Archive for December, 2010

A Christmas Blizzard

Friday, December 10th, 2010

The book is titled: “A Christmas Blizzard – A Novel”. It’s the latest effort by Garrison Keillor.

First let me tell you this little book is a gem. And it is a “little” book.

It must be a very popular book. I had a hard time finding it. When I finally came across it, I could only check it out for 2 weeks, with no renewals.

Also, the little tab on the book’s spine, the ones which sometimes say “mystery” or “suspense” or “new book”? This one says “HOT” in red and yellow letters!

So what is this book about? Well, it’s not about Lake Wobegon.

I hope I’m not giving away too much when I tell you the book opens with a husband and wife living in Chicago. How’s that for local interest?

Turns out the wife is originally from Wauwatosa (aka “Tosa”), Wisconsin, adding even more local interest.

Again, I hope I’m not giving too much away when I tell you the story occurs around Christmastime. And includes a place called, roughly, “papa-oooh-mau-mau”.

I really cannot tell you any more about it, but I will include this one quote:
- “That’s the whole problem with marriage. Trying to maintain your course and not get sucked into the gravitational field of someone else.”

“A Christmas Blizzard” is 180 pages of Garrison Keillor hitting nails on the head. I enjoyed reading it and I recommend it very highly.

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In the News: Who’s On First

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

I typically pride myself on being a generous tipper when I go to a restaurant. If you’ve ever worked at a job where tips are a big part of how you get paid, you know what it’s like to get the shaft in that area. On Sunday, Mrs VFTB and I took the kids out to eat Mexican food after church. Child # 2 is not quite 1 year old so he needs a high chair. They provided us with one that had no buckle at all. Because of that, the little man wanted to climb out of that chair like his hair was on fire. I had to hold him the entire meal. If you’ve ever had to do that, you know it’s tough to eat that way. On top of that, the waiter got my order wrong. I ordered a quesadilla with spinach, mushrooms and cheese. The order came with no mushrooms. Unfortunately he never came back to check on us until we were finished with the meal. I mentioned to him that my order was wrong when I went to pay the bill and he asked why I didn’t say anything at the time. I replied that I didn’t because he never came back to give me the chance to speak up. Common sense would say that when a customer complains about your service, you do what you can to make it right. Am I wrong? Instead he just ran my card and went about his day. Little did he know that I only tipped that fool 10%. My question to you is this.

How do you handle tipping? – Do you have a system that determines what percent you tip? Have you ever not tipped? Let’s talk tipping.

Cubs Sign Carlos Pena to 1 yr deal…more coming?

I was beginning to worry that Jim Hendry wasn’t aware of the fact that Derrek Lee was no longer a member of the team. I thought he might just be under the impression that the position was taken care of and that was why he hadn’t been moving on filling the need. We saw Adrian Gonzalez traded. We saw Lance Berkman sign. We even heard rumors that Prince Fielder was going to be moved. None of those news stories involved the Cubs, who have a terrible need at 1B. All of a sudden the Cubs news came fast and furious and may not be done. With the Pena signing, there are still rumors that Hendry has had talks with Texas on a deal that would send Robinson Chirinos and Rafael Dolis to the Rangers for Chris Davis and Darren O’Day. If this deal gets done, it’s a huge win for us. Chirinos probably isn’t going to play with us in anything more than a backup role for the next few years. Dolis is intriguing, but definitely not untouchable. Davis would give us a prospect to fill the spot once Pena left after 2011 and O’Day would instantly make the bullpen better. If this deal is there, it needs to get done.

Discussion Question: What are your thoughts on the Carlos Pena deal? Grade it out. I give it a B with the potential for an A if Jaramillo can fix that batting average.

Could Matt Garza be coming to play with Pena?

There has been overwhelming talk that the Cubs need to address the rotation this year. We’ve seen rumors that Brandon Webb could be a target. While that’s a nice story and a guy well worth trying to resurrect from the dumpster, a legit starter is very much a need. Consider the fact that a good part of the reason that the Cubs finished where they did in terms of starter success was because of the late push by Zambrano and great starts from Ted Lilly. Both could be gone. Zambrano’s showing may be just another mirage and Lilly isn’t coming back. The Cubs have question marks in that rotation and Matt Garza would go a long way toward filling that void. Bruce Levine mentioned that Cubs have interest there and that the Rays are looking for prospects in return. No word on who those prospects are, but I can’t imagine he’d be cheap. If we can get him, I’d do it.

Also mentioned in the Levine report is the fact that the Tigers have offered Armando Galarraga for Tom Gorzelanny. Thanks but no thanks on that one.

Congress Honors Ron Santo

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Happy Holidays From ACTA Sports

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

I want to preface this post by saying that this is not a post that is in any way sponsored by ACTA Sports. The reason this post is up is because I believe in their products. I’ve been a reader of their publications for as long as this blog has been in existence and I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve had a clunker come through my door yet.

This holiday season they have three books available for purchase and all three are well worth the money.

The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2011

This is probably my favorite of all the regular books they publish. It’s a collaborative effort of the writers over at The Hardball Times and not only recaps the season, but has a host of commentary and articles on all things baseball. I’ve been working my way through the 314 page monster so far since receiving it, but so far there are a number of great topics in this year’s annual. Just to give you a taste, here are some that I really enjoyed or excite me to read.

  • The Year in Frivolity – by Craig Calcaterra
  • The Booms and Busts of 2010 – by David Golebiewski
  • The Business of Baseball – by Brian Borawski
  • How to Handle a Pitcher – by Craig Wright
  • Everything is About to Change – by Rob Neyer
  • The Best and Worst Benches of All Time – by Chris Jaffe
  • Do Catchers have an ERA? – by Sean Smith

That is just a small snippet of all the nuggets this book has to offer. I highly recommend picking this one up. It’s a perfect read on the toilet. (Purchase the book from Acta Sports)

The Graphical Player 2011

I’ll be honest with you. I’m going to warn you in advance so you have no excuse. If you hate the graphs we posted in the game recaps this season, this book is probably not for you. If you’re a fantasy / rotisserie baseball player, this book IS for you. It has dollar values as well as player comparisons and various graphs on all the players you’d be looking at for 2011 including 10 year treads to help you evaluate what a player’s career path is. (Purchase the book from Acta Sports)

The Bill James Handbook 2011

Every year when this one arrives in the mail I immediately open it up and show it to Mrs VFTB. Every year she rolls her eyes and asks who in their right mind would want a book loaded with stats. Every year I answer the exact same way. “ME!!!!!” This has stats stats and more stats. Acording to the Acta site the other features include:

  • Exclusive! Fielding Bible Awards
  • New! Bill James’ Hall of Fame Monitor
  • New! Plus/Minus and Runs Saved fielding data for every player
  • Updated! Park Indices (including Target Field)
  • Relief Pitching Analysis
  • Manufactured Runs Analysis
  • Career data for every 2010 major leaguer
  • Instant Replay History
  • Pinch Hitting Analysis
  • Pitcher/Hitter Projections
  • Player Win Shares

This is an overwhelming one if you’re not looking for stats, but it’s a great resource to keep with you for reference if you’re away from the computer. (Purchase the book from Acta Sports)

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Chet’s Corner: 5 Random Thoughts……

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

*Note to the reader: The following is laced with all types of negativity and frustration.

It’s December and it’s cold.

It’s @#%@# cold!!!!!! Below 20 degrees is only acceptable in January and February.  December is supposed to ease us in slowly.

*A side note, for those of you that hit the sauce, do you drink different liquor in the winter? For instance I drink Tequila during the summer months but switch to Scotch in the Winter, single malt, nothing ridiculous, any Glen will do.

December is that time of the year when I put away the summer drink and head to the store to stock up on winter beverages.  We all know that a little booze helps when we receive news like, “Adrian Gonzalez just got traded to the Red Sox!”

Which brings up my first Random thought……..

Random thought #1

What’s it like at the winter meetings?  I don’t mean the experience, I am talking about the setup….the schedule.  Low and behold Keith Law, Senior MLB Writer for ESPN.com, weighed in with his description during the “Live Winter Meetings Chat” on ESPN.com yesterday:

keithlaw:

There are only a few actual meetings – the scouting directors will all meet, the farm directors will all meet, I think I saw the AGMs had a meeting this morning. Most of the time, each front office is hanging out in its team suite, waiting for the phone to ring or setting up meetings with other teams or agents on the fly. There’s a lot of down time for front office people – these meetings are much more interesting for me now that I’m on the media side than they were for me on the team side.

Interesting yes? Maybe not, but the best vision floating through my head was of ole Trader Jim, lounging in his Cubs suite/war room, watching reruns of Ren and Stimpy and trying to figure out which cheap and mediocre option they would sign as first sacker next year.   Can you tell I am a little flustered with our current place in the market?

Random thought #2

How many teams worth their salt do you think are knocking on the Cubs door looking for young, talented, unproven players (AKA Minor League prospects) in exchange for their talented veterans who can make a difference now?

How about none!

Apparently the Cubs had a chat with the Padres about Gonzalez but it didn’t last long.  In other words it went something like this….

Jim Hendry: Hey guys, I am here to inquire about Adrian?

Padres: Who are you offering up?

Jim: Nobody good, just some of our minor leaguers who are nowhere near the top of the crop.

Padres: Yah, well, the Red Sox actually want to win now!  I tell you what Jim, we are headed to their suite now, wanna come see how a team gets the guy they really want?

You see where I am headed here, very flustered!!!!!!! I wanted Adrian, I wanted him badly. He fits so many of our needs.  Now the Red Sox have him, and worse,  they have him right where they want him for negotiations on a longer deal…..they didn’t get it done yet, but if he has the season he should have they won’t let him go.

Random Thought #3

I sat on the toilet so long following my twitter feeds regarding the winter meetings that I forgot why I was there in the first place and I lost feeling in my legs. Is that bad?

Random Thought #4

I have been battling with something in regards to Ron Santo and the Hall of Fame.  Do I want to see him get elected now?

I want it to happen for his family, and the Cubs, and his fans but the taste may be to bitter to handle.

Part of seeing him being elected into the Hall was seeing his reaction.  Now we don’t get that and it just won’t seem right.

Maybe I am wrong in thinking that way, but I will go on record as saying this….if anybody wants to give me an award, do it when I am alive please.

Random Thought #5

Ron Santo will be missed.  I just realized that one of my little treats in life will be no more.  My drive home after a long day at work while listening to Pat and Ron wrap up the final few innings of a Cubs game will be a little less rewarding going forward.  There is no way they will ever replace Ronnie in the booth.

One can’t recreate what he was and what he meant to this organization.  I have tried to describe it to a few people like this…..take the biggest Cub fan you know and imagine, but before they became a fan,  they actually played for the Cubs and over the course of a decade became one of the best Cub players  ever.  Now take that person and make him an unwavering ambassador and the voice of the Cubs over the radio for years to come.  All the while he has the keen baseball sense of a nine time all-star mixed with the heart of a 10 year old and the will of a superhero.  That was Ron Santo.

It has been a long week if you are a Cub fan, go out and grab your favorite winter beverage and settle in for an even longer winter.

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All I Want For Christmas

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Dear Santa,

The Cubs REALLY need your help this year. If it’s not too much trouble…

  • Please teach Alfonso Soriano how to swing only at strikes. If he’s receptive to your suggestions, maybe you can work on his defense as well.
  • Please give Carlos Zambrano a time machine so that he can return to his 2005 form. We’ll even let him smash a cooler or two.
  • Please bring us a 1B who can actually hit for power and get on base. There’s only like 1,000 of them on the free agent market.
  • Please help Cub fans understand that Marlon Byrd isn’t Willie Mays. I like Mr. Byrd as much as the next guy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize his weaknesses at the plate.  (Please insert your “clutch, grinder, hustle” comments here.)
  • Please help Carlos Marmol improve his control. It doesn’t have to be dramatic, but just a little better command would do wonders for my blood pressure. Maybe I’ll even open my eyes in the 9th inning this year.
  • Please help Aramis Ramirez stay healthy in 2011. It’s so simple, Santa. When Ramirez hits, the Cubs are usually competitive. The NL Central is up for grabs, so a healthy Ramirez could keep the Northsiders in the hunt.
  • Please place a force field or indestructible bubble around Starlin Castro. As you know, Cub history is littered with failed prospects. Castro appears to be the real deal, so I don’t want him damaged, injured, scratched, crumpled, inconvenienced, or disturbed in any way. Is that too much to ask?

I know my list is especially long this year, but I’ve been very good. OK, maybe not. But Cub fans have been very good. They keep showing up at the ballpark even though their favorite team disappoints them year after year. They even applaud when automatic outs like Koyie Hill step to the plate. That has to be worth something!

Happy holidays,

Buddy

(P.S. I still have the Millennium Falcon you gave me in 1980. Thanks again!)

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Month in Transactions: November

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Out with the old

Mark Johnson – Nothing to see here. Johnson was an older catcher in the system that really hasn’t played with any sort of regularity at any level since 2008 and hasn’t seen Major League action in a serious role since 2002. You may remember him because at that time he was the starting catcher with the White Sox

Brad Snyder – He had a breakout year in Iowa in 2o1o, but at 28 years old it was time for him to get a shot to win a job somewhere. The Cubs really couldn’t provide that opportunity. He’ll get a chance to be invited to spring training somewhere. Arizona Phil had a nice mini scouting report on him over at the Cub Reporter

Snyder is “toolsier” than your typical “4-A” guy, in that he has a plus-arm, plus-power, plus-speed, and is a solid defender. But he has a long swing and is prone to strikeouts, and likely will struggle to hit the better pitching he would see consistently in the big leagues. Also, he was in a position with the Cubs where he was out of minor league options, and would have gone into Spring Training battling Sam Fuld and Micah Hoffpauir (who are also out of minor league options) for a roster spot that (by the time Spring Training rolls around) might not even exist.

Xavier Nady – I’ll be honest with you. I had pretty high expectations and hopes for Nady when he signed. I thought he was capable of giving us the same type of production that Jermaine Dye would have brought had he signed, but for way less cost considering the fact that he was coming off surgery. He didn’t. I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing him come back, and the way the free agent marking is getting, that may be a distinct possibility. As long as he’s not the guy they look to as the answer at 1b, I’m ok with bringing him back.

Micah Hoffpauir – Hoff packs his bags and is heading to Japan. My guess is that he just got tired of waiting for a shot and wanted to try to show he can produce before he’s considered over the hill.

In with the new

Scott Moore – This face isn’t so much new, but newly acquired. Moore was originally drafted by the Tigers in the 1st round of the 2002 draft. It was a draft that produced guys like B.J. Upton, Prince Fielder, Zack Greinke, Scott Kazmir, Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, and Nick Swisher. He was traded to the Cubs from the Tigers in the Kyle Farnsworth deal and then shipped to Baltimore in the deal that brought Steve Trachsel back to Chicago. I don’t expect much from him, but when you’re a 1st round pick you have to have at least some talent, right?

Scott Rice – He was signed by the Cubs to a minor league deal. Like Moore, Rice is a former 1st round pick that just hasn’t panned out. He’s a big kid (6’6″ tall) that seems to throw strikes and definitely keeps the ball in the ballpark. In 69+ innings of work last year he allowed a grand total of zero home runs. In fact, in 680+ innings of work down in the minors he’s only given up 30 HR. You can’t have too many reliever options in the minors. He’s another one.

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GirlieView (12/06/2010)

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Good morning Cubs fans! And whoever else happens by. All are welcome. Especially in the off season, where we have precious little to discuss. Frankly I’d have preferred having nothing to talk about rather than the punch in the gut we all took last week (Santo) but it was therapeutic to reminisce and pay tribute to one of our favorites.

Lizzies

  • That DeCarlo guy could rake.
  • girlie’s are welcome
  • Yes, it’s a waste of time and energy, but what else are we supposed to do in December? Watch the NBA?
  • That’s my favorite Bon Jovi song.
  • as long as we don’t pick up AAAron Miles again I am OK with it.
  • the NFL seems to issue more drug suspensions and deal with more player criminal activity than every other sport combined. And nobody seems to care.
  • It’s starting to taste like a rice cake.
  • The good news is this, we won’t be able to afford him.
  • And look at this years Giants, won it all with a line up even their Mothers had doubts about.
  • Many people mocked Ron Santo for his broadcasting style, but I loved his heart and soul!
  • In an era where Announcer’s are starting to sounds canned and robotic, Ronnie was a breath of fresh air.
  • If you haven’t seen “This Old Cub,” it’s worth your time.
  • It is so disappointing to see a beloved Cub legend leaves this world without seeing the Cubs win a World Series.
  • Ron said, “It’s so cold I can’t feel my feet.”
  • You will be missed and treasured, Ron. Thanks for the memories.
  • I thank Joe Morgan and his idiotic mindset, and that of the other HoFers like him for Ronnie’s non inclusion.
  • RIP #10. You’re in a much better place.
  • He was just as affable as he seemed on the radio, and giving of his time when many were seeking it.
  • I’m proud to be a Santo fan even more, knowing that the person matched the personality.
    God Bless you Ronnie .
  • Rest in peace Ron.
  • At least he was here to see his number 10 flag flying in Wrigley.
  • You are a HALL OF FAMER in our hearts.
  • Let’s keep him for ourselves.
  • sometimes its important to look at the things that really matter…health and family.

Lizard

  • Rest in peace, Ron. We will miss you.

Monday Morning Discussion Question

It seems almost sacrilegious to talk about anything other than Ron Santo so you should all continue to feel welcome to talk about him as you wish. Meantime, we’ll try to look forward. There’s been a lot of Winter Meetings speculation as they begin today in Orlando. What do you expect from the Cubs this week?


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

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I’m gonna miss you Ronnie

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

Today I went to the Chicago Tribune’s website and got punched in the stomach. Ron Santo had died – I then went immediately to View From the Bleachers and fortunately Joe had already posted an article.

As a kid I grew up in Clarendon Hills, IL – we moved there in 1968 when I was a fifth grader. Ron Santo became an immediate favorite – he was a vacuum cleaner at third and he, Don Kessinger, Glenn Beckert and Ernie Banks were probably the best defensive corps in the National League. They made so many unbelievable plays that you got used to them. And got spoiled by them too. Ronnie might have alienated other players when he clicked his heels twice after Cubs victories in Wrigley – something that might have cost him his rightful place in the Hall of Fame. Some players felt that this was disrespectful but Ron was just showing his own jubilation in front of the fans that he loved. And they loved him too.

Years after he retired I began listening to him on WGN – he was not a “professional broadcaster” per se but he spoke to us who were long term Cubs fans. He felt what we felt and then some. We watched the Cubs for years and many of us would mute the TV coverage when road broadcasters were on so we could listen to our friends Pat Hughes and Ron. I would even hit the pause button on my DVR so that Pat and Ron would be “in sync” with the broadcast. Two classy guys and I hope that Pat and Mark Grace will be doing it next year! I’ll betcha if Ronnie could have picked his replacement it would have been Gracie!

I decided to break out “This Old Cub” tonight to celebrate this fine man’s life – I cried several times and, at age 53 it feels odd crying when a sports figure dies. But Ronnie was in my living room for many years – I celebrated with him, I commiserated with him and I shared with him as a fellow diabetic. Ron fought it his whole life – I look down at my feet and realize that soon I might have to have my toes amputated. Some of my organs don’t produce the chemicals they should and my body seems to reject many of the drugs I take after a while. So it’s an ongoing thing, I know how Ronnie felt in that respect.

His reaction to what was happening was to fight, he also made the best out of the cards he was dealt. He gives me inspiration, he was a good Cubs fan. I hope I will be one too.

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A Sad, Sad Day

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

RIP Ron Santo: 02/25/1940 – 12/02/2010


THURSDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2010

4 P.M.

PUBLIC VISITATION

HOLY NAME CATHEDRAL PARISH

NORTH STATE STREET AT SUPERIOR STREET

730 N. WABASH AVE

CHICAGO, IL  60611

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 10

10 A.M.

FUNERAL SERVICE FOR RON SANTO (LIMITED PUBLIC SEATING AVAILABLE)

HOLY NAME CATHEDRAL CHURCH

NORTH STATE STREET AT SUPERIOR STREET

730 N. WABASH AVE

CHICAGO, IL 60611

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Ron’s memory to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation – Illinois chapter at the below address, by visiting https://www.jdrfillinois.org and clicking on “Donate Now” or by calling 312-670-0313.

JDRF Illinois Chapter

11 S. LaSalle Street

Suite 1800

Chicago, IL

60603-1344

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