Archive for October, 2012

Morning News: NLCS finale, Bears on MNF, O v. R pt. III, and More!

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Don’t Get Eliminated!
The San Francisco Giants won their 5th playoff elimination game on Sunday night. Tonight at 8pm EST, the only broadcast channel NOT showing Obama v. Romney III will be Fox – they’ll be carrying Game 7 of the NLCS. Kyle Lohse facing off against Matt Cain. I really don’t know how the Giants have been doing it, their offense is smoke and mirrors; then again the Cards were only slightly better than .500 over six months so perhaps their luck has finally run out. The big winner in this game is the Tigers, who merely await travel instructions for Wednesday’s World Series opener.

Monday Night Football
If the Cards jump out to an early lead, flip on over to ESPN and see if the Bears can cash in on a chance to stay atop the NFC North. A win over Detroit would keep Chicago .5 game up on Minnesota, and 1.5 up on the suddenly more focused Green Bay Packers. A loss for Detroit puts them in serious peril of being finished before Halloween.

Presidential Debate
If the Cards jump out to an early lead, AND the Bears start throwing up all over themselves, perhaps a sliver of entertainment can be found on one of the many stations airing the third and final Presidential debate. You’ll recall that in the first debate Obama barely registered a pulse; the second time out, he was feisty – as if he’d had a predebate meal of Fun Dip and Red Bull. If you want a drinking game, try putting one down every time Obama talks about killing Osama bin Laden, or every time Romney tries to steer the conversation back to Libya.

If you want something a bit more lighthearted, watch Obama and Romney speak at a benefit dinner in New York on Thursday night. I’d rather see a debate like that – where they just take pot shots at one another for 90 minutes. It’d be a welcome change from 90 minutes of “he’s lying, no he’s lying; I love the middle class, no I love the middle class.” Scheduled to be a foreign policy debate, it’s sure to be loaded with talking points and demagoguery. I fail to see the need for a debate on foreign policy, just look each candidate’s supporters (Romney; Obama).

Parkour, The ‘Sport’ For Idiots
If you’d rather not watch two grown men bicker, watch this clear example of failed parenting. If your child grows to adulthood and thinks THIS is a good idea – you’ve failed, irreparably. (You really have to watch the video for the full cringe).

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – 10,000 Days Later
The Hardball Times has a piece from Sunday about the ‘day-versary’ of Ferris Bueller’s day off. In other words, someone (presumably from their mother’s basement) used game action to discern the exact date of live shots from John Hughes’ cult classic. After determining said date to be June 5, 1985 (by the Gregorian calendar), conventional annual celebrations were eschewed in favor of a significant number of days; in this case 10,000. If this is starting to sound like a contrived secondary plot for a hipster movie starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, then you too can be a Hollywood writer. How many of you will spend the rest of the day planning a big celebration for your 25,000 day of life? Me neither.

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Looking For Silver Linings…Again

Friday, October 19th, 2012

I love Cubs baseball as much as the next guy, but wow, this was a LONG year! What can fans hang their hats on when their favorite team dumps 100+ games? Let’s take a look back, and forward:

  • Jeff Samardzija came through with a successful conversion to the starting rotation. Admit it…you thought this experiment would explode in our faces. I certainly did. The Shark wasn’t exactly Justin Verlander, but he turned in a solid campaign as a starter: 174.2 IP, 56 BB, 180 K’s, 3.81 ERA, 1.21 WHIP. What amazed me most was his improved command—2.9 BB per 9 IP. I honestly don’t know what to expect next year, his age-28 season. Can he build on this success and become a 200-inning horse? Absolutely. Can he revert back to his wild self and earn a demotion to the bullpen? That wouldn’t surprise me either. My fingers are crossed for scenario #1. And a haircut.
  • The Cubs found a lead-off man vs. RHP. In case you missed it, here’s what David DeJesus did against righties in 2012: .289/.365/.432. OK, so he’s not Rickey Henderson. Still, DeJesus’ offensive performance was more than acceptable, and he’s a solid defender as well. Whether he plays CF or RF, here’s hoping Dale Sveum leads DeJesus off against RHP in 2013. Now the Cubs need to find a reliable platoon partner (that’s your cue, Reed Johnson fans).
  • Anthony Rizzo is on the road to becoming the player many prospect evaluators thought he would be. Yes, the sample size was small, but the future looks bright for the Cubs’ 22-year-old 1B. Here’s what he did in 2012: 87 games, 337 AB, .285/.342/.463. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to watch Rizzo’s continued development next season.
  • Starlin Castro was….well, I’m not sure. On the one hand, I’m thrilled with what he has accomplished at such a young age, particularly considering the position he plays. It’s not easy find shortstops who are productive offensive players. On the other hand, I was rooting for greater improvement from Castro this year. I was expecting better plate discipline. I was expecting a significant reduction in errors. I was expecting 20-ish homers. No such luck. So the question I keep asking myself is, “Are my expectations for Castro too high at this point?” I think the answer is “yes,” but I’m still on the fence. What say you?
  • Alfonso Soriano has a pulse! In all seriousness, Soriano silenced a few critics by finding his power stroke in 2012. His 32 homers easily led the team, and he just missed the .500 slugging percentage mark. Many fans and announcers raved about his improved defense as well. Assuming they’re right, perhaps the soon-to-be-37-year-old Soriano will have real trade value this offseason, even with $36 million left on his deal.

Yes, there were other positives this year. Darwin Barney’s defense, Wellington Castillo’s improvement at the plate, James Russell’s reliability, and Carlos Marmol’s second half come to mind. So what can we expect from the 2013 Cubs? Can they reach respectability? I’ll have more on that topic next time…

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Morning News: Playoffs, Presidential Campaigns, and… The View?

Friday, October 19th, 2012

As I write this, I’m watching the San Fransisco 49ers seal a 13-6 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. I’m not terribly interested in the game, but it’s distracting me from the thrashing that the Giants are receiving from the Cardinals right now. The seemingly imminent win will give St. Louis a commanding 3-1 lead in the NLCS, nearly guaranteeing a return trip to the World Series. The less said about this, the better. Just know that the prospect of back-to-back miracle seasons for the Cardinals is keeping me up at night.

Whoever wins the NLCS will move on to face the Detroit Tigers, who completed a dominating sweep of the New York Yankees earlier on today (Thursday). Remarkably, the Yankees never led in any of the four games, making it their worst playoff showing in fifty years. Tigers’ starter Max Sherzer actually took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, dominating the Yankee lineup that has lacked its usual pop throughout the postseason. Despite Detroit’s overwhelming performance, the main storyline was the situation with Alex Rodriguez, who was repeatedly benched and pinch-hit for throughout the playoffs. Some people think his career in New York is over–in fact there’s already a rumor that the Marlins might be a trade partner.

I believe the daytime talk show hen party The View is one of the worst things on TV. That millions of people tune in to watch this collection of uninformed windbags yap every day is deeply disturbing. “How uninformed?” you ask. Well, today Whoopi Goldberg attempted to pin down Anne Romney on a question/accusation about military support based on the incorrect assumption that Mormons were forbidden from military service. Perhaps not the biggest gaffe in the world–or even on the show that day, for all I know–but it’s depressing that this inane gabfest has become a must-visit destination and a (dry heave) trusted news outlet.

In other election news, Bill Clinton is perfecting his Joe Biden imitation. Not a particularly helpful soundbite there, Bill.

Also, don’t take the bus in Baltimore.

There’s no way to avoid it any longer–the Cardinals held on to win 8-3 over the Giants. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go shout at strangers and set something on fire.

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GirlieView (10/18/2012)

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

I’ve discovered the best thing about the baseball season being over! It was so much fun to go through only 11 posts this time around to award the Lizzies! No offense to any of my wonderful brothers (and sister Katie) here in the VFTB writer family, but the 3-post-per-day schedule was killing me when the GirlieView rolled around. My eyes would cross reading through 35′ish posts to pick some good quotes, much like I’m sure your eyes crossed reading the long list of Lizzies. Enjoy this delightfully humorous and brief collection!

GirlieView Definitions

  • Lizzie = A funny, timely quote made on the VFTB site by our writers or commenters.
  • Lizard = The best Lizzie.
  • MVL = Most Valuable Lizzie’er: The person with the most Lizzies in the period under review (usually the past two weeks)
  • Top 10 of 2012 = The folks with the most aggregate Lizzie points YTD (1 point for every Lizzie, 3 points for every Lizard)

As you already know, this is all completely subjective and according to my whims. Let’s go!

Lizzies

  • Thin Lizzies.
  • Don’t accuse us of having wit and wisdom – then we might have to live up to that at some point.
  • Our hefty new Cubs fan arrived in early August. We will tell him about the Olympics and not about the Cubs’ season when he asks about the summer he was born. :)
  • I’m ready for the off-season and for the rebuilding. Let’s get to it.
  • You won’t win my favor (or that of most here) by visiting Joe’s house and taking a dump in his living room.
  • Fun size would be to double the amount of candy – now that would be fun.
  • Didn’t Wittenmeyer pick Oakland to come in last in the NL West?
  • beg your pardon, in the AL West.
  • I just figured Wittenmeyer probably did pick them to finish last in the NL West.
  • The Cubs might want to lay off drafting too many more guys whose best & only position is DH.
  • there are no Lizzie’s in politics
  • I would like to point out, because I am vain, that I am the only VFTB contributor that has both World Series teams still in play from our preseason predictions.
  • You mean the Angels and Brewers didn’t make it?
  • Don’t get me wrong, I hate the mullet wearing bastards, but man I respect the hell the way they play.
  • I think it’s worth noting that this team lost the game’s best player, arguably the game’s best manager and they soldier on as if none of it matters.
  • If the MLB didn’t change the Wild Card to two teams the Cardinals are not even in the playoffs
  • Curse the Nats for sitting their ace because of the fear of the unknown.
  • I have seen the Capn make an error on a routine ground ball hit very slowly right at him by a 68 year old taxidermist who goes home to first in 7.8 days.
  • If you had to eat anyone on VFTB, who would it be and why?
  • Well I will tell you who I wouldn’t eat… Raker, because Italian is too filling, Swanson, because I’ve had my fill of TV dinners, The Johnsons, because, well I don’t go that way, CAPS, just on general principle.

Lizard

  • Maybe we’ve hit on something the Cubs can use. Say in spring training a back up 3rd baseman gets shot by a cuckolded husband. Should be good for a few extra victories in April. Then in May a relief pitcher is found dead on the toilet of “accidental asphyxiation”… one dead athlete a month may put us in the playoffs.

MVL

  • Congratulations to Jedi Johnson, the Most Valuable Lizzie’er this time around!

2012 Top Ten YTD

1. Jeremiah Johnson
2. Doc Raker
3. jswanson
4. Seymour Butts
5. Jedi Johnson
6. cap’n Obvious
7. Buddy
8. Joe Aiello
9. Chuck
10. Eddie Von White

Chit Chat

Pretend you are obliged to dress up for Halloween this year, even if you’re not. What’s your costume choice?

We don’t typically dress up for Halloween, but this year we are going to a costume party. We’re going as bacon and eggs! (This is not us. This guy looks so close to Ryan Braun I’d have to get a divorce if he were mine. But this is our costume!)

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Morning News: We Need a New Color Commentator

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

In the midst of a 101 loss season and the most concerted long term rebuilding effort in Cubs’ history, I think a lot of fans were expecting an interesting offseason. Theo Esptein, Jed Hoyer and crew have worked to remove hangers on from the Jim Hendry era that they no longer think fit in the organization. And while the Cubs are unlikely to be major players for top free agents like Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton (nor should they be), they are expected to be involved with second tier free agents and on the trade market.

But I don’t think many fans expected a change in the television booth coming into the next season. While I know some Cub fans don’t love Len Kasper, I think that’s largely a result of missing the era of Jack Brickhouses, Harry Caray’s and Jack Bucks, where guys weren’t professionally trained to be impartial. Vin Scully was given his job as the main play by play guy for the Dodgers at age 22. That just isn’t happening these days.

But Kasper isn’t going anywhere, so that’s enough about him.  The same is not true about Bob Brenly, unfortunately. While the rumors of Bob Brenly potentially managing the Cubs that popped prior to both of the last two years made me cringe a bit due to Brenly’s history as an extreme fan of the sacrifice bunt while managing the Diamondbacks, he was both a very strong television personality and someone who showed a willingness to both learn new statistics and be a proponent of technology. He will be hard to replace in the booth.

But he will need to be replaced. Joe listed six possibilities on Facebook: Dan Plesac, Mark Grace, Rick Sutcliffe, Dave Campbell, Todd Hollandsworth and Kerry Wood.  Plesac would be my top choice of those six. I thought Plesac was excellent when he was doing the pre- and post-game shows on CSN, although I’ve been less impressed with him on MLB Network where the shows seem strongly split on either completely being about sabermetrics or ignoring them entirely. I’m not sure Sutcliffe or Campbell would be looking for a job that would put them on the road that much, I’m concerned about Grace’s personal issues, Hollandsworth I’m only so-so on, and I don’t know if Wood would be interested or have the presence to hold the spot down.

I’d also be curious if Steve Stone could be poached back away from the White Sox. While I know his divorce from the Cubs was ugly, that was with a completely different group. And at some point he has to get tired of trying to make sense of Hawk Harrelson’s ramblings.

The Weather Messes With the Playoffs

After a several hour rain delay, as I write this the Cardinals are up 3-1 late in Game 3 of the NLCS, but the rain led to Game 4 of the ALCS being delayed to Thursday. By the way, if the Cardinals win the pennant this year, I’m going to officially be convinced that the entire city of St. Louis made a deal with some demon or another to make this happen.

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Morning News: What Did You Watch Last Night?

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

I had an unusually busy night Tuesday, so you’re getting a mildly abbreviated edition of the morning news. From what I can tell, it was a night loaded with interesting viewing options–options that I’ll quickly run down, counting on you to fill in the blanks in the comments below.

First off, I’m assuming at least some of you–perhaps many–watched the Tigers firmly place their collective boot on the throat of the Yankees, winning Game 3 of the ALCS by a 2-1 score. New York is down 3-0, and the postseason hopes of Yankees fans are shattering like so many Derek Jeter ankles. Factor in the missing bats of Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher, and there looks to be little hope for New York (I know–what a bummer). I didn’t get to see any of the game, not even the highlights. It sounds like Justin Verlander wasn’t at his absolute best, he was still good enough to shut down the Yankees. Tune in tomorrow to see the likely end of the ALCS and the Yankees’ season.

Oh, and go Giants!

Others of you may have tuned into the Presidential Debate. Aside from the few minutes of replay I’ve seen while I write this, I don’t really have a sense of how it went. I did see the moderator, CNN’s Candy Crowley, step in to help Obama at one point–which seems like a pretty severe violation of her job description, but since when do fairness, integrity, and honesty have a place in a political debate? The town hall format for the debate seems a little goofy to me, making the whole affair a vaguely polite argument with semi-engaged bystanders. Did you watch it? What did you think? And for my fellow non-viewers out there, here’s the AP recap.

I suppose it’s possible some of you skipped both of those options and rewatched Felix Baumgartner’s historic, record-breaking free fall/sky dive from the edges of the stratosphere. I know some of you could spend hours watching Youtube footage of the BASE jump to end all BASE jumps. I already have.

Or maybe you were transfixed by the sight of Christopher Walken cooking a meal of chicken with pears?

Finally, there was the viewing option I chose–the premiere of another season of one of my favorite shows, Chasing Classic Cars. If you’re at all into classic cars, car restoration, or simply car culture, this is the show for you. Chasing Classic Cars follows the life and work of one of America’s foremost car experts and restorers, Wayne Carini. Wayne specializes in Ferraris, but his encyclopedic expertise covers most makes and models you can think of. Whether you’re an expert in your own right, or an enthusiastic semi-novice like me, Wayne’s vast knowledge and his affable attitude make each episode a delight, regardless of what kinds of cars are featured. But don’t take my word for it–check out the video archive on the show’s webpage. And then click over to have a look at his company, F40 Motorsports. The dude knows his stuff.

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Morning News: A Focus on the Farm and a Pam Anderson the Cannibal

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Do you play fantasy football? If you’re like me, you’re an addict and someone who is used to winning often. This year, things are not looking good. You know it’s probably not you year when you actually have a shot at winning only to see the win fall away with garbage reasons. I made the decision to bench Shon Green in the flex spot because, well, he sucks. In his place I inserted Brian Hartline who put up a solid goose egg. Meanwhile, Green put up a career day and I got nothing for it. Screw you Shon Green, screw you. Still, I had a chance if Jay Feely makes a field goal to win a game in regulation. Instead, he gets fancy, misses and sends it to OT, which allowed C.J. Spiller to pick up another few points in OT. Dude made a 61 yarder to tie the game ad then misses a 38 yarder? Screw you, Jay Feely, screw you.

Alright, on to the news, starting with some Cubs minor league nuggets in fancy bullet format:

  • It’s old, but here is a Q&A with Cubs draft pick, Albert Almora from Fan Graphs
  • John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall posted a review of his top 50 hitters (Part 1 / Part 2)  and top 50 pitchers (Part 1 / Part 2) from the pre-season. As you might imagine, the only one of the four lists we have someone on is part 1 of the hitters list. Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo are in that post.
  • With that previous series in mind, Sickels posted his preliminary list of top 50 hitters and pitchers going into the 2013 season. Four hitters make the top 50 hitters list from the Cubs system, and none from the system make the top 50 pitchers list.
  • I mentioned the other day a few names that elected minor league free agency. I forgot to mention that you can add Randy Wells to that list.

Moving on, it’s been a few days since the college football games took place this past weekend. I’m a big Notre Dame football fan and I caught some heat on the final play of the game that ruled in favor of the Irish. I wanted to get your take on the situation. If you didn’t see the final play, you can watch the video here. My take is this, and it’s my take when it comes to officiating in sports in general. I don’t know if the call that was made on the field initially was correct. I felt like the review decision was the correct one based on the call that was made on the field. There simply was enough doubt to not over turn the call. Some may say that Standford got the shaft. What I say to that is two things. First, when you show no creativity in your play selection when you have 1st and goal from the 4 yard line, you deserve to be stuffed. Why keep doing the same thing when it didn’t work the first three times. Second, and this is my main stance, if you don’t want the referees to be a factor, take them out of the picture by playing better. If Standford is up enough to prevent the game from going to overtime, the refs aren’t a factor. If Stanford would have held the Irish to a field goal on their first OT possession, we’re not having that discussion. If you don’t like the call, next time make it so bad calls can’t affect the outcome.

Joe’s iPod Song of the Day

I want to preface this one by saying that I think Lit, as a band, sucks. I am amused by this song and video. I get a kick out of the first line or two in the song, which is the hook for the chorus. It also makes me laugh to see them playing their instruments on Pam Anderson’s butt. Use that as your way to tell how old this song is. The only thing I can think of is that it distracts from the fact that the lead singer looks like a total tool. Finally, why in the world is she eating the band members? It just doesn’t make sense.

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Morning News: The Sky Is Falling

Monday, October 15th, 2012

The Cards Won’t Die
After once again being left for dead, the Cardinals improbably struggled back and won a game they had no business winning. I think it’s worth noting that this team lost the game’s best player, arguably the game’s best manager and they soldier on as if none of it matters. Anyone who doesn’t believe ultimate winning is due in large part to winning the game mentally, look to the Cards to set your thinking straight. This team didn’t belong here last year, they belong here even less THIS year, and yet they’re 3 wins from the World Series against a team that can’t hit. I have a feeling we’re all about to become Tiger fans…

Jeter Out, Tigers Halfway Home
Famous tough guy, Derek Jeter, stumbled to pick up a routine groundball in the 12th inning on Saturday night. He came away with the most innocent looking broken ankle you’ll ever see. The media has spent the hours since then in a tailspin, even Joe Girardi remarked that he’s never seen an athlete’s injury so deeply affect the mood of the media. On the gruesome scale this was NOT Joe Theismann’s knee; it was the polar opposite. I’m not a huge fan of how Jeter is covered by the media to begin with, so watching them embarrass themselves by fawning all over him has been hysterically enjoyable. ‘Derek Jeter, irreplaceable in every way.’ To listen to some of them, it’s as if a member of their family died (although I’m not sure a death in the family would depress them quite as much). Anyway, the Yankees season IS dead. Down 0-2, having lost both at home, and yet to face Verlander (whom they’d see twice in a 7-game series). Finished.

Felix Baumgartner Flies
He’d been forced to reschedule numerous times, finally daredevil Felix Baumgartner was able to jump from more than 24 miles above the surface of the earth. The freefall lasted an incredible 4 minutes and 19 seconds and his top speed was mach 1.24 (that’s 833.9 mph), making him the first man to go supersonic without any aid – other than his jumpsuit. To call it skydiving is a gross understatement, but since that’s the only frame of reference I have any personal experience with, let’s just say I’m jealous. It looked incredible.

Jay-Z Fans Lash Out At Preferential Treatment For Streisand
Clearly Jay’s fans have never been to a Streisand concert. I imagine with all the metal hips, knees, and plates in the head found at a Streisand concert, it would be physically impossible to put all of those people through a metal detector.

‘I had to eat a piece of my friend to survive. It was repugnant.’
Forty years ago, on October 13, 1972 a rugby team from Uruguay crashed in the Andes. If you’ve seen the movie ‘Alive’ you know the rest; some of them died, the others cannibalized the dead in order to survive a bone-chilling 72 days in the snow almost 12,000 feet up. They played a rugby match this weekend in Santiago, Chile (the site of the original match, to which the fateful flight was headed) to commemorate the event, because that’s something I’m sure they all forgot!

Packers Update: Green Bay remembered to play both halves on Sunday night. After getting up big again early, the Texans made the mistake of getting back in the game BEFORE halftime; the Packers came out of the break and put the hurt on what most considered to be the NFL’s best team. Discount double check!

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Morning News: You Just Never Know

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Baseball:

If for some reason you were isolated from any form of social media, television, or radio broadcasts, allow me to inform you of yesterday’s events:

American League: Oakland was blanked by Detroit. Verlander pitched a 4-hit shutout, sending the young cast of Moneyball 2 back to the dugout via strikeout 11 times. The Tigers move on to face the Yankees in the ALCS, which should be a pretty good series.

The Yankees beat the Orioles 3-1 behind CC Sabathia’s complete game effort. Hopefully the ALCS will be filled with great pitching and overall good baseball with these two teams. Maybe A-Rod will be able to muster up a hit, maybe even one for extra bases?

Nevermind. Verlander and Fister have already put that silly notion to rest.

National League:

The Giants are on their way to the NLCS after beating the Reds in stupendous fashion on Friday, winning 6-4 courtesy of a Buster Posey grand slam.  Thank goodness we won’t have to deal with Dusty’s toothpick-twirling face on television sets until next season.

With their win, the Giants will face the Cardinals in the NLCS. I stayed up to watch the end of the Cardinals and Nationals duke it out, thinking that the Nationals had the game in the bag with a 7-5 lead in the top of the ninth. Silly me. Everybody knows that the Cardinals rely on late, dramatic comebacks in the postseason. I watched in disbelief as Drew Storen was unable to control his pitches and keep the Cardinals lineup in check. St. Louis went on to score 4 runs in the ninth to win game 5 and clinch their spot in the NLCS.

Today would have been Strasburg’s start. If only, if only.

Other News:

Melky Cabrera was reinstated after his 50-game suspension, but will not play for the remainder of the year, however long that may be.

There is an MLB pitcher who has a new pet named Cat Latos. I bet you can’t guess who it is!

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