Archive for September, 2010

Book Review: We Might As Well Win!

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

The complete title of this book is: “We Might As Well Win”. It was published in 2009. It was written by Johan Bruyneel (with Bill Strickland), and includes a foreword by Lance Armstrong.

I say “it was written by Johan Bruyneel with Bill Strickland” because that’s what the cover says. But Bill Strickland says he wrote it, “with Johan Bruyneel”. In any event, it’s a very good book and I’m glad I read it.

Here is an excerpt from Johan’s bio on the back cover of the book:

– “Johan Bruyneel is a former professional cyclist and was the team director, from 1999 to 2007, of the U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team, which later became the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team. He has guided his teams to a record twelve Grand Tour victories, making him the winningest team director in the history of the sport.”

Bill Strickland’s complete bio (also from the back cover of the book) reads as follows:

– “Bill Strickland is the executive editor of “Bicycling”, and the author of several books.”

What the title refers to, and what the book is about, is quoted on the back cover of the book: “In 1998, (Johan Bruyneel) looked Lance Armstrong in the eye and said, ‘Look, if we’re going to ride the Tour, we might as well win’.”

Lance Armstrong describes his relationship with Johan in the following quote, also from the back cover: “The first thing he did for me, the one thing that made everything else possible, was the simplest and at the same time probably the most difficult: he believed in me.”

The author sets the tone in the first chapter of the book (ie., the “Prologue”), with the observation that in the USA: “the general public considers the bicycle more of a child’s toy than a high-tech marvel of sport gear.”

Johan describes briefly his career as a bicycle racer, and segues into how he came to be the Director Sportiff of the teams on which Lance Armstrong would ride into the record books.

In the chapter about recruiting talent, Johan gives his three reasons to sign “this guy” vs. “that guy”:
1. “…signing the best riders made us strong on the road….”
2. “…signing top riders to our team meant that they would be racing for us rather than against us….”, and
3. “…I knew someday the team would have to find a way to win without Lance. Though no one could ever fill those legendary shoes, I was committed to auditioning people for the role.”

In the chapter titled “Trust People – Not Products” Johan describes the development of a million dollar bike which Lance, ultimately, didn’t ride.

One big aspect of this book is Johan’s philosophy of tempering both victory and defeat.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

– “The Tour de France is like life. It’s not a game, or a series of games. It’s a two-thousand-mile, month long odyssey that creates and breaks heroes, elevates some while diminishing others.

– “The Tour de France is the only sporting event, someone once said, so long that you have to get your hair cut in the middle of it.”

– “I’ve always had this idea that if you’re going to try something, if you’re going to expend that first big block of effort and energy to participate – whether it’s riding the Tour de France or applying for a new job or coaching your daughter’s soccer team – you might as well go ahead and give whatever else it takes to win, I mean, I’m going to be there no matter what, right? Why not go ahead and get the victory?”

– “For my part, I’d always found his brash, aggressive style entertaining rather than off-putting.”

– “The point of a bike race isn’t to get to the finish and have all the other team directors gather around and tell you how polite and considerate you are as a driver. The point isn’t to make sure my passenger- whether it’s a team mechanic, or the visiting CEO of our current sponsor, or even Lance – feels safe.”

– “From its beginning, the Tour has been a showcase for dishonesty, chaos, and cheating right alongside virtues such as nobility, bravery, sacrifice, and triumph.”

– “My heart was willing. But my legs told me no.”

– “The difference with Lance was that I always knew that something would have to go horribly wrong for him not to stand atop the podium in July; in contrast, for us to get up there now, everything would have to go right.”

– “I understood that not only is it not the victor’s duty to apologize for a win, it is not even his right. A win is a win and you cannot excuse yourself from it because of circumstance. Your opponent’s condition is not your fault, nor are their strategies. Rain, heat, the good luck to not get a flat tire, a dog running across the road – none of the infinite and unpredictable conditions of competition are yours to feel bad about. To do so dishonors those you defeated.”

– “…winning – true victory – is about how you go about winning more so than the win itself.”

– “You can achieve a victory in a race, in a game, at work, at home, and still be a loser in life.”

– “No one wins alone, at least not in cycling, or life.”

I truly enjoyed reading “We Might As Well Win”, and I recommend it highly to anyone at all, but particularly to those with an interest in athletic competition.

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GirlieView (09/17/2010)

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Hi there and happy Friday everyone! Really enjoyed reading your thoughts this week, thanks for keeping the conversation up even during the waning moments of a sad season. Seems we’re all looking forward now, which is a good thing! And, is the topic of this week’s GirlieSurvey!

GirlieSurvey

Last week we talked about our early years. Today we’ll talk about next year! Earlier this morning Joe outlined why there are really only three remaining candidates for the Cubs’ manager position next year, and I agree with him. So, to that end, who’s YOUR pick? (I know there’s some question as to whether Girardi even wants the job, but for the sake of our chat here let’s pretend he does.) Which of these three do you want to see as next year’s manager?

a.) Joe Girardi
b.) Mike Quade
c.) Ryne Sandberg
d.) None of the above (please indicate your choice)

I’ll keep a tally and report back come November when the choice has officially been made. Now, on with the VFTB week in review!

Lizzies

  • I remember the day like it was yesterday.
  • Don’t put too much into September performances.
  • Funny how when the penant race is over he can control his emotions.
  • High fastballs and breaking balls in the dirt made Fukudome look like a drunken lumberjack.
  • You use the phrase “Drunken Lumberjack” like that’s a bad thing.
  • It’s only bad when you’re in the batter’s box.
  • Frankly in my world usually being a Cardinal is grounds for disqualification anyway….
  • Samardzija (thank god for copy and paste)
  • “Hey, Aramis Ramirez, would you like to stay for dinner next season? We’re serving Stove Top stuffing!” “Stove Top Stuffing? I’m stayin’!”
  • There is another book begging to be written by Rob Neyer. The title of this one would be: “The Chicago Cubs in the New Millennium (2000-2010)”. Would that constitute an entire decade of blunders? I don’t know. But I’d like to read Mr. Neyer’s analysis.
  • Look out ladies and gentlemen, hell just reported a cold front coming in!
  • Pretty sure Doc Raker’s daughter was on my lap when he hit it.
  • Are you talking about DocRakers 22 year-old daughter?
  • His attitude is a lot like his pitching, inconsistent. In the end we all know that the monster is bubbling below.
  • If we get something good in return for Z, I don’t care where he goes.
  • I’ll sit back and watch Z get chubby and insolent in red instead of blue.

Lizard

  • If Aram opts out of his contract I will personally buy everyone a drink with the Capn’ money.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (VFTB and/or GirlieView and/or Dave) and Facebook (VFTB and/or GirlieView)

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Friday Bag of Randomness: Fat Kid at Wal-Mart Edition

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Happy Friday everyone. If you’re like me, most weeks Friday means nothing because you’ve got to work on Saturday. I’ve got a lot of random junk running through my mind, so rather than focus my attention on anything in particular, I’d rather just ramble about it all a little at a time. Off we go.

Wal-Mart Escapades – Yesterday I got a text message from Mrs. VFTB late in the work day asking me to pick up a few misc. items from the grocery store. That means a trip to Wal-Mart. It’s not my ideal destination for groceries, but it’s directly on the way home. Normally I just throw my ear buds in and listen to a podcast and zone out while I walk around the store in search of the items in need. Yesterday I did not have my ear buds so I was forced to take in the full ambiance that is Wal-Mart. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, perhaps a quick trip to http://www.peopleofwalmart.com would do you well. I wish I would have had the onions to take my phone out and take a picture of the first person I saw, because I think I would have submitted it to that site. Right there in the produce aisle, walking toward the frozen ice cream section was a mom and her extremely fat child (probably about 6 years old). What made it funny, and a little sad, was that the kid had her belly hanging out of her t-shirt that read “How long until lunch?” I had no idea how to react to that, but it was definitely I could have lived without seeing.

Mini Rant on Zambrano – Yesterday I posed the question to you about bringing back Carlos Zambrano. I was encouraged by the level of answers, but one struck me as a great thought. Mark asked the question in response to those willing to deal Zambrano, and I fall into this group, “But would you be okay with him pitching for the Cards or the Reds next year?” At first my thought was no, but the more I thought about it I decided that of all the teams I’d like to see him go to, those two would be at the top of my list. Hear me out on this. If we’ve learned anything about Zambrano, it’s that he’s not a big game pitcher. He’s much more likely to implode when the situation is high than to shine. We’ve seen implosions in the Cubs / Sox series. We’ve seen them numerous opening day starts, and we’ve seen them time and time again when we’ve needed him to be the stopper on the staff. That being said, how much do you think he’d be amped up when he faced the Cubs? He would almost certainly blow a gasket. I’ve seen all I need to from Zambrano and I’m ready to turn the page. I was ready when he was looking to sign a contract, but was too afraid to give up. Now, I’m ready. I just heard the chime. That means it’s time to turn the page.

NFL Talk – Since this is a baseball blog (Wal-Mart stories are baseball related, right?) I won’t go too much into the NFL, though I’m willing if there is a want there. I came away from the Bears game on Sunday feeling about the same as I did going in. You can get discouraged that they made the game a lot closer than it needed to be and should have lost if not for a really bad rule in place, but when you look at numbers other than the score, you’ve got to be encouraged, right? Cutler looked good and the offense, for the most part, had their way with the Detroit defense. It’s a work in progress, but I think this team can compete for a playoff spot.

Talking Managers – On the way to the game the other day, I was having a conversation with my friend Rob about who the next manager should be. The way both of us figured, there really are only three choices that Jim Hendry has that won’t cause a PR nightmare. Ryne Sandberg, Joe Girardi, and Mike Quade (assuming he continues to have the team play well down the stretch) are really the only names. At this point, it’s hard to see the Cubs waiting around to see if we can get Girardi and risk someone swooping in on Sandberg. Tom Ricketts came out and said that the next manager is going to be a guy that has the potential to be in the position for a long time. People have speculated that the statement eliminates Quade from the discussion, but I can’t see why. He’s not that much older than Sandberg or Girardi. In my opinion, those three are the only ones in contention. Am I wrong?

Finally, a look at the best mustache in Chicago, behind Coach Ditka.

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Joe’s Big Important Question of the Day

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

We’ll make this very simple for everyone. With another nice start last night to complete the sweep of the Cardinals, Zambrano appears to be showing the ability to be the guy the Cubs need in the rotation. Do you still look to trade him this off-season or should Jim Hendry pencil him into the rotation for 2011?

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Hump Day Heaven!

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

So, as many of you know, I have been doing this five questions thing for the past few weeks.

For the most part, I just like to see what others are thinking.  Throughout the week I keep an eye on the Cubs and questions pop into my little brain.  As this happens, I jot them down somewhere and save them for this little slice of “Hump Day” heaven.

This week, with football getting back into gear, and a bevy of other odd sports news I decided to stray a little from the Cubs (don’t worry, there is enough Cub related material to stay relevant) and hit some other topics.

Without further ado….

1) Has Aramis Ramirez ever been worth $14.6 million?

Aramis has said he will be exercising his option for 2011.  Or “leaning” towards it or “staying here” or whatever that means…..

I can’t stand the fact that he is getting this money.  He wasn’t worth it in his best season and he surely isn’t worth it now……Precisely why he would be insane not to take the option!!!!

Go ahead and pick his best season ever!  Throw some stats at me if you want.  I can’t think of one season when he was worth 14.6 million.

That money should get you a top of the line third baseman.  A slick fielding, hot-corner stud!!!

Don’t get me wrong, Aramis had some nice seasons in Cubbie blue, but a season worth $14.6 million?  I can’t think of one!

The problem is, I would reserve that type of money for complete players. Players who field and hit well.  Players who are consistent at the plate and in the field.  Aramis is anything but the above.

Here is the best part, he is actually going to get $16.6 million.  Yup, he has yet another option for 2012, a team option.  If the Cubs don’t pick it up they still owe him another $2 million for the buyout!!!!

(Just threw up in my mouth)

2) Could Darwin Barney be a full time third baseman?

Because of the above, I consider this more for the future.

A few weeks ago I didn’t think this kid was ready for the bigs at all, but lately? Last I checked he toted a .300 average and was holding his own defensively.

I am not saying he should be, as there may be better places for him up the middle, but I can bet you my Kevin Orie Rookie Card that he would be better then some of our “younger” options.

He kind of creeps up on the position a little.  I mean lets face it, Aramis will take a vaca-….I mean trip to the DL next year, likely more then one, and we will need somebody at the corner.  I would rather see youth served then pick up some over-the-hill rental for the season to the tune of $3 million or more.

For those who feel Vitters is the heir apparent, check again, something tells me he doesn’t make it out of the minors.

3) Should the proven steroid users give up their awards?

In the 75 year history of the Heisman Trophy the award has never been returned by a recipient or repossessed by the Heisman committee……until this week.

Because of the “benefits” illegally obtained by Reggie Bush during the 2005 season, USC has been taken to the woodshed by the NCAA and slapped with a myriad of penalties.

Reggie, in a move probably as much about PR as it is conscience, returned his Heisman award from that season.

While Reggie voluntarily gave back his award, I began to wonder if we should just start stripping awards from Major Leaguers who used steroids?

Make them ineligible for the Hall of Fame.  Don’t even let the writers or players vote them in! Remove them from the ballot!

While we are at it, strip them of their MVP awards, Silver Sluggers, Gold Gloves, etc……

In a final blow, strip the teams and cities they played for of their World Series trophies and League Pennants!

Okay , maybe the last one was a bit crazy, but I bet players would think a little longer in the future about enhancing themselves through a pill or substance.

4) Which team would you least like to play for if you were a major leaguer?

So a lot of players put a “no trade” clause in their contracts and some just list teams they won’t play for.

If you had this power, who would be the first team listed under your “I will not accept a trade to this team under any circumstances” list?

It can be because of the geographic location, the ownership, the current players, any of the above.

5)  Have you been to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field in the last decade? How many have never been?

I want to get a good idea of those who have been and those who have not.

Some of you seem very indifferent regarding the shrine at Addison and Clark.  I am also starting to realize that the reason for such ambivalence is because many of you are from the middle of nowhere and could care less where the Cubs play because you have watched every game on TV or in another stadium (an away game).

Personally, I go to a dozen games per year or more. I love the place.

Okay, so all but two of the questions dealt with the Cubs.  I just can’t leave them alone…..addiction is a terrible thing to waste…..or something like that.

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