Archive for December, 2011

GO: Chicago Restaurants

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

This was requested by one of our regular readers:

What’s your favorite Chicago area restaurant? We’d all love to hear some dining suggestions for when we’re in town!

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The Best and Worst of the 2011 Cubs – The Nominees

Friday, December 30th, 2011

Because it’s hard to find a lot of definitive good in such a rotten season, and because I generally like to hear what you (well, most of you) have to say, here are my nominees for the Best and Worst from the 2011 Cubs.  Your votes determine the winners (who in turn receive the satisfaction of winning and nothing else).

Feel free to cast your votes and write in any candidates I overlooked in the comments below.

And please, no wagering.

Best Addition

  • Matt Garza  The unquestioned ace of the staff didn’t get much run support or bullpen help this season, but there’s a reason several teams are (reportedly) eager to pluck him from the Cubs.
  • Kerry Wood  The longtime Cub returned to Wrigley for another season of mostly reliable relief pitching.
  • Keith Moreland  Nobody replaces Ron Santo.  But the former Cub has some of Santo’s easy likeability, and a good rapport with Pat Hughes.  In an unenviable position, he did better than many expected.
  • Theo Epstein  The new President of Baseball Operations is the prohibitive favorite in this category, even though his arrival came too late to make a difference in 2011.  But sometimes hope counts for a lot, and nobody brought higher hopes to Wrigleyville in 2011 than Epstein.

Worst Addition

  • James Russell, Starting Pitcher  The Cubs were shorthanded on the mound from the first week of the season.  We eventually signed a few arms off the free agent trash heap, but Russell got five starts this season despite never showing an aptitude for the role.
  • Doug Davis  Davis pitched in only nine games for the Cubs, but surrendered thirty-eight runs (thirty-three earned).  ‘Nuff said.
  • Mark Riggins  Promoted to fill the vacuum left by Larry Rothschild’s departure, Riggins’ mustache was the only thing that distinguished him this season.
  • Ian Stewart  To quote of few VFTB commentors, “If you can’t hit in Coors Field, you can’t hit.”  His defense might help at third base, but he doesn’t seem to be the right answer to one of the Cubs’ biggest questions.

Best Subtraction

  • Carlos Silva  The corpulent malcontent refused to start the season out of the bullpen, and was released before the end of Spring Training.  Nobody really missed a pitcher who looked to be ticketed for another season-shortening injury (although we sure could have used the depth he provided after losing two-fifths of our starting rotation in the first week of the season… where’s the Tylenol?)
  • Carlos Zambrano  After his ejection for repeatedly throwing at Chipper Jones, Zambrano impetuously announced to the Atlanta clubhouse staff that he was quitting the team.  The Cubs obliged, sitting him down for the rest of the season.  Most Cubs fans didn’t miss him.
  • Mike Quade  Hard to know just how much blame he should receive for the lost season.  Either you liked him or you didn’t.  Theo Epstein didn’t.
  • Jim Hendry  He helped build the back-to-back playoff teams in 2007 and 2008, but he also built the teams that have scuffled ever since then.

Worst Subtraction

  • Ron Santo  If I need to explain why the Cubs’ Hall of Famer is the only nominee in this category, you’re reading the wrong blog.

Best Game

  • September 11th, Cubs 10, Mets 6  The Cubs staged a six-run rally in the top of the eleventh inning to spoil the Mets’ 9-11 memorial game.
  • May 21st, Cubs 9, Red Sox 3  This is remembered most as the game Marlon Byrd caught a fastball with his face, but the Cubs showed unusual patience and skill at the plate in their throwback uniforms.
  • August 29th, Cubs 7, Giants 0  Randy Wells pitched the game of his career–a complete game, two-hit shutout of the defending World Champs–on his birthday.
  • July 24th, Astros 4, Cubs 5  A rare walk-off win gave the Cubs their first three-game winning streak of the season.

Worst Game

  • April 12th, Cubs 2, Astros 11  James Russell’s first career start.  Considering the deep hole caused by our lack of pitching this season, you might call this game the beginning of the end for the 2011 Cubs.
  • May 20th, Cubs 5, Red Sox 15  Part of what made the win against Boston so memorable was how bad we looked the day before.  This one stands out in particular because I recapped the game as an audition for VFTB.
  • June 4, Cubs 4, Cardinals 5  Any time Albert Pujols hits multiple homeruns against the Cubs and one of them gives the Cardinals the walk-off victory, it can be considered one of the worst games of the season.
  • July 14th, Marlins 6, Cubs 3  One of many, many Matt Garza gems the bullpen gave away late.  Carlos Marmol could not protect a two-run lead, facing five batters and failing to record an out.
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Morning News: Football, Garza, NASCAR, & Gary Busey

Friday, December 30th, 2011


Four Days of Football, Part 1 – between now and Monday night’s kickoff of the Fiesta Bowl there will 32 football games (16 each college and pro). Most of the NFL games are at least marginally compelling, but the regular season finale between the Giants and Cowboys should be highly entertaining – whoever loses will have choked away a trip to the playoffs and a home game in the first round against the Lions; in other words, a trip to the second round. And of course there’s Tim Tebow; either the Broncos or the Raiders are going to the playoffs, and actually the Chiefs probably have more to say about the situation than anyone (they are Denver’s opponent on Sunday).

Four Days of Football, Part 2 – some of the notable bowl games should be quite entertaining, but it’ll be hard to top last night’s Alamo Bowl (the Baylor-Washington game, not the FSU-ND slapfight). Heisman winner Robert Griffin III and the Bears played a game worthy of the arena league, burning up the turf for a 67-56 win over the Huskies – in regulation! The highlights are worth a look, unless you love defense because there was absolutely none in this game.

Obligatory Garza Notes – some sources seemed to think trade talks were heating up over the last couple of days, specifically with the Blue Jays. But everyone agrees Theo and Jed are asking for a lot in return; seems like the Cubs are slow-playing this option at the moment but their potential trade partners are trying to speed it up. It might have something to do with the fact that Edwin Jackson and Hiroki Kuroda are the top free agent arms remaining. Don’t expect the rumors to stop anytime soon.

NASCAR – my only comment on this story; it’s hilarious that THIS is where Kasey Kahne draws the “nasty” line. I would think that for a NASCAR driver who probably sees more plumber’s crack in one day at the garages than most of us will see in our lifetime; who literally works within sight of rows of Andy Gumps; and whose die hard fan base includes a high percentage of people who think “hygiene” is nothing more than a two word phrase they use to greet their friend Gene – I would think he would be able to handle this situation with a bit more indifference. However, the woman who most vehemently chided him is completely crazy as well.

Gary Buseythis seems like a fairly terrible idea, but apparently it’s just the type of crap that TV producers are looking for.

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Northside Archives: The Greatest Pitcher in Cubs’ History

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

June 12, 1990 – The Cubs were floundering in mid-June, having just won four games that probably provided a sliver of hope to the most optimistic, they needed to continue that roll against the New York Mets. The first of three games in two days pitted Dwight Gooden against Mike Bielecki. A year earlier this would’ve been a marquee matchup, but on this date both pitchers were struggling to find their top form.

Bielecki started the game and did not last long at all – pitching 1.1 while giving up 8 runs (6 earned). Kevin Blankenship followed Bielecki with 2.2 innings; Dean Wilkins and Joe Kramer then got the Cubs through the first 8 innings at Wrigley. By the time the top of the ninth started, the four pitchers had coughed up 19 runs and each had been tagged at some point by the 4th place Mets. Even with the offense fighting valiantly, the score was an impossible 19-6. (I always had a certain disdain for those late-80s Mets, especially for some reason, Dave Magadan and Kevin McReynolds – and those two were absolutely battering the Cubs on this day).

And then Don Zimmer discovered the best pitcher in Cubs history. Doug Dascenzo didn’t start the game in the field that day (he only started 54 times for the Cubs that year) but when Zimmer raised up his left arm, Dascenzo answered the call. The consummate fourth outfielder, the 5’7″ Dascenzo was skilled as a defender, and terrible with the bat. On the mound against the Mets, Dascenzo threw 8 pitches while facing only three batters (with the help of a Tim Teufel double-play) and even recorded a strikeout.

His time as a reliever was such a success (and the Cubs were so terrible) that Dascenzo would get 3 more chances to pitch for the Cubs the following season. Each time the Cubs were on the wrong side of lopsided scores and Dascenzo helped preserve the bullpen for the following day. He never surrendered a run in four appearances.

Dascenzo’s career stat line as a pitcher was 5 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 2 BBs, 2 Ks, against a total of 18 batters. He never became more useful than a 4th outfielder though, finishing his playing career with short stints in Texas and San Diego.

In 2006 he became a manager in the Padres’ farm system. After stops in Eugene, Fort Wayne, and San Antonio, Dascenzo is now part of the Atlanta Braves organization with the title “Minor League Outfield/Baserunning Coordinator.” Perhaps along the way he’ll give a bit of pitching advice to a struggling outfielder.

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Morning News: Sketchy Medicine, Bloody Thieves, and 2011 in Review

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Strike One:  We can rebuild him.  We The Germans have the technology.  Alex Rodriguez followed sports medicine pioneer/guinea pig Kobe Bryant to Germany for Orthokine therapy on nagging injuries in his right knee and left shoulder.  While the therapy–which involves separating a specific protein from the patient’s blood and injecting it into the injured area–is performed in the United States, Bryant and Rodriguez elected to break free from the constraints of their HMO plans because the German doctor is the “top in his field.”  Do you believe this Bavarian super doctor is performing miracles, or are you like me and think there might be some extracurricular medicinal hanky-panky going on?

Strike Two:  A clerk at a cash-for-gold store North Carolina punched out a would-be thief and then forced him to scrub his own blood off the floor.  The security camera video is well worth your time.

Foul Tip:  Priest Fight! Highly UN-Orthodox.

Strike Three:  It’s the end of the year, which means it’s time for every newspaper magazine, and website to publish their “Best of” and “Worst of” lists for 2011. published their retrospective lists for movies, TV, and general sports just yesterday.  No need to go into copious detail, but across those and other general interest categories, what are some of your bests and worsts from the last year?

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