Archive for September, 2010

The Big Bag of Randomness

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Now that Dave is retired, the job falls to someone to bring you the news, right? Wrong. That’s not my cup of tea. I much prefer rambling on mindlessly about whatever I feel like. Who wants the restrictions of having to post about current events? Blah, not this guy. That said, here is my batch of random notes for the week.

Playoff Rosters are coming!!! – If only that statement actually instilled a little bit of excitement around here. Alas, baseball in Chicago will thankfully come to a close soon. For teams not based in Chicago that will actually be playing in October, playoff rosters will be set very soon. That said, I thought you might be interested in knowing what it takes to be eligible to play in the postseason. On September 18th, the Dodgers traded Octavio Dotel to the Rockies. The first thought that may come to mind is that Dotel would immediately be eligible for the post-season should the Rockies make it. That’s not the case. In order to be on the postseason roster, a player must be on the 25 man roster, the disabled list, the bereavement list, or the suspended list for the playoff eligible team as of midnight on August 31.

The only way someone not on one of these lists gets on the postseason roster is if he was in the system as of August 31 and is replacing someone that plays the same position, but is injured. For example, if the Cubs were in the playoffs, Brett Jackson could play in the postseason provided that he replaced an outfielder that was injured. For the Reds, that means the nasty Cuban, Aroldis Chapman is eligible for October baseball provided that he replaces someone like Mike Lincoln who is on the 60 day DL.

Guns Don’t Kill People, Baseball Bats Almost Do – Thankfully Tyler Colvin is still on this earth and will be making a complete recovery. The backlash is that people are calling for the use of bats that are made from wood other than maple. put together a video of some scary bat incidents (View the video)

If the Bats Don’t Get Ya, the Terrorists just might? – I don’t know if you saw this, it really didn’t seem to get much publicity that I saw, but some guy had every intention of blowing up Wrigley Field.

A 22-year-old Lebanese medical student who regards Sept. 11 as a “beautiful day” is in custody after placing a backpack containing what he thought was an explosive device into a Wrigleyville trash can, federal authorities said Monday.

Sami Samir Hassoun, of the 4700 block of North Kedzie, has been charged with one count each of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted use of an explosive device, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Chicago office said.

Hassoun’s arrest after midnight Saturday comes after a months-long investigation during which he unknowingly worked with an informant and an undercover FBI agent, officials said. (Source)

I don’t know what you think about this, but to me it’s some scary stuff. I’ll never forget the stuff that went down on 9/11 and to think that there are still people out there with enough hate in their hearts to do things like this scares the crap out of me. On a non-serious note, if there was a way we could work with the terrorist to blow the field up when no one would get hurt, I’d be all for it. I’m not a fan of Wrigley Field. I’d much rather see a new state of the art ballpark.

Mitch Atkins…The Tribe has Spoken – Atkins was designated for assignment (Muskat Tweets). That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s done with the organization, but it’s usually not a good sign. I haven’t heard anymore since the tweet, so we’ll see what happens to him.

Don’t Want Ryno? Canada Does – Chicago Breaking Sports had this to say about Ryno’s chance of becoming a manager:

The Cubs aren’t the only team interested in interviewing Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg for a managerial opening. Add the Toronto Blue Jays to the list.

Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports tweeted Wednesday night that the “Blue Jays have a long list of candidates, and Ryne Sandberg is on it.”

Sandberg managed the Triple-A Iowa Cubs this year and was named the Pacific Coast League’s Manager of the Year. Current Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston is stepping down at the end of the year. (Source)

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Book Review: Drinking With George

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

The complete title of this book is “Drinking With George – A Barstool Professional’s Guide To Beer”. The author is George Wendt (with Jonathan Grotenstein). It was published in 2009.

I was kind of mired in the reading of a book which was real slow and real deep… like Molasses. I had decided I needed something lighter, when this one jumped off the shelf at me.

From the inside back jacket cover we learn that the author, George Wendt, “began his show business career with Chicago’s Second City and is best known for his role as Norm Peterson on the classic television sitcom ‘Cheers’. Wendt has appeared in more than a hundred TV shows, movies, plays, and music videos, from ‘Fletch’ to ‘Family Guy’, including nine appearances on Saturday Night Live…”

George Wendt also played “Superfan” Bob Swersky of “Da Bears” fame, “a guy from Chicago who lived for drinking beer, cheering for the Bears, and gorging himself on Polish sausages.” George tell us he “didn’t have to stretch much” to play that role.

At the end of the book, under the heading “ABOUT THE AUTHOR”, we learn the following: “George Wendt lives with his family in Southern California. He likes beer. A lot.”

At some point, as I was reading the book, I looked closely at the cover photo of George Wendt and I thought: “Holy Moly – He looks bloated and puffy and fat and terrible. Like he’s been out drinking all night and then, at 6:00 am, they told him to sit at the bar and have his picture taken.” Then I looked in the mirror and realized: Hey, he looks just like me!!

George and I both grew up in the City of Chicago, although he grew up on the South side, and I grew up on the North. He went to Catholic schools and I did not, at least not until much later.

George learned about Chicago’s Catholic school mafia, and so did I, although from a different perspective, and not until much later.

George also liked beer and drank quite a bit of it. I never cared for beer, and so I didn’t drink much of it at all. At least not, once again, until much later.

If you were to read every word in this book, as I did, you might conclude that ole’ George is a little irresponsible at times. Towards the end of the book there is a sort of a disclaimer: “I don’t want to make light work of the bad. I’m not 100% proud of the things I’ve done while under the influence. I’ve seen the love of drink rain hell on the lives of people that I care about deeply.” So, I guess, we’ll give him a free pass, for now.

“Drinking With George” includes a number of recipes for beer cocktails. The one which particularly grabbed my attention is for “Mexican Iced Tea”: “Pour one and a half ounces of tequila and three ounces of beer (preferably Mexican) over ice. Garnish with lime.”

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
– “…a world without beer? I don’t know if that’s the kind of world I want to live in.”

– “…in Chicago, beer is pretty much synonymous with mother’s milk.”

– “I often sit back and think, ‘I wish I’d done that,’ and find out later that I already have.” Richard Harris

– “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” – Benjamin Franklin, (“although arguably a misquotation: he may have been talking about wine. Either way, he’s right.”)

– “Why is it that when you drink seven nights a week in college you’re a partyer, but after that you’re an alcoholic?” – Anonymous

– “Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.” – Dave Barry

I enjoyed reading “Drinking With George” – by George Wendt. I’m taking the whole thing with a grain of salt, and temporarily giving George a free pass on the responsibility thing.

I recommend “Drinking With George” to all who manage to maintain a sense of humor about alcohol in general, and about beer in particular. As the inside front jacket cover states: “The next best thing to a barstool and a pint, ‘Drinking with George’ is all the fun – without the hangover.”

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Bandwagon Time!

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

It’s getting to be that time of year.

It’s a familiar time for Cubs fans.  The MLB Prom (AKA, The Post Season) is around the corner and our date died a slow but much expected death somewhere around the All-Star break.

Every year, around March, we rent a tux, a limo, maybe even purchase a corsage and prepare to lose our World Series virginity.

Every year our date refuses to put out. Yes, we have actually made it to the prom.  Yes, we have hit the dance floor,  but it has been over sixty years since our last “after party” and over 100 since we went…..all the way!

That’s a dry spell!

The After Party

If the “prom” is the post -season,  the World Series is the “After Party”.  Everybody knows the payoff is in the party after the prom and not the actual prom itself.

In the past decade Cubs fans have attended the prom (remember prom= post season) three times.  All three times our date has gone frigid and asked to be driven home before making it to the “after party”.

(I am pretty sure one of those years our date threw up on the way to the prom and we turned the limo around and went home, at least it seemed that way)

So what do you do when your team denies your advances year in and year out.  You find a sure thing and get on it’s bandwagon!

The Sure Thing

Every sure thing has one quality in common; a reputation.

Be careful here, if you choose an obvious slut things could backfire.  You don’t want to be the person that is obvious in their search for a happy ending!  You also don’t want to be the chump who jumps on the “sure things” bandwagon and gets kicked off  (i.e. fails to make it to the after party)……you basically sold your soul and contracted god knows what disease during the foreplay only to fall short of the payoff.

Who might be an obvious slut?  The Yankees for one!

They have been to the World Series 40 Times!  In those 40 after parties they went all the way 27 times!!! This is as sure as sure gets.  They have been to six of the last 11 after parties and went all the way four times!!!

Where baseball is concerned that is promiscuous!

Which brings us to the next quality of a sure thing; desire.

How bad does a team want it? The Reds, Twins, Rays, and Rangers all exhibit this as a top quality. Why? Well, it depends on the team…..

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds haven’t been to the prom in 15 years!!!! Can you imagine that Cubs fans, no post-season at all for 15 years!!! That is something even we can laugh at…..sort of.

Minnesota Twins

The Twins have been to the prom five times in the last decade yet the last World Series was 19 years ago, and yes they went all the way.  However, when you go fives times in a decade and don’t close the deal you start to wonder if it will ever happen again.  Have you lost your mojo?

Plus, the Twins have a brand new dress called Target Field they would like to show off in the national spotlight.

Tampa Bay Rays

They are the relative new kid on the block.  In the league 12 years and a doormat for most of the American League in that time.  In the last three years they hit puberty and grew into themselves nicely. Their first and only visit to the Post-Season came in 2008 where they made it to the after-party only to get sent home early by Philly.

Texas Rangers

The Rangers look like a formidable date for the dance. They are a bit of dark horse in my book and it could take some serious luck to make it to the Series.

If you want to back a team that swims in a similar sea as our beloved Cubs, the Rangers would be your closest bet. Since their entry into the league in 1972 they have managed three playoff appearances and have been a no show at the World Series.

With the injury to Josh Hamilton, their marquee slugger, and his questionable return this may make the Rangers an act of desperation.

If you don’t like any of those…….

………. there is always the Phillies.  Four years ago they would have been a quality choice.  Lately however, they have been quite slutty.

This was a franchise, more or less a city, starved for a championship.  They finally got one in 2008. It had been almost three decades since a professional Philadelphia sports team had won a championship.

The Phillies have taken the NL East crown the last three years and are looking good for a fourth. They have made it to the after-party the last two years and won the big prize in 2008.

This makes them a sleezy choice, but if you are looking for that sure thing, and the Yankees are just too filthy for you, then Philly is your girl (or guy).

My only problem with Philly is that damn Phanatic!  I am not sure what it is supposed to be but it creeps me out.

*I know I have failed to mention the west coast teams but believe me, they are all fake. Go figure, huh?

You could always stay home……

Well, there you have it.  This years best bets to go all the way.  If you are the type of person who can wander from mate to mate then we have given you a salad bar of easy dates for this years post-season.

Of course if you are like me, a dedicated sucker, only one solution will do…..stay home with your one true love and wait ’til next year.

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In the News: The Final Edition (For Now)

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

 Cubbie kool aid

Greetings, Cubs fans. Well, first things first, some sad news (uh, depending on how you feel about me): I’m afraid this will be my last “In the News” report for a while. I’m heading out on vacation this Thursday and will miss the last week or so of the Cubs’ season. And, after that, I’m going to be focusing more on my contributions to SB Nation Chicago. If you’re fan of Chicago’s other sports teams, please check it out.

I do want to thank Joe for giving me the opportunity to write here. Even though the 2010 Cubs haven’t exactly made it easy to stay inspired and motivated, it has been fun keeping everyone up to date on the some (most?) of the major team-related story lines as well as getting in my two cents regarding various issues. I’d also like to thank Lizzie, Chet, Mark, CubbieDude and everyone else who’s been so welcoming. I hope to be back again to contribute at some point, and I’ll definitely be checking in via the comments section when I get a chance.

And now … on with the news:

Tyler Colvin is recovering. It appears the Cubs’ young outfielder’s gruesome impaling hasn’t been officially covered here, so let’s get up to speed: Tyler was nailed in the upper chest by a piece of catcher Welington Castillo’s broken bat on Sunday afternoon. Colvin was rushed to a local hospital where he will remain for another day or so. You can see the injury and read Tyler’s statement from his hospital bed here.

As it should be, Colvin is done for the season. And what a season it was. After making a very brief appearance as a defensive replacement in 2009 (he may have gotten one start), Tyler showed up to spring training with those now-mythical “extra 25 lbs.,” and absolutely crushed the ball throughout the team’s Cactus League schedule. Although his plate discipline problems didn’t exactly evaporate at the big league level, he hit for a remarkable amount of power, earning him a decent (if slow to materialize) amount of playing time under Sweet Lou and then Mike Quade.

Tyler ends his 2010 campaign as follows: .254/.316/.500 (.816 OPS, .350 wOBA) in 295 plate appearances, good for a 1.8 WAR. Although the low OBP is (and will remain) concerning, he hit for enough power to counteract its shortcomings. (That’s what wOBA is for.) As rookie campaigns go, I’d declare his a success — if for no other reason than he forced the team to keep him in consideration as a starting player next year. Whether he’ll actually be one will, in part, depend on what becomes of Fukudome next season. If Kosuke is dealt, Colvin should get the nod as the starting right fielder.

I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing Tyler all the best on a speedy recovery and restful off-season. In a season that turned out to be more about the future than the present, he’s given us all some hope.

Also done for the year: Geo. A few hours before Colvin’s horrific on-field accident, the news came down that Geovany Soto, in consultation with the Cubs’ training staff, has decided to undergo arthroscopic shoulder surgery. As detailed in this Bruce Miles’ blogpost, the successful surgery went down yesterday and Geo has already been discharged from the hospital. The team (and player) decided to go forward with the surgery now to enable Soto to be fully ready for baseball-related activities by January 1st. That should have him fine playing shape by spring training.

Geo ends his 2010 campaign as follows: .280/.393/.497 (.890 OPS, .385 wOBA) in 387 plate appearances, good for a 3.5 WAR. Those are, in my humble opinion, spectacular numbers for a catcher. I was hoping throughout the season that Geo would be able to keep his OBP at or over .400, but I’d say a slugging percentage that flirts with .500 makes up for the .007 shortage. Among all MLB catchers with at least 300 plate appearances, Soto placed 5th in value (WAR). And, among NL catchers under those criteria, he still leads all in wOBA, though the Giants’ Buster Posey or perhaps the Braves’ Brian McCann could still pass him.

So, again, we thank you, Geo, for doing pretty much everything you could to quell any remaining suspicions that your rookie year may have been a fluke. It wasn’t. You are a good and valuable player at a premium position. May you also have a speedy recovery and restful (though not too restful) off-season. I’d like to see the Cubs go into the 2011 season with a Soto/Castillo catching crew.

A couple remaining questions as the season winds down:

1. Can Big Z keep it up? Since returning to the rotation from the restricted list on Aug. 9, Carlos Zambrano has won six of eight starts, struck out 42 batters in 51 innings, surrendered only one home run and has a 1.59 ERA in that time. He’s lowered his overall season ERA to 3.75 (.381 FIP, 4.45 xFIP). A strong finish to the season may either convince Jim Hendry to say, “Aw, shucks, Z. I can’t stay mad at you,” and keep him around. Or it could boost Z’s trade value enough to enable Jimbo to work out some sort of deal with another team, though that still seems pretty unlikely given how much money is involved. And I don’t feel a bad contract swap is justified at this time. Then again, I’ve always been able to let Z’s bad/strange behavior roll off my back better than others.

Again, at this point, assuming Cliff Lee is not a viable option (which he probably isn’t), the Cubs don’t have many viable options for the top of the rotation. So they might as well hang on to the anger-management-mellowed Z for another year of his deal.

2. Can Marmol pull it off? And by “it” I don’t mean one of his patented, filthier-than-thou sliders. I’m referring to the single-season K/9 record. The Cubs wiggly armed closer currently has a K/9 (ratio of strikeouts to nine innings) of 15.64 (124 Ks in 71.1 innings pitched). That’s well ahead of the MLB record, which I believe is held by Eric Gagne, who compiled a 14.98 K/9 in 2003 with the Dodgers. I guess it’s a little too early to call it, but Carlos is still on the road to making history. He’s been a 2.7 WAR pitcher in the closer’s role and, I believe, is due for an arbitration hearing this off-season. So that should be interesting.

And, last but not least, one more…

Cubs Next Manager Power Rankings

1. Ryne Sandberg. What the hell — I’m just going to leave Ryno in the top spot. If only because of the comments Tom Ricketts made at a recent sports business event hosted by a local Chicago sports radio station. He basically said the next manager needs to be someone who:

  • Knows the team’s history, culture and general atmosphere,
  • Who’s young enough to stick with them for a while, and
  • Who can still act as a coach (not just a manager).

That pretty much describes Sandberg, though, on the other hand, it also describes …

2. Mike Quade. Yes, I think the former third base coach has built up his resume quite substantially since taking over. He has all the qualities that Ricketts mentions — and even more minor league coaching experience. He also has a 17-7 (as of this writing) record since taking over, including the best road trip (in terms of winning teacher) IN CUBS’ HISTORY. I have to admit, I like Quade a lot more than I thought I would. He’s intense, focused, engaged and, in particular, I like how he gives a round of applause to a starting pitcher he’s about to pull from the game. I just dig little things like that.

It would not surprise me at this point if the Cubs shocked the universe and offered him the job. He’s youngish (53), from the Chicago area, very familiar with the current players and Wrigley atmosphere, an accomplished minor and major league coach, and now, in an admittedly very small sample, a successful big league manager.

3. Bob Brenly. The Sun-Times reported last week that BB will interview for the job. He’s not exactly young — he’ll be 57 next year. But he could conceivably stick with the team for a good 10 to 12 years at that age. Brenly is presumably well-acquainted with the players as well as Cubs culture at this point, so he fits the bill. He’s also a fan favorite who would bring a certain amount of butt-kicking to the table. I’m just not sure that’s what the team is looking for and why I think a more “positively motivational” guy like Quade has the edge.

4. Eric Wedge. Baseball guru Peter Gammons caused a kerfluffle this past week by supposedly “predicting” that the former Indians manager would become the Cubs next manager. He actually said Wedge would be the “best fit,” which isn’t really a prediction. It’s just an opinion.

Still, Wedge will be only 43 next year, so he has youth on his side. I don’t really know how familiar he is with Cubs history or the fan/media atmosphere around Wrigley, however. I guess if Hendry does want to go with an “experienced” choice, Wedge seems fairly feasible as he’s younger (as noted) and available.

5. Bob Melvin. ESPN has reported that Hendry will be interviewing the former Mariners and Diamondbacks field general sometime around “the end of the season.” Melvin turns 49 next month, so he’s not as old as I suspected and still younger than Brenly. But he’s another outsider who I can only assume is being given a shot for due diligence purposes. He’d make for a boring choice in my opinion, but I guess you can’t count him out.

6. Joe Girardi. I know I should count ol’ Joe out, but I just can’t. He’s a dark horse. He probably won’t escape the clutches of the playoff-bound Yankees. But you never know.

Eliminated: Alan Trammell and, reportedly, Fredi Gonzalez.

Naturally, there are probably a variety of other candidates I’ve neglected to mention. (I simply can’t imagine Torre or LaRussa coming here.) But those are the guys on my radar at the moment. Feel free to chime in with others in the comments section.

OK, guys and gals, that’s all I’ve got. Enjoy the rest of the season and … yeah, I’ll say it … go Cubs!

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Book Review: Parables From The Diamond

Monday, September 20th, 2010

The complete title of this book is “Parables From The Diamond – Meditations for Men on Baseball & Life”. The authors are Phil Christopher and Glenn Dromgoole. This book was published in 2009, and came to me as part of a group of books shipped to me by Joe Aiello.

Phil Christopher is described as “a preacher with a passion for baseball, played baseball in college and coached Little League. Bats right. Throws left. Writes left.”

Glenn Dromgoole is described as “an author, journalist, and lifetime baseball fan. Bats right. Throws right. Writes left.”

We are further informed that the authors live in Abilene, Texas.

When I was a little shaver, I remember being told that a parable is “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning”. So I was on alert regarding the possibility of the authors reading too much into the game of baseball.

The inside front jacket cover gives us the following introduction: “Parables From The Diamond is a collection of fifty short meditations for men, using baseball as a theme….Parables From The Diamond covers such life lessons as:
– Nobody’s Perfect.
– Don’t go for the bad pitch.
– We all go through slumps.
– On a team, every position is important.
– Bad hops happen to good people.
Each piece begins with a quotation that relates both to baseball and to life, and ends with a thought-provoking question – such as “What have you learned from failure that made you stronger?” or “Do we place too much emphasis on winning in all areas of our lives?”

The top testimonial on the back cover states: “Parables From The Diamond is practical without being preachy….”

That’s kind of ironic because just before I read that, I was thinking: “Wow, this book is kind of preachy; kind of like the Church Lady on SNL.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
– “No one likes to finish last. But there are worse things in life than that.”

– “And yet, there is something to be said for the attitude expressed by Ernie Banks. If we cannot find satisfaction and take delight in what we do for a living, perhaps we are in the wrong line of work, or maybe we have let our jobs become routine.”

– “Fundamentals are the most valuable tools a player can possess. Bunt the ball into the ground. Hit the cutoff man. Take the extra base. Learn the fundamentals.” Dick Williams

– “Do not alibi on bad hops. Anybody can field the good ones.” Tommy LaSorda

– “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” Albert Einstein

The quote about “Fundamentals” (above) made me seek out and listen to “The Fundamental Things” by Bonnie Raitt from her “Fundamental” CD. “Let’s get back to the fundamental things” she sings.

This whole book, although well intentioned and well written, was a little too deep for me. At least at this time.

But I passed it along to my wife to read. She seems to be getting into heavy stuff like this lately. I’ll let you know what she says if she ever gets around to reading it.

I recommend “Parables From The Diamond” to anyone looking for “heavenly meaning” in stories about baseball.

I want to thank bright sky press of Houston, Texas, for providing me a copy of “Parables From The Diamond” to read and review.

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