Archive for May, 2011

Chet’s Corner: Sports Bucket List

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

I got a text message today that Chet was going to be unavailable to write his weekly piece due to work commitments. Since when does work come before VFTB? Instead, you’re stuck with me this Wednesday afternoon on short notice. I have to warn you, editorial column type posts are not my strength, but I’ll try to get you through it.

We’ve all heard of the bucket list concept when it comes to living life. Heck, maybe you’ve even been treated to the movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman about the concept. Side note, I’d highly reccomend that one over another Nicholson movie, About Schmidt where you’re subjected to a very naked Kathy Bates in a hot tub. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, the concept goes a little like this:

You make a list of all the things you want to accomplish in all facets of life before you “kick the bucket”. Instead of applying it to my whole life, I’d like to present my sports Bucket List in abbreviated fashion.

Visit Fenway Park – I hate the Red Sox, but there is something magical about old ball parks. I’ve been to Old Comiskey and Old Yankee Stadium, but never Fenway.

See a No Hitter Live – I don’t really have a requirement that I need to be in attendence. I simply want to watch a game from start to finish, live. The closest I’ve ever seen is a Zambrano start against the Diamondbacks a few years back. You may ask why I don’t count the Zambrano no hitter in Milwaukee. It’s because I was blacked out for that game and couldn’t watch. I had every intention of watching the Randy Johnson perfect game against the Braves, but instead went to Wal-Mart with my wife. Ugh.

Attend a Duke / Carolina game – If you don’t live here in the tobacco road area, you don’t understand how much hype the game gets. I’ve been to a game at the Dean Dome and it was a crazy experience. I can’t even imagine what it would be like for that rivalry.

Visit the Four Major Sports Hall of Fames – I’ve been to Cooperstown already, though it was way back in 1996. That leaves three to go with the most likely one being Canton since it’s somewhat on my way to Chicago on a road trip.

Stand on the Pitchers Mound at Wrigley Field – Seriously, how cool would that be?

See the Cubs / Illinois Basketball Win the Championship – If  you had to pick which would happen first, which would you pick?

Hit a Hole in One – I say it every time I talk about this. When it happens, it will be my last golf shot ever. I’m going out on top.

There you have it. Now I want to hear your list.


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Game 46 – Cubs dominate the Mets

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Cubs 11, Mets 1

Box Score / Highlights

Tonight was a fun game to watch as the Cubs administered a beat-down on the Mets.  All things considered the damage was 11-1 as the Cubs gave the hometown fans something to cheer about.  Some highlights for the game:

What went right:

  • Offense offense offense:  The Cubs scored frequently and put the Mets away in the second.  The second inning was orgiastic as the Cubs plated five runs compliments to Ramirez (a single,) Montanez (a double,) and an RBI by Barney (who is tied for the lead in RBIs.)  Castro singled and the Cubs lead 5-0.  The Cubs tagged on two more runs in the fifth and sixth and then blew it away in the seventh.
  • Dempster pitched a strong game:  Ryan went into the game with a league-worst 6.91 ERA and came out with a 6.29 ERA.  All told his line was 7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER , 5K and 1 BB.
  • We didn’t make the defensive miscues, the Mets did:    Ronnie Paulino made a couple of defensive miscues which lead to the Cubs victory.  And Soriano made a shrewd play on a carom off the left field wall in the fifth.  Sometimes he looks comical out there, tonight he didn’t.
  • Great contribution by Cubs’ role players, particularly Lou Montanez.  I remember when this guy was drafted third overall – he was a hot-shot shortstop prospect out of Florida.  Things didn’t work out and he was let go; Andy MacPhail gave him a shot in Baltimore and he ended up with a minor league contract where he started in Chicago.  It was great to see him have a good game although I’m not sure he has what it takes to stick.  Personally I like Campana better.
  • Mop up:  Congratulations to Grabow and Samardzija for good relief, particularly the Shark who struck out the side.

What went wrong:

  • Nothing, unless you want to consider the Mets’ defense.

Other notes:

  • Today the Cubs put Matt Garza on the DL retroactive to the last date he pitched.  They said it was because of a bone bruise and I’m not reading much into it, he should be back soon.  Randy Wells seems to be slated to start Saturday’s game in his place and the MRI on Cashner came back negative.  I’m not sure Andrew will pitch again this year and quite frankly I’m not sure what his future will entail.  Shoulder injuries are a whole lot different than elbow problems, this year isn’t going to be one in which I see Cashner making a contribution.  We will see what happens but Andrew Cashner’s stock is much lower in my portfolio.

On this date in baseball history:

  • 1935:  The first night game was played at Crosley Field in Cincinnati.  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt pressed the button to turn the lights on.

Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star– Ryan Dempster (.188 WPA)

2nd Star –Lou Montanez (.139 WPA)

3rd Star– Darwin Barney (.105 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Mark 6-3 (.667)

Buddy 3-3 (.500)

Joe 9-10 (.474)

Brandon 1-4 (.200)

Chet 0-2 (.000)

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Cubs / Mets Series Preview

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Ryan Dempster vs. Joe Niese

Dempster gave up four runs in a shaky frame against the Marlins, and he allowed five runs on eight hits over five innings total for a no-decision. He will try to bounce back against the Mets, but their current roster is batting .365 against him. Niese will look to keep the momentum going after a stellar outing against the Nationals at Citi Field on Wednesday. The lefty threw seven scoreless innings and notched seven strikeouts. Niese is 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA against the Cubs all-time.

Casey Coleman vs. Dillon Gee

Coleman impressed in his latest start Thursday, shutting out the Marlins over 5 2/3 innings to win for the first time since April 16. He struck out a career-high seven. Coleman is 0-2 with a 9.69 ERA in three starts at home this season. Dillon Gee had the best outing of his career Thursday against Washington, holding the Nats scoreless for 7 2/3 innings — the furthest into a game he has pitched. He had a no-hitter through 5 2/3 before it was broken up by Livan Hernandez.

Carlos Zambrano vs. R.A. Dickey

Zambrano will be happy to get back to an NL ballpark where he can hit. In his last start in Boston, he gave up three runs, seven hits and three walks over 5 2/3 innings. He faced the Pirates in his first start of the year, but did not get a decision. The knuckleballer had a 7.36 ERA in May before a strong outing at Yankee Stadium on Friday. Dickey struck out six and allowed one run — a Mark Teixeira homer — in six innings. The Cubs rocked him for seven runs in his start against them last year.

Joe Janish scouts the Mets

Who’s Hot – Before Sunday’s loss vs. the Yankees, infielder Justin Turner had an 8-game hitting streak, an RBI in 7 consecutive games and reached base in 12 straight. During his hitting streak he hit .424 (14-33) with six doubles, one run and 12 RBI. In short, he WAS the Mets offense for about a week — and when his streak was snapped, so were the Mets. Jose Reyes has been hot since Opening Day, leading the NL in hits (62), triples (6), multi-hit games (20), and stolen bases (17), and is tied for second in doubles (14). Francisco Rodriguez keeps everyone on the edge of their seats, but he’s converted 13 consecutive saves and won the one game he blew.

Who’s Not – Carlos Beltran started out hot, but is 4 for his last 20 — a bad time to go into a slump considering that sluggers Ike Davis and David Wright are on the DL. Jason Bay is 5 for his last 14, but his season has been marred by fits and starts; he’s hitting only .234 on the season with a .662 OPS and 8 RBI in 26 games. Lefthanded-hitting catcher Josh Thole looked good for the first two weeks of the season, but has been spiraling downward since Ronny Paulino joined the club; Thole is 2 for his last 27 and hitting .204 with a  .522 OPS. Thole is also struggling defensively; he already has 7 passed balls, has caught only 6 of 31 attempted stealers, and has had communication problems with some of the Mets pitchers. Oh, and he quit his Twitter account.

News / Notes – The Mets pitching — and the bullpen in particular — has been a surprise thus far. Unfortunately, the offense has been underwhelming and streaky. Injuries have also hurt the Mets in this young season; Bay and Paulino began the year on DL, lights-out reliever Pedro Beato just came off, Angel Pagan has been on it since April 21, and he was recently joined by Davis and Wright.  The Mets have already positioned six men at second base, but may have finally found a semi-permanent solution in the hot-hitting Turner.

Prediction – Looking solely at the pitching matchups, I like the Mets chances in games two and three. Dillon Gee has ordinary stuff but is getting by on guile and advantage of mystery — most MLB batters haven’t seen him before and the scouting report on him is still incomplete. And although knuckleballer R.A. Dickey has fallen back to Earth this year, he does have days when the knuckler dances — plus, I think the one pitcher the Mets offense has a chance to score against is Doug Davis. Being a pessimistic Met fan, though, I’m expecting the Cubs to take at least two of the three games.

Joe blogs about the Mets on his blog, Mets Today

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Chicago Cubs Cookbook

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

The complete title of this book is “Chicago Cubs Cookbook – All-Star Recipes From Your Favorite Players”. It is edited by Carrie Muskat, and was published in 2010.

First let me say that proceeds from the sales of this book benefit the Dempster Family Foundation. That’s a good thing!

Secondly, I cannot tell a lie: I have not, as yet, tried to make any of these recipes. But I intend to!

Thirdly, I enjoyed reading this book. It’s easy to get too caught up in the wins vs. losses, analyses of the various statistics, etc. We sometimes forget that these are real people, with real lives. “Chicago Cubs Cookbook” reminds us that the Cubs are real people, who eat real food, and who sometimes cook, too. It was a nice change of pace.

Here are some specific observations:

– The first direction listed under “How to Build the PERFECT Chicago Dog” reads as follows: “Boil the hot dogs in 145 degree water per package instructions.” I thought water boiled at 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

– The discussion about Randy Wells’ Hot Wing Dip includes the following statement: “The way Randy sees it, most people eat chicken wings and have dip at their football parties. ‘This way,’ he says, ‘it combines both’.” I cannot argue with that logic.

– The “Cubs Clubhouse recipe for Yogurt Mashed Potatoes” comes from Tom “Otis” Heilman, his brother Tim, and Gary Stark, who run the Cubs home clubhouse. The ingredients include: 4 potatoes, 4 Tbsp. plain low-fat Greek yogurt, and 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth. Those are my kinda ingredients!

– The discussion leading up to “John Grabow’s Loaded Mashed Potatoes” contains the following quote: “It’s pretty easy to make,” Grabow said, then cautions, “It’s not very good for you.” I’m all in favor of comfort food which is easy to make.

– Two recipes which especially grabbed my attention were provided by Jim Hendry’s friend Vickie Courville. They are “Crawfish Etouffee” (etouffee literally means “smothered” or “suffocated”), and “Chicken and Sausage Gumbo. I like crawdads and I make gumbo (or is it Jambalaya?) with chicken and sausage and shrimp, so these two are right up my alley.

– The “Build-Your-Own Steak Tacos” from Hub 51 with marinade, Tomato Salsa and Guacamole directions are very good looking.

– Brett Jackson contributed a gluten-free buffalo meat and spaghetti squash which looks interesting. I have dabbled in gluten-free eating. This recipe has potential, and Brett says: “…you can be creative with your protein base.”

– Theodore Roosevelt Lilly III contributed a simple recipe for a great breakfast dish which he calls “Egg In The Hole”. Gotta love it!

– Fergie Jenkins’ wife, Lydia, finally decided to try cooking wild game, (some of Fergie’s pheasants), in a manner that she thought would make them taste tolerable. Fergie gave her the recipe (“Fergie’s Bagged Pheasant”) and it turned out great! I’m a big believer in cooking bags.

– Ted Lilly also presents a chili recipe from Stanley’s Kitchen and Tap. The recipe for “Stanley’s King of Chilis” looks delicious, but I’m afraid I don’t have all of the many ingredients in my kitchen. I’ll have to visit Stanley’s on Lincoln Avenue, and let them do the preparation for me.

– Lou Piniella (you remember him) presents “Anita Piniella’s Layered Chicken Salad” and says: “If we’re winning, I go out a little more. If not, I tend to stay in.” The ingredients for Anita’s salad look tasty. I think this one is Dave-proof and doable.

– Mike Quade says “…once I get home for the winter, my time is consumed by two of my other passions – fishing and cooking. My home along the Florida Gulf Coast affords me with some of the best shallow saltwater fishing in the country, and the only thing better than the challenge of catching these fish is the fun of preparing them.”

“Q” likes to serve his “Pecan-Crusted Snook with Cajun Cream Sauce” with “roasted potatoes, sweet corn relish, and blue cheese and pear salad”. I gotta try this one.

– Ryne Sandberg’s wife, Margaret, contributed a recipe for Chicken Tacos, which looks delicious.

– Ryne also presents a recipe for “Harry Caray’s Rigatoni with Vodka Sauce”. There’s a winning trifecta right there.

– Ryan Theriot presents a Jambalaya recipe (“Chef John Folse’s Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya”), which, as I mentioned before, is right up my alley.

– Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Marmol present a Dominican dish called “Mangu”, from Sobeida Minaya’s “Tropical Taste” restaurant near Humboldt Park (my old stomping grounds). It says here that “Mangu is eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the only change is what you have on the side”. I can live with that.

– Micah Hoffpauir presented “Grandma Ernestine Adams’ Blonde Brownies”. I don’t usually get worked up about brownies because I don’t really care for most chocolate that much. But these “blonde” brownies don’t contain chocolate. Sign me up!!

– Len Kasper presents his mom’s Michigan “Apple Crisp” recipe, and Jeff Stevens presents a “Banana Nut Bread” recipe courtesy of his girlfriend, Christina. Both of these desserts look extremely tasty.

There are a lot of opportunities for “good eatin’” contained in the Chicago Cubs Cookbook.

I have to say I’m not a fan of the plastic binding system used on this book.

Nevertheless, I did especially enjoy the background stories behind the recipes. They put some very human faces on the members of the Chicago Cubs (past and present).

I recommend the “Chicago Cubs Cookbook – All-Star Recipes From Your Favorite Players” to anyone with an interest in cooking and/or eating, as well as to anyone who follows the Chicago Cubs.

It’s for a good cause.

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GirlieView (05/23/2011)

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Happy Monday! Let’s have a look at the week in review!


  • The Cubs continued their season long theme of leaving men in scoring position.
  • I think you guys that keep giving the Cubs a B-/C+ have been drinking way too much Old Style.
  • why isn’t there a “e, terrible , we’re doomed .”
  • I’m usually completely hooked by this point in the season. But this year, any time they manage to pique my interest, they follow-up with a craptacular loss (or 3).
  • It’s starting to be painful to watch
  • Beltran does sort of fit the bill: aging player riding out a giant contract with dwindling numbers. Come on over, pal.
  • When your longterm outlook looks bleaker than KC’s, it may be time to clean house.
  • According to the Cubs website the Cubs are starting a new catcher, ‘Hill,C’ , who is this guy? I hope he is better than ‘Hill,K’.
  • Profanity is much more pleasurable when directed at loafing on the field.
  • The White Sox are crappier than the Cubs.
  • Soriano is a huge liability in left field.
  • Unless the new Carlos Zambrano is a lot more like the old Zambrano of 2003/2004ish, then I’m not going to start liking him again anytime soon.
  • Between his insults of opposing teams/players and the thug mentality of Volquez to the head kicking of Cueto, these guys are classless in my book
  • Fielding was atrocious. The Reds scored seven runs and didn’t earn a single one of them.
  • That was ugly.
  • Blame it on the rain all you like. Sure didn’t bother the Reds.
  • Man I had a great night in front of the TV last night. Did I mention I didn’t watch the Cubs game? I’m so smart sometimes…
  • The Cubbie DT’s if you will.
  • We don’t consistently pitch well, we don’t consistently hit well, and we don’t consistently field well.
  • The lack of identity plagues this ballclub and has for some time.
  • A team poorly built, poorly coached, and that executes poorly on the field. Should any of us really be shocked that the season is (again) over in mid-May?
  • An 8 year old who doesn’t get paid a dime can sum up where the Cubbies are right now.
  • The beauty of an inconsistent team is that it fails to consistently suck.
  • I realize it is more acceptable now to hate, but we should enjoy the freedom displayed by this individual liberated from society’s inhibitions. Of course he was probably drunk.
  • Don’t alienate any part of your fan base, especially if you are having trouble filling the seats.
  • Interesting sight on’s Sweet Spot blog. You can read the whole article if you want, but the main thing is the picture at the end.
  • I wouldn’t mind seeing Reed Johnson in left and Jeff Baker at third from here on out. Heck, at least we’d go down swingin’…..
  • LOL, clarification on my comment above this one…. At least we’d go down swingin’ from a **figurative** standpoint (heart, effort, etc) with Johnson and Baker in the lineup everyday. With Ramirez and Soriano, of course we will go down swinging, just in a much more literal way.
  • I wouldn’t jump straight to “Coleman looked really good.”
  • Any lineup that gets Soriano out of left on defense is OK by me.
  • We could further protect those fragile pitchers by having the coaches pitch. Each player on the team could have one at bat per inning, and games could all end in ties.
  • I think that the Pitcher hitting makes for a far superior product because there is actual strategy involved.
  • Bringing the DH to the NL would suck, you don’t take away the best thing it has going for it.
  • The DH is akin to little league rules.
  • And thus begins the hardest weekend in my sports-watching career: a lifelong cubs and red sox fan finally seeing his two teams play together in his home city, without being able to go to a game.
  • i’m expecting a sweep by the redsox . that way i have something to be happy about if we only manage to win one .
  • Errors in the infield. Errors in the outfield. Throwing errors. Fielding errors. Passed balls. Basically the same thing we’ve seen all year from this team.
  • I am so fed up with Soriano’s half assing act that I’m tempted to contact Comcast sportsnet, WGN, and the Cubs front office and asking them to remove all camera coverage and video replay evidence of every ball hit to the vicinity of left field so none of us have to be subjected to a lazy, pathetic multimillionaire that can’t and won’t be bothered to give a 60 percent effort in return for the GDP of a small country he’s being paid.
  • I’m now afraid to go to Fenway tonight and tomorrow…..


  • By heartbreaking do you mean nauseating?

Lizzie Contest Standings

Each week I’ll post the cumulative standings for the Lizzie contest. Remember you get one point for each Lizzie and three points for a Lizard. I lopped off the list to keep it manageable. Everyone with 2 or more points appear. An additional 13 folks have one point apiece. We currently have 38 commenters with points! Great job everyone!

1. Buddy
2. jswanson
3. Doc Raker
4. Chet
5. Seymour
6. cap’n
7. Aaron
7. Chuck
7. Rich Beckman
10. Kris
11. JoeA
12. DavidMBeyer
13. Dragon
14. chris in Illinois
14. MJ
16. Deezer
17. Jesse
17. walterj
19. Benjamin
19. Doug Bagley
19. Doug S
19. Eric
19. Mark
24. Randy
24. Wes

The Weekly Aura

Our weekly aura took a bit of a nosedive. We’re hovering in the C-/D+ zone now. Maybe just a touch better than that but not much! The graph is showing the expected trend.

Each week I’ll tell you the previous week’s aura, and ask you to rate how you are feeling this week. Thanks to a suggestion from the insightful walterj, we will now include an “e” choice. While changing the scale may slightly skew the previous results to the good, I believe it’s a necessary addition at this point.

How are you feeling about the Cubs right now?
a.) Good. We’re on the right track.
b.) Ok. I’m still confident.
c.) Fair. I’m concerned.
d.) Poor. We’re in trouble.
e.) Terrible. We’re doomed.

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