Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The Cubs are reportedly close to acquiring left-handed reliever John Grabow from the Pirates. No word on whether Tom Gorzelanny is actually included in the deal, who the Cubs gave up to the Pirates, or whether Grabow will have to check the Stargell and Wagner statues at the gate or carry them on. An update to the update is expected soon.
UPDATE TO UPDATE
ESPN Chicago and WGN Radio reports that the Cubs have sent Kevin Hart, Jose Ascanio and infield prospect, Josh Harrison to the Pirates in exchange for John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny. Hart, upon winning his second start in place of Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster, is expected to turn in his uniform, clubhouse pass, and the giant bag of awesome on loan from Ted Lilly before leaving for Pittsburgh. He will immediately take his place as the Pirates #1 starter.
The Cubs look forward to re-acquiring all three players in a few years when they near free-agency.
As the trade deadline approaches, the Cubs have made a trade that not even Steve Stone saw coming in his crystal ball. The Cubs have acquired the statues of Honus Wagner and Willie Stargell from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Ronnie Woo, an ivy sapling, the press box caricature of Harry Caray, the exclusive rights to the term "Lovable Losers," and a bucket boy to be named later.
The Cubs managed to engineer the trade without having to give up any of their key prizes: the manual scoreboard, the Harry Caray statue, the main entrance marquee, and the phrase, "Wait 'til next year."
Jim Hendry and Crane Kenney were both visibly excited at the press conference announcing the major deal. "We have been looking to upgrade the 'winning feel' our fans get when they come to the ballpark and we feel these two statues of fantastic players will help in that regard tremendously," said Kenney.
"Let's not try to belittle what those items did for this team, but we are moving forward into a new winning tradition and we assessed that our main position of strength was tremendous depth in our marketable features that have nothing to do with actual winning baseball," said Hendry. "We opened a dialogue with Neal [Huntington] and found a real nice trading partner for us. We think this will help both teams in achieving their goals."
Pittsburgh has continued its seemingly yearly tradition of selling off any veteran that gets anywhere close to free agency. Prior to the deal with the Cubs, they traded away Nate McLouth to the Braves, Adam LaRoche to the Red Sox, Ian Snell and Jack Wilson to the Mariners, and Freddy Sanchez to the Giants. Without any players the people of Pittsburgh have ever heard of, the Pirates needed to provide some reasons for Pirate fans to come to the ballpark.
"We are very pleased with our side of this deal," said Huntington, "We believe that by including the ivy inside the park along with Ronnie providing his own unique brand of cheering, we can transform PNC Park into a tourist destination where the baseball game being played is incidental to the experience."
The Pirates believe the kitschy charm of the Harry caricature, the perpetual optimistic wooing of Ronnie, and the classic ivy combined with the core attractions of the Roberto Clemente Bridge and the statue of Clemente will be a strong attraction for fans of the beleaguered team.
The key to the deal was the inclusion of the rights to the "Lovable Losers" name. The Pirates believe that nickname along with the other improvements to the fan experience will soon have PNC filled with fans who don't actually care about baseball being played well.
"If this works, we'll be selling out, raising ticket prices every year, and starting our own ticket scalping service like the Cubs. Then we can go out and start wrecklessly spending that money on overrated and overpriced ballplayers like Aaron Miles," said Huntington optimistically.
Meanwhile, the Cubs will continue moving towards establishing a winning tradition by acquiring two Hall of Fame statues to boost the credibility of the exterior of the ballpark without losing the core of their ability to market to the casual fan like no other team.
"We have taken a lot of heat from the media about having as many statues of old man broadcasters as we do actual Hall of Fame players. I think we have addressed that need very capably with the addition of not one, but two Hall of Fame statues to decorate the exterior of Wrigley Field," said a beaming Kenney.
Stargell is expected to be placed on Waveland under the left field bleachers where he played six to nine games per season at Wrigley as a member of the Pirates. Honus Wagner's statue will be retrofitted with a pirate captain's hat and placed atop the Captain Morgan's Club on Addison.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Remember, this is a guy that was beating the hell out of the ball all spring long, but there was no room for him on the roster because he is such a bad fielder and we already had Micah Hoffpauir destined to make the Opening Day roster. So he went down to AAA and kept beating the hell out of the ball.
Milton Bradley got hurt early on, but the Cubs didn't want to put him on the DL, so Jake stayed in Iowa and kept beating the hell out of the ball.
Then Aramis Ramirez went down, but the Cubs didn't think that Jake could handle third base, so we were treated to Snap, Crackle, and Pop on the infield with Derrek Lee, who suddenly looked like Andre the Giant out there by comparison.
The Cubs were afraid to play Fox in the outfield, surely he wouldn't be able to handle playing third base. He wouldn't catch anything out there. So he stayed in Iowa and beat the hell out of the ball.
Finally, the Cubs told Aaron Miles that he was hurt and they brought up Fox to get some looks at third. He started almost immediately beating the hell out of the ball, and as a bonus, he was catching and throwing the ball pretty well too.
I may not be a baseball expert on par with He Who Must Not Be Named down on the South side, but when I saw Casey McGehee trying to play defense and failing miserably, that is what I had expected from Fox after hearing so much about his deficiencies. I believe I remember seeing Matt, from The Friendly Blogfines make a comment that McGehee was making Fox look like Brooks Robinson, and he was absolutely right.
Since Jake has been called up, he has continued to beat the hell out of the ball, posting a line of .315/.356/.565. He has five homeruns and 21 RBIs in only 104 plate appearances. If you extrapolate that out to a 550 PA season, he would be on pace for 26 HRs and 111 RBIs.
On the fielding side, he has made two errors all year while taking his supposedly stone glove to play third base, first base, right field, left field, and catcher. Yes, the Cubs who didn't think he could play any one position at all, have had him in FIVE different positions so far this year.
The golden god, Mark DeRosa played six positions last year, but that includes one inning at shortstop and two innings at first base. Fox has six innings in two games at catcher as his smallest sample size. Catcher. Supposedly one of the hardest positions to play and we have Jake Fox out there calling pitches and blocking balls in the dirt for a pitching staff with some nasty stuff, and he still goes out and beats the hell out of the ball.
So what can we make of this? Are the Cubs getting too dependent on a guy who is overachieving his skills in the field? Do the Cubs scouts not know how to judge defensive talent? Would the Cubs have been running away with the division if they had just stuck Fox at third when Aramis first went down?
I honestly don't know, but Fox has been one of the few things that has gone right for the Cubs this year and I thought I should point it out. Keep beating the hell out of the ball, son, that's why you're here.
It seems a lot of other blogs have something that is identified with them. Hire Jim Essian has the Muskbox, Wrigleyville23 has the invention of the TOOTBLAN, Waxpaperbeercup is your one-stop shop for all things Cubs sale related, and of course, the aptly named Cubs in Haiku and Cubs Magic Number.
A bunch of people have jumped on the Stone story, but I thought I could take this opportunity to make Aisle 424 the place for Steve Stone ridicule.
But then, I realized that Stone is probably enjoying the attention and he is probably gaining popularity with Sox fans. Also, I don't want to be as singularly obsessed with one particular individual because that just isn't healthy. I want none of that, so there will be no regular feature, and unless something dramatic pops up, I won't be harping on Stone for awhile outside of an occasional quip on Twitter.
So, instead, I put together a final (for now) homage to our favorite asshat announcer:
10. Is the only person who believes Kaplan when he says the tan is natural.
9. Doesn't realize the kids out there don't give a damn what he says.
8. Thinks Mila Kunis is a venereal disease.
7. Thought this picture was a good idea at the time:
(Thanks, HJE, for finding this)
6. Is very excited about next summer's concert at Wrigley because he's never seen Michael Jackson perform.
5. Lost thousands in 2000 failed t-shirt selling venture when he patented the phrase, "Valley Fever: Catch It!"
4. Whenever his phone rings, he thinks it's Kent Mercker calling to apologize.
3. Lost bet with Bill Murray that Rick Sutcliffe wouldn't steal a base. (This one is real.)
2. As God as his witness, he thought turkeys could fly.
1. Still believes a major league franchise would hire him as GM.
By the way, I called that Soriano walk-off grand slam as Bradley trotted to first after the intentional walk. So, I'm waiting up for Crane Kenney's call to offer me the General Manager position, which I am sure is now coming. If not, I'm going to get pretty bitchy. Afterall, I'm a baseball genius. I predicted the outcome of an at-bat.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Wow. That was exciting! So much back and forth. One would make a bold statement and then there would be almost an immediate response by the competition.
I'm not talking about the game at Wrigley today between the Cubs and the Reds. Nor am I talking about the game in Philadelphia between the Phillies and Cardinals. I'm talking about the battle in cyberspace started by Steve Stone, joined by Dave Kaplan and for some reason, Al Yellon, and later essentially ended by Bruce Miles.
It all started during a lovely July day as I sat in Aisle 424 watching Kevin Hart, using a bit of awesome lent to him by the injured Ted Lilly, shake off a rough start and proceed to mow down the Reds' lineup. Meanwhile, the Cubs offense completed a team cycle in the first five batters to get three runs in the bottom of the first to take control of the game.
This is when things got interesting.
I was providing my usual in-game quips via Twitter when I caught a tweet from Steve Stone, the former Cubs color commentator and current White Sox commentator, about Milton Bradley. Now, it should be mentioned that Steve Stone, who is now a paid member of the White Sox broadcast team, still spends an inordinate amount of time commenting on the actions and play of the the Cubs. You can see what I am talking about by reading this from Hire Jim Essian, who goes more into detail.
Anyway, Steve sent out this tweet:
"Rumor is that tigers are interested in trading for milton bradley. Cubs should fly him in a private jet."
Given that Stone has been bitter and snarky towards the Cubs since being dismissed after the 2004 season (as fallout from Dusty's team being full of whiny bitches who couldn't handle criticism of their crappy play), I wasn't sure if this was just Stone toying with Cub fans or Stone being an actual journalist. So I sent him this:
"@BaseballStone If you are f*cking with us, you are a mean, petulent man. That wouldn't be cool."
That might have had more zing if I hadn't misspelled "petulant," but nevertheless, I think I had a fair point.
Still, I had no idea that Stone's tweet would get folks so excited. Immediately, people started re-tweeting Stone's message, speculating on who the Cubs might get back in return, how much money of Bradley's remaining two plus years of salary would have to be eaten by the Cubs, why the Tigers would ever want Bradley in the first place, and whether the Cubs would be stupid to make any such deal.
Enter Dave Kaplan.
He posted a confirmation of the rumor reported by Stone on his blog on Chicagonow.com:
"Two very solid baseball sources confirmed for me just moments ago that the Detroit Tigers are interested in Cubs RF Milton Bradley. They believe that Bradley would be a much better fit as a DH than as a right fielder and that he would mesh well with Tigers manager Jim Leyland."
At this point, the Twitterverse went apeshit. Remember, this is two members of the Chicago mainstream media that have reported that the Tigers are interested in acquiring Bradley, and thrown in their two cents as "experts" that the Cubs should absolutely do so as soon as humanly possible. The speculations grow exponentially.
I understand that maybe Twitter still hasn't exactly hit the mainstream culture, but blogs certainly have, and none within the Cubs blogging community is bigger than Bleed Cubbie Blue. It is fed by an agreement with Yahoo!, so there are tons of people who log into BCB for their Cubs news. One of the BCB readers posted a Fan Shot (where readers can share their own feelings, opinions, and news about the Cubs) announcing that WSCR radio in Chicago and another blog, MLBtraderumors.com had reported the Bradley rumor, and then provided the link to Stone's original tweet that started the whole mess.
Al Yellon, the administrator and primary author of the site, elaborated on his reader's post in his game recap and gave the rumors a bit more credence when he "confirmed" the rumors:
"This rumor was confirmed to me from my own sources, so I think this possibility does have legs, and I hope it happens, sooner rather than later."
I'm not exactly sure what sources Al has in Detroit who would be in position to confirm anything. My guess is that he confirmed that the rumor existed, not that the rumor was true. Either way, he gave another large group of people the idea that Bradley would be getting traded soon.
Along the way, some other journalists started jumping into the situation and conveying the idea that the rumor was probably not true. Primarily, Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald started doing some checking around, and found out that A) the Cubs were not aware of any interest in Milton Bradley, B) the Cubs were pissed off that the rumor got so much traction in the media and C) a member of the Detroit media debunked the rumor from the Tigers' end.
"Two people with the Cubs said it was the first they'd heard of any rumored deal and that the Cubs have not talked to any team about Bradley.
The Cubs front office was furious that such a rumor had grown so fast and had been picked up around the country. A rock-solid media person in Detroit told me there was nothing to it on his end."
At this point, both Kaplan and Stone started backtracking. Kaplan sent a tweet trying to clarify his and Stone's original reports:
"Let's be clear. All stone and I are saying is that Detroit has interest in Milton. Nothing more nothing less"
Stone, took a slightly different angle by contradicting his original report and throwing in a dig at Bradley:
"From the mouth of dave dombrowski the GM of the tigers, i would not have him on my team. Bradley homered and is closing in on beckham rbi."
So that's that. Rumor started, rumor spreads, rumor killed. End of story, right? Nope.
Stone couldn't leave well enough alone, so he sent one more tweet:
"In detroit for the series. Understand a guy named bruce miles believes that the whole bradley story was made up. Who is bruce miles."
Notice that he was not defending his sources that had started the rumor, standing by what he had originally been told, or even claiming that the erroneous report was taken out of context. No, he just decided to belittle the guy who uncovered that Stone was wrong.
Now, I would almost understand if I had been the one to call out Stone for reporting a crap trade possibility. He could say, "Who the hell is Tim McGinnis?" and he'd have a point. I'm a relatively new blogger with no inside sources, no journalistic background, and about three readers. Bruce Miles, on the other hand, has been covering the Cubs for the Daily Herald (the largest newspaper in the Chicago area that isn't in Chapter 11 bankruptcy) since 1998. I'm sure their paths have crossed, so Stone wasn't asking who Miles is. He was asking "Who does Miles think he is to contradict someone like me?" Very professional and very classy of Steve.
A reader commented in Miles' post that Steve had taken the shot and Miles responded as one might expect:
"I'm laughing out loud over that. Shows you a couple things: One, Stone could never be a GM. He's too thin skinned and doesn't want the accountability. Two, he's playing the "I'm bigger than you" card. Nice.
If Stone was such a brilliant baseball mind, why haven't the 29 other teams lined up to hire him?
Great story. A few years ago in Pittsuburgh, he was going on about what he was going to do 'when' he bought the A's. Ron Santo finished his dinner, wiped his mouth and said, 'I'll tell you what you're going to be doing next year _ broadcasting baseball!'
And so it was. And so it is."
If that story about Santo is true, he should get a statue outside of Wrigley for that alone.
What is interesting to me about all of this is that I'm sure almost nothing will come of this little cyberslap-fight. There is nothing about the rumor in the Sun-Times that I saw as of this writing. The Tribune reports that the rumor started, it was killed, and they asked Bradley about it anyway. Bradley, understandably, was not amused:
"'I don't pay attention to rumors,' he said. 'I'm always rumored. I'm one of them guys that are multi-talented, can do a lot of things. I'm not surprised. It's just a rumor.'
A Cubs official then told Bradley the rumor was '100 percent untrue.' Bradley began berating the media for spreading the rumor, calling it 'garbage.'"
But the fact is, this was all started and perpetuated by two mainstream media personalities. They are two guys that most casual Cubs fans believe have credibility as insiders and journalists (though probably not as much after today). The casual manner in which this rumor was reported is exactly why so many mainstream reporters get upset at bloggers.
Where is Ken Rosenthal and John Gonzalez ganging up on Stone on ESPN? Where are the other Chicago reporters and why aren't they jumping up and down on Stone and Kaplan for getting ahead of themselves and being irresponsible in their journalistic methods and reporting?
It won't come. Stone and Kaplan are part of the club and the others won't turn on them like they would if they had just been bloggers like me.
By the way, the Cubs won and the Cardinals lost. The Cubs now stand 1/2 game behind St. Louis (and have two fewer losses).
Steve Stone has weighed back in on the Bradley rumor debate in a very reasoned and professional response:
"To all the people who believe who believe that david kaplan and i made up the bradley story---get a life. Trade deadline rumors are not new."
I'd make fun of the typos, but I can't spell "petulant." Luckily, I now know that it is spelled "S-T-E-V-E-S-T-O-N-E."
Friday, July 24, 2009
- It turns out Mike Fontenot is not an actual every day second baseman.... check.
- Milton Bradley will perform worse than every other left-handed corner outfielder that was available this off-season... check.
- Aramis Ramirez will lose 50 games to an injury that won't actually fully heal during the course of the regular season... check.
- Rich Harden will have an obligatory stop on the disabled list... check.
- Carlos Zambrano will head to the disabled list and start talking about retirement after his contract is up... check.
- Ryan Dempster has nothing wrong with his arm, but goes on the disabled list anyway because he doesnt know how to jump over a small fence without hurting himself... check.
- Carlos Marmol will forget how to throw strikes with any regularity... check.
- Alfonso Soriano will have lingering knee and finger injuries along with his usual lack of solid fundamentals to have the worst season of his entire career... check.
- Geovany Soto will get fat, hurt his shoulder, not be able to hit, get caught smoking pot in the off-season, and then get hurt while taking batting practice and have to go on the DL... check.
- Ryan Theriot will hit a couple of homeruns and become convinced he is a power hitter for a couple of months... check.
- Aaron Miles will continue to be Aaron Miles, except somehow worse... check.
- The Cubs sale will move along at a pace that is considered slow when compared to the speed of a glacier, preventing any real moves that could help make us forget the laundry list above... check.
So, the only to-do items I have left on the list are:
- Derrek Lee will get kidnapped by aliens... pending.
- Kevin Gregg will catch whatever it is that makes Marmol not able to throw strikes... pending
- Wrigley Field will finally fall down, killing many douchebags and a few valuable members of society... pending.
- Ted Lilly will injure his shoulder while lifting his giant bag of awesome... check. Damn it.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I hate to disappoint the White Sox haters, but I was rooting for Buehrle in the 9th inning. I still can't believe that DeWayne Wise preserved the no-hitter and the shutout by robbing Gabe Kapler of a homerun with a leaping, juggling catch against the left-centerfield wall. Though, to be honest, I bet Reed Johnson would have caught it without the bobble.
The moment was stunning and the achievement of retiring 27 straight batters without a blemish is too great to have it be ruined by the fact that Buehrle is a member of the White Sox.
While this fact would be lost on most White Sox fans, who actually derive more joy from Cubs losses than their own team winning, there was a surprising number of Cub fans on Twitter who joined me in my support of Buehrle's great performance.
I did, however, start to wonder what my reaction would be to seeing someone throw a perfect game against the Cubs. What if it happened at Wrigley while I am sitting in Aisle 424?
I think I can say unequivocally that I would be upset if I had to witness the Cubs getting owned by Buehrle while the inevitable White Sox fans in the park cheered, danced, and partied away at my team's expense. That really would be too much. It would be much the same thing if a Cardinals or Brewers pitcher managed to accomplish the feat at Wrigley. The proximity to fans who would rather rub my nose in the loss than enjoy the occasion would ruin the magnitude of the situation for me.
But what if I got to witness a perfect game by someone on a team I usually could care less about? What if Johan Santana comes into Wrigley and sets down 27 straight Cubs, which isn't exactly out of the realm of possibility?
In 2003, I had a chance to see Roger Clemens win his 300th game at Wrigley as a member of the Yankees. At that time there were twenty 300 game winners, so the event was almost as rare as throwing a perfect game. I can say wholeheartedly that I did NOT want him to reach that milestone in my ballpark. I was quite happy when Eric Karros ripped a three-run homerun off of Juan Acevedo to thwart Clemens.
In 2007, the Cubs failed to prevent Tom Glavine from winning his 300th game at Wrigley. Once it became evident that the Cubs would not win the game, the consolation of seeing Glavine's achievement was better than just seeing a plain old Cubs loss.
I still don't know how I would have felt if Clemens had managed to win his 300th at Wrigley. I never liked Clemens, so I doubt it would have been much consolation to see history. I think I might have been a bit resentful. On the flipside, I always liked and respected Glavine, so maybe that is why I was able to appreciate the moment when it occurred, despite the loss for my team.
I like to think I would have reacted well to seeing Sandy Koufax's perfect game against the Cubs (the last time the Cubs were no-hit) in 1965. But maybe not. The frustration of not even being able to manage one stupid hit or walk might piss me off quite a bit. It's hard to say until it happens.
Buehrle's achievement definitely gave me something to think about though. Luckily, it happened against the Rays and I can extend an honest congratulations from myself and on behalf of the Jeff Baker Fan Club. Well done, sir.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
If, perhaps, Alfonso Soriano was making rounds in a hospital at 5:00 AM every morning in an effort to save children from dying of cancer, we might understand how a flyball not hit directly at him might possibly slip down his list of priorities. The problem is that he makes almost $33,000 per hour (assuming each game lasts 3 hours) to make catching that fly ball his number one priority, even if it means moving a bit from the spot where he was standing when the pitch was thrown.
Cub fans have been trained over the years to not actually expect that every routine play will get made. We hear the various excuses from year to year. It's too hot during all these afternoon games. It's too cold for the dark-skinned guys (courtesy of Dusty Baker, just in case Gordon Wittenmyer conveniently forgets that and decides that I'm a typical racist Cubs fan). Wrigley is a tough place to play because of the sun and wind and KKK rallies in the bleachers. The dog ate my homework. There is an excuse for every situation.
So, despite how tough we now are on our players by actually voicing displeasure through the malicious act of booing after paying four times face value for a seat to a scalping service owned by the Cubs, we are actually a pretty understanding fan base.
We forgive alot of our players. We forgive Ryan Theriot for being a dumbass most of the time. We forgive Aramis Ramirez for actually running faster than a jog on roughly 25% of his total plate appearances. We even forgive Soriano for loafing after a ball that is catchable, either dropping or missing the ball altogether, letting the ball roll all the way to the wall, having a disturbing amount of trouble picking the ball up after it has come to a complete stop, and then making an inaccurate throw into the infield.
We forgive the entire team for a two-day crapfest in Philadelphia that, in my mind, wiped out the potential momentum they could have gained from sweeping the mind-bogglingly bad Washington Nationals. We forgive them because the Cubs DID NOT GET SWEPT TODAY!! WOOHOO!!! NO SWEEP! NO SWEEP! NO SWEEP! U-S-A! U-S-A!
I was driving home and listening to Crane Kenney on the Afternoon Saloon on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. Amongst his discussions about finding new ways to use Wrigley for events that are not baseball related, long-term plans to improve the ballpark amenities, and the ongoing Cubs sale, he mentioned the success of the 5-2 record on the just finished road trip.
He was thrilled with the 5-2 road trip because they had come really close to being 6-1. The fact of the matter is, they basically played Little Leaguers for four of those wins and then they beat Methuselah's older brother today. When the Cubs were faced with actual competition from an actual team with some actual talented starting pitchers, competent defenders, and batters who know the difference between a ball and a strike, they folded up.
I understand that Philadelphia is a hot team right now. I understand that Citizen Bank Park is a tough place to play. I understand that the Phillies are the defending champions. Nevertheless, the Cubs waltzed into Philadelphia on a four game winning streak and proceeded to have their intestines ripped out through their noses before the end of the first inning of the first game.
They managed one win to prevent a sweep and there is the Chairman of the Cubs talking about what a great roadtrip it was. At best, they managed to meet expectations, if their expectations are truly to make the playoffs and advance. This team needs to show that it can beat a team that is actually good at playing baseball.
They got owned by Rodrigo Lopez and Joe Blanton. Who the hell are Rodrigo Lopez and Joe Blanton? They are both slightly better than .500. Lopez has a career ERA of 4.76, Blanton has a 4.24. Whoopdee freakin' doo.
If the Cubs think they are going to face any pitchers worse than Rodrigo Lopez in the playoffs, they are deluding themselves. They are going to have to figure out how to score some damn runs against pitchers with pulses.
They are going to have to stop giving away runs like candy by having the worst defense I have ever seen. They are going to have to stop running the bases like they are wearing twenty pound ankle weights. They are going to have to notice that the Phillies outfielders damn near caught them lollygagging on the basepaths a number of times and stop f***ing acting like brain damaged morons on the basepaths.
The Cubs start up their upcoming homestand by facing Aaron Harang (.493 career win percentage, 4.24 ERA), Johnny Cueto (.459, 4.35), Micah Owings (.426, 5.07), Wandy Rodriguez (.505, 4.32), and Roy Oswalt (.665, 3.17). By my count, that is four middling pitchers and one damn good one.
A good team that is playing as well as Crane Kenney seems to think the Cubs are currently playing should win four out of those five games at home. We'll see. I'm not nearly as encouraged as Crane by a very misleading 5-2 road trip.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
There wasn't much good to say about the game, but here it goes:
- Despite knowing the game was lost after five batters, and being absolutely pummeled in all aspects of the game, it still only counts as one loss.
- Jeff Stevens came into a completely non-pressure situation and recorded two perfect innings, so he has already beaten expectations of those who believe Mark DeRosa was traded for absolutely nothing. (DeRosa recorded his first hits as a Cardinal last night. He is now 2 for 17 since being acquired by St. Louis.)
- Aaron Heilman didn't walk anyone in his inning of work. He didn't allow a hit either, but I thought the not walking anyone was more impressive for him.
- Ryan Theriot actually had some very nice at-bats, driving in the only Cubs run, and walking two other times.
- Alfonso Soriano had three hits, though I don't think any of them were hit particularly hard.
- The Cubs telecast cut out with technical difficulties in the 9th inning so I only had to watch eight innings of crap instead of the full nine.
The bad things were too numerous to list and I don't want to get into it because I've already had kind of a hard day at work. Instead, I will commemorate both the 40th anniversary of the Moon landing (which was also last night) and the Elton John/Billy Joel concert at Wrigley this evening with a video of Elton singing "Rocketman":
As a bonus, here is William Shatner's version from 1978:
Also, Stewie Griffin's rendition of William Shatner's rendition:
In addition, here is a How-To Video to teach you how to play "Rocketman" so you can work on your own rendition:
Lastly, as a bonus and because I have to work in Billy Joel somehow, here is Billy and Elton singing Piano Man:
Monday, July 20, 2009
The Phillies are about as hot as a team can expect to get right now. They have won eight straight and twelve out of thirteen. Of course, the teams they have beaten in this hot streak, the Mets, Reds, Pirates, and Marlins, are hardly the elite teams of the National League, so it's hard to say exactly what to expect in the next three days.
I do know that the Phillies will probably not refuse as many attempts to hand them the games as the Nationals did over the weekend. The Cubs spent a good deal of time throwing pitches out of the strikezone to guys like Ronnie Belliard. It didn't wind up hurting too much since the Nationals suck even more than I thought they did on Friday.
The Phillies will probably make the Cubs pay if they insist on walking the few weak hitters the Phillies could send to the plate like Greg Dobbs or Carlos Ruiz.
On the flip side, the Cubs offense should be a bit more relaxed after a power display by some players that have seemingly been running in energy-efficiency mode for some time. Alfonso Soriano heating up will at least make his presence in the fifth or sixth slot in the lineup something to consider as pitchers face the rest of the middle of the order.
Aramis Ramirez may have performed one of the greatest fake lack-of-power stunts since Kevin Tapani batted against the Florida Marlins with a broken arm in 1999.
Tapani had broken his non-pitching arm early in the 1999 season. He was able to pitch, so he did not go on the DL, but he really couldn't grip the bat and swing with the bad left arm. The Cubs had a 4-1 lead and the bases loaded in the 7th inning with Tapani coming up with two outs. Braden Looper, the Marlins pitcher, threw a ball to Tapani and the catcher went out to remind him that Tapani had a broken arm and probably would not be swinging.
Looper left a meatball down the middle of the plate and Tapani lined a one-handed double to the gap and cleared the bases to basically seal the game.
This year, Ramirez went and told the media that he probably wouldn't be hitting many homeruns for the rest of the year because his shoulder is still not strong enough to try to hit homeruns. He proceeded to smack a homerun in the very next game. The lesson to opposing pitchers should be: Ramirez is still very, very dangerous.
Here's hoping our lone All-Star, Ted Lilly, can get the series started in the right direction and give the Phillies fans a chance to show Cubs fans how to really boo a home team.
Friday, July 17, 2009
We have sat and watched this Cub team miss expectations all season long. The offense is supposed to be good. It isn't.
The bullpen was supposed to be upgraded. It certainly wasn't in the beginning, and the jury is out on the current group down there now. The defense is below-average at best. The baserunning has been idiotic.
Rich Harden, if healthy, is supposed to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. He hasn't been.
Almost every player has performed under what is expected of them, with the exceptions being Ted Lilly, Derrek Lee, and Angel Guzman. I think that's it unless you want to throw Sam Fuld and Jake Fox into that mix, but they really haven't been here long enough to count, so I don't.
Upon watching the game last night with the Nationals, I am suddenly very thankful for the mediocrity. I have to wonder why anyone would pay anything to go to a Nationals game if they weren't cheering for the opposing team. That team leads the lead in suck by a wide margin. There can't be anything good to watch as a fan of the Nationals.
They are awful. What's worse, is that they were supposed to be awful and they are STILL finding ways to come in under expectations. They are 26-62. That is a .295 winning percentage. Cleveland absolutely blows and they have a .400 winning percentage. That is how bad Washington is. They are on pace to lose 114 games, which would be the 6th most of all time.
They have given up 112 more runs than they have scored. They have allowed more runs than anyone except Cleveland (495 to 499), and Cleveland plays in the American League and has played two more games than Washington.
I watched them play last night and saw errors all over the field, the few runners they managed being left on base, Theriot-like baserunning, and brutal relief pitching. Other than that, they played pretty well.
This team has Julian Tavares. Julian Tavares is what you would get if Carlos Zambrano was twice as crazy and not a good pitcher. He's not even left-handed. Why is he still even in the major leagues? This is the guy the Nationals turned to in a close 3-1 game in the 9th inning? Who do they bring in for mop-up?
I saw the Cubs score a runner from third on a twenty-five foot hit in front of the mound. Sean Burnett, the pitcher brought in after Tavares' failure, got Jake Fox to hit one almost half way to the pitchers mound. He pounced down, bobbled it, then shoveled it to home where Josh Bard was outstretched for the force out. The problem, as Josh learned as he turned to argue the safe call with the home plate umpire, is that there were only men on first and third, so no force play was in order at home. He needed to tag the runner. Doh!
I had a conversation with some people on Twitter about how sweeping a four-game series is not easy and winning three of four has to be considered a success. After watching them play, I'm not sure I have that sentiment anymore. It will be supremely embarassing to lose to this team at all.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
I, personally, never disliked Jim Riggleman. I thought he was a competent manager who happened to have a roster of crap with a cherry on top in the form of Sammy Sosa. Of the managers I have seen since taking my seat up in Aisle 424, Riggleman does rank a mediocre third in my mind. He is well behind Lou, a bit behind Dusty, and worlds ahead of Don Baylor.
I know many hate Dusty, and I was not sad to see him go as manager, but many managers have come to Chicago with a goal of changing the culture from one of expecting to lose to expecting to win. Dusty actually did that. The actual winning didn't follow suit, but we all now expect and demand a winner, so I give Dusty that.
But this is supposed to be about Riggleman. My best memory of him was actually from my pre-Aisle 424 days in 1997. My buddy and I went to a game and purchased seats in the Club Box section behind home plate (you could sometimes do that back then). Frank Castillo was starting, which automatically made us wonder whether we should have saved the roughly $25 we spent on the good seats.
Sure enough, Frank went out to the mound against the Pirates and started getting hammered. He had nothing. He walked the leadoff man and gave up two smoked singles. The pitching coach sauntered out to the mound and I noticed that Riggleman already had someone warming up in the bullpen. After three batters, Riggleman saw what we all saw: Castillo wasn't going to get anybody out.
Sure enough, Castillo proceeded to walk the next batter and then give up a ringing double that scored two more to make it 3-0 before an out had been recorded. Riggleman popped out of the dugout, took the ball from Castillo, and got a two-man standing ovation from me and my buddy.
The Cubs ended up coming back to win that game, and I credited that to Riggleman giving the earliest hook to a pitcher I have ever seen. I loved it.
I also gave him credit for providing me with one of my best baseball memories ever by somehow guiding the 1998 team to the tie-break game against the Giants. He got the team there through smoke and mirrors and a 'roided up Sammy Sosa.
During the tie-break game, he knew he had nothing in his bullpen other than a spent Rod Beck to close, so he was bringing in Kevin Tapani out of the bullpen. If that wasn't enough, he had Terry Mulholland work in relief a day after he started to close out the Giants. It was tremendously ballsy. I love Mulholland for agreeing to do it, and I loved Riggleman having the guts to go against convention.
Against the Braves, he later let Tapani try to close out a 1-0 lead by himself in the 9th in Game 2 of the NLDS, which didn't work. Then he trotted Kerry Wood out against Greg Maddux in Game 3 when there was almost no hope of resurrecting the series. Many people hold that against him, but when you get that close to success, you go for it. And he did.
In retrospect, you wonder if Wood might not have blown out his elbow in the 1999 Spring debut if he had just been shut down for good in 1998. Personally, I think Wood's elbow was a ticking time bomb and would have blown later in the spring anyway, if not maybe a bit into the 1999 season. I doubt Riggleman's balls-to-the-wall finish in 1998 had that dramatic an effect on Wood's career.
Unfortunately, Riggleman was fairly predictable in most cases. He got outmanaged a number of times when the opposing manager would force his hand. He also didn't have the personnel to execute the decisions he made, even if they were technically correct. When 800-year old Gary Gaetti is your starting third baseman, you have problems.
I think he'll do as well in Washington as can be expected. He'll win some games, though hopefully not this weekend. He'll lose more games because the pitching staff he inherits makes that 1998 Cub bullpen look like the Nasty Boys. At the end of the year, I'm sure he'll be replaced with someone with a higher pedigree or a highly touted rookie manager. That seems to be Riggleman's place in baseball now. He's a placeholder who won't mess things up too badly while he's in charge.
It's sad that is what used to pass for our expectations for a manager in this town. Of course, when the expectations are low, there is less booing.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Since I have been beaten to the punch all the way around, I will continue my grand tradition of swimming against the stream and provide the:
10. "Theriot ranging into the hole, dives, comes up throwing, and GOT HIM at first!"
9. "That's an infield hit for Geovany Soto!"
8. "Soriano at the plate, the catcher gives the sign, he calls for a fastball middle-in..."
7. "Coming into the game at pitcher and batting ninth, David Patton!"
6. "I miss Neal Cotts."
5. "The Cubs will be lowering ticket prices next year as an apology to fans for such a disappointing season."
4. "Halladay will arrive to join the team in time to start against the Nationals on Friday."
3. "Isn't that Andy Dolan and David Kaplan sitting together in the bleachers?"
2. "Ted Lilly is expected to miss the next start or two with a blister on his finger."
1. "...and the Chevrolet Player of the Game is: Aaron Miles."
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
My god, I miss Vin Scully on the Game of the Week. I miss Bob Costas before his ego grew to the size of Montana and he still gave a damn about baseball. I'd love for Howard Cosell to come back to do baseball again, even though he hated it. At least it was INTERESTING.
Berman has become a one-trick Muppet-like creature that should deservedly get mocked openly and often by Statler and Waldorf from the balcony. He hasn't done or said anything original since about 1989. If you were able to remove the word "back" from his vocabulary, we would get about 50% more dead air during his broadcasts and we would have a hard time recognizing the difference between him and Hawk Harrelson.
Joe Morgan has now described every moment and conversation he experienced as a player so he has nothing new to say at all. He just keeps telling the same stories about how he was a player and finding every opportunity to subtly point out that HE was the greatest second baseman of all-time and that Ryne Sandberg can suck it.
I continue to be shocked that Steve Phillips was ever a major league general manager. His insights into the game are so shallow and so often wrong I do find it easy to believe why he didn't last. I am left to assume that he has naked pictures of some powerful baseball people that allows him to continue making his living pretending to be an expert on the game.
These guys clearly had no idea who Nelson Cruz is because this young man from Texas was launching BOMBS into the St. Louis evening that were coming down on back concourses and the deck ABOVE Big Mac Land in left. While he was hitting, they discussed how much the crowd was anticipating Albert Pujols' turn, how it was nice Ryan Howard was able to participate in his hometown, and whether Joe Mauer would have enough of a power swing to make a serious challenge.
If Albert the Great had been hitting anywhere close to what Nelson Cruz was doing, Berman would have been screaming so hard into the microphone that anyone listening to the broadcast would have had blood streaming out of their ears.
The best they were able to come up with about Nelson Cruz was during the final round when they mentioned that Nelson Cruz had a friend he brought with him to the ballpark. Very nice. And? That was it. Nelson brought a friend with him to St. Louis. Great story, guys. Don't you have interns that could have dug up some information on ALL of the Derby participants? There were only eight. How hard could it have been?
Meanwhile, they would occasionally have the participants do an on-field interview with Erin Andrews. Erin Andrews is to sports journalism what Julie Andrews is to sports journalism. When she was talking to Prince Fielder, she reminded him that in his last Homerun Derby, he had three homeruns. This year he hit eleven. She asked, "What was the difference between this time and last time?" I'll tell you, I would have gone out and bought a Prince Fielder jersey right then and there if he had looked her dead in the face and said, "Eight homeruns" and left it at that.
I know there is a certain number of people who like to look at Erin Andrews instead of listening to whatever nonsense she is discussing, but if that is her purpose, just give the microphone to Alyssa Milano. She was in town doing events promoting her baseball fashion line. She could probably ask the same softball questions as Erin, be less annoying, and look way hotter. At least she has a passion for the sport.
In fact, just let Alyssa take over the whole broadcast of the Derby. I could listen to a lot more inane chatter if it was coming from someone who looked like Alyssa Milano. I might even start to come around to the idea that Ryne Sandberg sucks. But seriously, she could not do worse unless she was suddenly inflicted by sudden onset Tourett's Syndrome with a side order of extreme flatulence.
Unfortunately, the broadcast tonight will undoubtedly make me yearn for Berman, Morgan, and Phillips or a flaming wooden stake I can shove through my ears.
Listening to Joe Buck and Tim McCarver on their home turf is going to be pure torture. I'll give you a snapshot of what will be discussed tonight on numerous occasions. Feel free to check off the list as you hear them. I bet you will have completed the list and can go for a second lap by the third inning:
- Albert Pujols is the most awesomest player ever and we want to have his babies (or some variation on the theme)
- The fans in St. Louis are so smart and appreciate sacrifice flies and good fundamentals
- Baseball is embedded in the culture of St. Louis
- Tony LaRussa always has the Cardinals playing above their ability because he's so smart
- Pujols feels a sense of responsibility to the city of St. Louis and puts a lot of pressure on himself to perform
- Many references to the normal summer humidity in St. Louis
- Some stupid joke about Clydesdales
When they aren't personally orally gratifying Pujols, Joe Buck will randomly point to words in the dictionary and then use them in the game description to show the kind of vocabulary necessary to be the announcer for such high-level fans:
"Roy Halladay's mordacious breaking ball really gets in on the hands of batters." or "Aaron Miles is so hyposthenic that he can hardly ever hit the ball out of the infield on a fly."
Meanwhile, Tim McCarver will dazzle us with his color commentary by explaining such abstract concepts like that the number two follows the number one. I'm dead serious. I once heard him explain, "Now if he retires this batter, there will be two outs, HOWEVER, if he does not retire him, there will still only be one out." Thanks, Tim. You're really earning that salary there.
Now I know it is a bit hypocritical of me to criticize these guys when I have listened to the nonsensical ramblings of Ron Santo for years, and miss hearing Harry mispronounce the Latino players' names, but I would never suggest that either of those two should be the top broadcasters for a national broadcast. Harry before the stroke, sure, but after that he was only good for the local folks.
The All-Star game should bring in All-Star announcers to do the game. Give the game to Vin Scully again. Have Bob Uecker come in. Hell, I would even listen to assholes like Marty Brennaman or Milo Hamilton for a night because they have earned the right over the years and I don't have to listen to them prattle on during every other national broadcast throughout the year.
And then they could also have Alyssa Milano in the booth.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Kurt at GROTA was one of the first people I saw to start banging the Fire Lou drum, and it started a little mini-battle in the comments section of his initial post. The comments ranged from whole-hearted agreement to whether Lou could be held responsible for the players so under-performing compared to their career averages.
I came to the party a bit late, but my thoughts were:
"Submitted by Aisle 424 on June 17, 2009 - 11:27am.
We can go back and forth and debate whether Lou is the problem, a part of the problem, or a complete non-factor all day long. So let's concede Kurt's point and say that Lou should be fired.
OK - who is the new manager?
Alan Trammel? Bob Brenly? What's Jack McKeon doing?
Is there an out-of-work manager that we really think will turn this team around? I can not think of anyone that would be a magic elixir to a team that is so horribly under-performing.
This is not a team that will respond to new blood, so I don't think this is the time to start driving the the Ryne Sandberg or Jody Davis buses, and all of the available experienced guys range somewhere from mediocre to downright crappy.
If Joe Torre was sitting at home twiddling his thumbs, maybe I go ahead and quietly gauge his interest, but he's not.
Change for the sake of change doesn't make any difference, it just makes us all feel better for about a day."
Last night, in the second game, I saw first-hand evidence why Lou should definitely not be made into a scapegoat for this team's failures.
The top of the ninth inning involved one of the gutsiest, most innovative moves I have ever seen. It was a page out of the book of Zimmer that either would result in Lou being called a genius or senile.
Angel Guzman started the inning by giving up a single to Yadier Molina, and had a force out on a sacrifice attempt dropped by Ryan Theriot. Sean Marshall was summoned to face left-handed Chris Duncan, who was announced as the pinch hitter for the pitcher, Adam Wainwright.
Tony LaRussa, not one to let his team have a disadvantage if he can help it, pulled Duncan and sent up the righty, Nick Stavinoha to face Marshall. Marshall eventually ended up walking Stavinoha to load the bases with nobody out. Right-hander and Lollipop Guild member, Brendan Ryan came to the plate and Lou popped his head out of the dugout and started talking to the umpire and pointing to Soriano in left field.
At the time, I thought he was telling the ump that Soriano would be moving to second in a double switch, so that Lou could bring in Reed Johnson, but not lose Soriano's bat. Instead, Lou was more concerned with the left-handed Skip Schumaker and Colby Rasmus due to bat after Ryan.
Lou removed Soriano from the game (having batted in the bottom of the 8th), and sent Marshall out to left field to keep Marshall eligible to come back in to pitch to the two righties following Ryan. I loved the move. The Cubs were already losing by two, so any runs scored would add nails to the coffin. Why not roll the dice and try to get the best pitching matchups possible to try to get out of the inning unscathed and give the offense a chance in the bottom of the ninth? Marshall is his only lefty in the bullpen, so this is how you get multiple "appearances" by your lone lefty.
He brought in Aaron Heilman to pitch, who shocked the hell out of everyone by striking out Ryan for the first out. Then, Heilman sat back down and Marshall trotted back in from left and Reed Johnson headed out to man left field.
LaRussa, not one who is accustomed to being out-geniused, came out of the dugout, and had a discussion with the umpire that I am 99.9% certain revolved around whether Marshall was allowed to make more warm-up pitches since he was not freshly entering the game, nor was it between innings. This is pure speculation on my part, but his corresponding baseball move, pinch-hitting Jarret Hoffpauir for Skip Schumaker, did not require any additional conversation with the umpire. He may have been asking the umpire if he had ever seen anything so innovative, but I doubt it.
Marshall proceeded to strike out Hoffpauir and get Colby Rasmus to hit a slicing flyball into left. Reed Johnson sprinted after it, stumbled, dove/fell down, and proceeded to come up with the ball for what was ruled the third out of the inning. I say it was ruled the third out because there were many people who saw it on television who claimed that Johnson trapped it (mostly Cardinal fans).
I saw one replay, and while I will not definitively say that Johnson did catch it, it appeared to me that the webbing of his glove did get underneath the ball before it hit. I'll be the first to say when my team gets the benefit of a blown call, but I need to see it again to say for sure - because I thought he actually caught it.
My point in all of this, is that Lou made a managerial move that not many managers have the balls to make. Dusty Baker, Don Baylor, and the newly appointed manager of the Washington Nationals, Jim Riggleman, NEVER try that. Never in a million years would it even occur to them as an option.
Even LaRussa admitted to the Sun-Times that he was impressed:
"After the game, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa asked Cubs first-base coach Matt Sinatro to tell Piniella how impressed he was.
'I stopped Sinatro and said you tell Lou that was a classic,' La Russa said. ''It was fun to be a part of it no matter how it turns out. It takes creativity, and it takes guts. Lou showed both of them.'''
Lou has tried just about everything to try to kick-start this team into something resembling the 97 win team from last year, and I am hard-pressed to think how a different manager (particularly any manager that isn't already employed by someone) makes this team any better.
The game ended last night as the strike zone grew about 3 sizes in the bottom of the ninth inning when the umpires realized they had been at the ballpark for over 10 hours and really wanted to get to bed. So the move will likely not live on as legend, but more of a triviality like the time Don Zimmer moved Les Lancaster to left field in 1990. (Thanks to Andy Dolan at Desipio.com)
But it should stand as proof that not only does Lou Piniella still have a fire and desire to win EVERY SINGLE GAME he manages, but that he still has the skills and acumen far above any other that could potentially replace him. Lou, we lost the game, but you won my undying loyalty. That move was frickin' sweet.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I saw that Baker was batting .107 prior to the game yesterday, and saw that he had been placed in the 7th hole in the lineup at second base. My immediate reaction was to wonder how Koyie Hill felt about batting below a guy who is hitting .107, but as I saw Baker out in the field towering above Ryan Theriot at shortstop, I began thinking that its a shame that he has essentially been worthless at the plate this year.
I mean, there he was standing there with normal human height out on the field - why couldn't he become a reasonably useful second baseman? I'm not asking for Ryne Sandberg, I'm asking for someone good enough to keep Aaron Miles as far away from the active roster as humanly possible.
Thus, I decided that Jeff Baker needed a fan (much as I decided long ago that Gary Scott needed a fan). So I began vocally showing my appreciation for Jeff Baker, or as I like to call him, Mark DeRosa II.
This, of course, embarassed Kris tremendously, as she knows that one shouldn't generally cheer for the position player with a .107 average. She asked me to please quiet down and tried to figure out how to pretend that she didn't know me. Then in the second, Milton Bradley got plunked on an 0-2 pitch to force in a run and bring up Jeff Baker with the bases loaded and 2 outs.
It was on.
With me shouting encouragement with every pitch, Baker proceeded to line a single up the middle to drive in two and provide the Cubs with enough runs to win the game. He later walked after going down 0-2 in the count, and doubled down the left-field line before striking out in the 8th.
This was not a GREAT game, but it certainly was a productive one. He had good at-bats, he got on base, and most importantly, he had a hit with runners in scoring position. His average climbed 54 points to .161 by the end of the game. Well done, sir.
(I'm going to overlook, for now, that Ted Lilly would not have given up a run at all and may have been able to finish a shutout if Jeff hadn't non-chalanted a grounder that turned into a Colby Rasmus hustling single who later scored.)
So, I have called President of the Jeff Baker Fan Club, so that position is taken, but there is plenty of room on the bus so come on aboard! If you're not sold on Jeff Baker, just think of it as the Anti-Aaron Miles Society. The Fan Club Headquarters are in Aisle 424 - I'm thinking of making t-shirts.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Thank god, Sam Fuld is back to end the madness.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
So, you can imagine how thrilled I am to have landed the biggest Cubs interview since Kellie Pickler visited the broadcast booth and enthralled us all with her two... um... I.Q. points.
Shortly after the latest Cubs loss to a pitcher only fantasy baseball geeks have ever heard of, I had an opportunity to sit down with the Baseball Gods to talk about baseball, the Cubs, and The Curse.
Aisle 424: First, I want to thank you all for being here and taking time out of your busy schedules. It is quite an honor. But before we get into the heavy stuff, can you introduce yourselves to my six readers?
Diane: Certainly. First, we are happy to be here and we look forward to clearing up some of the misconceptions that float around about us, particularly in the Cubs fan community. I'm Diane, God of Health, on my right is Cleo, God of Talent...
Cleo: Hello, it's great to be here.
Diane: ... and on my left is Felicity, God of Luck.
Aisle 424: I think when most people think of the Baseball Gods, they envision bearded Zeus-like men with bolts of lightning and such. Sitting here with you all now, I can't help but notice that you are all female. Where did such an erroneous stereotype begin?
Diane: Well, baseball has long been a male dominated game among the players, but women have a long tradition of appreciating baseball in all of its intricate beauty. If oversight of the game had been left in the hands of men, it would be far more needlessly violent and thuggish. You see what has happened with basketball.
Cleo: That is so true. It used to be such a beautiful game, but now its all razzle-dazzle followed by a giant man bullying his way to the basket and jamming it through while other giant men shove and smack him along the way. I don't know what those guys who run basketball have been thinking.
Felicity: I'll tell you what it is, they hang out with the Football Gods too much. Those guys are bad news if you ask me, but they know how to build revenues. I'll give them that.
Aisle 424: So being a Sports God involves building revenues for the sport?
Cleo: We'd be lying if we didn't say that was part of it. Let's face it, this is the world as it is and sports are only going to survive by playing by the same rules as everyone else, and that includes making some money, sure, but that isn't everything.
Felicity: At least it shouldn't be. You have to think of the game itself. You have to keep the essence of what makes the game great. When they brought in some new female leadership to the Hockey Gods, things started turning around for that sport.
Diane: That is a GREAT example. They kept some of the fighting, which again, let's face it, that is part of the game of Hockey, but they aren't so fixated on it anymore. They started getting back to the skating and the passing and the scoring. Plus, they stopped letting every damn team into the playoffs.
Aisle 424: I see, so you three have been charged with overseeing the overall wellness of the game of baseball in all of its aspects?
Felicity: That pretty much covers it.
Aisle 424: So do you work with Bud Selig?
Cleo: Oh my, I was told you were funny, but that caught me off guard...
Felicity: Damn it, I'm crying that was so damn funny. Do you have a tissue?
Aisle 424: So, you don't work with him.
Diane: No, no, no, no, no. He works FOR us. He might not realize it fully. Frankly, I think that he thinks that he runs the show, but that's just his own ignorance. He wouldn't be able to wipe his own ass if we didn't allow him to.
Aisle 424: OK, well it's clear who's running the show, so let's get right into the guts of what Cubs fans want to know: Why do you hate the Chicago Cubs so much?
Diane: Yes, that certainly is direct. I do appreciate your candor so we are going to tell you a little secret: We don't hate the Cubs.
Aisle 424: Really?
Cleo: You seem surprised by that.
Aisle 424: Well, forgive me, but I have been operating under the assumption that there was a massive supernatural conspiracy against the Cubs.
Felicity: Oh, well sure, there is. But you asked why we hate the Cubs. We don't at all. We hate the Yankees.
Aisle 424: What?!! How can you say that?! They have 26 World Championships!
Cleo: This is why there is so much confusion. You and most Cub fans have misunderstood these things for years. You equate a drought of championships to mean that we hold a grudge against your team and its fans. You equate World Series victories with some kind of approval from us. That isn't it at all.
Aisle 424: I am so confused.
Diane: We know. It's cute. But think about it, how many happy Yankee fans do you know?
Aisle 424: I know they are always pretty happy after they win a World Series.
Diane: Yes, for about a minute. Then they go back to their sad lives of obsessing over how they can possibly win ANOTHER championship the next year. They win three in a row, four out of five and do you know they can't get past Luis Gonzalez keeping them from four in a row? Or why they didn't have five in a row to begin with? What the hell kind of life is that?
Cleo: They HATE the Red Sox for infringing on their "property" a couple of times. They can't deal with any other team having even a small amount of success because it means they have FAILED in their minds. It doesn't matter how often they beat the Red Sox down in the past or how often they will in the future, they will hate Boston to the core until they die.
Felicity: They have an addiction and it consumes them. They derive no joy from win after win. Pardon my French, but they want to boo the shit out of Joe Torre for crying out loud. The man resurrected them from a huge (in their eyes) slump of championships and they would punch him in the head if they had a chance.
Aisle 424: So, let's say I buy into this, "We hate the Yankees and will curse them with seemingly unbounded success." Why do you hate them?
Cleo: Because they are so damn full of themselves. You'd think that they were the ones who orchestrated the trade for Babe Ruth themselves. They think they did something to DESERVE Babe Ruth. We made Babe Ruth. We bestowed him on the Yankees and they go and act like their shit doesn't stink because of it.
Diane: So we gave them Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, and Yogi too. These poor bastards on the team now have no chance of ever replacing the Golden Gods of Yankees Past. A-Rod? Seriously? That guy could hit 2,000 homeruns a season and have drug tests as pure as the driven snow, and if he pops up once with a runner at third with less than two outs, he'll hear for two weeks that he'll never be a "real Yankee." They love Teixiera now, but wait until he strikes out with runners on in the playoffs. They're getting on Jeter now for being over-rated. Derek Jeter. This guy was the heart and soul of those teams and he takes crap for losing a step and not having the greatest range in the world at short. These people would boo the second coming of Babe Ruth. That is why we hate them. The sense of entitlement.
Aisle 424: So the Cubs drought of 100 years isn't because you hate the Cubs? Then why?
Felicity: Because it makes us laugh.
Cleo: Absolutely, there is no ill-will. We just find it funny. Don't you?
Aisle 424: How is it funny? There are fans that have been born, lived to a ripe old age and then died without ever seeing a Cubs championship. That's funny?
Diane: Maybe funny is too strong a word. Perhaps it would be better to say it amuses us. It is a great story of longing and yearning and unfulfilled love. It's great. Women love that sort of stuff. Why do you think that the Twilight crap is so popular? Cubs baseball is the same sort of thing only with more substance and real drama.
Aisle 424: So the Bartman ball, the ball between Durham's legs, the injuries to Prior and Wood, the collapse of 1969 and all the rest was orchestrated for your amusement?
Felicity: You are thinking far too simplistically. We didn't make Steve Bartman do anything. Durham simply took his eye off the ball, and 1969 is the greatest piece of marketing and over-hype we have pulled off yet.
Cleo: On September 2, 1969 the Cubs had 84 wins and the Mets had 77. The Mets went on a 23-7 run to end up with 100 wins. The Cubs only won 8 more games, but they would have had to go 17-9 down the stretch to end up the season ahead of the Mets. The Cubs weren't winning in 1969. The Mets would have run them down anyway. The collapse makes for a better story though. It led to all sorts of excuses from a mangy cat at Shea Stadium to playing too many day games. It is all part of the grand plan.
Diane: We don't involve ourselves in the minutia of individual games very often. We are more into the big picture. We simply orchestrate situations that come together to maintain the order and balance that a championshipless Cubs team provides.
Aisle 424: So how is destroying Mark Prior's career not involving yourself in minutia?
Diane: Mark Prior was doomed from the start. He was fragile, coddled, and a wuss.
Aisle 424: So you weren't involved at all?
Felicity: You just aren't getting it at all. This is the problem with men. We orchestrated the whole situation to provide the Cubs with the opportunity to even have Mark Prior in the first place. We made sure that the Cubs were crappy enough the year before to get a great draft pick. We made sure that the pre-draft hype was so high that the Twins wouldn't even think about trying to sign him. We held his body together with our sheer will power so he could excel on the mound for just long enough to get everyone to start pre-enshrining him in the Hall of Fame. Then we just let the natural order take its course.
Cleo: See? We just add a few elements of drama to keep things interesting. We didn't force Bartman into interfering. We guided that ball to a spot that was almost out of reach for Alou, but not quite. You've seen the video and the pictures. Everyone in that area was reaching for the ball. Bartman was the one who happened to touch it.
Diane: We actually felt bad about that because we didn't mean for anyone to get killed over it, so we did make Gonzalez drop that ground ball shortly after to take some of the heat off that poor kid. It didn't work completely, but I think he's alive today because it couldn't be spun as COMPLETELY his fault.
Aisle 424: But why? Why the Cubs?
Felicity: We honestly didn't think you minded that much. You pack that ballpark even though ticket prices go up almost every year. You put bleachers on top of buildings across the street so you can catch a glimpse. You dance around like you've won the World Series after winning a regular season game against the damn Brewers. You seem pretty happy.
Diane: Plus, you seem to have so much fun with the whole goat thing. For awhile I thought you guys were playing along with us.
Cleo: We messed with the Red Sox and they just got PISSED! White Sox fans just ended up going insane and a little psychotic. Cubs fans just kept rolling with it. They blamed a goat, made some t-shirts, and kept singing "Go Cubs Go." Why would we end that party?
Aisle 424: But what about the fans that hate all that crap? What about the ones who would demolish Wrigley Field after it was re-named Wal-Mart Field at Cisco Systems Park if it meant seeing a Cubs World Series victory before we die?
Diane: We're not saying that everyone should be happy about it and we do feel for the people who suffer and die a little with every Cubs failure, but we're really quite proud of how long we have kept this going. There are going to be a few casualties, which is regrettable, but the long-term benefits are too great.
Cleo: Think about it, every time the Cubs manage to get close, it starts a whole new resurgence in the "Cubs Mystique" and the undying loyalty of the fans when faced with unending adversity. It's good for the game. Remember, we need to make sure the game itself remains healthy. It needs a tragic hero as much as it needs a villain like the Yankees.
Aisle 424: So there will be no World Series this year?
Felicity: We're not going to comment on that except to say you all can probably safely make plans to go out of town in October.
Aisle 424: Is there anything that can end the conspiracy?
Diane: It might play itself out at some point. People might get bored with this storyline. You can't milk the "will they/won't they" angle forever. But for now, we have some really nice sub-plots that are in process. We're particularly proud of orchestrating a global financial collapse that prevented one of the biggest cash cows of the last quarter century to sit on the market for over two years and ending up preventing them from making any serious mid-season adjustments to a roster that is already overpaid. That took some doing.
Felicity: We put in a lot of overtime on that one. But we love what we do, so it really is a blessing to work with these ladies. Remember when we got the United States involved in World War II so that Wrigley would donate the metal for the lights to the war effort? That got another 40 years worth of excuses. Cleo, that was your baby, wasn't it?
Cleo: Oh stop. I might have kicked off the idea, but we all pulled together to make it work. Felicity arranged to put the team on WGN and planted the idea of marketing the "romanticism" of day baseball. I remember, Diane came in one day and said, "What if we put ivy on the walls, wouldn't that be pretty?" We just wove that into the mythology. It really is a work of art, and to ask us to stop now is almost like asking Michaelangelo to just put a coat of stucco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel instead of a painting.
Aisle 424: Well, this certainly has been enlightening despite being wholly depressing.
Diane: We are sorry about that. You seem like a good guy and you are obviously taking it all very hard. Maybe we can help out a little.
Aisle 424: Can't you allow the Cubs to win it this year before I either die or can't afford the tickets anymore when PSL's arrive with the new owner?
Felicity: I'm afraid I can't promise anything like that. You'll have to stay tuned. What if we gave Milton Bradley his power-stroke back?
Aisle 424: Won't you just injure him after a couple of good games?
Cleo: You're starting to get it. There may be hope for you yet.
Aisle 424: Thanks, I guess. Again, I appreciate you sitting down and talking with me. Perhaps we can do it again some time?
Diane: You bet. We're not going anywhere anytime soon.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
One former conquering hero was banished to Iowa and another former hero very gracefully saved many people the choice of having to choose between giving a standing ovation for a returning golden god, or booing an arch-nemesis uniform by going on the disabled list.
Erik Estrada showed up at Wrigley, and sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame with many of the correct words, and not so many of the correct notes. This, in and of itself, is not noteworthy in the slightest, as Estrada is probably about the exact average level star that the 7th Inning Stretch attracts now. I'm pretty sure Kathy Griffin would turn the Cubs down if they asked.
The noteworthy aspect was the post-sing interview with Len and Bob up in the booth. Estrada detailed how a child asked how it felt to be standing on the field and he took the child (with parental permission) and brought him onto the field and said, "Go ahead and touch it, get down there and touch it."
That sounded creepy enough to me, but then he went into a story about how he is now a law enforcement officer and he has "seen his share of child pornography." Now, keep in mind, he has not actually said anything intentionally creepy or weird. He was merely trying to communicate how tragic it is that there are so many child predators out there and that he is trying to help to stop the proliferation of such material. Nevertheless, who the hell starts a sentence with the phrase, "I have seen my share of child pornography"? Especially when it is juxtaposed against a story where he just told a child to "get down there and touch it."
Maybe we let all of that slide if not for the next story where he talks about his time on a reality show and his experience with Ron Jeremy, who has a "huge gift" and indicated that he wishes he had Ron Jeremy's life.
My thoughts upon watching a taped version this morning was that Len and Bob probably wished the Cubs could have one of their trademark six-pitch innings just so he would go away. You can see most of the interview in all of its awkward creepiness at The Friendly Blogfines here.
Today, reports have flown that the Tribune has agreed to sell the Cubs. Now, I know what you are thinking, "Way to be on top of the news that happened yesterday. Did you hear that the South lost the War Between the States too?" Yes, yesterday it was reported that the Tribune agreed to terms with the Ricketts group for the sale of the Cubs.
But then today, Reuters reports that the Tribune has agreed to sell to the group headed by Mark Utay as well, as part of a back-up plan to make sure a sale goes through to SOMEONE.
I find it hysterical that Zell took over two years to sell the team once, but then only about 24 hours to sell it a second time, which I didn't think was possible, but there is that news story in Reuters, so it has to be true.
Well, no, maybe not. Dave Kaplan of WGN posted on his blog that the reports of any sale being completed are greatly exaggerated. The only person who seems to be willing to go on record as a named source is Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman, who says,
"We have not reached an agreement on terms with either party."
So, it would appear that Dave Kaplan might actually have the most accurate version of the story in the strictest sense, in which case, nobody will much notice because of all the monkeys flying out of our collective butts.
Finally, and most recently, the roster carousel continues to spin as we have received word that Ryan Dempster broke his toe and has been placed on the disabled list and Kevin Hart is catching the Bobby Scales Shuttle back to Wrigley so that he can start the series finale against Atlanta on Wednesday.
The questions that follow this news are many. Can Marshall go back to the rotation after being in the bullpen now for most of the season? How the hell did Dempster break his toe?
The answer to how Dempster broke the toe is, according to Paul Sullivan..... wait for it.....
Dempster said he caught his foot on the dugout railing while jumping out of the dugout running onto the field after Sunday's win over the Brewers.
Are you f---ing kidding me? Am I on Candid Camera? This ranks up with the Sammy Sosa sneeze and Glenallen Hill spider dream on the all-time Cubs stupid list for injuries.
Can Samardzija or Hart be expected to pitch effectively as a starter? If Marshall gets the spot, who will get lefties out from the bullpen? Thankfully, the answer to that question is definitely not Neal Cotts, who had season-ending Tommy John surgery on his elbow last week.
Oh, and the Cubs won last night 4 to 2 over the Braves, pushing my record to 16-2 when I am in attendance. I'll be there again tonight, so hopefully that means good things.