Monday, May 31, 2010


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Top Five Things You Should Never Do

  1. Tug on Superman's cape.
  2. Spit into the wind.
  3. Pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger.
  4. Mess around with Jim.
  5. Throw Albert Pujols a strike.

Photo via Chicago Tribune

Cubs Will Eventually Break Everyone Down

Longtime friend of Aisle 424, ccd from, left a comment on my last post that really got me to thinking.  I had been wondering about all the angst and anger about the Cubs moving Andrew Cashner to the bullpen in AAA, and ccd chimed in that he just can't get himself worked up about the minutiae of this team anymore:

"here's some quick advice to tim and all of the season ticket holders that come by this site. fellas, i dropped my season tickets before the season. tickets i've had since 1998. you wanna know something, i thought i would miss it i really did. instead i have spent the spring doing mnany of the things that i always said i wanted to do, but usually couldn't because of my cubs ticket addiction. i've enjoyed it greatly. less time at clark and addison has given me some clarity on the low level of importance the cubs should have.

sometime next winter you will have a choice to make. i'm here to tell you that the choice that you always said you would never make is not that bad of a choice. it takes a little getting used to. but once you do i think it's a healthy change."

This is exactly the struggle I deal with every off-season.  It used to be easy.  When my seat was selling for $750 for the package, it was not much of a stretch to justify the expense.  Even when they were trotting guys like Jeff Huson, Leo Gomez, and Damon Buford out there on a regular basis, I got to watch the sport that I love and I had security knowing that if/when the Cubs did manage another playoff appearance, I would have access to playoff games at face value.

But besides the actual cost, I don't pay as high a price in wasted time.  I don't know exactly where ccd lives, but I'm guessing it is outside of the city, so there is some major commuting involved to get to a game.  It takes me about ten minutes to get to my girlfriends place where I park (just outside of the night game parking ban area) and then another fifteen to twenty minutes to walk from there.  People driving from outside the city can easily spend 45 minutes to an hour just to get anywhere near the ballpark and then they have to park and walk.  If they don't want to pay for parking, it's a similar 20 minute walk, or they are shelling out anywhere from $25 (where the walk is still decent) to $50 or more for a parking spot.

Believe me, if I lived outside of the city, I probably would have given up my package after 2006.  That year, I lived across the street from Wrigley by the McDonald's and it was a literal five minute walk from my couch to my seat in Aisle 424.  That season made that walk seem like an eternity.  It was painful to feel obligated to watch that team because I had the tickets and nobody wanted them.

But ccd also mentions a clarity in the realization that the Cubs just shouldn't be that high on anyone's priority list other than those actually employed by them in some capacity.  That is a revelation I have yet to experience.  I'm not proud of it, but there is part of my emotional well-being that is tied to the Cubs' success.  Granted, I have learned to mute the effects.  I would have committed suicide long before now if I hadn't, but my days are a little sunnier when the Cubs win.  The flip side is the twinges of a dark depression that creep over me with a loss.  It is a sickness and I'm looking for a cure.  (Note to self: add a PayPal donation feature so that people can contribute money to my research project.)

When it comes down to it, I guess I still care.  It would be easier if I didn't, and most certainly cheaper, but damn it, I care.  I care whether the Cubs are going to destroy yet another phenom pitching prospect.  I care whether moving Zambrano back into the rotation is the right thing to do, and the ramifications that result.  I care about the Cubs winning their third series in a row so that I don't have to listen to the Cardinals fans that are with me talk about it all week.

But mostly, if I gave up my tickets, I'd have to come up with a new name for the blog.  That's a deal breaker.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Are the Cubs Destroying Andrew Cashner?

There has been some consternation around the Cub blogosphere and Twitter about the Cubs switching Andrew Cashner into a relief role in the minor leagues, presumably to prepare him to be able to help out at the major league level in that capacity. 

Cashner is projected as a starter and has been performing well in that role at AAA Iowa, so messing around with the kid is understandably worrying, but is it something that is as horribly Cub-like as converting the major league team's longest tenured, highest paid, and multi-Opening Day starter into a set-up man in the bullpen?  It really wouldn't surprise me to learn that it was, but I also knew pitchers like Francisco Liriano, Johan Santana, and David Price had broken in with teams that needed help in the bullpen more than in the rotation, and they all seemed to be doing well. So, to get a bit more perspective, I took a look to see how other top level pitchers have been handled at the beginnings of their careers.

As a jumping off point, I went and checked the top ten active WAR leaders for pitching and eliminated Mario Rivera since he is a reliever (and as far as I know has always been projected as a reliever).  I then looked at the first year of each pitcher's significant contribution to their team, where I used about 15 games entered as a low-water mark.

As you can see, Roy Halladay, Andy Pettitte, Johan Santana, Roy Oswalt and Mark Buerhle all pitched out of the bullpen early in their careers.  Santana didn't finally get into the Twins regular rotation until his fourth year with the Twins.  What does it mean?  Well, probably not much, but most of those names were well-regarded pitching prospects, their respective teams didn't seem to have a problem using them in the bullpen and their careers turned out just fine.

Of course, conventional wisdom seems to lend some credibility the Cubs fans' angst.  I also looked at the top four pitchers taken in the 2004 and 2005 drafts who have made significant contributions to their teams and found that the group has only made five relief appearances at the major league level out of 167 appearances.

Apparently, when teams draft elite pitchers, they do their damndest to put them in roles where they will pitch the most innings and have the most value to their team.

This is an admittedly rudimentary investigation, but it seems the Cubs are going against convention. However, it may not automatically lead to disaster for young Mr. Cashner either.  Given the flameout rate of young pitchers anyway, I can't say I'm theoretically against using him in the bullpen.  And, since this is the Cubs we're talking about, I'm sure they'll find some way to mess him up no matter what role they put him in, so I say to them: Go for it if you think it will help.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cubs Think You Haven't Spent Enough Money Yet

I guess someone figures that since Cubs fans must inherently love scary, twisty, up-and-down rides that always end exactly the same way, they would also enjoy an actual physical rollercoaster ride.

Hence, the e-mail I received this morning from

I should prepare an e-mail to Tom Tunney to see if he can help stop this, since spam e-mails from the Cubs threaten the integrity and aesthetics of my inbox.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Longest Off Day Ever

I'm glad I get to go to the game tonight, but part of me wishes it was an afternoon game just so it could happen already.  This has seemed like a particularly long layoff between games, yet I still can't put together enough cohesive thoughts together for a well-written post, so here is some random stuff off the top of my head that is probably not worth reading.

It seems the dead time has taken a toll on my better judgement. Yesterday, I got suckered into debating whether Lou is "innovative" on another blog (and I use the most liberal definition of "debating" ever to describe the exchange).  Of course, the argument began over a post where people are seriously talking about a six-man rotation like it's a good idea, so maybe the time off has driven everyone a little insane.

Meanwhile, the weather has heated up so it may be a good time to casually mention to Derrek Lee how crazy it is that it is June already.  (Just don't do it while Kosuke's translator is within earshot - he still thinks it is April 55th.)

Carlos Zambrano threw a simulated game yesterday and they even simulated a weak groundball sneaking past the outstretched gloves of Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot just to make it more realistic.

Carlos Silva is 6-0.  How insane is that?  He has increased his nine-year career win total by 10% already and it isn't even Memorial Day.  He has won more games this season than he has in an entire season since 2007.  He has more wins this year than in the last two years combined.  I know wins are a crappy way of judging a pitcher's performance, but still, holy crap!

No one seems to know who will leave the rotation when Zambrano re-enters it, but I haven't seen anybody mention that the guy who is coming off shoulder surgery might be the guy who could be odd man out.  My guess is because Ted Lilly would probably behead anyone who tried to stick him in the bullpen.

The Toyota sign will still not be present for this homestand.  The Cubs are hoping to have final approval so it can be up in time for the White Sox series where they will begin playing for the new BP sponsored Crosstown Cup.  At this point, it wouldn't surprise me if they also announced a new children's play area at Wrigley sponsored by NAMBLA.

Starlin Castro has so far seemed immune to the Aisle 424 Fantasy Curse.  I own him on three separate teams and defense isn't factored in, so none of his early fielding problems are my fault.

On the other side, you can all blame me for Aramis Ramirez and probably for Derrek Lee as well.  I owned Ramirez on two teams and finally cut him the other day as a sacrifice to the Fantasy Gods in the hopes that they will restore his swing.  My other league doesn't allow roster moves unless there is a move to the disabled list for the player, so unless that thumb really starts acting up, I'm stuck with him and Lee dragging down my offense in that league and the Cubs' offense in real life.

In case you've been wondering why Albert Pujols seems human this year, I own him in three different leagues, so I like to think me cursing Albert helps balance out the Lee and Ramirez travesty a bit.  I also broke Lance Berkman.

Finally... Go Blackhawks!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Cubs Played a Baseball Game Yesterday?

The Cubs managed to have a winning road trip against two first place teams, so let's take a moment to thank whatever cosmic force we are inclined to thank when miracles happen.

But that's enough of that.  Let's instead focus on the biggest sports story in Chicago: the Blackhawks' sweep of the one-seeded San Jose Sharks to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1992.

I'm a bandwagon jumper and I freely admit it.  I am still learning the game of hockey, but I now have the opportunity to do so since the games are on television and the team is fun to watch.

Watching the fans that suffered through the long years without the Stanley Cup has been almost as much fun.  I wasn't in the city when the Bears won in 1985, so I didn't get a chance to witness the exhilaration and release of frustration that came with their dominating season ending in the dismantling of the Patriots in Super Bowl XX.

The Bulls' runs in the 90s were great and it was a hell of a lot of fun being the favorite for years on end, but there were very few long-suffering Bulls fans in the grand scheme of things, so there was not much relief so much as just pure joy at being the best at something for awhile.

The White Sox fans got to throw off years of failure in 2005 and I'm sure it was fun for them, but I was too busy being curled up in a fetal position and occasionally screaming at the Houston Astros through my television to really notice or care about that.

This year, the Blackhawks fans that have hung with the team for years are finally enjoying themselves.  I have two friends who have been Blackhawks fans since they were kids in the 70s and it has been a lot of fun watching the playoff games with them this year.  One of them almost knocked over our table as he jumped up when Byfuglien scored the go-ahead goal.  My other friend got teary-eyed as she realized the Hawks were definitely going to the finals as Versteeg's shot headed towards the empty net.

Throughout the city, there are plenty of other Blackhawks fans that are now daring to dream that their 49-year drought without a Stanley Cup could be coming to an end.  Part of me is a bit jealous that I'll be waiting at least a couple more years before I can have that feeling about the team I care most about, but mostly I'm just glad to live vicariously through the true Blackhawks fans for a bit and hope they don't mind me being along for the ride.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cubs Can Finally Use One of Their DHs As a DH

When most National League teams play in American League ballparks during interleague play, it gives them an opportunity to take a hitter who is really good at hitting and not so good at fielding and include them in the lineup as the designated hitter, thus allowing a better defensive player to take the field to help out the pitcher.

Unfortunately, the Cubs are hardly ever like most National League teams because they actually employ two guys who should be designated hitters when the league doesn't have that rule.  As we all know, Alfonso Soriano has returned to being a very good hitter, but his defense is shaky at best, and downright deplorable at worst. Even the biggest Soriano lovers would have a hard time naming any other starters who are as bad at fielding as Alfonso Soriano.  Maybe Ryan Braun and Adam Dunn.  Maybe.

So as the Cubs prepare to play the Texas Rangers in Arlington, it stands to reason that the Cubs could deploy an outfield consisting of Colvin, Byrd, and Fukudome while keeping Soriano's bat in the lineup at designated hitter.  Unfortunately, the Cubs also employ Xavier Nady, who should almost be able to throw a ball at least as well as Ryan Theriot by now, but still needs a cutoff man between himself and the cutoff man.

He would probably lose a throwing contest with Bucky LaGrange:

So, the Cubs have a defensive alignment that includes one of the worst, if not the absolute worst defender in the Major Leagues because at least he can throw the ball.  It also means that to improve the defense in the late innings, the Cubs will still have to remove Soriano's bat from the lineup when they insert Tyler Colvin. 

But things could be worse.  They have played a few games with both Nady and Soriano in the same outfield and the world didn't explode or anything.  I guess it wouldn't bother me so much if Nady had shown some consistency in his hitting that would demand he get extra playing time, but as it is right now, it is really difficult to watch Tyler Colvin rotting on the bench.

Oh well... Let's go Blackhawks!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Al Yellon Wants Sean Marshall's Arm to Fall Off

The worst thing about the Cubs losing a lot is that you get the Monday morning quarterbacks (or in this case, the Thursday afternoon managers) who think they know better than the people who are paid to know better than the average fan.  Generally, the ranting and raving belongs mostly to the sports radio callers, but today, Cubs blogger extraordinaire, Al Yellon is calling out Lou Piniella for using John Grabow in the 8th inning of the Cubs' loss today in Philadelphia.

Actually, I have only one question for Lou after today's tough 5-4 Cubs loss to the Phillies.

Why wasn't Sean Marshall in this game in the 8th inning instead of John Grabow?

After all, Grabow threw yesterday and Marshall didn't, and Marshall is now -- supposedly -- the top 8th inning guy. So where was he to face Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez? These are the same questions I asked last year in August when the Phillies were at Wrigley Field and Lou left an obviously off-his-command Carlos Marmol in to throw to the same LH hitters when Grabow was sitting on his butt in the pen not even warming up.

Today, Marshall was the obvious choice. Where was he? Nowhere to be seen. Result: Grabow issued a pair of walks and then the game-winning hit, a single to Ibanez; Kosuke Fukudome's throw to the plate was just a little bit off, otherwise he might have thrown Utley out.

Believe me, I am not a fan of John Grabow pitching in any games in any capacity.  If I could sell my soul to assure that I never had to watch John Grabow throw another inning, I would seriously consider it.  However, the thing is, John Grabow is on the Cubs' roster getting paid to play baseball.  The manager's job is to use the ENTIRE roster as best as possible to win as many games as possible.

The thing people (and Al) need to remember is that Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall can't pitch every damn day.  The fact that no one else besides Marmol and Marshall can get outs on a regular basis doesn't change the fact that there is a finite amount of batters and pitches in these guys' arms before we end up having to go long stretches with one or both of them on the disabled list.

Carlos Marmol had pitched in four out of the last five days, throwing 84 actual pitches and who knows how many warm-up pitches in the process.  Marmol wasn't coming into today's game unless there was an extra-inning situation where it couldn't be helped.  So who would have closed if the Cubs had a lead in the ninth inning?  Probably Sean Marshall.

As Al correctly pointed out, Marshall didn't pitch yesterday, but Al didn't mention he did pitch the three days in a row and four out of five before yesterday. Marshall's last string of three apprearances included a two-inning stint on Monday.  So, if Marshall was going to pitch the ninth in a save situation, Al's "obvious choice" involved Marshall facing the Phillies lineup for two innings on his fourth day of work in five days?  Dusty Baker called and said he wants his pitcher handling textbook back.

We don't have to like John Grabow or Justin Berg or Bobby Howry or whatever other combustible objects Jim Hendry puts on the roster, but Lou has to find ways to use these guys as best as he can.  The Cubs already won one more game in Philadelphia than they probably should have, Lou had already used James Russell, and sending one of our right handed relievers in to face the Phillies lefty hitters would be bordering on cruel and unusual punishment.  The game would still be going on and the scoreboard operators would be trying how to represent a triple digit score in the eighth inning.  Who else was there besides John Grabow?

If you want to complain about the pitchers on the roster, be careful what you wish for.  The only reason Bobby Howry will still have a job is because he actually can't do a hell of a lot worse than the flotsam and jetsam that has already logged innings out of the Cubs bullpen.  Remember, Braden Looper is sitting by his phone waiting for the Cubs to call.

As fans we don't like to think that a team shouldn't throw every single resource they have into winning every single game, but that is how you get through a 162 game schedule.  Guys like John Grabow have to step up when the top guys have been over-used.  If they don't, the Cubs will lose. 

So, Al and fans who share his angst need to get comfortable with the fact that this team is not good, and blowing out two of the Cubs best pitchers' arms in an effort to get within four games of the Wild Card before Memorial Day isn't going to help anything.  Sometimes the Justin Bergs and John Grabows are going to have to come into a game, and if the rest of the team is playing well, it won't always be when the Cubs are getting their asses handed to them already.

Cubs Win and Castro's Ridiculous Throw Drive Everyone Insane

Theriot's throw would just be arriving now
(Via GBTS @ ACB)

The range.  The arm.  It was beautiful to behold.  Folks, that was Jayson Werth running down the line.  He's not slow (and notice he was running immediately out of the box) and Castro nailed him from short left field.  By baseball standards, it wasn't even all that close a play.  It was Dunstonesque except with accuracy on the throw.

Meanwhile, the Cubs managing to beat the Phillies in their own park when they had such a bitch of a time beating the Pirates anywhere appears to have sent a few folks 'round the bend.

Wrigleyville23 correctly points out that Phil Rogers' latest idea to put Ryan Dempster in the bullpen is stupid.

Hire Jim Essian can't believe that Barry Rozner suggested that Carlos Zambrano "thought about" tanking his bullpen appearances.

Now Lou is apparently making noises that Randy Wells will be the one heading out of the rotation and into the bullpen to make room for Zambrano's return. (h/t Bleacher Nation)

I really don't understand why everyone is so hellbent and determined to keep Carlos Silva in the rotation.  If Silva fell off the face of the earth today, the Cubs would have already received more than they should have expected in return for the Mariners' new clean-up hitter and shouldlook on anything else he gives them as gravy.

Screw it.  Let's just watch Castro's play a few more times.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Kaplan Once Said the Tigers Were Interested in Milton Too

Apparently, Dave Kaplan has reported that the Cubs have signed, or will sign, the reliever that made Kevin Gregg look like an upgrade: Bobby Howry.

I am clinging to the hopes that this report is as based in actual fact as the reports from Kap and Steve Stone about the phantom trade possibilities involving Milton Bradley going to the Tigers last season.

If it is true, my reaction can be summed up thusly:

It's a Way of Life.


It appears the rumors are true as Comcast Sports reports that Howry will join the team in Texas this weekend.

So, let's take a quick look at the guy we hope will solve the bullpen woes of the Cubs.

Bobby Howry (10.67 ERA, 1.67 WHIP) was released from a team that featured a bullpen consisting of Chad Qualls (ERA 7.62, WHIP 2.08), Juan Gutierrez (8.62/1.47), Blaine Boyer (7.82/2.21), Esmerling Vazquez (5.56/1.68), and Leo Rosales (8.10/2.10).  They just traded for Saul Rivera who now has a 45.00 ERA and WHIP of 6.00.

The best performer they have is actually Aaron Heilman (3.78/1.14).

Let me say that again.  The Arizona Diamondbacks' bullpen is so pathetic that Aaron Heilman is the best guy they have.  And they didn't want Howry anymore.

But the Cubs do.

It's a Way of Life.

Oh, Good Grief! Here Come the Phillies

The Cubs have put together a cute little three-game winning streak by combining a salvage game against the Pirates with a two-game sweep over the Rockies.  As many places have noted before, however, the easy part of the Cubs' schedule is over and at this point, there is no tougher opponent in the National League right now than the Phillies.

Luckily, this will be another two game series, so if the Cubs can manage to steal one, they can come out of Philadelphia feeling pretty decently about themselves.  Plus they don't have to face Roy Halladay.

I'm out of things that favor the Cubs.  Anyone?  Bueller?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

If You Kids Don't Knock It Off, We Will Pull This Team Over and Go Home

Remember when Bob Brenly and Dave Kaplan wanted to yank Alfonso Soriano out of the lineup for not hustling on a double that should have been a triple (in their opinion)?

Fredi Gonzalez must get WGN-TV in his cable package, or one of the MLB packages that brings the sights and sounds of Chicago Cubs baseball to his computer because he took a page out of the book about how to deal with a loafing superstar co-authored by the pair. 

According to ESPN, Gonzalez pulled the Marlins' star shortstop, Hanley Ramirez, out of the game last night after an error where he accidentally kicked a ball into the outfield and then did not hustle after it, allowing a couple of runners to score.

Ramirez did not react well to the disciplinary action handed down by his manager.

"It's his team. He can do whatever he [expletive] wants," Ramirez, referring to his benching, told reporters Tuesday....

Ramirez said he didn't see the need to apologize to the team.

"We got a lot of people dogging it after ground balls. They don't apologize," Ramirez told reporters, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Maybe Bob and Kap don't understand that these guys making millions of dollars and being told how great and wonderful they are by an entourage of sycophants don't really react well when being treated like a Little Leaguer.  Maybe they don't care.
As fans, we want the players to care more about the team than themselves and to have the maturity and level-headedness to handle an authority figure handing out consequences for their actions that are detrimental to the team, but that just isn't a reasonable expectation after years of coddling.  Most parents will tell you that pacifying a child for years just to keep them happy will not prepare that child for criticism or discipline later in life.  Te kids will probably just blame someone else for making too big a deal out of their mistakes.
Ramirez took a shot at his manager on Tuesday for removing him from the game.

"That's OK. He doesn't understand that. He never played in the big leagues," Ramirez said, according to the Post.

If we want players playing the "right" way, then the education has to start early on.  So if anyone has any ideas about how to prevent Little League, high school, and college coaches from having different standards for the highest performing players as they grow up, now's the time.  Otherwise, pro players aren't going to change and their major league managers will be left with a largely undisciplined group of athletes who don't like to listen to anybody tell them how to play better or harder.
Fredi Gonzalez was asked if there would be any more punishment handed down to Ramirez after the benching:
"You mean more embarrassment than being taken out of a major league game?"

He could always demote him to mop-up duty in the bullpen.  It would take a virtual super-human amount of self-discipline to keep a highly-paid star from complaining about a slap in the face like that.  In fact, if one were to encounter such a star player, in this day and age, who could take an insult to their ego without completely exploding and destroying such a valuable commodity as clubhouse chemistry, one would think someone might be apt to laud said individual as an example of how we want our athletes to behave, instead of piling on insults.
Or not.


If Hanley Ramirez doesn't want to listen to Fredi Gonzalez because he never played the game, then maybe he will listen to a couple of guys who not only played the game, but played it well enough to earn their way into the Hall of Fame.

Joe Capozzi of The Palm Beach Post, reported that Andre Dawson and Tony Perez had a little closed-door meeting with Ramirez about his reaction to Gonzalez benching him.:

For 15 minutes, Ramirez sat and listened as the two Hall of Famers, who also work as Marlins assistants, tried to assess for Ramirez exactly the damage he had done to himself by ripping into his manager for pulling him off the field Monday night because he didn't hustle.

Dawson said he did most of the talking in this intervention, which took place about an hour before Tuesday's game. Dawson today recounted it like this:

"Look, I'm going to level with you,' he told Ramirez. "You either hear me or you don't. For one, you're not bigger than the game. You don't show a manager up. The way you're going about this is literally the wrong way. It's an immature act … and this could come back to bite you in the rear end in the worst way.'

Ramirez didn't say a word. His eyes darted from Dawson's to Perez's and then he looked away.

"You really have stepped across the line,' Dawson said. "You owe that manager a sincere apology. And if you think your teammates have your back with this, you've got another thing coming because the mind-set, and this is from me to you, the mind-set is these guys are laughing at you."

Capozzi also tweeted this afternoon that Hanley will be apologizing to his teammates prior to Wednesday's game in St. Louis "in his own way."  Given how he has reacted so far, his way may very well involve an extended middle finger.  Maybe Dawson and Perez got through to the youngster.

Dawson wasn't sure their advice sunk in.

"He just sat there. He looked kind of aloof, out in space,' Dawson said. "I could see maybe a little disappointment on his face. I think he probably had, to a degree, regretted it but he didn't really say anything. Just at the end he said, 'Thank you.' "

The next escalation will probably involve the Marlins' owner, Jeffrey Loria, hauling Ramirez across his lap and giving him a good whuppin' with his belt.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cut the Crap, Tunney

Everyone please bear with me as I'm trying to make heads or tails of everything going on with various developments in and around Wrigley Field.

If I understand things correctly, Alderman Tom Tunney is opposed to the proposed Toyota sign that will rise above the left field bleachers because it is not in keeping with the character of the neighborhood.  I know this because Fran Spielman reported in the Sun-Times:

"[Tunney] drew the line at the see-through sign that, he argued, is “not in keeping with the character of the neighborhood or the spirit of the landmarks” designation. Even worse, it sets a dangerous precedent, he said."

Well, let's take a look at that proposed sign.  Here is an artist's rendering of it from that same Sun-Times story:

It's different from what we are used to seeing within the ballpark, that is true, but is it really not in keeping with the character of Wrigleyville?

Perhaps some of you folks might remember this fun sign on the corner of Clark and Patterson:

That isn't garish and unsightly at all.  In fact, I'm a bit surprised this panoramic scene hasn't been featured as a greeting card or a backdrop for one of those paperback romances you find in the airport newstands.  I lived in the neighborhood when that egg was the view from my kitchen and I never heard a word about the character of the neighborhood being ruined.

Maybe he means that the big bad corporation of Toyota is going to unfairly horn in on the neighborhood's kitschy small, locally owned business feel.  At least McDonald's was a member of the community when they put up their horribly ugly and cheesy sign.  All of those local businesses crammed together, fighting for attention with their signs are likely to get a bit tacky.  That must be it.  Tom Tunney is a supporter of the local business owners who make the neighborhood what it is. 

So, of course, Tom Tunney must be the loudest opposition to the proposed development known as "Addison Park on Clark," right?  Afterall, this development will push local establishments like the iO Theatre, Mullen's, Salt & Pepper Diner and Sports World out while bringing in tenants like a Hyatt hotel, Best Buy, Dominicks, and CVS.  If a singular Toyota sign is setting such bad precedent, surely Mr. Tunney must agree that allowing a gigantic, 8-story multiplex into the neighborhood would not be starting down a slippery slope, it would be jumping off of a cliff into the selling of Wrigleyville's soul.  Right?  Tom?

Again according to Fran Spielman:

"But [Tunney] emphatically insisted that developer Anthony Rossi's project was "a good development for the neighborhood," particularly during a prolonged recession."

Oh.  It's good.  But what about the businesses that are getting shut out of their locations?

"'These are Chicago names that are savvy operators. They will find a way to either get back in the development or find another opportunity. And in this market, there are plenty of opportunities,' including the shuttered Lakeshore Theater at Belmont and Broadway."

I see.  So, one sign that partially obscures a sign that is intended to make people gamble and will probably result in making people want to buy a Toyota so they can drive to the casino in order to bet the new car is bad and must be stopped at all costs.  Kicking numerous local business owners out of their locations during a down economy so that big corporations like Best Buy can make more profits is something that should go full speed ahead.

Mr. Tunney?  Can we cut out the bullshit rhetoric about the integrity of the fucking neighborhood when the only real reasons you oppose or favor anything happening in that neighborhood are based solely on reasons that involve dollar signs?  Just shut up about your slippery slopes and worrying about how Wrigleyville will go in the toilet because of one sign and tell us how much money you want and where Tom Ricketts should send it.  It will just be easier that way.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cubs Suck at Everything

(Photoshop via shawngoldman @ ACB)

At this point, there really isn't much to do with this Cubs team except to look around for someone to blame.  If you listen at all to the callers into the WGN postgame show, it seems that most people have focused their blame on a singular person.

It is hardly ever the same person, but it is interesting how so many people seem to feel that a change of simply one person in the equation is the difference between this current Cubs team that can't find a way to beat the damn Pirates and a theoretical team that is capable of beating up on teams like the Phillies and Cardinals.

Folks, it isn't one person.  If you don't like Lou Piniella, that's fine, but turning this team over to Alan Trammel or Ryne Sandberg isn't going to solve anything.  Lou is not the reason that none of the bullpen guys can get anyone out.  He's not the reason that the Cubs can't score unless they hit the ball over the wall.

For those who think eliminating Jim Hendry will solve everything, he isn't the one putting together a lineup that consistently has the two best performing hitters (with histories of success) in the sixth and seventh slots in the lineup.  He isn't the one who keeps putting a guy batting under .200 with no arm out in right field while the young kid who needs playing time rots on the bench.

There is no one player or even portion of the team that can be blamed.  After a great start to the season, the starters have returned to earth and despite pitching decently overall, have been putting the team in early holes to start out the game.  The bullpen is so bad that Lou has forced the issue a few times with his starters going longer than they should and paid the price almost every time.  The offense would be good if runners left on base was a category that counted in the score of games.  The defense is clunky at best and downright awful when the team seems to need clean play the most.

We are left to wonder how bad this team would be if they didn't have such great clubhouse chemistry.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cardinals Providing Cubs Fans With Straw to Grasp

It's been a rough week and a half for Cubs fans.  The sweep at the hands of a Pirates team that currently has been outscored by 95 runs this year was bad enough that the Cubs threw caution to the wind and called up a kid who was not alive yet when I graduated from high school.  Then they lost two of three to toothpick-munching Dusty's Reds by having the bullpen disintegrate enough in one game to make Lou scared to let them come in the next game, resulting in a game-winning Joey Votto homerun that has just glanced off Saturn's rings towards the space object formerly known as the planet Pluto.

Then they came home and managed to salvage just one game from a Marlins team that had lost 10 of their 14 previous games and who scored only 10 runs in the series.  Plus, a good amount of Cubs fans decided to rain boos down on the aforementioned 20-year old rookie shortstop making the rest of us want to change allegiances to a fanbase that isn't quite so assholic and stupid.

Given all that has gone wrong since the Cubs last series win roughly eight million years ago, one would think that the Cubs must be trailing the Cardinals by about 10 games in the standings by now.  Nope.

While the Cubs are doing their damndest to assure the fan base that there really is no reason to get excited about this team's chances, the team down in St. Louis is stepping up and lending a hand.  The Cardinals just got swept at home by the Houston Astros.  Unless you are someone who has a shrine to Jose Cruz, spends the anniversary of J.R. Richards' career-ending stroke in a fetal position, and sleeps while cuddling Craig Biggo and Jeff Bagwell bobblehead dolls, you would not have ever made that prediction in a million years.  You know what was even worse for the Cardinals?  Roy Oswalt was not the starter for the Astros in any of those games.

So after a week and a half of horror that started with the Cubs trailing St. Louis by 4.5 games.  The Cubs enter play today trailing St. Louis by 5 games.

So that is where the false sense of optimism is going to come from this year.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Greatest Fans in the World Are Becoming the Angriest Fans in the World

Starlin Castro did not have a good night.  There really is no getting around it.  His much anticipated Wrigley Field debut probably couldn't have gone much worse if Starlin had actually been trying to throw the game on purpose. 

He came to the plate in the 2nd inning with runners at first & second with only one out and managed only a weak grounder that he hustled into a fielder's choice instead of a double play.  That was the highlight of his game.

He made two throwing errors while Ted Lilly was busy throwing an otherwise perfect game and was directly responsible for the unearned run that scored on the first hit that Ted gave up.  He was not charged with an error when he went in the hole to get a grounder by Cameron Maybin and slipped and fell.  His throw from his posterior across the diamond was perfect and Maybin didn't beat it out by much.  So maybe that was his highlight.  The throw was impressive.  Theriot making that same throw would have resulted in the ball taking about eights hops and a roll before coming to a stop a couple feet in front of Derrek Lee.

Unfortunately, the worst play of the night came when he booted a groundball by Hanley Ramirez and as he dejectedly walked to the ball to pick it up, Ramirez sprinted in to second to make Castro's third error of the game that of the two-base variety.  Of course, a cascade of boos came down from the stands as the few thousand people that remained declared their displeasure over the young kid's struggles.

I have seen some shock and outrage on Twitter and in the Cubs blogosphere but I can't muster much emotion over it.  Don't get me wrong, I do not condone the booing of a 20-year old kid who has been hyped as being able to walk on water, but I guess I'm just not surprised.

The stadium is filled with people who paid a lot of money for their tickets on the promises that the new clubhouse chemistry would cure all that was wrong last year and that whatever the chemistry didn't fix, Rudy Jaramillo would.  People are feeling suckered.

The Cubs marketing department has spent a lot of time trying to market the Cubs as a winning ballclub in order to justify the tremendous rise in ticket prices over the years.  They have to sell the expectations because people who don't expect anything from their team don't fill a ball park day in and day out.  You can sit here and talk to me about Wrigley Field and old school baseball and whatnot, but what is truly important when you raise the cost of going to a game into the stratosphere is the winning.

There are tons of options to watch baseball played at an "inferior" level in the Chicagoland area.  The Schaumburg Flyers, the Kane County Cougars, the Gary Railcats, and Kevin Costner's new team, the Lake County Fielders are just a few places where one can go and watch baseball being played.  The quality of play is supposed to be less than that of watching major league players, but then you sit through a game where an insurance run is scored as a result of a little league trick play double steal that caught your veteran pitcher napping and you start to wonder why you paid $60 for a ticket when you could have had a better seat at one of the other parks for 1/6th of the price.

So Cubs fans boo anybody that is contributing to this feeling of being hornswaggled by the rhetoric at the Cubs Convention, the big It's a Way of Life campaign and anything else that convinced them that the Cubs are worth paying the most money in the majors to watch.  Given that a large percentage of the fans in attendance last night were probably only dimly aware of who was even playing shortstop, coupled with the large amounts of alcohol consumed before the 8th inning rolled around, I am not shocked in the slightest that Starlin heard the boos.

The Cubs have built the monster that this fan base has become by feeding it expectations it can't possibly reach and poking it in the ass with a cattle-prod by charging them more than anybody else to be disappointed.  There is nothing shocking about what happened last night aside from Aramis actually reaching base once.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cubs Full of Shock and Awful

The 2010 season started with the Cubs stumbling out of the gate and starting out with a robust 5-9 record.  Clearly something needed to be done.  Something needed to put some zip back into the ballclub so the Cubs went to their bag of crazy solutions and pulled out "Send your Opening Day starter to the bullpen."  And so they did.

The team responded by going 5-1 over the next six games.  Clearly, the team was fired up by having a top-tier pitcher relegated to a set-up role.  I believe Zambrano pitched in exactly one of those games, and gave up a run while doing so, but the results speak for themselves. 

Unfortunately, the shock wore off and the team then proceeded to go 3-6 over the next nine games.  Again, it was evident that the Cubs would need to do something shocking to give a jolt to their ballplayers.  Something needed to remind the players that there was a new sherriff in town by the name of Tom, and he wasn't going to put up with lackadaisical play from his highly paid players.

The result was Starlin Castro skipping over AAA ball completely and pushing Theriot from his starting position at shortstop.  Sure, there were potential contract ramifications down the line if Castro qualified for Super 2 status, but to hell with that.  This kid is EXCITING!  This kid can provide the 1.21 jigawatts of energy this team needs while batting in the eighth spot of the lineup.  This move will surely solve all of the issues the Cubs have with their bullpen and corner infielders.

Once again, the plan worked perfectly... for exactly one game.  Don't get me wrong, that was a great game, but the next two games featured more of the same malaise throughout the batting order and complete lack of fundamentals that we have come to expect from this team.  It was like the team had already forgotten about the 20-year old messiah out there at shortstop.

Apparently, it is time for another SHOCKING move.  The Cubs may have to start having a Shocking Move of the Week.  It could be sponsored by Red Bull or some other energy drink that gets people super jazzed for a short period and then reduces them to sluggish wastes of space who don't know how or why they have woken up in the middle of Arkansas without any pants.

Luckily, I had some time this weekend and was able to come up with a few SHOCKING ideas so the Cubs wouldn't have to work too hard at it:
  • Bat Soriano ninth so its like he's leading off after the first time through the order, but he's not.
  • Move Ron Santo to third and have Aramis do the analysis with Pat Hughes in his muppet voice.
  • Activate Greg Maddux and move Dempster back into the bullpen so he can teach the young kids down there how to properly prepare using only a rubber chicken, a whoopee cushion, and fake dog poo.
  • Fire Lou Piniella, name Bob Brenly the interim manager, and have Ryne Sandberg join the TV broadcasts so he can criticize all the players for not playing the right way.
  • Bring back Sam Fuld to run into fences again.
  • When the Cubs hit a homerun at Wrigley, set off fireworks from a giant replica of Jeff Baker's ass mounted on top of the scoreboard.
  • Every time a Cubs player strikes out with a runner in scoring position, he loses a finger.
That should get the Cubs through June.  Then they can start making shocking trades that will really keep everyone on their toes.  Of course, the most shocking thing they could do at this point would be to play baseball well enough to win more games than they lose, but now I'm just being ridiculous.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Re-Run Sunday: My Mom and the Cubs

I originally posted this last year when no one was reading this blog.  Now that there are three readers, I thought it was appropriate to re-run.

People ask me how I became a Cubs fan. I was born in the South suburbs of Chicago and lived there in White Sox territory until the summer before junior high.

My mother took me to my first baseball game near the end of the 1979 season. It was a White Sox game against the Mariners at Comiskey Park. Wayne Nordhagen hit two homeruns and the White Sox won 3-1. The scoreboard exploded after every homerun, and during the 7th inning stretch, there was a crazy old guy in the press box that sang along and danced to Take Me Out to the Ballgame. The night sky lit up with fireworks after the game, and everyone sang the Na-Na-Na song after the victory.

It was a great game for a seven-year old as a first game.

The next year, my mom and my aunt and uncle brought me to my first Cubs game at Wrigley Field. It was a day game (of course) and the soon-to-be World Champion Philadelphia Phillies opened up a can of whup-ass on the hapless Cubs.

Willie Hernandez started for the Cubs and got hammered around. The Cubs trotted out the likes of Lynn McGlothen, Bill Caudill, and Doug Capilla from the bullpen. Mike Schmidt hit two of the roughly 300 homeruns he hit against the Cubs that day, and Steve Carlton could have thrown a shutout against a lineup including Mike Vail, Jerry Martin, Steve Ontiveros, and Tim Blackwell, but was lifted after seven innings. Oh, and Pete Rose also got a couple of hits and the Phillies won the game 7-0.

I learned a few things that day. I learned that day baseball is inherently better than night baseball. I learned that the Cubs could never get Mike Schmidt out. I learned from the guy in front of me that Dave Kingman was "worthless" and that Bill Buckner was "over-rated." I learned that drunk girls can sometimes be enticed to take off their shirts at a baseball game.

I learned that I was a Cub fan.

During the 1984 season, my mom moved us to Jamestown, New York. The first thing I checked upon getting there was whether the local provider included WGN in its cable package. It was on a more premium package, but she agreed to purchase that package so I could still watch the games.

My dad still lived in Chicago, so I got to go to a game each year when I visited during the summer, but it was hard knowing I couldn't go more often. I watched the 1984 playoffs, the first night game, and the 1989 playoffs on our family room TV in Jamestown.

But my mom would often arrange for us to go see a Cub game or two in Pittsburgh. Sometimes my brother would come, and sometimes not, but the trip was always planned for me.

As a teenager, you don't often appreciate the important things at the time. Back then, it seemed like kind of a raw deal that I had to go to see Cub games at the concrete multi-purpose monstrosity at the convergence of the Allegheny and Mononghela rivers instead of at Wrigley Field.

It seemed unfair to have to watch a game with someone like my mom, who enjoys the games, but doesn't know much about it beyond the basics. I couldn't get into a conversation with her about whether Don Zimmer should leave in Mike Bielecki or call for Paul Assenmacher. Meanwhile, I had no interest in her observations that Mark Grace had a nice butt.

Since then, I realized she was trying to find something she could share with me that I enjoyed. She could probably have cared less about the games, and I'm sure she could have used the money we spent on gas, food and lodging in Pittsburgh for other things.

So while she didn't play catch in the backyard or have an opinion on whether the Cubs should have traded Rafael Palmeiro, I definitely have her to thank for contributing heavily to my love of baseball and the Cubs.

I'll leave it up to you to decide if that is a good thing or not, but I think its a good thing.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Starlin Castro Era Begins Sooner Than Expected

I was checking my Twitterfeed this morning one last time before heading to work and here was the news that made my eyes bug out:

Holy crap!

The move is shocking and I'm starting to wonder if Dave Kaplan is actually running the team because he was calling for this move last night in the post-game show.  Speaking of Kaplan, he edged out Phil Rogers for the honor of being the second outlet to report definitively:

So there you have it.  The Cubs have made their second "shocking" move of the year and it isn't even Memorial Day yet.  Personally, I wonder if this will make a lick of difference since neither Theriot nor Fontenot were the large part of the problem for this team.  The problems continue to be Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez plunging the middle of the batting order into a black hole of suck.

Maybe the Cubs brain trust got as tired as I am of seeing poorly hit grounders sneak through the middle infield defense.  Maybe Hendry just couldn't handle seeing his castoff shortstop, Ronny Cedeno, throw laser beams across the diamond while some of Theriot's throws have yet to arrive.

Organizationally, this is another panic move on the part of management that doesn't have a ton of upside given the high expectations.  I don't like that he is being set up to fail.

As a fan, I'm excited that I have something interesting to watch.  If they are going to make this move, I would also like to see them sit Fukudome (who hasn't really done anything wrong, but someone has to sit) and get Colvin out there on a more regular basis.  That would be interesting. It may not win the most baseball games this year, but at least I could be interested in the development of two potential future stars.  It could give me a reason to want to renew my tickets again next year.  I'm going to need a few, given the direction this team is going.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What It's Like to Be a Cubs Fan

Kick in nuts Pictures, Images and Photos

Kick in the Nuts Pictures, Images and Photos

Swift Kick in tha NUTS Pictures, Images and Photos

swiftops kick in the nuts stunt Pictures, Images and Photos

kick in nuts Pictures, Images and Photos

I don't think anything more needs to be said.  It's a way of life.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Not Scared of Pirates? You Should Be

Cubs fans are feeling about as well as a fan of this team can feel at this point.  The offense is looking decent with Soriano, Soto, and Fontenot getting in touch with their 2008 selves.  Fukudome is still shiny from his annual Mr. April performance (By the way, Happy April 34th, Kosuke).  Derrek Lee is starting to look more comfortable at the plate, and the calendar in everyone's locker except Fukudome's says it is May now, so we can expect to see some hitting from him.

Marlon Byrd continues to be the word, Theriot isn't trying to hit homeruns, the starting rotation is not falling apart yet without Zambrano, and the bullpen hasn't blown any games lately.  Grabow and Ramirez are still disconcerting, but it's probably nothing that a healthy dose of playing the Pirates can't fix, right?

After all, Milwaukee annihilated this team 36-1 over a three game series right before the Cubs destroyed Milwaukee in a three game sweep by a cumulative score of 25-4.  So it stands to reason that the Cubs will outscore the Pirates this weekend by a score of 225-1 and the one run will be unearned, right?

If I've learned anything over the course of my life, it is that confidence and the Cubs don't go together.  I'm fully expecting Dempster to re-break his toe after slipping on a rubber chicken that fell out of his locker. I figure Ted Lilly will break his arm while attempting to steal a base and then get sentenced to life in prison for murdering the umpire with his protective cup for calling him out on the play. Randy Wells will allow that one unearned run (on a Derrek Lee error) as the to-be-announced AAAA Pittsburgh call-up pitches a perfect game in his major league debut.

Soriano will blow out a knee as he catches a ball without hopping.  Ryan Theriot will get into a bar fight while arguing the greatest Prime Minister in England was Pitt the Elder.  Marlon Byrd will get radiation poisoning, Fontenot will be DFA'd because of his ridiculous sideburns, and Aramis Ramirez will be convinced he is a chicken after a confidence-building hypnosis session goes awry.

Or something that wasn't already on the Simpsons, but you get my drift.

Nothing comes easy with these Cubs and I'm definitely expecting the Pirates to remind us all of that at some point in this series.  Remember when Rob Mackowiak became a god for a weekend in Pittsburgh against the Cubs?

Also, this happened in Pittsburgh:

So mock if you will, but I'm scared of Pirates.

Monday, May 3, 2010

So You're Telling Me There's a Chance

According to, there is good news and bad news for the Cubs.

First the good news: Based on their projections, the Cubs are among the four teams most statistically likely to qualify for the playoffs at the end of the year.  Yay!

The bad news is that they are still less than 50/50 to do so.  Boo.

As you can see from the projections, the Cubs make the playoffs in 41% of the simulated seasons that Accuscore runs.  If you play poker, that is not far off the odds of the Cubs holding Ace-King unsuited against a middle pair before the flop.  They need help and Phil Hellmuth would mock you if you went all in with it if you weren't short-stacked, but things could definitely be worse.

Down I-55, the Cardinals have practically locked up the simulated National League Central and it seems only a direct intervention from the Baseball Gods will prevent a post-season appearance.  Again, to put it in poker terms, the Cardinals are holding a full house after the turn and the rest of the National League is holding a straight flush draw.  Only one card in the deck is going to beat them. 

So the Cubs probably won't win the division, and most likely will not make the playoffs, but their hopes are statistically more valid than most teams' right now.  At least, a computer thinks so and thats good enough for me.

Messmerizing the National Anthem

I've been to so many games at Wrigley that I pretty much have the timing down to know exactly how long it takes to get from my couch to my seat, and thus perfectly timing my arrival with the Cubs taking the field.  This may not exactly be a skill that would ever qualify me for superhero status, but it sure comes in handy.

It's nice not having to sit through all the bullshit corporately sponsored "awards" like the Tru-Value Hustle & Bustle Award in Tuesday Afternoon Games Versus the Pirates or the Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence being presented to players than can clearly care less.

I don't have to watch the twelve ceremonial first pitches being thrown out by the Marketing Directors of the Cubs' various sponsors or celebrities pimping their new movies, books, or drug-rehab reality shows.  I don't have to feign enjoyment of the introduction of the photogenic little kids dubbed Fans of the Game or Ceremonial Batboy and Batgirl because they agree to wear some Cubs gear plastered with corporate logos.

It also means that I often miss the singing of the Star Spangled Banner and that is usually a good thing.

I don't know when it happened and I don't know why it happened, but somewhere along the line, the singing of the Star Spangled Banner stopped being about remembering our fortunes to live in a country with freedoms that allow me to write a snarky post about terrible singing of the National Anthem, and started being a vanity exercise to show off vocal talent as if it were possible that Simon Cowell would bound out of a dugout with a recording contract.

Sometimes the results are impressive, yet overwrought and self-aggrandizing:

Sometimes the person is clearly over-reaching their own talent and trying to make up for it with a bunch of extraneous notes that surely make Francis Scott Key role in his grave:

Sometimes celebrities show why they did not get famous for their singing talents and why they should never ever be allowed to sing even in the privacy of their own showers:

Sometimes celebrities try to remake the song in their own style to the point where you wonder how they ever got famous for their musical talent:

Sometimes times they'll just have a bunch of kids belt it out because everyone loves kids:

These days, when it is time to "honor America," you never know what sort of train wreck you are going to get.  Forgotten words, terrible harmonizations, unrecognizable melodies, and a hideous amalgamation of  them all are far too common.  Sometimes it is enough to make me question my appreciation of this country. 

Today, however, I got to my seat a little early and got treated to a rendition I can never really hear enough:

Thanks for keeping the dignity in our National Anthem, Wayne.