Archive for August, 2009

Getting Questioned

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

A Nats blogger tossed me some questions this afternoon and I thought I’d share with you what I wrote. Also, go check out their blog during this series. Maybe we can trash talk a little. Or, if you’re Sherm, woo Adam Dunn:

The Nats Blog: The Nationals just signed Stephen Strasburg to a record breaking $15 million contract last week. The man who’s record he broke was of course, former Cub, Mark Prior. How do you think the expectations for Strasburg compare to those of Prior, and experiencing Prior’s fall out, do you think the big deal was a wise choice for the Nats?

The View from the Bleachers: Will, that’s a great question. Unfortunately it brings up a terrible wound that I can’t bear to recount at this time. Curse you and all your family for bringing up such a hurtful memory for me. In all seriousness, I think the question is a valid one. While the position and signing bonuses are very similar, I think the situation surrounding both are different. When the Cubs signed Prior, they did so specifically based on his “can’t miss” tag and “sound mechanics”, and no other reason. For the Nats, it seems to be deeper rooted than that. Strasburg appears to have the same labels as Prior, but the situation of the organizations is vastly different. The Cubs routinely pack the park wherever they go, regardless of the team on the field. Prior offered them the chance to have a marquee talent to make up for losing Greg Maddux. For Washington, they’re still wrapping their hands around the idea of baseball again and haven’t come out in droves to the new park like the team probably hoped for. Signing Strasburg shows the fans that the former Expo organization is still committed to bringing top notch talent through the system. To no sign him would have been a slap in the face and contrary to everything the system has always been about. Whether it was a “wise” deal can’t ever be determined until you see the end result. I’ll say this, though. No one ever wins the World Series without taking risks. I commend the Nats for doing the deal and look forward to watching him pitch in person, since I’m in NC and usually make a trip that way each year for the Cubs series.

TNB: What were your expectations for the Cubs coming into 2009? Did the team fail to meet them?

VFTB: Dude, seriously, another wound. My expectations were high, and I don’t think I was alone. It’s been a very disappointing season, especially the last two weeks. We’ve seen this team go from first to 8 games out in just over 2 weeks. It’s been a disaster. We’re routinely not hitting in clutch situations and have a nasty tendency to play bad fundamental baseball. Then again, so do the Nats if I remember correctly from my trip to DC for the series ending beatdown in July.

TNB: What do you think are the Cubs odds to catch St. Louis or Colorado?

VFTB: If we’re going to catch someone, it would have to be the Cardinals, though I think they’re a better team. It’s simply too hard to leapfrog multiple teams in the wild card race. With the Cards playing some of the best baseball in all the league, it’s almost impossible. I’d put the odds at 25-1.

TNB: Will the Cubs make an effort to resign Rich Harden? Should they?

VFTB: This is another good question. We picked up his 2009 option, and he becomes a free agent at season’s end. We’ve seen Randy Wells emerge in the rotation as a legit starter in this league and have Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano all under contract for next year. If we were to re-sign Harden, it would have to be with incentives laden througout the deal, which I doubt seriously he’d approve. Someone will pay him, the bigger question to me is what his status is as far as compensatory picks and if we’d offer arbitration to get him, knowing we’d be stuck if he accepted.

TNB: Name a hidden gem in the Cubs system that other people might be interested to read about.

VFTB: Ah, now you’re in my wheelhouse. Love talking about the farm. I’m quite fond of a few names. Rebel Ridling was a 25th round pick in 2008 out of college. He spent some time with Peoria (Low A) last year after impressing in rookie ball and has spent the full season there this year. He’s put up .305 / .354 / .468 with 15 HR and 89 RBO at the 1st base position. He may not emerge to be a gem, but he’s a guy I like a lot. Plus he’s got a cool name. Another name on the mound that deserves watching is Chris Archer, who was brought in during the Mar DeRosa trade. He’s a 5th round pick from the ’06 draft out of a high school right down the road from me. He’s 20 years old and has pitched for Peoria as well. In 23 starts, he has an ERA of 2.75 with a 5-4 record with a 9.9 K/9 rate. He has control issues he needs to work on, but he can definitely miss bats.

TNB: What is your favorite all time Cubs memory?

TVFTB: Definitely going to game one against the Braves in ATL in 2003 for the NLDS. Kerry Wood, my favorite Cub, got the start and pitched great. He even hit the ball well. It was an outstanding experience. Playoff baseball live is something every fan needs to experience.

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What Time Is It?

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

This book has possibly the longest title of any book I’ve ever read. The full title is: “What Time Is It? You Mean Now? – Advice for Life from the Zennest Master of Them All” by Yogi Berra with Dave Kaplan.

You all know who Yogi Berra is. I’m not sure if “Dave Kaplan” is the guy on local TV with a Bulldog named “Deep Dish”.

The book is presented as a series of soliloquies by Yogi. Since Mr. Berra is a man of few words, I’m thinking maybe these were two-way conversations, and Mr. Kaplan’s comments were simply edited out. Regardless of how it occurred, Yogi’s discourses are great.

There are 26 chapters. Here are some of the headings:
– “Baseball’s Different Today, But It Isn’t”
– “It Gets Late Early Out There”
– “Little Things Are Big”
– “The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be”

I enjoyed reading every sentence of every chapter in the book. But some sentences jumped out at me. I’m sure that when you read the book, other sentences will jump out at you. Following are some of my favorites:

– You are what you think; maybe that’s why some people need attitude adjustments.
– There are lots of things in life you can’t control, but how you respond to those things is the one thing you can control.
– That’s how I kept myself positive, by not getting all negative.
– …we were lost, but at least we were making good time.
– And the World Series shouldn’t always be at night–they’re losing young fans.
– I did tell Carm, though, that she ought to put on my tombstone, “It’s over.”
– One time, though, she did ask me where I should be buried….I told Carm, “I don’t know, just surprise me.”
– You can get old pretty young if you don’t take care of yourself.
– Exercise is the best medicine, unless you’re really sick and need something else.
– …remaining active helps you remain active.
– My biggest fear is probably death; I know I’m going to die, but I don’t especially want to be there when it happens.
– I told him that he had to have kids, it’s the best thing for a family.
– Casey used to say that most games are lost, not won….
– You can’t teach power and speed, but you can teach hustling and proper technique.
– …because that’s the beauty of New York: Like someone said, “It’s the greatest city in the world – you got a problem with that?”
– I think the biggest regrets in life are missed opportunities, but you can’t get pessimistic over things that should’ve been or you’ll just go into a depression.
– We were always taught to be gracious winners and graceful losers…
– Like Casey used to say, “It’s easy to get the players. Getting ‘em to play together, that’s the hard part.”
– You say you’re going to be there at five o’clock, you better be there at five o’clock no matter what time it is.
– Some people have a zest for life, which usually means they’re happier than most people. Some have a zest for food, which likely means they’re heavier, unless they watch their weight.
– Whether you love what you do or you do what you love, you’re better off enjoying your life while you can, because you’ll be dead for a long time and it doesn’t sound like much fun.

This book consists of Yogi Berra waxing philosophic, and is full of wisdom, advice and humor. I recommend it highly to everyone. I mean everybody.

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The Cubs in Poem…by Moe Thacker

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Thought this comment was worthy of a spot on the front page, in spite of the lone curse word:

Every real cub fan must admit,
That this year’s team has played like shit,
They fail to hit when men are on base,
They haven’t hit at last year’s pace,
They’re falling further out of the race,
They’ll be lucky to finish in second place.
Bradley walks around with an angry face,
Soriano plays left like he’s in outer space,
The money they’re playing these two is a disgrace.

Their starting pitching is still strong,
It’d better if they could stay healthy long,
Harden always seems to have something wrong,
Zambrano just finished his rehab stint,
They’re still paying him a mint,
Dempster got hurt goofing around,
Tripped on a fence and landed on the ground,
At least Ted Lilly…..
Hasn’t done anything that silly,
The bright spot here is Randy Wells,
But the bullpen has put us through several hells,
They made Gregg our closer,
He was just a poser!
Now we got Marmol who nobody can hit,
The trouble is he’s off the plate a bit,

In 2008, Soto was rookie of the year,
Now his hitting brings only a tear,
Fontenot makes me cry in my beer,
Aaron Miles does nothing to cheer,

Kosuke and Theriot are just alright,
But the Cards are soaring out of sight,
Aramis is pretty darn good,
But we really miss De Rosa and Kerry Wood,

Everyone knows our mvp,
That would be none other than Derek Lee,

Now I’ll say this short, and terse,
Every day the team looks worse,
Their record is going into reverse,
Maybe they’ve been infected by the women of Circe,

Hendry deserves some of the blame,
Ken Williams has put him to shame,
You wonder if Lou still has the flame,
Whatever, this team is pretty lame.

It’s clear this team will never gel,
Maybe we just need to get rid of Zell,
At least Tom Ricketts is Cub fan,
Who’s to say he might be the man,
To lead this team to the promised land.

But for now this team is done,
Watching them is not much fun,
They don’t hit and they don’t run,
This year will not be our day in the sun.

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You Want My Support Down the Stretch? Earn it this Week.

Monday, August 24th, 2009

I’m about done with this team. I watched a grand total of 4 innings of baseball this week, and I have to say it was quite enjoyable. Today is an off day and then we come home for a key home stand it this team is going to find itself in the race for the month of the September. We’re 8 back in the division and 7 out in the wild card. With Washington, New York, Houston and one game with the Sox on the schedule, I need to see 8 wins out of those 10 games and us cut the lead to 4 or 5 games or I’m probably going to back up my baseball watching for the season and shift to football and network TV. Who’s with me? What do you need to see on this home stand that continue to care?

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Speaking Of Forks

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

This 2001 entry into the “Books by Yogi Berra” sweepstakes, titled: “When You Come to a Fork in the Road, TAKE IT! – Inspiration and Wisdom from One of Baseball’s Greatest Heroes” by Yogi Berra with Dave Kaplan, comprises 40 chapters, each a 2 to 5 page flesh out of a specific “Yogi-ism”.

The back cover features a unique photo of a “Fork In The Road”.

Each of the chapters is not so much a description of what caused Yogi to say what he said, but rather a discourse on what thoughts the individual Yogi-ism generates in Mr. Berra now, given the luxury of hindsight. As Paul Harvey might have said, these chapters constitute “The Rest Of The Story”.

I’d like to share with you some of my favorite lines from the book, taken entirely out of context:

– “If I’m not hitting, I don’t blame me. I blame the bat. I try a new one.”

– “Experience is a great thing – everyone can learn from it.”

– “I said ‘you’re nothing without a bullpen’ thirty years ago. That was before starting pitchers considered five or six innings “a quality start.” And before relief pitching became so specialized – one pitcher coming in to face one batter, another coming in to face another, the closer only pitching the ninth. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t agree with that philosophy. I say, keep a guy in there if he keeps getting outs. Why remove someone if he’s doing the job?”

– “As a catcher and a manager, I’d never get down on my relievers. Even after a loss, I’d always pat ‘em on the back and say something encouraging. Always be reassuring when someone fails, because you may need them to perform tomorrow. Everybody has a bad day at the office or at home, the idea is to not dwell on it. The idea is to bounce back.”

– “Talking is a big part of any job. Late in my career, when I got switched to the outfield, it was easier on my knees, but I really didn’t like it too much. Mainly because there was nobody to talk to.”

– “Career decisions are important. So is getting on the right road. Why take the trouble to go to law school unless you’re certain you need to? Have a vision, a goal of what you want to do. Unless you’re sure of where you want to go, you’ll never get there.”

– “…the other teams had had their hot streak, and we were due for ours.”

– “Like that rule says, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you handle it that matters.”

– “But the money in the game has changed everything. Players feel little loyalty to their team – and owners feel little loyalty to the players. The players are interchangeable, and rosters are like revolving doors. Money overwhelms loyalty, and that’s unfortunate.”

The inside jacket cover of this book claims that “Yogi provides inspiring, funny, and surprisingly moving essays on life, happiness, and getting through the slumps.” I would agree with that synopsis. I highly recommend “When You Come to a Fork in the Road, TAKE IT!”.

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