Archive for October, 2006

Sunday Morning Smorgasbord

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

The other day, I had an idea for what to do with that ugly idea of blogging on Sunday. Because so many people are not at work, the number of visits to the sites are less. With that in mind, I want to point the readers to a variety of things I find on the web over the coarse of the week. The links will cover all areas of the map. Some baseball, other sports, misc. news. etc. Hopefully you’ll enjoy this each week. In addition, if you come across something that would be a good fit for the post, use our contact form and send it my way. Without any more delay, here is the first installment.

White Sox looking at Dave Roberts (Link) – A combination of Dave Roberts and Scott Podsednick would be a deadly combination on the basepaths for the White Sox. You would almost have to start your backup catcher if he had the better arm to try to minimize the damage.

Arizona Fall League Notebook
October 27th, 2006

October 24th, 2006

2006 Minor League Free Agent List – (Link)

Among the notable names on the list, Brandon Sing, Jared Sandberg, Tike Redman, Bubba Crosby, Bo Hart, Bobby Hill, and Tim Raines Jr.

World Series Quiz – (Link)
If you take this quiz, you’ll have to wait till the next article comes out for the answers.

Fun Stuff from the Onion
World Series overshadowed by thrilling new labor agreement – (Link)

Kenny Rogers denies cheatin’ during World Series – (Link)

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What’s worse than a punch to the gut?

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

Perhaps a kick to the groin. Fresh off seeing the Cardinals crowned the champions of baseball last night, I open my e-paper and read that “The representative for free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez said Friday no deal is close between Ramirez and the Cubs.” So basically, in the span of about a week, we can see the Redbirds win and our All-Star third baseman test the free agent market. This has to get done. We have got to get Ramirez on this team if we have any chance at moving to the frontrunner in the division next year.

I look at the Central and I see a division ripe for the taking. The Cardinals, champions as they are, are still old and virtually pitcherless. Don’t let the Reyes and Weaver’s of the playoffs fool you. These are no dominant pitchers. The Astros and Brewers are the other two teams that have potential. Neither of them really scare me. Jim Hendry needs to move on Ramirez and get this done.

I see no other alternative. So let’s fire up the hot stove and get this team back to playoff caliber. 2003 seems way too far away.

In other news, Joe Niekro passed away due to a brain aneurysm on Friday. His is some information about his career via Wikipedia.

Joseph Franklin Niekro, was an American starting pitcher in Major League Baseball, the younger brother of Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro, and the father of current San Francisco Giants first baseman Lance Niekro.

Niekro, like his brother, specialized in throwing the knuckleball, and his 221 career victories make him one of the most successful knuckleball pitchers of all time. The Niekro brothers combined for 539 total wins, making them the most successful brother combination in baseball history.

Joe Niekro was much more traveled than his brother, pitching for the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Detroit Tigers with only occasional success before joining Phil with the Atlanta Braves in 1973. Initially a fastball/curveball pitcher, Joe perfected his knuckleball while pitching for Atlanta alongside brother Phil, and two years later joined the Houston Astros, where he would become the most successful pitcher in Astros history. The knuckleball became an essential part of his arsenal though never his sole pitch. Joe threw harder than Phil and could set up batters nearly as effectively with his fastball in combination with his excellent change-up. In 1976, he hit his first and only big league home run in 973 lifetime at bats, off his brother Phil. He was an All-Star in 1979, a year in which he led the National League in wins with 21, threw a league-leading five shutouts, and finished second in voting for the NL Cy Young Award.

The Niekro brothers were briefly reunited again in 1985 when Joe was acquired by the New York Yankees. In June 1987, the Yankees traded Niekro to the Minnesota Twins. A month later, on August 3, 1987, with the pennant race heating up and the Twins leading the American League West, Niekro was ejected for having a nail file on the mound. Niekro claimed he had been filing his nails in the dugout and stuck the file in his back pocket when the inning started and had not been doctoring baseballs. National League president A. Bartlett Giamatti didn’t believe him, and suspended Niekro for ten days.

When Niekro appeared in the 1987 World Series, he set a record for the longest period of time elapsed between a player’s major league debut and his first appearance in the World Series.

On May 4, 1988, after compiling a 10.03 earned run average in his first five games, the Twins released Niekro, effectively ending his 22-year career.

Joe Niekro
1944 – 2006
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What I learned about today.

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

The Chicago Cubs opened the season with high hopes. In a division they knew was weak, they added a leadoff hitter and a left-handed bat. They strengthened their bench. They had a mix of young and old, with Murton and Cedeno offsetting Jones and Maddux. They had players in their prime who were offensive powerhouses in Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. They had an emerging ace in Carlos Zambrano, a solid closer in Dempster, and other pitchers like Prior, Wood, and Rusch who had good seasons for the team in the past. They had a manager who had been successful and a big payroll. 90 games, it appeared in the preseason, would have won it. They didn’t have to build the ’27 Yanks. The ’87 Twins would have been enough.

And then the season happened. Injury and bad management were the antagonists, and this movie would end up having the kind of happy ending only Bergman could devise. When the curtain closed, the hated St. Louis Cardinals took advantage of a weak division that, had the Cubs played slightly above .500 ball, they would have owned. The rival Cards back-doored into the playoffs and emerged on top of the major leagues, hoisting high the World Series trophy.

It is in this way that I discovered a new sort of religion. It is this:
Hell is being a Cubs fan.
We’re being punished for something we did a long time ago. For me, it was the pain I inflicted upon my brother James, who bore the brunt of all the misguided agression from my childhood.
My personal hell is also inflicted due to the bludgeoning-based bullying I committed as an unhappy youth upon the Loser (pronounced LOW-ZER) family, Chris and Brandy. I regularly beat them up as a child.

I apologize to the aforementioned. I have to believe something which cannot be explained by the natural laws of the universe is afoot. After seeing the Green Bay Packers beat the crap out of the Bears throughout the nineties and now watching the St. Louis Cardinals, 83 game winners and my personal baseball bane, win the series, there’s some personal crap going on ‘tween me and the universe.

I’d like to believe that it’s a management team that’s just one step behind the competition. Again. For the 98th straight year.

I’d like to believe that, in a 7 game series, the hot team, not the best team or the best matchup, wins.

But for Buddha‘s sake, I’m 35 and in the third generation of inept management! My dad was FOUR years old the last time this team was in the World Series! And I’m looking down the barrel of another gun packed with a “Win Now” manager and a short-term GM willing to sacrifice his farm system to save his job.

On this night when the team that even Cardinals fans must admit has been their crummiest in years emerges as the World Champs, that these years I’ve been enduring as a Cubs fan are penance for all the things I did wrong while I was learning what I now know.

Congrats to the Cards. I hope Chris and Brandy Loser are Cards fans.

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Congrats to the Japanese champions!

Friday, October 27th, 2006

Japanese baseball has been dominated for years by the likes of “old school” teams, such as the Yomiuri Giants, Chiunichi Dragons, Hanshin Tigers and Seibu Lions. These teams all play in the older Central Division, but they have not fared well in recent years. For American comparisons, please consider recent National versus American League results.

This year the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (whose roster includes Jose Macias) have claimed the title. The Fighters have been ably managed by Trey Hillman (pictured at right, rather upside down,) a former AAA Columbus Clippers manager. My gut instinct is that Trey will be announced soon as the new manager of the Texas Rangers. Trey is potentially a younger version of Cubs manager Lou Piniella. The big star for the Fighters (named after the Japanese meatpacking conglomerate Nippon Ham) is pitcher Yu Darvish (pictured to the left;) Yu shares both Iranian and Japanese ancestry – American Major League fans will start to hear about Yu in about six years when he nears free agent eligibility. Their victory was iced by a former Montreal Expo player named Fernando Seguignol, seen in the picture to the right hitting a two-run homer off of Chuinichi Dragons pitcher Kenshin Kawakami.

Hokkaido used to be one of the three “Tokyo” teams and could not survive in a market that included Yomiuri. In bad games they had less than a thousand fans, so the team headed to the northern island when Sapporo built a domed stadium. Nippon players insist that their championship could not have happened without the urgent support of the Hokkaido faithful – compare and contrast that with the egotistical “me-ism” of their American equivalents!

For American baseball fans this is the equivalent of the Seattle Mariners winning a championship – best of luck to the Fighters’ players and congratulations to their fans!

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Gary Sheffield – Open Discussion

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

New York Yankees slugger Gary Sheffield, informed Wednesday that the Yankees will pick up his $13 million option in 2007, was angry by the decision, hoping instead the Yankees would let him go.

“”This will not work, this will not work at all,” Sheffield told USA TODAY. “I don’t want to play first base a year for them. I will not do that.”

Sheffield, who heard that the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels were interested him, said he was hoping to test the free-agent market and receive another three-year contract.

USA Today

Suggested areas to discus:
– Is he a solution the Cubs should pursue?
– Is three years reasonable?
– If he is a solution, flesh out how the OF might look
– Is he a future hall-of-famer based on his numbers? (View Career Numbers)

Have at it. Let’s fill the comment section. The goal is 100 comments.

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