurant. Minnesota loved crowds and he loved to be recognized; in fact, he’d go home and go to bed early if he didn’t get recognized. He carried with him a little rubber stamp which he used for autographs; he was bothered by arthritis and claimed that the stamp was more genuine anyway.

Minnesota never claimed to be “the world’s greatest pool player.” In fact, he really didn’t seem to like playing pool at all. Rather, he was a card shark, what is known in the casino world as a “card reader.” He had a very categorical memory and could keep track of the cards that had already been dealt. Or so I’m told.

At one time Minnesota Fats Enterprises had an office in the Sears Tower, he once told me that a couple of employees and bankrupted the company and disappeared with their pockets bulging. When I knew him he was not a wealthy man at all; each month he signed over his social security check to the hotel and, in return he got to live and eat in a luxury hotel. I was always grateful to the Hermitage for doing that and always recommended their fine hotel because of that.

As time went on Minnesota began to have health problems as we all do. A hostess at the Stockyard that I knew as Teresa Bell took Minnesota in and took care of him in his later years. I’m told that they eventually married. But during most of the 1980s Minnesota was a permanent fixture in the Nashville community; every day he’d be seen sitting in his chair in the Hermitage or feeding the pigeons in the back alley behind the hotel. Minnesota never seemed too concerned about his advancing age; rather, he was more worried about what would happen to the pigeons.

Update
During the rest of this season Mastrick intends to write occasional offbeat pieces about sports in general or Cubs history. These articles may be a bit off-topic but are meant as a ray of sunlight in an otherwise cloudy season.

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Game 37 wrapup: Another stinker

Sunday, May 14th, 2006

Today’s 9-0 loss was more bad music for Cubs fans. Except this orchestra is the creation of music director Jim Hendry and it’s conductor is Dusty Baker. There is no excuse for an entire ballclub to play poorly just as there is no excuse for an entire orchestra to perform badly. Either you can fire the entire second violin section, the bassists, all the woodwinds and the horns or you can hold the conductor and the guy who hires the musicians responsible for all the dissonant sounds. And not only is this orchestra out of tune, they keep a beat like a cop.

But this management will do nothing, winning is obviously not a very big priority for MacPhail and Hendry. They have thick skins – they’ll endure yet another bad season this year and again they’ll promise us the moon and include the stars for what they’ll do in 2007. And why should I expect anything different next year? The current regime of MacPhail, Hendry and Baker are taking away the only thing we’ve ever really had for sure as Cubs fans. Hope.

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Me, Mom and the Big Red Machine

Sunday, May 14th, 2006

Dear Mom,
Today is Motherís Day so I thought Iíd reminisce a little. Thanks for doing your best as a mother. You are only as good as the material you have to work with and I have to say you and Dad did great with us 5 boys.

Remember that time in 1975 when just the two of us went to Cincinnati for a couple of days? Dad and Brad went on a fishing trip and you knew how much I hate to fish so we set off and lo and behold we ended up at Riverfront Stadium for a double-header with the Cubs! I was 16 at the time and lived Cub baseball.

For some reason we didnít get tickets ahead of time so we ended up sitting near the very top of the stadium and couldnít tell a fly ball from a grounder. Remember how the sea gulls flew below us? The attendance that day was over 50,000. remember the lines to the bathrooms? So do I!

1975, wow. This was the year the Cubs had Bill Madlock, Rick Monday, Jose Cardenal, Manny Trillo and Pete LaCock. Meanwhile, the Big Red Machine was at full steam. Bench, Rose, Morgan, Tony Perez (as far as I know, no relation to Neifi) and just for kicks, Pedro Borbon.

Do you remember who pitched for the Cubs in game one, Mom? Thatís right, Rick Reuschel, the ace of the staff. He almost won that game too, tossing a 4-hitter. He lost 2-1 on a Johnny Bench home run late in the game. The Cubs had bases loaded in the ninth but just couldnít get that big hit when they needed it the most. I guess some things never change.

Mom, the second game was also a bust as the Cubs lost 8-5. the Redsí bats woke up and smoked a tandem of Cub pitchers with names like Zahn (No, Mom, not Warren Spahn, I said Zahn) and Zamora and Watt and Frailing. I wonder what Oscar Zamora is doing today.

Well, Mom, I had a good time and I think thatís all you cared about. Iím sure it wasnít your idea of an exciting way to relax and enjoy yourself but you were there for me and I will never forget it. In fact, donít tell anyone but the best part was just being with you.

I love you.
Your Mommaís Boy,
Tommy

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Game 36 wrapup: Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

Saturday, May 13th, 2006

Okay Cubs fans, we did it again. Somehow we found another way to lose a ballgame – I can’t blame Ryan Dempster, he’s had 26 saves in a row. I can’t really blame anybody in particular for this terrible tailspin, some of our best players have stopped hitting as much, a rightfielder known for his defensive prowess forgets what a cutoff man is, a slick-fielding shortstop commits a mental error…

There’s a hundred excuses as to why this team is not playing winning baseball. You look at the lineup and they should at least be playing .500 baseball. I’m sure Dusty will put on his hang-dog face and give us at least ten good excuses why we lost this one; Dusty is always good for some excuses. Just once I’d like to see him admit that he’s the captain of the ship and his ship is foundering at sea. Just once I’d like to see him admit that the way the team is playing is unacceptable and will not be allowed further. But that’s not Dusty is it? Rather, Dusty will respond by throwing yet another pity party and juggling his lineup so that Neifi bats second.


The captain of this ship is a Captain Queeg, he’s more likely to retreat to the other side of the boat when the guns start blazing than take charge of his crew. Like Humphrey Bogart jiggling his steel marbles, Dusty just sits there impotently chewing on toothpicks as the ship takes on water. Methinks it is time for the captain to walk the plank.

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Still Bad: Padres 10, Cubs 5

Friday, May 12th, 2006

I’m thinking that the blue “L” flag is going to end up becoming the official graphic of View From the Bleachers if this keeps up. The Cubs lost again in ugly fashion, and really, this team isn’t giving us much to take heart in. While the offense was a little better this time out, it was still inconsistent (14 men LOB), and the Cubs relied on their losing formula of a short outing by their starter (3.0 innings, 87 pitches for Angel Guzman) no help from the long relief (5 earned runs for Glendon Rusch) and lousy defense (3 errors in one inning). Throw in Michael Barrett’s tantrum at Dave Roberts and this game had the makings of a total meltdown. After seeing the team play keep playing this way, I’m not sure how Dusty Baker can keep his job. In fact, if anybody can tell me the logic behind this lineup, please let me know:

1.Pierre – CF
2.Neifi – 2B
3.Cedeno – SS
4.Ramirez – 3B
5.Barrett – C
6.Mabry – 1B
7.Murton – LF
8.Hairston – RF

Murton ought to be hitting much higher in this lineup. In fact, he should be hitting 1st or 2nd. I know Dusty’s got his strange pre-conceived notions about batting orders, but if he’s willing to play a 2nd baseman in right field, he ought to be open to batting a player with a .371 OBP higher than 7th in the lineup.

I would like to give you some reason to have hope for this team this year. It’s a terrible thing to realize that we’re going to be watching 4 and a half months of meaningless baseball (at least in the standings) but the truth is, I don’t see any way this team as currently constructed can win. Jim Hendry has pretty much announced that no help will be expected via trade (although he’s going to look pretty bad if Brian Cashman pulls off a deal for the Yankees) and Dusty Baker seems to think that simply shuffling the same players that aren’t getting the job done will somehow make them spring to life, while leaving others to rot on the bench without so much as a chance like Michael Restovich and Ryan Theriot. Not that I think either of these guys are superstars, but at this point, what do you lose by playing them? So instead of being proactive, the Cubs remain passive. Dusty figures eventually his lineup will simply start hitting, so why try anyone new, and Jim Hendry figures eventually Wood and Prior and Williams and Lee will be back, so what’s the point of making a trade and here we are. It’s May 12th, and the Cubs are much closer to last place than 1st. The team is showing little life, and Dusty Baker seems resigned to being fired. It’s not a good time to be a Cubs fan.

Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe I’m missing all the signs of a big comeback. I’m going on vacation next week, and I’ll probably have little access to the Cubs while I’m gone, so maybe the break will be good. Maybe I’ll come back with a new attitude about the team. But only if they give me a reason.

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Game 34 wrapup: Yet another whuppin’

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

As the Cubs were being drubbed by the San Francisco I conjured up an image of the Cubs’ front office as Jim Hendry (pictured at right) called around the league making things happen on behalf of the Cubs. I’ll tell ya, watching the Cubs this month has been a barrel of monkeys!

The game started poorly for me when I noticed that Dusty Baker had started John Mabry in the 5 hole and Murton, who was hitting 60 points higher at number 8. What could he have honestly been thinking, does this guy even look at the stats? Later in the game, after giving up 9 runs, Sean Marshall was shown sitting on the bench with his head in his hands. Totally dejected, probably depleted of any confidence that he might have acquired during his two victories. What is Dusty doing leaving any pitcher in for 9 runs? Doesn’t he want to win these games? Doesn’t he have the slightest idea after 6 runs that his pitcher doesn’t have his best stuff? Then Dusty got to doing what he does best, playing every single player on his bench. Not that winning or losing matters, mind you.

This week Dusty Baker proved his incompetence as a manager in front of the very fans that wished him well nearly four years ago. They watched their team take two out of three rather decisively from Dusty and his lowly Cubs. Cubs fans, however, seem likely to have to endure two more years of Mr. Toothpick. Like I said, there must be some kind of monkey business going on in the front office.

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Game 34 preview: This one is winnable Cubs fans

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

I’m really looking forward to seeing Sean Marshall pitch against Bonds today. This kid seems unflappable and it’s going to be interesting to see how Bonds handles Marshall’s different speeds and curveball. This is a very winnable game for the Cubs – the eight day curse has been lifted and Jaimey Wright has lost his last three consecutive outings, giving up 14 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings pitched. So let’s hope that Sean has his good stuff this afternoon and let’s also hope that the Cubs clobber Wright right into the Stone Age and go home with a two game win streak. Let’s go Cubbies!

Update:

The game is under way and Dusty in his infinite wisdom has Mabry (.216 BA) batting fifth and Murton (.280 BA) batting eighth. It’s times like this that make me seriously wonder if Dusty did way too much acid back in the early 70s…now it is 9-0 and Dusty is going to his bullpen. Baker has absolutely no judgemental skill when it comes to pitching changes, rather he needs to get hit over the head with a sledgehammer. Time to have an All Star game and get everybody into the lineup Dusty, it’s what you do best!

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Game 33 wrapup: She’s singin’!!

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

Cubs win, Cubs win! I used to know a fantastic club entertainer back in the early 90s by the name of Tommy Riggs; he was known as “The Night Train” or “The Big Rigg” by many but I always knew him as “The Round Mound of Sound.” Tommy would have contended that it wasn’t over till the fatboy sang and he must have been wailing tonight – ‘hey hey, that’s what I’d say!’ Tommy passed in 2000, I sure miss that guy…

Tonight the Baseball Gods were finally with us – Z got into some trouble but was able to work out of it, thanks especially to a nice play by Mabry and Blanco at the plate and a timely groundout by Vizquel with the bases juiced in the fourth. Despite the streak the Cubs went into tonight only 6.5 back, miracles have happened before and that is exactly what we need now. Marshall tomorrow versus Jaimey Wright, another winnable game. Let’s go for two in a row Cubs fans!

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