Archive for January, 2011

Book Review: Now I Can Die In Peace

Friday, January 7th, 2011

The complete title of this New York Times Bestseller is “Now I Can Die In Peace – How ESPN’s Sports Guy Found Salvation, With a Little Help From Nomar, Pedro, Shawshank and the 2004 Red Sox”. It was written by Bill Simmons and was published in 2005.

The inside back jacket cover contains the following bio of the author:
- “Bill Simmons writes the popular Sports Guy column for ESPN.com’s Page 2 and ‘ESPN The Magazine’. A former sports reporter for the ‘Boston Herald’, he founded the award-winning bostonsportsguy.com website in 1997 and was a writer for ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’. He commutes between his home in Los Angeles and Fenway Park.”

“Now I Can Die In Peace” consists of Sports Guy columns which Mr. Simmons wrote between October 1998 and April 2005. Additionally, updates, which occurred to him upon rereading those columns, are included in the margins and form a running commentary on his writing and on Red Sox History.

The page layout consisting of text in the middle with running commentary in the margins looks hard to read, but it works out OK.

While reading this book I came to the realization that there are many similarities between the histories of the Boston Red Sox and of the Chicago Cubs – between Cubs Nation and Red Sox Nation – similarities of which I was not aware. I’m amazed at how similar Bill Simmons’ thoughts about his Red Sox, and my thoughts about my Cubs, are turning out to be.

That is the most striking aspect of this compilation of columns: change a name here and a date there and this book could very well be about the Cubs. In fact, as I was reading “Now I Can Die In Peace”, it WAS about the Cubs. My brain automatically transposed names, places and dates, and I found myself reading about my experiences being a Cubs fan.

As the bumper sticker might say: Same Stuff – Different Names.

One writing technique which Mr. Simmons employs – he very effectively weaves pop culture references into his storytelling. Those references include “The Shawshank Redemption”, “The Godfather” movies, “Rocky IV”, “Karate Kid”, etc.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
- “…if there was a God, the Red Sox would have won a World Series by now.”

- “Finally, the home plate ump raised his hands and started waving everyone off the field, like Bruce Willis waving the ‘Die Hard’ hostages off the top of the Nakatomi Building.”

- “I feel like I’m getting a great break on a used car.”

- “There is no such thing as a great break on a used car.”

- “The lesson, as always: Don’t get married.”

- “Through the past seven decades, through all the heartache, we’ve only seen two constants with the Red Sox – the ownership and the ballpark – and both have needed to go for years.”

- “Give me a crazy-competent owner over a cheap-quiet-incompetent owner any time.”

- “Just because they support a superior baseball team doesn’t mean they’re superior. Keep telling yourself this.”

- “We spend 10 minutes trying to remember if anyone won the World Series with an incompetent manager, finally taking solace that it happened with Arizona and Bob Brenly just two years ago.”

- “Lemme ask you – why does MLB ban HGH and steroids, but allow cadaver surgeries for blown-out elbow tendons that give pitchers stronger and more durable arms? What’s the difference?”

- “…you only have so many chances to win a championship, so you do what you have to do. It’s that simple.”

- “That’s the thing about baggage as a sports fan – you can shed this stuff. You just need a few breaks.”

- “First of all, it was released in 1986 – the same year the Pats lost in the Super Bowl…”
(I really enjoyed reading this quote.)

- “Q: What do you call 25 guys watching the World Series? A: The Yankees.”

I truly enjoyed reading this book. A lot more than I expected to.

Anyone interested in experiencing what it’s like to be a CUBS fan, should read “Now I Can Die In Peace”, by Bill Simmons.

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Buddy’s Crystal Ball

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

It’s 2011, and my brain is overwhelmed with psychic energy. Maybe it’s just a hangover?  Anyway, here goes…

  • Aramis Ramirez will play 145 games and rediscover his prowess at the plate. I see 30+ homers and a batting average around .290.
  • Geo Soto will continue to improve and become one of the best catchers in the National League. Honestly, he’s already in that category.
  • Alfonso Soriano will look like Stevie Wonder in the outfield and generally frustrate Cubs fans. His diminishing skills will lead to more playing time for Tyler Colvin.
  • Colvin will struggle to get on base, clouding his future in the Cubs outfield.
  • Brett Jackson will shine in the minors and take the fast track to Wrigley.
  • Marlon Byrd will hit for more power (he couldn’t hit for much less), but the batting average will sink. Look for Byrd to finish 2011 in the neighborhood of .275.  Brett Jackson’s progress will lead to a Byrd trade before the deadline.
  • Randy Wells will win more games than Ryan Dempster.
  • Carlos Marmol will save 30+ games and walk 60+ batters. My heart will live in my throat all summer.
  • Kerry Wood will be effective when he pitches, which unfortunately won’t be often. Kid K will finish the season with 50 innings or less.
  • Carlos Pena will win over doubting Cubs fans, swatting 35 home runs, hitting close to .250, and walking frequently.
  • Starlin Castro will cut down on his errors and significantly increase his power output.  Look for Castro to hit 12-15 homers and a mess of doubles.
  • Second base will be an offensive black hole.
  • Sean Marshall will come back to Earth, pitching more like a league-average reliever.
  • The bullpen will still be a weakness.
  • Carlos Silva will still enjoy eating.
  • Len and Bob will still annoy me on a daily basis. My wife will keep asking me, “Why do you watch them?” As usual, I won’t have a good answer.
  • With the exception of Bill Murray, seventh inning stretch guest singers will continue to suck.
  • The Cubs will win 82 games, good for third place. The Cardinals will edge the Brewers for the division title. Dusty’s Reds will finish under .500.
  • Albert Pujols will sign an extension with St. Louis and then win the NL MVP award, again.
  • Ozzie Guillen will continue to say and do dumb things, to the surprise of nobody.
  • The Boston Red Sox will knock off the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.
  • Most of my predictions won’t come true and Joe will ban me from forecasting in the future.
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Chet’s Corner: So Close, Yet So Far

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

It’s right around the corner, can you smell it?

I can’t, not yet at least.

Some feel the turn of the year marks the first signs of the coming baseball season.  Personally it still feels miles away.  The beginning of January and the end of January are a totally different beast.

I don’t truly feel the first signs of baseball season until pitchers and catchers report, which is Monday, February 14th for those of us who did not know.  Then of course spring training seems to last an eternity.

In an effort to spark interest in a season that seems miles away I have five burning questions for our readers!!!!

Question 1:  Who has the best chance to start opening day?

I am going with Dempster.  The guy has been a model of consistancy throughout the past few years and deserves the nod.   Of course, this is considering he makes it through spring training without falling on his face.  However, our staff is so bad that he may fall on his face, break his arm, and go blind yet still own the mound on opening day.

Question #2: Who replaces Ron Santo in the booth?

This is one of those questions I ask and I wait for somebody to comment below and say, “where the hell have you been? They already found a replacement! It’s ———-!”  Did they find somebody yet?

Question #3: Who has scares us the most in spring training?

Hold on, let me explain. Every year we have somebody who plays horrifying baseball in spring training and then the regular season starts and everything is fine…….. it’s like he wasn’t trying all March or he slept through the spring.  I am going with A-Ram, which will prompt fans to claim he is over the hill  and the Cubs need to pull off a desperate trade with somebody by opening day so we have a servicable third baseman.  Then again, I think this already happened for most of last season so forget that.

Question #4: How many games will Carlos Silva start before he hits the disabled list?

My guess, if he gets out of spring training in one peice, two.

Question #5:  Which rising young player makes it out of spring training with the big league club?

I am going with the longshot of Archer.  I am sure he is better then some of the guys on the pitching staff last year.  The way I see it there are three spots in the starting rotation that are unspoken for, why not go out on a limb!

What about you guys? Does it feel as though the season is just around the corner?

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Month in Transactions: December

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Before we begin, I’m still looking for a paragraph or two describing some injury issues you’ve had. They can be horrific, humorous, etc. I don’t care. Have fun with it and e-mail them to me: viewfromthebleachers@gmail.com

Out with the Old

Ronny Morla (RHP) – Selected by the Mets in the 1st round of the Rule 5 draft. You might remember he was one of the players we received from the Oakland A’s in the deal that sent Jake Fox out of town.

Casey Lambert (LHP) – Selected by the Orioles in the 2nd round of the Rule 5 draft.

David Patton – Released (Boy that rule 5 pick worked out well. Glad we kept him on the active roster for the better part of 2009)

Jeremy PapelbonReleased (Maybe we can get his brother on the cheap since he’s wearing out his welcome in Boston)

Andres QuezadaReleased

Mason Tobin – Selected in the Rule 5 draft from the Angels and then traded to the Texas Rangers for Cash. Basically a move to use our spot to our advantage. Hopefully it doesn’t turn into another Josh Hamilton type issue.

In with the New

Carlos Pena (1B) – Signed for a one year deal to play first base in 2o11, Pena brings left handed power which is something the Cubs desperately crave. The deal allows the Cubs to pay Pena just $5 million this season and the $5 million balance in January 2012. I don’t know how Jim Hendry does it, but he’s the king of back loading contracts. He even figured out a way to do it on a one year deal. In case you missed it, Buddy did a write up on Pena earlier in the month.

Kerry Wood (RHP) – I can’t begin to describe how thrilled I was to see this move. Not only does Wood offer a veteran leadership in the bullpen filled with kids, but he instantly commands the clubhouse as a former leader of this team. Factor that in with the price tag and you’ve got a tremendous, low risk, move for Jim Hendry. A+ all the way on this move.

Brad Snyder (OF) - Not really sure if he counts as a new face, but Snyder re-signed with the Cubs. You might remember last month that we talked about the idea of catching on with an invite to spring training with another team next year due to the amount of outfielders that the Cubs have. Apparently he wasn’t interested in that option. I’m excited to see him get a chance to make this team out of spring training. You never know. Can we really say Tyler Colvin is a lock out of spring? Can we really say Fukudome won’t be traded? Soriano won’t get injured? There are definitely options that might get this guy a chance to shine if he’s legit.

Polin Trinidad (LHP) – “Polin Trinidad sits in high 80s with a nice changeup. His funky angles and relatively young age (26) means he’s still young enough to embark on a career as a lefty reliever.” (Source)

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GirlieView (01/03/2011)

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Happy New Year! Don’t miss our discussion question at the end where we will take a final look back at 2010 before we move forward! On an administrative note, Joe is preparing a column on reader injuries. If you’d like to submit your worst/weirdest injury for consideration, email it to viewfromthebleachers@gmail.com early in the week. Now, onto the week in review.

Lizzies

  • Dick Pole.
  • Sweetbread Bailey
  • Clete Thomas
  • Dickey Noles
  • Dick Trickle
  • Mookey Wilson
  • Tim Spooneybarger
  • http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/banana-fana-fo-fudcat/
  • Mickey Klutts
  • Hopefully Starlin Castro’s career goes better than Pat Listach’s did.
  • off-season dork-fest
  • By the way, if you have not heard (and from the looks of ticket sales you have not),  the Convention runs January 14th-16th.
  • Dear Jim, do I want the Black Forest Ham and Turkey or the Meatball Sub?
  • Would you be willing to sign a 1 year $10M roast beef sub contract?
  • What, you’re not dying to meet THE Koyie Hill?
  • If they sold Cubbie Kool-Aid at the convention, would you be offended or totally into it?
  • Spiked Cubbie Kool-Aid maybe.
  • Oney writes like his dad talks
  • You’ve got to love a guy that runs that much smack after hitting .230 for Division 3 North Park University.
  • And the corners of the mouth of our favorite second baseman rise a little.

Lizard

  • Come to think of it, I’ve never seen a ballpark I didn’t like.

Monday Morning Discussion Question

When we were growing up my mother had a New Year’s tradition for us. We had to look back at the year gone by and list the three worst things that happened to us and the three best things. Typically (though not always) the good outweighed the bad, or at least the bad had faded into distant memory and the good things stood out. That was the point. We hated doing it as kids, but as an adult I really enjoy the look back. So I thought we would do it here. For the Cubs. You can consider your personal 2010 journey privately :-). But for public consumption, in your opinion, what were the three best things about the Cubs in 2010, and what were the three worst things?


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